Fife · Photography · Scotland

Friday photo: Crail harbour

The village of Crail in the East Neuk of Fife contains a small but busy harbour. Fishing has always been an important part of life in this little place, but these days tourism is a bigger contributor to the local economy. Crail has many self-catering and other accommodation options for visitors, and a delightful little cafe near the harbour (called, appropriately enough, the Harbour Gallery and Tearoom).

Crail Harbour, in the East Neuk of Fife.
Architecture · Photography · Scotland

Friday photo: stone carving

Shown below is the elaborate and beautifully carved stone archway into the small and secluded burial chapel of the Maxwell family at Monreith, Wigtownshire. The last Maxwell to be buried here was Sir Herbert Maxwell, grandfather of the writer and naturalist, Gavin Maxwell (best known for his book ‘Ring of bright water’). There are some interesting old gravestones in the graveyard surrounding the chapel and the whole place has a pleasantly peaceful feel to it.

Carved archway into the Maxwell family burial chapel at Monreith, Wigtownshire.
Book review · Fiction

Book review: “Rainbow’s end” by Ellis Peters

Ellis Peters is probably best known for her series of murder mystery novels featuring 12th Century Welsh monk, Brother Cadfael.

“Rainbow’s end” isn’t a Cadfael book but the story does involve the solving of a murder in an ecclesiastical setting.

Rainbow's end
“Rainbow’s end” by Ellis Peters (1978)

Arthur Rainbow is an antiques dealer and recent incomer to the rural English neighbourhood of Middlehope. Keen to get involved in community life, he joins various clubs and societies and frequently hosts parties for the great and the good at his impressive house. Despite his attempts to mingle and impress, he’s not well liked by the locals, who don’t think much of his apparent desire to become lord of the manor.

When his broken body is found lying in the graveyard, having obviously fallen from the bell tower of the church, Superintendent George Felse quickly comes to the conclusion that this is a case of murder.

Shortly before Rainbow’s death, precocious schoolboy James Boswell Jarvis, known to all as ‘Bossie’, gets hold of a genuinely old piece of parchment and uses it to manufacture a faked ancient manuscript. One evening after choir practise he shows it to Rainbow. The antiques dealer is obviously interested and takes the parchment from Bossie but claims the item is worthless. He asks Bossie where he found it and Bossie tells him it was in a chest in the bell tower.

That night, Bossie hides in the churchyard to see if Rainbow will go looking for more pieces of manuscript. Rainbow is indeed in the bell tower, but someone else comes out of the church, shortly after which there’s the sound of a tremendous crash. Thinking a piece of parapet must have fallen off the building, Bossie goes to investigate. As he’s approaching the scene he stops when he sees a man appear from amongst the tombstones. The man has a torch and switches it on briefly, just long enough to light up Rainbow’s dead body, before hastily disappearing. Bossie can’t make out who the torch-bearer is, but believes the man might have seen him.

Not long after Rainbow’s demise, Bossie gets knocked down in a hit and run incident. The car strikes him while he’s making his way home from choir practice one evening, on a quiet country road leading to his house. Bossie is convinced it was a deliberate attempt to murder him. The piece of parchment he gave to Rainbow has disappeared, and the hunt is on to find both the killer and the valuable old paper Rainbow is presumed to have been killed for.

I particularly liked the setting of this story: a quiet part of rural England containing old churches and a real sense of history.  I also enjoyed the character of Bossie, and the way in which his prodigious intellect and curiosity arouses the respect of both peers and elders. I haven’t reach much Ellis Peters, and none of her Cadfael series, but I think “Rainbow’s End” will encourage me to delve further into her impressive back catalogue. She died in 1995, having published more than 70 books.



News of Fergus

On another blog I used to have, I wrote about my brother Fergus, who went missing in Switzerland on 9 September 2014 (you can read the post here).

He was due to attend a work conference with colleagues in the Swiss town of Martigny, and although he arrived in Geneva and bought a train ticket at the station there, he failed to turn up to dinner in Martigny that evening. He also failed to appear at the conference the following day, and had not checked in to his accommodation.

Nothing has been heard from him since 9 September 2104 and we’ve been left wondering what happened to him on that day. Searches were undertaken in the area in which he was believed to have disappeared, but nothing was found.

Earlier this year, someone out walking on a forested hillside beneath steep cliffs in an area just outside Martigny came across some bones and a passport. The passport was in Fergus’s name. The Swiss police contacted their Scottish counterparts, who gave us the news, but said they were unable to confirm that the bones belonged to Fergus until DNA testing had been carried out. The testing took several weeks, and although we were convinced the bones were Fergus’s, it wasn’t until a few days ago that we received confirmation.

There were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death, and the cause remains unexplained. The two obvious solutions are that he met with an accident on the cliffs, or that he took his own life. He had a history of depression and had attempted to take his own life once before, in similar terrain in Scotland, but had been unable to go through with it. My dad believes that in Switzerland he faced the same situation, but this time achieved a different outcome. My mum prefers to believe it to have been an accident. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know what actually happened that day.

We’ve decided against having a traditional funeral for Fergus, and intend to have some kind of memorial in Scotland that would reflect his interests and values. He was a passionate supporter of environmental issues and an active member of the Scottish Green Party. He was also a very keen croquet player, and was involved for many years with the Scottish Croquet Association. They have set up a trophy in his name, known as the Fergus McInnes Tankard, to be awarded annually for completion of a ‘triple peel’, a particularly tricky croquet achievement.

Although it’s very sad to have definite news of his death, it’s a great relief to have some sort of closure. Some families of missing people never get this sort of confirmation, and I was more or less convinced we’d remain in that category. We still don’t have all the answers, but we’re fortunate to have the knowledge we’ve got. Being in this position allows us to obtain a death certificate and finally take care of his affairs.

My dad is working on a booklet about Fergus, which he hopes to publish in due course. Fergus himself was a very thoughtful and creative person, and enjoyed expressing himself through writing. He kept an online blog of sorts, which is kindly still hosted by the University of Edinburgh where he worked. He called it his ‘brain online’ and it contains many short articles on topics that interested him. I like what he wrote about Being Scottish, and I’ve included the link in case it interests any readers of this blog.