Weather moods at the mouth of the river? No-one knew more than Jack!

Wide vistas of sea and sand can be seen towards the entrance of the South Esk.

Standing sentinel for over 150 years as part of the same seascape has been Scurdie Light, providing impressive views for local citizens and visitors alike.

With the real winter just around the corner and the clocks having changed, in a cutting from old “Review”, I came across some of J M D (Jack) Smith’s thoughts on the subject of the temperamental climatic moods witnessed round the river mouth. Jack’s words summed up the weather conditions as follows, “In the early hours of Saturday(sic) morning a south-easterly gale and rain made one appreciate the comfort of a cosy bed. Montrose had its full share of the storm and earlier on Friday afternoon there was a massive barrier of breaking white water crashing across the river mouth. Throughout the night I could hear the rain and sand hitting the windows. I rose at four o’clock, banked up the wood stove and eating a cake of Turkish Delight, mused on the words of one of former mariner John Masefield’s poems.”

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Personally, I can recall from my own schooldays similar words penned by the same poet, “I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking” quoted from “Sea Fever.”

Jack continued, “From bed I could look through to the room where the red glow of the fire emphasised the comfort of being snug. I thought of the days when I was pitched and rolled about the North Sea. It was all, all so different, so pleasantly different,” he concluded.

Although his house, “The Song of the Sea” stood in close proximity to the neighbouring pharmaceutical plant, it must have seemed a lonely habitation at times, especially after the Lifeboat Station was closed and the lifeboat relocated upstream in 1981.

Today, all that built heritage has disappeared other than pieces of rusty rail which the lifeboats of the past were launched from. However, one question remains – whatever happened to the artefacts, including copies of local newspapers, one of which was a forerunner of this title, which were interred when the foundation stone of the then new Lifeboat Station was ceremonially laid with full Masonic Honours on Saturday, July 3rd, 1869?

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On another occasion Jack, whose knowledge of the harbour was legendary, wrote, “Quite a number of folks watched the harbour activity on a particular Saturday afternoon (in the mid-1980s). The weather was first class and in no way deterred folks from hanging about to see two of the largest ships to dock at Montrose as they moved in and out on the same tide.

“First to depart was the South County. The move went according to plan and the 10,000-tons cargo carrying giant was soon moving downstream in perfect fashion.”

Jack and I had been sitting in the sunshine on the foundations of the former Lower Light chatting about past times at the harbour. A spectator standing nearby commented that another big one was on its way in. We wondered what he meant by “big one”, but we soon found out. “The Canadia of Helsingborg soon appeared and immediately the pilot made the switch and proceeded upstream. It was another fine piece of navigation. That was followed by a quick discharge and the big vessel was off to Antwerp on the Monday.”

In the same edition of the Review, a brief news item reported the South County had arrived from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and sailed for Cape Race while the Canadia came inwards from Charleston, West Virginia.

Caption: The Finnish cargo ship Finnwood discharging pulp.

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