alan skeoch
Oct. 2020

What is this?  Below

The back part of our farm is a forest…dense.  We rarely go back that far
because the front ten  acres keeps us busy.  We also take comfort in
the fact that the 15 acres of dense bush  and swamp are perfect places
for wildlife to thrive.  So it came as quite a  shock in October 2010 when
our boys said we better get back and take a look at what was  happening.

We bashed our way through the bush.  There are only deer trails here 
and there.  Someone or some group knew that.   What we found
was a wood trough which turned  out to be a deer feeding station.
But there was more.  

The so called hunters had wired a ladder and platform to a tree
about ten feet from the trough.  This was not a cheap thing.
Very well built shooting platform made  of heavy aluminum with
rubber treads.  

About 30 or 40 feet distant we found a night vision camera
strapped to a tree on what must have been  a deer trail.

So that is what hunters do, I guess.   They climb up into
the tree platform and sit there waiting for deer to come
to feed on the corn or food pellets on the wood trough
…and then they shoot them.  And  they call that hunting.
No  guesswork involve since the night vision camera automatically
tells them the time the deer will arrive…their numbers.  The 
hunter can pick his kill at leisure  at home then pick a nice
time to do the killing based on the camera information.

And  all this was done on our land.   No one asked permission.  They would
have been refused.  I have no respect for guns or for hunting.  But the
nerve of these hunters to just assume they could set up their
killing spot in our forest.   Trespassing.   We had not littered our
land with NO Trespassing or No Hunting signs.  Why would we have
to do that anyway?   

What should we do? First, we tore  down the shooting platform and
carried it to the road where  we keep  scrap metal.  Then we unstrapped
the camera and  took it to our neighbour.  Told him the story.

He seemed interested:

“I figure they got to our bush from your back field.”
“Yes,I do allow a couple of hunters from the city to hunt…but No,
I  did not know about the platform or the trespassing.”
“This must be their camera.  I want you to give it back
to them. Do you see them often? “
“Will you take the camera?”
“Yes, they might drop by.”
“Tell them we have contacted  the police and have
put up NO TRESPASSING SIGNS…and  one other thing.
Tell them I do  not want to see them.  We will never  meet.”
“I will do that.”

This conversation was  not what it seemed.   I knew that my neighbour 
must have known these hunters really well.  They parked on his land.
I even suspected that the hunters were not from the “city” but may
well have been  very local…nearby in other words.  If I met them
personally there would be deep repercussions.  Best  not tp alienate
people with guns.  I had  raised enough hell  anyway.

How  did the police react?   No help whatsoever.

alan skeoch
Oct. 2020

P.S>  A few months  later a neighbour asked  if  I still had the ladder and
shooting platform…started with friendly blather and eventually got to the 
Point.   “Sorry, the shooting platform has  gone to the scrap yard” (where
it belonged).



alan skeoch
Oc.t 2020

“Take a seat, Alan…rain trying to sleet outside…good time to think…to remember”


Cold rain…almost sleet…falling today.  Good time  to try and sort through our collection of weird and wonderful machines
in the main barn.   It has been years since I have  done so.  Seems like a treasure hunt … includes a chair for contemplation.

Contemplation?  Yep, I sat down and stared at two machines that were uncovered once the flower pots and threshing machine
moulds were set  aside.   Two antique DOCKING MACHINES.  Probably the only such machines left in North America.  How
did  I know that?  I combed the internet under various titles like ANTIQUE  GRAN DOCKING MACHINES and  other word
combinations.   No luck.  You might do better but let me get on with the story.

The same year, perhaps 1980,  we visited those hidden ICBM  SILOS in North Dakota we also  stopped at a grain silo near the Canadian
border.  A  huge wooden structure that, unlike the ICBM sites,  stood out against the flat horizon. 

“Hi, hope we  are not intruding but could I take a couple of pictures of your grain silo?”
“Do what you want.  We don’t get many  visitors…matter  of fact we  don’t get any except for
the trucks loaded with grain.”
(I noticed two dust covered mini fanning mills in a forgotten  corner)’
“What are those machines?”
“Old Docking machines…they go a long way back.”
“Docking machines?”
“Yep, we take  a sample of every load of  grain, dump it in the docker and then
calculate how much to dock the farmers’ load.”
“Weed seeds and rat dung as a percentage  of  total load.”
“Not so much rat dung but weed seeds for sure and other waste”
“Farmers must hate these machines.”
“They do…cuts into profits.”
“Still using those dockers?”
“No…they’re obsolete.  New dockers are  better.”
“What are  you going to do with the old ones?”
“Nothing…we’ll get rid of them when we have time.”
“Would you sell them to us?”
“Sure…sell them cheap, how  about $20 each?”
“I’ll give you $25 each.”
“Sold.  Let’s get them in your truck…Not much room.”

This is the older  of the two…perhaps once  it was hand cranked.   Both Docking machines run by electric motors so they are likely vintage 1920 or 1930 or 1940.


And so  we  loaded both docking machines…packed tight in our  van.  Two kids, two dogs, four sleeping bags, Coleman stove, coolers, dog food, human food, one giant tractor tube (our idea of a boat),
then Marjorie and  me  and  now TWO DOCKING MACHINES.   And a case of Coors beer for our visit with Wick at Lake of the Woods.  Behind the van we hauled a pop up trailer.  We  must have looked  like
a modern version of Steinbeck’s Grapes of  Wrath.   

I sat in the barn today thinking about that trip.  Good memories.  One mistake somewhere along the way when the tractor tube broke loose and rolled like an immense do-nut into the ditch.  We should
have deflated it rather than tie it to the truck roof.  But how would we re-inflate it at a lakeside camp ground?  I think we gave it away.

I hadn’t seen those  Docking Machines for two decades.  I knew they were  safely tucked away in the barn though.   This was a good time to give them the 
exposure they deserved.  So here they are…yours to admire.

alan skeoch
Oct. 2020

P.S.  Just in case you wonder why I had trouble finding the Dockers, here’s a picture of things that blocked
my view.  Each of these things is  another story.  The great wood  drive pulleys were rescued when the
Massey Ferguson factory was demolished around  1990.  


Begin forwarded message:

From: ALAN SKEOCH <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Date: October 26, 2020 at 6:23:35 PM EDT
To: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>


alan skeoch
oct. 2020

Minuteman ICBM site….Hidden from view…almost  hidden on two acre lots across the American midwest .

 I did not want to look like the yahoo B52 pilot in the Movie Dr. Strangelove but
this picture taken on our trip to North Dakota certainly gives that impression.

Two boys at the controls of a Minuteman launch control center during a "community day" at a facility in South Dakota in the 1
Making child’s play out of a potential horrific disaster.  Tours  of the missile silos could be arranged. In this case
two children are planed in the launch seats.  What could be more chilling?


Summer around  1980:  We  headed west  In search of

the missile  silos in North Dakota.  Frightening.  Marjorie and  I

were just ordinary citizens…not political party members or members of peace groups;
Just Concerned citizens.  

We drove from Toronto to North Dakota back  around 1980 just to get a sidelong look
at this American silos housing the Minueman Inter continental ballistic missiles…ICBM’S.
WHY?  First, I found it hard to believe that such  missile  sites really existed.  They did exists…
and many still exist today, Oct. 27, 2020.   Second, Our boys were now teen-agers and we thought they should
be aware  of the insanity of Nuclear conflict.

“Boys, look over there.”
“That field.”
“Nothing there, dad”
“That is  where you  are wrong.  See  the little  bump?  What you are looking at is the hiding place
of a 1.2 megaton nuclear armed  ICBM.”
“INTER CONTINENTAL BALLISTIC MISSILE…A nuclear weapon capable of wiping out a city.

From launch  to impact in 30 minutes.”

“Oh, Alan,  don’t say that.  You  will scare the boys…and me!”
“Scares me as well, Marjorie.”
“Tell us more, dad.”
“These Minuteman  missiles buried  in silos 8o feet deep….many around us  here
in North Dakota…spread  out in a circle around the city of Minot which has a big SAC base with those 
big B 52 nuclear bombers.   Some  of those planes are in the air at all times in case of nuclear war
they are ready to strike.”
“Alan that’s enough…no more.”
“Just one last comment, Marjorie, before we strike north to Manitoba and then to Wick’s place on Lake  of the Woods.”
“No more.”
“Can’t I just tell the boys to watch the movie titled Dr. Strangelove?”
“No!  Now stop.”
“What movie dad?”
“Dr. Strangelove is supposed to be a funny movie with Peter Sellars…really a dark comedy.  Seems  funny until
the very end when the crazy pilot of a B 52 rides a nuclear bomb heading for a Russian city.”
“Riding…what do you mean  by riding, dad?”
“Like riding a horse only it’s a bomb.”
“Alan,  if you don’t stop, I am  taking the boys for s walk.”
“My lips ae sealed…for a while”


How  long does  the President of the United States have to make his decision to launch the missiles?  About six minutes.
Has a mistaken alert led to a near catastrophe?   Yes.

  From 1961 to 1967 the United States was building silos encased in rebar and concrete. That’s most of my teaching  career.  Why?   To house

 1,000 Minuteman missiles …  underground  silos, 80 feet deep,  all across the American midwest.  Why underground?  It was expected  most

of the Minutemen missiles would withstand a surprise nuclear war and be ready to fire back at an enemy.  That was the essence of the Cold War. 

Two enemy states capable of destroying each other and thereby creating a stalemate…a tenuous  Peace due to the chance of mutual self destruction.

Who had…whups! I used  the past tense…the verb ‘had’  should be the verb ‘has’. Who has the power to push the launch button? The President

of the United States.   Did you ever notice the military man with the briefcase that follows the President.  That brief case contains the codes that

can trigger a missile launch.   Two men are in each command room near the missile silos.  Replaced by others in each 8 hour shift
These men are deemed psychologically stable before getting placed.   Great Care is taken.  
The missiles could only be launched when both men receive the “Go” command from the President and agree to push the  launch 

button simultaneously.

Some of the silos  have been rendered inoperable but around 400 or more are still ready in  spite of the fact that the Cold War is
over.   Most of the operable silos are located on farm land distant from any human beings.

Is  the system foolproof?  Could one man  go mad  and just launch a  Minuteman  for the hell of it?   What if one man refused?  
What was the other man supposed to do?  What if the President of the United States went mad?    Is there some kind of check

  on madness?

alan skeoch

Oct. 2020

The Minuteman was the first missile that could be stored in and fired from a concrete silo sunk 80 feet underground.    <em>(” apple-inline=”yes” id=”1FD4C95F-5574-43C4-B78B-1E4D4472C194″ class=”” src=”http://alanskeoch.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/5bb619b13c000018010d296d.jpeg”></div>
<div class=

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alan skeoch
Oct. 2020
This  is  Terry Wickstrom, a good friend and fellow teacher at Parkdale C. I. during the school year.  In the summer he 
travelled to his island on Lake of the Woods where he became a very different person.  Sort of a Grey Owl character if you will.
And always with a grin and chuckle.

alan skeoch
Oct. 2020

We were eating breakfast when Wick (Terry Wickstrom) said to the boys:

“How would you like to see a bear today?”

They nodded  and  looked at their mother who smiled agreement.

The plan was hatched the night before when we were having an outdoor supper
around  a campfire on a small rock island on Lake of the Woods.

“Why don’t we have some fun tomorrow…take the boys on a bear hunt…make it 
sound real…scare the boys but all in fun.”
“A game.?  Sounds good to me, Wick.”
“Marjorie wants to stay with the dogs so they do not get lonely like yesterday’s near disaster.

Wick speaking to Kevin and Andrew:

“Boys, how would you like to go bear hunting today?”
“Dangerous..is it dangerous, Terry?”
“No.  I will take my gun as protection.”
“Good, let’s  go.”
“Jump in the canoe…we must be very quiet so the bear does not hear us.”
“Shhhh!  Getting close to Bear Island now…that’s my name for the island  because
a bear lives here.   Shhh!  Silent paddling.  Careful getting out. Try not to step on
twigs…be very quiet.”
“Do you know why the bear lives here, boys?”
“Blueberries…lots of  blueberries.  Long ago  there must have been a fire because the
high point of the island is  clear.  No trees.   Just a great swath of blueberry bushes.”
“Is that why dad is carrying the bucket?”
“yes.  We may pick some berries  if the bear allows us to go berry picking.”
“You won’t shoot the bear with the gun, will you , Terry?”
“No.  Just scare him … or her,  could be a momma bear with cubs.  If we see her,
we will leave fast. Now be very quiet as we climb the hill…step  on moss if you can.
No snapping twigs.  We will move up slowly.  Maybe your dad can get a  picture if
the bear if we are far enough away.  Shhhhh!”

Bears often appear where you least expect them…except in blueberry patches
where they often claim ownership.

“Wick, look here,”  I whispered
“Bear shit…old bear shit.”
“Boys, take a look.  What did the bear  eat?”
“Blueberries…skins in the shit.”
“Don’t swear, boys.  Proper word is Bear Skat.”
“Is the bear near?”
“No, this  is  old  bear shit.”

And  so  the four of us silently climbed the hill…very quietly.  Wick in the lead  with the
gun…then the boys…then me with the berry tub.   Our real goal was to get some blueberries
…we exagerrated the bear just for fun.   We moved silently.  Wick looked  around and  put
his finger to his mouth.

“Shhhh!  Boys…we close to the big blueberry patch…don’t scare the bear.”

Then Wick stopped abruptly.  No reason to stop as far as I could see.  Wick pointed
to the ground  at his feet.

“Alan, look here…fresh  bear shit…Today’s bear shit.”
“Do you mean there is a bear here on the island….a real  bear?”
“Yes.  We’ve got to get the hell out of here now.”
“Turn around  boys…back down to the canoe…be quiet but move
faster than the climb.  We’ve got company on the island.  A real bear.”
“But you said  there was a  bear on the island, Terry.”
“I did…I know I did.   Your dad  and  I thought we would  make this trip
into an adventure.  We did not expect a real bear.”
“Could the bear be down at our canoe?”

“No…bears do not like people much.  I think the bear is on
the other  side of the island.  But the island is small.  Best we
get out of here.  The bear may be watching us.  Let’s hope it’s 
not a momma bear with cubs.  Keep  moving.”
“Lucky you brought the rifle, Wick.”
“Not really.  I did not put 22’s in the gun…gun’s are dangerous.”

“What about berry picking, Terry?”
“No blueberry picking today, boys.”
“No blueberry pie!”

And so  the adventure ended.  It was a very small adventure in the great 
scheme of things but it was our adventure…ours!

alan Skeoch
Oct. 2020

This is fresh bear dung.

Here is Wick  with  “the Devil made me do it” look on his  face.

This picture reminded me of another adventure we shared with our friends when some hunters decided to see what they
could kill on our farm.  That will be another Episode.  Susie and Wick are in picture above beside he ladder.   My brother Eric is on the far
left..  And  Don Hamilton holding his chin.  Louise Joyce is holding the ladder in centre.  All supporters in the mini-crisis.

EPISODE 150 LAKE OF THE WOODS…”Daisy and Sonny nearly lost…nearly a tragedy”

EPISODE  150   LAKE  OF THE WOODS…”Daisy and Sonny nearly lost…nearly a tragedy!”

Lake of the Woods  is sprinkled with thousands of small islands.  We lived on one of the islands for a week or two.
 A tragedy nearly happened.

alan skeoch
Oct. 2020

My good friend Terry Wickstrom owns a small island on Lake of the Woods, near the Manitoba / Ontario border.
We spent a few weeks with him long, long ago when our boys were small and before Terry was married and
had his own kids.

To a person who does not know Lake  of the Woods my previous  comment might sound like a typical cottager 
comment.  So let’s get one ting straight.  The Lake of the Woods is one vast wilderness,  36th largest lake
in the world.  Only a few people have been  granted cottage land on the lake.

Most of the Lake of the Woods remains a pristine wilderness…sort of a place that time forgot.

Wick’s cabin sits rather hidden on his small island…perhaps an acre in size.  Almost attached is a smaller
island like the one below where we watched  a  family of mink go fishing every morning before we had
our spartan breakfast of oatmeal  and powdered milk and coffee.

“What’s up today, Wick?”
“A few miles west of here there are some friends…thought we would go there.”
“Leave our dogs here…they should be fine.”
“Not too much room in the boat anyway.” (I forget whether we were taking
a canoe or the small rowboat with the 6 hp motor.  Wish I could remember
because the type of boat is important to the story.}

Marjorie,  Wick, our boys Kevin and Andrew (then about 10 and  12) wedged  ourselves
in the boat and pushed  off.  Lake of the Woods  is immense.  It is the 36th largest lake in the world
with thousands…yes, thousands…of small islands sprinkled here and there like stepping stones
for giants.   There always seems  to be a  light wind blowing so the lake gets choppy
and  can get more than choppy in big winds.   

We kept our eyes forward.  Unfortunately.   If we had looked  back at Wick’s island then 
we would  have noticed something was wrong.  But we did  not.  We just kept going
until one of the boys turned  around.

“What are those two logs back there?  We did not see them.”
“Logs? “
“Well, something way back behind us.”
“Maybe a bear swimming from one island to another…they do that.”
“Two objects back there…floating…or swimming.”
“Want to check them out?”
“Could be a pair of moose too…big looking”
“Let’s  check it out.”

So we turned the boat around and headed back towards Wick’s
island which  was now very distant.

“Something alive by the looks of it.”
“Two things.”
“Logs or bears…?”

“Holy Samoley…those are our dogs…Daisy and  Sonny…following us.”
“They must have been swimming for a long time…Quick, get close to them.”
“Grab Daisy by the collar …  pull her into the boat…careful…don’t tip.”
“I got Sonny…got him in.”

The dogs had  seen us  take off, perhaps  half an hour or an hour ago. 
Both Labradors…mother and son.  They loved water and they loved
us so they decided to follow.  By the time we got them they were a 
long distance from Wick’s island.  Lucky they were spotted.  But, at a distance,
they did not look like dogs.   More like logs.   We could have continued
forward and left them swimming.  Could a Labrador dog swim for miles
in an open lake?   

Better not to think about that.

Terry Wickstrom’s island is smaller than the distant island in this picture.  Attached by a spit of rock is a  second island almost exactly like this
island in the foreground.    

Some of the islands  are large but most are very small.  Most are empty and willing to be explored.

This picture is the closest to our situation with the dogs.   Imagine being twice this distance from Wick’s island
and  noticing two blackish dots in the distance behind our boat.  Pure chance that the dogs were spotted.

It is  difficult to spot swimming creatures like this coyote or wolf swimming to an island on Lake of the Woods.
Almost invisible.  I bet you saw the big  rock before you saw the wolf or coyote.    Our dogs were a long
way behind  our boat when spotted.  Pure luck.

Imagine the relief we felt when we rescued our dogs.

Do not imagine what could have happened.

alan skeoch
Oct. 2020



alan skeoch
Oct. 24, 2020

“Alan, let me take you to Riverwood for a walk.”
“Too busy.”
“You are not that busy.”

As  things turned out, Marjorie was  correct.  How could  I
ever be so busy that I nearly missed Riverwood in full colour
…complete with two cute Indian  dancers having a great
time filming themselves and smiling for my camera.”

Riverwood  is  a huge tract of forest bordering the Credit River.  Long ago it was a private estate but now is open for all to 
enjoy.   Not just humans, by the way.  All sorts of wild life live here but are not seen  very often.  Several pairs of coyotes rear their
young in secluded  corners of Riverwood.   Deer manage to co exist if tenuously.  Riverwood is a  treasure…not to be missed right
now.   So  pack  up your troubles in your old kit bag and head for Riverwood.


Riverwood is hard to describe.  Best definition?  “Riverwood  is a 150 acre wilderness in the centre of the City of Mississauga.”
Much  more  could be said.   But let’s just consider the wilderness aspect in this photo essay.  The two charming Indians dancers
hint at the cultural significance of Riverwood but today it was the wilderness that was dominant.

And  what a delightful surprise, these two young ladies  were dancing in he forest, all alone with their camera.  Smiling at our
intrusion.  And their colourful clothing complemented to forest or vice versa.   We live in an enchanted land for sure.

Bird feeders are located here and there in the wilderness drawing photographers and birders both.

From a Riverwood high point it is  possible to hide and look for deer or coyotes on the flat Riverwood grassy plain below.

Put yourself in this picture.  Easy to do.  Drive to Riverwood and take a hike in any direction.   Too bad that those of you in
England, Switzerland, USA, Scotland, Korea, Australia cannot visit Riverwood.  I  hope my pictures are something
you can enjoy.

This “Pine Forest” sculpture fits so well with Riverwood.  When we visited the sculpture
there was a little boy hiding from his mother in the forest below. See if you can find him.

alan skeoch
Oct. 2020



AlAN skeoch
Oct. 2020

“What’s that noise…deep,gutteral…mechanical?”
“AIR RAID Warning.”
“Why a warning?”
“Weatherman says to expect possible tornado … large hailstones.”
“What are we supposed to do?”
“The radio says  to seek shelter if sky looks dangerous”

“So, a good time to take pictures…”

“I read  that we  are experiencing more dangerous storms as a  result of climate change.”

“What can  we  do?   Can our changing  climate be  controlled?

“When I  was  a  kid I thought our world…or earth…was so immense it was  beyond comprehension.”

“Today , Oct. 23, 2020, the earth seems such  a  small place.”

“Every time I  see a tree I say a thank  you.   Trees  breath in carbon dioxide, extract the carbon, and breath out

“Human beings and all the living and creating creates of this earth only appeared  on earth when the
atmosphere began to contain oxygen.”

“Did you know that three quarters of the earth is covered with water.”

“In  other words the land  upon which we depend is very limited…”

“Just driving up the fifth line four or five times a week reminds  me of the shaky balance that is the background  of our lives.”

“Do you know what I fail to comprehend no matter how many times it is explained?

“No, what?”

“The atmosphere.  How come our earth has captured this thin envelope of air?”

“I was reading that Mars once had an atmosphere but it drifted off into space.   How is it
that the earth keeps the air?

“Come to think of it,  these angry looking clouds are quite wonderful.”


“They carry water.   Where there is water there will be life.”

alan skeoch
oct. 2020



alan skeoch
oct. 2020

Long after our grandparents had  passed on we found reminders  of Grandma.   Each  fall, about the end of  October,
she collected a few leaves…reminders of the beauty of nature.  Before the leaves crumpled up she wedged them
into books and bibles.  

“I wonder why she did  that?”
“I think she did that for us  to find long after she was gone…a reminder that she
once lived  among us.”

alan skeoch
Oct. 2020



alan skeoch
Oct. 2020

“Alan, you must carve the pumpkins.”
“Why?  There will be no shelling out this  years due to Covid  19”
“People like to see the pumpkins as they drive by…they are pretty.”
“OK…I’ll get the butcher knives”

What a  mess resulted.  My carving was not great but later I had help
by carvers who used their teeth.  The end result is not good.

“Alan, I see  you had help with the carving…no kids  will come by
our house this halloween  for sure.
“The squirrels…black and grey mostly…maybe even a red one.”
“Where do they live?”
“Not in any of our trees…no big balls of leaves  high up.”
“Then where did they come from?”
“Let’s just sit on the lawn chairs and watch.”

“Holy Samoley…we have a bunch of black  squirrels living in our house…aluminum siding
pulled aside way up top.”
“Get the live trap…”

alan skeoch
oct. 2020



alan skeoch
Oct. 2020

The Battle of Bannockburn IN 1314 was a bloody affair that seemed  to favour the English until their war horses  and soldiers  got mired
in the muddy swampland at Bannockburn.   
Before the battle of  Bannockburn a priest presided over the saying of mass as shown  here.  The Scottish soldiers bent their knees
and  surrendered themselves to their God.  The English recon troops thought this was surrender to the English.  Bad error.  The priest
above carried  with him religious relics of St. Columba, the Irish saint who converted the Scots … and also  dedicated the church of 
St Skeoch near Craig and the chapel of St. Skeoch at Bannockburn.  One source  stated that the battle was fought on the Skeoch steading
(Skeoch farm) .

This painting is useful in that it shows  civilians on the battlefield helping the wounded.  Also a young boy who seems lost.

Robert the Bruce fought with a battle axe as  pictured above.  With that axe he killed one of the English leaders .  TURNED THE BATTLE
How wold  you like this battle axe planted  in your brain?


I give up.  Surrender.  My search for St. Skeoch has numbed  my brain.  You may have more
strength than  I do  but I wager you do  not.  Try reading 502 pages filled with Scottish saints.
And that was not the end of the book.  It took 502 pages to find St. Skeoch who is briefly mentioned
under the heading ‘obscure Irish saints’.   A few years ago my good friend Ed Jackman who is
a Dominican priest offered to search  for St. Skeoch in some book of the saints.  He never found
her.  Yes, she is  female.   Now I understand why.  Scotland  is full of saints.  Seems to me that
every well in Scotland has been dedicated to a saint.

I have spent so much time searching for the old girl, St. Skeoch, that Marjorie fears I am becoming celibate.
No fears.  I have put down the book of saints.  Leave it for a better person.  Maybe you.  Consult James 
Murray  Mackinlay, M.A., Folk For of Scottish Lochs and Springs,  Ancient Church dedications  in
Scotland, published in 1914.  It is on the internet word for word.  Hours and hours, three days off and
on.  What did I find?   On page 502 I hit pay dirt…sort of.  Yes, Page 502!  “One of St. Columba’s companions  from Ireland (in 12th century) to Iona bore
the name ‘Echoid’.  Bishop Reeves thinks that it is  represented in a corrupted form in the name
of the ancient Forfarshire parish of St. Skeoch or St. Skay, otherwise Dunninald,  now included in 
Craig.  Its church, which no longer exists, stood” near Elephant Rock north east of  Edinburgh.
And there was a St. Skeoch chapel at  Bannockburn.

Makes me tired  just putting this in print.  And it probably bores you, the readers,  silly.

Why am I writing this?  Because of the legend…truth or myth about Skeoch origin.


I think it was aunt Greta or maybe Aunt Elizabeth that first told me the legend.
To them it was  truth I think.  The story came down through the family 
orally.  Nothing firm.  Hearsay.  Let me put the story forward in as brief a
way as  possible…using hypothetical dialogue.

“Alan, our name dates back to the Battle of Bannockburn…1314”
“After the battle ended  two young boys were found alive on the battlefield.”
“How young?”
“No one knows.  But young enough that they did not know who they were …very young.”
“Who found them?”
“No one knows…likely Scottish  soldiers combing the blood strewn field for weapons or
things of value.”
“What happened to the boys?”
“They were taken to the chapel of St. Skeoch…chapel was at Bannockburn…boys taken there
as orphans.”
“Who was at the chapel?”
“No one knows now…maybe a priest.  Chapels were smaller than churches usually
and were places for prayer.   Tiny building likely.  The boys were taken there according to the legend.
And given names.”
“They must have been very young if they did not know their own names.”
“Or they were renamed.”
“The new names…”
“Named James and  John Skeoch.”
“Is this true?”
“The story has been passed down through the family.  And the names James
and  John have  been passed from Skeoch parents to their first born males…through
the  centuries.   In 1846 the two boys that travelled to Canada from Scotland were
James and John Skeoch.  Your grandfather was  James Skeoch…he was the son
of the little boy who travelled to Fergus in 1846.  His son was James Skeoch, killed
in World War I..”
“If this is true, then why am I not named James,?
“Mom probably did not know the story, she was English,  and Dad did not really care.”

(aunt Elizabeth named  her eldest boy James…as seems  to have been the tradition)

“Let me get this straight.  Two little boys were found on the Bannockburn battlefield
in June, 1314.  They were placed  in the chapel dedicated to St. Skeoch which was
near the Battlefield.  Whoever took them in renamed them James and John Skeoch.
And that is  origin of our surname.” 


There is no record to confirm the story of James and  John Skeoch.  Nothing except
hearsay.  But there are a few facts that give a bit of credence to the story.

1) The Battle of Bannockburn was fought on the ‘Skeoch steading” (Skeoch farm)
2) There was a  chapel dedicated to St. Skeoch on the Banncokburn field
dating back to the 12th century and St. Columba.
3)  St. Skeoch was a sixth century Irish saint.  
4)  St. Columba dedicated a  church to St. Skeoch near Craig in Scotland…the chapel
at Bannockburn also it seems.
5)   Skeoch is  a place name … i.e. Skeoch Wood on the Isle of Cute, 
village of Skeoch at Bannockburn,  Skeoch Hill in Lowland Scotland.
6)  St. Skeoch is also known  as St. Skay

I have tried to keep this Episode as  short as  possible because I know many
readers will not give sweet goddamn about the Skeoch  name.  This is my
fifth version of the story.  I cut out the whole battle of Bannockburn other than
the date.

alan skeoch
Oct. 2020

post script:    A  researcher named  Adrian Dyack recorded the following
information on May 13, 2018.  Rather interesting.  I wonder if  he plowed
through the Mackilnay book of saints as  I did.

Discussion NO 7153

Saint Skeoch Church or “church of St. Doninad” was first mentioned in the written record of 1161 when it
was given by Ing Malcolm IV to Restenneth Priory.

Saint Skeoch, or Saint Skae, as it is locally pronounced, appears to have received its name from a saint 
of that name. St. Skae was given to the parish and to the chapel with its burial ground at the landward
end  of the Rock of St. Skae.   At present the Rock of St. Skae is more usually known by its descriptive
name of the Elephant Rock.  

The Church of St. Skeoch seems to have been suppressed for some time as in 1576 it was written that
“Sanct Skae or Dinnynum needs nae reidare” (Reader).   The church appears to have been restored about
1587, as in that year Andrew Leith had  “a gift of life” of 3 chalders, 12 bolls meal yearly out of the
bishoprick of Brechin for his services at the Kirks of “Marytoun, Inchbrock, Lunan and St. Skae”.

The parishes of St. Skeoch or Dunninald were united  with Inchbrock or Craig in 1618 to form the new
parish of Craig.

Who was St. Skae?  A.J. Warden, writing in 1885, said that St. Skeoch is supposed  to be one of the twelve 
disciples of St. Columba and a northern saint. There are three  saints of this name in the Irish Calendar.

Dr. Reeves considers the word a corruption of Echoid or Eochaidh, which is found under the name of St.
Skeoch in some of the south-western districts of Scotland.” 

Norman Atkinson, Senior Servies Manager for Cultural Services, Angus Council and a former Curator
of Montrose Museum has informed me, in recent correspondence that the church  was dedicated to St. Scaith
known as Skae or Skeoch, who was one of the three maidens  Munster.  She lived in the early sixth century

There is another Scottish church or chapel dedicated to her at Bannockburn and this is mentioned by
Professor Geoffrey Barrow in his book of Robert the Bruce.  This Irish virgin’s feast day is usually 
the 6’th of September but why she was commemorated in the church by the Rock of St. Skae is
not known.

The only ancient artefact which appears to be linked to the site was a small bone pendant with Celtic carving
but this was removed from Dunninald and has never been photographed or recorded.

Adrian L. Diack, MA
Posed by Adrian Diack on St. 25 May, 2013