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Issue 83 - The Rocks Remain

Scotland Magazine Issue 83
October 2015


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The Rocks Remain

Roddy Martine applauds the timelessness of the Western Isles

The consolation for the approach of winter in Scotland is that the countryside is often at its most beautiful as the rich autumnal colours of red and gold encircle the landscape. It is also the time of the year when I spend a short vacation on the Island of Lewis which in the context of Scotland Magazine coincides very neatly with the first of James Hannavy's essays on the 17th Century travel writer Martin Martin.

Martin was a native of the Isle of Skye and, if I climb Ben Mhor above Loch Seaforth on a clear day (which I may or may not this year), I can just see the bay of Duntulm across the Sound of Shiant. This is where Martin lived and presumably wrote the book which 70 years later inspired Dr Samuel Johnson and James Boswell to embark upon their equally epic journey through the Western Isles.

Moreover, I can confirm that apart from the motor car, tarmac roads and the ferry and flights to and from Stornoway, nothing much has changed on Lewis. The timeless stones of Callanish still stand defiant against the Atlantic winds; the locals still dig for peat and scour the shoreline for kelp, and the harvest from the sea is so rich that the bulk of it is shipped off to the capital cities of Europe.

Our Regional Focus for this issue is Aberdeenshire on Scotland's north eastern shoulder. Longer ago than I care to admit, I remember meeting Robin Duff, the 32nd Laird of Meldrum House at Oldmeldrum. Until 1983, he was Chair of Scottish Ballet, which was based in Glasgow, but I can still recall his excitement when he talked about transforming his ancestral family home into a luxury hotel.

In this issue, James Irvine Robertson examines the lives of William Paterson, founder of the Bank of England, and John Law, founder of the Bank of France. Were they a couple of scoundrels? Or genuinely altruistic entrepreneurs with bad timing?

Nowadays we are perfectly accustomed to seeing exotic animals from far away countries, but imagine the sensation caused when Sir Charles Murray sent the first hippopotamus to London Zoo in 1850. Nothing like this had been seen in Europe until then.

He is now general manager of The Famous Grouse Experience in Comrie, but Stuart Cassell's previous incarnation was as the lead musician of the ‘bagrock’ band, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers. We first met in New York during Tartan Week and I found him as enthusiastic and engaging as ever. Finally, Gerry Urwin follows the career of General George Monck whose appointment as Oliver Cromwell's Lieutenant in Scotland did not prevent him from restoring the British Monarchy.