Saturday, 24 January 2015

Sunday Times Where Was I? Holiday Competition

Near as I can figure it, through the possibly flawed perceptual filters of my own reality tunnel, the most likely answers this week, seem to me to be:

Q1. Aberdeen

Q2. Balmedie (or Belhelvie)

внимание друзья! For question 2, there is another village called Balmedie, very close to Belhelvie but all the sources I looked at say that the ordnance survey five mile one hundred foot base line, was called the 'Belhelvie Baseline', so the Eastender is taking a punt on the answer being Belhelvie (although the line may have passed through Balmedie, not been able to find a map which shows the exact location). I found some documentation which says that the base line started at Strathbathie hill and ended at Leyton, Menie, which would take it through or very close to Balmedie village and the beach, on current maps.

The initial clues seem to place us in the city of Aberdeen.Some of the sources I checked claim that Aberdeen FC was founded c 14th April 1903 and Aberdeen university appears to have been founded c 1495 and has a chapel with a tower called 'The Crown Tower'. The cathedral that the puzzle author visits, is most likely to be St Machar's, named after a sixth century saint, whose feast day is 12th November. It is situated close to the river Don (northernmost of the city's two rivers), next to a loop, which does bear some resemblance to a bishops crozier (crook). St Machar's is no longer a cathedral (ceased being one c 1690) and is now what is known in the trade, as a 'High Kirk'. A poet born c 1330, who wrote 'The Bruce' and is said to be buried at St Machar's, is probably John Barbour.

Balgownie bridge (aka Brig O' Balgownie and Byron's Bridge) has a span of around sixty seven feet and is mentioned in George Gordon Noel Byron's (born 1788) longest work 'Don Juan', written c 1819:

"As 'Auld Lang Syne' brings Scotland, one and all,
Scotch plaids, Scotch snoods, the blue hills, and clear streams,
The Dee, the Don, Balgounie's brig's black wall,

All my boy feelings, all my gentler dreams"

Some of Byron's biographies say he went to the school run by Mr Bowers in Aberdeen and Aberdeen Grammar.The writer most likely travels north to the village of Belhelvie, where a surveyor called Thomas Colby between 1814 and 1817, sought a suitable location for a baseline from which to carry out a trigonometrical survey of the Deeside area. Each end of the line was apparently marked with a post which had a brass plate on top, these were subsequently supposed to have been replaced with old gun barrels sunk vertically at each end point, but local landowners moved the original markers before they arrived. Some of the literature on the subject, says that the baseline started at Strathbathie hill and ended at Leyton, Menie, which would take the line through Balmedie but whether Balmedie was actually there when the survey was done initially, is a good question.


  1. Hi East Ender, I think the second answer is Balmedie as I found an old map with the 1817 ordnance base
    line marked between the village and the coast. The map can be located on Google under" Images for old map of Balmedie showing ordnance" on the top row of pics third from right.


    1. Thanks David, Tricky one to call without seeing the line on the map, I found some text which says the line started at Strathbathie hill and ended at Leyton, Menie, which would take it close to or through Balmedie as you have suggested....