Monday, August 19, 2013

Legend of the Grey Hen - Version One..

Sir,- Re the Grey Hen's Well and your request for information last week, I have the following information from my great-grand uncle, the late Lewis Dunbar of Australia and later of Thurso.
Lewis Dunbar was an ornithologist and taxidermist of international repute.
The Black Grouse (male - Black Cock, female- Grey Hen) was introduced to Berriedale by one of the Sinclairs, probably Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster who owned the estate of Langwell for about 23 years and sold it in 1814 to James Horne.
The Black Grouse flourished and spread to Sutherland and other parts of Caithness.
The Grey Hen's Well was situated near a "lek" - the stamping ground of the Black Cocks during their amazing nuptial display behaviour.
While this display went on the Grey Hens congregated nearby in the vicinity of the Well. This well was known to travellers and was a boon to man and horse on that lonely stretch of moor.
The late Duke of Portland erected a stone to perpetuate the name. I am, etc.,
LOUISE M. KENNEDY.
10 Bower Court, Thurso
This Letter to the Editor of the John O Groat Journal was published on 23 July 1976.
So thanks to Lewis and Louise for their information but since the Grey Hen's Well was there before Sir John Sinclair introduced these grouse there must be more to the story. Version two next blog.
Here is another look at the photo I have used as background for this blog. The blue line just above the braes is the wide and often wild blue ocean of the Moray Firth. The wooden fence surrounds the well. There is plenty of room for the "lek" here if that part of Lewis' story is correct. The wire fence keeps stock from wandering onto the A9 roadway which can be busy. There is a stile over it. 

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