Getting out and about can be a great way of understanding the importance of Doric culture across the North East of Scotland. Jill McWilliam is not only a history enthusiast, she is also a keen walker and has spent many hours exploring the nooks and crannies around Cruden Bay and across the Buchan countryside.
She has also inspired others to do the same, and hosted a number of walks around the region, sharing her passion and her knowledge for the Doric language and all things Doric.
Jill has recently joined forces with Country Side Ranger, David Brown to impart her knowledge of these locals walks.
For his own part, David has provided notes on the research he did in preparation for his own guided walks along our Buchan Coast, we have added a couple of examples below to give you a little taster.
To find out more about David’s walks check out the Country Side Rangers Event’s callander.
The Battle at Cruden Bay: ‘The Slaughter of the Danes’.
It was in A.D.1012 that the Battle of Cruden was fought by King Malcolm II and Canute, son of Sweyn, King of Denmark and Norway.
This was the Canute who was later to be known as Canute the Great. In that year, 1012, he landed on the shores of Cruden at the head of a large army. His mandate from his father Sweyn Forkbeard, was to conquer the Scots once and for all. This order was borne of Sweyn’s vexation at the repeated losses which he had sustained in Scotland. So earnest was he that the command of the large army which he raised was entrusted to his son, Canute, a seventeen year old already experienced in warfare.
His contender, Malcolm II, marched to meet him with expedition. But, says Dr Abercromby in his “Martial Achievements of the Scots Nation”
The Scot’ King thought not fit, with his new raised forces to hazard a decisive battle.
Instead Malcolm harassed the invaders by frequent skirmishes and intercepted their food carrying parties in a strategy of attrition, hoping thereby to starve them into returning to their ships. This, Dr Abercromby tells us, did not please Malcolm’s subjects. They wanted a major confrontation with the enemy and were determined to have it even at the expense of mutinying against their King. Consequently, Malcolm was compelled to seek out the enemy.
The battle which followed was the last of many battles between the Danes and the Scots.
It is said to have extended four miles to the interior and along the south side of the water of Cruden; but the hottest part of the conflict is supposed to have been on the plain skirting the bay, and along the valley, about half a mile in breadth, where the remains of the dead and many kinds of warlike instruments have been found.
From this account, it seems that the golf course is sited on what was the worst part of the battle field. The victory was to the Scots, it was such as occasioned more grief than joy in the camp.
That night both parties rested at some distance from one another and in the morning they were presented with the dismal spectacle of the bodies of most of their numbers strewn on the field of battle.
It is little wonder then that their thoughts turned to peace–a peace mediated by Christianity, the religion respected by both nations. Its terms included provisions that the field of battle be consecrated as a burying place for the dead and that the Danes as well as the Scots be decently and honourably interred.
Also under the treaty, the Danes and the Norwegians had to withdraw from Scotland. But Canute lived to fight another day and was still a young man when he became King of England and Scandinavia.
As to Malcolm II, he honoured his part of the treaty and provided a Christian burial for dead of both armies. He also commanded that a chapel be built on the site, which to perpetuate the memory of the treaty he dedicated to St. Olaf, the patron saint both of Norway and Denmark.
Cruden Bay in Stoker’s Works, The Watter’s Mou’, Dracula and The Mysteries of the Sea.
THE WATTER’S MOU’: The denouement of Stoker’s shorter novel takes place here.
DRACULA AND SLAINS CASTLES – OLD AND NEW.
The octagonal room: Jean Louis de Bersi in his ‘Secrets and Practices of the Freemasons’, p.100, states “…. Several Hermetic symbols can be found in this ‘Hermetic Temple’. The main reading room is octagonal in shape. This form is the pure and discrete expression of the Hermetic Tradition, and its culmination.” Dracula’s castle has an octagonal room. New Slains has an octagonal room. This room is which any guest would have been shown to as a reception area, just as Jonathan Harker is shown on his arrival to the octagonal room in ‘Dracula’. Aside from this, there is no similarity between Stoker’s description of Dracula’s castle and New Slains, or Old Slains for that matter.
THE MYSTERIES OF THE SEA.
Archibald Hunter is sitting on the bridge wall over the Water of Cruden when he sees a man carrying a small coffin as a tall gaunt woman watches him intently. Then the man seems to be walking without the coffin. This is his first experience of the second sight and the old woman is a seeress who knows him for a seer; she is Gormala MacNeil.
HAWK LAW: “In the centre of the bay the highest point of land that runs downwards to the sea looks like a miniature hill known as the Hawklaw.”
- OLAF’S WELL IN STOKER’S BOOK: Archibald witnesses the drowning of Lauchlane MacLeod and as he carries his drowned body, with Gormala watching him, he sees the souls of those drowned hereabouts rise from the sea in chronological order; first men from prehistory through to Spanish Armada men and down to the man whose body he carries. He follows the procession to St Olaf’s Well where they enter and disappear.
Stoker had done his research on the Second Sight; Robert Kirk, a seventeenth century minister at Aberfoyle and a seer himself, wrote a treatise, ‘The Secret Commonwealth’, wherein he states that the presence of a corpse can precipitate an instance of visionary power.
David Brown Countyside Ranger (Formartine)
“From the southernmost point of Cruden Bay to Whinnyfold … is but a few hundred yards; first a steep pull … then an even way …. The southern side is sheer … into the bay of Whinnyfold in the centre of which is a picturesque island of rock.” – The Caud Man.
BROAD HAVEN: “ … stands an isolated pillar of rock called locally the ‘Puir Mon’ through whose base, time and weather have worn a hole through which one may walk dryshod.”
THE SKARES: This is where Lauchlane MacLeod meets his end and where Archibald rescues the heroine of the story, the American heoress Marjory Drake and her companion, Mrs. Jack.
CROM CASTLE: which Marjory and Mrs. Jack are renting, is a fiction, the name is taken from the land of Stoker’s birth, Ireland – Crom Castle in Co. Fremanagh that isn’t at all like the one described in the book.
ARDIFFERY MANSE: on the other hand is a real local place inland from here and its description, with its “… narrow iron gate, sheer in the roadway…” bears more relation to reality; it is where the novel’s gang of professional criminals hide out.
WHINNYFOLD: Here the hero rents a house, as did Stoker himself when the comfort of The Kilmarnock Arms became too expensive for his means.
A Note on Mrs. Stoker:
She was an actress and on holiday, liked to play golf; being an attractive lady, she was welcomed for rounds of golf with the rich manufacturing magnates who came to play here: Sir Jeremiah Colman (mustard), as well as members of the Cadbury family (chocolate), the Crawford family (biscuits) and the Gilbey family (gin).