Thursday, 20 August 2015

Community Marks Jacobite Bridge Tercentenary Ahead of Annual Gathering

An Aberdeenshire community will come together later today to mark the 300th anniversary of a local landmark as it prepares for its biggest day of the year.


Members of the Lonach Highlanders will join schoolchildren and residents of Strathdon this afternoon [from 13:30] to celebrate the tercentenary of Poldhullie Bridge in Strathdon.  Built in 1715 by John Forbes of Inverernan and spanning the River Don, the bridge significantly improved safety and communications in the area when it opened.


Taking place two days ahead of the annual Lonach Highland Gathering and Games, today’s celebrations were organised by Strathdon Primary School – whose logo features the bridge – and will see a commemorative cast-iron plaque unveiled on the bridge to mark the milestone.


Assisted by pupils from the school, the plaque will be unveiled by Sir James Forbes of Newe, patron of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society.  He will lead a march comprising 26 of the 220-strong Lonach Highlanders from Strathdon Church to Poldhullie Bridge in advance of the unveiling.  Members of Lonach Pipe Band will join the highlanders on the march, with the highlanders being supported by their new horse, Socks, who will make his official debut at Saturday’s gathering.


Poldhullie Bridge is one of the best surviving examples of an 18th century single semi-circular arch stone bridge.  Unlike many of its neighbours, the bridge survived the catastrophic flooding of August 1829, known as the Muckle Spate.  The bridge is maintained by Aberdeenshire Council and the local authority area has the highest number of listed bridges in Scotland.


The man behind Poldhullie, John Forbes, also known as ‘Black Jock’, was the bailie of Kildrummy and a close associate of John Erskine, the Earl of Mar.  Erskine led the Jacobites against the British Government forces at Sherriffmuir in November 1715, having planned the campaign at Kildrummy Castle and raised the Jacobite standard at Braemar Castle.


Pupils at Strathdon Primary School have been learning about the construction of different types of bridge, as well as the history of the local area and Poldhullie Bridge itself.  They will be showcasing their work at an open-day event at the school on the same day.


Saturday sees the 174th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games take place in nearby Bellabeg, with events getting underway from noon.  Organised by the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the annual event attracts up to 10,000 visitors, including many from overseas.  This year’s event will also commemorate the 300th anniversaries the Poldhullie Bridge and the Jacobite uprising, with a number of Jacobean reenactors attending.


Strathdon School head teacher, Lilian Field, said: “We feel very privileged to be able to commemorate the construction of a local bridge which has provided a route for travellers and local people for the past three hundred years.”


Jennifer Stewart, secretary of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said: “Poldhullie Bridge is an elegant local landmark.  Its importance as a transport route may have been bypassed by more modern roads and bridges, but its historic contribution to the local area shouldn’t be overlooked.


“The Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is honoured to have been asked to be involved in today’s ceremony and thanks must go to Strathdon School and its pupils for their research and organisation.  It is wonderful to see such enthusiasm in the local community to mark this milestone.


“Along with enjoying the packed programme at Saturday’s gathering, we are encouraging visitors to explore the local area, and pay a visit to our local landmarks, including Poldhullie Bridge, the Doune of Invernochty and the Lost sign.”


Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Marr Area Committee, Moira Ingleby, said: “The north-east played a significant role in the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion.  The Earl of Mar, who led the uprising, called on men from Donside to support the Stuart cause.


“That Poldhullie Bridge is still standing strong, weathering tumultuous times better than its architect, is certainly something that should be celebrated.


“What’s more, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society was founded during the difficult post-Culloden years, on a will to preserve the memory of the past but embrace the future.  It’s very fitting that the Lonach men should be involved in the commemorative celebrations.”


Organisers of the gathering are encouraging visitors to explore the local area and visit some of its attractions and landmarks, including Poldhullie Bridge.  They have also unveiled the ideal selfie spot in Bellabeg for the weekend – beside the iconic road sign that points to Lost.

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