Exploring the end of the earth

That’s what it feels like in John O’Groats!  But first…

We started our day by heading out to downtown Wick on foot, since there were high winds and we didn’t want to drive in that weather.  We hit the shortest street in the world … Ebenezer Street in front of the MacKay Hotel, just 13 feet long.  Then we headed over to the Wick Library, which as it turns out, is a Carnegie Library!

The library houses the Caithness Archive Center, as well as a gallery.  We headed upstairs to the archives to see what we might be able to find out about my ancestors.  There we met Carol Ann, who was very helpful.  She set us to looking at the memorial inscriptions at the cemeteries, as well as at Kirk (church) session records. The Kirk session records are interesting; they seem dominated by inquiries of young women who were pregnant without being married.  Although we spent a couple of hours there looking at interesting records, we didn’t find anything new about the family.  We may head back to look through newspaper microfiche, if we have time before heading back home next week.

Then it was off to lunch at Wicker’s World, a local cafe that was recommended by the archivist.  Brad had breaded haddock and I had the quiche, and I couldn’t resist ordering a “strawberry puff”, which was like a strawberry shortcake made with some kind of puff pastry.  Yummy.

After lunch, we headed back to get the trusty Citroen and drive up north to John O’Groats, which really does seem like the end of the earth.   With the refrain of “stay left, stay left”, Brad navigated us the approximately 1/2 hour drive.  I had to be hyper vigilant to make sure to stay on the proper side of the road, but it went fine.  We walked around a little bit when we got there.  It is past the season end, so there’s not much going on, but we did manage to do a little shopping.  We also found the ferry, which we will be boarding tomorrow morning.

From John O’Groats, we headed back towards Wick, but made a stop in Freswick on the way to visit with a distant Mowat relative.  We made contact with Gail and Robin before heading to Scotland (we found them through another distant relative in Toronto … Thanks Pat!).  Gail has done a lot of genealogy research into her husband’s family, which is the connection with my family.  Both she and her husband, Robin, are ham radio operators.  What an interesting coincidence, since there are a lot of hams in my family (Brad, my dad, my mom, and me).  We had a lovely time talking with Gail and Robin in their cozy rural home.  We plan to go back this weekend to do some more genealogy and ham radio talk!

Then it was back home.  We wanted to be back safe and sound before dark, since driving on the “wrong” side of the road and shifting with my left hand in a strange car in unfamiliar surroundings is challenge enough.  Brad made more tasty toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, which go great with Old Pulteney and/or Rioja.  The wind has died down quite a bit, so we will not have the same howling lullaby as we go to sleep tonight.

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