It was slavery days …

This weekend coming,  3 to 5 June 2016, sees the Haal Festival of folk music at Portsoy, Banffshire, at which among many events the singer Jimmy McBeath will be remembered. He worked as a farm labourer at that time before WW1, when the country depended on local production and the conditions were bad for farming labourers.

lf_noim_jmcbtpc_750“But it was slavery days all the same. You workit the whole six months before you got money at all ” This quote is among the cover notes of a Topic Records LP of Jimmy McBeath’s songs. And it’s the songs rather than the privation that people today remember of Jimmy McBeath and other singers and musicians of his time.  Much of what we know of the traditional music of the place comes from a few people like him and a few recordings like this. You might think it would all have gone with the memories, but no, the songs are still sung today in pubs and clubs and festivals…  but mostly without the slavery.

Ps Thirty years later, at the closing stages of WW2, agriculture was still unable to feed people adequately, and still treated farm workers badly, but 20 years on from that, in the mid-1960s, food security was assured. Yet within a decade, the populace rejected local production in favour of cheaper or more exotic imports of bread, rice, pasta and maize.

…. it’s the songs that matter … there a few other links to the past.


Article in the Scotsman byJim Gilchrist Portsoy’s Haal festival remembers folk legend Jimmy MacBeath

Bothyfolk web site page on Jimmy McBeath

Haal Festival 3-5 June 2016 at The Salmon Bothy, Portsoy Banffshire

The image is the cover of Wild Rover no more – Jimmy McBeath, LP (vinyl) by Topic Records 12T173, 1967 (author’s collection). Check the Topic website and  search ‘Jimmy McBeath’ for digital releases.

Eaten from inside out

Plant power day (also known as the fascination of plants day!) is an annual joint venture between the University of Dundee and the James Hutton Institute which aims to engage members of the public and encourage exploration into the fascinating world of plant biology!

Held at the University Botanic Gardens, 17 May 2016, on what turned out to be quite the sunny Saturday, the event had a range of activities centred on plant biology with activities ranging from: DNA extraction from raspberries, exploring the plant-soil biome, an adventure trail which took the public on an educational journey through the wide diversity of plants housed at the Gardens and, our personal favourite, an exhibition of plant insect pests.

Our stall, as you can probably guess, was based on the insect pests of a range of economically and agriculturally important plants and the natural predators of these insects which form a diverse biological system. Primarily consisting of many wonderfully coloured – pink, green, purple, black and brown – aphids (all confusingly referred to collectively by visitors as ‘greenfly’) and the vine weevil, alongside the natural predators of aphids, including the ladybird (the overall star of the show) and parasitoid wasps (a hit with children who were fascinated by their lifecycle, the oviposition of an egg inside an aphid with the subsequent larvae eating the aphid from the inside out – imagine Alien 1979).

We used ‘hands on’ digital microscopes, Dinocapture devices, to allow the visitors, mainly the kids, but a few adults gave it a go as well, to explore the insects we had brought along and see what cannot be seen with the naked eye (there are a few pictures below to whet your appetite). We also supplied interesting plant and insect activity and fact sheets for the visitors to take away, the insect mini-factsheet and the factsheet on plant defence were winners with kids eager to take these to show and tell on Monday.

Overall there was a good attitude towards the event and some engaging questions about the work that goes on at the University and the JHI, we even provided impromptu pest-control advice to gardeners struggling with ‘greenfly’ infestation (diluted washing up liquid rubbed onto infested leaves/stems works well). To conclude – A good day was had by all!

Daniel Leybourne & Jenny Slater


Images above show adults and nymphs of the different varieties of aphid on display (top left clockwise): the Rose-Grain aphid Metapolophium dhordum, the Bird-Cherry Oat aphid Rhopalosiphum padi, pea aphid Acrythosiphon pisum and a second pea aphid biotype (images taken at the James Hutton Institute).


Lesley Harrison

Lesley Harrison – poems, projects, writing.


The Tay Estuary Forum was doing its job in April of bringing people together from different backgrounds but with a shared interest in land, waterways and sea.  Artist Jean Duncan introduced poet and writer Lesley Harrison who had her own exhibit  on Mapping the Edge. 

Lesley kindly agreed to send some examples of her poems and writing for the Living Field web site ….. beginning with …..

Extracts from Auchmithie Calendar Twelve Haiku


winter comets.
our village is ice-bound,
the ground strewn with stars.


cod – saithe – ling
net and line
unraveled at high tide.

Poem Postcards
Birds of the North Sea postcard 1_1100

Birds of the North Sea. Lesley writes: These boards are part of the dune stabilisation east of the mouth of the Dichty. The boards have weathered beautifully – they are now lovely shades of silver, with patterns and sworls appearing that echo the flow patterns of the river through sand or waterweed. [See the links below to Making Space for water.]


Lesley Harrison lives on the north-east coast of Scotland.  In her writing she explores how we locate ourselves inside our landscape; how residual layers of historical and cultural data, along with light, language, memory and/or our collective unconscious overlap and merge to form our sense of place.  Much of her poetry uses the east coast as case study.

Her pamphlet ‘Upstream’ (2013) was the outcome of Making Space for Water, an arts/science collaboration funded by Creative Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, investigating the hidden urban rivers of Dundee and Aberdeen.  The poems sequence ‘Beyond the Map’ (2012) explores our residual folk memory of Dundee’s 19th century whaling industry.

She is currently developing a collection which explores the poetics of the North Sea coast.


Lesley’s web: Lesley Harrison poetry and


A pocket book of 12 drawings and haiku recording a year in the village. Drawings by Sarah Maclean.

To buy 12 Haiku and other works, see Lesley’s web site and mail her  at

Making Space for Water

Tay Estuary Forum

[last updates 2 June 2016; 31 May 2023 to add new links]