Guide Dogs..
23 January 2023

Speaker at our meeting of 23rd January was Bob Gourley, who is blind - and his dog Wallis. We were treated to a detailed and most interesting talk about guide dogs and their selection, training and working lives. Bob started with the history of helping dogs - from the 19th Century, through the first and second world wars and up to modern day arrangements.

The history was surprising and included the work of Dorothy Eustis (1886-1946), an American philanthropist who introduced ‘seeing eye’ dogs to America. We heard too of late 19th Century work in France.

Early work did not have a very high success rate and it was only when careful and scientific breeding was developed that progress towards todays 85 - 90% success was achieved. This work also included careful matching of dogs to people.

Bob’s detailed explanation of today’s training programme was a revelation. Full training takes 3 years, with dogs then able to work until age of about 10 years, when they retire. The total cost of breeding, training and care over their working life comes to around £55,000 for each dog. With around 4,000 trained dogs in the UK, the high cost of this support is clear. Bob made very clear just how transformative such support is for people who are blind.

A very interesting talk and, following questions, Rodrick Skinner proposed a warm and appreciative vote of thanks.

First of the year..
09 January 2023

Following the Christmas break, it was good to be back at this first of the year meeting. Business included an update on the ‘Christmas Postal Service’ with a total of £1538 being raised. The club treasurer indicated that recent donations included £500 each to MacMillan Care, First Responders, RNLI and the local food bank. A further £200 each has been donated to the Scouts and to Fife Countryside Trust.

Following business, club member David Mann gave an interesting illustrated talk about a recent family visit to Shetland. We were treated to photographs of the impressive scenery and with many references to the Viking history. From more recent times we heard of the Scalloway memorial to the WW2 ‘Shetland bus’ operation between Shetland and Norway, to Jimmy Perez’ houses, and to the space station site.

Ponies featured prominently in what were clearly very warmly held memories of the visit. It was a talk that clearly revived dearly-held memories for many in the audience and following many questions and discussions, Ian Brunton proposed a warm vote of thanks. 

Last of the year..
12 December 2022

The 12th December was our last meeting of the year and was a very enjoyable Christmas meal for members, partners and friends. The Rockies restaurant served delicious food and this was followed by a seasonal address and carol singing - led by Miss Jessie Lyon, director of the club's choir.

Altogether a splendid way to round off a year which, at long last, has begun to feel more normal after the trials and restricitions imposed by Covid.

The club would like to wish everyone a happy Christmas and a healthy, peaceful and safe new year.  

The Plough..
28 November 2022

Business at the 28th November meeting (which was also the SGM) included final details for this year’s ‘Christmas Postal Service’, the club’s Christmas Meal plus an update on the money raised for charities by the Coastal Path Walk in September. A tentative date for another Walk was suggested as 3rd September 2023.

Following business our speaker was club member Derek Mathie, who gave a very interesting illustrated talk on the history and development of ploughs. this covered the period from, literally, a two horse powered single tine plough, through to today’s reversible eight bladed plough pulled by a 200 horsepower tractor - and often controlled via satellite navigation.

It was impressive to see close-up photographs showing the size and weight of modern equipment - with a price tag to match: for a plough, around £5000 per furrow!

Derek’s interest and enthusiasm was contagious. His business is in agricultural supplies and we learned that, in earlier days, he had himself spent many happy hours as a ploughman. Perhaps the thing that came across most strongly was the impressive level of sophisticated engineering that now goes into the manufacture of agricultural equipment - and especially the extensive and growing use that is made of advanced modern communication technology.

Following many questions an appreciative vote of thanks was proposed by David Mann.


Origins of place names..
22 November 2022

It was agreed at our meeting of 21st November that the club will again run its ‘Christmas Post’ from 8th - 16th December, with the cost kept to 25p per card. Also the club’s Charity Coastal Path Walk will again take place - probably in September 2023. 

Following other business the speaker was club member Prof. Tony Lodge, who gave a most interesting talk on the origins of local place names.

This included a look at geographic divisions across what is now Scotland and of the various languages spoken - Latin, French, Pictic, Irish, Norse Irish and Cumbric English. It was interesting to learn just how long some place names have survived from these ancient times. Tony made the point that many of these names would originally have had a clear and specific meaning, but these meanings have become opaque with the passage of time and the change of language.

It was fascinating to realise how much some names reflect changes in the landscape: a loch now disappeared, marshland now drained and in productive use; a Roman signalling station long gone. Tony spoke particularly about ‘Kilgreen’ - a significant area of inhabited productive land close by Anstruther and mentioned in historical records. But it is an area that was completely lost to violent late 17th Century storms. All that now remains is a rocky shoreline.

We had examples of the dating of settlements. Those names containing ‘Pitt’ could be dated to 1st Century BC; ‘Bal’ to 8th Century AD and ‘Ton’ to the 13C AD.

Altogether an absorbing talk and, following questions, Allan Wood proposed a vote of thanks.

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