Ink etched blue silence. Cold harbour spires, sketched over cubist sails. Thorn pinned birds still tethered. Wings opening, sensing the sky
The ruined pier at Crombie Point. (January, 2017).
Jules Verne travelled to Scotland for the first time in 1859. He arrived at Crombie Point on 30th August, following a three-day exploration of Edinburgh.
Verne along with his traveling companion and old school friend, Aristide Hignard, had boarded the steamship The Prince of Wales at Granton Harbour earlier in the morning. The ship sailed up the Firth of Forth passing Aberdour, Queensferry, Rosyth, Blackness Castle and Charlestown with Verne recounting tales of historical events associated with the coastal landmarks. Approaching Crombie Point, the weather turned violently against them with high winds and waves proving too strong for the steamship to moor at the pier. Verne and Hignard managed to transfer into a smaller sail boat to reach the landing stage safely but very wet. They were met by the Reverend William Smith, from Oakley, who ushered them into the nearby Black Anchor Tavern to dry out and take a whisky.
What was once the Black Anchor Tavern, Crombie Point. Now a private house. (January, 2017).
Beyond the door-less door. An invitation to enter. What lies beyond the threshold, the scattering of leaves and crouched shadows?
On the ancient whispering walls, the faces start to appear. Language of the stones, silent tongues ….
And on this short stretch of coastal path, the receding tide and dying light coats Torry Bay in an emulsion of gun-metal grey. A vista of colour bleached beauty with a tangible undertow of concealed violence bleeding over the mudflats.
In the middle of Torry Bay you will see witches rock. This rock was used to tie-up and restrain anyone suspected of witchcraft. Here the witches were judged and simultaneously sentenced as the tide rose. If they drowned, they were absolved of being a witch, but if they survived they were deemed to be to be a witch and burned at the stake.
(adapted from heritage interpretation boards located on Torry Bay)
More on the dark history of this short stretch of Fife coastline emerged from the Tales for Travellers Project which we recently participated in:
On Torry Bay the sky appears to expand to a grey cloak as we experience a brief rain shower. It’s a suitable backdrop for Kate Walker to tell us of the dark history of witch hunting along this coast in the seventeenth century. Zealous, self-appointed witch-finders, usually being local clergymen searching for those who had ‘danced with the devil’. They used an armoury of pseudo-scientific techniques to prey on poor, elderly, and vulnerable women, with their use of witch pricking and searching for the devil’s mark. The familiar power structures embedded in organised religion and misogyny. Kate recounted the tragic story of local woman Lilias Adie, buried face down in the mud on the beach, between the high tide and low tide marks as it was outside consecrated ground. Buried neither on land or at sea, huge stone slabs were placed on top of her; a folk remedy for revenants who were suspected of returning from the grave to torment the living.
Now playing: Ensemble of Irreproducible Outcomes – ‘Trio and Sine Waves (With Wind, Snow, And Birds)’ from Memory and Weather.
Ian Thompson, Jules Verne’s Scotland: In Fact and Fiction, (Edinburgh: Luath Press, 2011).