This past week I’ve been enjoying a wide range of fun activities with my good friends, Pat & Ian MacLeod. During that week, Dingwall was celebrating Gala Week and had a host of activities each and every day to raise money for the Fire Brigade’s favorite charities. It was a great week to be visiting my ancestral home.
One of those activities included the crowning of the Queen & King where Pat and Ian were honored to get to do the crowning!
It was a really fun event enjoyed by all ages from the community, including me all the way from Oregon!
The activities began with the pipers escorting the “royalty” down to the Town Hall in the center of High Street..
After the crowning ceremonies, the dancing began. The community was trying to break a Guinness World Record of townsfolk dancing “Strip the Willow.” Although they didn’t get the necessary amount of people involved to break the record, they still had a lot of fun dancing down the High Street just the same.
I particularly enjoyed just being around such a great community.
For the conclusion of the evening, everyone joined hands and sang “On the Bonnie, Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond.” Even I sang along, although I turned off the camera before singing as I have a very hard time singing in key!
It was very moving to me, and I have to admit when it was done I had a tear or two that I wiped from the corners of my eyes. It was particularly moving to me to be singing it with that particular community in the town I love most in all of Scotland.
During the week I also had the pleasure of seeing Pat’s sister, Cecilia, once again and also meeting her brother, Ken and his wife, Kate, for the first time. What a great couple!
Toward the end of the week we all hiked up to the top of Knock Farril near Dingwall and enjoyed 360 degree views of the surrounding area.
Below is a closer shot of the town of Dingwall at the edge of Cromarty Firth from atop Knock Farril.
Here are a couple of shots of wildflowers growing on the hill.
Naturally I couldn’t possibly visit Dingwall without paying my respects to my great, great grandparents, Thomas MacNaughten Frew and Christina Rose Frew, as well as her parents; George Rose and Jessie Dallas, at the end of the street from the Town Hall at St. Clement’s church! (The restoration I did to the stone a couple of years ago is still holding up quite well I was pleased to see!)
Pat, and her daughter, Lynn, are very active members of the WRI (Women’s Rural Institute, a service organization) in Dingwall. The first day after I arrived they had a big regional formal “tea” in a nearby community celebrating 100 years of service to their communities. Don’t they look so nice; Lynn complete with a lovely fascinater in her hair?
About midway through my 10-day visit, Pat & Ian, one of their friends, Ina Mutch, and I drove west to the coast near Poolewe to visit the Exhibition Centre of the Russian Arctic Convoy naval base during WWII.
I had never heard of this place or anything about its importance or operations, but boy-oh-boy, after I visited this centre, I knew all about it and just how significant it was to winning the war back then by the time I was done touring this place. We spent the entire day exploring it and enjoying the scenery there and back – a 200 mile round trip!
We started out in the morning and drove through some absolutely gorgeous scenery on the way to our destination, Aultbea, passing lochs, beautiful rock formations and waterfalls!
We stopped at Maggie’s Tearoom at Dundonnell to stretch our legs and refresh ourselves with tea and scones along Little Loch Broom.
A few more miles across the peninsula and we had arrived in Aultbea at the exhibition centre.
In a nutshell, this place existed because supplies needed to get to the Russian by the allies to defeat Nazi Germany. In this bay, Loch Ewe, a massive naval operation existed. Ships, airplanes and other craft escorted the supply cargo ships that traveled through the dangerous arctic waters to make sure supplies desperately needed reached their destination. I was utterly amazed!
Of particular note, the friend of Pat & Ian’s, Ina, that went with us that day, had a brother named George who served in the navy and was stationed at Loch Ewe. He went on 14 different convoys on several different ships, & managed to survive! It was especially significant to her to be there and see all of this. Having her with us made the day that much more special. She had always wanted to visit and I was so happy to make it possible for her.
Here are just some of the pictures I took of the displays, models, and pictures that the small, but jam-packed exhibition had to offer.
Outside in the lawn, ever on the lookout for flowers, I found these mushrooms growing in the lawn and some very interesting looking wildflowers growing amongst the dandelions, before we climbed back into the car for more explorations.
Once we got back in the car we drove around the loch to the headlands on the other side and visited the war memorial perched on the headlands within the area of the abandoned gun battlements near the edge of the Atlantic ocean and where the netting had been stretched between the two headlands to keep enemy submarines and ships from entering the loch.
Along the single track road that led to the headlands, we chanced upon some beautifully stunning beaches.
And there it was, standing proud and erect and decorated magnificently with poppy wreaths which had recently been placed in remembrance on Veteran’s Day.
Surrounding by the gun battlements on every side…I could just see in my imagination the young men so bravely protecting freedom and justice and fighting with all that they had in that horrific war.
Afterward, we all quietly piled back into the car to begin our scenic journey back to Dingwall, passing more beautiful landscapes along the way and remembering the heroic deeds of days past.
On the last day of my visit, Pat and I went to Inverness, about 11 miles to the east of Dingwall, to visit the castle and climb the tower for another 360 degree view of that city.
I also wanted to pay my respect to another great, great, great grandmother, May Naughten, wife of John Frew from Northern Ireland, in the Chapel Yard cemetery just below the castle and down the street.
First the castle….
Up the tower we climbed, reading interpretive signs in exhibits on each floor as we slowly made our ascent.
I really liked the way they made these new interpretive signs in the comic book format to appeal to the younger crowd and get their interests peaked about history instead of the traditional types of exhibit signage one sees everywhere.
When we got to the rooftop of the tower, the views of the surrounding city of Inverness were outstanding!
Back down on the ground, the views were still incredible… and soon I was heading down the street following the river Ness toward ocean to visit Chapel Yard cemetery in order to have a nice conversation with another very special lady.
After that nice visit on a warm and sunny afternoon, we made our way back to Dingwall and in the evening hours on my last night in Dingwall we took part in yet one more ‘Gala Event,’ – a ‘car treasure hunt!’ What fun was had by all!
There were about 20 entries in a scavenger hunt around Dingwall. Each car team were given a list of clues in order to find items in the community (on plaques, on canons, at the cemetery entrance, the old Victorian railway station at Strathpeffer, the auction market, etc.) where we had to search for the answers to the questions. It was great, great fun and a whole lot of laughs. Our team didn’t do too badly in the end, managing to find the correct answers to 15 out of 18 items, including finding a chanter and a masonic apron!
As if that wasn’t already a very busy week, during the first part of my visit to this lovely burgh, Pat and I even managed to squeeze in a lovely 3-day trip up the coast and over to some islands off the tip of Scotland via a ferry at Gills Bay – the Orkneys!
That, however, my dear readers is another story in its own right and will follow shortly… until then!