Colin Gibson Commemorative 2017

Colin Gibson Commemorative 2017

We are pleased to launch to-day our 2017 stamp issue. It was a great discovery to find that one of my favourite writers “Colin Gibson” had visited Rona in 1933/34 as part of an expedition exploring the flora and fauna of South Rona, Raasay, Scalpay and Longay. His articles in the “Dundee Courier, People’s Friend and The Scots Magazine”and his distinctive black and white sketches drew my attention wherever they turned up in print, his writing was an inspiration to observe more when out in nature.

His daughter Gillian Zealand came to Rona several years ago and from there the idea was born to produce a set of ‘Colin Gibson’ stamps. Gillian kindly supplied copies of colour sketches and we have now three stamps issued to-day.

Presentation Set of Three

The presentation set features three sketches of Dry Harbour, Church Cave and the cliffs seen in rough weather from Dry Harbour. The colour of the Lewisian Gneiss captured as it is to-day.

Set of Three

Or there is a plain set just of the three stamps. A first day cover has also been produced and awaits return from Staffin Post office where the only hand frank left on Skye is still in use.

First Day Cover Picture

One of the sketches kindly supplied by Gillian Zealand was a black and white clearly sketched from Meal Acarseid (Our highest hill) looking East along the cliffs from Dry Harbour. This sketch has been used on the first day cover.

Colin Gibson

During our research into Colin  Gibson’s time on Rona we came across many articles and publications, we have re-produced our favourites.

From ‘Colin Gibson Artist and Naturalist’

From the booklet published by David Winter and Sons Ltd, A Dundee Art Galleries and Museums Exhibition.

On contacting D C Thomson Newspapers in Dundee as I was sure Colin Gibson’s articles appeared in the Sunday Post, I had a reply from Norman Watson DCT Company Historian (below). I was mistaken and it now turns out it was the articles in the Dundee Courier I used to follow.

Norman Watson.
DCT Company Historian.

COLIN GIBSON began Nature Diary in October 1954 after he was asked to try a “few” nature articles. He later recalled, “I was told, ‘We’ll run them for six Saturdays and see how they go’.” By popular demand, Nature Diary became a weekly fixture.Colin filled the space about 2500 times for us-accurately, charmingly, interestingly, informatively-becoming a much-loved part of our paper, as well as a household name across much of Scotland. His death aged 90 in April 1998 sadly allows us now to paint a picture of a man who used to chortle, eyes twinkling, when we asked him if he would like to be remembered as an artist, writer, naturalist or historian. “Me?” he’d reply. . .”I’m just a man who has enjoyed the world around me.”
Colin Gibson was born in Arbroath in 1907 and attended Keptie School and Arbroath High School before taking up the palette and mixing the hues of his future life at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen.
He later recalled that his first drawing of a galloping horse so impressed his teacher at Keptie School that it was taken before “Grumph,” the headmaster, while his first article, The Woodcock, went to the Arbroath Guide when he was still a teenager and “must have been very near a Nature Diary!”
At Gray’s he won the Founder’s Prize (1926), the Barker Legacy Prize (1927), a Byrne Scholarship for post-diploma study (1928), the Robert Gordon’s Colleges travelling scholarship and the Brough Memorial Scholarship (1929). To help student expenses he sold football cartoons, interviewing and drawing the players “on the spot.”
In 1930 he took up two scholarships to study in Madrid, Toledo, Venice and Florence. On his return to Scotland he took the first teaching job offered, at a school in a coal-mining town in Northumberland, but returned north a year later to the art department at Dundee High School, where he spent 12 years as assistant art master.
In 1943 Colin’s gift for portraiture was recognised when he won the Royal Scottish Academy’s Guthrie Award for the best work by a young Scottish artist for a picture of his wife Lisbeth, whom he married in 1938. The award was shared with Alberto Morrocco, the Dundee artist and RSA academician who passed away in 1999.
Colin gave up teaching in 1945 to become a freelance artist and writer. For a number of years he wrote and illustrated articles for the People’s Friend. Then, on October 2, 1954 came the first Nature Diary for The Courier, a tale about the roaring of stags. No one involved then could have foreseen how popular and long-lived the column would be.
Meanwhile, Colin published the first of several books, The New Furrow, and illustrated a volume of children’s verse by Perth’s bed-ridden poet William Soutar. Eventually he published work in other titles, including The Scots Magazine, the Arbroath Herald annuals and the Carnoustie Guide and Gazette, and classic stories, such as Treasure Island and Lorna Doone, for Oxford University Press.
In 1979 he received an honorary Master of Science degree from the University of Dundee, his testimonial concluding. . . “for all he has done for art and nature in Dundee and Scotland.”
In the later stages of his life, visitors to his home of 50 years in Monifieth enjoyed a couthy chat, a huffy look from his cat Blackie and a sweetie from a dish on the dresser. Talking art, nature or life generally with this grand old man of the Scottish countryside was an unforgettable experience.
After Colin passed away in 1998 his daughter Gillian Zealand responded to public demand by producing the long-awaited collection of her father’s work. Titled Colin Gibson’s Nature Diary, Gillian collated words and pictures to form a showcase not only for her father’s unique work, but also of the landscapes and wildlife that inspired him.
“A collection of his pieces in book form was something people often asked him about. And, after he died, they began asking me!” she explained earlier this week.
“The number of people who bought the book was very encouraging. I did a book signing in Dundee, for example, and many of his old friends turned up to reminisce about the column and my father. Everyone had a story! At the Angus Jubilee celebrations at Glamis this summer one elderly chap kept me busy with his recollections for about half an hour!
“I would love to do another book, but the first one involved a great deal of hard work and quite a lot of expense.”
Colin’s love of his subjects appealed to several generations of nature lovers. But his depth of knowledge was evident just as much in every word written as the lines drawn.
“He put a lot of effort into his writing,” recalled Gillian. “He knew the length of Nature Diary off pat, but honed and honed it. I remember he always wanted to round it off with a sentence which would link to the start of the article.”
Similarly, Colin often regarded his drawings as working pieces and went back to them again and again. In 1988, however, the familiar scraperboard images were allowed to shine in the artistic firmament when Dundee District Council staged a hugely-popular exhibition of his artwork in Barrack Street Museum.
With such a large body of her father’s original work still in her family’s possession, Gillian staged a successful Nature Diary selling exhibition of nearly 100 works at Eduardo Alessandro Studios in May 2000. She has been encouraged to stage another exhibition, perhaps at the same Broughty Ferry venue.
“I would be quite keen, and when I mentioned to Sandro Paladini that it will be the 50th anniversary of Nature Diary in 2004, he was quite enthusiastic, too! But we’ll have to look at that possibility. In the meantime, Joyce McGlone at the Queen’s Gallery in Dundee has expressed an interest in some of Dad’s life drawings. He did quite a lot of other work, including many life drawings and landscapes.”
Gillian is also delighted that the McManus Galleries in Dundee has secured a number of his pictures from her for the city’s permanent collection. “It is lovely to think that the city’s principal art gallery will have a representative selection of his work,” she says.
She first became aware of Nature Diary as her father’s constant companion as a wee girl on jaunts to the Arbroath cliffs, the Sidlaws, and so many other places. In fact, their Sunday outing often became the basis of the following Saturday’s column! So no one knows better than Gillian how Colin would have viewed today’s passing of the Saturday appointment which has made him a friend to generations of Courier readers.
“Well, he would have been delighted by this attention. He would have loved it! But Dad was fairly philosophical. He accepted the need for change, even though he didn’t like it himself!
“But I have also lived with it for a long time. I was 50 earlier this year, and Nature Diary started when I was two. I have seen it in The Courier every Saturday through my conscious life. It’s quite a thought that it won’t be there any more.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Coming Soon – Colin Gibson Commemorative 1st May 2017

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June 1st 2016 – Rona Red Deer Issue

We are delighted to announce a new issue of Rona Stamps for 2016. Tomorrow on the 1st of June we are issuing a set of four stamps, they celebrate the successful introduction of Red deer onto the Island in 2003. Following this years count where we were happy to record the numbers of deer had increased to the sustainable population that we had intended. Our 12 year plan had come to fruition.

Special Edition Collectors Set.

Special Edition Collectors Set.

The stamps were printed in three formats. The first above is the collectors issue a set of four at £5.00 (RS20) . The special edition format includes a background picture of our Master Stag, famously christened “Eric” by one of our stalkers. Eric was bought in from John Fletcher’s Auchtermuchty Deer Farm (now with new owners) with a similar stag plus 6 females (hinds). Unfortunately the ‘similar’ stag swam to neighbouring Island of Raasay and never returned.

Plain Block of Four

Plain Block of Four

The second  set of four without the background was produced for the First Day Cover but is also available at £4.00. (RS21)

Strip of Four Block

Strip of Four Block

Finally the strip of four which we are happy to supply at £4.00, has been produced for the visitors to the Island who when buying postcards, like to have a Rona Local Carriage stamp franked here on Rona prior to posting. (RS22)

2016 Red Deer FDC

2016 Red Deer FDC

The 1st June 2016 Rona Red Deer FDC is now available. It will be franked by the Staffin Post Office which is 5 miles as the crow flies from Rona, one of the few sub Post Offices who still hold a hand stamp. The cost per FDC is £7.50. (RS23)

Post and packing as usual is £2.50 for UK/£3.50 for Europe and the Rest of the world.

By Paypal to :




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Rona Postmen


The Rona Postmen

Norman Cumming and Friend

Norman Cumming and Friend

I was going to tell the story of the ‘Three Men In A Boat’ stamps next post, which were never issued. But after a chat with Julia MacKenzie my good friend who now lives in Inverness, to-day. I decided to write down as much as I could remember from our discussion and my notes, before it was lost.

So here we go. Julia has been a good friend and supporter of our efforts on Rona since I came here in 2003. Without her help and inspiration I do not know if we would have lived here so long. Julia was born on Eilean Tighe, the first neighbouring Island, she was the first of her family to be born there, 93 years ago. Her Father ‘Norman Cumming’ was a crofter but also the Rona Postman. He held this post for approximately 30 years, giving up during or near the end of the Second World War. The picture above is the small rowing boat that he used to go to Rona with the mail, once a week. The journey was less than a mile but could often be carried out through fast moving tidal, stormy seas. Julia cannot remember him missing a trip. Often he would go to Acarseid Mhor, where we live at Rona Lodge. Then onto the Lighthouse. The MacRae’s, tenants and caretakers after 1929 were the only full time inhabitants latterly, apart from the Lighthouse keepers and their families.

At this point I must say that this was a general conversation with Julia, one of many on which I have tried my best to take notes but often after a while I cannot read my writing. Julia is a bit unsure of dates but most of the facts are as she remembers. She has an incredible memory for these times, speaking often fondly of her time at her homes both on Eilean Tighe and the ‘Farmhouse’ Kyle Rona. Some of the facts may not add up but we try to write it down as we hear it. So apologies now for any errors and I am happy to be corrected

The boat was provided by the Education Department to take the children across from Eilean Tighe so that they could get to school. This entailed a journey as Julia recounts of walking several miles down to Torrin to the schoolhouse each day, with nothing more than a bowl of porridge in their stomach.  I quote ” I did not go to school until I was seven’ Why not I asked? ” Well, I could not go on my own and had to wait until Betty was over 4 years old, then we could walk to school together”. Imagine a 7 and 4 year old walking from Eilean Tighe or even Kylerona which is shorter, to Torran, it must be over 6/7 miles? Those that have walked it will really wonder!!!!

Back to the boat, it seems that this boat was used for the post as well and Julia can only suppose that the various departments got together to provide it. There is a mast and sail, these were home made, the mast from a lovely straight piece of driftwood Norman found on the shore, the sail from old sacks. Ever inventive Norman decided to use these home made additions to ease his workload given that he had a six mile walk both ways after he landed and made fast the boat at the Port an Teampuill at the South end of Rona. Julia recounts two incidents, once when she rowed to Rona, her a young 6 or seven years old, the storm got up and nearly blew them past the mouth of ‘Big Harbour (Acarseid Mhor). She remembers her Father who was on one oar, her on the other keeping her going by pushing her in gaelic to pull harder otherwise they were in danger of being swept away. They made it!! Another time she tells how her Father left sailing and this time did get blown away and got picked up by a fishing boat out in the Minch, three days later he return much to Julia’s Mother’s annoyance. Whether it was because she was worried or that  he missed his dinners she is not sure.

Before Norman took up the postman’s job Julia’s GrandFather ” Johnnie Mhor” had delivered the mail. Another man she cannot really remember his name but it may have been Alasdair ‘Post’ delivered for a short while then her Father for the next 30 years. After her Father gave it up Calum MacLeod of ‘Calum’s Road fame’ took it over. A lot of this information can of course be read in Calum The Road, a Book by Roger Hutchinson and Julia’s own Book, “Whirligig Beetles and Tackety Boots’. Of which I have many copies here.

Julia's Book

Julia’s Book

The delivery to Rona was once a week, perhaps more if the mail was particularly heavy although if the weight was above 55lbs on the day, Norman was able to employ his son John or other family members. Julia can remember getting a job doing the post occasionally, she said “of course you got paid but it was a pretty hard slog”. Christmas time was the worst as there would be much more mail compared to other times. Nothing changes, this year I had to walk up to the Lighthouse to retrieve our mail. But this time it was taken out by the helicopter, the short walk after the trip up most of the way on the ATV motorbike was still quite trying in a full gale. I cannot imagine how it was at that time walking the length of Rona and back, wet weather gear would have been an oilskin and at the best rubber boats, then rowing back to Raasay.

Julia reports her Father had no fear of the sea, although a non swimmer he just took it in his stride. One of the many interesting anecdotes was the story about the sailor Dr Robert Carslaw. He wrote the well known sailing tome, “Leaves from the Rowan’s Log”.
On sailing into Acarseid Mhor one day to deliver the mail, Norman was hailed from the yacht ‘Rowan IV’ (Built for him by McGruer &Co) which was anchored in the Bay, on it was Dr Carslaw, he recognised Norman as he was passing. Dr Carslaw  had operated on him in Glasgow not that long before. Norman had had a Duodenal ulcer which Dr Carslaw on seeing him at the time had pronounced  “incurable”, a small world.  Julia believes it may be mentioned in his book. Funnily enough one of Dr Carslaw’s boats (he had a few Rowan’s) was here last season with Dr Drysdale on board Rowan, his son had found the yacht in the South, renovated it and now keeps it on the Clyde. Dr Carslaw was  the present owners Great Uncle.

The Portree Boat

The Portree Boat

The boat above was Norman’s last boat, he may have used it for the mail, Julia is not sure, it was bought in Ullapool and sailed down, Norman used it for going to Portree and collecting stores. Although he would have picked up mail in it.

My conversations with Julia often range over a wide area of her time on Eilean Tighe and Raasay, her knowledge is very clear of that early times and it is great to have the opportunity to try to write it all down. I’m looking forward already to our next chat.

Update of the Postmen Story:                                                                  1st Feb

Julie (Calum the Road’s daughter) asked who was the passenger in the boat?

It was Eric Eason (or Eeson?)who had come up from Glasgow, a student at the time of this photo’. He would visit with Julia’s cousin, Angus MacPhee. They stayed with them all in Julia’s house, making a total of over a dozen plus people in their wee thatched house. They would fish, work with Julia’s Father and just generally have a holiday. He ‘Eric’ came regularly for many years and became a Headmaster of one of Glasgow’s many schools.

Calum Nicolson was the name of the postman who did the job for a short while between ‘Alasdair Post’ and Julia’s Father.

Julia remembered an interesting footnote, she and her sister Betty got empty stamp books which ‘Alasdair Post’ used to give them to play Post Offices with, when he did the job.  She can remember there was a small wooden bothy at ‘Port am Teampuill with a desk in it where the stamp books used to be kept. Her Father used the Bothy on nights when it had become too stormy to cross, he would get shelter there and not risk it, although he did go out in not so good weather many times. The ‘wee’ bothy is no longer there, all overgrown although that may explain why there is an old iron bedstead/head at an TeamPuill!!

The Post delivery was twice a week (mostly).

From Julie’s email re: boat passenger.

“Dad (Calum the Road)was  posted to Kyle Rona along with John MacLeod N Arnish, and from c1943 for a couple of years they extended to a once a week service to the lighthouse. In May 1945 the lighthouse tender was stationed at Fladda, and this was crewed by the same two men carrying the mails by sea.”



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Been a While

Now it is 2016, I must make an effort to keep an update on the stamp blog. Time just flies past and with all the media nowadays it is a bit of a nightmare keeping up with it all. I think sometimes we live through our computers, they were supposed to make life simple…………

I have a small project coming up but just to whet your appetite, here is a copy of some stamps that were produced but were never issued. I am awaiting some final bits and pieces of information then I will have the whole story. In the meantime:

Three Men In A Boat.

We are going through our archives for images for a four set stamp issue for 2016:

Rona Red Deer, watch this space.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Isle Of Rona Local Carriage Stamps: The First Post

Isle of Rona Carriage stamps have a new blog. After many years on the web site we have given the stamps their own platform and hope that the information in this site will help the many collectors of our stamps to enjoy more about them with constant updates. It is very much a work in progress but will be ongoing and more information added as time allows.



1st Issue 2003 'Views'

1st Issue 2003 ‘Views’

Rona Local carriage stamps were started in 2003 to support the ferry which brings our mail weekly to the Isle of Rona.

With the help and advice of Jeff Harris of Pabay stamps: we issued our first set of ‘Rona Views’.

More Soon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment