Orkney is a very special place and on a sunny day there is nowhere I would rather be. Stromness is Orkney’s second largest town huddled around a sheltered harbour. It is a charming place with stone cottages clinging to the shoreline and a winding paved main street behind these houses. Walk along this shopping street and you get occasional glimpses of the sea and the busy harbour between the houses. Behind this seafront the houses climb steeply up the hill and if you arrive by boat they appear to sit on top of each other.
Stromness looking across to the harbour
On a gorgeous sunny morning we were exploring the many corners of Stromness and I came upon this memorial bench to George Mackay Brown in a garden south of the town. I have been a fan of George Mackay Brown’s writing for many years and have read a number of his novels and I was pleased that his birthplace had erected a bench to remember this remarkable writer that had story telling in his blood. He stayed in Orkney and this group of islands continued to be central to his writing. He wove stories around the local myths, island characters and wildlife in his novels and poems. He died on 13 April 1996 in the town that he was born in, Stromness. In his lifetime he received many accolades; he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1977 and his final novel, Beside the Ocean of Time in 1994 was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and received the Saltire Society‘s Scottish Book of the Year Award.
IN MEMORY OF GEORGE MACKAY BROWN POET & WRITER 1921 – 1996
“The imagination is not an escape, but a return to the richness of our true selves; a return to reality.” George Mackay Brown
Lochnagar (1156 metres) in Aberdeenshire in the north-east of Scotland is a magnificent giant of a mountain that is a popular but demanding walk. Like so many before us we set off from the car park at the end of the Glen Muick road to climb the mountain on a fine August day. The view across Lochnagar’s northern corrie to the curve of the ridge was awe-inspiring and our return through bright flowering heather by the Glas Allt waterfall was spectacular; I will never forget this marvellous day of walking.
George Gordon Byron or Lord Byron wrote the poem, Lachin y Gair, often known as Dark Lochnagar, framing the mountain in the romance of childhood memories and it is a line from this poem that is quoted on the memorial bench I found here.
Away, ye gay landscapes, ye gardens of roses!
In you let the minions of luxury rove;
Restore me the rocks, where the snow-flake reposes,
Though still they are sacred to freedom and love:
Yet, Caledonia, belov’d are thy mountains,
Round their white summits though elements war;
Though cataracts foam ‘stead of smooth-flowing fountains,
I sigh for the valley of dark Loch na Garr.
I spotted this simple bench by the car parks and though eager to start our walk stopped to take a look, as I always do, and think about the person the memorial bench commemorates. Gordon Haxton died at just 60-years old in nearby Aberdeen. A man loved by his family and a special friend to many people, the memorial plaque suggests he had a deep love for this magnificent mountain. As I hiked up the paths to the summit I wondered about how many times he had walked on these same routes.
“I sigh for the valley of dark Lochnager” In loving memory of GORDON HAXTON 1944 – 2004
Helmsdale is an attractive fishing village on the north-east coast of Scotland in Sutherland. We were here on our way to Orkney and the village is certainly well worth stopping at on your way north or visiting for its own sake. You can either take a stroll around the village and harbour, stop at one of the pubs or cafes or a visit the excellent Timespan Museum. Here you can immerse yourself in the history of the village that was mostly created in the 19th century for crofters who were removed from their land in the clearances, to make way for sheep. Looking over Helmsdale is a moving piece of public art called The Emigrants. The inscription on the monument, reads:
The Emigrants commemorates the people of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland who, in the face of great adversity, sought freedom, hope and justice beyond these shores. They and their descendants went forth and explored continents, built great countries and cities and gave their enterprise and culture to the world. This is their legacy. Their voices will echo forever thro the empty straths and glens of their homeland.
The attractive harbour at Helmsdale
Walking around the harbour that was built in 1818 initially for herring fishing I found this memorial bench to Skipper Ian Innes. Skipper Ian Innes was sadly lost at sea on 26 November 1982 and the bench was erected on the ten-year anniversary of his loss. Skipper Ian Innes went missing out at sea on the fishing boat, Girl Kathleen. In heavy seas and squalls the lifeboat searched for the Girl Kathleen around Badbea where the boat was thought to have come ashore but the lifeboat had to abandon the search in the dark at 22.30. The search was resumed the next morning at 06.00 and the Girl Kathleen was found but despite a thorough search no sign of Skipper Ian Innes was ever found. This memorial bench is a sobering reminder of the dangers faced by fishing crews on a daily basis. In 2016 The Marine Accident Investigation Branch’s (MAIB’s) reported that nine fishermen died in that year in six separate incidents.
PRESENTED TO THE PEOPLE OF HELMSDALE TO COMMEMORATE THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF OUR DEAR BROTHER: SKIPPER IAN INNES LOST AT SEA 26 NOV 82 ISAIAH 43. 1 AND 2
Isaiah 43 verses 1 & 2 says:
But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
We often stop off in the pretty Scottish town of Callander on the River Teith on our way to northern Scotland. This isn’t just because it has a useful large car park, Callander marks the boundary between lowland Scotland and the Highlands and it has a great bakery, making it a perfect place to rest and stock up on scones and pancakes before continuing in to the spectacular scenery of the north. We stopped in Callander last summer on our way to Orkney and the North-East of Scotland.
Looking over the River Teith in Callander
After making a brew I took my mug out to the benches by the river and found this delightful memorial bench to Tony Ffinch. Tony Ffinch died suddenly at the age of 74-years. I learnt that Tony Ffinch was active in his community as a local councillor in Callander from 2000 until 2012 and as a Rotarian. He also had ran a bed and breakfast in his home town of Callendar.
Tony Ffinch’s community activities included being appointed to the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, and being involved in Stirling Council’s Planning Panel and Regulation Functions Panel, Trossach’s Tourist Association and the Strathyre Association.
As well as so many civic duties the plaque on the bench commemorating Tony Ffinch expresses movingly how he is fondly remembered by loved ones and that he gave himself generously to his family and friends. His obituary discloses that his death touched many loving family members.
In Memory of TONY FFINCH 1938 – 2013 He enriched our lives with knowledge adn love and lives forever in our hearts
Last summer we had a lovely few days camping at the lovely Lamb Cottage Caravan Park, which is truly a tranquil haven in the Cheshire countryside. From the campsite we easily picked up the Whitegates Way, a 10 kms long traffic-free cycle route between Winsford and Cuddington that took us to the many trails in Delamere Forest. We also enjoyed walking from the campsite around the network of paths around the pools and woodland of Newchurch Common, which are a haven for birds.
Looking over one of the pools at Newchurch Common
Overlooking one of the pools I found this bench to two friends who walked with the Warrington Ramblers. Both Frank Bishop and Jack D Hanson were members of the Warrington Ramblers and Frank Bishop received a long-standing members award in 2009 at the club’s 60th birthday celebration. Minutes of the group record that Frank Bishop served as a committee member for many years and was a walk leader. In 2010 Warrington Ramblers held a memorial walk for Frank Bishop that was attended by over 50 walkers.
In Memory of Frank Bishop 1921 – 2009 Walking Pal of Jack, From All Fellow Warrington Ramblers
I was touched to read about the connection between these two ramblers on this bench. Frank Bishop died more than ten-years after Jack D Hanson and is described as a ‘walking pal of Jack.’ It is entirely fitting that the Warrington Ramblers have remembered both these fellow walkers in a memorial bench that can be enjoyed by other walkers, including me.
IN MEMORY OF JACK D HANSON OF WARRINGTON 3.10.1910 – 18.9.1998 DONATED BY HIS MANY FRIENDS AND FELLOW RAMBLERS
I am ashamed to say it wasn’t until 2017 that we eventually visited Port Sunlight on the Wirral in Merseyside and it was as lovely as I had been told it would be. The village of Port Sunlight was built by William Hesketh Lever (1851-1925) to provide housing for the workers at his Lever Brothers factory [now part of Unilever] named after the Sunlight Soap made there. Lever’s vision was for decent housing for his workers in a pleasing architectural style and he included bathrooms and running water in his houses, not something people took for granted at the time. He called this ‘prosperity-sharing’ and aimed to ensure his workers felt secure and comfortable. He campaigned for welfare reforms and a shorter working day for employees. The village has many wonderful public buildings including the Lady Lever Art Gallery, dedicated to the memory of William Hesketh Lever’s wife, Elizabeth and the gallery contains some works of art from his personal art collection.
It was summer when we visited and after looking in the gallery we wandered through the wide tree-lined streets and colourful gardens. The houses are picturesque, beautifully designed and carefully maintained and the peaceful atmosphere helps you forget the city of Liverpool is just across the river. If like me you have been putting off visiting Port Sunlight then I suggest you get round to it as soon as possible.
There are numerous memorial benches at Port Sunlight, it is clearly a special place to many people; I picked out this bench in the gardens leading up to the war memorial. It is dedicated to Francis McKeown who died at the impressive age of 95-years and who is described as ‘The Village Sweep.’ The bench remembering Francis McKeown looks over rose bushes and to the houses on Queen Mary’s Drive. My research hasn’t revealed if he was the local chimney sweep or cleared up the litter in the village but I am sure there is someone out there who will know why he is so fondly remembered.
In loving memory of FRANCIS McKEOWN ‘The Village Sweep’ Died 23.1.2000 Aged 95 years
The view across the river Kent in Arnside
Even on a grey wintery day you can’t beat a walk along the front at Arnside. This lovely Lancashire resort has that essential seaside feel but its coastline is actually along the River Kent estuary rather than Morecambe Bay or the Irish Sea. Behind the shore the small town climbs up the steep hill and along the front are quirky shops and great cafes. Arnside is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is surrounded by pretty limestone scenery with no shortage of good walks and we always enjoy a visit here. The railway line comes through Arnside and the 500+ metre long viaduct spans the River Kent.
- Joyce Isbel Lord (1922-2006), A Kind, Gentle, Happy And Much Loved Lady. Whilst The Tides And Seasons Constantly Change, Our Memories Of You Will Always Remain The Same. (With Love From All The Family)
Along the front there are no shortage of benches where you get a chance to sit and watch the tide coming and going, the birds on the mud flats and the trains crossing the river to Grange-over-Sands. I picked this bench out for its thoughtful and moving message, ‘Whilst The Tides and Seasons Constantly Change, Our Memories Of You Will Always Remain The Same.’ This is a message that is perfectly appropriate to its Arnside setting; the coast line of Arnside is a dynamic environment and under that expansive sky the views will change by the hour. The memorial bench also paints an exquisite picture of Joyce Isbel Lord as, ‘A Kind, Gentle, Happy and Much Loved Lady.’