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At Crombie Point



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).

Encounters Folk-Lore Happenstance Observation Poetry Psychogeography rag-pickings

Three November Skies



Two divining rods

dowsing the sky


A fragment falling

pooling at my feet

Looking from Leith Walk, Edinburgh, on 25th November towards the vestiges of the Shrubhill tramway workshops and power station. The power station opened in 1898 and housed the haulage engines for cable-tramway operations. By 1922 the power station had closed with the tramway workshops continuing in use until 1956.

The site was also once known as the Gallow Lee where a gibbet stood for public executions. There are numerous accounts of murderers, Covenanters, warlocks and witches being executed and buried on the site between 1570 and 1752. 




Waves of molten lava

breaking  –  on

the blue shore

An early morning sky over Limekilns, Fife on 25th November 2015. The sky as apocalyptic beach.




View from the train – take that #BlackFriday

On the East Coast mainline. Taken and posted on Twitter on 27th November 2015.


Now playing: David Torn – Only Sky

Field Trip Observation Poetry Psychogeography Sounds of Spaces and Places

Two Spectral Trees – Somewhere North of Devilla Forest

Two Spectral Trees - Somewhere North of Devilla Forest

Looking up to the ridge, over the evergreen crowns, two spectral trees hang mid-air in the limpid heat. A  smoke spiral, all coiled movement, settles to stillness as a Rorschach blot of charcoal smudge bleeds into sun saturated blue. The universe melts into my hands. A sublime stasis cupped and held close.

For how long is not the right question – linear time is of no help to us here.

The “caw caw” of a black craw  – pierces the membrane of this no-time. The moment trickles away, dissolves on the ground, scattering the seeds of its eternal recurrence as memory…


Memory is not an instrument for exploring the past but its theatre. It is the medium of past experience, as the ground is the medium in which dead cities lie interred.

Walter Benjamin

Just a brief extract from what will eventually develop into a longer piece or a series of shorter pieces. We have made a couple of visits to Devilla Forest, near Kincardine, recently and it is clear that it will take us a good few more trips to really get the measure of this place. Our foray into the heart of the forest last week was an exercise in getting hopelessly lost which coupled with the first intimation of Spring was no bad result.  The overhead sky, was a cloudless colour field of bleached blue and once the sun was up it felt like the last of the winter murk was being cleansed away.  We eventually ended up North of the forest climbing up to a ridge above the tree tops. Here we found the spectral trees and a curious weather mast amongst crumbling drystane dykes.

Mast I

Drystane dykesScot's Pine - Devilla Forest - You Could Feel the SkyDevilla Forest is located just North East of Kincardine and the name is said to come from the Gaelic “dubh” and “eilean” meaning “black island”. The forest is now run as a commercial tree plantation by the Forestry Commission and consists mainly of Scots Pine, Norway Spruce and Larch. However, the area has a long history of land use with Prehistoric coffins, stone circles and Roman urns all found in different parts of the forest.

Devilla Forest

There are also plague graves, a stone which a local legend says is marked by the grooves from a witches apron string and the remains of a World War II explosives research establishment within the forest area. Combine all of that with four lochs/ponds, burns, meadowland and rich wildlife – including red squirrels – and it’s easy to see why this site should we worthy of further investigation.

Oh and there is also a history of Big Black Cat sightings. We may have the chance to record one ourselves in The Nature Report Book.


Unfortunately there were no maps:


“I hunt among stones” – Charles Olson.

Prior to last week, we had made one previous brief visit to the forest on 23rd February. This date coincided with Terminalia, the ancient Roman Festival in honour of the god Terminus who presided over boundaries. Often his statue was merely a post or stone stuck in the ground to mark the boundaries between land.  Aware that some psychogeographers throughout the country were commemorating Terminalia in some fashion, it was perhaps a serendipitous discovery to find some wonderful local examples in the forest:

Meith Stone This is a Meith Stone which has the St Andrews Cross carved in the top. The stones were used to mark land boundaries and sometimes initials were inscribed on each side of the stone denoting land ownership. Apparently five stones have been found along what would have been the old drove road between Kincardine and Culross.

Standard StaneThis enigmatic looking stone is known locally as The Standard Stone, which according to local legend marks the spot where a Danish Army defeated Duncan and his generals Macbeth and Banquo in The Battle of Bordie Moor. (1038). The stone could also have been where the Scots army placed their battle standards, but is more likely to be the base of a medieval stone cross on a parish boundary or a wooden gallows.

From our initial couple of visits, we can feel that Devilla is going to yield up some interesting discoveries if we can manage to avoid getting lost next time.  Then again that may be no bad thing.

The Owl is awaiting our return.



Now Playing: Boards of Canada – ‘You Could Feel the Sky’ from Geogaddi.


On Samhain

The moon gazed on my midnight labours, while, with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding-places.

Mary Shelley

at the cusp of light and darkness

through veil of in-world and out-world

they arrive.


And if in Edinburgh look to the skies:

Witches over Edinburgh
Witches over Edinburgh (1923).

Endpiece from Dramatisations of History: The Masque of Ancient Learning and Its Many Meanings by Patrick Geddes, Edinburgh: Patrick Geddes and Colleagues, (1923).

Now Playing:  Rhys Chatham – A Rite for Samhain (From The Bern Project).