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The True Price of Coal

For some reason we stopped in Loanhead, Midlothian, on our way back from Crichton Castle and Crichton Collegiate Kirk (see earlier posts.)

There we found this memorial “To the memory of those men who died in accidents at Bilston Glen Colliery during its working life and to all others who lost their lives in mining accidents in the community of Loanhead.”

The True Price of Coal

Crichton Castle

The castle is in Midlothian, by the village of Crichton, which is itself near Pathhead on the A68.

The castle from the access path:-

Crichton Castle

Castle and stables from minor road across the valley:-

Crichton Castle

The stables (or they may have been a slaughterhouse or chapel) from the castle:-

Crichton Castle Stables

Closer view of stables:-

Crichton Castle Stables Close View

View through stables:-

Crichton Castle, View Through Stables

View to castle through stables:-

Crichton Castle, Through Stables

Unusual “pointy” internal wall of castle, apparently Italian influenced:-

Crichton Castle, Internal Wall

Internal detail on stonework:-

Crichton Castle, Internal Detail

More detail:-

Crichton Castle, More Internal Detail

The castle contains Scptland’s first scale-and-platt (ie modern style) staircase:-

Crichton Castle  stairs

Crannog Interior

More from the reconstructed crannog at the Scottish Crannog Centre on Loch Tay.

The animal pen. Yes they kept their livestock inside:-

Animal Pen, Reconstructed Crannog, Loch Tay

Bed (elevated):-

Bed, Reconstructed Crannog, Loch Tay

Drying crops:-

Drying crops, Reconstructed Crannog, Loch Tay


Reconstructed Crannog, Loch Tay, Looking Out

Part of interior, Reconstructed Crannog, Loch Tay

Entrance from inside:-

Reconstructed Crannog, Loch Tay, Looking Out

The Scottish Crannog Centre

When we visited here we thought it would be a short visit but they put on a talk describing neolithic life and giving demonstrations of various sorts including making fire so we ended up taking nearly two hours. Not the least of the interesting titbits was that apparently midges don’t come out over the water. Those neolithic folk weren’t daft!

Reconstructed crannog entrance:-

Reconstructed Crannog Entrance, Loch Tay

Crannog walkway, right:-

Crannog Walkway, Loch Tay

Crannog walkway, left:-

Walkway on Reconstructed Crannog, Loch Tay

Reconstructed crannog from lochside:-

Crannog on Loch Tay

It’s surprisingly spacious inside. Interior panorama:-

Interior Panorama, Loch Tay Reconstructed Crannog


Hearth, Reconstructed Crannog, Loch Tay

Roof centre:-

Roof Centre, Reconstructed Crannog, Loch Tay


A crannog is an artificial island (or the remains of one) usually built out onto a loch (but sometimes a river or estuary) and dating from Neolithic times.

At The Scottish Crannog Centre, which lies on the western shores of Loch Tay not far from Kenmore, it says there are at least seventeen remnants of crannogs on Loch Tay alone.

In this photo, taken from the foot of Loch Tay at Kenmore, you can see the wooded remains of a crannog in the middle of the loch to the left and (just about) the recontructed crannog at the Crannog Centre to its right:-

Crannog and Loch Tay from Kenmore 1

Here’s a closer view, reconstructed crannog off to right:-

Old and New Crannog from Kenmore

Closer still:-

Two Crannogs from Kenmore 3

A different angle:-

Crannog on Loch Tay Kenmore 2

The reconstructed crannog:-

Reconstructed Crannog from Kenmore 1

Another, larger, crannog on the opposite shores of Loch Tay taken from the location of the reconstructed one:-

Crannog on Loch Tay Kenmore 1

Woolworth’s British Shop Fronts

Thanks to Duncan for this one.

A short history with photographs of British Woolworth’s shop fronts, whose heyday was of course in the Art Deco 1930s.

As Duncan says, an old Woolies is almost instantly recognisable.

The Origins of Language

Via The Daily Galaxy I navigated to this interesting article arguing that neither our species, Homo Sapiens, nor indeed its sometime companion on the planet, Homo Neanderthalensis (which was not, as commonly believed, wiped out by us but subsumed, since Neanderthal DNA forms part of the modern human genome,) invented language. Rather, a predecessor of both species, Homo Erectus, deserves that accolade.

Lockerbie Garden of Remembrance

The memorial to those who died as a result of the blowing-up of Pan-Am Flight 103 lies in Lockerbie Cemetery.

Viewed from the cemetery:-

Lockerbie Garden of Remembrance

Remembrance plaque:-

Lockerbie, Garden of Remembrance Plaque

Garden of remembrance:-

Lockerbie, Garden of Remembrance

Closer view. The centre stone of the three in the middle ground is inscribed, “In remembrance of all victims of Lockerbie Air Disaster who died on 21st December 1988.”

Lockerbie,Garden of Remembrance, Closer View

Memorial Wall:-

Lockerbie, Garden of Remembrance Memorial Wall

Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway

Wigtown formerly in Wigtownshire and then Wigtown and Kircudbright and now Dumfries and Galloway is in deepest southwest Scotland.

Main Street looking south:-

Main Street, Wigtown

Main Street looking north, town hall to centre right:-

Main Street, Wigtown, Reverse View

Looking north past town hall, War Memorial in middle distance:-

Wigtown Street 3

Wigtown sells itself as Scotland’s book town, its Hay-on-Wye if you like. Unlike in Hay-on-Wye I actually bought a book. The bookseller was much taken when I told him the tale.

THE Bookshop:-

bookshop 1


The Scottish room:-

THE Bookshop, Wigtown

There are several shops selling books but not much else there apart from coffeshops and the like.

We took a walk down a path leading to the Martyr’s Stake.

In southeast Scotland they had a particularly innovative method of execution in those parts back in the day. Tying the victims to stakes and letting the tide rise to drown them. This is a memorial (now well away from the sea) to people martyred in such a way for their beliefs:-

Martyrs' Stake, Wigtown

The Golden Bough by James George Frazer

A Study in Magic and Religion.

Abridged Edition. Macmillan and Company, 1949, 759 p, including 42 p Index. Plus iii p Preface, vi p Contents. Abridged edition first published in 1922. One of the 100 best Scottish Books.

The Golden Bough cover

I would not have read this had it not been on the 100 Best Scottish Books list and also available from my local Council’s library service. Nevertheless it provided an interesting overview of its subjects. This abridged version – of 759 pages! – has been distilled down from no fewer than twelve volumes. The original must have been a prodigious feat of research and scholarship.

In his preface Frazer states the book’s primary aim was to explain the “remarkable rule which regulated the succession to the priesthood of Diana at Aricia”. His examination shows this rule was not in any way unusual as he presents countless examples of similar practices and expands his investigation into various religious rites from around the world which have a bearing on the matter.

He considers the evolution of human thought on the way in which the world works as a progression through magic into religion and then science, with both magic and science seeing a set of rules as governing natural phenomena (though belief in magic is of course misplaced) and religion as a case of the rules being alterable by the relevant deities who must therefore be propitiated or supplicated. What he calls “primitive” humans envisioned that similar objects could each be affected alike by treating one of them in a certain way and also that things that had been in contact thereafter somehow bore the essence of what they had touched; hence the belief in sympathetic magic. Magicians developed into priests when those who knew quite well that magic was ineffective took to faking its supposed effects. The power that priests enjoyed eventually mutated into kingship and the priestly functions became divorced from the ceremonial ones. The protection kings’ subjects enjoyed could only be provided by the king being strong hence arose the custom of their being replaced before their faculties eroded, either ritually or by combat. Out of all this came the actual (and later symbolic) killings of kings, their resurrections, and consumption of kings/gods in the form either of vegetable matter shaped in the desired way or of animals which embodied the god’s spirit.

Frazer provides numerous examples of customs from many cultures all of which he asserts point to a common origin or at least to common apprehensions of the same kind.

His frequent references to savages (Australian Aborigines for example) read distressingly to modern tastes. Indigenous peoples living with and respecting the land (and its spirits) are arguably less deserving of such a term than the colonialists who treated them and their ways of life as backward and disposable.

Our long journey through the ways and beliefs of the world via kings of the wood, sympathetic magic, magical control of the weather, magicians as kings, incarnate human gods, the worship of trees, taboos, myths of varying god(desses), sacrifices, corn-spirits, those consumptions of gods, scapegoating and fire-festivals seems to have for Frazer a crucial link in the tale of the Norse god Balder, killed by a sprig of mistletoe. The resemblance to the plucking of the Golden Bough with which the priest of Diana at Aricia was killed and replaced cannot be missed.

Despite the abridgement there are still longueurs and arguably too many examples of instances of the behaviours which Frazer discusses along with too frequent repetitions of the points he is making but this is still a remarkable survey of the practices with which humans have attempted to understand and to control the world.

Aside:- Frazer notes that in the north-east of Scotland the Beltane fires in which witches were symbolically burned were called bone-fires. Bone-fires such as these are indeed from where the modern term is derived. In his discussion of fire festivals Frazer notes people, especially children, going round the neighbourhood to collect items of wood and the like to be burned in the fire. He does not, however, mention the similar long-established Halloween custom in Scotland of guising (adapted in the US – and Canada? – to trick-or-treat) nor indeed the penny-for-the-guy collections which used to precede Bonfire Night, a festival which it strikes me must have been handily co-opted for secular (well, sectarian) purposes from the All Hallows Eve fire ceremonies he describes, albeit shifted by five days. The apparently non-religious purposes of these customs may be the reason for that omission. They certainly don’t relate as easily to the Golden Bough as others in the book.

Pedant’s corner:- There were several examples of usages which have since altered- wrapt (wrapped,) blent (blended,) Hindoostan, Hindoos, Hindoo Koosh (all now spelled Hindu, plus Kush) connexion (connection,) Hallow E’en (though Hallowe’en is used later,) deas-sail and dessil (deasil,) bark (barque.) Otherwise: “the reason why a clan revere a particular species” (why a clan reveres.)

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