New Release :: Dornoch


I had the good fortune to spend the middle of June in the Highland’s of Scotland – I ate my own body weight in cake and visited my Granny. I affectionately call her Granny Dornoch – the whole family does – quite how she started to be called Granny Dornoch is a mystery; but she doesn’t mind.

Whilst up there I recorded over fourteen hours of sound from Dornoch Town and surrounding countryside – the amalgamated sound map is written up in my portfolio and released for sale in my shop. In the portfolio page you have the opportunity to listen to the recording – quite how long this will stay up there is a mystery … but, hey.

There are recordings of various wildlife, cathedral bells, shorelines and even Granny Dornoch makes an appearance – quite what she would make to being in the opening of a Sound Map I do not know.

Has Much Changed?


On the 16th of August 1819 the huge open area around what’s now St Peter’s Square, Manchester, played host to an outrage against over 60,000 peaceful pro-democracy and anti-poverty protesters; an event which became known as The Peterloo Massacre.

An estimated 18 people, including four women and a child, died from sabre cuts and trampling. Nearly 700 men, women and children received extremely serious injuries. All in the name of liberty and freedom from poverty.

The Massacre occurred during a period of immense political tension and mass protests. Fewer than 2% of the population had the vote, and hunger was rife with the disastrous corn laws making bread unaffordable.


On the morning of 16th August the crowd began to gather, conducting themselves, according to contemporary accounts, with dignity and discipline, the majority dressed in their Sunday best.

The key speaker was to be famed orator Henry Hunt, the platform consisted of a simple cart, located in the front of what’s now the Manchester Central Conference Centre, and the space was filled with banners – REFORM, UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE, EQUAL REPRESENTATION and, touchingly, LOVE.

Many of the banner poles were topped with the red cap of liberty – a powerful symbol at the time.

You can see where all this took place on these two maps of Manchester.

Local magistrates watching from a window near the field panicked at the sight of the assembly, and read the riot act, (in)effectively ordering what little of the crowd could hear them to disperse.


As 600 Hussars, several hundred infantrymen; an artillery unit with two six-pounder guns, 400 men of the Cheshire cavalry and 400 special constables waited in reserve, the local Yeomanry were given the task of arresting the speakers. The Yeomanry, led by Captain Hugh Birley and Major Thomas Trafford, were essentially a paramilitary force drawn from the ranks of the local mill and shop owners.

On horseback, armed with sabres and clubs, many were familiar with, and had old scores to settle with, the leading protesters. (In one instance, spotting a reporter from the radical Manchester Observer, a Yeomanry officer called out “There’s Saxton, damn him, run him through.”)

Heading for the hustings, they charged when the crowd linked arms to try and stop the arrests, and proceeded to strike down banners and people with their swords. Rumours from the period have persistently stated the Yeomanry were drunk.

The panic was interpreted as the crowd attacking the yeomanry, and the Hussars (Led by Lieutenant Colonel Guy L’Estrange) were ordered in.

As with the Tiananmen Square Massacre, there were unlikely heroes amoung the military. An unnamed cavalry officer attempted to strike up the swords of the Yeomanry, crying – “For shame, gentlemen: what are you about? The people cannot get away!” But the majority joined in with the attack.

The term ‘Peterloo’, was intended to mock the soldiers who attacked unarmed civilians by echoing the term ‘Waterloo’ – the soldiers from that battle being seen by many as genuine heroes.


By 2pm the carnage was over, and the field left full of abandoned banners and dead bodies. Journalists present at the event were arrested, others who went on to report the event were subsequently jailed. The businessman John Edward Taylor went on to help set up the Guardian newspaper as a reaction to what he’d seen.

The speakers and organizers were put on trial, at first under the charge of High treason – a charge that was reluctantly dropped by the prosecution. The Hussars and Magistrates received a message of congratulations from the Prince Regent, and were cleared of any wrong-doing by the official inquiry.


Historians acknowledge that Peterloo was hugely influential in ordinary people winning the right to vote, led to the rise of the Chartist Movement from which grew the Trade Unions, and also resulted in the establishment of the Manchester Guardian newspaper.

According to Nick Mansfield, director of the People’s History Museum in Manchester, “Peterloo is a critical event not only because of the number of people killed and injured, but because ultimately it changed public opinion to influence the extension of the right to vote and give us the democracy we enjoy
today. It was critical to our freedoms

Shelley’s The Masque of Anarchy – which was banned for 30 years …..

“Ye who suffer woes untold,
Or to feel, or to behold
Your lost country bought and sold
With a price of blood and gold.

Let a vast assembly be,
And with great solemnity
Declare with measured words that ye
Are, as God has made ye, free.

Let the charged artillery drive
Till the dead air seems alive
With the clash of clanging wheels,
And the tramp of horses’ heels.

Stand ye calm and resolute,
Like a forest close and mute,
With folded arms and looks which are
Weapons of unvanquished war,

And that slaughter to the Nation
Shall steam up like inspiration,
Eloquent, oracular;
A volcano heard afar.

Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many – they are few.”

Letter #12


I am worried. I am worried for the people of Great Britain and the people who have travelled here to make it a home. So, I did all I can do at the time of writing and sent off venom to Andrew Jones MP – Member of Parliament for Harrogate. The issues in this letter affect everyone. I will type up his reply in the comments section.

Dear Andrew Jones MP

First of all, congratulations on attaining your new position – you have the authority to make life a lot better for your constituents from all backgrounds; could this be the dawn of a golden era in British Politics? General elections are as surprising as they are frequent these days. And whilst (at the time of writing) the frenzy of speculation continues as to what will happen next, they are also the opportunity to ask ourselves what type of country we are or want to be.

Andrew Jones, when did we become a country that boasts about being a “hostile environment” for migrants? Or one that shamefully abandoned it’s international responsibilities in the refugee crisis? Why are there 30,000 people locked up indefinitely in immigration detention centres on our shores, having committed no crime? When did it become okay for the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to threaten to scrap Human Rights Laws that “get in the way” of draconian and ineffective counter-terrorism powers?

For too long, and increasingly since the 2015 election, I’ve seen politicians exploit fear to create laws that divide, discriminate and and disregard human rights.

In a desperate bid to look tough on immigration and strong on security at any cost, border controls have crept in to every part of life Schools and doctors are forced to pass sensitive data to the Home Office to support deportation. Landlords face jail if they let a home to a “wrong” person, and homeless charities are forced to flag up vulnerable rough sleepers. A new criminal offence of “driving while illegal” will lead to racial profiling on our streets – risking major damage to police/community relations.

These laws have made life worse for all of your constituents, Andrew Jones – spreading racial profiling, fear and division in our community at a national level. It has turned private individuals and trusted public servants in to unwilling border police.

We are all collateral in this misguided hope of looking tough on immigration at any cost.

Yours sincerely,


Software For Editing Field Recordings


Absentia DX to sum it up. Produced by respected Hollywood sound supervisor and field recordist Rob Nokes and priced as low as $49. Originally designed to work editing dialogue for feature films, my first thought was: “can this work on field recordings?” How well does Absentia work with sound Field Recordings? Will it improve troubled field recordings laced with buzz or noise? Does it have potential to rival iZotope RX’s noise reduction software at a tenth of the price? Can “Absentia DX” serve as “Absentia FX?” In today’s post we will find out. In this “my penny’s worth” article, we’ll see if a dialogue noise reduction tool can be hacked to help master damaged sound effects captured in the field.

Introduction to Absentia DX

Absentia DX, or ABDX, is noise reduction software designed to fix three types of audio problems in dialog recordings:

  • Hum.
  • Broadband noise.
  • Ticks.

It works as a no-nonsense batch processor: select folders or simply drag and drop files, folders, or entire volumes onto the app. It will then chug away and repair the audio, either replacing the old files or creating new ones as you prefer. It does all this while preserving existing metadata, too. The drag-and-drop workflow is a compelling way to apply processing to a massive amount of sound files. Now, it’s important to note that the app doesn’t aim to be a one-stop replacement for every audio problem infecting your tracks. Instead, ABDX is meant to diminish mundane, lowest-common-denominator labour. The idea is that by removing the most common problems, the app allows an editor to focus their expertise on repairing the trickiest audio problems instead of wasting time on low-skill issues.

So, what did we discover by using ABDX to repair field recordings? (Remember that ABDX is meant for straightforward dialogue cleaning tasks, not heavy sound fx processing per se.)

  • ABDX removes low-level ringing, buzzing, or whining problems effortlessly. It identifies harmonics and removes them cleanly and transparently.
  • Complex, gnarly buzz is challenging for the software to tackle.
  • It removes a slight amount of hiss or noise from non-complex sounds. It works best on noise that is shallow and thin.
  • Processing attempted on complex files with thick noise can contribute aliasing or artefacts which sounds like a rapid cycling sound.

Overall, I find that the Hum Remover tool is worth the price of admission in itself. For processing field recordings, I could see it being useful for a simple “fire-and-forget” first pass of cleaning simpler, less complex sound effects: drop the tracks on the app at the end of the work day and in the morning focus on more diligent noise removal work after the easiest problems have been already removed.

Nokes says that was in line with what he expected. After all, the settings are made so quality is preserved for one specific type of sound: isolated human speech. That said, he shared with me a tantalising fact: an advanced version is in the works to help with other types of sounds.

The upshot? For $49, Absentia DX costs less than most plug-ins on the market and is a worthwhile purchase for to take a first stab at removing hum, buzz, ringing, and slight hiss from sound effects recorded in the field.

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Dornoch 2017: The Return Leg


So, as you can tell by the amount of “Checking In” I have done today – we covered some ground. This can be seen on the ‘About Me’ page. The morning was a bit overcast in Dornoch and we were on the road for 0730 – I pumped out the zzzzz’s until the House of Bruar. Full English // Cooked Breakfast achieved (have paid a lot less for a lot more) we were on the road quicker than you can say “Black pudding?” Passing the site of Sterling Castle, crossing the Border at Gretna Green and winding over the Pennines towards North Yorkshire. Thanks Dad.

I would be lying if I said there was not a lump in my throat when I said “Cheerio” to Granny – the dear is 91 and visibly getting frailer – her memory is not all that now and she is a bit unsteady on her legs.

However, she is as good as gold – she is a very sweet old lady and we need to treasure the time we spend together. Much like my Dad (except he is not an old lady). I had tried to tell him I love him on Father’s Day but instead I opted for a backslapping hug and my wonky smile – he caught the sentiment though. We are not really in a “I love you” stage of life // death so I will not let it slip until he is in his dotage and then cheekily remind him of the time he came home pissed as a fart and fell down the stairs naked.

If you want to check out the other Dornoch blog posts from 2017 then they are here in the Dornoch 2017 tag.

We made it home home (to Ijo Pona HQ). We mucked out the fish (Ted – Goldfish) and set about catching up on things. Dad & Mum had a surprise when we got home in that a tree had fallen down in their garden knocking out the Telephone. We had no such issues and went about telling everyone we were home.

There is a scene of domestic bliss here – Kathryn is watching the Foo Fighters on TV (Glastonbury coverage on the BBC) and I am sipping ice cold water on what has proved to be the hottest June in 40 years, according to the Met Office.

Dornoch 2017 – Roadtrip: North Coast 500


When we were on our way up North, we stopped overnight at my Aunt’s house near Glasgow – she mentioned something had changed on the north coast and called it The North Coast 500. There was an article in the Highland Times about it that she showed us all. Well, what is The North Cost 500? It is the highlands equivalent to Route 66 and we did the bulk of it today. It was brilliant.

The Official Route Of The North Coast 500

As you can see from the above map, and the previous Blog articles, we are in Dornoch, a bit further north than Inverness. We started our day with tea, toast and grumbles but were soon cake-bound-north. We left Dornoch around 9am and travelled up the A9 through Helmsdale (which I chuckled to myself, Helmsdeep – ammirite!) and by that point I was pumping out the zzzz’s as the landscape inland changed from rugged hills to the flow country.

the flow country
The Flow Country – Biologically important boggy meh!

We stopped off for tea and cake at the TESCO’s in Wick around 11am – the longest I had been without cake this holiday. We were then speeding off to John O’Groats – allegedly the most northerly point on mainland Britain. Here is a few photos to prove this –

We then turned West along the A836 and saw some of the most jaw-droppingly rugged coastal and inland views framed by our car window. Dad took responsibility for getting us home and we were whisked past (at a pace) Beinn Ruadh and Beinn Ratha among a whole other heap of incredible mountains, passing through farmsteads, crofts and working fields – complete with growing lambs and electrified deer fences to stop, what must be, stock straying too far so assuage the blood lust of the rich.

I felt like NC, c*cksman and adonis to Kathryn’s Ginsberg as we hurried through the star spangled æther toward more cake. We were on a road trip and breaking free.


But … this was the highlands and not Route 66, famed by the Beats in the middle of the C20th – there was not really the opportunity to break free as most of the road was single-track carriageway and we had to keep our eyes peeled for traffic incase we had to use a passing place.

Allegedly, The North Coast 500 has bought in £9m of revenue to the local hotels so far – but why brand it as something adventurous when in reality you are too busy watch for German motorcyclists rather than take in the scenery. Because it puts these incredible sights on a framed point of reference – here is hoping it will do the local economy wonders. I for one am proud to have seen the landscape that inspired men to rebel against England’s rule and try and strike with Bonny Prince Charlie. It was awesome. And I did not get sunburnt.

We turned west around Laxford Bridge and headed past Loch Shin to Lairg. The Reason Granny Dornoch became Granny Dornoch was because, after the war, she and her sister Nett got jobs in Lairg Tea Rooms (which my Gran’s Aunt owned) and there she met a dashing Highland laddie who would become my grandpa.

We arrived full circle at 5pm just in time for cake …

If anyone has a car and the time whilst in the highlands I really recommend The North Coast 500.

The Battle Of Embo


As readers of this Blog will be aware, I am staying in Dornoch – Dornoch is where my Granny lives and Dornoch has remained a source of inspiration to me for years. When I get up here it is as if I settle down – yes, I am on holiday and therefore in holiday mode – but, there seems a slower pace of life here than urban Yorkshire where I work. There are less distractions in Dornoch to being yourself.

We had the day off and I managed to get sunburn in the Scottish Highlands. Alison & Dad went for a walk and saw someone panning for gold. I took advantage of a break in walking & eating cake and went with my wife to the History Links Museum in Dornoch – the staff were knowledgeable and friendly and the exhibitions were local but on point. There was a plethora of early C20th Photos and a great bit about the Battle Of Embo among other time periods explained from Dornoch’s point of view. It really is worth the £4/adult entry fee. However, it is about the Battle Of Embo I want to write about now.

Dornoch’s Coat Of Arms

According to the History Links site, some doubts remain as to the exact date of this battle: tradition suggests the 1240s, but more reliable recent evidence places the battle in the 1260s. The battle took place after a party of Danes landed at Little Ferry and encamped near Embo. The Earl of Sutherland asked Richard de Moravia (St. Gilbert’s brother who had been given Skelbo Castle by him in 1235) to engage the Danes and hold them in check until he assembled a strong enough force to come to Richard’s aid.

The plan worked, and the Danes were routed on the arrival of the Earl. During the battle Richard was killed and Earl William reputedly slew the Danish leader with the leg of a horse,* an incident that accounts for the horseshoe on Dornoch’s present coat-of-arms. After the battle the Earl arranged for Richard de Moravia’s burial in Dornoch Cathedral, where the remains of his damaged sarcophagus can still be seen.

The only primary evidence I could find was this image on a Dornoch History Links image library. It is cited as –

Copy account of the Battle of Embo written in old English style taken from an old book. 2 A4 pages glued on a sheet of brown paper

Picture added on 22 February 2012 at 12:53

… so the origin is lost, but I am not too tempted to dig deeper about a man who kills people with horses legs. But here is the image** –


*Emphasis on my account

**No mention of the horse leg