GSG Newsletter 166 February 2017




Liar's Sink (Poll Breugair) 

Arriving just too late for the last newsletter in September was the news of the discovery by Toby Speight and Jessica Morin-Boute of a new cave in Applecross in the Allt Breagach, upstream of the Cave of the Liar (Uamh nan Breugair). In January 2016, Toby and Gwenllian Tawy excavated a 2 m deep hole in the stream bed in search of a second entrance into Nightmare Passage, using larger rocks to divert the water away from the dig. ‘Although I'd known for nearly ten years that the burn sinks a short distance upstream of Cave of the Liar, it had always looked impenetrable under cold water. In January 2016, I saw it in dry conditions and looked more thoroughly’. Inspired by Alex Latta and Derek Pettiglio’s efforts at digging the stream bed in October, Toby Speight conferred with Alex and found they had been digging at spots about 2 m apart. Toby returned on 10 October with Saber King to widen the hole and remove a few more boulders and lots of gravel and cobbles.

Settling in for a pleasant few days (years) digging, on 17 October, Toby was assisted by Jessica Morin-Boute, a Canadian student on a 4 month exchange visit to Scotland visiting from Canada - on her second caving trip and first experience of digging. While Toby manfully laboured at the base of his dig, Jessica pulled a few rocks out of the side of the hole. A void opened where Jessica was digging and Toby encouraged her to explore. As she continued forward until she was out of sight Toby was compelled to follow.

A descending hands and knees crawl led approximately 50 m to a tight section but pushing through that Jessica and Toby emerged into a T – junction in a walking height streamway passage. A body length downstream, the water disappeared into a boulder choke which will require major effort to remove. Upstream, a further 130 m of passage passed well decorated ox-bows before emerging into a ‘massive’, 10 m wide and 10 m high chamber, now named Canada Chamber in honour of our foreign visitor. Beyond this in another similarly sized chamber a waterfall descended from a ledge near the roof.

With only 3 days until the deadline for submitting entries for the J’Rat Digging Award, Tony and Jessica returned on the Sunday and surveyed the new discovery. Unfortunately rumours of larger discoveries in Mendip meant that Toby stopped after surveying 181 m of the cave and did not measure the decorated ox-bows which would have added at least a further 20 m to the survey.

After Toby announced the find the following Tuesday, rapid recounting in Mendip followed as some sections of the various Mendip digs were excluded (having been found and surveyed before 2016). The final measurements were close but in the end, the dig at Tween Twins won the trophy but Liar’s Sink got an honourable mention.

Following a wet visit on Sunday 13th November, Toby Speight, Gwenllian Tawy, David Morrison and Ritchie Simpson returned to Liar’s Sink on Saturday 26th November to attempt a Maypole climb to the top of the waterfall but unfortunately the maypole was too short. While it may be possible to bridge or bolt across the waterfall chamber from the top of Canada Chamber, attempts are also underway to manufacture new lengths for the maypole. Subsequent visits dye tested the above and below ground streams proving Liar’s Sink has a separate flow from that in Cave of the Liar and the water sinking at Alex Latta’s dig does not join Liar’s Sink.

Toby Speight/John Crae


GSG Christmas Dinner

During a Saturday ‘morning’ search of the hillside east of Glenbain Cottage. Ivan Young managed to get consistent GPS locations for Pol Eighe and at least seven other small and unpromising but ‘diggable’ holes. On his way to join the others Martin Hayes located a geocache or possible ‘deer stalking’ prize of a chocolate stag beside a white marker on the hillside. Further up the glen and in the right hand bank of the Traligill below the footbridge an unexplained small 'harbour' has appeared. It looks almost too rectangular to be natural, and water did appear to be sinking until Martin stirred up the sediments. At the top of the cascade before Lower Traligill Cave a large percentage of the river was disappearing into the left bank. On a previous visit Martin saw the entire river sinking there instead of continuing on to Lower Traligill Cave. StuL, and Ian Greig digging at UNCABAC pushed another 3 m. Turkish themed dinner as always excellent. Provided of course by Peter Dowswell and his many assistants.

John Crae


Muddy Slump in Allt a’ Bhealaich Streamway

On Saturday 28 January, both Martin Hayes and Cormac Seekings on independent hikes across the Traligill Valley above UCP encountered a large 11.4 x 7.5 m slump in a former grassy meander at the side of the dry Allt a’ Bhealaich (from the timing of their visits Martin was probably there first). Although a tiny gap was visible at the foot of a 4.4 m solid rock wall to the south the rest of the meander is filled with soil and peaty silt with a 14 m diameter area looking set to slump further. Unless there is a massive void below this material is likely to slip into the present hole and eventually stabilize as a large shakehole but it is always possible that future floods will wash away enough of the silt to give access to the cave beneath.

Martin Hayes/Cormac Seekings


Michiel Servaas Van der Byl (Postojna Visitor)

A request by Trevor Shaw for information about a signatory to the visitors’ book at Postojna Cave (Slovenia) on 12 Sep. 1871, led to a bit of historical and genealogical research. The initial information stated that he was in business in Cape Town from 1870-1876 as a merchant, shipping & commission agent, and thereafter disappeared from the record. Cape Town genealogical records tell us he was baptised on 15 July 1832 and died on 5 Feb. 1907. They then tell us that on 19 June 1861, he married Charlotte Eliza Campbell of "Borland, New Brunswick" in Scotland. Charlotte apparently had three brothers.

Searching genealogical records in South Africa found Michiel Servaas Van der Bijl, his father Pieter Voltelin vander Bijl and mother Johanna Van Breda (also siblings Pieter Gerhard, Hester Elizabeth, Alexander Jacobus, Johannes Albertus, Phillippus Johannes, Gerhart Hendrick, Pieter Lourens, Adriaan Phillipus and Anna Catharina).

Stephen Craven corresponded with archivists in New Brunswick, Canada, and New Brunswick, New Jersey who denied having a town or suburb called Borland or having any record of the couple. Neither has a death notice and estate record in the S.A. archives, which indicates that they died outside South Africa, and with no local assets.

The Scottish connection led to the GSG and by luck to Edinburgh where it was discovered in a note in the Greenock Advertiser that M.S. Vander Byl married Charlotte E. Campbell daughter of Charles William Campbell of Boreland (Perthshire) who was living in Danube Street in the New Town of Edinburgh. By some twist of logic this area in Edinburgh now known as Stockbridge was originally called New Brunswick by its developer.

A reference to a Captain Charles William Campbell of Boreland meeting Queen Victoria led to the Earls of Breadalbane but this Charles William Campbell was too young to have been the father of Charlotte Eliza. However his grandfather was also Charles William Campbell of Boreland who later in his life inherited the title Earl of Breadalbane from a distant cousin. This information was enough to find the birth records of Charlotte Elizabeth Campbell, daughter of Charles William Campbell of Borland and Charlotte Olympia C. Campbell, a fuller record of her marriage to M. S Vanderbyl Esq., Cape of Good Hope and the names of her brothers and sisters (John Erskine Campbell, Major-general Charles William Campbell of Boreland, Colonel Colin George Lorne Campbell and Mary Gavin Campbell).

Having disposed of the links to Canada and New Jersey as red herrings, Michael S. Vanderbyl was eventually tracked down in the 1891 Census, living on his own means with his wife Charlotte E. Vanderbyl in Queens Gate East, Kensington, London. His brother Pieter Gerhard Vanderbyl was also living in London but at a different address. There are records which mention the bankruptcy of a joint stock company in South Africa of which Michiel was a director which may have caused a rift between him and the rest of the family but there are as yet no details of his visit to Slovenia.

John Crae


A Cave in the Cairngorms


Chris Platfoot and Sam Corless on a hillwalking/climbing trip to the cairngorms (intending to bivvy at the Shelter Stone on the flanks of Ben Macdui) at the end of September managed to locate or ‘relocate’ what appears to be Quartz Diggers Cave on the south side of Cairn Gorm, NW of the SW end of Loch Avon or A’An, roughly 0.5 km from the Shelter Stone. After a successful climb, they were descending back into the Loch Avon Glen to have a jolly up Afterthought Arête on the west side of Stag Rocks, when they consulted the climbing guide to discover there was a ‘cave’ a little further up the Stag Rocks from the start of Afterthought Arête (NJ001021). ‘Being cavers and only pseudo climbers we thought it worth investigating. After clambered up moist grass and rocks, trending diagonally upwards for about 30m from the start of the Arête, and after some of the sketchiest scrambling of the day, we got to Quartz Diggers Cave which is actually an old mine thought to have been dug by Victorian gem hunters’.

Chris Playfoot


Cave Database


Slow progress on the database but finally things seem to be coming together. The Excel spreadsheet version is slowly being reassembled. I have the information needed from the BCA (Dave Cooke) regarding web hosting and Matt Voysey has produced a test version and is advising on the set up for the fully searchable database. I hope to have at least a preliminary version of the site up and running before the mid-summer BBQ.

Gary Douthwaite, webmaster for the CNCC has requested a few of the more popular Scottish Caving trips be included in the CNCC database. A short list of appropriate trips has been compiled and edited extracts from the Database, ‘Caves of Assynt’ other publications will be provided.

John Crae

A Remembrance of Dick Grindley


Recently (probably tripped by some whisky connection) I remembered a tale Dick had told me years ago and which is worthy of recording. He was in New Zealand and probably stopping at a B & B. His host either distilled his own whisky (as Dick did) or had a well-stocked drinks cupboard. Invited to have an after-dinner dram, Dick could hardly decline so they started chatting… Sometime later they got round to the best pub they had encountered. His host stated as far as the UK was concerned he had only found one … in Somerset … up on the hills above Wells … at a lonely crossroads. Dick enquired whether it was called "The Hunters’ Lodge Inn"? To which his host excitedly said yes that was the name … and asked Dick whether he knew it ….

Martin Mills


GSG Annual Dinner

Very late news as the last newsletter was published just prior to the annual dinner, at the Bowlish House Hotel in Shepton Mallet.

A few early arrivals (Ian Greig, Stuart Lindsay and Duncan Butler) made a Worlds End style tour of the pubs of Wells (with penguin) and others (Toby Speight and John Crae) visited some of the caves at Burrington Coombe.

The prearranged or ‘LED’ trips to Charterhouse Cave, Reservoir Hole and Withyhill Cave were enjoyed by all involved possibly because the numbers attending were lower than expected leading to smaller groups moving through the caves with fewer delays.

Despite a few early organizational hiccups (ours not theirs), this was well received by all attending. The dinner venue was excellent, the food and surroundings raising the standard for future meals and just enough Potholer was laid on. The last pint was being drunk as the coach arrived to take us back to the Belfry.

At a separate event in Assynt, the Golden Gnome was presented to Imogen Furlong for her sterling efforts in organizing the various GSG family trips.

John Crae



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