Probus Club at Tolbooth

There was a change of venue for Mearns Probus Club’s second meeting in February, when a visit was made to the Tolbooth Museum at Stonehaven.

Reputed to be the oldest building in Stonehaven, it is situated near the end of the pier facing the harbour and the Bervie Braes with the War Memorial on the horizon.

Initially built a few centuries ago to collect tolls and taxes on goods entering or leaving the old town harbour; it also served as a courtroom and jail for any miscreants in the area.

The building is a two storey one, the upper floor serving as a restaurant at the present time. The lower floor – accessed by a doorway at street level – is formed into two rooms.

To the right is a small gift shop and souvenir shop, with a Visitor’s book, to record your impressions of the Museum.

All around are artefacts, tools and equipment used in the fishing and local industry, the tools mostly hand made, are straw rakes, peat cutters, hoes, axes, spades and even a “Bobbin John”. This hand operated machine was used to plant seeds in rows, the wheel part also acting as a receptacle for the seeds being sown.

An old peat barrow, various wringers, mangles, plump churns flat irons and crimping tongs – they are all there.

One well preserved feature is the ubiquitous kitchen cabinet, a “must-have” for all families in the post-war years.

This unit had the lot, working surface, storage area, drawers for cutlery larger cupboard space below and glass fronted doors at the top. This must have been the fore runner of modern day kitchens, because all of those features are present in to-days equivalents – only larger and supplemented by washing machines, refrigerators, tumble driers, microwave ovens and if you’re lucky – an AGA cooker.

There are also examples of old washing machines, boilers, sewing machines and cream and butter working tools. Butter mould with thistle patterns, butter pats – if you can name it – it’s probably there.

In the other area is an old cell for prisoners and a cast iron bath with a built in sprayer (not a shower) the total weight of this unit must be in hundredweights.

Information on the fireball ceremony at New Year and on Stonehaven’s fossil found near Cowie is all on display.

The building was re-opened in 1963 by the Queen Mother but since last year – 2011 – Aberdeenshire Council have withdrawn all support for this part of our heritage.

It is now run entirely by volunteers but the numbers visiting since then has greatly increased. Long may it continue.

Denis Bell, a club member who had organised the outing, gave a vote of thanks to the staff on behalf of the club.

An excellent turn out of club members proved it had been the right choice for a visit.

On Monday, the club will be back at the Crown Inn Laurencekirk for its first meeting of the month.