Hello, my friends. A very happy new year to you. I hope your 2019 has gotten off to a jolly good start!
Today I would like to take you to a place in Scotland that is extra special to me. I know, I know…you think that I feel that way about every place in Scotland! Haha, you know me too well, dear reader. And ’tis true, I suppose. But this place really does put a skip in my plaid heart.
Isn’t is lovely? This is Pilrig House, a historic Scottish townhouse located in Edinburgh, next to the burgh of Leith. It is theorized that the name ‘Pilrig’ may have derived from the former ‘Peilrig’ and ‘Pellryge’ (rig=ridge), where a peel tower stood in the 15thcentury. According to pilrighouse.com, “stonework in the basement walls suggests the remains of a peel tower”. For a newby history geek like me, that is fascinating.
Welcome back, everyone. Hope you’re having a lovely week.
If you like castles, then you’ll want to stick around for today’s post. It’s a biggie!
Castles are amazing, don’t you think? It doesn’t matter to me if it has been renovated and now serves as a five-star luxury hotel, if it’s a well-preserved ruin, or if all that remains is a crumbling mess, a mere shadow of what once had been. Every castle has a tale to tell and I love them all.
Today I would like to take you to Dunnottar Castle which sits on the North Sea, about two miles from the town of Stonehaven, Scotland. I can still remember my reaction the first time I rounded the path and Dunnottar came into full view. Hmmm, how do I describe it? Okay, got it. Do you remember the romcom “Notting Hill” starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts? (Where have all the romantic comedies gone, by the way?) Do you remember the scene where William (Grant) takes the famous actress Anna Scott (Roberts) as his date to his sister Honey’s birthday party? And do you remember Honey’s reaction at meeting Anna for the first time? Hahaha! Yeah. That pretty much sums it up.
Perched atop a massive flat rock with sheer cliffs on three sides and connected to the mainland by only a narrow stretch of earth, Dunnottar Castle and its surrounding landscape is an extraordinary sight to behold. Truly, photos cannot do justice to the magnitude of the rock upon which the castle resides.
“Mary, Queen of Scots entered the room where she would be executed. She told her friends and servants to ‘rejoice rather than weep for that the end of Mary Stuart’s troubles is now come … tell my friends that I die a true woman to my religion, and like a true Scottish woman and a true French woman.’
Mary was disrobed; her black garments were removed, revealing an outfit of deep red – the Catholic colour of martyrdom. She knelt down on a cushion, resting her head on the block, before stretching out her arms and crying in Latin “Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” The axe came down, but landed on the back of her head rather than her neck. A second blow cut into her neck but a third was required to sever the head completely.
When the executioner lifted Mary’s head it tumbled onto the stage, leaving him holding her wig. Her hair was short and completely grey due to years of stress as a prisoner. A final surprise was waiting for the executioner – Mary’s little Skye terrier had been hiding under her skirts, soaked in blood.” –Laura Brown, Historic Environment Scotland
Hello again, my friends. I hope this day finds you well. I also hope that you are not too annoyed with me if ‘Proud Mary’ has gotten stuck in your head. That song has been playing on a continuous loop in mine for the last two weeks! Perhaps publishing my article today will be the magic that makes it quit.
So, today we are going to pick up where we left off in my previous blog about the life of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Greetings everyone! It feels like it’s been awhile. A wonderful, restful vacation in sunny Florida and the regular busyness of life have taken me away from you lately. It’s good to be back with you again.
Today, my blog topic is by special request from my friend and faithful reader, Paige. About to embark on a honeymoon trip to Scotland (fab decision), she asked if I would mind writing an article on the fascinating and controversial Mary Queen of Scots. My friend has a similar interest in history so I am thrilled to oblige (even if it has taken me a long time to get moving on it!) Paige, dear, this one’s for you.
So…if there is one takeaway from my research on Mary Queen of Scots, it is that the relationship between Scotland and England is a complicated one. Always has been. May always be.
I want to begin by saying that the story of Mary is also complicated. As with any events that took place half a millennia ago, sometimes that which separates fact from fiction is not crystal clear. I imagine there will always be scholarly debate and political and religious bias which informs individual opinion, but I think most people would agree upon the major points of Mary’s life. As for the finer, cloudier points, well, they are certainly fodder for the imagination. That being said, let’s dig in.
Welcome back! I hope everyone is having a terrific week.
Today I would like to pick up where I left off in my previous post about Scottish poet Robert Burns and the annual Burns Night celebration. I promised you I would go a little deeper into the life of the man who penned ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and who some 222 years later, is regarded as the national poet of Scotland. So let’s dig in!
Ol’ Rabbie was a handsome chap, eh?
The eldest of seven children, Robert Burns was born on January 25, 1759 in a small town in Ayrshire, Scotland. His father, William Burnes (the family later dropped the ‘e’), and mother, Agnes Brown, were poor tenant farmers. Because of their impoverished situation, young Robert’s formative years were spent engaged in hard, manual labor on the family farm. This facet of his life would shape his world view and inform his writing throughout the years.
Today is a big day in Scotland and for those of Scots descent around the world. For today is January 25, the birthday of Scotland’s beloved national poet, Robert Burns.
Also known as Robbie Burns, Rabbie Burns (my personal favorite), The Ploughman Poet, and the Bard of Ayrshire, Burns is one of Scotland’s most celebrated sons. You may know him best as the man who first penned the words to ‘Auld Lang Syne‘. And I’m sure you have heard the poetic verse: “O my Luve’s like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June”. Perhaps you are familiar with Burns’ narrative poem, ‘Tam O’ Shanter’. Or, maybe you have a fondness for one of Rabbie’s other 713 works (possibly more?), which range in topic from death and war, anguish and greed, fromreligion and politics, to love and sex (and many other topics in between). There is certainly no shortage to choose from. *Although archived and no longer updated, I discovered a BBC page dedicated to Burns that lists 716 poems and songs. It allows you to search for works by title, season, theme, and year written. Well worth a look if you are at all interested in Rabbie’s poetry.
Every January 25, Robert Burns is celebrated with the annual Burns Night Supper. I have never had the good fortune to take part, but oh how I would love to!
So, what does a Burns Supper involve? Fun, I would imagine!
Wow, I simply cannot believe 2018 is almost here. In less than 48 hours, the first of you will celebrate the strike of midnight and the rest of us will follow as the waves of time roll across the dark, deep sea.
A new year. A new beginning. A fresh start. A blank page beckoning to be written upon. What will you write on your page this year?
In my great love affair with Scotland, I learned something that I would like to share with you. If I were to quiz you on the name of the song sung on New Year’s Eve the world over, you would probably tell me it’s ‘Auld Lang Syne’. And you would be correct. But does anyone (aside from our awesome friends-the Brits) know to whom the song is attributed? I never really gave it much thought, but how strange that so many of us across the globe ring in the new year singing the exact same tune and yet the majority of us likely do not know where it originated or even understand what the words are all about. It reminds me of the humorous dialogue exchange between Billy Crystal’s and Meg Ryan’s characters at the end of one of my favorite movies, ‘When Harry Met Sally’.
Harry: [about Auld Lang Syne] What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means. I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot’? Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?
Sally: Well, maybe it just means that we should remember that we forgot them or something. Anyway, it’s about old friends.
-from ‘When Harry Met Sally’, 1989
Roughly translated “for old times’ sake” or “days gone by”, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is nothing if not all about preserving old friendships, raising a glass, and looking back with nostalgia over the events of the year. It is a song steeped in sentimentality that has the power to momentarily bind us together in remembrance, in the celebration of the moment, and in hope for the future. Joy, kinship and comaraderie…even melancholy and regret…these are just a few of the feelings I think this song has the power to invoke. Thus is the great power of music.
To old friends, new friends, and friends I have yet to meet,
I want to sincerely thank you for welcoming me into your blogging community. It has been great fun to write for you these last few months and you have been so encouraging with all of your likes and kind comments. I have enjoyed interacting with you and look forward to getting to know you even better through your posts over this next year.
A few weeks ago I came across this Christmas prayer. It is widely attributed to one of Scotland’s literary sons, Robert Louis Stevenson, although I am unable to find the source in which it was originally published. Regardless, it is beautiful and it is my personal prayer for you this blessed season.
This is an update to my original article that I posted about a week ago, just before Halloween. The Real Mary King’s Close was so kind to grant me permission to use their awesome photos. All photos in this post are credited to them. Many, many thanks, indeed! Now you’ll really be able to get a feel for this hidden treasure. Enjoy.
Sooo, who’s ready to meet some ghosts? Me too. Let’s go!
In my previous blog post (What Lies Beneath-Part 1 ), I gave you a little history of how the city of Edinburgh was built. How it expanded east from the castle and how Mary King’s Close and the other nearby alleys came to find themselves frozen in time underneath the City Chambers. So now we are ready to head below ground and visit what I think is one of Edinburgh’s most compelling attractions, The Real Mary King’s Close.
Hello, Readers. I can hardly believe we are already in mid October! Where I live the weather has cooled down (mostly) and the trees are beginning to don their Autumn wardrobe. I’ve switched out my own closet in favor of jeans and sweaters and have planted the pansies and mums. The little pumpkins I purchased are sitting pretty in the garden, blissfully unaware that in another month or so they are going to become pies. Poor little fellas.
In keeping with our October theme, today I would like to share with you a tale that is everything weird, disturbing, and strange. As they say, you can’t make this stuff up. A perfect fit for Halloween, I think.
Today’s story is an extraordinarily puzzling one about a gentleman named Major Thomas Weir. History remembers him better as The Wizard of West Bow.
In the spirit of October and upcoming Halloween festivities, I thought it might be fun to do a few blogs this month that highlight some of the weird, dark, and spooky stories of Edinburgh’s past. Edinburgh’s history is full of accounts of unsavory characters and macabre tales, each with the ability to intrigue and fascinate even the most incredulous among us. It’s going to be a lot of fun to research and write about them for you.
To kick things off, I would like to introduce you to a man who was (or who was at least in part) the inspiration behind Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson’s famed 1886 novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
That man’s name was William Brodie. Or as he is better known, Deacon Brodie.