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MAN WITH TWO DOGS: SWI memories of the rookie’s eggs that ruffled Rural feathers

Scotch eggs or scandal?
Scotch eggs or scandal?

Nothing remains the same in this world as was brought home to me again earlier in the week when the Doyenne was reading the latest newsletter from the SWI (Scottish Women’s Institute) of which she is a member.

Originally the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute (SWRI), in 2015 it reconstituted itself as the Scottish Women’s Institute.

The intention was twofold.

To represent the modern face of rural activities and to widen the appeal of the Rural, as it is still universally affectionately known, to an urban audience who may be uncertain whether they are eligible to join as they do not live in the country.

The first Scottish Women’s Rural Institute was formed in 1917, adopting the motto For Home and Country.

This was at the height of the First World War when the farms and glens of Scotland were stripped of their menfolk, off in the trenches of France, fighting for King and Country.

Other considerations apart, at the time the Rural must have provided a real supportive lifeline to many women, some bringing up bairns on their own, some living in remote places where communications were poor – no telephone, no car, no near neighbours.

This generation really can’t conceive how hard, in those days, rural life could be.

To belong to an organisation whose members looked out for each other must have been so important.

The Doyenne’s debut

Returning to my original theme however – the Doyenne was reading out the list of institutes in the Angus Federation which had closed in the past year.

One was the Logie Pert Institute (between Montrose and Marykirk) which the Doyenne joined when I brought her back from Edinburgh as a new bride to live in the former Logie Pert manse which I had bought from my father.

We brought up our family there and it was home for 39 years.

She was keen to integrate and meet her new neighbours and was delighted to be invited to join the Rural.

An important part of every meeting is a competition reflecting a rural skill such as baking, knitting, best bowl of bulbs, Christmas decoration, best dog photo – the list is endless.

The competition for the Doyenne’s first event was Scotch eggs which she had never made.

She found a recipe and set to making them.

Rather diffidently she set out for the meeting with her eggs in a brown paper bag kept from the biscuits she’d bought from the Brechin Co-op travelling van which called on us once a week.

Well – she had the impudence to win first prize.

It ruffled feathers for months afterwards.

Ladies who learned to make Scotch eggs at their granny’s knee looked out their recipes to check if there was something they might be doing wrong.

Whispered conversations took place behind closed doors.

You can see their point – a young slip of a thing from Bradford wiping the eye of the lot of them and not even having the grace to blush.

However, time is a great healer, all was forgiven and she remains a Rural member – now of Tarfside Rural, meeting in the historic Masonic Lodge at Tarfside.

The SWI has even welcomed this man

I’ve had a long association with the Rural myself.

I’ve lost count of the number of Rurals I’ve been invited to address and tell my story of being the Man with Two Dogs.

For several years I was asked to take on the onerous task of Santa Claus at the Tarfie Rural children’s Christmas party, camouflaged in an enormous red costume and tickly cotton wool beard and whiskers.

So I was sorry to hear that Logie Pert Institute had folded because it was a thriving branch when the Doyenne was a member.

The Angus Federation SWI is still going strong and looking forward to celebrating its 100th anniversary next year.

The Scottish Smallholder Festival is to be held at Forfar Mart on Saturday, October 23rd and Angus SWI will have a stand to showcase their skills and give demonstrations.

One of the main problems is attracting younger members who will become the lifeblood of the organisation as the older members retire.

But at least the Tarfie Rural seems to have a secure future with an enthusiastic membership and attracting an interesting range of speakers and events.

SWI hospitality is legendary

One event which has been missing from my own calendar, due to the pandemic, is the Tarfie Rural Burns Supper – one of the highlights of Glenesk’s social year.

Tickets are like hens’ teeth to get hold of.

The Masonic Hall is always bursting at the seams.

A full house at Tarfside Masonic Hall where Tarfie Rural host a Burns Supper.

All the haggises are home-made by the ladies of the Rural to the same traditional glen recipe.

Each one tastes different which shows how individuality rules in glen kitchens.

Venison hearts and livers are supplied by Glenesk estate stalkers and chappit neeps and tatties come from the glen farmers.

Everyone gets a spoonfu’ of four or five of the blessed creations followed by the equally traditional clootie dumpling pudding.

And naturally there’s the odd hoot of whisky.

MAN WITH TWO DOGS: Changed days for gamekeepers but still a way of life