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Rogart Scotland


Rogart Scotland

1987 I left school at eighteen. 1989 I left art college and got a job processing camera film at film lab Noconcept II on Laystall Street in London. Three months later in December I push-processed a professional fashion photographers film too far - he was just returning to work after starting a family and the model he had shot that morning had just flown back to Australia. The job was for the Mexican Vogue magazine front cover and without any usable images he telephoned me from his studio to explain that he was coming round to kill me. [In my defence I had 2 peoples jobs to do and, for a wage of £100 a week, I worked 13 hours a day.This guy had asked me to develop a ‘clip’ of his film, just one negative which you cut from a roll of film in the dark to test the exposure. After sending the clip to him by courier he had phoned back to tell me to run all of the film through at ‘plus two thirds’. Overloaded with film, a momentary lapse of concentration I wrote down plus two and a third thus over exposing everything*.] After quickly telling the boss, Gene Nocon, I fled the building despite Gene telling me not to worry about it, that the photographer didn’t matter and that I should just carry on running transparency film through the £80,000 Refrema processor I was put in charge of. I took a train to Hull to stay with a college friend Georgina Field who was surprised to see me as I hadn’t told her I was coming up. She was off partying for the weekend so I slept on the floor of her student digs as people came and went without noticing me. I returned back home to Essex on the Monday and didn’t reply to my bosses calls. I had had enough of London and wanted a job out of doors away from all the suffocating hustle and bustle and seriousness of that environment. A week later of wondering what to do I took a walk up the road in the North Essex countryside and the neighbours son and I started chatting. He was Richard Fordham, a tree surgeon and was building a shed on a bit of land he had just bought. He handed me a spade and asked me to dig a trench for a few cigarettes. His building mate Peter May was there, a real joker and he asked me to pick up a plug socket out of a puddle. I didn’t bother to look where the end went, to a generator, and he cranked the thing into life just as my hand submerged. After many minutes of screaming and much laughter I had been introduced to a country life which I fell passionately in love with and I found myself working for Richard and his Dad David, a farmer, for the next ten months. One day in the summer of 1990 whilst I was busy helping with hay on the farm and “doing willows” my Mum mentioned an article she had read in Country Living magazine about a solicitor who, tired with the rat-race of London, had bought a house in Scotland where he intended to take early retirement with his family. The house was surrounded by dry stone walls in need of repair and he tracked down a young local waller to ask about coming to get them back into shape. The waller, inundated with jobs, never came to do the work so the solicitor gave it a go himself. Not only did he enjoy it but found he had a natural talent for re-building his walls and started a career at it. I’m half Scottish and had holidayed with my family in Scotland several times when much younger and wanted to head ‘up there’ for an adventure. I wasn’t getting on with my family at home very well, I refused to take my car driving test and I hadn’t left home to get a ‘good’ job in London having just completed a 2 year diploma in Design. I felt I was in the way, my Mother was trying to make her marriage to my Father work, which ended in divorce just 5 years afterwards despite being together for 30 years and I was also reading all of Jack Kerouac’s books which were the main influence to move away. I also considered training as a thatcher and a wheel-wright but dry stone walling meant I could see Scotland - its ‘desolation’ being the biggest draw. I wrote to the solicitor asking if he could teach me to build walls, he couldn’t, and he recommended that I contact the Dry Stone Waller’s Association for a list of members who might be able to. I sat down with a map of Britain and looked at all the names and found that a man in ‘Rosehall’ was the furthermost north in Scotland. I wrote to him but again no, he couldn’t teach me but I should try the last person he had taught - a Malcolm Douglas aka Lord Hoy. I then wrote to him and we had a chat on the phone. He was happy to teach me and I arranged to come up. In those days it was possible to put your motorbike on British Rail trains and my Father still to this day reminds me about the morning which I left. I had little experience of packing necessary belongings and set about fixing 13 bags onto my motorbike, a trusty little Honda XL125R from 1985 which I was riding as a ‘learner’. Fair play to my parents who both came out of the house, in the dark at 5am on a cold and windy November morning in 1990 to bid me farewell and who helpfully tried to attach all of my bags to me and to the bike. Finally, with the time of my train leaving rapidly creeping up, I decided to take one rucksack and left everything else scattered around the yard. I kick started the bike into life and rode the 5 and a half miles to Marks Tey railway station with my heart in my mouth. I sat in the guard van of the rail carriage with the bike thinking about what lay ahead. Then an hour later off-loaded it onto Liverpool Street station amongst early morning commuters and wheeled it outside to navigate the streets to Kings Cross where I loaded the XL and myself onto a 12 hour journey to Inverness where Hoy said he would collect me from. {*Name drop: I still managed to process Linda McCartney’s and Kate Garner’s ‘ex-Haysi Fantayzee’ film OK!}


I remember leaving Edinburgh station and watching a young man with skis and his Mum take their seats and years later wondering if it had been Graham Bell on his way to practice over the winter season. It was a long journey and all the time I sat there thinking about my poor parents whom I expected were worrying about me and who had the job of putting all of my other belongings in an old school trunk and who later that day had sent it by rail up to Inverness to be collected separately. I bought a can of Guinness and a sandwich and waited to arrive. Eventually at night, in the dark that I had left Essex in, the train terminated at Inverness Station and I off-loaded the Honda onto the platform and pushed it up outside the bar which was just about to close in the corner of the station. I had been told to look for an ‘ex-army type’ who was catching up with friends. Hoy caught my eye and came towards me. “You must be Ed?” He told me to find somewhere in the station to leave the motorbike whilst he finished his drink with his old army mates and we then headed to his car after I had bought myself 4 cans of Guinness and he a half bottle of rum for himself. What I noticed more than anything about Hoy was that he was very drunk. I sat with my bag at my feet and the stout on my lap as we left the carpark in the black 1981 Mitsubishi Lancer Turbo and the city lights were soon left behind. We were heading north and there was just night outside, no other lights from cars or houses - just the white road markings flashing beneath the headlights as we roared forwards. Hoy changed up and down through the gearbox quickly as he navigated bends in the road and I sank down into the front passenger seat as I saw the car speedo reach 125mph and stay there for most of the journey. He asked me if I was going to drink my beer but I couldn’t move save for opening the glove box for him so that he could reach past me to grab at his half bottle which he duly finished by the time he had got us to his house some 70 miles later. Half a mile from Hoy’s home we slowed and stopped at an old metal gate in what appeared to be, and was, the middle of nowhere. I was asked to get out to open it. The wind instantly whipped through me, freezing cold and I looked around to see where we were. Nothing, just the gate and the noise of a fast flowing river beneath a small bridge which Hoy crossed in a hurry. I closed the gate, ran across the bridge and got back into the car.We came across another gate again and I got out to open and close it but no river this time.Then one more gate, this was getting tiresome and I figured that Hoy was glad to have someone there for a change to do all the gateage for him. Finally we reached the house all the way bumping and scraping the underside of the extremely rapid saloon car which was a popular choice in those days for a rally car. Once inside Hoy lit a coal fire and we sat down to drink. I telephoned my parents to let them know I was still alive, just, and that was the last time I spoke with them until the next year. Why I’m not sure but my upbringing at boarding school from the age of eight meant that I wasn’t particularly close to them especially since they had lived in Istanbul for a time and talking over a phone wasn’t encouraged. Hoy was impressed with my drinking - after the Guinness had finished he got the McEwan’s Export out and soon a good 12 empty cans lay around the armchair I was sat in. He called his friend to say that I was drinking him under the table ‘You’ll do well here drinking like that” he said and debated about driving down to the pub to continue the session. It was late, cold and all those gates decided for us to stop in that first night and I was shown my bed in a bare white room which was as cold as a fridge. It reminded me of boarding school and I thought that I had left those days behind. “Wake me up at 6” Hoy said “after you’ve got the coal in, lit the fire and made the pieces for work”. What are ‘pieces’? I asked. “That’s what they call sandwiches here” he said. “There are eggs in the fridge”. I recall sleeping with goose bumps and being only too glad to pull on my icy jeans and jumper at 5am which I stopped leaving on the icy floorboards and instead put under the bed clothes with me. The bathroom was as barren as the hillside I witnessed as the light came up some hours after I had been outside to get the scuttle in. A white bath and basin and bar of soap. I boiled the eggs and made up the thermos flasks for tea. Everything had its place and was clean as a whistle until I knocked on Hoys door at 6am to wake him up. No answer. Again I knocked. No noise. Hoy was a deep sleeper and it took my entrance to his room and a close approach to his bed to get a stifled OK from somewhere in the darkness.The room was like a cave but I was aware from the hallway light outside as I manoeuvred my feet carefully that there were army boots, waterproofs, trousers and bergens strewn everywhere. After several more visits to his bedroom to call out his name he finally surfaced by which time I felt I had already done half a days work. Got the coal in, emptied ashes from night before, started new fire in the ‘range’ (Rayburn cooking stove), boiled eggs for the pieces and for breakfast, made the thermos for tea. That first day we didn’t do any walling but instead drove south back to Inverness and then east towards Aberdeen. Again we sped along at over 100mph and Hoy pointed out a stream which does actually flow up hill. Chair lifts hung motionless in the bitter wind across a steep hillside and finally we arrived at a farm to look at an old Ford 5000 tractor with a Roadless 4 wheel drive conversion, I didn’t have a clue where we had been heading as Hoy drove silently, concentrating on the road as he rallied faster and faster...


AFTER WRITING THIS I REALIZE THAT IT COULD BE THE BEGINNING OF A STORY BOOK AND HAVE TO STOP. THOSE WORDS ARENT WHAT ITS ABOUT - I STILL HAVE ALL THE MEMORIES GOING BACK 20+ YEARS AND COULD WRITE THEM DOWN ANOTHER TIME. FOR NOW ID LIKE TO SHARE WHAT THOSE DAYS WERE LIKE AND HOPE IT COMES ACROSS IN JUST THE IMAGES THEMSELVES. WHEN I TOOK THE FOLLOWING PHOTOGRAPHS I WAS 21 YEARS OLD, IN EARLY 1991 AND KEPT A CAMERA WITH ME ALWAYS AS I HAD DONE SINCE I DISCOVERED PHOTOGRAPHY PROPER AT SCHOOL AGED 13. IT WAS MY HOBBY AND DESPITE BEING INTERESTED IN IT AND HAVING WORKED AT A FILM LAB I DIDNT HAVE THE CONFIDENCE TO FOLLOW IT AS A PROFESSION...I WOULDNT OF KNOWN HOW TO. WITH NO CLEAR IDEA ABOUT WHAT I WAS GOING TO DO IN LIFE I LIVED IN THE NOW AND USED THE CAMERA TO TRY AND RECORD WHAT I WAS FEELING FOR SENTIMENTALITIES SAKE, DEPRESSION AND FEELING LOST. DURING THIS TIME I (THINK I) STARTED TO GET AN EYE FOR AN IMAGE AND WAS STILL TRYING TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IT WAS I WAS LOOKING AT.THE ‘RULE OF THIRDS’ WAS NATURALLY STARTING TO MAKE ITSELF FELT THOUGH MY COMPOSITION WASNT ALWAYS THERE.


‘ESSEX FOLK’ IS WHERE I REALLY STARTED TO REALIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF PRESERVING PEOPLES PORTRAITS - TO FOLLOW AN INTEREST IN PHOTOGRAPHY AND DOCUMENTING COUNTRY CHARACTERS. BUT THAT WAS THE FOLLOWING YEAR AFTER I HAD LEFT ROGART FOR THE FIRST OF THREE TIMES BETWEEN 1990 AND 1993. WHAT A SHAME THAT I HADNT PHOTOGRAPHED MORE IN THOSE DAYS! ED GOLD, FROM INSIDE A MONGOLIAN GER IN NORTH ESSEX, 22 DECEMBER 2010


Thurso

Rhiconich

Helmsdale

Lairg Rosehall

Brora Rogart Pittentrail Golspie


PIRIE’S

TWEED SHOP ROGART SCOTLAND


One of my earliest memories is of sitting on a very uncomfortable floor in the back of a blue ex-Police Mini van which my Father had bought in the late 1960’s. I had to share this space with no cradle or seat but with Fergus our West Highland Terrier on a tartan blanket. The blanket had been given to my parents as a gift from my Dad’s Mum on my their wedding day in 1966. My grandmother was 100% Scottish and her maiden name was Agnes Crow, the blanket a lovely Scottish present although I don’t know where she bought it from. The blanket was itchy and coarse but warm and it had veins of red running through it which held my attention. The family used it on holidays, for picnics and trips to the seaside, it seemed to travel everywhere we went. Then when I was sent off to school in 1977 I had to have my own blanket and a name tag was sewn onto it so I had the use of it for my very own. After 10 years of use at school I was temporarily back at home for art college and then whilst I commuted to London to process film and work on the neighbours farm - it was always on my bed, always keeping me warm. It was only natural then, after deciding to head to the Highlands having chosen the most northerly place where I could learn walling, that I take the Scottish blanket with me also. It was packed into the old school trunk the morning I left on my motorbike to Marks Tey station and soon lay on the bed I used at Hoy’s and then at Rettie’s. Now I write this because it is quite extraordinary to me and proves that there is no such thing as fate or coincidence because everything in life happens for a reason. Henri Cartier-Bresson, a brilliant photographer who greatly inspired me when younger once, and this is what I read, went on assignment to Sicily and stayed in a hotel room which he felt as though he knew despite never having visited the hotel or Sicily before. Later he made some enquiries and found to his surprise that his parents had spent their wedding night in that same bedroom and that is where he had been conceived. Perhaps my story doesn’t compare but I feel as though it is similar. One Sunday I was sitting on my bed in Rettie’s house over a year after I had originally arrived in Rogart and with nothing to do I started to look around the room whilst daydreaming. I looked down at the blanket which had kept me company for so many years and noticed it had a label which I had never bothered to read. I looked at it closely and saw the word Rogart. It was made in Rogart. And to this day I still find it amazing that I ended up living, out of all the villages and towns in Scotland which I could have chosen to learn to build dry stone walls, in Rogart which is where the blanket from one of my earliest memories was made. Not only that but almost everyday I would head out of Pittentrail and up the road to Rogart to Mackie’s house where we would leave for work in his car and go past the old mill where the blanket had been made and which still had the sign which said Pirie’s hanging up outside of it despite having closed down many years before.


www.edgold.co.uk

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Rogart Sutherland  

Rogart Sutherland 1990/1991

Rogart Sutherland  

Rogart Sutherland 1990/1991

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