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Olrig Observations

Olrig Observations

By Castle Hill
A series of short podcasts by Castletown Heritage Society exploring the social history and heritage of the village of Castletown within the Parish of Olrig in Caithness, the most northerly county in the mainland of Scotland, UK.

Known as 'The Flagstone Village', Castletown is intimately associated with the historical extraction, finishing and export world-wide of Caithness Flagstone paving from Castlehill Harbour. Today it is a thriving community, and there is much to tell about the social, industrial, agricultural, maritime, military and archaeological heritage of our village and parish.
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Birkle Hill and the Birch Tree connections
Birkle Hill on the south-east edge of Castletown may not be high in absolute terms, but it offers a commanding view of the surrounding farmland, the village of Castletown and Dunnet Bay.  Muriel researches the derivation of the name 'Birkle' and explores some of the features associated with the hill, uncovering many connections with the humble Birch tree.
May 4, 2021
The Custer Tablecloth
The Custer Tablecloth is a unique and poignant memento of the many service personnel who were based at RAF Castletown during WWII.  The story behind it gives a flavour of the impact such a large military operation had on the village of Castletown and the surrounding area. The very existance of the tablecloth is down to the forward thinking of a young woman who captured evidence of an important but transient moment in history in a distinctive and personal way.
April 18, 2021
The St Dunstan's Clock
This unusual clock featuring braille markings and an engraved plaque 'St Dunstan's 1915 - 1965' was donated to Castlehill Heritage Centre a few years ago by the decendents of the original owner, local man Walter Mackay. The story behind the clock reveals some of the terrifying ordeals he experienced as a young man during World War I and his bravery and indomitable spirit after the war.
April 8, 2021
The late Victorian Mourning Dress
Lindsay Broomfield, a professional costume maker with a passion for heritage costumes reviews the Castletown Heritage Society entry to the virtual Highland Threads Exhibition, an innovative on-line exhibition showcasing a treasured costume from each of fourteen museums from across the Highlands of Scotland.  Our entry, a late Victorian mourning outfit dates from the turn of the twentieth century and was lovingly passed down from mother to daughter over four generations. The earliest wearer is believed to be Mrs Elizabeth Taylor (née Macpherson) who was widowed in 1912. Her husband James Taylor was a crofter and farmed at Buldoo in Reay, Caithness. The outfit represents a time when the approach to death, funerals and widowhood were vastly different from attitudes today.
April 1, 2021
The Barque Samarang and Captain John S Goudie
A time-worn ninetheenth century oil painting of the Barque Samarang passing the Rock of Gibralter sparks an investigation into the three-masted vessel's fascinating history, and during the voyage of discovery a lesson is learned that all is not always what it seems....
March 29, 2021
Vikings, Tythes and the Parish of Olrig
Whilst out walking on the Dunnet Head peninsula, Muriel enjoys the panoramic view of the Parish of Olrig and reflects upon some aspects of the influence the Vikings and the Church had upon past life in the Parish.
March 22, 2021
The expeditionary adventures of James Forbes Sutherland
James Forbes ('Forbie') Sutherland started his career as a farm labourer on the Castlehill Estate in the Parish of Olrig, but was quickly recognised as having 'above average intelligence'.  Thanks to the benevolence of his employer, James retrained as an Able Bodied Seaman and was subsequently recruited by James Cook to join the crew of the 'Endeavour' on its expeditionary journey to the south Pacific.  Forbie acquitted himself well, playing his part in the discovery and recording of many new lands. Conditions for the crew on board the Endeavour were however far from idyllic, and after having survived being almost frozen to death during a re-stocking landing at Tierra del Fuego Forbie developed TB, and eventually succumbed to the condition in April 1770, two weeks after Cook discovered the east coast of Australia.  Forbie was buried ashore and became the first British man to be buried on the shores of east Australia, at Botany Bay, where a memorial to him stands to this day.
March 16, 2021
The Missionary
Muriel reveals some reminiscences of William Waters from Bowermadden, whose passion to become a successful overseas missionary in the late 1700s didn't run entirely to plan....
March 7, 2021
The Edwardian Postcard
The fascinating story behind a postcard posted in Castletown, Caithness, Scotland, in November 1909.
February 27, 2021