Dead ‘n Gone – Part 2 – The Bench Bagging Besoms of Benholm

17 May

As we were not heading into the mountains I thought I had better explain our trip to FD in advance…just so as to avoid any confusion. My explanation of the concept of genealogy got a blank look in return.  I opted for safer ground and put it in terms of pedigree.  The Fatdog’s expression changed not a whit.

I said “We’re going for a walk…do you want a Bonio?”  This was met with a big happy grin and a waggy tail.

Maybe she’s just a deep thinker.

The "Deep Thinker"



We parked in Inverbervie, the most northerly point of our 15km, there and back, walk.  We parked there for no better reason than it had a car park at the shore, ideal for getting kitted up and The Fatdog out and walking with the minimum of fuss.  Our route would take us south along the shore from Inverbervie to Gourdon and from there to Johnshaven Harbour, the southern limit of the walk.

I was tempted to include a visit to either Bervie or Benholm Cemetery to see if we could dig up some of the ancestors but there was a realistic chance that The Fatdog might take this too literally.  I abandoned that idea.

The weather was confused.  Out to sea small dark clouds deposited trailing sheets of dull grey rain behind them as they blew south.  In complete contrast shafts of bright sunlight lit up fields of yellow rape on the low coastal hills.  We appeared to be walking under blue skies, but all around there was a constant threat of a damp day to come.  We might just be lucky.

Doesn't look too promising, does it?

Cormorants skelped along a few metres above the waves, patrolling the coastal strip.  A small group perched on a rock at the water’s edge.  Cap’n Jack headed off to investigate.

Cap'n Jack sneaks up on the cormorants...

...not too successfully!

The sun shone as we approached Gourdon Harbour.


On cue the sun disappeared just as I reached for the camera.  Dull clouds moved across our path and a few spots of rain began to drip lazily down.  We were only a few hundred metres from our primary target – Whitehouse.

When I started looking at our family history, way back in 2005, I realised that Whitehouse was still on present day OS maps.  I’d been meaning to visit for the past 5 years with the expectation of discovering the remains of a dilapidated ruin or maybe a dark foreboding mansion perched on a cliff above crashing waves with heavily curtained windows and rusted iron gates etc.…you get the drift.

What I found was worse, much worse.  It had been…changed.  Well not so much changed as added to more than once, with a couple of new houses jammed against it for good measure!   A ugly conglomeration of old and new.  The anticipated atmosphere of 1841 had been blown away as effectively as if a new Asda had been built on the site.

The extended Whitehouse - possibly the original in the centre.

The additional - squeezed in - houses

After Whitehouse the countryside opened up with fields to the right and a wide pebbled shore to our left.  A small group of swallows tagged along for a wee while swooping around us as Cap’n Jack attempted to photograph their erratic antics.  You may note there are no photos of swallows in this post.  Along this trail the Andersons must have walked, visiting relatives at Haughs of Benholm, the next settlement to the south.

from Whitehouse to Haughs of Benholm

Haughs of Benholm

Haughs of Benholm is now a series of (mostly) well maintained terraced cottages.  This shot is of the more “rustic” end of the hamlet – complete with covered wagon (against the gable end).

Johnshaven Harbour

The old lifeboat house

Johnshaven harbour was the most southerly stop on our walk.

An old fisherman was busy gutting a few of the catch which looked as if they were heading home for the pot.  The innards were tossed onto the quayside for two patient gulls.  It only took a few seconds for the gull population to spiral as the scent of dead fish wafted through the air.

The Bench Bagging Besoms of Benholm.

We had some competition on the track.  At Johnshaven we caught up with what appeared to be a walking club out for a stroll along some of the same route as ourselves.  The competition reached its peak when we discovered that they’d acquired all the benches at the spot where we’d planned to have lunch.  I did have the uncharitable thought that we might allow The Fatdog the opportunity to visit, but that reprisal seemed excessive…even for me.  As it happens they had brought a defensive mechanism of their own in the form of a snarling mutt who’d earlier attempted to launch itself, teeth gnashing, at a puzzled FD.

The Bench Bagging Besoms of Benholm

We were only a kilometre out of Johnshaven on the path back when The Fatdog veered sharp right and headed towards the rise of shingle marking the landward limit of the beach.  I reckoned her destination lay over that rise…somewhere near that god-awful smell that had just hit my nostrils.  It didn’t take much by way of detective work to spot the cause of the putrid stench.  A decomposing seal lay amongst the drift wood and general debris cast up onto the back of the beach.  Eyes watering we beat a hasty retreat until we were safely out of range.

Now another creature's ancestor

something a bit prettier and far less smelly.

The walk back was quick and uneventful other than the appearance of a heron just outside of Inverbervie, which had Cap’n Jack scuttling off across the shore, camera in hand.

The Heron

It had been a bit of an uneventful day on the ancestor front but an enjoyable stroll nonetheless.  On our way back we drove a couple of miles down the road to visit the restored grain mill at Benholm where I’ve no doubt John Anderson, the grain merchant, did some business, but it didn’t allow Fatdogs into the grounds and we couldn’t see it from the car park.  It was a wee bit of a dampener, but not unexpected.  After a brief stop of at St. Cyrus to let the Fatdog pound along the sand we headed off home, none the wiser about our ancestors but pleased that we’d at least seen where they had lived and had travelled the path they’d walked all those years ago.


Posted by on May 17, 2010 in Digging up the ancestors


4 responses to “Dead ‘n Gone – Part 2 – The Bench Bagging Besoms of Benholm

  1. Linda

    May 18, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Fascinating stuff Ken. What lovely wee villages – photos are excellent as always : )

    It’s a shame about the house. Perhaps it would have been nicer had they had just built separate houses, rather than lump them all together.

  2. fatdogwalks

    May 18, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Thanks Linda 😀 . Had my hopes too high 😆 but at least it looked like the original was still there. I’ll have to check up exactly how long it was inhabited by my ancestors…might need a bit of lateral thinking to work that out though…with census records only once every ten years from 1841 it’s a bit of a challenge.

  3. Ian Black

    May 19, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Hi Ken,
    Did you know that John MacFarlane(Donald MacFarlane the gym teacher’s son) from Denny now lives in Johnshaven with his wife Helga and son Murray. Sadly, Donald died a few years ago…My brother, Alistair still keeps in touch with John, who works in Aberdeen, as a Commercial Property Manager. Just thought you would like to know. Hope you are well?
    Really like the blog by the way – very impressed!! All the best, Ian. PS You will have to come a bit further north next time and try the Collieston to Newburgh walk or Bennachie, near Inverurie…

  4. fatdogwalks

    May 20, 2010 at 7:30 am

    Hi Ian 😀 . Many thanks for dropping in!

    This is the first time we’ve walked further north than Montrose (on the coast)and I think Glen Clova/Lochnagar is as far east as we’ve walked in the hills. It’s been an unexplored corner for us. Looking forward to more visits in the future. I knew about the Bennachie walk but will have to check out the other – thanks for the suggestions 😀 .

    Strange the connections isn’t it. I met Donald at a Denny High Reunion – a good number of years ago now…but hadn’t seen him since.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: