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Whithorn

And so on our journey through Dumfries and Galloway it was on to Whithorn.

Whithorn has an important place in Scottish history as it was the location of the first Christian Church in Scotland after St Ninian crossed over from Ireland in the year 397 or thereabouts and the ruins of the mediæval Whithorn Priory stand in the town.

Architecturally Whithorn is a typical small Scottish town with stone built houses. I wasn’t really expecting any Art Deco but it does pop up in unlikely places.

Charles Coid, Butcher:-
There is a hint of eastern influence to this but the date in the cartouche is 1934 – slap bang in deco times – the geometric surround to the proprietor’s name with its mosaic construction and the towered roof line give it the look.

Art Deco Style in Whithorn

What looks like an old Woolworths; now houses “The Whithorn Story”:-

Old Woolworths, Whithorn

Georgian house:-

Georgian House, Whithorn

Memorial plaque to George Dickie, “Jack Brent,” member of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War:-

Spanish Civil War Veteran Memorial, Whithorn

Pend leading to Whithorn Priory:-

Pend Leading to Whithorn Priory

The coat of arms above it is the Royal Arms of Scotland:-

Coat of Arms, Whithorn Pend

Priory side of pend:-

Pend in Whithorn, Priory Side

Shutters on pend windows:-

Shutters on Pend Windows, Whithorn

Independence by Alasdair Gray

An Argument for Home Rule.

Canongate, 2014, 130 p.

(This was published in 2014 in the run-up to the Scottish Independence Referendum as a companion piece to Gray’s earlier book Why Scots Should Rule Scotland. I bought it a year or so ago in a second-hand bookshop and took it along on our recent Baltic Cruise.)

 Independence cover

There are many differences between Scotland and the more southerly parts of the British Isles. The geology differs between Scotland and England and land usage is more problematic – one of the factors which led to the Romans withdrawing from what they called Caledonia to behind Hadrian’s Wall. Different attitudes to education (deriving from a desire in mediæval England to keep the lower orders in their place, whereas the Scots valued an educated populace especially after the Reformation in order that the people could read the Bible for themselves) persist to this day. Gray says, “When writer in residence at Glasgow University I was amused when a lecturer in English from Oxford or Cambridge told me, ‘It is amazing that someone of your background knows as much about literature as we do.’ Many Scots friends thought my learning considerable; none thought it strange I had it.” The prospect of a generally poorer standard of living due to agricultural factors led many Scots with a good education to venture abroad.

This book is not an argument that only “indigenous” Scots ought to be allowed to have positions of influence here. Gray is clear about the difference between what he calls settlers who wish to make their lives in Scotland and colonists who will sweep in (and out again) in order to promote their careers. He gives examples. Glasgow European Capital of Culture hired English administrators who did not organise any festivals or exhibitions featuring local or even Scottish authors or artists since they were mostly ignorant of anything good that had been made here. At least two such appointees announced they knew little about Scottish culture but “looked forward to learning about it.” Any such ignorance of English culture on the part of a Scottish administrator wishing to work in England would be laughable – and is difficult to imagine. Nor does Gray ignore the fact that many Scots did very well indeed out of the British Empire.

There is the occasional further barb, “one of those who were then reviled as middle men, and since Thatcher’s time have been praised as entrepeneurs“.

Gray’s argument is well set out but I doubt, in these times, it would convince any who are of an opposite persuasion.

Pedant’s corner:- CO2 (CO2.) “The warlike Irish kings left these monks in to promote their religion in peace” (no [first] “in”; or else, “left these monks in peace to practice their religion,”) Charles’ (Charles’s,) the Scots parliament accepted it and were denounced” (the Scots Parliament accepted it and was denounced,) Burns’ (Burns’s.) “The Jacobite invasion of England by a mainly Highland force, which hoped to succeed with English support, but finding they retreated back to Scotland” (but finding none they retreated.)

Alan Gilzean

So Alan Gilzean, whom Jimmy Greaves said was the greatest foootballer he had ever played with, has gone.

I never saw him play in the flesh, his time in Scotland being before I started watching football regularly and he was in any case in a different division to Dumbarton but he was a byword for accomplishment.

Before his move down south to Tottenham Hotspur Gilzean played for a great Dundee team, so great it won the championship of Scotland in 1962 and a year later reached the semi-finals of the European Cup. That was, of course, in the time when other Scottish clubs could compete almost on a level playing field with the two Glasgow giants. That success came in a remarkable 17 years when Hibernian (1948, 1951, 1952,) Aberdeen (1955,) (Hearts 1958, 1960,) Dundee (1962) and Kilmarnock (1965) became Scottish Champions. An incredible sequence: between the wars only Motherwell, in 1932, had broken the monopoly of Rangers and Celtic on the League Championship and subsequently only Aberdeen (1984, 1985) and Dundee United (1983) have performed the feat.

The power of money and the lucrative nature of European competition for the big two brought all that to an end. We’re unlikely to see anything like it again.

I’ve strayed somewhat from the point.

Gilzean was a great player, one whose movement on the pitch (from televisual evidence) was deceptively effortless looking, he seemed to glide over the ground in that way that only accomplished players manage to achieve. His scoring record isn’t too mean either; 169 in 190 games for Dundee, 93 in 343 for Spurs, 1 in 3 for the Scottish League and 12 in 22 for Scotland.

Alan John Gilzean: 22/10/1938 – 8/7/2018. So it goes.

Beating Them at Their Own Game

Scotland win by 6 runs

Scotland win by 6 runs.

Over England. In a form of cricket, a game which England invented, at which England are at present the best in the world.

(Well, not now. Now Scotland are surely unofficial World Number 1 in One Day International cricket.)

This is a stunning result, as far as I know the first win Scotland has had over England in any form of cricket.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. Cricket is not really alien to Scotland. There are many practitioners of the art throughout the country. (I was one myself once, playing not only for my school but also for Dumbarton Cricket Club way back in the day. Not in any great capacity; I was only really there to make up the numbers. My proud boast though is that I never scored a duck when batting for the club.)

But back in the nineteenth century Scottish cricket matches used to attract crowds in the 10,000s. J M Barrie (of Peter Pan fame) used to be a member of a travelling cricket side known as the Allahakberries. (Possibly not a name you could get away with these days.)

It’ll be a heady day or two until normal service is resumed.

Kemback Waterfall 1

This waterfall at Kemback is to the left of the Community Hall:-

Waterfall at Kemback

Kemback waterfall

Reverse View:-

Kemback Waterfall Reverse View

Video:-

Kemback Waterfall Video

Video reverse view. The building in the background is the Community Hall:-

Video of Waterfall at Kemback

The waterfall goes into a gully that goes underneath the road and into the Ceres Burn:-

Kemback waterfall

Video:-

Kemback Waterfall into Ceres Burn

Fortingall and the Fortingall Yew

This is a bridge on the road into Fortingall:-

Bridge at Fortingall

As well as some Arts and Crafts houses –

Fortingall Arts and Crafts

some with thatched roofs

Fortingall Arts and Crafts

– the village has this idiosyncratic building:-

A House in Fortingall

It also has a unique claim to fame. It is home to supposedly the oldest living thing in Europe, the Fortingall Yew, which can be seen to the left of the church in the link at the top of this post and here:-

The Fortingall Yew

The plaque informs us that The Tree Council designated this one of fifty Great British Trees, June 2002:-

Fortingall Yew and Plaque

Scotland 1-0 Spain

Women’s European Championship 2017, Stadium De Adelaarshorst, Deventer, 27/7/17.

Well, this is a familiar tale. Despite winning their last game against a team that made it to the second round, Scotland’s women footballers have been knocked out of the European Chmpionships.

I expect Spain to go on and win it now.

That’s if England don’t.

Bannockburn Monument, Ceres, Fife

Ceres is a village in central Fife.

The monument was erected on the six-hundredth anniversary of Scotland’s most famous victory in battle, at Bannockburn in 1314, to commemorate the men of Ceres who fought in it. It’s situated by the side of the “Bow Butts” as Ceres’s village green is called.

Ceres holds a Highland Games every year. It is said to have hosted a games every year since 1314 after Robert the Bruce granted permission in commemoration of the village men’s contribution to his victory.

Bannockburn Monument, Ceres:-

Bannockburn Monument, Ceres, Fife

Inscription:-

Bannockburn Monument, Ceres, Inscription

The Lighthouse Stevensons by Bella Bathurst

Harper Collins, 1999, 304 p, including i p preface, ii p acknowledgements, i p list of illustrations, viii p introduction

 The Lighthouse Stevensons cover

Had Robert Louis Stevenson not gained such fame as a writer his surname would now be more associated with – and more widely remembered for – the astonishing achievements of his immediate forefathers, beginning with his grandfather Robert, who under the auspices of the Northern Lighthouse Trust (Scotland’s lighthouse authority, which later became the Northern Lighthouse Board) were in total responsible for the building of no less than ninety-seven lighthouses round the Scottish coast.

The first lighthouses were built against no little opposition, rescue from shipwreck being seen as thwarting God’s will and prevention as a threat to the livelihoods of those who benefited from salvage – or were, indeed, active wreckers. The technical difficulties at some of the sites were enormous, the hazard only visible at high tide, their bed-rock virtually unworkable – or both. Nevertheless, Robert built the lighthouse at the infamous Bell Rock which threatened the entrances to the Firths of Forth and Tay and the passage of shipping up and down the east coast. His sons Alan, David and Thomas respectively built at the even more difficult Skerryvore, Muckle Flugga (occasionally swept by two hundred feet high waves) and Dhu Heartach. Before finally settling on a writing career RLS, Thomas’s son – known to the family as Louis – had a hand in the construction of that last.

Patriarch Robert was a hard taskmaster and his sons – especially Alan, whose leanings towards poetry Robert regarded as suspect – relatively reluctant lighthouse builders. Alan, never in good health, was later wracked with conscience over his insistence that the men at Skerryvore should work on the Sabbath. Bathurst says of this, “The God that Scotland believes in has always been unusually retributive, quick to punish and slow to forgive, making, particularly in His more zealous, Calvinistic, manifestations a particular speciality of guilt. After his retirement Alan seems to have worshipped a uniquely Scottish God.” The lighthouse keepers were also subject to a strict code and inspection at any time (principally for untidiness indicating a general laxity and signs of, among other things, “hunnish practices.”) Very few let Robert down.

In the course of his duties Robert often travelled to London, to which he did not take. He was of the opinion that England had little except government to offer Scotland. (Perhaps coincidentally Trinity House – the lighthouse authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar – has frequently had a predatory eye on its northern counterpart.)

Bathurst incidentally sheds some light on the wider history of the Scotland of the time. Lighthouse construction gave employment in road building and the like for those affected by the Highland Clearances and the potato famine (not as devastating in Scotland partly due to government relief whose co-ordinator was the unforgettably named Sir Edward Pine Coffin.)

She also makes several asides on the peccadillos of the strange country in which these endeavours took place. “Scottish history was not generally taught to Scottish children until the 1960s” (I can attest that in some cases it did not come in till even later: apart from Iron Age brochs – safely distant in time and so not contentious – I was taught none at all; having to rely on my own background reading and absorption from the general culture) and “(Edinburgh) managed to sustain several wildly contradictory faiths: anti-Englishness and fervent Britishness; improvement and nostalgia; depression and vivacity” which is actually remarkably few contradictions for a Scottish town……

The Lighthouse Stevensons is an engrossing book on a fascinating subject. A fine tribute to all those who contributed to what even today would be daunting tasks.

Pedant’s corner:- Prince’s Street (Princes Street,) Secretary at War (Secretary of War?) canon ball (cannon,) copice (coppice,) row-boats (rowing boats,) throve (I prefer thrived,) “it was a simpler design that Winstanley’s” (than,) (John Rennie) was jointly responsible for widening the Clyde to allow for deeper hulled vessels (dredging and widening the navigable channel?) “a tangle of rocks….. with the sea beating against their sides” (against its sides,) stancheons (stanchions,) the only matter … were proceedings (was; or else, matters,) the next generation .. were appearing (was,) “holophotal meaning ‘whole light’ in Greek” (no; holophotal means ‘whole light’ in English,) “but here was no time” (there was,) supernumary (supernumerary,) “caught comprised” (compromised,) I can imagine what “hunnish practices” might mean but it isn’t spelled out (and the internet is surprisingly unenlightening on the subject.) “Then Thomas Smith began his work” (When Thomas Smith began,) the number of incidents have… (the number has.)

World Cup Draw

Hmmm. Interesting.

England, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta.

It’s tricky. Not as tricky as Group A though; or G. And it might have been better to be in Group B.

The England games will take care of themselves, I suppose, but we’ve come unstuck against Lithuania before.

We’ll just have to make the best of it.

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