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Discovering Aberdeen’s history: Start at the Tolbooth!

As I mentioned in my previous post, we did not originally plan to spend much time in Aberdeen and did not really know much about the city or it’s history.  Our  intent was just to fly into Aberdeen and then quickly head out towards Inverness.  Naturally, most people want to see Inverness or Edinburgh but really, how often do people list Aberdeen on their list of places of must visits for history or anything else?  I will be the first to admit that we were initially quite disappointed when we had to alter our plans and eliminate Inverness from our tour. Our first depressing and foreboding thought was one of, “Well this is just great, now we’re stuck in Aberdeen for three days. What are we going to do with three days in Aberdeen?”  At the time, we really had no other choice but to rather petulantly and grudgingly accept our fate and try to make the best of it.  At the end of three days however, we were complaining because we did not have enough time to see everything.  My personal thought as I left was of how and when I could make another visit!

Aberdeen city of history

The disaster that led to our longer stay in Aberdeen was actually one of  fate or the powers above intervening on our behalf. It provided us an opportunity to explore, discover and appreciate a city that in my personal opinion does not get nearly enough credit for it’s historical importance or it’s present day contributions. What I want to do is share some of what we discovered and maybe change your mind about Aberdeen.  Hopefully by the time I’ve finished, you will be interested and inspired to look at this city not just as a stopping or transfer point on your way to those other places, but as a destination in itself.

First, let’s look at why we even decided on Aberdeen as our starting point for our trip rather than one of the other flight options. Our original plan was to do a driving tour. We knew we wanted to visit Inverness as well as Edinburgh so when we looked at the map, we saw that Aberdeen would be a good option. It is located on the coast a few hours north of Edinburgh and also only a few hours from Inverness. The drive from Aberdeen to Inverness would take you along the Castle trail. The Aberdeenshire area of Scotland is most famous for the number of Castles located there (My main reason for wanting to back)! 

This is a map showing various sites of interest close to the Aberdeen area. Yes, there are even Standing Stones nearby- I will be doing more research on them!

castles near Aberdeen

This map shows Aberdeen in relation to Inverness and Edinburgh. I do want to add here that because of the way our plans were altered, we were unable to fit Inverness into our schedule.  It is very easily doable to take the train from Aberdeen to Inverness, then train from Inverness to Edinburgh. When I checked the train time, it states about a 2 1/2 hour trip from Aberdeen to Inverness. That is not the purpose or focus here though so I am not going to go further into it here other than to say that our experiences with the train and bus systems were great. I will definitely go that option in any future trips!

map showing Aberdeen

Now you understand our main reason for choosing Aberdeen as starting point and why we were looking at it as just a quick stop over. Fortunately, we were inadvertently rewarded with that unexpected longer stay to get to know Aberdeen better!

What we found in Aberdeen was a fascinating history that stretches back at least 8000 years. Besides that history, we discovered a city that is friendly and welcoming but  not a kitschy, over done or over crowded tourist magnet.  There is a wealth of history to be explored here but that is not it’s truest wealth, asset or value.

1969 considerable deposits of crude oil were discovered in the North Sea. Since then, North Sea Oil has come to eclipse Aberdeen’s traditional industries, employing an estimated half a million people living in and around the city. Aberdeen’s port has been improved and developed to serve the off shore oil rigs with the result that most of the fishing fleets have been moved along the shore to Peterhead. Economically this so called “European Oil Capital” has left other Scottish cities behind – indeed, by some accounts it is the wealthiest area in the UK outside the southeast of England.

Aberdeen is a Scottish success story. Any visitor to the city will be impressed by the lively bustle of its streets and the ceaseless activity in the port. The impact of the petroleum industry is undeniable, but in some senses it should not be seen as a development which entirely breaks with the past: Aberdeen has always been a successful port city and has always had an internationally minded economy. Today this  University City is home to around a quarter of a million people and provides cultural diversions for all ages. For the visitor its grand granite buildings, which shimmer like polished silver, its distinctive neighborhoods, its harbour and sandy beach, provide other, more natural, attractions.

Throughout our stay, we observed that the city seems to be undergoing  massive renovation and construction in just about every area from the outskirts of the airport to the city center and all points surrounding it. Do not let that deter or sway you from visiting the area! Our taxi driver pointed out that this work is all much needed and deserved by the city that has contributed so much financially to the UK and it’s about time they got something back! He took all of the construction in stride and gave us a pleasant and much amusing trip from the airport to our hotel near the city center.  I have to say that everyone we encountered during our stay was friendly and helpful with suggestions and commentary about their city.  One other added bonus- everything was less expensive than in Edinburgh! 

As I’ve pointed out, we didn’t know much about the city so one of our first stops was the Tourist information center located near the city center. They went out of their way to help us with everything from free maps to writing notes and directions on the map for us, to giving advice and directions on using the bus system along with which bus to take to different areas. They also offer a variety of day tours to activities and sites outside the city making it very easy to many of those sites if you’re not driving.  One added suggestion on the bus system that they pointed out- besides the city buses, there are buses going to many of the outlying villages and sites you might want to visit. We did not have extra time for those options but the staff will happily fill you in on how to get to certain sites- such as which bus to take, where you can catch the bus and what times they run.  Because we knew so little about the city or it’s history, they suggested we start with a quick tour of the Tolbooth museum which happens to be right across the street from them. I did mention that there is a great deal of renovation and construction going on throughout the city- the Tolbooth block/building is no exception but do not let that deter you from your visit!

Tollbooth tower renovations

Tolbooth block and buildings undergoing renovations

tollbooth and townhouse plaque

plaque on building next door to Tolbooth

Tolbooth Museum

The Tolbooth Museum is one of Aberdeen’s oldest buildings and one of the best-preserved 17th century gaols in Scotland. It features displays on local history and the development of crime and punishment through the centuries. It  provides a unique experience in the form of its atmospheric 17th and 18th century cells, original doors and barred windows. Displays include the Maiden and the blade of Aberdeen’s 17th century guillotine as well as some animated cell inhabitants. Regarding the animations-they were not scary. This is not a spooky type tour. I have heard a few people comment that they were a bit disappointed or let down as they were led to believe it would be more of a ghost, haunting or scarier type experience with more visual effects. If that is what you are looking for, this does not fit that category. It was a bit eerie and haunting but in a realistic way of getting a feeling of what it was like to be incarcerated here back then. 

banner-ackobites-cell

tolbooth museum

 

While the supposed main focus or purpose of the museum is it’s history as gaol or jail, it does provide an excellent introduction to the history of Aberdeen. It is a free tour and probably takes less than hour to do…  we spent a bit longer in there because we had an excellent tour guide who was very informative and gave much additional insight to the overall history. The first half of the tour is about the history of Aberdeen with displays and dioramas of the earliest beginnings of the area that originally consisted of two separate villages. Once our guide realized we were very much interested in the history, he probably went into more depth on it than usual. He seemed rather excited to share the added history with us and we enjoyed all of it! During the first portion of the tour, we learned about some of the early  events and people that had connections to Aberdeen. These important connections go back as far as the Picts and much of the history can be found around Aberdeen yet today.  The legend of Saint Machar tells that Machar was  a companion of St Columba on his journey to Iona.  God (or St Columba) told Machar to establish a church where a river bends into the shape of a bishop’s crosier before flowing into the sea. The River Don bends in this way just below where the Cathedral now stands. According to legend, St Machar founded a site of worship in Old Aberdeen in about 580. He ministered to the Picts around Aberdeen. For this reason he was described anachronistically as the first Bishop of the see of Aberdeen.  The church was also the site for another legend surrounding William Wallace. After the execution of William Wallace in 1305, his body was cut up and sent to different corners of the country to warn other dissenters. His left quarter ended up in Aberdeen and is buried in the walls of the cathedral. 

 

Robert the Bruce also had a connection to Aberdeen. In 1136, David I began the development of New Aberdeen north of the River Dee, and the earliest charter was granted by King William the Lion about 1179, confirming the corporate rights granted by David I, which gave trade privileges to the burgesses. This charter is the oldest surviving charter. The city received other royal charters later. In 1319, the Great Charter of Robert the Bruce transformed Aberdeen into a property owning and financially independent community. Bruce had a high regard for the citizens of Aberdeen who had sheltered him in his days of outlawry, helped him win the Battle of Barra and slew the English garrison at Aberdeen Castle. He granted Aberdeen with the nearby Forest of Stocket. The income from this land has formed the basis for the city’s Common Good Fund, which is used to this day for the benefit of all Aberdonians.

Aberdeen is also home to King’s College, one of the oldest universities in the British Isles.  In 1495, William Elphinstone, the relatively newly appointedBishop of Aberdeen, petitioned Pope Alexander VI on behalf of King James IV to create the facility to cure the ignorance he had witnessed within his parish and in the north generally. A papal bull was issued in February 1495 (1491 in the calendar of the day) founding the university; a royal charter later that year recognised Aberdeen’s status as equal to that of Scotland’s two existing universities at Glasgow and St Andrews. As a former professor at the University of Paris, Elphinstone modelled the university very much on the continental European tradition. Hector Boece, a fellow professor at Paris, was awarded the status of first principal of the new institution. It would not be until 1509, with the issuance of a charter by Elphinstone, that university life at King’s truly began. Construction of the chapel began in 1498; it was consecrated in 1509 and dedicated to St Mary. By 1514, the university had some forty-two members in the form of both staff and students.

Once you finish your tour of the Tolbooth, you can easily find monuments to William Wallace and Robert the Bruce on a walk around the city. You can take a city bus to Old Aberdeen to tour St. Machar’s Cathedral and King’s College. You can also easily take a bus to another site, the Gordon Highlanders Regimental museum which I will talk about later. 

William Wallace monument in Aberdeen

William Wallace monument in Aberdeen

William Wallace monument inscription 1

William Wallace monument inscription 1

William Wallace inscription 2

William Wallace inscription 2

Robert the Bruce monument in front of Marichal College building in Aberdeen

Robert the Bruce monument in front of Marichal College building in Aberdeen

Marichal College building in Aberdeen, now used as offices

Marichal College building in Aberdeen, now used as offices

St Machar's Cathedral in Old Aberdeen

St Machar’s Cathedral in Old Aberdeen

King's College entrance in Old Aberdeen

King’s College entrance in Old Aberdeen

gordon highlander museum2 gordon highlanders museum

 

The only thing you won’t be able to find is Aberdeen Castle! The Castle was situated on Castle Hill, a site today known as the Castlegate, near the City center.  

Castlegate area today

Castlegate area today

Mercat cross at city center

Mercat Cross at Castlegate area near Tolbooth Musuem in Aberdeen

You will see the unicorn throughout Aberdeen and other places in Scotland as it is Scotland’s national animal! You will also find mercat crosses in various cities of Scotland. A mercat cross is the Scots name for the market cross found frequently in Scottish cities, towns and villages where historically the right to hold a regular market or fairwas granted by the monarch, a bishop or a baron. It therefore served a secular purpose as a symbol of authority, and was an indication of a burgh‘s relative prosperity. Historically, the term dates from the period before 1707 when Scotland was an independent kingdom, but it has been applied loosely to later structures built in the traditional architectural style of crosses or structures fulfilling the function of marking a settlement’s focal point. Historical documents often refer simply to “the cross” of whichever town or village is mentioned. Today, there are around 126 known examples of extant crosses in Scotland,  though the number rises if later imitations are added.

Aberdeen’s mercat cross history would go back to that earlier history when it received  Royal Burgh status from David I of Scotland (1124–53). 

The cross was the place around which market stalls would be arranged, and where ‘merchants’ (Scots for shopkeepers as well as wholesale traders) would gather to discuss business. It was also the spot where state and civic proclamations would be publicly read by the “bellman” (town crier). The cross was also the communal focal point of public events such as civic ceremonials, official rejoicings, and public shamings and punishments, including executions. Some crosses still incorporate the iron staples to which jougs and branks were once attached. This would be the reason for it’s close proximity to the Tolbooth, which would often hold public executions right outside their door.

Despite the name, the typical mercat cross is not usually cruciform, or at least has not been since the iconoclasm of the Scottish Reformation. The cross atop the shaft may have been replaced with a small statue, such as a royal unicorn or lion, symbols of the Scottish monarchy, or a carved stone displaying the arms of the royal burgh, or, in the cases of ecclesiastical burghs or burghs of barony, the bishop’s or feudal superior‘s coat-of-arms. Thus the reason for the Unicorn at top of Aberdeen’s mercat cross.

Five crosses: at Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth, Aberdeen and Preston (modern Prestonpans) were supported by a drum-shaped understructure, known as a cross-house, with a platform reached by internal steps or ladder. In the case of Aberdeen‘s late 17th-century cross the platform is supported by a series of open semi-circular arcades. 

 

close up of unicorn at top of mercat cross

Close up of unicorn at top of mercat cross

 

views of city center city center view of black friars pub

The castle was surrendered to the English in 1295 and on 14 April 1296, the English King, Edward I arrived in Aberdeen and stayed in the castle as part of his tour of the east coast of Scotland having defeated the Scots.  However the next year, after defeating the English at Dunnottar Castle in 1297, William Wallace marched his men to Aberdeen during their campaign to retake the east-coast for the Scots.

They found the English hastily preparing to leave in an armada of one hundred ships. The speed of Wallace’s arrival from Dunottar caught the English unawares and at low tide the stranded ships were attacked in the harbour, the crew and soldiers slaughtered, the cargo taken and the ships burnt. The English Sheriff of Aberdeen, Sir Henry de Lazom had been left in charge of the Castle, but during the chaos of the attack he defected, declaring it in the name of the Scottish King, John de Balliol.  This account of William Wallace’s actions and victory in Aberdeen would certainly explain or justify why the English may have sent a portion of his executed body back to Aberdeen! 

It is thought the castle and fortifications were burned down  by King Robert the Bruce in June 1308, during the Wars of Scottish Independence immediately following the Harrying of Buchan. Bruce and his men laid siege to the castle before massacring the English Garrison to prevent its use by the English troops of Edward II. It is said the Scots showed no mercy but “slew every man who fell into their hands. Edward I, indeed, had already set the example of executing his prisoners, and it was not to be expected that the other side would fail to follow the same course”. On 10 July 1308, English ships left Hartlepool to help the English garrison.  However, by August 1308, Gilbert Pecche and the last troops had all been forced out of the city. Following the destruction of Aberdeen Castle, Bruce marched his men to capture Forfar Castle.  Legend tells that the city’s motto, Bon Accord came from the password used to initiate Bruce’s final push and destruction of the castle.  Bon Accord translates to Good Agreement. 

In the first part of the Tolbooth’s history tour, you will find a diorama display of the earliest days of Aberdeen.  At that early time, it was still two separate villages and there were three hills. The city began as two separate burghs: Old Aberdeen at the mouth of the river Don; and New Aberdeen, a fishing and trading settlement, where the Denburn waterway entered the river Dee estuary.  The city was burned by Edward III of England in 1336, but was rebuilt and extended, and called New Aberdeen. The city was strongly fortified to prevent attacks by neighbouring lords, but the gates were removed by 1770. 

Aberdeen was in Pictish territory and became Gaelic-speaking at some time in the medieval period. Old Aberdeen is the approximate location of Aberdon, the first settlement of Aberdeen; this literally means “the mouth of the Don”. The Celtic wordaber means “river mouth”, as in modern Welsh (Aberystwyth, Aberdare, Aberbeeg etc.). The Gaelic name is Obar Dheathain (variation: Obairreadhain) (obar presumably being a loan from the earlier Pictish; the Gaelic term is “inbhir”), and in Latin, the Romans referred to the river as Devana. Mediaeval (or ecclesiastical) Latin has it as Aberdonia. You can see a remnant of the Pictish history on a tour of St Machar’s Cathedral.

Pictish carving at Machar's Cathedral

Pictish carving at Machar’s Cathedral

pictish cross stone information at Machar's Cathedral

pictish cross stone information at Machar’s Cathedral

Over the centuries, the rivers were diverted at various times and two of the three original hills disappeared. Aberdeen Castle sat on Castle hill (Castlegate). This is the only remaining hill. The other two hills were Port hill where the early City Gate was, and St. Catherine’s hill which has been completely leveled. Those three hills are represented on the city’s shield of arms and on the city’s banner flag by three towers.  

coat of arms for Aberdeen

coat of arms for Aberdeen

City Banner flag of Aberdeen

City Banner flag of Aberdeen

 

tolbooth2

 

The second half of the Tolbooth tour went further up the stairs to the cells with history of the jail and it’s various inhabitants from some early witches, a pirate, a lot of debtors, and some Jacobites after the rebellion of 1745. As he talked about the Jacobites, our guide gave us some insight from the standpoint and perspective of ones who were not Jacobites but suffered consequences and affects of the various rebellions. His comments and thoughts gave me pause for thought and inspired me to learn more about all of the sides, the reasons and complexities of so many events taking place over the years,  which combined and culminated in the last Jacobite rebellion.  Most of the tour history on the cells and inhabitants dealt with the period of that last rebellion and later. If you look at Aberdeen’s earlier history and the date the prison was built, it most likely played a part in the rebellions and civil wars during the 1600s. 

The Tolbooth was built between 1616 and 1629 by Thomas Watson, a master mason from Old Rayne. The Wardhouse of the Tolbooth was the prison for both the Royal Burgh of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire until the 19th century.

Over the centuries The Tolbooth has witnessed, and often played a part in, some of the key events in Aberdeen’s and Scotland’s history. During the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, when the Duke of Cumberland stayed in Aberdeen in order to put down the rebellion here before leaving for Culloden, he posted troops on the steeple of The Tolbooth to watch out for rebels and very visibly display the reasserting of royal authority. After the rebels had been defeated at Culloden hundreds of rebel prisoners were brought back to The Tolbooth where they were interrogated. In the mid-18th century The Tolbooth was one of the many places associated with one of the darkest episodes of Aberdeen’s history. A number of Aberdeen’s merchants and magistrates organised the kidnapping of hundreds of children from both the town and countryside. These children were then stored in various places, including The Tolbooth, before being transported to the Americas and sold as indentured servants.

Regarding the Tolbooth’s involvement in that darker part of Aberdeen history- the child slavery mentioned above, the Tolbooth museum was more recently involved in opening the curtains of that shrouded more secret history. On 11-06-07 the city of Aberdeen pulled back the curtain on a dark part of the cities history. At the Tolbooth Museum “Open to the Public” they had re-enactments of a very dark part of Aberdeen’s past history and helped to tell the stories of those children.  You can read the story of one of those abducted children here:

The Tale of Peter Williamson   http://unknownscottishhistory.com/articleseventeen.php

The Tolbooth stopped being used as a prison in the 19th century and was replaced by Aberdeen’s first ‘modern’ prison, the Bridewell, built on what we now call Rose Street. The Tolbooth remained in use during the time the Bridewell was opened and after, when the Bridewell was replaced by the East Prison on Lodge Walk, as a holding prison. The Tolbooth survived when the new Townhouse was laid out. The front of The Tolbooth was encased in granite, but the rear of the building still shows its original sandstone with its 17th century battlements. 

For anyone interested in history, this museum is an excellent introduction to the history of Aberdeen. It was my first stop on the way to learning about Aberdeen’s long, turbulent past and how it fit in with the rest of the many events that shaped and forged what Scotland has become today.  My only caution to those visiting the museum- it is not suitable for anyone with mobility difficulties as the only way to reach the museum is by way of very narrow medieval type spiral type steps up to the different levels. Because of the building, there is no way to provide any assistance or other option to reach the upper levels- my meaning in this- there is no way for them to say install a lift or elevator.  It is also probably not suitable or appropriate for young children who would not really understand much of the history presented. 

You can plan your visit to the Tolbooth for early in the morning and then head out to all of the other sites of interest within the city. After our visit to the Tolbooth, we went to the Maritime museum which was fairly short walk from city center. This museum gives you a great history of Aberdeen’s long connection to the sea as a port city from it’s earliest beginnings to it’s present day importance in the oil industry. There are a number of hands on activities for children and it also currently has a toy history exhibit which everyone will find interesting and fun!

Aberdeen maritime museum early diving suit at maritime museum robot diver at maritime museum

After the Maritime museum, we went back up to city center and embarked on a self guided walking tour of the city. The maps provided by the tourism office were excellent and we found it easy to find our way around the city. We stopped at St Nicholas Kirk which is easy to spot due the Arches. It is close to city center and you really can’t miss it!

St Nicholas Arch

St Nicholas Arch

St Nicholas kirkyard information

St Nicholas kirkyard information

walkway to St Nicholas Kirk

walkway to St Nicholas Kirk

graves and tombstone in St Nicholas kirkyard

graves and tombstone in St Nicholas kirkyard

St Nicholas Kirk

St Nicholas Kirk

We continued our walking tour and eventually found the William Wallace monument. It was a long walk but we had a beautiful day for it and the city was full of sites and scenery to view.

views of the city

Later in the afternoon, we returned to city center and headed out in the opposite direction with a trek down to the harbor, the old fishing village neighborhood of Footdee or Fittie. The guidebooks and tourist info are a little misleading about this area… it is not a living history village but is an actual residential neighborhood with it’s buildings still being those old stone cottages from the days of the original fishing village. It was a nice walk down to the harbor and beach though. You can walk along the seawall walk behind the cottages towards the beach area. 

footdee seawall walk footdee-fittie

north sea coast3 North sea coast at Aberdeen north sea 2

On our walk back up from the beach we found a great little pub called Fittiebar. You won’t find this pub/bar on the tour guides. It is not one of those trendy touristy type places, it is in the working neighborhood of the docks. There is nothing fancy about it. It is a casual comfortable working class place to grab a pint, a plate, relax and probably enjoy the company of regulars and friends. The menu is on the board listing the specials for the day, though the Bartender/server did laugh and mention that one of these days they get posh and order some real menus… My personal advice- don’t change a thing! Possibly the best part of the experience was seeing her mix up the batter for our fish with an addition of beer from the tap! 

fittie bar2

Fittiebar in Aberdeen

IMG_7531 fittie bar menu

That was our first day in Aberdeen! In my next post, I will share more of our stay in Aberdeen along with more of it’s history. This awesome Granite city so full of  interesting history that I am intrigued and fascinated with all of it! As I mentioned in the beginning, everyone is so interested in the other cities and places such as the Highlands and Edinburgh that Aberdeen and the area around it does not get the attention it deserves!  I look forward to returning and exploring more of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel planning and Last Kingdom!

Ahhhh I’ve been so busy with initial travel plans that I have not had time to focus or concentrate on much else lately. When you first think about it, 6 months seems like a long time in the future and one might have the thought of “That’s so far out there, why worry so much about it now?” In reality, we’ve come to realize that planning a trip such as this is somewhat similar to planning a wedding. When you break down all of the various details that need to be addressed in order for this to be successful, 6 months is not really all that long! I mentioned in my previous post that one of those important details needing attention so far ahead of time was the accommodations. Those have been set and so now they shape the rest of the travel plans because they set the route and the stopping points for the trip. We also quickly realized that while we would love to take that more care free, wing it attitude that we so often do with our road trips, we really need to plan ahead for this sort of adventure. We will remain somewhat flexible in our sight seeing options along the way but there are just some things that we feel we can not be quite so flexible on. 

As I mentioned in the previous article, there are a few specific places and sights that we have labeled as priorities and those sights must be included in our overall plan.  My daughter has added her own additional stipulations to the plans… she is determined expand her knowledge and appreciation of Beer and breweries. Neither of us are quite so fond of harder spirits such as Whisky but really, one can not visit Scotland without tasting the Whisky.  She was initially more set on the Beer and breweries so she set about a search for breweries in Scotland. She was immediately served with a list of distilleries rather than breweries in that area so has chosen to embrace, or at least experience the Whisky in Scotland. So, because of this, we must find a way to include some of that Whisky experience in our tour of Scotland. Her current thought is as long as the day ends at a pub with opportunity for appreciating the alcohol, she’s good with what ever else happens throughout the day. I am quite fine with that idea as well, and one thing we both agree on is that there will be absolutely no tasting, experiencing or appreciating Haggis!

We have spent the past week tweeking and adjusting our plan and schedule in regards to what we feel is most important and what is realistically workable for us. It has been a process of  thinking on what we truly want to see and experience the most, what we can do without and what we feel is actually doable given our tight timeline and budget. Part of this intense pre-planning is having an estimate far ahead of time on the budget aspect. We need to have a good idea of how much some of these must see sights and experiences will cost us as well when they are open and how much time they will take to experience.  Because of the time issues and the budget, we really do need to have a fairly detailed plan set well ahead of time. I wish it could be otherwise but as I said, in order for this marathon race to be successful, we need to be well prepared and have a good solid plan as to how to accomplish this adventure.

Our time in Scotland is pretty well mapped and set- I will give you more details about that in a separate post. In this post, I want to talk about the one portion or leg of the trip that we have spent the past few days working on. This is possibly the most important and exciting portion for me… and my daughter has begun to show some great enthusiasm for it as well. This one day trip from Edinburgh to Leeds will  be  full of history from ancient Romans, early Anglo-Saxons, Viking era, some Norman influences and some Scottish history. I can’t even think of which is more interesting or important and there is no way to try to eliminate one sight or place from the plan… believe me, we did try but when it came right down to it, neither of us could say “No, let’s toss this part out” so we opted for a way to include as much of it as possible. I will admit that being able to fit Bamburgh Castle into the plan and have my daughter get excited about it was a highpoint of the planning!

This portion of the trip will truly be a marathon day and because of that we have attempted to plan it out as much as possible. In order to hopefully include all of the sights we have listed as a priority on this portion, the pre-planning was and is essential. This will be an incredibly long day. Our ultimate goal is to visit each of the following sights/places and arrive in Leeds completely exhausted- probably late in the evening with no thought or plan to do anything there but sleep and be ready for the next day’s trip.

We will leave Edinburgh as early as possible on Saturday morning in order to accomplish our marathon history goal.  Our mapped out schedule is as follows:

Edinburgh to Prestonpans:

edinburgh to prestonpans

This is a relatively short trip, about 1/2 hour drive. Prestonpans is the site of the 1745 Battle of Prestonpans, and has a history dating back to the 11th century. The town boasts some impressive examples of historical architecture, such as the Preston Tower and the doocot and the local Mercat Cross, which is the only one of its kind in Scotland which remains in its original form and location.  The town is also credited for achieving the title of “Scotland’s Mural Town” with many wall murals reflecting the town’s colourful past.

According to certain stories Prestonpans was originally founded in the 11th century by a traveller named Althamer, who became shipwrecked on the local beach/coastal area. Finding it impossible to get home, the survivors of the wreck decided to remain where they were and founded a settlement named Althamer in honour of their leader. Whether this story is true or not is a matter of opinion, however when the monks of Newbattle and Holyrood arrived in the district in 1184 there was already a settlement named ‘Aldhammer’ on the site of what is now Prestonpans. The monks gave the settlement their own name, Prieststown or Prieston. Because of the salt manufacturing carried out by the monks using pans on the sea shore, the town’s name would later develop into Salt Prieststown and Salt Preston, and finally Prestonpans.

The Battle of Prestonpans (also known as the Battle of Gladsmuir) was the first significant conflict in the second Jacobite Rising. The battle took place on 21 September 1745. The Jacobite army loyal to James Francis Edward Stuart and led by his son Charles Edward Stuart defeated the army loyal to the Hanoverian George II led by Sir John Cope. The victory was a huge morale boost for the Jacobites, and a heavily mythologised version of the story entered art and legend. A memorial to the Battle of Prestonpans in the form of a modest stonemason-built cairn sits close to the battle site. An earlier (and tellingly, much larger and more impressive) monument to Colonel James Gardiner, a Hanoverian who was mortally wounded on the field of battle, was also erected in 1853 near Bankton House where the Colonel lived. It was sculpted by Alexander Handyside Ritchie. Each year on the anniversary of the battle, a Battlefield Walk is organised by local historians, and in September 2008 the Battle of Prestonpans 1745 Trust organised a symposium on local battlefields. A memorial in the parish church commemorates “John Stuart of Phisgul…barbarously murdered by four Highlanders near the end of the Battle.

Battle_of_Prestonpans_Cairn

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Prestonpans

I have stated previously that this trip is not any sort of Outlander theme type trip but more about all of the rich history of both Scotland and England. This site is important to all of that history and may interest some of the Outlander readers/fans because it the battle that the Jacobite forces won. The Battle of Prestonpans was the first significant conflict in the Jacobite Rising of 1745. The battle took place at 4 am on 21 September 1745. The Jacobite army loyal to James Francis Edward Stuart and led by his son Charles Edward Stuart defeated the government army loyal to the Hanoverian George II led by Sir John Cope. The inexperienced government troops were outflanked and broke in the face of a highland charge. The victory was a huge morale boost for the Jacobites, and a heavily mythologised version of the story entered art and legend. We will arrive at Prestonpans early in the morning and most likely won’t see too much, but we are hopeful that we can manage to fit in something of the history.

 

From Prestonpans it is  short trip on to Berwick upon Tweed. We will be following the coastal route down through this portion of England.

prestonpans to berwick

prestonpans to Berwick

The trip from Prestonpans to Berwick is about an hour.

Berwick-upon-Tweed  is a town in the county of Northumberland and is the northernmost town in England,  on the east coast at the mouth of the River Tweed. It is 2 12 miles (4 km) south of the Scottish border. It is about 56 miles (90 km) east-south east of Edinburgh, 65 miles (105 km) north of Newcastle upon Tyne and 345 miles (555 km) north of London. Founded as an Anglo-Saxon settlement during the time of the kingdom of Northumbria, the area was for more than 400 years central to historic border war between the Kingdoms of England and Scotland, and several times possession of Berwick changed hands between the two kingdoms. The last time it changed hands was when England again took it in 1482. Berwick remains a traditional market town and also has some notable architectural features, in particular its medieval town walls, its Elizabethan ramparts and Britain’s earliest barracks buildings (1717–21 by Nicholas Hawksmoor for the Board of Ordnance).

In 1296 England went to war with France, with whom Scotland was in alliance. Balliol invaded England in response, sacking Cumberland.  Edward in turn invaded Scotland and captured Berwick, destroying much of the town. Edward I went again to Berwick in August 1296 to receive formal homage from some 2,000 Scottish nobles, after defeating the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar in April and forcing John Balliol to abdicate at Kincardine Castle the following July. It was at this time that work began on building the town walls (and rebuilding the earlier Castle); these fortifications were complete by 1318 and subsequently improved under Scottish rule. An arm of William Wallace was displayed at Berwick after his execution and quartering on 23 August 1305. In 1314 Edward II of England mustered 25,000 men at Berwick, who later fought in (and lost) the Battle of Bannockburn.

Between 1315 and 1318 Scottish armies, sometimes with the help of Flemish and German privateers, besieged and blockaded the town, finally invading and capturing it in April 1318.[21] England retook Berwick some time shortly after the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333.  In October 1357 a treaty was signed at Berwick by which the Scottish estates undertook to pay 100,000 marks as a ransom for David II of Scotland,  who had been taken prisoner at the Battle of Neville’s Cross on 17 October 1346.

Berwick Castle was the site where one of Robert the Bruce’s supporters, Isabella Macduff was imprisoned for 4 years of the war between Scotland and England. She was the daughter of Donnchadh III, Earl of Fife, and Johanna de Clare, daughter of Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford. She was married to John Comyn, Earl of Buchan and thus was the Countess of Buchan. After Robert the Bruce killed John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries, the Earl of Buchan joined the English side in the Scottish Wars of Independence. Isabella took the contrary view.

According to tradition, the ceremony of crowning the monarch was performed by a representative of Clan MacDuff, but Isabella arrived in Scone the day after the coronation of Robert the Bruce in March 1306. However, the Bruce agreed to be crowned for a second time the day after, as otherwise some would see the ceremony as irregular, not being performed by a Macduff.  Bruce was defeated at the Battle of Methven in June 1306, so he sent Isabella and his female relatives north, but they were betrayed to the English by Uilleam II, Earl of Ross. Edward I of England ordered her sent to Berwick-upon-Tweed with these instructions: “Let her be closely confined in an abode of stone and iron made in the shape of a cross, and let her be hung up out of doors in the open air at Berwick, that both in life and after her death, she may be a spectacle and eternal reproach to travellers.”[1]

She was imprisoned in this cage for four years,  then moved to the Carmelite friary at Berwick. This was not necessarily a humanitarian move; it is suggested that by this stage Bruce was gaining support, his female relatives were potentially valuable hostages, and the English did not want them to die of ill-treatment. The last clear mention of her is being transferred again in 1313, her eventual fate is uncertain. Most of Bruce’s female relatives returned to Scotland when they were exchanged for English nobleman captured after the Battle of Bannockburn, but there is no mention of her in the records, so she had probably died by then.   Little or nothing remains of the original Castle other than ruins but I am hoping to see them!

berwick castleberwick castle2berwick castle3

With our arrival in Berwick upon Tweed, we will officially be in Northumbria! We will drive down the coast from Berwick towards the best part of all… for me anyway- we will make our way to Bamburgh Castle! For fans of Bernard Cornwell’s Last Kingdom series, Bamburgh Castle is the basis for Uhtred’s ancestral home of Bebbanburg!

berwick to bamburgh castle

berwick to bamburgh castle

From Berwick to Bamburgh Castle is about  1/2 hour drive and will take us past Lindisfarne/Holy Island. Due to our limited time frame, we will not be making the trip to the Island. I have been advised that there is the very real possibility and likelihood that we could get stranded there for a number of hours because of the tides. We will view it from the mainland as I am not about to miss out on Bamburgh Castle because I am stuck on Holy Island for 4-5 hours!

 

As I mentioned, Bamburgh Castle is the basis for Bebbanburg Castle, Uhtred’s childhood home.

Young Uhtred of Last Kingdom

Young Uhtred of Last Kingdom

I am Uhtred rightful lord of Bebbanburg I am Uhtred and I wll claim what is mine

For those of you waiting and anticipating the premiere of Last Kingdom on BBC America which airs on Saturday, just a few days from now- here is just a quick biography of Uhtred:

Uhtred was born into status as son of Ealdorman Uhtred, Lord of Bebbanburg, and raised to have hatred towards the surrounding kingdoms of Mercia, East Anglia, Wessex, Scotland and the Danes. Uhtred was originally called Osbert and was the younger of Ealdorman Uhtred’s sons. The name Uhtred was given always to the oldest son, but after his older brother was killed in a failed attack on the Danes Osbert’s name was changed to Uhtred. Uhtred was never taught swordsmanship in his nine years at Bebbanburg as his stepmother wanted him to pursue a life dedicated to being a priest.

In 866, the first of the Danish army began to arrive in Northumbria. In their speed the Danes were able to capture Eoferwic. Ealdorman Uhtred was killed in the failed assault to reclaim Eoferwic, and Uhtred was captured by the Danes following his furious but feeble attack on a Danish warlord. That warlord, Ragnar the Fearless, son of Ravn, decided to nurture Uhtred’s fury into a suitable fighting spirit and so adopted him. Uhtred found that living with the Danes was a much freer existence than with the pious Christians and their dour priests at Bebbanburg and embraced the Danish gods of Thor, Odin, and Hoder. Uhtred came to love Ragnar as a father and became a brother to Ragnar’s sons, Ragnar and Rorik, and daughter, Thyra.

Living in Ragnar’s company was enjoyable, even after Rorik’s death of sickness, until everything changed. Ragnar had made an enemy in a man named Kjartan due to an incident between Thyra and Kjartan’s son, Sven. The enmity came to a head one night when Uhtred was in the forest making charcoal for weapons. Kjartan led a warband to where Ragnar and his family were sleeping and lit their hall on fire, killing them all. Kjartan initially believed Uhtred to have also died in the fire. Uhtred was crushed by Ragnar’s death and left Northumbria to find family amongst the Saxons in Mercia, to the south.

Uhtred ended up in Wessex and in the service of Alfred the Great. Wessex was the last unconquered Saxon kingdom in England and thus always under constant threat from the Danes. Despite Uhtred’s childhood he began to fight and revel in Danish defeats. However, Uhtred had a particular hatred towards Alfred whom he believed too pious, weak and trusting to fight off the Danish invasion, although he maintained a healthy respect for Alfred’s intelligence. Alfred managed to calm any wanton violence between the two and Uhtred served him faithfully, though grudgingly, and at times with a mind to return to the Danes. Yet, as Uhtred’s usefulness improved so did Alfred’s attention, and as Uhtred aged he began to understand Alfred’s wisdom although dislike was always present.

 

Now, here is some information on the real Bamburgh Castle.

Built on a dolerite outcrop, the location was previously home to a fort of the native Britons known as Din Guarie and may have been the capital of the British kingdom of the region (see Gododdin, Bryneich and Hen Ogledd)  from the realm’s foundation in c.420 until 547, the year of the first written reference to the castle. In that year the citadel was captured by the Anglo-Saxon ruler Ida of Bernicia (Beornice) and became Ida’s seat. It was briefly retaken by the Britons from his son Hussa during the war of 590 before being relieved later the same year.  His grandson Æðelfriþ passed it on to his wife Bebba, from whom the early name Bebbanburgh was derived. The Vikings destroyed the original fortification in 993.

The Normans built a new castle on the site, which forms the core of the present one. William II unsuccessfully besieged it in 1095 during a revolt supported by its owner, Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria. After Robert was captured, his wife continued the defence until coerced to surrender by the king’s threat to blind her husband.

Bamburgh then became the property of the reigning English monarch. Henry II probably built the keep. As an important English outpost, the castle was the target of occasional raids from Scotland. In 1464 during the Wars of the Roses, it became the first castle in England to be defeated by artillery, at the end of a nine-month siege by Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick.

The Forster family of Northumberland provided the Crown with twelve successive governors of the castle for some 400 years until the Crown granted ownership to Sir John Forster. The family retained ownership until Sir William Forster (d. 1700) was posthumously declared bankrupt, and his estates, including the castle, were sold to Lord Crew, Bishop of Durham (husband of his sister Dorothy) under an Act of Parliament to settle the debts.  The castle deteriorated but was restored by various owners during the 18th and 19th centuries. It was finally bought by the Victorian industrialist William Armstrong, who completed the restoration. The castle still belongs to the Armstrong family, and is opened to the public. It also hosts weddings and corporate events. It has been used as a film location since the 1920s, featuring in films such as Ivanhoe (1982), El Cid (1961), Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), Elizabeth (1998) and both the 1971 and 2015 adaptions of Macbeth. This gives me all the more reason to see the current movie, Macbeth!

bamburgh castle1 bamburgh castle2 bamburgh castle3 bamburgh castle5 bamburgh castle6 bamburgh castle7 bamburgh castle8

http://www.bamburghcastle.com/castle.php

 

I may have extreme difficulty tearing myself away from Bamburgh… I have a feeling that my daughter may have to step in and forcibly drag me away! If we are able to manage departing this place in a reasonable amount of time, we will head on to Roman history at Housesteads Roman Fort which is a part of Hadrian’s Wall.

bamburgh to housesteads roman fort near hexham

It is about 1 1/2 hour drive from Bamburgh to Housesteads so we may end up in a sever time crunch to fit this or the next possible stop into our schedule. Set high on a dramatic escarpment on Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site, Housesteads Roman Fort takes you back to the Roman Empire. Wander the barrack blocks and the hospital. Peer into the oldest toilets you’ll ever see, and admire the stunning panoramic views from this ancient fortress. Our interactive museum showcases objects once belonging to Roman soldiers, and the mini-cinema will take you on a journey through time. 

Roman Fort and Tour

Imagine what life was like for the 800 soldiers living and working at Housesteads in Roman times.  The fort’s original name was ‘Vercovicium’ meaning ‘the place of the effective fighters’.

At the very edge of their empire, the soldiers were secure and self-sufficient within the fort. They had a barracks block, hospital, Commander’s House, granaries and communal toilets, all of which you can still see today.

 

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/housesteads-roman-fort-hadrians-wall/

 

housesteads-hadrians-wall-view housesteads-museum housesteads-roman-fort

 

As I’ve mentioned already, this will be a marathon day and if we manage to accomplish all of it, I think we shall consider ourselves winners!  From Housesteads, we will head for Leeds.

housesteads to leeds

It’s another two hour drive from Housesteads to Leeds so I can safely assume that by the time we arrive in Leeds it will be fairly late. Our plan is just to find our hotel and crash into bed! No sights or plans other than that for the Leeds area!  I was originally hoping to fit in a trip through Durham on the way to Leeds but being realistic, we’ll be lucky to accomplish what is on this list as it is without adding anything else to the plan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geillis Duncan: The Witch within comes out!

 I guess Jack was just not up to the task of  facing another beautiful Witch that would likely turn on him… and, I must say, he was rather rude about the parting too! He mumbled something about if Dougal MacKenzie couldn’t handle her, he didn’t feel like trying it either? His last flippant comment was, “You’re on your own kid!”

reverse-1361469896_jack_nicholson_deal_with_it

 

Well, fine then… I will deal with it on my own, you coward!

Getting ready to face Geillis Duncan in her natural habitat,  her Witchly lair at Cranesmuir…

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Until Claire’s untimely arrival at Castle Leoch, Geillis was actually enjoying a fairly comfortable existence in the past. She had carved out a little niche for herself in more ways than one, and her plans seemed to be going rather well.  She had a somewhat clueless and gullible husband of good standing and wealth- which she was quietly helping herself to and stashing it aside for the Cause. She put up the appearance of being a devoted, doting wife who saw to her husband’s every need and eased his many ailments and pains… most of which she caused herself by slowly poisoning him with Arsenic. Yes, things were going well for her… a slow dying husband whose death no one would suspect her of, a goodly secreted sum of money to contribute to the rebellion of Bonnie Prince Charlie. 

geillis in witch lair Geillis at home

Outlander-103-Exclusive-Lotte-Verbeek-as-Geillis-Duncan-and-John-Sessions-as-Arthur-Duncan-

Ohhhh and let us not forget the lover on the side! She was the mistress of another wealthy and powerful man who shared her political views in supporting the Jacobite cause. That man was none other than one Dougal MacKenzie

OUT_107-20140522-EM_0050.jpg

 

Of course as with any sticky situation and spider web, there were a few slight glitches to her plan? There was the small problem of an unplanned pregnancy with Dougal being the Father. Though, in reality, was it really so unplanned? Geillis was a healer, she knew full well what to do to prevent such an occurrence and it was mentioned by another time traveling acquaintance  and previous lover of hers, Dr. Hector McEwan that she was knowledgeable about abortions and had gotten rid of other unwanted fetuses. So, then, we must assume that her plan was to kill off her husband and line Dougal up as the next one. Naturally, she would be in a much better position on all fronts with Dougal and having his child. The fact that Dougal was already married would not have bothered her in the least…that situation could be easily remedied.  And, even if he didn’t marry her, just the fact that she had his child would give her some added power and control over him.

The other glitch in her plans was of course, Claire! She had to determine whether Claire was indeed any sort of threat to her scheme. Please keep in mind that Geillis was not a random homicidal maniac. No, she usually killed for specific reasons known only to her warped mind.  I believe that once she befriended Claire and probed her mind a bit, she was curious about Claire’s appearance but deemed her as not really a threat to her personal agenda. In fact doing away with her would increase suspicions on Geillis, so she kept her around for some much needed company.

ep103_claire_w_geillis

After Arthur’s sudden and rather untimely death at Castle Leoch in the middle of dinner… how could anyone blame Geillis, they all saw his attack and watched him die? Claire was however, quite suspicious after trying to save the man and smelling/tasting the arsenic on him.  She finally realized that maybe Geillis was not so innocent as she seemed? Hmmm maybe all of those people warning her had been right. Claire made every effort to distance herself from Geillis after that. Geillie’s plan was not going quite so well as she had intended though.  Aside from Claire’s suspicions, she had another snag… Having quickly done away with husband number three, she told Dougal about her pregnancy, probably in the hopes of swaying him to her side forever more? Another odd death had recently taken place as well?  Dougal’s wife had conveniently died, though Geillis insisted she had no hand in any of that, it was just a matter of sheer coincidence that should have worked in her favor. Dougal, being unsure of how to handle the whole mess went to Colum for some brotherly advice.

Outlander 2014

Well, this was when Geillie’s plans really went awry?  Colum was having none of it, and was determined that Geillis Duncan and her evil bastard spawn were not going be any part of the MacKenzie Clan. He sets in motion the plan to have her tried and burned as a Witch. Claire’s involvement in the Witch trial was really no fault of Colum or Geillie for that matter. No, Claire’s ordeal was brought about by a jealous teenager by the name of laoghaire MacKenzie, who simply wanted Claire out of the way so she could have her heart’s desire, Jamie Fraser! No one at the Castle even realized that Claire had gone into the village until it was too late and she was already thrown into the thieve’s pit with Geillis.

Claire and Geillie spent a length of time together in this cold, dark hole and Geillie, obviously figuring at the time that she had little to lose, told Claire about her plans to support the Jacobites, about stealing the money from Arthur, and about her affair with Dougal. Eventually they were put to trial by water, which is essentially a lose/lose event… if you drown, you were innocent and God will open his doors for your soul, if you survive you’re a witch and they’ll burn you anyway!  During this trial, Jamie did manage to save Claire and escape with her. But, at the last moment, Geillie showed her compassion for Claire as well? She pronounced herself a Witch and declared that Claire had nothing to do with it. In doing so, she stripped herself showing her advanced state of pregnancy along with her unusual small pox scar which Claire immediately recognized. This one act of compassion towards Claire goes along with the theory that Geillis was not an indiscriminate killer. In her mind, Claire had done nothing to warrant her death and had been friend to Geillis. Her last ditch effort did one other thing… it bought her some much needed time to re-think her plans and re-group so to speak? No one was going to kill an unborn child, so she was given some slight reprieve and would not be burned at the stake until after her child was born.

During this time, she used the baby to blackmail Dougal. Dougal may have been taken in by the witchly charms of Geillis Duncan, may have cursed the day he ever met her and may have been happy to see her burn in the flames of Hell, but he was in his own way an honorable man who would not wish harm upon his own child? Geillis used this as her bargaining chip… she agreed not to harm the child if Dougal would see that she was somehow rescued from this Witch burning. Now that all sounds well and good on the surface… Dougal receives the son, and places him with a family that has recently lost their infant. Alright, he has managed to secure the safety of his illegitimate son,  now he could have easily went back on his word to Geillis and let her be burned at the stake anyway. But, he did not do that, no, he kept his word to Geillis. He found a way to help her escape to France and start a new life as Melisande Robicheaux. So, why did he save her? Was it because maybe he really did care about her? Did he envision some point in the future meeting his son and having to admit that he had a hand in killing his Mother, witch or not, that would be a difficult thing for a son to accept? One last detail of interest in this situation is that when he showed up in France later and helped Claire with her problem of the Comte St. Germaine, he knew of the man and his less than pristine morals and associations. He claimed that he heard talk of it in the taverns… but did he really know much more than he was admitting to? If he was still involved with Geillie. now Melisande in some way, he would have known something more about the man and the activities than he could say to anyone without implicating himself?

Dougal the hero Geillis in flames

 

Luckily for Dougal MacKenzie, he did manage to escape the spider web of Geillis Duncan and her future embodiment of Melisande Robicheaux! While we’re on the subject of Geillis and her webs in which to catch unsuspecting husbands, let’s address the means by which she is most fond of in disposing of said husbands when they have outlasted their usefulness? She does seem to prefer poison as her method of doing away with them. Much less messy that way, and being an accomplished herbalist, she usually has the required ingredients on hand.  When I look at Geillis, I keep getting the vague feeling that I’ve seen her somewhere before? Could she have done even more time traveling than any of us are aware of? I’m sure it’s possible… I have to wonder just where she learned her finely tuned arts of poisoning? Hmmmm there was another such woman in history who is said to have had a propensity for poison? Could it be possible that at one time or another, Geillis travelled further back in time and spent some time with this woman?

There are rumors and stories about a woman… I believe her name was Lucrezia? Lucrezia Borgia…Several rumours have persisted throughout the years, primarily speculating as to the nature of the extravagant parties thrown by the Borgia family. Many of these concern allegations of incest, poisoning, and murder on her part; however, no historical basis for these rumours has ever been brought forward beyond allegations made by rival parties.  It is rumoured that Lucrezia was in possession of a hollow ring that she used frequently to poison drinks. Well, if these rumors have any shred of truth to them, it would certainly put her in a close running to Geillis?  Now, I could be wrong but it seems to me that Geillis Duncan bears a striking resemblance to one Giulia Farnese of equally unstable Borgia family!  Could Geillie have picked up her penchant for poisoning here?

Lucrezia Borgia and Giulia Farnese

Lucrezia Borgia and Giulia Farnese

lottie verbeek from borgias3 lottie verbeek from borgias2

Lucrezia Borgia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucrezia_Borgia

 

House of Borgia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Borgia

 

Giulia Farnese

The ravishing temptress who came to the Pope seeking redemption and ended up in his bed, Giulia quickly uses her new elevated position to amass power and influence of her own. She befriends Lucrezia and ultimately even Vanozza. She uses these alliances to help establish and strengthen the church’s charitable works, a deed that will secure the Pope’s legacy.

http://www.sho.com/sho/the-borgias/cast/7431/giulia-farnese

 

 

 

Geillis Duncan: The Beginnings of Madness

 

Warning! If you have not read all of the books including the novella, The Space Between, this article will contain numerous spoilers!

gillian and the stones3

Before we start our visit with Geillis Duncan and get to know her better…that is if you are brave enough to want to know her better? As scary as she is though, she is a very important part of the ongoing legend of Outlander. There are still a number of secrets and mysteries about this woman and her life. For those of you who are not familiar with her, I will try to give you a bit of background information on her.

In trying to wrap one’s mind around Geillis Duncan, and the number of other aliases she assumes over the years, I think it’s important to start with who she was originally and the time she started out in?  We know very little about her early years growing up and what might have caused her to become the obsessed and crazed woman that she ended up as. When one is investigating and profiling someone such as Geillis, it is important to attempt to fill in those blanks as much as possible? She is one of those cases where we have to ask ourselves, Was she born with some emotional or mental instability or did something in her past cause her to snap? Now, very few people are actually born with a mental instability that would cause such behaviors and actions as Geillis exhibits, so we might normally rule that possibility out? In the case of Geillis, however, we will leave that possibility open because we know nothing of her ancestral lineage at this time other than one very important fact. She is capable of travelling through the stones, so something in her blood line and her genes has produced that ability…Could there be some mutation along those lines that would also pre-dispose her for madness?

first let us look at who she started life as and when she lived…Geillis Duncan is simply an alias that one troubled (yes, that’s putting it nicely and mildly) young woman, Gillian Edgars assumed when she decided to escape her life in 1960’s Scotland. Gillian Edgars was not having such a great life during that time!  She was a highly intelligent and strong willed woman. Gillian was driven, determined, passionate and focused on her studies and on the current events surrounding her in the 1960’s. Unfortunately, she was also stuck in what she must have assumed was a dead end marriage to a lazy and worthless drunk who did not understand or care about the things she thought were so important. Now, we do not know whether her husband, Greg Edgars was always that way, or whether the times, the general turbulence and living with Gillian drove him to it? We’ll probably never know that because Gillian took care of the situation in what was the beginning of her madness.

Gillian Edgars was passionate, intense and obsessed with the things she believed in and studied. Those things included history-mainly that of the Scottish Jacobite risings and Bonnie Prince Charlie, archeology-namely standing stones and circles, and of  course, Witchcraft! Her husband, Greg also mentioned her involvement with the Scottish Nationalists and the Society of the White Rose, two organizations working toward Scottish independence. He tells Roger that Gillian is obsessed with Bonnie Prince Charlie and often has others around to talk about what if his rebellion had succeeded.

http://www.scotland.org.uk/history/devolution 

Claire eventually came to believe that Geillis/Gillian was suffering from insanity caused by syphilis? My personal take on her is that she was already bordering on insanity as a young woman when she took her first trip through the stones. What else would explain her doing away with her first husband, and future ones even before Arthur Duncan in the ways that she did. Gillian Edgars firmly believed in the cause of the Scottish National Party and Society of White Rose and was obsessed enough with it to go to any length in order to see it succeed. She also believed so fully in the powers of Witchcraft that she assumed those powers could guide her through time, through the Stones in order to change history. In her all consuming determination towards that end, she obviously felt that her husband was expendable? Why wouldn’t he be… at the time, she didn’t plan on coming back so no one could place any blame on her for the action. It would be the ultimate unsolvable murder!  There were a few things that Gillian did not get quite right in her research and her subsequent travels. Her research of the Stones, and the “spells” led her to the belief that she must have a human/blood sacrifice? In that requirement, she used her unsuspecting husband?  In reality, if she were one of the  “Auld” Ones but didn’t know it, she would have been able to travel back anyway, no “witchcraft” involved! She also, of course did not count on any witnesses to her crime or her travel. 

Gillian did do a great deal of in depth research on the Stones and the rituals that pertained to traveling through them. She kept a notebook filled with her research notes, which Claire eventually found and kept to show Roger and Bree.

gillian's notebook1 gillian's notebook2

Claire steals Gillian’s notebook from the institute and learns Gillian’s plans. The three of them go to Craigh na Dun on Beltaine eve to stop her, but by the time they reach the stones, Gillian has set her husband on fire as a sacrifice. They watch as Geillis, dressed in 18th century clothing, disappears into the cleft in the stones. Roger is nearly pulled into the stones and Claire is knocked unconscious. Even Brianna hears the stones and realizes that her mother’s story was true.

 

standing stones gillian goes through the stones

 

It’s obvious that Gillian had been planning her trip for some time.  What is not so clear is why she chose to leave when she did? Of course, she did plan the trip according to when she assumed the Stones would be open, but she could have gone at some earlier or later point in the year? According to the legends, the time passages through the Stones would be most open to travel at specific times of the year that coincided with ancient Pagan holidays relating to sun and moon phases, solstices and equinoxes.

http://www.catanna.com/paganholidays.htm

 

Yule/Winter Solstice around December 21st / Winter Solstice on or near December 21st Yule / Winter Solstice on or near December 21st
Here in the northern hemisphere, nights get longer and days get shorter until the day of the Winter Solstice when the cycle reverses. The word Yule comes from the Norse Jul meaning wheel. On this darkest of nights, the Goddess becomes the Great Mother and once again gives birth to the Sun God. This is a fire festival so celebrate with a Yule log in the fireplace, candles on the table and lights on the tree. Evergreens, holly, ivy and mistletoe, symbols of fertility and everlasting life, remind us that the cold darkness of winter will eventually give way to the warmth & new growth of spring.

Imbolc / Imbolg / Candlemas – February 2nd
Imbolc means, literally, ‘in the belly’ (of the Mother) and in the womb of Mother Earth new life is truly stirring. The young Sun God is growing and his strength is beginning to be noticeable. If you look closely, you may notice a snowdrop or a crocus pushing its way out of the still-cold earth. This is traditionally a day of purification, of sweeping out the old to make room for the new… both physically and emotionally. Celebrate by lighting LOTS of candles to encourage the young Sun; if you like to make them yourself, this is an auspicious day to do it. As nuts and seeds symbolize new beginnings, enjoy some sesame cookies or nutbread while visualizing yourself co-creating a loving, joyous & prosperous future.

Ostara – Spring Equinox – on or near March 21st
Named for Eostre the Teutonic Goddess of New Life, Ostara is the first day of Spring. Light and darkness are in balance, but the light is growing stronger as days continue to grow longer. The Young Sun God continues to mature and grow; small tender leaves appear on the trees, young buds are swelling and, here in New York, cheerful white and yellow daffodils are already in full bloom. The Life Energies are building quickly now and the very air seems to vibrate with promise. Celebrate by coloring eggs, an ancient symbol of fertility.

Beltaine / Beltane / May Day – May 1
From the Irish Gaelic Bealtaine meaning Bel-fire (the fire of Bel, Celtic God of light) Beltaine is primarily a fertility festival; the Land represented by the Goddess is now ripe and fertile and the Sun God expresses His Love for Her. Celebrate by establishing a woodland or garden shrine and gathering flowers to adorn your living space… and yourself!

Midsummer / Summer Solstice – on or near June 21st
Midsummer is the longest day of the year. It’s not harvest time yet, but Mother Nature is impressively lush. The veil between the Faerie realm and our world is thin so don’t be surprised if you catch a glimpse of an otherworldly someone on Midsummer’s Eve! Celebrate with a bonfire and if you’re into herb magick, any plants gathered at this time are particularly powerful. Or just stroll through a park or woodland area and bask in the glory of our natural world.

Lughnasadh / Lammas – August 1
Even though Lughnasadh occurs at the warmest time of the year, it marks the time at which days become noticeably shorter and so is considered the starting point of the autumn quarter of the year. The autumn season contains three harvests, and Lughnasadh is the first of these, the time when the first corn harvest is cut. The name is derived from Lugh (pronounced ‘loo’), a Celtic deity of light and wisdom. At Lughnasadh, bread from the first harvest was eaten in thanks. Baking, sharing& eating bread is a wonderful way to celebrate this holiday and if you can, attend a Renaissance Faire, Medieval Festival or Highland Games competition. The jousting matches and caber & sheaf tosses were no doubt inspired by that aggressive war god Lugh.

 

MMabon/Autumn Equinox around September 21st – or near September 21
Mabon is the time of the second harvest, when fruits are ready for collection. The land is showing clear signs of the journey towards winter – leaves are beginning to turn and birds are gathering for migration. Mabon is a time to consider which aspects of your life you wish to preserve and which you would prefer to discard. This is the Pagan Thanksgiving, a time to appreciate and enjoy the fruits of your labors. Commemmorate Mabon by making wine, feasting with friends, planting bulbs to bloom in the spring and put out feeders to help those brave birds who don’t migrate get through the long winter ahead.

Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve, Hallowe’en – October 31
This is the Last Harvest and New Year’s Eve to the ancient Celts. Being “between years,” it is considered a very magical time, a day when the veil separating the the physical plane and spiritual realms is most permeable. This is a good day to practice divination: scrying, Tarot readings and Rune casting are all particularly effective. The practice of donning costumes… especially scary ones… grew out of the ancient fear of evil spirits passing through the veil along with the benevolent ones and pumpkin carving evolved from the practice of painting hideous faces on gourds to keep “gouls and goblins” away from the home. Samhain is also a day for honoring our ancestors and one of my favorite rituals is the Dumb Supper… laying an extra place at the dinner table for those who have passed over to the Summerlands.

witches calander wheel1

Gillian made her trip at Beltane, May 1st. Had her intent always been to go on this particular date, or did she rush into her trip for some other reason? We know that she was asking questions about the Stones. Fiona, Mrs. Graham’s grand daughter and Roger’s housekeeper mentioned that other young woman who reminded her of someone… Roger with his green eyes that so resembled Gillian’s, asking for information. Was Gillian aware that someone, such as Claire, was suspicious of her? Did she rush her preparations because of this? Or was there some other reason that she left in a bit of a rush as she seemed to? And, why did she feel the need to use her husband Greg as a sacrifice in such a horrific way? We know little of their relationship other than Greg was a drunk and didn’t agree much with her radical ideas and friends.  Yes, possibly she just chose him out of convenience at the time. Perhaps she came home to find him drunk and passed out as usual, and decided with no care, concern or remorse to use him as her needed sacrifice? Or was there something deeper within their relationship that caused her to use him and destroy him in such a vengeful way? Was he abusive towards her, did he pose a threat to her in some way? Did he know something of her activities or plans with her revolutionary radical group of  friends, did he at some point threaten to tell of  what ever plans they might have been coming up with? Of course, we’ll probably never know those answers but they are plausible explanations or theories which we can not really rule out? If she was cold, calculating and unconcerned enough as to casually use him as her torch, then she was certainly already well on her way to the rather depraved and insane soul that she became later.  Gillian was generally a thorough researcher and planner, and it just seems to me that while she was somewhat prepared for the trip, her leaving when and how she did felt somewhat rushed?

 

Now, as to why she chose the place she did, after having researched any number of other places… It is speculated at some much later time that she was part of an archeological project at one of the most ancient of all and perhaps most powerful circles, on Orkney Isle. It was there that she might have met one of the other Scottish Nationalists and revolutionaries, Rob Cameron?  One would think that she would have preferred to use those Stones as her portal instead? I believe she might have if she were not stuck where she was at the time? So, she chose the closest, most convenient sight that she could find and hoped for success.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140808-outlander-scotland-orkney-islands-stonehenge-neolithic/

Standing Stones of Stennes on mainland of Orkney, Scotland

 

There are two other puzzles concerning Gillian’s planned trip to the past via the Standing Stones at Crag na dun? The first, of course is the time frame? According to the legends and her research, Gillian would have known that in general the timing was given as about 200 years. She wanted to go back far enough in time ensure the success of the Jacobites and change the future of Scotland. It was 1968 when she decided to go back, so theoretically she should have landed somewhere around 1768. This time frame would have put her too late, so she had to have been hoping that she could guide herself further back than that with the added stones and what ever other spells or such she assumed would help her… most likely she was counting on the added benefit of poor Greg’s sacrifice to aid in this matter? We can not be sure of exactly how far back she did land, but she was there as early as about 1738 when Roger and her son, William Buccliegh MacKenzie meet her?  She has already been there for some time,  enough time to have killed another unfortunate husband and be on her way to doing away with husband number 3…there could have been more, these are just ones we know about! So, her thoughts and theories of being able to exert some control over the time landed in seemed to be partially correct. She would have wanted to go far enough back to give herself time to prepare for the rebellion of 1745 and she managed to accomplish that much, though it probably was not as close or as accurate as she would have wanted. But, better to be too early than too late!

The other puzzle surrounds where she was shortly after her arrival, or at least when Roger and William find her and piece together the story? She left through the Stones at Crag na dun near Inverness, so she should have been well placed in or around Inverness at that point in the past. Why then, did Roger and William find her at Cranesmuir, near Castle Leoch and the MacKenzies?

Outlander locations

Logically thinking, she would have been in a far better position to prepare and plan from Inverness than from the more remote location of Cranesmuir? If she wanted to make a difference,  influence the outcome and success at Culloden, why then did she make her way to Cranesmuir instead? Was it some lack of pre-planning on her part? Was it that she thought she could more easily find a way to fit in a more out of the way place and find a gullible next husband?  We don’t know those answers either, but we do know that her descendants, Roger and William ended up paving the way for her introduction to her future victim, Dougal MacKenzie!

OUT_107-20140522-EM_0050.jpg Dougal and Geillie2

 

 

Now we at least know how Gillian Edgars came to be one Geillis Duncan in the past! Ohhh, before we go on, we should add one last bit of interesting coincidence? When Gillian traveled to the past, she changed her name to Geillis, and we know that she married a fairly important man in the town of Cranesmuir. Arthur Duncan was the procurator fiscal, which really had nothing to do with finances as it would seem by the term.

Outlander-103-Exclusive-Lotte-Verbeek-as-Geillis-Duncan-and-John-Sessions-as-Arthur-Duncan-

The office most likely originates in the Roman-Dutch and French manorial or seignorial administrator (Dutch procurator-fiscaal, French procureur fiscal), who, as the fiscal in the title suggests, was originally an officer of the sheriff (the local law enforcement officer and judge) with financial (fiscal) responsibilities: the procurator fiscal collected debts, fines, and taxes. However, such responsibilities had been eclipsed in the course of the 18th century by their duty as prosecutor in the sheriff court with the passage of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1701. In this capacity they gave concurrence in private prosecutions and prosecuted on behalf of the Crown. The Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1867 gave procurators fiscal full responsibility in law for prosecution of all criminal acts in Scotland.  Originally the fiscal was the sheriff’s official and tenure of the office was at the pleasure of the sheriff. With the decline of private prosecution the fiscal came to be regarded more and more as under the control of the Lord Advocate. In 1776 the government  started to pay procurators fiscal to take precognitions and in 1907 the right of appointing procurators fiscal was transferred to the Lord Advocate.

So, she was a “witch” married to the law enforcement/judge in town and covered her personal practices by operating an herbal remedy shop. Very clever and calculating on her part? The interesting part though is that when she married Arthur, she became Geillis Duncan. By some sheer coincidence, there was another Scottish  witch by the name of Geillis Duncane in history?  Now, the thought pondering question is this… Gillian Edgars being the historian and obsessed person that she was, would probably have researched any number of witch references and stories and would most surely have come across this one. She was also one who would have seen the coincidence and probably would have looked at it as some sign in her decision to put efforts towards becoming another Geillis Duncan? Perhaps she might have looked at it as a way to honor a former fallen and persecuted Witch… but, really she should have taken it as an omen of her own future in becoming another Geillis Duncan!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/the-real-geillis-duncane-persecuted-witch-of-scotland/

 

It should be quite apparent by now  that Gillian Edgars aka Geillis Duncan was highly mentally unstable long before Claire showed up at Castle Leoch and made her acquaintance! Claire was far too trusting and gullible in the matter of Geillis Duncan. Of course, it was understandable that Claire was not thinking quite rationally at the time, having just survived her own ordeal with the Stones. She was terrified, and alone in a strange time and place… When she encountered the seemingly innocent and friendly Geillis, she was desperate for a friend, any friend with whom she could at least have some sort of conversation and let her guard down just a bit. In Claire’s frazzled mind, Geillis was harmless, another healer of sorts who she could learn something from? Geillis, however had other things on her own mind, and became increasingly interested and probably suspicious of Claire’s language and behaviors. Something was not quite right about this new woman in her town, her chosen territory and she needed to know more about Claire. Namely, she needed to know how much Claire knew, and what kind of a threat Claire was to her plans! So, being the devious one that she was, Geillis set about befriending the unsuspecting Claire.

outlander Geillie and Claire

 

 

It should be noted that Geillis was most likely desperate for some half way normal conversation and casual friendship as well.  She was not the most well liked person in the village and a number of people did already suspect her of some sort of Witchcraft and or evil doings! Jamie warned Claire to stay away from that Geillis Duncan, she was a wicked one. Murtagh warned her as well that no good would come from meeting with Geillis, and the nightmare that Claire had about Mrs. Fitz calling her a Witch could more appropriately have been Mrs. Fitz’s reaction to her association with Geillis!

 

Before we move on the rest of our in depth investigation of  the one now known as Geillis Duncan… you may be wondering what is going on with the back up support person that I hired to accompany me on this journey?  His initial impressions of the woman known as Gillian/Geillis were along the lines of Wow… She is one hot Witch!

lottie verbeek now lotte verbeek3 Jack_Nicholson_em_Melhor_Impossvel

 

However, after reading her background information, he appeared to have some misgivings and second thoughts on his agreement to help me in this assignment?

Favim_com-9945

He started muttering and ranting on about some previous experience with good looking Witches that turned out rather badly for him in the end?

witches of eastwick4 jack nicholson witches of eastwick1 jack witches of eastwick7 jack witches of eastwick2

witches of eastwick5

 

I really thought he would be able to handle this, but now I am just not sure if he will be able to pull himself together enough to be of any help to me!

jack witches of eastwick3 jack witches of eastwick4

A Blessed and Happy Samhain to all of the Witches and other Pagans!

samhain2 (2)

samhain2

 

Please join us later if you dare, to find out more about Gillian/Geillis’  continued journey into madness!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank Randall The Final Chapter

previous post: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/outlander-the-matter-of-frank-randall-part-2/

Just a reminder, this does contain many spoilers for all of the books right up to Written in My Own Heart’s Blood!

Okay, Frank and I both had far too much Whiskey last night and the discussion got rather more personal than was intended! We decided that perhaps it might be better to continue it at some other time? We’re both suffering  from a bit of a headache this morning!

Frank with a headache

Maybe some fresh air would do us some good? I casually suggest this to Frank, adding that I would love a tour of  the area being that I am not from around here. Frank agrees, not seeing what the harm could be in a drive through the countryside.

Of course, being the workaholic that he is and ever the well prepared and proper Englishman, he brings along his notes and his hat!

Frank on the way to crag na dun

Outlander 2014

And, we’re off  on a lovely outing to spend the day wandering the sights of  Frank’s Scotland… Yes, he does assume that this is just a spur of the moment idea of mine. Little does he realize that I recovered fully from my over indulgence of the previous night, and am now determined to keep this fact seeking mission under my control!  I woke up early and set myself a clear agenda of what I must find out today, whether Frank cooperates is of  course an entirely different matter? Hopefully though, we can get through this and come out with more information than his usual non-committed evasive answers.

 

We start the day with an early morning stop to enjoy the water side view and get some strong coffee. Frank looks and acts like he may be in dire need of it before heading out on the road with me! I try to keep the conversation light and avoid any mention of my true intentions for this trip. He is quite polite and thoughtful as he inquires as to what I might like to see?  Perhaps as long as we’re in the city already, he suggests that I might like a tour of some of the museums or such?  Well, yes I guess that might be interesting but could he give me more of a personalized tour based on his expertise and background as a History Professor? I’ve heard that his lectures were always quite interesting and often contained items and ideas of the personal history that helps us all to relate more to the past…

tobias frank

Frank is as most times, well guarded and cautious, wondering what I am referring to?

tobias frank6

“Ohhhh I’ve just heard how you manage to bring history to such life with your lectures on the more common items of use and décor from the past?”  I  watch his face for clues as I mention a lecture where he presented some objects from his personal collection… a bottle of perfume, and small miniatures that so closely resembled Claire.

Guerlain Bleue, Frank's favorite scent and one that Claire often wore

Guerlain Bleue, Frank’s favorite scent and one that Claire often wore http://perfumesmellinthings.blogspot.com/2014/05/coup-de-foudre-guerlains-lheure-bleue.html

          

L’Heure Bleue / L’Heure Bleu – the perfume Claire was using to smooth down her hair the night Frank saw the ghost staring at her in her window.  Claire notes it is Frank’s favourite.  L’Heure Bleue is an actual perfume by Guerlain. It is spelt without an ‘e’ at the end of ‘bleu’ in Outlander which is incorrect both in terms of French grammar and as a misspelling of the actual perfume. (Outlander, chapter 1). In the dream that Claire has of Frank giving a lecture, Frank again states that L’Heure Bleu is  his favourite perfume (DIA, chapter 10)

“A Lady,” he said softly, cradling the last of the portraits in his palm, shielding it for the moment. “With brown hair curling luxuriantly to her shoulders, and a necklace of pearls. Undated. The artist unknown.”

 It was a mirror, not a miniature.  My cheeks were flushed, and my lips trembled as Frank’s finger gently traced the edge of my jaw, the graceful line of my neck.  The tears welled in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks as I heard his voice, still lecturing, as he laid down the miniature, and I stared upward at the timbered ceiling.

 “Undated. Unknown. But once…once, she was real.”

 (DRAGONFLY Chapter 10, “A Lady, With Brown Hair Curling Luxuriantly”, p. 152 in the hardcover)

 

miniature of woman

Credit and thanks to Outlandish Observations for the imagery and the information! http://outlandishobservations.blogspot.com/2012/08/repost-dragonfly-imagery.html

frank's lecture3

Frank gives away nothing but remains thoughtful as he ponders my comments. “So, what you’re saying is you would prefer to see my personal history collection than that of the generic museum pieces? Unfortunately, I do not have the collection available right now, otherwise I would be more than happy to oblige you on that!”

tobias frank3

Ohhhhh smooth, Frank, very smooth on that evasion! Well, Let’s forgo the museums, shall we, and just head out to the country! Frank laughs and points to the car, “Well, let us just do that then, I am sure that you have some particular spot in mind? I can see that you are quite as devious and determined in your thoughts as even I might be and it’s obvious that you have not given up on your goal!”

As we drive out to the more rural area and enjoy the beautiful scenery, Frank asks a bit warily where I would like to go first? He is resigned to the fact that I do have an agenda which includes grilling him on any number of rather touchy subjects. So, when I glance over at him and respond with my destination, he just nods his head and sighs. “I thought perhaps we could head up to an ancient kirk I’ve heard much about, you might know of it? St. Kilda’s kirk, I believe it’s called?”

He softly answers while driving through the winding roads, “Yes, I am well acquainted with the place as I know you are well aware of, so no need to play games about it.” As he drives one handed, easily managing the country roads, I look over and notice that the wedding ring on his finger. I can not help but feel some compassion for this man who has been accused and suspected of so much… yes, even by me, but in reality has done little to warrant those harsh thoughts other than be the man of a time he was born to? In fact, he has done far more positives than many men of his time would have done.  He accepted a wife’s return from the grave and another man’s arms, tried to make a life together with her and the daughter that he came to love as his own, did his utmost to protect them both from what ever secrets the past and the future might use to destroy them… all the while knowing full well that his wife did not truly love him as she loved someone else. He spent countless year of marriage competing with that ghost from the past. Knowing from personal experience, I can relate well to the fact that it is almost impossible to compete with a dead loved one. I close my eyes during the drive and think my own silent thoughts on how he must feel in this situation. I have been in a similar situation to both Claire and Frank, and can feel the pains of both their hearts. That, however does not dissuade me from this mission of wanting to know more. I can not let it interfere with today’s journey!

frank's wedding ring

We ride on in silence for a time, each of us lost in our own thoughts.  I quiet my mind by looking out at the views. The past come alive as we drive and I see the landscape surrounding me.

Scottish-Countryside4 Scottish-Countryside2 scottish farm house3 scottish countryside3 scottish countryside

Frank turns off on to a side road, then explains that we will have a bit of hiking to get to the old kirk.

road to logie kirk logie kirk path

(Excerpts from Dragonfly in Amber in which St Kilda’s kirk is described)

St kilda kirk1 st kilda2 st kilda3

I assure Frank that I’m fine with a hike, in fact I’m looking forward to it. I am excited to see this ancient old kirk with it’s important history!

*Please note that St. Kilda’s Kirk as mentioned in the books is a fictional creation of Diana Gabaldon’s. For our representation here, I am using Logie Kirk located outside of Stirlingshire.

http://www.instirling.com/walks/logmap.htm

http://www.visitscotland.com/en-us/info/see-do/logie-old-kirk-p669361

 

As we hike up the path, I take time to reassure Frank that I understand what a difficult this visit probably is for him. I want him to know that what ever else may be speculated on by others, I believe his reasons for placing the gravestone here were well intentioned.  We arrive at the site and I am overwhelmed with the view of such history in front of me. After spending a little time exploring the old kirk, we head over to the cemetery.

Logie Kirk

Logie kirk2 Logie kirk3 Logie kirk4

The walk through the cemetery is haunting, eerie and yes, a little unsettling for both of us.

logie kirk13 Old logie kirk3 logie kirk10

 

Upon finding the graves we came here in search of, we are both at a loss for speech at the moment. There is no need for words in this quiet of reflection.

Old Logie kirk2 logie kirk9

 

 

tobias frank5

Finally, he turns to me, gives me a look of determination and says stoically, “Well then, go on with your questions. What ever it is you think you need to know, I’ll try to answer as best I can.”

I sigh sadly, I am rather at a loss for words still… I truly do feel for him, my heart hurts along with his right now and I feel guilty for dredging this all up again but, will carry on as I think it’s important for him to talk about it to someone? I am quite sure that he’s never been able to talk much about it to anyone, save maybe the Reverend Wakefield? Fine then, that’s where I’ll start, with the Reverend! That seems a middle ground and safe point for the time being…

“Some of the accounts and references mention the fact that you and the Reverend Wakefield became very close friends. In fact, Roger mentioned that Reverend often brought his church group up here to maintain the grave yard and the graves.  When Claire returned and everyone thought she was delusional and possibly crazy…including you, I might add? But, you didn’t really believe she was, did you? Because you quickly and quietly asked the Reverend to research all of it and see what he could find out.  I have to wonder too, about that odd Mrs. Graham? She is the one who told you about the Stones, and she was one of those Druid Dancers…

Mrs Graham tries to tell Frank

outlander-premiere-stone-circle-dancers-starz

“When Claire disappeared, you scoffed at Mrs. Graham’s suggestion and probably thought she was a crazy old crone? But, you did have second thoughts on the idea because we know you made that trip back to the Stones. I think you already had your own suspicions even then, but couldn’t say them out loud because of course then you would look crazy as well! No one has ever made mention of your years while Claire was gone. That is all just coming to light now. I have to wonder, did you go back and talk to Mrs. Graham again, possibly taking her more seriously the next time? Did she happen to tell you about her visit with Claire and the reading of her fortune?

Mrs Graham and Claire

“It just seems to me that maybe during those years while she was gone, you did do a lot more research in secret and knew far more than you could say or admit when she returned? I really wonder now how much all of you knew? You, the Reverend, and Mrs. Graham, how many secrets did you keep to protect those you all cared about?”

Frank and Reverend Wakefield Frank and Reverend Wakefield2

 

Frank doesn’t answer me right away, just sits there with head in hands. After a time he responds quietly, “Yes, we kept secrets to protect those we cared about. Is that so wrong?”

I nod my head and sigh, “No, we all keep secrets whether we admit it or not, whether small or large, to protect those others, or to avoid hurting them in some way. I understand that Frank, and I certainly don’t judge you for them. I would imagine that when you discovered some of your information, you realized just how much more there was going on and what a danger there was to your family. I also do understand that you can’t share all of it even now, the danger still exists, doesn’t it, for those you care so much about?”

Frank nods in agreement, “I did my best to prepare them for it, but I couldn’t come right out and tell them everything, could I? Who would have believed me… I don’t think even Claire would have believed me then, she would have assumed I was even crazier than people assumed she was! No, the key to keeping everyone as safe as possible was, I believed, to prepare them but not let them know? I thought it was one of those situations where the less one knows, the safer one is?” He shrugged in frustration, “Maybe I was wrong… but, as I said, I did what I felt was right at the time and I stand by my decision.”

I feel I have to ask him another question about secrets and mysteries while we’re on that subject. “Frank, do any of these secrets that you felt you had to keep have to do with the Fraser prophecy and the Brahan Seer? As a historian, I’m sure you know about the myths and legends of the Brahan Seer, so what I am asking is, do you believe in any of it and how much do you know about it?” I pause a moment and watch his face turn grim.

We know that Bree eventually found a letter from you warning of some grave danger that she could be in. I have to think that this is all tied to that prophecy somehow?

Frank shows his frustration and comes close to losing his temper with me. “Of course it’s all tied together! Why the Bloody Hell do you think I am worried about my family? I can’t tell you any more right now because I just do not know a lot more about it but yes they are all in danger due to that Damnable Prophecy, whether I believe in it or not is irrelevant, someone believes in it and is out to harm my family because of it!”

Additional information on the Brahan Seer and his prophecies, along with more discussion on Fraser Prophecy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahan_Seer

http://outlanderbookclub.freeforums.org/ol-series-fraser-prophecy-t896.html

 

 

 

Some time later we walk back through the grave yard, stopping at the grave of  Jonathon Wolverton Randall. Both of us stare down at it and shake with some invisible chill still hanging in the air. “After all of your research on him, do you know how or why he came to be here in this cemetery?” I ask and then add, “And, why on Earth would you think it appropriate to place the stone for Jamie and Claire here in the same place? Excuse me if I sound a little harsh, but really, don’t you think that was more than a little cruel to do to Claire? I mean, I could understand your frustration and even some resentment with her but if you wanted to get back at her in some way, I just think this was carrying a grudge way too far!”

Frank at the Stones

Frank’s reaction is one of  long lingering frustration and pain, “First of all, I have no idea how or why he ended up here! Second, excuse my language but in the words of my wife…Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ! If the woman had chosen to tell me all of the disgusting and gory details rather than keep silent in her attempt to forget the whole thing and go on with her life, Do you honestly think I would have put it here? Damn it all to Hell, I am not a Bloody Time Traveler. Even in my extensive research, I can only find what is actually written down about people.” Frank is angry now and begins to voice his long held frustration over much of the situation. “All I ever knew of the man was that he was a well respected British officer who died doing his duty to his Country .  Culloden was indeed a tragic event for the Scottish people, but one can not forget that many of those British Soldiers were only carrying out orders in time of war? I could only assume that this ancestor of mine was doing that since I was not privy to those most important details like Claire was!” 

frank3

Frank goes on and admits grudgingly, “Yes, I was angry with Claire, I resented that love and that life she had with her Jamie… But, do you know what I was most resentful and bitter about? It wasn’t even about her and Jamie… it was that I felt like the gift of  Time Travel was rather wasted on her? She never did care much about the importance or the details of History, never really understood the great gift she held in her soul, to be able to travel through time, experience and witness all of it? When she returned, she just wanted to forget all of it, didn’t want to be reminded of it. She was never interested in my life’s work, my passion and didn’t want to share it with me. Maybe if she had shared more of it with me, I would have shared more with her?  I know it’s all water under the bridge now, but it still hurts, the way things turned out…”

 

“Bloody Hell, Damn her for not telling me all of it… And, Damn him for constantly haunting me! Do you have any idea what it is like to discover and realize that some ancestor that you admired and held in such high esteem was in reality a cruel, sadistic and Hellish sort of Bastard? Then to wonder, even though his blood is not directly yours, whether that capability or trait runs deep within you… or God help us, in one of your family. To constantly fight a battle within yourself to maintain complete control of your emotions, for to let go in any way might signal that he does exist somewhere in you? To live with that constant fear now…” He shudders and tries to shake off the presence of Jack Randall. “I guess, perhaps Claire was right in not mentioning it to me? Now, I wonder too how she managed it herself, all of those years of knowing, of being with me and seeing some reflection of him?”

haunted at the grave

 

We walk away from the stone and breathe much easier. Soon we find ourselves back at the stone for Claire and Jamie.

logie kirk9

 

“Okay, Why… Why put it up here in an out of the way place where no one would ever see it, save you and of course… the Reverend?  Of course you did it for a reason, but people want to know, Frank? People want to know why you kept it hidden from Claire? And, from Bree… but, you knew they would find it one day, didn’t you, otherwise why put it up anywhere in the first place?”

At the mention of  daughter Bree, Frank reached out and ran a hand slowly over the Stone. “I did it for her, for Bree… Everything I’ve done, I’ve done for her and her future, what ever she decides to do with it.  Everything that each of us comes down to that. We keep our secrets, we change our lives, give up our dreams and our lives if we have to in order to give our children a life, a future. Hopefully, they will remember us fondly with love, know that we loved them beyond all else, they will remember what we’ve taught them and they will carry that with them to pass it to their children? In the end, we are the history- the past, they are the future and we do what we must to ensure that future for them.” He brushes a tear out of his eye as he continues. “All of our lives and our stories are connected, woven into each other’s, the past, the present and the unknown future. Our children, whether they be of our blood or our heart keep us connected for better or for worse… I would hope that it would always be for the better, but that does not always happen. In our case, despite all of our differences and our resentments of each other, despite the secrets we kept, we all did what we thought was best for Bree? Jamie gave her and Claire up to ensure that safety and future for them, Claire gave up Jamie for the same reason… and what did I give up? My loss of a devoted and “happy” wife who would love me as much as she loved that other person seems quite insignificant when compared to what they gave up?  I gained the most of the situation. I received the greatest gift of all, a child whom I loved with all of my heart, whom I never wanted to see hurt in any way. I would lay down my life to protect her and keep her from harm, but as every parent knows, you can not protect them from life completely?  I knew that one day, Bree would search for answers, I hoped her path would lead her here and she would see this. Claire and I agreed, whether it’s right or wrong is really not up for debate… we agreed to keep the secret, thinking it was best at the time for Bree. I think we knew in our hearts that she deserved the truth and this was my way of starting that process. I knew that Claire would one day go back to her ghost that has haunted us from the beginning.”

the highland ghost frank-in-rain-by-kath-powell

 

“That ghost of James Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser has been with me since the first night I saw him! I know that he is not going away until he is sure that his family is safe, his honor and his legacy is shared? Claire is a part of that, as is Bree and her children… For what ever reasons, I am a part of it as well? It  was and is my destiny to protect them into the future… I owe him an unending gratitude for the gift of Bree.

 

Frank’s  heart wrenching cry this time was not for his long lost wife, but for his daughter and all of the pain that he could not protect her from? “It started here in the Highlands for all of us, the hurts, the haunts, the ghosts and the  Demons within… but where will  it end?”

Frank yelling more

Claire and Culloden

Photo credit to Daniela Lippke via twitter!

 

 

I gently lead Frank away from all of it.  “Frank, for you, it has all ended… You have done your part, what you needed to do, and whether it was right or wrong is not for any of us to judge? You need to go on and rest at ease with the fact that while Claire might not have loved you the way you loved her, she did love you? And, Bree will always love you, carry your memory and heart within her, and she knows that you loved her. That is all anyone can wish for upon their passing, the knowledge that they were loved and they made a difference in someone’s life. All of the rest is of no consequence in the end!

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Excerpt from Fiery Cross in which Bree thinks of Frank

Frank in Fiery Cross pg 209

frank's letter in Fiery Cross

 

As we walk away together into the mists, I touch his hand and smile, “If it’s any consolation, Frank, I didn’t bother with another  rather minor little detail that people seem so insistent on debating and bickering over?”

Frank in the mist

He gives me a half hearted pondering look and asks, “Ohhh and what would that be?”

“Ahhhh, that would be that age old question of whether you cheated on Claire? I am not going to delve into it because really, it makes little difference whether you did or not? If you want to talk about it before we leave… if it seems to be some matter on which you feel a need to clear your conscience, then by all means feel free to clear the air? I am of the personal opinion that perhaps you did but, as I said, it makes little difference. I have a document  from herself, Diana Gabaldon in which she clearly comes to your defense on this matter.  There are many, though, who dispute her theory and explanation on this subject and they insist that you treated Claire so badly as to cheat on her?  My response to that is, she did cheat on you as well didn’t she, even though she had a Priest’s atonement and absolvement for any such sin. I understand that you and she did not have a perfect relationship in your years together after her return and you may have turned elsewhere seeking some sort of physical or emotion that she couldn’t give you. I am not condoning it or approving it… that is a highly personal matter for you and Claire to work out someday? I will provide Diana’s transcript for anyone interested in her view on the situation. And, as I mentioned, if you choose to divulge anything now, it will not be held against you later!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/diana-gabaldons-defense-of-frank-randall/

 

Frank’s response… No words, no heartfelt explanation of denial or excuses…

tobias frank2 Frank admits to three

Well… I guess we’ll just leave it at that then and wonder if that means what we think it does?

 

Ahhhh and that concludes our visit with Frank Randall… if anyone should need him, he will be on that other side,  involved in what might be a rather lengthy air clearing discussion with his wife and their other spouse, James Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser otherwise known as the ghost in the night! Hopefully, they can all avoid any discussion with the spirit of Jonathon Wolverton Randall!

the highland ghost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dunvegan Castle recieves an odd correspondance and invitation!

Warning, disclaimer and apology for a wayward tangent that I was unable to resist!  Normally, I keep my story segments and creations separate from my other fascinations and addictions… such as Outlander? For this one instance however, I was unable to resist the notion of them running across each other a bit! This is the one and only time that I will cross these paths!

 

First of all, in order to see or understand how any of this outlandish and far fetched fantasy might in any way shape or form have cause, reason or the remotest plausibility of intersecting, it may help to have a bit of background information on some relevant facts concerning Clan MaCleod and Dunvegan Castle during the period of the 1740’s. I will only supply the basic pertinent facts as they relate here to this story. My characters are fictional members of the Clan MacCleod much as Diana Gabaldon’s characters are fictional members of the Clan MacKenzie!  While they are fictional characters, I do try to tie them to historical events when ever possible!

 

Before anything else, let us look at where Dunvegan Castle and Clan Macleod lands sit on the Clan map of the highlands. This is important as it will give you some idea of where the MacCleod Clans resided in relation to MacKenzie and Fraser Clans. As you can see it would not have been odd for the MacCleods to know of or have dealings with either MackKenzies or Frasers.

Scottish Clan map with Dunvegan Castle's location starred.

Scottish Clan map with Dunvegan Castle’s location starred.

 

As far as factual information goes, during the 1740’s Clan MacCeod was headed by Norman MacCloid, who did not support the Jacobite rebellion and led troops in support of the Government forces.  The chief led 500 men of the MacLeod Independent Highland Companies in support of the Government at the Battle of Inverurie on 23 December 1745, where they were defeated.

The Macleods of Raasay, a branch of the MacLeods of Lewis, fought at the Battle of Culloden as part of the Glengarry Regiment, in retribution, the MacLeods of Dunvegan, under their chief, Norman MacLeod, burned and pillaged the Island of Raasay, harassing its inhabitants for many weeks in the late summer of 1746. As a result Norman MacLeod became known as “The Wicked Man”. In 1745, MacLeod of Dunvegan was said to have been able to “bring out” 700 men.   

Clan MacCleod history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clan_MacLeod#18th_century_and_Jacobite_risings

Norman MacLeod (The Wicked Man) : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_MacLeod_(The_Wicked_Man)

Dunvegan Castle:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunvegan_Castle

So far, I have not addressed any of this as yet in my story, but eventually will get to these details! Suffice it to say, Norman MacCleod would probably not been a friend of Dougal MacKenzie. But, then again, it might have been possible as the Jacobite Rebellion created a civil war, a divide between families and one time friends.  In our current story, we know little of the MacCleod Clan’s political or religious dealings at this time. As far as we know at this point, our fictional Clan members consisting of Eric North, Svein North, and young Brennie along with a housekeeper, Minn are the current residents of  Dunvegan Castle. Svein and Eric have been there since it’s beginnings and Brennie has been there for a few centuries now.  A clue as to the reason for them residing there and not Norman can be found in his factual history.  He supported the Government cause in the Jacobite Rising, and was an absentee chief as he seldom lived at his ancestors’ traditional seat of  Dunvegan Castle.  If you’re thinking Clan MacKenzie was the only Clan with not so likeable or trustable Family members, you might want to read more about Norman MacCleod? He was one of those Clan leaders that members probably rued the day they put him in power?  Ok, enough on him, he will show up in our story later!

Eric has appeared throughout this long sage but his personal story and his connection to Dunvegan Castle unfolds starting here: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/eleanors-journal69-eric-at-dunvegan/

 

It might also be of interesting note here that Dunvegan Castle has a long history and connection- which they are proud of by the way- with the Fairie realm and other such folk lore. Maybe they heard stories of that strange woman residing with the MacKenzies?!

 

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Now that you have a bit of background history on the MacCleods and Dunvegan Castle, we can go on with our strange intersection?

 

During our construction of Dunvegan Castle we’ve been following Eric’s and Brennie’s memories of the past in the Castle. Brennie is reliving many of her own memories of  past events with thoughts of that time when her close friend and mentor, Minn was there as housekeeper and so much more. It was during the during the 1700’s when much of the Castle was renovated from a medieval fortress to a more habitable home, thanks much to Minn’s efforts and knowledge!   Brennie did not know much of what the outside world was doing, or what Eric and Svein were involved with during those times. She was just coming into her own as a new person thanks also to Minn’s sometimes overbearing but caring guidance. It was during this time that Brennie began to take part in what was happening around her, and what was happening in Scotland. 

Eric and Svein were often gone on Clan business, most of which Brennie questioned little of before this time. With Minn’s arrival though, the Castle began to change and become more of a home to many Clan members. Eric and Svein were not Clan Chiefs… they left that duty to the more human members of the Clan, a fact that in this time, they were beginning to regret. The current Clan Cheiftan, Norman MacCleod, did not reside at the Castle and rarely if ever bothered to even visit there. He did send two orphaned Clan members there though.  Two of his illegitimate offspring were sent to Dunvegan when their Mother died and Norman wanted them well out of his way.  So, Dunvegan along with Minn and Brennie took them in, welcomed them, and raised them.  The boy, Alexander was taken into training by Eric and Svein.  Where ever Svein or Eric went, so went Alex! Ellen, followed Minn and Brennie around with the same adoration.

Alexander

Alexander

 

 

Ellen MacCleod

Ellen MacCleod

 

Late one evening, the men were in the stables when young Alexander arrived exhausted from traveling hurriedly across the country with a message he said was of dire importance. He did not know what it was, had been given by one of the MacKenzies and told only that it was urgent that he get it to Svein and Eric.

An exhausted Rory

The first debate before even opening the message was one of what the MacKenzies wanted with them?  Eric was puzzled and doubtful, then suspicious… his words to Svein, “What have ye done? We’re at peace ye ken, and I would it to stay that way. I want no wars or battles now with other Clans. We have us enough trouble with Norman!”

At the mention of  his Father’s name, Alex hung his head. He knew of how much trouble the man was causing, and he was tired of the battles in his head and his heart over being the man’s son.

Debate on what to do

Svein assured Eric, “Need ye not worry, I have not done a thing, cept befriend the man!”

Eric’s response was resigned. “Achhh and, I am supposing that ye think that’s a much better thing? Dinna think that I want to be in that Man’s debt more than I want to be his enemy! What have ye promised him that we canna provide?”

Eric and Svein in the stable

Svein paused before answering. “Nothing, I promised nothing that we canna provide. I merely pledged our assistance against a more personal matter that he be involved in.  I promised our neutrality in that matter of his Fraser kin. We willna take any sides in what ever matters they dispute about was all I promised him.”

Eric nodded, “Well we can provide that, we have no quarrel with either of them and we need it to stay that way.”

He told Alex to take the parcel upstairs and noticed the frustration on the boy’s face. “Ye hold yer temper lad, and do as I ask. Ye’re not too old for a whipping yet even though ye think ye are!”

Discussion of news

Some time later, the family stood around the table staring at the parcel and missive that had been delivered, not quite sure what this meant to them?

Screenshot-24

The message was indeed a rather odd and curious one?

Wedding Invitation

Eric was not sure what it meant and thought for a few moments before asking Alex, “Are ye sure ye got the right parcel? And, are ye sure they said to deliver it here? Maybe ye heard them wrong or grabbed the wrong message. How much ale did ye drink and how tired were ye when ye were talkin to them?”

Alex bowed his head, mainly because he was so tired he was bout to drop off right there… and he did not want to share either just how much of the Ale he had shared at the Inn with the MacKenzie travelers! “Nay, Eric, I dinna grab the wrong message! Twas that Mutagh Fitzgibbons that shoved it in my shirt front, told me to ride like Hell to Svein and then get our arses back there soon as we could!”

 

Svein sighed and gave the only plausible explanation he could think of. “Well, like as not, we’re being called as to be impartial witnesses. I pledged to Dougal that I would not take sides in any of his family matters and this looks to be an important family matter? I know not much about the whole story of the lad but there is that land dispute in question between the clans, which the lad stands to inherit when he marries. Maybe it all has something to do with that?”

Rory bows his head

They discussed it for some time and could not come to any further conclusion than what Svein had suggested. There was agreement that what could it hurt to attend as requested… to not show up would cause some rift between them and Dougal that Eric did not want to encur so he went along with it though with some hesitation. He did not want to walk into some sort of trap either or become embroiled in some larger dispute of the MacKenzies. He agreed that they would go as requested, then return home immediately afterwards. The women would stay home, there was no need to endanger them and this was a man’s business anyway, Svein insisted.

 

Minn had her own thoughts as to Svein’s comment but wisely for once, kept them to herself.  After the men left the room, she filled Brennie and young Ellen in on her latest gossip about the MacKenzies and their strange guest who was visiting and now about to become their newest family member. “I heard tell that some folks think she’s a witch? They do say she is might odd, but a fine healer even if she does drink a might much? Probably should not be asking for her aid if it gets a bit late in the day… if ye know what I ken?” She went on with her tales and then after a moment reminded the women, “Achhh, Ye know of that lad, he’s passed through here before. Ye remember that fine young lad who all the lasses swayed over, the one who wouldna go in the boats?”

Brennie and Ellen nodded, they both remembered him now! Ellen blushed and said sadly, “Well I could only wish such a lad like him could find his way here for me! Not that it would matter though, as no one would be fool enough to have me.”

Minn just hushed and tsked at her youthful but true comments. “Hush ye Ellen, ye’re far too young to be thinking such thoughts anyway, and when the time does come we’ll be sure to find you a right fine lad!”

Screenshot-20

 

Previous Outlander post: Marriage of Convenience https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/outlander-marriage-of-convenience-and-other-things/

Previous Dunvegan Castle post: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/dunvegan-castle-great-hall-and-still-room/

 

Most recent progress on Dunvegan Castle:

 

Left side Watch tower room with access to a work room.

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Off the Work room is a small space which Minn uses for her book work space

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This general work room is part of the original old Castle rooms. It  was used as work room space by Castle residents for many years, as it was better lit with windows and sunlight than some of the other rooms of the time.

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Overview of work room with stairs down to stables and still room storage on the other side of it.

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Outlander musings and preview of episode 6.

Before I get into any preview of this week’s coming episode, I just want to put down some thoughts on the Outlander Experience as it relates to me?  I am a late comer to the Outlander Experience, having just discovered it this summer.  My initial thoughts after reading the first book a few months ago were, “How did I miss this when it first came out all of those years ago!” My daughter asked me the same question and I had to sit down for a bit and think about how or why I might have missed out on the book at that time.

In order to answer that, I had to travel my thoughts back to what might have kept me from enjoying the first book and the future ones as they made their way into the bookstores and libraries. So, what was I so busy with back then that prevented me from noticing this book, which by all rights should have immediately caught my attention by way of the fact that it hit all of my target book reading genres? Well, first of all let’s look at what I was doing in 1991 when the first book was released.  I was a single Mom of two small children , one of whom had some serious learning difficulties at the time, I was going to school full time, working part time so let’s conclude that I was extremely busy juggling balls in the air and didn’t have much free time to browse, shop for, or read big fat books unless of course they were text books! I also had little spare cash to spend on those big fat books at the time.  I did make a few occasional exceptions in cases where I already knew an author and their previous works… such as the case of  Jane m Auel and her Clan of the Cave Bear series. Those books were my one exception to the ‘No Big Fat Books that we have no time for ‘ rule.  In all honesty, when I think back to that particular time, most of my reading as pleasure time was spent reading what ever my children were interested in. In fact, I believe that might have been the summer that I spent re-reading the entire Little House on the Prairie series along with my daughter.  Fortunately for me, my daughter was and is a voracious reader and was reading at much higher reading levels than most 10 year olds. She also had an all consuming passion for anything historical from her earliest years. We quickly moved on from the Little House books to much weightier novels and biographies.  My son was never much of a reader when he was young but did enjoy being read to and he also enjoyed the history with some fantasy thrown in. We devoured the Indian in the Cupboard- still a favorite of mine, I have to admit! We also progressed to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and spent a lot time with Beatrix Potter as well. It was during that year too, that we wandered into poetry and prose with Robert Lois Stevenson and then headed into the darkness with the Brothers Grimms Fairy tales.  So, while yes… I was reading and enjoying it, Diana Gabaldon and Outlander were most likely not anywhere close on my book radar screen at that time!

One other reason that I might overlooked the book, as if the first ones were not enough?  On the few occasions that I did indulge in the luxury of browsing for and buying a book just for me, one that I could escape into some adult fantasy realm for a few hours… one that I would have to hide away because I knew that my daughter’s hands and eyes would quickly find it? On those few rare occasions, I would head for the historical romance section and search for some steamy adult reading content- yes, you know, the ones with a ravished woman and a conquering hero on the cover.  Well, hmmm did Outlander have such a cover to entice me? No, it did not… If you were a busy stressed out Mom on a hectic schedule with just a very limited amount of time to sneak into the Romance section and find yourself some romantic escape rather quickly, would this book have called out to you? I think not!  I deeply regret that now of course, but Hey, I had a lot going on back then and didn’t have a lot of extra time to search in depth!

Outlander-blue-cover

For an interesting perspective on the length of time passed and what was involved in the initial writing of the first book, you can read Diana Gabaldon’s perspective here: http://www.dianagabaldon.com/2014/03/26-years-ago-today/

 

Now that I look back on it, I am glad that I didn’t get around to reading them as they came out, having to wait all of those years in between for each book to finally arrive.  By discovering them all at once I was able to take the journey all at once… well, ok it did take a bit of time to get through them all so, no it was not really all at once but, you know what I mean!  What this wonderful discovery did was give me a feeling of having spent my summer on a whirlwind trip to the Highlands and various other spots of interest. In a sense I felt like I had enjoyed a true vacation without leaving home. So, if people should happen to ask how I spent my summer, I could happily announce, “Why, I spent it trekking through Scotland, the highlands. I met the most amazing people there and then I took this incredible trip to the Standing Stones of Craigh na Dhun,  traveled through time to Early America and back again several times… So, how did you spend your summer?”

 

Craigh na Dhun Stone Circle: http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=1146411369

callanishiv1a

 

One last thought to share on the Outlander experience and the length of  time involved from the beginnings of it. It began in 1991 and the story is still unfolding. Most of us would certainly hope that we are around to see how it all continues. I work in a residential facility for the elderly. One of my residents, a lovely woman who is now not in the best of health, is a Outlander fan and has waited patiently over the years for each installment of the story.  She made a comment to me one night that put the waiting and the story that Diana is telling into perspective and made me think about it. She just recently finished the latest book, and when I asked her what she thought of this one, she sighed and said this, “It was wonderful but I am a little disappointed that I probably won’t be around to see how it all turns out for them.”  Knowing the woman’s health issues and knowing full well how long it takes for another book to come out, I had a hard time coming up with some uplifting comment back to her. I did mention that perhaps this could be come incentive for her to keep on ticking for a good bit longer? She just nodded and said, “Honey, I’m not sure that I can hold out quite that long!”

 

Now that we’ve covered some of the general musings on the history, timeline and the overall experience, you need to be prepared for the next episode of  Outlander, The Garrison Commander. When I say you need to be prepared, I am quite serious!  I believe that this episode is where we begin the true journey. The journey is not just a trip into the past and a love story between Jamie and Claire. It is far more than that, in that it takes us on an often dark journey into the minds and souls of those we assume are villains and evil doers. What Diana Gabaldon has done so well in the books is give us a full picture of those minds and how they come to think and act the way they do. She provides us so well with a highly detailed portrait of  tortured souls that act out in horrendous ways but very often have some underlying layer of  feeling or compassion. Before you start hating on black Jack Randall, please remember this… it will unfold in later times and you will better understand the man’s very warped mind!  Yes, the man is clearly extremely dangerous and depraved, it’s quite obvious that he has a very dark and vicious side to his soul but at some later point in time, he shows a different side of himself that one would not think possible.

 

I did read a mention that a portion of this next episode is not taken from the book so I am anxiously waiting to see what they come up with. I am assuming that they did this in order to move the story along in some ways and better suite it to audience viewing.  I am really looking forward to this episode for the fact that it does take us deeper into the complexities of the story. As I have mentioned, it is not just a love story by any standard. It is very complex and involved with the politics, the mysteries and the intrigues of the time period.  Diana spent a great deal of time detailing the politics and the intrigues of the period and I am not sure how they will manage to present all of it.  If you  have spent far too much time dreaming and drooling over Jamie during previous episodes and missed some of the dialogue, I would highly suggest that you start paying close attention to the ongoing dialogue because I think that it is coming to the point where you need to pay very close attention to all of what’s going on. The issue of the Standing Stones and getting back to them begins to take a lesser role as Claire becomes much more involved in the coming war and the MacKenzie’s part in it.  It is here, too, I think that her decisions, whether good or bad… and she certainly does make her share of bad ones, just as Jamie and everyone else does along the way… her decisions begin to seriously affect others and she starts to realize that it isn’t just about her, or her desire to get back to the stones any longer. This is definitely where the true story starts, in my opinion anyway!

 

 

 

OUT_106-20140414-ND_0524.jpg Outlander 2014 OUT_106-20140414-ND_0187.jpg

 

If you have not read the books, are not all that much of a deep history buff, I am thinking that some of the upcoming events may cause you a bit of confusion… I will be the first to admit that much of my time reading the books was spent googling various events mentioned throughout the books!

I will help you out with that and provide a few quick links here if you are interested in some very basic history on the events!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacobite_risings

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacobite_rising_of_1715

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacobite_rising_of_1745

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Culloden

 

Some other history of note which did show up in last week’s episode involved the “Black Watch” here is a brief history of them during the time period from the early Jacobit risings in 1715 through the 1740’s.

 

History

Early history

After the Jacobite rising of 1715 the British government did not have the resources or manpower to keep a standing army in the Scottish Highlands. As a result, they were forced to keep order by recruiting men from local Highland clans that had been loyal to the Whigs. This proved to be unsuccessful in deterring crime, especially cattle rustling. Therefore Independent Highland Companies (of what would be known as the “Black Watch”) were raised as a militia in 1725 by General George Wade to keep “watch” for crime. He was commissioned to build a network of roads to help in the task.  The six Independent Highland Companies were recruited from local clans, with one company coming from Clan Munro, one from Clan Fraser, one from Clan Grant and three from Clan Cambell. These companies were commonly known as Am Freiceada Dubh, or the Black Watch, this name may well have been due to the way they dressed.[4] Four more companies were added in 1739 to make a total of ten Independent Highland Companies.

The ten Independent Highland Companies of “Black Watch” were officially formed into the “43rd Highland Regiment of Foot”, a regiment of the line in 1739.   It was first mustered in 1740, at Aberfeldy, Scotland. The Colonel was John Lindsay, 20th Earl of Crawford and the Lieutenant-Colonel was Sir Robert Munro, 6th Baronet. Among the Captains were his next brother, George Munro, 1st of   Culcairn (also a Captain of an Independent Company raised in 1745)  The other Captains of the 43rd were George Grant, Colin Campbell of Monzie, James Colquhoun of Luss, John Campbell of Carrick, Collin Campbell of Balliemore and Dougal Campbell of Craignish.

First action and Mutiny

The regiment’s earliest days were inauspicious: ordered to London in 1743 for an inspection by King George II, rumours flew that they were to be shipped to the West Indies to fight in the War of Austrian Succession, and many left for Scotland. They were recaptured, three of the leaders shot in the Tower of London, and the remainder of the regiment shipped to Flanders.

The regiment’s first full combat was the disastrous Battle of Fontenoy in Flanders in 1745, where they surprised the French with their ferocity, and greatly impressed their commander, the Duke of Cumberland. Allowed “their own way of fighting”, each time they received the French fire Col. Sir Robert Munro ordered his men to “clap to the ground” while he himself, because of his corpulence, stood alone with the colours behind him. For the first time in a European battle they introduced an infantry tactic (alternately firing and taking cover) that was not superseded. Springing up and closing with the enemy, they several times drove them back, and finished with a successful rear-guard action against French cavalry. Robert Munro’s cousin John Munro, 4th of Newmore also fought bravely and was afterwards promoted to be a lieutenant-colonel.

When the Jacobite rising of 1745 broke out, the regiment returned to the south of Britain in anticipation of a possible French invasion. However one company of the regiment fought for the British-Hanoverian Government under Dugald Campbell of Auchrossan at the Battle of Culloden, where they suffered no casualties.   From 1747 to 1756 they were stationed in Ireland and then were sent to New York.

 

 

 

Outlander 2014 OUT_105-20140404-EM_0744.jpg

Ahhhh now, for one last thought…. well, alright- a couple of last thoughts for the day! Some have debated on the discussion of how while Jamie Fraser is indeed a fine young Scotsman, and wears his kilt so well, he is a wee bit young for many of us? Yes, we could always give our praises and other favors to Dougal MacKenzie instead but that is such an iffy compromise being that Geilles will be our competition… In this line of thinking, I must remind you all that before Jamie, there were other drool worthy, kilt wearing representations for us to dream about and drool over? And, at the same time, giving us a bit of a history lesson just to assure ourselves and others that we were watching for the historical content?

 

I am not endorsing this first representative but I do realize that many found him drool worthy at the time and it was a Scots story so I feel that I must include it in your history lesson?  He did wear his kilt such as it was rather well and he told a good story.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braveheart

braveheart Braveheart_portrait_w858 braveheart-mel

 

Now, my own personal favorite, which I give glowing endorsement to along with any other favors he would accept?  If you have never seen this movie, you should! Besides the history lesson, you can enjoy seeing Liam Neeson and others wear their kilts extremely well… and not wear them at all?! One note… I could not find it on Netflix but had to go to Amazon and rent it… it was well worth the money!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Roy_(1995_film)

 

Ahhhh Just had to add this! Celtic Archives posted this debate a while ago: http://wildeyedsoutherncelt.com/tag/celts/    Rob Roy versus Jamie Fraser, who wears the kilt best?

Liam as Rob Roy Rob roy2 rob_roy rob_roy_13 robroy_large rob-roy-09-g

rob-roy rob roy 2

 

Now, for one last bit of eye worthy history watching… This one has nothing to do with the Scots wearing their kilts well, but my daughter made this observation recently and I do have to agree with her. In later books, mainly the last one, My Own Heart’s Blood, one of the characters comes into his own.  He’s been one of my favorites since he was introduced and I was happy to see more time devoted to his story! Jamie’s nephew, Ian travels to America with Jamie and Claire and his life is shaped by the time he spends living with the Indians. My daughter was watching the Last of the Mohicans one night and commented on she always had that image of Ian, especially with Diana Gabaldon’s references to the book and some of the characters in that book.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_of_the_Mohicans

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_of_the_Mohicans_(1992_film)

the-last-of-the-mohicans-original Daniel Day Lewis first American hero

 

And, that concludes our musings, our history lessons and our drooling for the day! Now, go off and prepare yourselves for tomorrow’s episode!