Local school children and people from all over the area have risen to some interesting challenges to help with our fundraising events over the years.
Our theme of ‘friendship’ has provided the basis for numerous musical, artistic and other creative activities in our local community. As well as working to enhance the churchyard itself, the FOBCY want to raise awareness of the rich history surrounding this historic site. This has involved a number of happy initiatives …
- Concerts with Milne’s and Mosstodloch Primary Schools featuring music and poetry
- Sponsored Walk from Fochabers to Bellie Churchyard through Gordon Castle Estate
- Art Competitions involving creation of a new logo to feature on a new leaflet and a FOBCY Calendar – with art exhibitions held at Baxters Highland Village
- Talks on the history of the churchyard and area
- Treasure Hunt from Fochabers through the woods and into Gordon Castle grounds with entertainment in the beautiful gardens from Fochabers Fiddlers.
- a poetry competition on the theme of ‘friendship’
From the inaugural fundraising concert held at Baxters Highland Village on 2 February, 2003, the FOBCY have enjoyed a series of happy ecumenical events involving the local community.
April 2003 – The Council for Scottish Archaeology helped organise a successful ‘Graveyard Seminar’ at Baxters Highland Village featuring presentations from Moray Burial Ground Research Group, Clynekirkton Burial Ground Project, Aberdeenshire Local Authority programme of Graveyard Conservation, The Kirkmichael Graveyard Project and The Bellie Churchyard Project.
A ‘Family History Fair’ was also held, attended by groups from all over Scotland to share ideas and promote their work.
This event led to a joint project with The Moray Burial Ground Research Group to record all the inscriptions of the Bellie gravestones. As you can imagine, this took a lot of careful, dedicated work by volunteers from both MBGRG and FOBCY over many months. One aspect of the project led to a few raised eyebrows and funny looks from visitors to the churchyard. In addition to the visible tombstones, the MBGRG also investigate stones which are buried beneath the grass surface in all of the old churchyards in Moray. This work is restricted, after consultation with Historic Scotland and the CSA, to a maximum depth of six inches.
A survey of Bellie Churchyard resulted in some 40 buried stones being found within this depth limit, and after several weeks of time consuming investigation, these were successfully uncovered. Each one is photographed, drawn, and marked on the site plan, and then very reluctantly covered and re-turfed again. This final step is done in order to preserve the stone which, if left exposed, would very rapidly decay. Some of the stones which have been found are truly marvellous examples of the mason’s work.
In August 2009, with the help of the local Scouts marquee, the FOBCY held an Open Day at Bellie Churchyard and the Friends, together with the members of MBGRG, were on hand to answer queries about the churchyard and their work.
Some buried tombstones were carefully uncovered by experts of MBGRG so that visitors could see the state of preservation of these long lost monuments.*
Concerts and events at St Mary’s Church, Gordon Chapel and Bellie Church have also given rise to welcome donations. Talks to local groups have also raised awareness of the many works being done by the Friends.
The FOBCY work alongside the community and we are delighted to be able to take part in local events. Our annual presence at Fochabers Gala has become a key date on our calendar and one which we all enjoy. It gives the Friends an opportunity to talk to people about our many varied projects … both in the churchyard and with our fundraising activities.
The Friends greatly appreciate the generosity and support of members (around 80 in the UK and worldwide), local organisations and schools. However, many of the projects undertaken to date would not have been possible without the help of the following:
Awards for All: this grant assisted with an Information Board, Stone Cross signage, website and the upgrade of car parking.
The Abbeyfield Fochabers Society Ltd: generous awards have helped with tree planting in the cemetery and will be used to enhance the entrance roadway area in 2015.
Fochabers Village Association: an award has helped to install willow fencing with climbing plants and buy more plants and bulbs for the entrance project.