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TITLE
'The New Caithness Book'
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_DONALD_OMAND_02
PLACENAME
Halkirk
DISTRICT
Western Caithness
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
CAITHNESS: Halkirk
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Donald Omand
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1292
KEYWORDS
audio
regional histories
literary landscapes

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This audio extract is from 'The New Caithness Book', edited by Donald Omand and published in 1989. The extract is from chapter one, 'The Physical Background', by Donald Omand. It is read here by James Miller.

'Travellers entering the interior of Caithness by train, or coming from the south-east or west by road, are suddenly aware of a change of landscape; to many it comes as a considerable surprise to find this gently undulating lowland at the very extremity of mainland Britain.

This contrast in landscape between the typical highland scenery of Sutherland and the rolling lowland of Caithness is mostly a reflection of rock type. The general structure of much of lowland Caithness is fairly simple in that it forms part of a basin of sedimentary rocks which extends from the southern shores of the Moray Firth to south Shetland. These rocks of the Old Red Sandstone Series are the sandstones and flagstones (containing the famous fossil fishes) derived from sediments deposited in a water-filled basin of varying depth, known to geologists as Lake Orcadie.

The explosive force which can be generated by storm waves crashing against the coastline is enormous. For example, stones have broken the windows of Dunnet Head lighthouse which is 90 metres above the level of the sea, and during the persistent gales of 1862 a great sea swept over the north end of Stroma, up cliffs over 60 metres in height and rushed in torrents across the land.

The Caithness flagstones, well-jointed rocks, are particularly vulnerable to marine erosion and to cave formation. The roof of a cave may eventually communicate with the surface by means of a vertical shaft known as a 'gloup', or blow hole, such as at Latheronwheel, Sarclet, Holborn Head, and west Stroma.

When two caves on either side of a headland unite, a natural arch may form, for example The Brig O'Trams to the south of Wick, or the Deil's Brig at Holborn Head. The collapse of arches may leave isolated rock stacks. Among the most impressive ones in the British Isles are the pyramids of Duncansby, cut in the well-jointed John O'Groats sandstone. Flat-topped stacks called 'cletts' form when the bedding planes of the rocks are nearly horizontal, for example, the cletts at Brough and Holborn Head.

The highest cliffs, towering up to 120 metres are cut in Ord granite between Berriedale Ness and the boundary with Sutherland. Near Berriedale, cliffs cut in sandstone rise to 90 metres while the highest flagstone cliffs, which exceed 60 metres, occur immediately to the west of Thurso and between Wick and Thrumster.'

Donald Omand was born on 8th January 1936 on a croft in the Newlands of Roster, a short distance from the prehistoric burial cairns of Camster. When he was two years old the family moved to the village of Lybster where he spent many happy schoolboy hours playing football and golf before attending Wick High School from the age of 15.

Tertiary education was completed at Aberdeen University where he gained an Honours M.A. in Geography, followed later by an MSc at Strathclyde University on the 'Glaciation of Caithness'.

His teaching career began in Bingley, Yorkshire and a few years at Dounreay continued at Halkirk Junior Secondary and Thurso College, now the North Highland College. In 1970 he took post a post with Aberdeen University in its Continuing Education Department, covering the north Highlands and Islands until his retirement.

His published works include a variety of county and regional books including 'The Caithness Book' (1972) which he edited after working with a group of local enthusiasts. For more than 30 he was a regular columnist in the 'John O' Groat Journal' and the 'Caithness Courier'.

Donald passed away in the Dunbar Hospital, Thurso, in August 2009.

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'The New Caithness Book'

CAITHNESS: Halkirk

2000s

audio; regional histories; literary landscapes

Am Baile

Literary Landscapes: Donald Omand

This audio extract is from 'The New Caithness Book', edited by Donald Omand and published in 1989. The extract is from chapter one, 'The Physical Background', by Donald Omand. It is read here by James Miller.<br /> <br /> 'Travellers entering the interior of Caithness by train, or coming from the south-east or west by road, are suddenly aware of a change of landscape; to many it comes as a considerable surprise to find this gently undulating lowland at the very extremity of mainland Britain.<br /> <br /> This contrast in landscape between the typical highland scenery of Sutherland and the rolling lowland of Caithness is mostly a reflection of rock type. The general structure of much of lowland Caithness is fairly simple in that it forms part of a basin of sedimentary rocks which extends from the southern shores of the Moray Firth to south Shetland. These rocks of the Old Red Sandstone Series are the sandstones and flagstones (containing the famous fossil fishes) derived from sediments deposited in a water-filled basin of varying depth, known to geologists as Lake Orcadie.<br /> <br /> The explosive force which can be generated by storm waves crashing against the coastline is enormous. For example, stones have broken the windows of Dunnet Head lighthouse which is 90 metres above the level of the sea, and during the persistent gales of 1862 a great sea swept over the north end of Stroma, up cliffs over 60 metres in height and rushed in torrents across the land.<br /> <br /> The Caithness flagstones, well-jointed rocks, are particularly vulnerable to marine erosion and to cave formation. The roof of a cave may eventually communicate with the surface by means of a vertical shaft known as a 'gloup', or blow hole, such as at Latheronwheel, Sarclet, Holborn Head, and west Stroma.<br /> <br /> When two caves on either side of a headland unite, a natural arch may form, for example The Brig O'Trams to the south of Wick, or the Deil's Brig at Holborn Head. The collapse of arches may leave isolated rock stacks. Among the most impressive ones in the British Isles are the pyramids of Duncansby, cut in the well-jointed John O'Groats sandstone. Flat-topped stacks called 'cletts' form when the bedding planes of the rocks are nearly horizontal, for example, the cletts at Brough and Holborn Head. <br /> <br /> The highest cliffs, towering up to 120 metres are cut in Ord granite between Berriedale Ness and the boundary with Sutherland. Near Berriedale, cliffs cut in sandstone rise to 90 metres while the highest flagstone cliffs, which exceed 60 metres, occur immediately to the west of Thurso and between Wick and Thrumster.'<br /> <br /> Donald Omand was born on 8th January 1936 on a croft in the Newlands of Roster, a short distance from the prehistoric burial cairns of Camster. When he was two years old the family moved to the village of Lybster where he spent many happy schoolboy hours playing football and golf before attending Wick High School from the age of 15.<br /> <br /> Tertiary education was completed at Aberdeen University where he gained an Honours M.A. in Geography, followed later by an MSc at Strathclyde University on the 'Glaciation of Caithness'. <br /> <br /> His teaching career began in Bingley, Yorkshire and a few years at Dounreay continued at Halkirk Junior Secondary and Thurso College, now the North Highland College. In 1970 he took post a post with Aberdeen University in its Continuing Education Department, covering the north Highlands and Islands until his retirement.<br /> <br /> His published works include a variety of county and regional books including 'The Caithness Book' (1972) which he edited after working with a group of local enthusiasts. For more than 30 he was a regular columnist in the 'John O' Groat Journal' and the 'Caithness Courier'.<br /> <br /> Donald passed away in the Dunbar Hospital, Thurso, in August 2009.