“Achcraggan” Church

The East Church in “Achcraggan”

Had a lovely visit to Cromarty earlier on this year with a friend who was over from Australia. Amongst other things, we paid a visit to the East Church, which was very probably the inspiration for the Reverend Roderick’s church in the My Friend... novels.


Inside the East Church


The Harvest Moon

I have another blog, a music one, where I write posts about what is commonly known as “the tracks of my years”. I know Janet Sandison loved music too, but the tracks of her years would have been very different from mine, having been born 50 years earlier.

As the September full moon, the Harvest Moon, will appear in our skies tonight, I have just shared the song of the same name by Neil Young over on the other blog (link here). I have a sneaking suspicion that Janet and Twice, who like Neil Young both felt a close bond with nature, might well have enjoyed it too.

All full moons have a name, given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar. The Harvest Moon can occur in either September or October, as it’s the name given to the full moon that lands closest to the autumnal equinox. This year we reached the equinox on Sunday the 23rd Sept, that pivot point in the year after which we can expect more hours of dark than light in our days. Had it not landed that way, it would have been called the Corn Moon.

Harvests were very important to the residents of Reachfar, both their own and the big, onerous harvests supervised by Janet’s father at Poyntdale. At the end of it however there was a celebration, a Harvest Home, to give thanks for the food that would be available for the coming year.

We sometimes forget to give thanks to those who are still responsible for the annual cycle of planting and harvesting, but as I look up at the Harvest Moon tonight, I promise to remember them.


Autumnal Equinox

Well, it’s the day of the autumnal equinox, that pivot point in the year when there will now be more hours of darkness, than light. Makes me a bit sad, but on the upside, there will be all those lovely autumn colours to look forward to over the the next couple of months.

A good few years ago I took a picture of something from the natural world every day for a year, and built up a lovely set of 365 shots which documented all four seasons. Lets have a look back and find the photos from around this time.


Taken in and around my neck of the woods, September the 21st to 25th, 2010.

Sandy Bawn and The Giant Redwood

The “tall tales” told by people who had emigrated to America – Voiced by George and Tom, 1918

(Extracted from My Friends the Miss Boyds by Jane Duncan)

Usually, if George, Tom and I went to the moor we had a riotously happy time, out of the hearing of my grandmother, with George and Tom clowning about telling yarns about old Sandy Bawn who had gone to America in the long ago, had come back and told fearful stories of the size of the trees there.

“And he would tell them as solemn as if it was the God’s truth he was telling you, man!” Tom would say.

“Aye, yon one about the redwood tree – was that the name if it? That he said was as big around as the steeple o’ Achcraggan Church!” George would add. “What a danged liar the man was, Tom, when you think on it.”

“Och, something terrible, man. And him swearing on his Bible oath it was the truth. Av coorse, there was always a soft bittie in Sandy Bawn, George – he was for ever thinking he was far cleverer than others, and a man has to be gey soft to be thinking like that.”

Recipe for Cranachan

Yesterday I posted an extract from My Friends the Miss Boyds. Like most fans of the My Friend… series of books, I have a great fondness for the character Uncle George and admired his playfulness, his innate ability to read people and his understanding of the balanced path we need to tread through life. As he said in the extract, his illicit still was something employed for pleasure, in a quiet way, amongst cronies. They never got ambitious or made money from it, so although essentially illegal, not a crime that was ever likely to get him into bother.

Talking of illicit stills (and thus whisky), here is a recipe which I very much doubt would have ever appeared on the supper table at Reachfar, as Janet’s grandmother would never have allowed such a thing. I do suspect however, that this traditional Scottish dessert of oats, cream, whisky and raspberries, might have appeared on the dining table at Poyntdale, the Big House. I made some recently for English friends who had come for dinner, as part of a Scottish themed menu, and very nice it was too.



3 oz oatmeal
1 pint double cream
7 tbsps whisky
3 tbsps runny honey
1 lb raspberries

Toast the oatmeal (different from porridge oats) in a frying pan, taking care none of it burns. Keep some back for decoration.

Lightly whip the cream until it reaches the peak stage then fold in the whisky, honey, oatmeal and raspberries. Again keep some raspberries back.

Serve in glasses garnished with a few raspberries, a sprig of mint (optional) and a sprinkling of the toasted oatmeal.

Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Serve and enjoy!


The Dangers of Becoming Over-Ambitious

Remembering the time Janet discovered George and Tom’s illicit still – Voiced by Uncle George, 1947

(Extracted from My Friends the Miss Boyds by Jane Duncan)

“Why you were never caught, I don’t know,” I told them.

“Och,” said George modestly, “Tom and me were never the ambeetious kind to go in for anything in a big commercial way, to be making money at it, like. Any jobbies that him and me ever went in for – like taking a bit fish out of the river at night or the like o’ that – we aye did it chust for pleasure, in a quiet way, among ourselves and our cronies. Tom and me was never clever enough to get ambeetious. It’s when people will get ambeetious to be making money at a thing that the bother comes in – that’s what I always think whatever.”

museum - illegal distillery