Sunday, October 01, 2006

Local Hero and Pennan

Pennan looking good in the midday sun:

The view west:

The daytrippers:

The Kinnaird Head Castle lighthouse, looking down:

In an amazing coincidence to JJ's post on film lines here, Sonia, myself, Paula and Teemu had a day trip to Pennan on Saturday, which is heavily used as a set in the film Local Hero. Local Hero is a Scottish production back from 1983, and sees a big business acquisitions delegate 'Mac' from 'Knox Oil', Houston, travel to Scotland to try and buy an entire coastal village paving the way for a new oil refinery. All the locals are totally up for it, as they will all become overnight millionaires. All, that is, except one eccentric old man whose family has owned the adjacent bay for some 400 years. Add to this Mac's assistant Oldsen falling for a marine biologist who thinks they are there to approve her plan for a marine lab, a totally unbalanced big boss 'Happer' played by Burt Lancaster and his equally unbalanced therapist (seen at one point climbing the outside of the skyscraper sticking an offensive message to the windows as part of his new provocative methodology), and you have a quiet, but charming and endearing film much in the style of another Scottish production Soft Top, Hard Shoulder.

Anyway, Pennan is used a lot in the film, including a red phone box there, which is the only communication back to the states (interestingly, in the film this is a prop and the villages have since installed one as there were so many tourists coming to find it!). Rather than clinging to the slopes like Robin Hood's Bay, Pennan is all on the flat next to the sea, it's just that 'the flat' is only about 10 metres in width, and the cliffs that enclose it are towards the sheer end of the spectrum. The hotel is the only retail there (no shop like in the film), but the food is lovely (beer, however is more average). We had a great walk up to the top of the eastern cliff and enjoyed the wonderful views that included many secluded bays further along the coast. As the weather was warm, we were tempted to swim, but kept to plan A, which was to move onward to...

The Lighthouse Museum in Fraserburgh. Although we got there at the end of the day, the kind receptionist arranged for us to join on to the end of the last tour of the day. The tour is of the now defunct Kinnaird Head Castle lighthouse there and it is an impressive building. At the top, we were told that the light structure (not the largest in the world by 2mm!) weighs some four and a half tons and turns on a series of rollers, although in other structures liquid mercury was used and hailed as a great advancement until the health consequences became fully realised! Shifts in the light room were for four hours, and if the operator was discovered with a radio or reading instead of just watching and checking, then they were instantly dismissed! Likewise if they ever left the lighthouse to help at the sites of shipwrecks. The turning is by machine, but we were told that at one isolated lighthouse the light was manually turned for 18 days whilst a spare part was shipped out. This is more impressive when you realise that the exact correct speed had to be maintained as the consequent series of flashes is the method by which ships identify which lighthouse they are in the vicinity of! Nowadays, all the lighthouses are controlled by computer by the Northern Lighthouse Board in Edinburgh.

Finally, in the second world war, most lighthouses were turned off as part of the black-out, but the navy insisted that Fraserburgh lighthouse stayed on for the important navigation through to Russia, and as a result 2/3 of Fraserburgh was bombed away by the end of the conflict, and they still liked it!


Blogger Lisa Rullsenberg said...

What a great trip!

2 October 2006 at 18:40  
Blogger J.J said...

Local Hero is my favourite film EVER. I never grow tired of watching it. Have you been to Cullen just along the coast? That is lovely too.

2 October 2006 at 22:03  
Blogger George Walks said...

It was a very fine day, cheers guys. Hard to beat sitting having a good lunch in a lovely setting with a pint as the sun shines down and the waves roll in. Ahhh...

Anyway. Have you seen Soft Top, Hard Shoulder JJ? It's not as good, but you might like it. We drove past Macduff, but didn't stop into Cullen. You know this coast well!!

3 October 2006 at 21:54  

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