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Shrewsbury

The game at Oswestry not being till the evening we took ourselves off to Shrewsbury on the Saturday afternoon. (I’ve already mentioned Shrewsbury Abbey in a 4/11/2018 post about Wilfred Owen’s Memorial in the Abbey Grounds.)

Since we didn’t know the town we stopped at the first Park and Ride and availed ourselves of the service. That was just as well because the traffic was very busy and the streets quite narrow.

We also asked someone if the pronunciation was “Shrew”- or “Shrow”- sbury and were told it didn’t matter, either would do.

The town’s history is clearly evident in its buildings, with several in the timber-framed Tudor style:-

Shrewsbury Buildings

Shrewsbury buildings

Shrewsbury buildings

Shrewsbury Tudor building

Shrewsbury Building

Older Penrith

Penrith, Cumbria, is remote enough from major population centres to have retained some elements of ye good olde days.

Just look at this Drapers, Costumiers and Milliners. Not to mention Furriers, Dressmakers, Shirt Specialists:-

Old Style Shop Lettering, Penrith

And Carpet, Curtain and Linoleum Furnishing Warehouse:-

Penrith Old Style Shop Lettering

A High Class Drapers no less – and a Silk Mercers, Hosiers and Glovers, Irish Household and Fancy Linen Warehouse:-

Old Style  shop

A real throw-back. Not that most of those trade lines will still be ongoing I’d have thought.

You can see from this the shop front faces on to a square of sorts:-

Old Style  shop front

A bit further on in the town lies this Chemist’s. Cowper’s. 1930s style lettering. I can’t quite decide if the whole is deco or not:-

Cowper Chemist's, Penrith

In St Andrew’s Churchyard lie a good many graves, including the “Giant’s Tombstone”. This is supposedly the grave of Owen Caesarius, king of Cumbria between 900 and 937 AD:-

Giant's Tombstone

Giant’s grave stones:-

Giant's Grave Stones

Giant’s Tombstone in Penrith, Viking hogback stones:-

Giant's Tombstone

Exhibits, Discovery Point, Dundee

In the Discovery Point Museum at Dundee are many fascinating exhibits. These few photos feature some about the ship itself.

Model of RRS Discovery:-

Model of RRS Discovery, Dundee

Cut away showing engines:-

RRS Discovery, Dundee, Cut Away Model

Cut away showing hull construction and its reinforcing:-

Cut Away Model of RRS Discovery, Dundee

Hull construction illustration. Three different woods, Green Heart Pitch Pine, English Oak and Riga Fir, build for strength and flexibility:-

Structure of wooden sailing ships

RRS Discovery, Dundee

RRS Discovery was Scott’s and Shackleton’s research ship in the Antarctic, now berthed at Dundee, centrepiece of a museum at Discovery Point, Dundee. New V&A in background:-

Discovery and V&A 2

RRS Discovery viewed from left:-

RRS Discovery, Dundee

RRS Discovery, bow section:-

RRS Discovery bow part

Stern portion. Again V&A in background:-

Stern Part, RRS Discovery, Dundee

Main mast:-

Main Mast, RRS Discovery, Dundee

Mast, RRS Discovery, Dundee

Mast and lifeboat:-

Mast & lifeboat

Fife Pilgrim Way

A project to resurrect the mediæval Fife Pilgrim Way is now well in hand.

There were two main routes across the county (or kingdom as the locals still refer to it at times,) starting at Culross and North Queensferry and ending up at St Andrews.

The ancient route went through the nearest small town to Son of the Rock Cottage, Markinch, the ancient capital of Fife.

There are some hopes the restored route(s) will bring modern day pilgrims (and other tourists) to the town.

A year or so ago there was an information day about the Pilgrim Way at St Drostan’s church. On display were several representations of monastic and pilgrim life, rendered in knitwear.

Trees and pilgrims:-

Knitted Trees and Pilgrims

Church:-

Knitted Church

Monks:-

Knitted  Monks

Monks’ garden:-

Knitted Garden

Monastery vegetable patch:-

Knitted Vegetable Patch

St Drostan’s, Markinch

Markinch is the nearest small town to Son of the Rock Cottage. It was once the capital of Fife where in mediaeval times justice was administered. Its most prominent landmark is St Drostan’s Church whose tower dates back to the 12th century.

St Drostan’s in the snow:-

St Drostan's in the snow

St Drostan’s from Glass Street:-

Markinch Kirk

Rhu Churchyard

Rhu Churchyard contains several graves of historical note.

It contains the grave of the father of steam navigation, Henry Bell.

Henry Bell Grave, Rhu

As befits his historical importance the memorial incorporates a statue of Bell in a seated position.

Then there is the grave of John Motion, late Sgt Major of the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders, one of ‘The Thin Red Line‘ at the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War.

Detail:-

War Inscription, Rhu Graveyard

And this grave, “Erected by the Officers and ex-Officers 1st Dunbartonshire Rifle Volunteers in memory of Col Henry Currie, late commandant 1st Dunbartonshire Rifle Volunteers and formerly of the 24th and 79th Highlanders. Died at Helensburgh 17th March 1899 aged 54 years”:-

Unusual Commemorative Stone, Rhu churchyard

Jedburgh

Jedburgh isn’t just worth visiting for the Abbey. There are some other interesting buildings in the town.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get far enough away to frame all of Bridewell Jail – now the Sheriif Court House.

Lower portion of Bridewell jail. Pity about hte traffic cones:-

Jedburgh Jail

Bridewell Jail Tower:-

Jedburgh Jail Tower

Here’s an interesting feature; vertical sundials on a house wall:-

Jedburgh, Vertical Sundials

Jedburgh has a Jacobite connection. This plaque lets us know Bonnie Prince Charlie woz ‘ere.

Jedburgh, Jacobite Connection

That lad got everywhere.

So too it seems did Mary Queen of Scots. This is her house in Jedburgh:-

Queen Mary's House, Jedburgh

We hadn’t known this was there till we walked past a sign post for it it on the way from the car park to the Abbey. It’s well worth a look outside and inside.

Son of the Morning Star by Evan S Connell

General Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Pavilion Books (Michael Joseph), 1985, 447 p.

Son of the Morning Star cover

This book does what it says on the (subtitle of the) tin. It is an account of the fatal (to Custer’s Seventh Cavalry troop) encounter at the Little Bighorn. I say encounter, as to describe an engagement involving so few combatants on the one side as a battle is stretching things a bit. Compared to those of the US Civil War in the previous decade and of the century following it was really only a firefight. Account is also misleading. Along with everyone else Connell does not really know exactly what happened. None of Custer’s troops survived, the Native Americans who fought them did not know till later it was Custer attacking their camps and their recollections are beset by translation difficulties and their custom of noticing those things which made sense to them rather than to historians from outwith their culture.

The narrative begins a little oddly, with a description of the engagement’s aftermath, specifically of Major Reno’s and Captain Benteen’s commands whom Custer had detached from his own to attempt a pincer movement. Here is a first indicator of the range of Connell’s project. He goes into details of both these officers’ lives – before and after the Little Bighorn – and when referred to gives us biographies of all the notable characters who had anything to do with the events of that day (and even of some of those who didn’t.) All interesting stuff, but leading to a certain lack of focus.

Custer’s misjudgement in attacking a force of whose size he was unaware was not a one-off. He had acted similarly in the Civil War, where his tendency to charge at anything without adequate reconnaissance and (not) think later became almost a trademark (and he got away with this against Indians at the Battle of the Washita, gaining his unearned reputation as an Indian fighter.) But then, what else is to be expected of a man who graduated twenty-fourth out of twenty four in his year at West Point, with the most demerits of any such student to that time? Indeed his rise in the ranks during the Civil War could be said to be without trace as none of the actions in which he was involved (not that they are explored in great detail in the text) indicated any intrinsic military ability. But they did catch the eye of his superiors.

In an interesting aside Connell states that any photographs said to be of Crazy Horse are most likely of someone else. He would apparently sit for paintings but felt a photograph would steal something from him and refused to have his picture taken. Also, one observer noted he lacked the usual high cheekbones of the North American Indian and had a pale skin colour. Connell does not suggest this but that seems to me to imply he could have been of white ancestry, though brought up as a Cheyenne.

There are no fewer than thirteen pages of bibliography – in smallish print – in this book (and only three for the index.)

So what makes Custer’s story endure? Why has so much been written about it? The Little Bighorn was not the greatest defeat suffered by US soldiers at the hands of Indians. So why is it remembered? The text quotes a Professor Rosenburg* as saying, “Custer meeting death at the Little Bighorn descends to some impalpable region of the American psyche.” This is perhaps the nub. The legend persists of a lone survivor – dog, or horse – and that at the climactic moment Custer “must have flowing locks”. He didn’t; his hair had been cut before the expedition set out – for practical reasons. And too, “Reaction throughout the country was no different in 1876 than it is today on receipt of similar news: shock, followed by disbelief, fury, and a slavering appetite for revenge.”

Then there are the numerous representations of the battle on canvas and, later, film, so that “Custer’s last stand remains an inviolate myth.” According to Walt Whitman, there is “nothing in the books like” John Mulvany’s painting of the battle, “nothing in Homer, nothing in Shakespeare; more grim and sublime than either, all native, all our own, and all a fact.”

And all for what? Canada had no Indian problem – mainly due to the fact that the Canadian government kept its word. It wasn’t the Indians who broke treaties. Custer’s fate was sealed as soon as the presence of gold was confirmed in the Black Hills of Dakota. Nothing could then have stopped the influx of prospectors and the inevitable protection they demanded from the US government in the name of progress.

But even then it could perhaps have been avoided. Feather Earring in 1919 told General H L Scott, “‘If Custer had come up and talked with us, we had all agreed we would have surrendered and gone with him,’ if he had approached diplomatically the Indians would have gone back to the reservation. General Scott observed that such a method of dealing with the hostiles had not occurred to anybody.”

Pedant’s corner:- *Is this the Bruce A Rosenberg of the bibliography, author of Custer and the Epic of Defeat? Otherwise; Sturgis’ (Sturgis’s: the possessives of all names in the text ending in “s” are rendered similarly,) teepees (tepees,) diety (deity,) Macawber (Micawber,) idyls (idylls,) witnesss (witness,) Congressional stationary (stationery,) as to “knobby days”, and “whiffenpoof” I can’t find a definition.

Battlefield Monument, Langside, Glasgow

The monument, now in the middle of a roundabout, was designed by one of the good lady’s collateral ancestors, Alexander Skirving, and commemorates the Battle of Langside, site of the last defeat in Scotland of Mary Queen of Scots, and is somewhat at odds with its modern surroundings.

From east:-

Battlefield Monument from East

From south:-

Battlefield Monument from South

From west:-

Battlefield Monument From West

Battlefield Monument plaque:-

Battlefield Monument Plaque

Planter at monument’s foot:-

Battlefield Monument Planter

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