Chairman’s Report 2006

‘The Friends of Bellie Churchyard’
Annual General Meeting
Sunday, 23 April 2006
Chairman’s Report

Since the inception of this group in 2003, Bellie Churchyard has been the focus of a good deal of attention, whether it has been our friends from the Moray Burial Ground Research group who have spent many hours carefully collating the inscriptions of the gravestones, soon to be published in 3 volumes in conjunction with the Aberdeen & North East of Scotland Family History Society, and our colleagues at Moray Council who have assisted in the ongoing clearing of ivy and self-seeded plants, planting of Spring bulbs and the upgrading of paths and roadways, improvement of drainage methods, installation of seating in the new cemetery.

Repairs to damaged stones has also been undertaken with a view to the overall enhancement of our historic churchyard.  Permission has been sought from Historic Scotland to begin restoration work on a cast iron gravestone dating back to 1868.  These are quite rare in the north of Scotland but quite common in the iron-working areas of central Scotland.

The ‘Friends’ commissioned a book by Mr Bruce Bishop of the Moray Burial Ground Research Group to produce a history of the Churchyard and its environs.  This has proved very popular with local people and visitors alike, providing an interesting insight into the general history of our native Speyside.  Sales of the book continue to be very encouraging.  Bruce’s wife, Janet, has also provided us with a wealth of genealogical information, which has helped us greatly in our research.

As a result of research on the ferryman’s grave, John Hosack, ‘killed by a fatal shot 1711’, the Friends have investigated the landing points of the Ferry Crossing at Bog o’ Gight, Fochabers.    The fateful shot that killed the poor ferryman would appear to have come from shots fired during the troubles in the aftermath of the abortive 1708 Jacobite invasion at Garmouth and it is likely the ferry was carrying Catholics, or Catholic sympathisers, to or from Gordon Castle.

Last year’s service in April raised in the region of £180; sales of the Bellie book amount to £412 with membership and donations amounting to some £485.00.  Membership is now in the region of 70, many becoming life members.   It is also our intention to communicate not only to ‘oor ain folk’ here … but ‘oor ain folk’ in other parts of the UK and the rest of the world and to get them involved in our future plans.

I am sure you will agree that ‘The Friends’ are continuing to make good progress with plans to enhance our Churchyard for generations to come.  Future plans include incorporating a reference board within the churchyard highlighting some of the prominent gravestones for the interest of those visiting the area or investigating family history.  Work on improved car parking facilities will commence very soon and investigations are ongoing into upgrading drainage systems; new signage is also planned for the entrance to the Churchyard.  We look forward to reporting on these developments … and much more … during the next few months.

My colleagues and I would welcome practical help from all those who share our interest in this exciting Bellie Churchyard project.

Gordon Baxter, Chairman, April 2006