Thursday, 19 November 2015

Reading my way from Dundee to Auchmithie; by Chris Longmuir

In last month’s post I talked about my reading tour of Dundee, and what a brilliant time I had with the American tour group. As I said at the end of that post, my time with them was not over, and I was to join them on a visit to Auchmithie the following day. Click on Reading my Way Round Dundee to read last months's post.

For those of you who do not know the area, Auchmithie is a historic fishing village on the east coast of Scotland. It is only a few miles from Arbroath where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1320. Arbroath is also famed for Arbroath smokies which are cured and smoked in the town. However, Auchmithie was actually the place where the smokie originated, maybe they should be called Auchmithie smokies.

Auchmithie regularly celebrates their historic roots with the HAAR festival, which they organise every second year, and unfortunately this was not the year. But there was a surprise in store for the American visitors, because the tour guide, myself, and Ann Craig, who helps to organise the festival had collaborated to provide an entertainment by the re-enactment group in the local church.

But back to the start of the day, our meal in the But ‘n’ Ben Restaurant, famed for it’s seafood, particular its smokies and smokie pancakes. Unfortunately, I don’t like smokies so I settled for fresh battered haddock and chips, and I have never seen or tasted such a light golden batter as the one that coated my fish. And I won’t even mention the desserts, they were to die for.

After the meal I read scenes from A Salt Splashed Cradle where the fisherwomen carry the men, on their backs, to the boats. They did this in Auchmithie before the harbour was built, and the reason they did this was so the men would not have to go to sea with wet feet. The readings went down a bomb, and I sold several books from my book bag. Surprisingly, I also sold some books to other diners in the restaurant who were not with our party.

We left the restaurant in good spirits and walked to the church where the re-enactment group were waiting. Ann Craig, in the role of Annie Gilruth, a historical character, enacted scenes from the early days of the village which described how progressive this woman was, and how she instigated improvements in village life, not all of which were readily accepted by the villagers, as one argumentative scene revealed. The group sang fisher songs, danced, and acted scenes. It was a brilliant performance, and if you are in the vicinity of Auchmithie next September it’s well worth a visit to Auchmithie to see this group acting out village life, as it was in the past, on the streets.

But there was a surprise in store for me as well, because at the end of the performance I was invited to join them to read scenes from A Salt Splashed Cradle. I must say I never thought I would do a reading from the pulpit, but it was a great experience.

The group scattered to investigate the village, and as I took my leave of them, I reflected it was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Chris Longmuir


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Bill Kirton said...

Culture is alive and well in the north east. Congrats, Chris, on what sounds like an excellent way to spend the time.

Wendy Jones said...

What an netted ting and fun day. Thanks for sharing

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Sounds wonderful, Chris! Excellent marketing, too, but what a fun day!

Chris Longmuir said...

Yes, it was great fun. I spent two brilliant days with this tour group. I think it was meant to be work, but it didn't seem like it because I enjoyed myself so much. I do hope the tour company book me again.

Lydia Bennet said...

Gosh what fun Chris! Those women in your book sound like the Cullercoats fishwives from my neck of the woods, very strong women and brave too. I hope this happens again for you. time we had an agency to set these up!

Fran B said...

As a Dundonian born and bred, I enjoyed this very much. Agree about the food at 'The Birkie'! I often walked past The Howff on my way home from school. Memory lane for me. Thank you.