Healthy crowd rings in the New Year

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Tradition

On a chilly, but otherwise fine night, a healthy crowd gathered at Johnshaven harbour to bring in the New Year to what has now become the traditional ringing of the “Chapel” bell and to wish each other a “Happy New Year”. Then it was on, no doubt, to continue the celebrations elsewhere.

Since it was restored in time for the Millenium, the peal of the “Chapel” bell at the start of a new year has indeed become a tradition while, on the other hand, the once ritualistic “first footing” seems to have faded away completely. In a different era the village streets would have been busy immediately after midnight with well wishers and every house whose light was showing from a window a virtual invitation to knock and enter.

Times change, though, and with Hogmanay programmes on television clearly disincentives to leave the warmth of centrally heated homes and small communities perhaps not so close-knit as they once were, the pattern now seems to be for groups of friends to gather in one house and to stay put for the duration.

There has always been some debate about how long it takes for a practice to become a tradition but one event which is building up momentum in this respect is the Bowling Club’s New Year’s Day outing.

In 2006 President, Alan Robbie, thought that it would be a good idea to usher in the New Year by meeting at the green to play a few ends and have a bite to eat. It would be fair to say that not every member agreed that this was a sound suggestion: indeed some believed it to be close to madness. Nevertheless, on the appointed hour on January 1, 2007, twelve hardy souls turned up and managed to survive six ends before the threat of losing fingers forced them inside to enjoy both the warmth of the clubhouse and a fine spread.

The following year, although with rain pouring down and large puddles gathering on the carpet it was obvious that bowling was out of the question, the thought of food was enough to persuade a magnificent seven members to report for duty and happily get stuck into a selection of savouries, cakes and clootie dumpling.

In 2009 all went according to plan, apart from the mysterious non-appearance of the clootie dumpling and last year, because the base for the bowling carpet was undergoing repair, the event was transferred indoors to the Village Hall, much to the delight (unexpressed, of course) of the fearties.

On Saturday, though, normal service was resumed when, at mid-day, President Alan Robbie, gave a warm welcome to the 14 well clad members who turned up. The weather was as acceptable as it is ever likely to be at this time of year and while some expressed the view that they have played on colder days in early spring, six ends seems to be as many as even the hardiest are able to thole, and such was the case on Saturday before everyone made their way back inside for heat and refreshment.

There being unanimous agreement among all concerned that the New Year’s Day outing was again a thoroughly enjoyable occasion , this is one practice well on the way to becoming an established tradition.

Perhaps no institution is more deep-rooted in the past than the Church of Scotland and, as is the time-honoured custom, all ministers have a New Year’s word for their congregation and on Sunday morning in Johnshaven Church, the Rev Colin Dempster’s message was to remember Jesus’ words that “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

However, on Sunday, there was an innovation which may yet become a regular feature of the first Sunday of the year when, at the end of the service, the Rev Dempster officiated at a short and informal celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

Earlier the minister had thanked all those who had been responsible for decorating both Johnshaven and St Churches and those who had participated in the various services particularly on Christmas Eve at St Cyrus. He also reminded the congregation that there would be a Prayer and Fellowship meeting in the manse on Monday, January, 10 at 7.15 p.m. and that the Enquirers’ Group, a short six-week course exploring Christianity today and open to anyone will start in the manse on Monday, January 17 at 7.15 p.m.

The organist was Alexander Jones.

This Sunday’s services will be held at the now usual times of 10 a.m. in Johnshaven Church and 11.30 a.m. in St Cyrus Church.

Back to Normal

The break in routine for local groups and organisations has been longer than usual this festive season because of the cancellation of activities due to November and December’s severe weather. However, things are gradually getting back to normal. The Primary School pupils returned to their desks on Wednesday morning while in the evening the Patchwork Group will return to their quilts in the Village Hall.

On Monday, January 10 the ladies of Mearns Coastal Guild start off the second half of their season in the Church Hall at 2.30 p.m. when the speaker will be Mr Iain Gray from Montrose: at 7 p.m. in the evening the members of the Bridge Club will deal their first hands of 2011 and Monday will also see the restart of badminton.

On Tuesday, January 11 the carpet bowlers will be glad to return to action in the Village Hall at 7.30 pm. and at the same time the Arts and Crafts Group will get back round the work table in the small hall.

Memories

Although it’s now 56 years since the last New Year’s concert was held in the Village Hall there will still be many who have fond memories of what, combined with the dance which immediately followed it, was the highlight of Johnshaven’s festive season.

The event was initiated by Johnshaven Dauntless Football Club as a fund-raiser in 1949 and continued until January 3, 1955. For most of those years the entertainment was provided by local talent and much time and effort went into the rehearsals. However, it became more and more difficult to find suitable performers who were prepared to give up their New Year to prepare for and perform in the event and when outside artistes were brought in the concert began to lose its appeal and the Dauntless were forced to call a halt.

The New Year’s Dance continued, though, and with the Village Hall committee taking over the mantle of organisers, it continued to be a really great social occasion and a meeting place for family and friends from near and far. However, the impossibility of finding a band for the year of the Millenium broke the trend and what had been a long-standing tradition came to an end in 1999.

In a sense the concept was revived last year when a crowd of over 70 attended a ceilidh in the Village Hall dancing the night away to the music of the Tangleha’ Ceilidh Band and it was considered by all who attended to have been a great success.