Monday, 23 July 2012

Groatie Buckie

John o'Groats in the North East corner of Caithness sits on the Pentland Firth facing the uninhabited Isle of Stroma and Orkney. There is usually something to see. In this picture, Wick fishing boat, the Boy Andrew, is passing the east end of Stroma on its way to the fishing grounds.
..However, my main boyhood memory of 'Groats as we called it was hunting for the elusive Groatie Buckie, a tiny cowrie shell, Cyraea Europaea, said to exist nowhere else on this earth. Gradually that boyhood myth has been dispelled by finding the shell on other Caithness beaches and more recently on Westray in Orkney, albeit in much smaller numbers. But the biggest challenge was finding them  on a beach in France. The French ones might even have been bigger! Such was the rarity of the little shell that finding just one was said to confer good luck.
Remarkably, there seem to be a lot more of them around at John O' Groats these days (can we thank global warming?). On a nostalgic hunt a few weeks ago we gathered several hundred, out of sight of the Last House. The sandy beaches near the village have disappeared so you have to walk about a mile east along the coast to find suitable ground, preferably at low tide.
Back in John O' Groats village there are welcome signs of new development. The hotel is being rebuilt as apartments and chalets are being erected for letting. You can still buy crabs from the fishermen at the harbour and the pottery and other shops do their best to keep the tourists supplied with souvenirs. 

The Stuart Agenda by Alan Calder, published by Willow Moon. e-book and paperback on all amazon sites. See reviews at

No comments:

Post a Comment