The last Loose Ends post took me to Crookston Castle, not far from where I live in Glasgow. This time I ended up in Dunbar, where I grew up. I was going there anyway when I realised that Lamer Island, what I know as the Battery, would work as another strand of the Loose Ends series. Crookston Castle was used a lookout during the Second World War while Lamer Island was used as a war hospital during the First World War. Plus with Dunbar Castle being across the harbour it is possible to get another link with Mary, Queen of Scots, this time through her husbands, Crookston being held by the Darnley Stewarts, the Earl of Bothwell once the Captain of Dunbar Castle.
The Battery was originally built in the late 18th century to defend against a potential French invasion. It now forms part of the Victoria Harbour, built in 1842 to support a growing fishing fleet. Lamer Island was a sea defence then a hospital before eventually becoming derelict, which is as it was when I was a kid growing up nearby. The Dunbar Shore Neighbourhood Group have done a good job revitalising the Battery, putting up some interesting interpretation boards and art installations. When I got there on a hot Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, the place was busy with families. There was a wee bit of haar out to sea, the Isle of May not visible while the sea was a wee bit choppy. I was happy just to wander and look out for a while, the Battery’s raised position affording incredible views across the new and old harbours towards Barns Ness, St. Abbs Head, North Berwick Law, the Bass Rock and Fife. There were boards with apposite quotes about North Berwick Law, the Bass, May and St. Abbs Head, including my personal favourite about the old proverb of boys coming from the Bass Rock and girls from the Isle of May. I also liked the Marion Corbett quote:
‘When haddocks leave the Firth o’ Forth,
An’ mussels leave the shore,
When oysters climb up Berwick Law,
We’ll go to sea no more’
In short, persevere, as they say in Leith.
There were a lot of birds on the surrounding rocks, I’ve never been sure of the names but maybe a puffin or two to go with the usual kittiwakes and gannets nesting on the Castle rock.
Another link came to me as I looked at another of the boards, which noted that cannons had been plonked on the Battery during the Napoleonic Wars, soon returned to Edinburgh Castle. As I took the train back towards Edinburgh I thought about others, the fact that girls come from the Isle of May might not take me to the May, as delightful as it is, but to the wonderful Glasgow Women’s Library. That I could see two lighthouses might send me to George Street in Edinburgh, the headquarters of the Northern Lighthouse Board, or across town to the National Museum of Scotland, maybe even the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses up the coast in Fraserburgh. A couple of streets away from the Battery is Writer’s Court, perhaps a prompt to go to the Writer’s Museum in the capital. As ever, I will wait and see where the mood takes me, from a castle high over a city suburb to another bedecked in birds’ nests to somewhere as yet unknown.
This is the fifth post in the Loose Ends series here on Walking Talking. The last instalment, last week, was Crookston Castle.