GAZ1-018-001 - Gazetteer of Cairndow (2012)

I had 4 weeks working at Here We Are on “A Gazetteer of Cairndow” project from 16th July – 08th August 2012. It is about how and why the landscape of Cairndow has changed. Frazer Chalmers

The Gazetteer   

I had 4 weeks working at Here We Are on “A Gazetteer of Cairndow” project from 16th July – 08th August 2012. It is about how and why the landscape of Cairndow has changed.  Frazer Chalmers
Clachan Beag field

On my first day I listened to a recording of Alistair MacCallum talking about his life and what he worked as. I quickly learned that there were a lot of words that I hadn’t heard before and didn’t understand such as ‘scullery’ which means ‘the kitchen’. I also realised how much life has changed from the 1950’s to now. There used to be so much more sheep and shepherds working on the estate, now there is hardly any.

The first week we were really just getting an introduction as to what we were going to be doing. We interviewed Alice Beattie (my granny) and she told us everything about her childhood, school and working for Ardkinglas estate. I learned more words that I didn’t know like ‘hirsel’ – area of land where a shepherd would work on. We also looked at Clachan farm and how it had changed from 1950’s to 1990’s to now. We found that in the 1950’s there were more animals like sheep and cows and that there were a lot of sea trout about the loch. However as the years go on the numbers have been decreasing. Now there is a small amount of cows, very little sea trout but now there is Loch Fyne Oysters, Here We Are and The Tree Shop.

On Friday 20th July, Ali and I went up the glen to the sheepdog trials and we were to hold the sheep on the brow of the hill until the shepherd guided his dog up by whistling. I enjoyed working with Ernie and Brem, it was good fun.

Strutts field, Glen Fyne, from the dog trials sheep pen

The next week Ali and I started tracing a map of all the fields in Cairndow, including: Clachan, Achadunan and Ardno. It was then that I actually realised how big Cairndow actually is and how many fields there were as this took ages to do. The next day Christina, Ali and I started to type all the names of the fields we knew and then gave them a number and marked the number on the tracing. We didn’t manage very many so we had to phone up Alistair MacCallum to give us his knowledge of the fields in this area. Eventually most of the fields had their proper names and there was only a few that we didn’t know. Christina, Ali and I started off at Clachan farm walking through the fields and recorded what was in each field e.g. 20 sheep, cows and also what was growing in them. Some of the fields had nothing in them but some were interesting. Ali and I then cycled up to Achadunan farm and did the same for these fields.

The next day Christina, Ali and I met at Alice Beattie’s for tea and a chat about how hay was made when she was young. I realised how much hard work it was and how long they worked for. Ali and I then cycled down to Ardno and gathered information on the fields down there. Half way down I realised how much quicker we would have been if we had taken the trials bikes, but it was too late. After lunch we then went back to Here We Are and typed up all the information about the fields.

On our 3rd week Ali and I interviewed Peter Manson about his job as a ‘gamekeeper’. He told us about everything he used to do for the estate like take visitors of the estate out hunting and fishing. This made me think “Why are there not so many visitors now than there used to be? “ He said that “keepering” hadn’t changed over the years; it is just how people look at it that has changed.

The next day Ali and I went over to Lochgoilhead with Davie Jackson, Jock and Ritchie to have some first-hand experience of what it is like to be a shepherd. We were rolling the wool that they had sheered and we also had a wee shot ourselves. We then went on to tagging the lambs which wasn’t for the squeamish as this included a bit of blood. It is hard work, working with sheep but I enjoyed it. I would like to do it again. At the end of the day we were treated to very nice lamb for dinner and meringue.

Davy Jackson asleep on the wool bags

On our last week Ali, Dot, Ernie and I went up the Glen Fyne to Benvalegan. After the long walk we could finally see things in the distance. There were ruins of old sheep fanks and houses that people used to live in. There was a whole community up here.  Ernie told us some stories of how he used to gather sheep up here when he was younger; he said that the sheep on the hill opposite Inverchorachan had Cobalt – a mineral deficiency so they couldn’t put them on that hill.  We had something to eat up there and admired the beautiful scenery.  As we were walking back down Ali saw a bird flying over the hill. It looked quite big for how far away it was then Ernie told us that it would have been a golden eagle. This was the first one I had ever seen.

Fank at Benvalagan, Glen Fyne

Overall I have learned lots about this area and how the land is and was used. It made me wish it was still like that, but I am still glad I live here.

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