Friday, May 13, 2016

A walk around the Big Burn with Colin

This morning I decided to take it easy and relax - tomorrow I've got a twelve hour train journey down to London.  It's been a pretty busy week.  Just before noon I finally left the B and B and started walking over to the trail head for the Big Burn walk which is a "must do" in Golspie as it's one of the best walks in the area.  During my week here I had heard of a 94 year old Newfoundlander who was well known in the village and did maintenance on the Big Burn walk. 

As I crossed the first bridge I noticed the signs and below and thought "oh yes that's the man I was told about".

I hadn't gone far when I came across a bench with a table in front of it.  I thought "this would be an ideal spot to sit and work on my travel journal".  It was pure bliss writing with the sounds of birds twittering (without smart phones) and water tinkling.  Finally it was time to carry on with the walk and as I got off the bench I happened to look up and there was an elderly gentleman walking down a side path.  I said "you must be Colin" and sure enough he was.  When I told him I was from Canada he gave me a big hug and we sat down for a chat.  He had come to the Big Burn today to do some painting but had forgotten his paint brush.  Colin told me his story. He came over during the second world war to help with forestry.  Newfoundlanders weren't popular here he said and when I asked why he answered (with a twinkle in his eye) "because we stole all the girls!".  He told me about his life - walking back to his lodgings through the Big Burn in the dark after a visit to the pub, marrying his sweetheart who he met here in Golspie, his son, his trips back to Canada to visit family and his sadness at having his driving license revoked due to someone reporting him for his eyesight.  He said he had driven heavy duty vehicles all over Europe and now they didn't trust him.  The story did have a happy ending however: three of his "girlfriends" got together and bought him a scooter which he now drives on secondary roads.  While we've all seen scooters they are unique over here due to the plastic around them - needed in rainy Scotland!  Here is a picture of Colin's scooter.

I then said I had better carry on with the walk and he shyly asked if he could come with me.  I said "of course" but thinking "yikes what happens if he falls or has a heart attack, after all he is 94 years old!". I helped him "hide" his bag of maintenance and paint supplies and then off we went.  While we were walking he pointed out the trails he and a German fellow (a former POW) had built and oh he built this bridge and that bench over there and see those trees, he had taken them down...and oh yes he had gotten an MBE.  WHAT?  Yep, he got an MBE for his many years of voluntary service (over thirty)  in the village.  I was walking with a Member of the British Empire!

The walk was absolutely beautiful and led eventually to the Big Burn Waterfall. 

Big Burn waterfall

We walked the Waterfall trail and then some more...I said it's up to you so he kept going.  He walks the trails every Sunday as well as doing maintenance during the week.  Family and friends keep telling him not to walk on his own but he ignores their advice.  He said "they will be pleased to hear I walked with you today".  Normally he has his cane but let me tell you when it came to walking he kicked my ass!  He kept asking "can you keep up" and "are you tired"?   We sat down often to rest which was a good thing - I needed my energy to keep up with him! 

Colin has built all of the benches and tables like these on the trail - so handy for putting water bottles or snacks on when taking a break.  This one was due to be painted today - now it will be painted tomorrow!

This is Skating pond lake - yes people supposedly skate on it in the winter.  The trail was so well maintained (way to go Colin!) and is easy to walk.  There was just one steep part at the end where I was slow - he kept looking back at me worried but I said go ahead.  I didn't want to slip, go crashing down and take him that would NOT be a good thing would it? 

I made it down intact and we took a few pictures by the bridge. 

Then I took him for tea and we parted ways.  What an inspiring man and someone I will never forget.


DEBBIE Sinnett said...

Wonderful story, what an inspiring man.

Randy Taverner said...

Uncle Colin, my mother’s brother. I wish I had known more about him. He went overseas 9 years before I was born, so I never really got to know him well. I had occasion to take one of those walks with him in Newfoundland along with my cousin, Roger, and my wife, on one of the very few times I had ever seen Uncle Colin. The walk up to a crashed plane site near Burgoyne’s Cove was just about exactly as described in the above article. He was about in his mid eighties at the time and we were much younger, in our fifties, Roger even younger. Can’t say the climb was as much a challenge for Roger. He had done the climb on numerous occasions. Uncle Colin climbed that hill like a back-hoe! If he stopped at all, it was only to accommodate us as WE stopped to rest at several rest areas on the climb. Our son, Larry, made a trip to Scotland and to Golspie to visit Uncle Colin when Uncle Colin was in his early, to mid, eighties. Uncle Colin took him to Orkney Islands to visit our cousin, Eric, and Anna. They had to take the ferry. Getting on the ferry and having to climb a fairly steep set of stairs, a Purser or someone working on the ferry asked Uncle Colin if he needed help to get up the stairs? Uncle Colin responded, “Look! I can climb a tree with a chainsaw in both hands. I don’t need help to get up the stairs.” What a man. These articles give me greater insight into my mother and her determination to be independent, live on her own, and care for herself until she was almost 91. They were an amazing family. What amazing genes and DNA to come from.

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