Spean Bridge: Alan R Reece 1927 – 2012

There is a lovely footpath that links the stunning Commando Memorial just north of Spean Bridge off the A82 with High Bridge, a ruined bridge that crosses the River Spean.  I was walking here in search of the Jacobites as it was across this gorge that the first shots were fired in the Jacobite uprising on 16 August 1745.

The impressive Commando Memorial was built in 1952 to commemorate the soldiers who trained in this area before and during World War Two.  The views from the memorial are panoramic and this is a popular halt for visitors.

The made footpath below the memorial was built with funding from Alan Reece and this track makes reaching HIgh Bridge a pleasant experience these days.  The path follows some of General Wade’s military road to High Bridge, although this can no longer be crossed.

Spean Bridge

The view over the river Spean

Follow the path and you will come to this handsome bench with a view over the River Spean gorge commemorating Alan R Reece.   Alan R Reece was a lecturer in agricultural engineering at Newcastle University and in the 1980s designed a ‘highly efficient undersea plough’ that helped protect underwater cables.  He continued to be based in the north-east and used the wealth his engineering companies accumulated for charitable purposes, including many for education and this footpath.  Alan R Reece was an enthusiastic mountaineer and almost completed all the Scottish Munros.  He died on December 31 2012 at the age of 85.

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Alan R Reece 1927 – 2012 Engineer and Mountaineer

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Glenfinnan: Willison P Gibson 1932-1999 & Catherine Gibson 1934-2008

At the head of Loch Sheil in Scotland, the small village of Glenfinnan is popular with visitors for two reasons.  The Glenfinnan Monument, erected in the 19th century, commemorates the Jacobite raising of the standard on 19 August 1745 as Bonnie Prince Charlie made his bid for the British throne.  I was here to remember this historic moment but it seems that many people visit this area to make more modern connections.  The Glenfinnan viaduct spans 1,000 feet and is 100 feet high and, thanks to Harry Potter films, is a popular attraction, particular when the steam trains are running.

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At the base of the Glenfinnan Monument

We were lucky to be here on a glorious sunny spring day when undoubtedly Scotland is the most beautiful place in the world to be.  While we waited our turn to climb the steep narrow stone staircase to the top of the tower for the wonderful view over Loch Sheil I browsed along the memorial plaques on the benches around the base of the monument.

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For These Are My Mountains And I Am Come Home In Loving Memory WILLISON P GIBSON 1932-1999 & Catherine Gibson 1934-2008 Until The Twelfth Of Never We Will Still Be Loving You

These two memorial plaques on one bench to Willison P and Catherine Gibson caught my eye for their poetic story of a loving couple.  Willison P Gibson died in 1999 many years before Catherine and the plaque his family left for him conjures up a picture of a man who loved these mountains and called them home.  Catherine Gibson died in Livingston in 2008 aged 74-years.  They both left behind a loving family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will always have a link with this beautiful place.

Stromness, Orkney: George Mackay Brown

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.

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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.

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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: Gordon Haxton 1944 – 2004

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.

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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.

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“I sigh for the valley of dark Lochnager” In loving memory of GORDON HAXTON 1944 – 2004

Helmsdale: Skipper Ian Innes 26 Nov 82

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.

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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.

 

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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.

Callander: Tony Ffinch 1938 – 2013

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.

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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.

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In Memory of TONY FFINCH 1938 – 2013 He enriched our lives with knowledge adn love and lives forever in our hearts

Invitation to follow my Back On The Road Again blog

2017 July August Scotland (125) Stromness

Our campervan looking over Stromness

I have gained some new followers recently on this memorial benches blog, thank you and welcome.  I am pleased that there are other people out there who are interested in this project I have been working on for some years.

If you are interested in travel, campervans and living frugally then you might want to take a look at and perhaps follow my other blog that I call ‘Back On The Road Again.’  I have been writing this blog for a couple of years and by following the blog you will get all the latest news on places we have visited and how we endeavor to live a sustainable and purposeful retirement that is within our limited means.

In the spirit of mutual support I always follow fellow bloggers back and I enjoy keeping up-to-date with the journeys everyone is taking.