Monday, 28 February 2011

Brodie Castle - 3

In 1645 the castle came under attack from Montrose's army and sustained some damage, but thankfully survived.

Today, you can see the additions made to the building in the 17th and 19th centuries. Wandering the grounds, these troubled times seem distant indeed, with little to disturb this tranquil setting.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

8th Sunday of Ordinary Time

In the Gospel today Jesus tells us, 'Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are we not worth more than they are?'

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great Name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
thy justice like mountains high soaring above
thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all life thou givest, to both great and small;
in all life thou livest, the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish, like leaves on the tree,
and wither and perish; but nought changeth thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
all laud we would render: O help us to see
'tis only the splendour of light hideth thee.

Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908)

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Brodie Castle - 2

Here is another view of stately Brodie Castle.

The castle itself was the home of the Brodie family until the late 20th century. In fact, the family's association with the area goes back further than the building of the castle, possibly as far as 1160 when it is believed Malcolm IV gave the lands to the Brodies.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Brodie Castle - 1

Here we have a fine view of Brodie Castle. It is located 5 miles West of Forres and 24 miles east of Inverness.

Set in peaceful parkland, this fine 16th century tower house is packed with enough art and antiques to keep connoisseurs happy all day.It contains fine French furniture; English, continental and Chinese porcelain; and a major collection of paintings, including 17th century Dutch art, 19th century English watercolours, and early 20th century works. The magnificent library contains some 6,000 volumes.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Spey Valley Smokehouse - 7

Customers can also order salmon prepared mechanically.

There are two different processes for machine slicing. The first, 'D slicing', results in 'D' shaped fillets. The second 'Wizard slicing' produces layers of long slices of salmon. Arranging the sliced salmon onto boards is done by hand. Slices are interleaved with finely perforated sheets of film which make separation easy. Boarded products are then vacuum sealed and are ready for despatch.

Spey Valley products are sold to customers for all over Europe and indeed the world.

Tomorrow we are off to Brodie Castle.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Spey Valley Smokehouse - 6

Once the bones have been removed, the fillets are packed in boxes of 24 and placed in the holding chill before being collected for slicing. The smoked salmon can be vacuum packed directly from trimming if the customer requires. The product is called a 'Fully Trimmed Side'.

The slicing process is determined by the specific requirements of each individual customer. The Smokehouse specialises in producing a variety of finished products, using hand or machine slicing techniques.

In the case of hand slicing, using a 14" filleting knife, the slicers rely on the judgement of their eyes and the touch of their fingers to guide the knife through each fillet, producing slices of uniform thickness and size. It takes 8 weeks to train a person to slice to the required standard.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Spey Valley Smokehouse - 5

Here is another view of the Smokehouse.

The trolleys stay in the post smoke chill for 48 hours before being released for processing on the 'dry side' of the factory. The consistency of flavour and quality of the fillets is enhanced during this chilling period.

In order to prepare the side for slicing it is carefully trimmed by hand. During the smoking process, the exposed surface of the fillet dries into a hard skin known as pellicle. After smoking, the pellicle is cut away using a knife with a revolving blade. The bones are then removed by hand, a task that requires considerable skill and concentration to ensure that each fillet is free of bones. There are over 30 of these small bones to remove from each side.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Spey Valley Smokehouse - 4

As you can see, the smokehouse is really quite a small building. This is more a cottage industry than mass production!

After the brining process, the fillets are taken into the wash area where cold water is used to remove any excess solution from the fish on the trays. Each side is then hung using a metal hook and placed onto another trolley. It takes 72 sides to fill a trolley, and once each trolley is full it is wheeled into the cold kiln, where the salmon is left to dry for two hours.

When the fillets are drying in the kiln, the fires are set in the kiln boxes at the back of the Smokehouse, using oak chips from used whisky casks, oak and beech wood dust, and paper. Once the fires have started water is sprinkled over the flames in order to slow the burning process. Smoke is drawn from the kiln boxes through a small inlet in the kiln wall, where it circulates around the hanging salmon sides before escaping via a roof top chimney.

The trolleys remain in the kilns for up to 22 hours giving Spey Valley salmon its distinctive roundness of flavour. When smoking is completed the trolleys are then placed in the post smoke chill. To be continued!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

7th Sunday of Ordinary Time

In the Gospel today (taken from the Sermon on the Mount), we hear Jesus tell us, 'You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.'

Sadly, we are not all like Little Jack Horner. However, the following hymn fills me (the vilest offender) with hope!

To God be the glory, great things He has done;
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life in atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that all may go in.


Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He has done.

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.


Great things He has taught us, great things He has done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
But purer, and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our rapture, when Jesus we see.


Happy Sunday!

PS I was rather amused when somebody said to me after Mass this morning - it is a good job that we are not all like Little Jack Horner. A Google search provided the reason why!

Nursery Rhyme & History
16th Century History origin of the Little Jack Horner story?
Little Jack Horner was reputed to have been the Steward to Richard Whiting (1461 - 1539) the Bishop of Glastonbury. The Steward had an important role and was responsible for managing the household, collecting taxes and keeping accounts.

The Church, the King and the Gold
Glastonbury was the largest and wealthiest Abbey in England and this Benedictine Monastery owned extensive lands and manors in the county of Somerset. Between 1536 and 1540, after breaking away from the Catholic Church, King Henry VIII and his chief minister Thomas Cromwell set about the systematic Dissolution of all of the Monasteries in England. The reason for was to loot the monasteries of their gold and silver and seize the monastic lands. By 1539 Glastonbury was the only religious house left in Somerset and it was only at matter of time before Glastonbury Abbey was also seized.

The Bribe
It is rumoured that the Bishop tried to bribe the King. He sent his Steward, Richard Whiting, with a gift of twelve title deeds to various English manorial estates. The deeds were said to have been secreted in a pie (valuables were often hidden in this bizarre fashion to thwart thieves). Whiting ( Little Jack Horner) realised that the bribe would do no good and was said to have stolen the deeds to the manor of Mells (it being the real 'plum' of the twelve manors).

The Traitor and the Execution
The remaining eleven manors were given to the crown but to no avail. The old Bishop was convicted of treason for remaining loyal to Rome. The jury included his treacherous steward Horner who found Bishop Whiting guilty and sent the old man to a terrible death of being hung, drawn and quartered on Glastonbury Tor. The Abbey was destroyed. Following the destruction of the abbey the steward, Horner moved into the Manor of Mells. Whether Horner actually stole the deeds to the Manor or was rewarded with them for helping to convict the Bishop of Glastonbury is not known but the Manor of Mells became the property of the Horner family who lived there until the 20th century.

The first publication date for the lyrics to the Little Jack Horner rhyme is 1725.

Little Jack Horner sat in the corner
Eating his Christmas pie,
He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum
And said "What a good boy am I!"

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Spey Valley Smokehouse - 3

Here we see the simple entrance to the smokehouse.

Please remember, this is not primarily a tourist attraction - no it is a place of commerce. However, if you click the photo you will see the words 'Visitors Welcome'.

I shall now attempt to explain the smoking process to you. Spey Valley Smokehouse specialises in just one product - smoked salmon.

The first stage of the smoking process involves laying each side of salmon on trays, where they are covered with a layer of the purest sea salt crystals mixed with molasses sugar. Each component plays an important role in developing the unique Spey Valley flavour. The salt is essential to draw excess moisture from the salmon, as well as imparting some 'saltiness', while the Molasses (or demerara) sugar releases a round and smooth quality in the smoking process. Brining takes around 24 hours in a chilled room. To be continued!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Spey Valley Smokehouse - 2

Here is another map (which hangs in the entrance hall to the smokehouse) showing some features of Speyside.

It has everything you could want - fishing, shooting, whisky-distilling, shortbread-baking, and of course smoking. It is a veritable paradise for the gourmet - and of course the scenery is stunning.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Spey Valley Smokehouse - 1

We have arrived at Spey Valley Smokehouse. You can see it marked towards the south of the map. Do please click on the map to get a larger view.

The smokehouse lies close to the River Spey around one mile south of Grantown-on-Spey. The Spey is one of Scotland's finest fishing rivers and you can see a fishery to the south west of the smokehouse.

I have worked hard in recent months to make a visit to this blog a more exciting experience. We now have sights and sounds - sadly (as yet) I am unable to include smells!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Ruthven Barracks - 9

The two barrack blocks face each other across the open parade-ground, where the redcoats drilled. Each block was designed to house up to 60 soldiers.

Senior officers had separate quarters in the upper floors of the towers. It is unlikely that there was ever a full garrison of 120 men here.

Each room lodged up to ten soldiers. They were expected to cook their own rations and so all their own cleaning and laundry.

Tomorrow we are off to Spey Valley Smokehouse.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Ruthven Barracks - 8

Here we see an artists impression of barrack life.

Soldiers of Christ, arise,
and put your armour on,
strong in the strength which God supplies
through his eternal Son;

Strong in the Lord of hosts,
and in his mighty power:
who in the strength of Jesus trusts
is more than conqueror.

Stand then in his great might,
with all his strength endued,
and take, to arm you for the fight,
the panoply of God.

From strength to strength go on,
wrestle and fight and pray:
tread all the powers of darkness down,
and win the well-fought day.

That, having all things done,
and all your conflicts past,
ye may o'ercome, through Christ alone,
and stand entire at last.

Charles Wesley, 1749

Monday, 14 February 2011

Ruthven Barracks - 7

Bread and beer were produced on the premises with soldiers drawing their rations daily. The men could purchase extra if they wished. Please click on the photo to see the price list.

Remember that this is old money - not decimal currency. I dread to think how much drinking must have gone on!

The soldiers defended the barracks armed only with muskets firing either through ground-floor gun-loops or over the parapet wall. No heavy guns were ever emplaced here.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Here we see Fr Michael Clifton (aka Fr Mildew) preparing the gifts at the altar during a celebration of Mass. The clear focus of the altar servers is impressive.

In the Gospel today, we hear Jesus tells us, 'If you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering.' It is for this reason that I favour the idea of having the sign of peace immediately prior to the offertory at Mass. It seems appropriate and fitting (indeed, Scriptural) and does not break the liturgy up as it does when it is part of the Communion Rite. I must say how much I used to appreciate the dignified way in which Fr Michael always offered Mass.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His altar draw near;
Join in profound adoration.

Praise to the Lord, let us offer our gifts at his Altar.
Let not our sins and transgressions
now cause us to falter.
Christ the high priest bids us all
join in his feast
Victims with him on the altar.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in us adore him.
All that has life and breath,
Come now in praises before him.
Let the Amen sound from his people again.
Now as we worship before him.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Ruthven Barracks - 6

Each of the two barracks was built to accommodate sixty men, ten to a room and sleeping in double beds and cooking for themselves in the fireplaces provided.

Stores were kept in the lofts and basements, the latter mistakenly provided with musket loops which were blocked up in 1720.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Ruthven Barracks - 5

The great granite dome of the Cairngorm mountains shapes how people use this landscape. Travel and settlement are concentrated in the glens and passes. Ruthven Barracks commands Strathspey, the great valley that is still the main route between the Lowlands and Inverness.

Please click on the photo for further information on this strategic setting.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Ruthven Barracks - 4

The Cairngorms were a notoriously difficult area to control. Following the Jacobite rising of 1715, the Hanoverian government ordered the construction of Ruthven Barracks and three other garrisons across the Highlands. These were 'to preserve the peace and quiet of the country'.

Please click on the photo for further information on Garrisoning the Glens.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Ruthven Barracks - 3

If you click on the photo below you will see a map which clearly shows the dramatic setting of Ruthven Barracks.

To the south east you will see Dalwhinnie - the site of the distillery we visited last week.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Ruthven Barracks - 2

The barracks were captured and burnt by Prince Charles Edward Stuart's army in 1746.

Ruthven is an excellent vantage point to view the Inch Marshes, one of the most important wetland sites for birds in Europe.

Below we see Kingussie High School and playing fields viewed from the barracks.

History lessons should certainly be stimulating at this school. A good sing-song always helps!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Ruthven Barracks - 1

It's about time we were all knocked into shape - yes, we are off to the Barracks!

Ruthven is an infantry barracks erected in 1719 following the Jacobite rising of 1715, with two ranges of quarters and a stable block (added in 1734).

The barracks are located 1 mile from Kingussie. They are signposted from the A9 and the A86 in the centre of Kingussie. For those travelling by train, it is a 15 minute walk from the railway station past Kingussie High School.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Anniversary of The Accession

In the Gospel today, Jesus tells us, 'You are the light of the world.'

Awake! Awake! Fling off the night,
for God has sent a glorious light,
and we who live in Christ's new day
must works of darkness put away.

Awake and sing, with praises strong,
in psalm and hymn and spirit-song.
Let love our words and works renew
with all that's good and right and true.

Let in the light; all sin expose
to Christ, whose life no darkness knows.
Before the cross expectant kneel,
that Christ may judge, and judging, heal.

Then rise as children of the light.
Be neither proud, nor hide from sight.
Be careful how you live, and wise
to sift the truth from cunning lies.

Through Christ give thanks to God, and say
to other sleepers on the way:
"Awake, and rise up from the dead
that Christ may shine on you instead!"

J.R. Peacey (1896-1971)

Today is the 59th Anniversary of the Accession of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and so we pray:

Almighty God,
we pray you to bless our sovereign lady,
Queen Elizabeth,
the parliaments in the Commonwealth,
and all in authority;
that they may order all things
in wisdom, righteousness and peace
to the honour of your name
and the good of your Church and people;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


This lovely photo of Her Majesty was taken in King's Lynn last Wednesday. She will be attending Divine Service this morning at Sandringham Parish Church.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Highland Theological College (HTC)

It gives me great pleasure to sing the praises of this College. On a recent visit, I was given such a warm welcome. The staff treated me with kindness and generosity. It made me proud to be a Christian!

Mission Statement

Highland Theological College UHI exists to provide opportunities for men and women to study the Christian faith, on a full-time, part-time or open learning basis, from an evangelical and Reformed perspective, in the context of a worshipping community.

The College is committed to high academic standards of teaching and learning in its Access, undergraduate and postgraduate level courses. Through its staff and students, the College seeks to make a contribution to biblical and theological scholarship.

The College also seeks to serve the churches of the Highlands and Islands by responding to requests for training and education.

Above all, our intention is to glorify the one God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and who has chosen to make himself known to us.

Statement of Faith

The Basis of Faith of the Company [Highland Theological College Ltd.] and of the members is as follows:

Believing that there is but one only, the living and true God, and that there are three persons in the godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and that these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory and with solemn awareness of accountability to him in all that we feel, think, say and do, we engage in and subscribe to this declaration:

All Scripture is self-attesting and being truth requires the human mind wholeheartedly to subject itself in all its activities to the authority of Scripture complete as the Word of God standing written in the sixty-six books of the Holy Bible, all therein being verbally inspired by Almighty God and therefore without error;

Reformed Theology set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms is the system of doctrine taught in Scripture and, therefore, is to be learned, taught and proclaimed for the edification and government of Christian people, for the propagation of the faith and for the evangelization of the world by the power of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Members of the College (both staff and students) really do try and live out the gospel - they have much to teach me!

Firmly I believe and truly
God is Three, and God is One;
And I next acknowledge duly
Manhood taken by the Son.

And I trust and hope most fully
In that Manhood crucified;
And each thought and deed unruly
Do to death, as He has died.

Simply to His grace and wholly
Light and life and strength belong,
And I love supremely, solely,
Him the holy, Him the strong.

Adoration aye be given,
With and through the angelic host,
To the God of earth and Heaven,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890)

HTC is a bright jewel in the UHI crown!

Friday, 4 February 2011

University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI)

The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) has been developed over the past 20 years and includes 13 colleges from Dunoon to Shetland.

Hear all about it! Just CLICK on this link.

UHI has full powers to award its own graduate and post-graduate degrees, and courses range from science to hospitality management. We are all very thrilled!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Inverness College - University of the Highlands and Islands

Here we see the Midmills Building of Inverness College.

When I last taught the First Year BA students here on Monday morning it was a Higher Education College - today it is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands. I am sure the students and staff are all thrilled about the new status - which takes effect immediately!

I know how much effort was put into the application for university status (some people endured much stress, particularly when the initial application was turned down); so the following hymn seems rather appropriate! The University has a very high proportion of practicing Christians on its staff and student body - in fact 100% at the Highland Theological College at Dingwall.

Rejoice today with one accord,
sing out with exultation;
rejoice and praise our mighty Lord,
whose arm hath wrought salvation;
his works of love proclaim
the greatness of his Name;
for he is God alone
who hath his mercy shown;
let all his saints adore him!

When in distress to him we cried,
he heard our sad complaining;
O trust in him, whate'er betide,
his love is all-sustaining;
triumphant songs of praise
to him our hearts shall raise;
now every voice shall say,
"O praise our God alway;"
let all his saints adore him!

Words: Henry Williams Baker, 1861
Music: Ein' feste Burg (Martin Luther)

The following video may have the wrong words - but it sure has the right tune. No grumbles about the weedy tuba this time!

I suggest that the first thing the new University should do is to appoint Diane Bish as University Organist. The second is to give me the title of Professor!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Candlemas 2011 - A Historic Day

Forty days ago we celebrated the joyful feast of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we recall the holy day on which he was presented in the temple, fulfilling the law of Moses and at the same time going to meet his faithful people. Led by the Spirit, Simeon and Anna came to the temple, recognised Christ as their Lord, and proclaimed him with joy.

Here we a lovely settting of the Canticle of Simeon (Nunc Dimittis) by Stanford.

A pity they don't have a decent tuba on the organ, but otherwise - very good.

STOP PRESS (11.00 am)

Today (2 February 2011) is a historic day as UHI Millennium Institute becomes the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

Following confirmation from the Privy Council, the milestone will be marked by celebrations at UHI locations throughout the Highlands and Islands.

This is a day of rejoicing in the hills of the north! In celebration this blog will be displaying a gold heading for the rest of the week.

Happy Feast!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Dalwhinnie Distillery - 2

Here we see the entrance to the Visitor Centre.

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

This classic Highland malt, Dalwhinnie ages slowly to develop a remarkable character. Fifteen years of gentle aging make it a smooth and subtle malt. Take your time to discover creamy vanilla, heather honey and just a hint of Highland smoke.

Dalwhinnie Distillers Edition 18 Years Old

This elegant whisky is exceptional smooth and full of flavour. Finished in rich Oloroso cask wood uncover traces of dried fruit, cinamon, cloves and a warming peat glow.