Basin Notes - January 2005

Stimulating Interest in our local history

The natural history of the Basin, the flora and fauna, is well known. It is, after all, the raison d'etre of Montrose Basin Wildlife Centre.

But it is substantially affected by what we might call the unnatural history of the area - the story of man's impact on the local environment.

It was to record the effect of mankind that Montrose Basin Heritage Society came into being. Four years of assiduous burrowing in archives and visiting local sites produced a store of information which, like Topsy, just growed, until it now occupies a daunting number of ring binders.

History of area surrounding the Basin

The natural outcome of this process was to make the results available to the public by publishing a book. Ebb And Flow, which tells the history of the area surrounding the Basin.

It wasn't intended to write an exhaustive historical account, but to produce a readable work that stimulated interest in local history and would tempt those who perhaps had left the area and were curious to find out how their ancestors lived.

The book sets the scene with a chapter describing the parishes surrounding the Basin. This is augmented by an account of the origin of the place names of the area, from early Pictish names through Gaelic and the relatively late influence of the Scots language.

Detailed time-line

A detailed time-line sets out the salient events in local history and also places them in a national and international context. It is almost certainly the first comprehensive local time-line.

The long sweep of prehistory and the brief sojourn of the Romans in Angus are related, followed by a very readable and amusing account of the 18th century owners of the Langley Park estate on the north side of the Basin.

John Erskine, the 5th Laird of Dun, played a very crucial part in the Reformation in Scotland - as influential, many believe, as John Knox, partly due to his greater empathy with Mary Queen of Scots. Erskine's story is told in a very clear and understandable way.

The history of salmon fishing harks back to the early days of the rouping of fishing tacks and Montrose's prominent second place in the league table of Scottish salmon exporting ports in the Middle Ages. Mussel cultivation is another fishy item. Under the guidance of James Johnston. the mussel beds became "by far the most extensive mussel beds in Scotland".

The book is lavishly illustrated with old maps, portraits by Henry Raeburn. photographs, etchings and ink drawings by William Lamb, and line drawings by the Society's artist David Parker.

Information still to be unearthed

With a large amount of exciting information still to be unearthed, the members of the Basin Heritage Society who did the spadework are currently pondering on the feasibility of a second excursion into print.