Primary School Quiz..
14 March 2018

On Wednesday evening, 14th March, Anstruther Primary School was the venue for Anstruther Rotary’s quiz for primary-7 pupils. Seven local primary schols took part, with a large audience of supportive parents.

The quiz comprised ten rounds of six questions, with topics including geography, maths, history, natural world, and 'pot luck'.

At the end of round four, three teams were tied for the lead, but by round six Anstruther had moved to a two-point lead over their nearest rivals.

They continued to build on this lead, and finally emerged as champions. Derek Mathie, club president, presented the trophy to the winning team (picture below) and which they will hold for a year. Congratulations to all the teams for very fine performances.

Anstruther Primary Schol will now go on to the Rotary Area Final to be held in Dundee on 23rd May. We wish them every success.

The building of the 'Bydand"..
26 February 2018

Friends and family who helped with December’s ‘Christmas post’ were welcomed to the 26th February club meeting, as a small thank you for their support.

Following a buffet meal, club member Malcolm MacDonald took the floor with a slide show recording the construction of the last Seine-net fishing boat built at the Smith and Sutton yard in Anstruther. Only ghosts of the yard now remain, at the place where the Fisheries Museum now is.

Photographs told the story of the creation of ‘Bydand’, from laying of the keel, to launch and fitting out. ‘Bydand', is a wooden boat built by knowledgeable and highly skilled men using traditional methods and tools. Malcolm commented that, at the time, many fishermen preferred a wooden boat, as it was felt to ‘give’ and ride rough seas better than a steel boat.

We saw the keel laid on blocks, the bow fitted then individually cut and shaped ribs jointed onto the keel. Each rib different in size and shape. After the stern was fitted the hull was planked. Each heavy plank being first steamed in a long steaming box to make it more pliable, before being bent around the ribs and fixed in position - starting from the keel and working upwards.

Steel engine mounts were fixed, the deck planked and engine, propeller and rudder put in place. Gaps between planks were caulked with a hempen material hammered in, holes over fixing bolts were plugged and all made smooth before painting.

After launching down a greased slipway and naming, final fitting out took place with a pre-fabricated wheelhouse, fuel tanks, winch, internal crew quarters and bulkheads.

The ‘Bydand’ fished for eighteen years off Scotland, before being sold to an owner in Ireland - and believed to be still going strong.

We enjoyed a fascinating and historically important story of boat building, now no longer seen in Anstruther. Following questions a vote of thanks was proposed by Club president Derek Mathie.


The Politics of the Tooth Fairy..
05 February 2018

Professor Jan Clarkson, speaker on the 5th February, reminded those of us with substantial experience of dentists of happy hours spent in the chair!

Prof Clarkson is Director of Effective Dental Practice Programme at Dundee University and is a founding member of the Cochrane Oral Health Group. 

Her appearance at the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe ‘Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas’ gave fair warning of the serious, entertaining, humorous and simply fascinating talk that followed on the ‘Politics of the tooth Fairy’.

We were transported from ancient dentistry via the Greek and Roman world, Elizabeth I and the Armada, Napoleon, Victorian fans and Churchill’s dentures. Sugar emerged as the devil incarnate with blame laid at the door of Sir Walter Raleigh.

Tools of the trade were passed around gingerly, as were some of Jan’s own teeth - and her granny’s dentures!

Early dentistry was generally gruesome - and yet pictures of very early fillings using gold wire and lapidary drills, demonstrated a high level of skill and craftsmanship.

The effects of scurvy on sailors was sobering, WW1 trench mouth hardly less depressing and as for  surgeon-barbers attending fairs, with loud music to cover the screams… !!

James Lind (1716 – 1794) was a Scottish physician and a pioneer of naval hygiene in the Royal Navy. By conducting one of the first ever clinical trials, he developed the theory that citrus fruits cured scurvy. The proof was presented to the Admirals of the day - nothing happened for fifty years.

But there was a very serious side to Jan’s talk, as she said that dental decay and poor oral health is the cause of today’s biggest world-wide health cost. We heard too of the role that poor oral health plays in the incidence of serious illnesses. It was interesting to learn of the role of the Cochrane Group and of its research to establish, factually, what treatments can be proven to be effective.

A novel theory emerged that it was toothache that led to the defeat of the Armada; that caused Napoleon to invade - and generally that the world would be a peaceful place without it!

Following questions, a warm vote of thanks was proposed by Andy Matthew.




Norman times..
15 January 2018

We were privileged to welcome Honorary Professor Dr Barbara Crawford, as speaker to our meeting of 15th January. Prof Crawford is Honorary Reader in History at the University of St. Andrews, having spent over thirty years as a teacher in the Department of Mediaeval History there. She is too an Honorary Director of the Strathmartine Centre for Scottish History; a charitable trust supporting research and education in Scottish History.

Prof Crawford took as the topic for her illustrated talk, the 1923 find of a Norman bronze bowl fragment beneath the ancient motte of Leuchars castle. What emerged was the intriguing story of a 12th century bowl carrying images of five knight-figures attacking beasts in a wood. Traces of latin inscriptions suggest a link to the fight of good against evil in the Christian tradition. The latin ‘IRA’ (anger or rage) perhaps a link to the seven deadly sins and suggesting a possible use of the bowl in a religious community. Perhaps for hand (or feet?) washing - but also as a teaching aid in an abbey or monastery.

During a wide-ranging talk, reference was made to the De Quincey family (Earls of Winchester and Constables of Scotland) who were of Norman descent - and also to the 12th Century, Romanesque, St Athenase Church in Leuchars. 

We learned that this bronze fragment was of well-known type of bowl, possibly made in the Rhineland, where metalworking skills of  a high order existed in those far off days. It was of great interest to see photographs of a complete bowl, 31.5 cm in diameter, of the same type but originating in Carcassonne in France. 

An exciting and absorbing history of times 900 years distant - but of an artefact displaying an unchanging quality of art and craft. Following questions, a vote of thanks was proposed by Findlay McLaren. 


The Singita Grumeti Fund..
08 January 2018

At our first meeting of 2018 we were delighted to welcome as speaker Wesley Gold, introduced by Roderick Skinner and who told the story of the Singita Grumeti Fund. This is a not-for-profit organisation, whose mission is to contribute to the conservation of the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania.

We heard that the Singita Grumeti concessions are lands rich in flora and fauna and considered by many to be an international treasure; but that uncontrolled hunting and rampant poaching had decimated wildlife populations, in turn plunging surrounding communities into poverty. 

What emerged was the sheer scale of the task in balancing the conflicting needs of wildlife, including elephant, wildebeeste, rhino and cheetah, with those of perhaps 80,000 people across some 353,000 acres of unfenced land. And of course the challenge of controlling hunting and poaching - for meat and for ivory. An especial curse is the use of snares, which are poorly monitored and can be forgotten. Perhaps as many as 30 million! 

Wesley outlined the methods being used in partnership with local communities and stakeholders. It was interesting to hear of the use being made of modern technology to gather and analyse intelligence; the use of drones to quickly monitor large areas and, most recently, the use of night-vision equipment. The drones used are of advanced design and can remain airborne for five hours at a time - controlled from a central operations room. 

The Fund employs 180 dedicated staff, including 104 game scouts, to protect, manage and monitor Grumeti’s concessions and wildlife. Success is being achieved and can be seen where the near-barren plains of ten years ago teem with wildlife once more. The great herds are once again lingering in this region during the annual migrations; a direct result of re-stabilising the fragile ecosystem. 

A fascinating talk about a task that remains daunting, covering as it does anti-poaching and law enforcement, community outreach, research and monitoring, relationships and conservation. Following many questions a vote of thanks was proposed by David Mann.


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