Sunday, 26 August 2012


Fantasy Bob has noticed that there has been much excitement around the film Brave which is now on general release.  This computer animated film by the makers of Toy Story is set in medieval Scotland with the voices of the characters supplied by what the press calls a galaxy of Scottish talent.  VisitScotland has dumped a small fortune into associated marketing in the belief that the movie will inspire people to come to Scotland.  Fantasy Bob bows to the superior knowledge of VisitScotland in these matters, but a presentation of Scotland as a mist covered landscape populated by kilted beardies with a heroine modelled on Rebecca Wade doesn't really do it for him.  Besides, the film makes no reference to the jewels in Scotland's landscape such as go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton's Grange Loan HQ - where, to adopt VisitScotland's strap line, legends, such as FB, really do come to life. How can it therefore attract anyone to Scotland?

What has caught FB's attention in the film is that the fictional castle in which some of the action takes place is modelled on Dunnottar Castle.    Dunnottar is a truly impressive fortress, a set of ruined buildings on a clifftop promontory about 15 miles south of Aberdeen.  Amazingly enough, is still in private ownership and is open to the public.

Fantasy Bob has a long association with Dunnottar Castle.  Many years ago, about the time the action in Brave is set, FB had a summer job at the Castle as senior assistant to the full time Doughty Groundsman.  FB's important role in preserving the heritage of Scotland was to cut the grass in all areas of the castle, sweep out certain areas, cut the grass again, admit visitors on  payment of the requisite number of groats, and cut the grass again.  There was a lot of grass.

Occasionally FB would be called upon to guide visitors around the castle.  Dunnottar has lots of history and lots of gore  -Wallace,  Edward III, Mary Queen of Scots, James VI, Charles II, Cromwell, the Jacobites all have associations with it.  Among its most stirring episodes is when during the English Civil War the honours of Scotland were kept there and smuggled out while the castle was under siege to remain hidden for many years in a neighbouring parish church.

So there was a lot for FB to tell - and FB felt justified in making up what he didn't know (which was most of it).  To this day there are folks in Texas and California, Tucson and Carolina who recall fondly their visit to Scotland many years ago and recount how they stood where the battle of  Bannockburn really took place, hard by where Bruce consorted with the spider and Bonnie Prince Charlie rowed ashore.

For a while, cutting grass and taking tips from visitors seemed a viable career option for FB and he aspired to the status of Doughty Groundsman.  Together FB and the Doughty Groundsman would take the sunshine sitting on the battlements and, in the slow and deliberate manner of folks of the North East of Scotland discuss weighty matters of state - or the performance of the grass cutting equipment.   No words were ever wasted. In FB's mind it is perpetual sunshine during that summer.  One afternoon after guiding an energetic Scandinavian gentleman around the castle and responding as best as his imagination could to detailed questioning on all matter of historical detail, FB joined the Doughty Groundsman on the battlements.  It was hot. Together they watched the visitor of Viking descent toil up the cliff path away from the castle.  FB turned to his superior,  'You know his English was perfect.  He must be bilingual,' he said.  'Aye,' responded the Doughty Groundsman, 'I'll bet he is, in this heat.'

There is no reference in the histories to cricket having any presence at Dunnottar.  One of the large expanses of grass which FB tended was named the bowling green, and with a little use of the heavy roller could have made a fine net practice area.  Except for the fact that any well struck ball would have careered over the cliffs, to the frustration of all and the particular wrath of the club treasurer.

It is many years since FB visited Dunnottar Castle, but it remains in his mind bathed in sunshine and the model of all that any ruined castle should be.  Test Match Quality.


  1. Apart from the kilted beardies and Rebekkah Brooks lookalikes, the representation of Scotland as a mist-shrouded landscape looks pretty accurate to me. Since cricket had not been invented in mediaeval times, it is unreasonable to expect the Grange Loan facilities to feature in such an epic. As to the possibility of net practice at Dunottar Castle, balls would indeed be lost at an unsustainable rate........which brings me on the subject of astronaut Neil Armstrong, who died yesterday. There is no evidence that either he or his colleagues played cricket on the surface of the moon but FB might have some views on the feasibility of such a project and whether extra large nets would be required.

    1. Many thanks - the news of Armstrong is indeed sad. However FB is not convinced that cricket would be practicable on the Moon since cheese is not a surface that would allow effective seam bowling. But he is sure an assiduous reader of his Witterings such as Silly Point is will be aware of FB's keen anticipation on what current exploration of Mars might reveal -

    2. Apologies to FB - I must have missed that important post. The debate about whether there was ever tea on Mars will no doubt rumble on awhile but should not deflect us from the other important question: should the short-pitched ball be outlawed in low-gravity environments?

  2. I have not watched that movie, but it seems pretty cute and I would like to watch it, maybe this weekend I will find time to watch with my wife and kids :D