Friday, 14 November 2014

Kirkcudbright; Growing up by the Magical Sea

I was brought up for a time in Kircudbright, a confused young boy who's parents had split up, but one who felt safe with all his family, and a beloved pet kitten, around him. Kircudbright was, and is, an affluent scallop port on the Dee Estuary, a salmon river leading in to the Solway Firth. It is most famous for the castle that overlooks the harbour, and also the fact that large chunks of the classic 70s horror film “The Wicker Man” were filmed here.

It is a beautiful place.

The Dee upriver from the Harbour, by Andrya Prescott (wikimedia)
Amongst all this was the young me, always hunting for the feral cats who lived in the harbour buildings, smashing my face open on the dodgems at what we called “The Shows” – you can still see the scar – and dancing about to bagpipe music at the summer “Scottish Nights”, where tourists were assailed by the bagpipes for two hours before the musicians retired to “The Steam Packet” to get wasted with the fishermen.

Kirkcudbright harbour, by Anthony O'Neill (wikimedia)
The main out of town beach was known as “The Doon”, a sandy expanse on the west side of the estuary. There was The Bell rock, you could jump off at high tide, and the wreck you could visit at low tide, and aged about 2, I set off for the wreck.

I was fearless then.

I nearly made it, it is a good hundred metres out. But as you got nearer, the mud becomes as thick and gloopy as can be, and I could no longer walk. Besides, my toe felt something both pointy and wriggly in the foothole, and I got scared.

I turned around, took my stripy swimming costume thing off, very nautical, and walked nonchalantly back to the beach trailing it in the mud. My mother probably though I was dead. As dead as the 19th century barque “The Madras”, whose wreck it was.

The Ross.  A lighthouse bearing island right out in the mouth of the estuary, scene of a murder in the 60s. I went searching for eagles’ nests on the cliffs opposite, and chasing seagulls around. Fearless once again. Rolling painted easter eggs on the castle moat brae, eating them after Speedy, Donald Rudd's mangy dog, had brought them back to me in his mouth. This was bravery without compare.

Ross Island lighthouse, from
Unfortunately, I was rather less brave on the water. I'd be taken out, at gunpoint, on various little 15 foot dinghies, and sit terrified amidst the spiders in the little cabin as the wind howled, and the boat rolled in the swell as we seemingly headed miles out past Ross Island. I think if I ever raised a tremulous voice, I was told to keep quiet. All the kids of the experienced sailors must have thought I was a cissie.

They still would have done, for if ever I found myself out on a boat on any of our subsequent holidays after we moved away, it was still a nautical dentist's drill being used without anaesthetic. I still found it miserable, felt off balance, and felt scared.

It was also usually freezing cold and raining on these pleasant little jaunts.

Luckily, by the time we got a little rib, I was happy enough to scoot up and down the Dee as long as we didn't go into the choppy waters beyond Brighouse Bay. I got some courage points back. But I don't think I'll ever be really comfortable on the water.

I'd rather be by the magical sea, than on it.

Copyright Creamcrackerednature 14.11.14

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