September 2019 Transaction of the Month
1886 The top of Ben[n]achie
Banff is a coastal town, but the Field Club has a long history of heading for the hills. In August 1886 there was a Field Club outing to the top of Ben[n]achie. [In the article it is spelt with one ‘n’].  No-one owned up to writing the report, but if you rule out the people who don’t get compliments paid to them – I would never dare refer to myself as ‘our genial and energetic secretary’ - there is a fair chance the author was Aeneas Chisholm, the popular and charismatic Roman Catholic parish priest of Banff, who went on to be Bishop of Aberdeen. He surely deserves compliments because it was on his suggestion that the Field Club had been founded six years before. He had seen the Inverness Field Club at work.
They stopped to look at the very fine ruins of the castle at Harthill. “One could not but remark that the loop-holes appeared to point, for the most part, in one direction up the glen”. There’s a nice point about up-country neighbourliness. “The castle is well worth visiting, as it gives a better idea of the outs and ins of these old keeps than any other ruins we know”. The castle was restored in the 1970s, so the description of it as a ruin, used to store farm machinery, is an interesting glimpse of a lost past.
Then they went to look at the Maiden Stone near Chapel of Garioch, which, like other Pictish stones, has carvings on one side that seem pretty obviously Christian, while the ones on the other side don’t. They had a lot of fun trying to get Christian meanings out of the less likely ones. Did you know that the coat of arms of Inverness is a crucifixion, with the supporting figures an elephant and a camel? There is a creature that might be an elephant on the Maiden Stone, enough said. Some at least of the clergy present were not convinced by this search for Christian symbolism.
Then of course they climbed the Mither Tap, and had a wonderful view, very well described in the article. But what caught my attention was that the author lists everyone who went on the outing, eleven names, and I thought I would see what the ‘search’ facility would do to tell us about these people. One immediate comment is that six of the eleven were clergymen. There was obviously time available for strenuous leisure activities in the life of Victorian clergy. I’m not going to tell you about Mr Bruce, the parish minister of Banff, as there is an easily available biography, or about Bishop Chisholm. But let’s look instead at some of the laymen.
There is Councillor Coutts. In other Transactions he is Provost Coutts. When the Northern Scientific Societies had held their annual meeting in Banff in 1883, there was a guided tour of Banff. “The party then proceeded to Mr Coutts' garden, when it was pointed out that it probably formed the centre of the monastic buildings belonging to the Order of the Carmelites. The mound in the centre of the garden was noticed, and there was pointed out the probable sites of the chapter-house, cells, and fratery [sic] on the east, kitchen, refectory, &c., on the south, the dormitories on the west, and the church upon the north.” To this day, remains of this unfounded imaginative scheme are handed down orally in Banff.   Provost Coutts was a keen Conservative in a Liberal town, and he had a short fuse. “I remember Provost Munro telling me that at a meeting of the Banff Town Council, when Mr Coutts was Provost and Mr Watt, of the National Bank, a bailie, Mr Watt, who was sitting beside the Provost, said something that irritated Mr Coutts. He on the spur of the moment struck Watt over the fingers and told him to "go to hell." Mr Watt retorted— "I fear ye widna get rid o' me there." (Wm Alexander – Transactions 1920)  We shall return to Mr Shand, the President, and Mr Yeats, the Secretary, another time. Mr Yeats had served in Provost Coutts’ office, but escaped.

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September 2019 Transaction of the Month - by BFC_Admin - 21-01-2020, 02:44 PM

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