On the road north
My weekend visiting Janet and Ray in Inverness, or Snecky as a native friend calls it, was great. It’s always good to see the pair of them, and they generally take me out for a run in the car one day of my visit. This time we were out on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s expedition followed the question Is it far to Portknockie? Ancestors on mother’s side of the family came from this fishing village of the north-east of Scotland, and I was interested in going there sometime. There were two families, both big names in the village apparently, lots of intermarrying between cousins, so a bit difficult to sort out on the family tree, but I have done my best. Even since coming home I have made contact with some present day connections, some pretty distant – I’m talking about 8th cousins in one case at least - but they are still cousins nonetheless!
Well, the answer to my original question about how far it was to Portknockie, was Not that far. It’s a nice run out! which was how we arrived eventually at Cullen in time for lunch. Cullen is probably the main town in the area, only a mile or so from Portknockie, and another fishing town. The railway arrived in 1886, via amazing viaducts, as the Countess of Seafield would not allow the line to cross her estate. Today the line is a cycleway as in so many cases the old railway routes were closed in the early 1960s – the cutbacks of the day.
You can see the rest of the arches of the viaduct on the left of the photo here. We got chips (fries) from the chippie near the big bridge over the road, and took them down to the beach to sit – in the car – and watch the waves while we ate. I do love the sea. Maybe it’s been passed down in the genes from the seafaring ancestors, the fishermen of Portknockie.
We weren’t the only folk around the beach and I enjoyed watching the antics of these two wee boys as they got as far up to the sea as they could then ran back over the stones to avoid the incoming waves! I think a lot of us can say – Been there! Done that! Good fun!
Our view round the bay stretched from the harbour and lower part of the town to our right, nestling in below the cliffs, to the headland, above which is Portknockie. You can see it in the photo below – two photos stitched together, in fact. (Clever stuff! I like this facility on my computer software.) I took a short walk along the beach and enjoyed the wind in my face – not too strong, and very pleasant! The waves and breakers were not quite big enough for surfers but pretty impressive all the same.
is an ancient fishing village . It’s motto appears to be “Aye afloat”, presumably referring to the boats that worked from here rather than to the village itself!
As in Cullen and the other fishing villages the cottages have mainly been built in rows with their gables facing the sea and presumably the prevailing weather. Winter storms would be better battering the gables than the fronts of the houses. I know some of my ancestors lived at what was once 202 Portknockie, in the days before streets got names, but as yet am not sure where that would be. I think a few days in the village sometime would be a good idea. Most of the village appears to be on the cliff top, but again the harbour, of course, nestles beneath. I was keen to find the cemetery which we did by asking for directions. “Half way between Portknockie and FinDOCHty” we were told by the woman carefully anunciating the name Findochty. That’s what’s on the map, but the locals know it as FinECHtie – that ch is like the ch in a Scottish loch (not church), or the German Reich – so she must have been thinking carefully to give us the correct name! I think many Scots now recognise the name Finechtie these days! We do anyway!
I knew of one grave stone in the cemetery where my great great grandparents are buried, and some of their family are commemorated so I was anxious to find it. Starting at the older end of the cemetery I walked up and down the rows, but couldn’t find it. There were lots of familiar surnames, but none I could confidently pin point as my own people. Well, I did come across one stone though that is sure to commemorate one or even two of mine though I have no idea which families they belonged to – yet! The reason I know is that the fisher families all had nicknames – tee names – and my Wood family had the name King! Alexander was a name that came down the family too, and Alexina’s husband had the name Mair – the other predominant family on my tree! His mother was probably a Mair.
The other end of the cemetery was mainly newer stones for more recent burials so back I came to the old end again. Nothing could I find of the stone I was looking for. I was about to give up and go back to the car, when suddenly I spotted it. I had actually walked past it twice already! It was only a few yards from the gate!Alexander, a boat builder, and his wife Jane were my great great grandparents, and Alexander their son, my great grandfather. He left Portknockie for South Shields in the northeast of England, married a Geordie widow, had one daughter – grandmother - and died in 1910.
I was really pleased to have found the memorial to these members of my family.
This is Alexander junior, in a scrapbook page I made some years ago.
We continued along the coast back towards Inverness, through more of the fishing villages, all built in the same style, but instead of going back home we crossed the Kessock Bridge over the Moray Firth and headed for Cromarty in the Black Isle, the promontary between river mouths – Firths - Moray and Cromarty. There we had supper in the Old Brewery, now a community centre, and listened to singer songwriter Angie Palmer, and her accompanying guitarist, Bill Brockley. What a great concert. I had a chance to speak to her afterwards – and found out she has already sung in Peebles! I missed her! I hope the Arts Centre here will get her back again sometime in the not so distant future. The battery on my camera had died by this time but Janet got some photos on her mobile phone for me. Unfortunately she hasn’t sent them, but I hope to get them soon! I’ll have to remind her! Janet, if you’re reading this…..
It was late when we got home, buzzing – at least I was - after the great day we’d had.
Next day was Sunday….. but I’ll save that for next time.
Talk again soon.