About the Author

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Bruce Henderson is a computer engineer living in Southern California. With the help of his cousins he is researching the history of the Henderson family of southern Caithness. You can contact him at bruce@sigalarm.com

Landward Episode 23 - Commentary

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The episode has aired now (November 27th in Scotland) and thankfully I was able to find a way to see it, and I would now like to share my comments on the episode with you.

First off, I think it was great! It’s by far the best 6 minutes of Henderson ancient history on television thus far. Most of the folks in the family who saw it wish it would have been longer, which is understandable. But the pacing, the camera work and way they packed that much information into 6 minutes was fantastic.

Word from Landward is that they will provide us with the whole footage some time this spring. I am not sure if it will be possible, but I would very much like to try and put together a “directors cut” of the segment from the portion that aired along with some other elements from the tape.

The detailed comments, and hints about what else was filmed

First off, I wonder if Dougie ever gets off that boat – ok, all kidding aside. First clip is the obligatory montage of me driving towards the Dunbeath Heritage Centre and walking in the front door. Showing my natural acting skills, I got this right in one take..

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The second clip has me unrolling the family history poster / scroll. This was actually filmed after the segment with Nan, but it made more sense up here – rolling out the story if you would. This a hard copy of the same PDF file that I have linked on this site. There is footage of me describing the various branches of the tree and where some of the descendants ended up. There was also discussion on how we have gone about researching these people and finding the historical documents that back up this tree.

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The third clip, which has me introducing the project and why we are doing it, was actually a set of comments we filmed just before going out to Rhian to film at the end of the second day. I was very happy about how it turned out the day we filmed it, and I am happy to see that they used some of it.

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The fourth clip is Nan talking about Knockin. To be honest Nan and I talked about history for about an hour, and she presented a wealth of information. This can be seen later in the segment when she has all of the documents with pink stickies laid out in front of her. This clip she is using an old historical map that shows the location of Knockfin. We actually shot that several times from a few angles, including the “finger on the page” shot used here.

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The fifth clip is Knockfin. Honestly, this place looks great on the show, but it so much more picturesque and beautiful on site. They took video of me wandering around taking photos, which I did not think turned out that well. There was a bit of a walking tour from George where he showed us where the structures had been. Most of the site was covered over with bracken, so it was tough to see anything but that one wall.

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Then unfortunately they bring in the clearances again and have the spooky ghost of John Sinclair hover in for a bit. I understand they wanted to weave in the notion of the clearances here, and I think that it ok. George and Nan did a lot of work to look into how the clearances had impacted Berriedale,in specific Knockfin. According to research they conducted, Knockfin was cleared in the early 1800s, perhaps 1803 or so. But later work at the Scottish National Archives showed some evidence that there were still Sutherland families at Knockfin in 1806, while the Hendersons had moved out already. To me this might describe a case where between the looming clearance pushing them out and the draw to the coast to improve their income through fishing, they decided to get out when it was to their advantage, and did. Of course Nan describes this later on in the segment.

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Clip seven, Nan is showing some of her work that really uncovered information about Rhian and James’ time there. The documents she has laid out before her represent the wealth of information she contributed to the background of this segment, really fantastic work. For the most part, Nan handled the historical and document based research (as near as I could tell) and George handled the physical and site research. It worked out very well.

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Clip eight has George and I walking on the beach at Berriedale, and they show an illustration from the late 1700s of the crews landing herring on this beach, and the gutters and packers working the catch. The records have shown us that James had a fairly small farm for growing crops with a somewhat larger pasture area. This would not make sense if his primary business was farming. This leads me to believe that his primary focus was fishing, and it was the cash raised by fishing that went to pay his rather large rent. You can see a set of fishing cottages in the background that the landmark trust is trying to raise funds to preserve. Going by the census data, at one point one of James’ sons lived here while fishing.

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By clip nine, we are at Rhian, which was actually shot the end of the first day of filming (you can see it is overcast vs the bright sun on the beach the second day in Berriedale). There is quite a bit more to this segment, including George talking about the farm, how it was set up, where the original house was an how the layout of the old road shows where the village was at Ramscraigs. I hope to post a copy of that map to this site in the near future.

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Clip ten is from day one at the Dunbeath center, when the Henderson kin walk in. When I watched it, I think I gave the impression that I did not care about Margaret Irvine, and that is quite incorrect. What did not convey is that I know Margaret, so I said a quick hello to her, and then went on to meet the “new” folks. As my good friend Sean says, I look like some hulking giant.

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Clip 11 Margaret is talking about her family tree, which includes some notable figures including the member of the British Home Guard that found the crash site of the Duke of Kent in WWII. All of this stuff was filmed but did not make it into the episode. There is also footage of John Angus showing where he fits into the family tree.

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The segment closes with a last shot, into the rising sun, from the hill over Knockfin.

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All in all a great piece of editing by the Landward crew, compressing hours of footage into 6 minutes, and capturing the essence of the story as best they could in the time allotted. If I do end up with the additional footage as hoped, I will try to put together an “extended edition” of the same story.

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