You know what makes me grumpy? All the Grumpy Old Men who appeared on the BBC TV series were younger than me, that's what makes me grumpy. Mutter, mutter....

The Grumpy Old Artist

The Grumpy Old Artist
Would YOU pose for this man???

Exhibition Poster

Exhibition Poster
Catterline Event, 2011

Oil Painting by Jim Tait

Oil Painting by Jim Tait
Helford River, Cornwall

Oil Painting by Jim Tait

Oil Painting by Jim Tait
Full-riggers "Georg Stage" and "Danmark"

Other Recent Works

Other Recent Works
Fordyce Castle and Village

Hay's Dock, Lerwick

Shetland-model Boats at Burravoe, Yell

Tall Ships Seascape

The Tour Boat "Dunter III", with Gannets, off Noss

The "Karen Ann II" entering Fraserburgh harbour

Summer Evening, Boyndie Bay

1930s Lerwick Harbour

Johnshaven Harbour

"Seabourn Legend"

Greeting Cards!

Greeting Cards!
Now Available in Packs of Five or in Assorted Sets of Four

Sunday, 30 September 2012


The weather was fair as we sped south towards Huntly that evening in late June of 2009.  The colours were magnificent, as low cloud, driven by a southerly breeze, sometimes partly obscured the sun, creating indigo shadows here and there among the golden light which played among the fields, hedgerows and conifer-clad hilltops.  We were passing through the parish of Forgue, when the view from my passenger window suddenly yielded a sight which made me catch my breath in wonderment.

Above the roadside hedgerow had appeared the top of a tall single crowstep gable which adjoined an almost-complete four-storey wall.  A tree was growing in the space which had obviously been occupied by whatever had been between this wall and gable and its now absent counterparts.  In the prevailing light of that evening, the sight was spectacular.  I asked my companion what this building had been, and exposed a gap in her hitherto comprehensive knowledge of the area.  I was determined that, on my return to Shetland,  I would find out what I could about this magnificent ruin.

The OS map of the area revealed it to be Conzie Castle.  Further online investigation led me to the fact that it had also been known as Bognie House, and it had been built, around 1670, by one George Morison, who had acquired much of the land in this area, through forfeiture, from Viscount Frendraught, who had taken the losing Royalist side, alongside the Marquis of Montrose, in the Scottish episodes of the Civil war of the mid-17th century.  According to the Canmore site record, the building is "a tall four storey rectangular un-vaulted palatial structure, with crowstep gables and the remains of corner turrets".  An ambitious project, then, but now it's a ruin, standing in a field, without even a footpath leading to it, as far as I can see.

Why Morison built Conzie/Bognie Castle is unclear, but it seems that it was never lived in.  There had been an earlier, equally imposing building (Pennyburn) to the east of Conzie, as a map of 1776 shows two mansions on the Bognie estate.  The ruins of a "dookit" also stand quite near to the east of Conzie, although no trace remains of Pennyburn, apart from the stream which gave the building its name.

Later that summer, I returned to Banff, where I had been staying when I discovered Conzie, to take down my paintings exhibition at Duff House.  The setting up of this display had earlier led me to this car journey down the A97.  My brother was helping me with the transport of the pictures, and he agreed to my suggestion of a run down to Huntly for our lunch, so that I could get another look at Conzie.  On this occasion, however, the weather was not so kind.  It had rained for about 24 hours (and most of the intervening summer apparently!), and this had just cleared when we reached the castle ruin.  It was difficult to find a place to stop on this fast section of roadway, and, when we did, I got a few photographs of the grey sodden-looking scene, in which the rosebay willowherb seemed to be the only thing thriving in the conditions.  Everything else looked defeated and depressed somehow.

So what you see above is my attempt to re-create a moment in time, a fleeting glimpse of a spectacular ruin on a June evening more than three years ago.  It has taken me four months of intermittent effort to get close to that, and this is all that we poor artists can do.  This is the third of the must-paint scenes which stem from the journey of that magical evening, the others being Fordyce and Boyndie Bay.  Enjoy!


Mark said...

What nice post. Everyday I read many blogs and today I founds yours is best.

Eric said...

Another great painting Jim of happy mwemories for you. I must commend you on your prose in your blogs - as masterful as your brush!