Mormond Hill is a prominent hill lying in the centre of flat farmland to the south west of Fraserburgh, topped by an assortment of communication masts.
Horse and Stag
The hill rises 754 feet (230 m) and has two summits, which form a landmark for those at sea. On south west side of the hill is the outline of a White Horse, a war memorial formed from white quartz set into trenches cut into the turf, created by the tenants of the Strichen estate between 1820 and 1821. Alternative stories regarding its origin are available. The landmark measures 164 feet (50 m) from nose to tail, and 146 feet (44.5 m) from head to hoof. Said to have been created by Captain Fraser (Lord Lovat of Strichen) as a tribute to Sergeant James Hutcheon of New Pitsligo. Sergeant Hutcheon gave the horseless and vulnerable captain his mount during a battle against the French near Gilze in Holland on August 26, 1794, and was then killed before he could find a loose mount for himself. Locals tell of the feature disappearing once, obscured during World War II to prevent its use as a landmark by enemy bombers.
Captain Fraser also built a two storey hunting lodge on the hill, dating to 1779. Now a ruin, its upper floor served as accommodation for the estate's gamekeeper. A single room on the lower floor was described as having a fireplace large enough to roast a deer, and used by the Laird and his guests after a day's hunting in the surrounding area. The door lintel still bears the words In this Hunter's Lodge Rob Gib commands, MDCCLXXIX. Tradition tells of a locally born jester of the same name who was in the service of King James V (1513 - 1542), saying "I serve your Majesty for stark love and kindness" (some sources have him serving James VI or Charles II). The words Rob Gib were used as a tacit loyal toast in Jacobite circles and it remains a mystery whether the laird simply hoped goodwill might prevail within his Lodge, or was making a veiled political statement, as Charles Edward Stuart was alive at the time.
On the east side of the hill, above the village of New Leeds, is a second outline, this time in the shape Stag. This was a wedding present, created between 1869 and 1870 by W F Cordiner of Cortes. Constructed in the same way as the Horse, and bigger than the Horse with a reported length of 240 feet. No reference has been seen (so far) of this feature being obscured during World War II.
Early Warning System
The hill was home to Station 44 of the US North Atlantic Radio System (NARS), which followed the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, and provided a similar function, serving as an early warning radar system between 1961 and 1992. While the DEW Line was originally intended to provide a warning of enemy bombers, the later NARS system was intended to warn of missile launches. The station was built in 1960, as the penultimate link in a chain of radio sites reaching from Iceland to Fylingdales in Yorkshire, which would transmit that information to the Cheyenne Mountain complex in the USA. Mormond Hill provided connectivity from the radar site at RAF Buchan to Fylingdales.
NARS used tropospheric scatter to provide its communications links, however this method proved less than ideal as data rates increased over time, being replaced by more reliable satellite based systems. The USAF left Mormond Hill in 1992, and the site transferred to the MoD in 1993. The site is said to be used by the Army, and shared with British Telecom, who still operate tropospheric scatter links to the North Sea oil platforms. The location is reported to contain a number of commercial radio towers belonging to several different users. Reports indicate that there are no building remains related to the NARS site.
The following straightforward description of tropo-scatter is quoted from the site given in the link below, and the original text carries a diagram indicating the geometry of the process, which is helpful in visualising the process:
Tropospheric scatter is the most common form of tropospheric enhancement. Tropo-scatter is always present to some degree just about everywhere. Tropospheric scatter at FM and TV frequencies is caused when the paths of radio signals are altered by slight changes in the refractive index in the lower atmosphere caused by air turbulence, and small changes in temperature, humidity and barometric pressure. The signal is scattered in random fashion. The tiny portion of the transmitted signal that is scattered forward and downward from what is called the "common scattering volume" is responsible for signal paths longer than the normal line-of-sight horizon.
The height of the scattering volume that is common to both the transmitting and receiving stations determines the maximum tropo-scatter path distance. Above about 6 miles refraction in the troposphere becomes insufficient to return any signal to Earth.
Tropo-scatter enables the reception of signals from out to about 500 miles, depending primarily on the the power of the transmitting station and the quality of the receiving equipment being used. Maximum tropo-scatter path distances of 200 to 300 are more typical on a day-to-day basis. Tropo-scattered signals are characteristically weak, "fluttery" signals that often suffer from random fading.
- Scottish CND description
- Subterranea Britannica description
- Photographs of the hillside figures
- North Atlantic Radio System
- A simplified explanation of Tropospheric Scatter
- RAF Fylingdales
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