Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Full of social history

February 28th, 2015

DSC02434CHURCHES AND churchyards are archives of some fascinating social and historical comment.

I read the wall plaques in churches that I visit – naval and military heroes from the Crimea, and even earlier, grew up and are commemorated in some of the most out-of-the-way spots.

I wander round graveyards whose silent, graven memorials rarely dwell on the deceased’s frailties or flaws

The expressions of immortality represented in some of the more ambitious gravestones, statuary, obelisks, mausoleums even, tell us how the living wished the departed to be remembered.

A truer reflection of a locality can often be found in small kirkyards sheltering behind tumbledown drystane dykes, overgrown and overlooked.

Follow the secondary road that runs from Doulie Cottages, near the foot of Glenesk, to Kirkton of Balfour and on to the junction at Lochodley Cottages where it joins the back road from the glen to Fettercairn Distillery. On the bend at the Kirkton – which of course is the giveaway, the Kirk Toun – hidden by a dyke and presided over by ancient yew trees, is the small burial ground of Newdosk Kirk, of which no trace now survives.

Not many headstones appear to have survived either but I’d guess that some have fallen down and lie hidden beneath the surface. Those that do survive are in surprisingly good condition and their inscriptions still quite clear. The grass is cropped short by the resident rabbits and, right now, snowdrops are flowering round the stones.

William Adam, tenant of Auchmull Farm in Glenesk, was twice married and died in 1747. His stone, inscribed in fine monumental copperplate, reads –
.
Here lies the corps of Margaret Dury sometime spouse to William Adam Tennant in Achmol She Departed this life some time in March 1735 years also here lyes the corps of Margaret Duncon second wife to William Adam she was born the first of January & Departed this life the 34 year of hir age year of God 1740 Here lyes William … and the rest is hidden by the accumulation of earth over the intervening centuries.

Little or no sentiment there, just the bald facts. Mind you, even for a tenant farmer in Glenesk life in the mid-eighteenth century was no picnic. They were born, they lived, they worked, they died.

A household could hardly function without the guiding hand of a woman at the milking or the baking or the spinning wheel. I wonder how long after the first Margaret’s death William Adam waited until he sought out the hand of the second?

There’s another question to which we do not have an answer. Poor Margaret Dury died ‘some time’ in March 1735. Why the inexactitude?

Was she lost on the hill looking for a ewe and its newborn lambs – her body found days, maybe weeks, later and no certainty of when she died? Cradled in a fold in the hill the little burial ground should be a peaceful repository of memories, but could it hide a hideous truth yet to be uncovered?

Across the road there’s a fine walk for dogs along the foot of a brae face. As the track rises there are views across the Mearns towards Stonehaven and a blink of sea. You’re protected from the prevailing wind and when the sun shines it’s a good place to be.

Last weekend the Doyenne and I were back in the Black Isle to watch son Robert rowing again. The Inverness Rowing Club trains and races on the Caledonian Canal – one of the great waterways of Europe – which links Scotland’s east coast with the west.

At the Inverness end the canal and the River Ness run alongside each other. The canal provides sheltered water for rowers, is non-tidal, has no current and has long straights with no sharp bends – ideal for training and racing.

After the end of the Second World War my father built himself a sixteen foot sailing dinghy. To teach himself to sail he had the Pingwing transported to Inverness and he sailed her through the Caledonian Canal accompanied by his black Labrador, Molly.

I have the diary of his voyage, and his photographs, and I have long thought what a marvellous television programme it would make.

Written on Saturday, February 28th, 2015 at 9:31 am for Weekly.