Scotland: Beyond the Castles and Distilleries

Last entry for 2012. I have been too long “in a bad place” but am coming out of it and will do my best to be a more reliable blogger. Even whilst not blogging I was maintaining a list of subjects about which to write. I hope you will return next year and read the posts.

Meanwhile:

This past September (2012) I led a six week discussion at the local community center. The title was “Scotland: Beyond the Castles and Distilleries” and that was chosen because during my 2009/2010 Hogmanay trip I was told “it is so nice to meet an American to whom Scotland is more than castles ….”

The intent was to present a vision of Scotland based on my visits and readings, as well as learn about the interests of the attendees. Sadly it was sparsely attended but, regardless, we still had fun and I am confident I presented information not typically encountered during a course about Scotland. The course is supposed to be offered again next month but we shall see what happens, eh?

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Tha seo inntinneach, nach eil? [This is interesting, isn't it?]

Not long after posting about the Stone of Destiny in Islay, I stumbled across a similar statement of belief on the Secret Scotland Blog. The entire entry is worth reading, and at the end is the reference to the Stone. I sent a message to Secret Scotland, asking about the story, and received this response from Mike: “My grandmother, long since passed away, told me the story. She was a MacDonald of Clanranald, a family connected to the Lordship of the Isles.” As I said “Tha i inntinneach, nach eil?”

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An Lia Fàil [The Stone of Destiny] A bheil e ann an Ìle? [Is it in Islay?]

We all know the story of Edward Longshanks stealing the Stone of Scone/Destiny and taking it to England. If you don’t, you should. If you do, you might know what is believed to be the story.

I’ve been reading The Story of Scotland by Nigel Tranter, and in that book he presents his theory/belief the stone was given to Aonghas Og, the Lord of the Isles (or Islay), to prevent its being taken by the auld enemy.

I must confess to be unaware of this viewpoint but it seems he is not alone in that belief. Here is a link to a Wiki (the source of all knowledge ;-) ) article discussing the Westminster Stone Theory. According to the theory, the stone was probably hidden on an Eilean Sgitheanach (the Isle of Skye).

Personally, with no evidence to support my belief, I like to imagine the stone was taken to the powerbase of the Lord: Finlaggan!!! If it’s there, I wonder how close I was when I visited in May of 2009, and again in May of 2010?

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Car hire, picked up at GLA, manual transmission !!!

It’s been a while since I posted to OorAlbaBlog, and for that I am sorry. However, my situation has changed and hopefully, prayerfully, that will encourage me to be more disciplined in my blogging.

As readers know, we in the USA drive on the wrong side of the road. The steering wheel is also on the wrong side. Still, we have adapted. When we (J and I) were last in Scotland, which was too long ago (2010)and we miss her and our friends terribly, we hired a car from GLA (Glasgow Internation Airport) that I was to pickup. From there I would drive the auto back to the home of Pastor Marshall Cross (of New Hope Church), in Wishaw, and his wife Michelle. Pastor Cross was kind enough to convey me to the airport and wait while I conducted business at the care hire kiosk.

When it was my turn in the queue, I asked if the auto was an automatic transmission. I was told, politely, “No sir, it’s a manual, just as specified in the contract. You did not request an automatic transmission.” My response was “Well won’t that be interesting.” “Have you never driven a manual transmission, sir?” I was asked. “Yes”, I replied, “but it’s been a few years and it was never on the left side of the road, while sitting on the right side of the vehicle, and shifting with my left hand.”

There were no other vehicles available so I completed the paperwork, went outside and explained the situation to Pastor Cross. I pleaded with him to avoid hills if at all possible during the drive back to his home. Not being familiar with the area I am unsure to this day if the route was a short cut of any sort, or the long way around, but we made it back with no incidents.

The next day my wife and I set out to drive to Tarbert, via Helensburgh. There we stayed overnight in caravan (arranged by Iris and Graham Terry, proprietors of Bluebell Cottage) prior to taking the CalMac ferry to Islay the next morning.

Jacqueline has told me I did a fine job of driving. What I remember is how mentally demanding it was to pay attention to the driving rather than the beautiful scenery. It’s a wonder we did not end up in Loch Long as we drove along the A814 which seemed not much wider than our wee car. Here’s a link to a short Youtube Video of Arrochar, which we passed through just before turning onto the A83.

Until next post, SLÀINTE.

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A bheil Gàidhlig agaibh.

Tha, beagan !!!

Interpretation: Do you speak Gaelic? Yes, a little.

Actually, in Gàidhealtachd (Gaeldom), because the language is not separate from their culture, they refer to “having the Gaelic” rather than “speaking the Gaelic”. Therefore, the question “a bheil Gàidhlig agaibh” rather literally means “The Gaelic at you” or “Do you have Gaelic?” Another interesting bit is that the words themselves, rather than a voice inflection, indicate declarative, or inquiry.

A few weeks ago I began a journey that, unless I am greatly blessed and exceed expectations, will take 4 years; studying Gaelic at Acadamaigh Gàidhlig an Atlantaig. It is my dream/goal to live on one of the Hebrides in a Gàidhlig community.

Eventually I will be able to read the Gaelic Bible that I own, sent to me by Eaglais Chaluim Chille, (St Columba Church) in Glaschu. Glè mhath !!! Here is a link to their facebook page. Sadly, I do not believe the church has a website.

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The final days of The Notebook

The following were originally two separate e-mails to friends/family but in the interest of closing this out, I posted them together; with some editing for clarity. I hope you enjoy reading them, and please leave a comment.

Starting at Jul 25th …

Trips to Ayr, Gourock, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and other places she has been. Usually to visit. But sometimes to shop.

On July 25th she tried to travel to Loch Lomond but missed the train by 10 min. So, headed to Gourock and “saw the fleet” including the HMS Illustrious (an aircraft carrier) that she described as “marvellous”.

July 30 back to Dun Eideann for the day with Mary where they “had our first good cup of coffee in a restaurant.” I must say that I prefer strong coffee and much of the coffee I’ve had in Scotland was rather on the weak side.

This day’s entry also mentions meeting Peggy Bell at the Waverly Steps to go to … with her for a few days. But I cannot determine the name of the place. It looks like reflall but it’s not capitalized and google searches, map examination in the area of North Berwick, where she spent the next day, are not shedding any light on the destination.

Jul 31 spent the day at North Berwick

Aug 1 to Broxburn to shop with Peggy then boarded a bus for Davie’s at 9:30

Aug 2 visit cousin Joe Robson in Ruchill. It appears
Ruchill is a community in Glaschu. Joe and his wife, Sophie, had a son named Jim who was serving in the RAF and stationed in Canada.

Aug 3 went with Archie and family to visit their Aunt Minnie in Rutherglen (I can “hear” in my mind the voice on the trains I took telling passengers the train made a stop at Rutherglen)

August 4th tried again for Loch Lomond but no busses; bank holiday !!!

Aug 5th .. FINALLY made it to Loch Lomond via train but missed the return train so had to take a bus. Saw lots of bomb damage at Clydebank (ship building area).

Aug 6th ,,, Glasgow again, another movie !!!

August 7 – Aug 13 were the last few days of Gram’s trip. I felt a sense of sadness reading them, remembering how I felt when it was time to leave. The difference being that Gram seemed eager to return to “the dear old U.S.A.” Except for Jacqueline, and The Ghillie (who I can hear slurping water from his bowl) there is nothing here so dear I feel a need to return. On the other hand, Gram was seeing a Scotland still very much effected by WW II.

Aug 7

Gram and Rhoda travelled to Largs .

Aug 8

Uptown with Ida, got “Mr Wileys” (?) birth certificate. Mary arrived from England.

Aug 9

Travelled to American Consulate, in Glasgow, with Mary, and Elsie, but it was closed. Went to Cook’s Travel Agency to “see about Elsie’s coming to America.”

Aug 10

Went to church, with Davie, and heard a sermon by Rev Angus Gray from Inverary. I found the following when I googled for his name. It is excerpted from

*The Gaelic Place names of Glen Aray + Inverary:*

The Historical and Linguistic background

The death of Gaelic has meant that there is longer any need for a minister to preach in that language. In 1929, the Free Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland were united after nearly 90 years apart, and this meant great changes in the parish of Glen Aray and Inverary. The Gaelic charge had been vacant for some years by this time, and the 2 ministers who were in the town demitted their charge, and 1 minister took over the united charge. This was the Rev Angus Grey and under him, Gaelic services continued on a regular basis. He was translated to St James, Edinburgh in 1949. His successor was the Rev Donald MacKenzie, who has been the last Gaelic speaking minister of the parish to date. He was translated to the Barony Church, Auchterarder in 1966. He has been followed in the ministry by 3 ministers since then, the Rev David Kellas, the Rev Alexander Sommerville and most recently, by the Rev John MacQuilken.

Aug 11

“Flying trip” (quick?) to Glaschu, American Consulate, with Elsie. Was told there will be “no waiting for a British subject to get to America.” Left Coatbridge at 05:45 from Sunnyside Station. Seeing her off were Archie, Betty, Ellen, Rhoda, Elsie, Minnie. Davy, Isa and Mary accompanied her to Dun Eideann (Edinburgh). Many friends from Cowdenbeath saw her off to London at 9:30PM.

Aug 12

Arrived London 06:45. Room was not ready so they (she was apparently travelling with someone but does not name the person. Was it Mary?) were made comfortable in the lobby until the room was ready. Then it was nap-time.

Following the name was Madame Toussad’s Wax Museum (“it is wonderful”),
Regent’s Park , Albert Memorial, and Kennsington Gardens. She wrote “there has been a lot of bomb damage in this part of London.”

Aug 13 (her last day)

“Had a wonderful night’s sleep on an innerspring mattress.” Yes, she underlined the innerspring mattress !!!! Apparently that was quite a treat.

This was her last day. The flight “back to the dear old U.S.A.” was to leave at midnight. She wrote that she had “an awful long wait but there is still lots to be seen. Have to fill in the time.”

And with that sentence she ended The Notebook. There are other notes, such as addresses, etc. but no more narration. I have no doubt I will re-read her words over and over until it’s effectively memorized.

She left the USA on Jun 17, 1947 and returned Aug 13. What I would not give to be able to spend that much time in Scotland.

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More travel notes from the notebook kept by Gram

Between Jun 28th and Jul 24th, Gram travelled quite bit back and forth, visting and shopping and site seeing: Coatbridge, Ayr, Dunfermline (near Edinburgh), Edinburgh, Burntisland (near Edinburgh), Glasgow, Cowdenbeath (near Edinburgh). She seemed to rreeaallyy like movies and other events such as vaudeville. Or perhaps her hosts like them and dragged Gram to the shows?

Regardless, a few highlights, one of which required quite a bit of digging; thank God for google and a large map of Scotland.

Jul 1: two hours in a ration line with very little to show for the time.

Yikes, I have lots to show for less than half that time in a Hannaford.

Jul 3rd: Shopping in Glasgow. Did not buy. Not impressed by quality or price.

Jul 11: woke with a terrific headache but had her migraine pills.

I know what that’s like. Sorry to read she suffered from that affliction.

Jul 12: she mentioned being “shocked to hear about the accident involving Linda Lockridge” but provides no further information.

This next entry required a bit of googling, poring over the map, and knowledge of The Gaelic.

Jul 15: “started out early to go for a sail to Tinabrouch on the Marchoness of Graham”

A google for Marchoness of Graham revealed many pages about a vessel called the Marchioness of Graham. Here is a link to a video of her being launched. Marchioness of Graham launch. If you google for the name you can read much more information including Clyde steamers. I have sent an email to the webmaster, asking him to confirm the next bit of information.

I could not find a reference to a place called Tinabrouch or any of my creative variations of Grams writing. So, I researched the area that the Marchioness covered, sat in front of our wall-mounted 3ft x 4ft map of Alba (Scotland) and began a sweep in ever widening circles around Ayr looking for something that might have been Tinabrouch. Only about 15 miles from An Tairbeart where J and I have stayed during our trips to Islay, I found a place called Tighnabruaich I believe Tinabrouch is Gram’s Anglicized spelling of the Gaelic name. Perhaps she feared a descendant would never make any sense of Tighnabruaich? In any case, as I mentioned, I sent an email to the webmaster of the ‘steamer site” asking if Gram could indeed have sailed from Ayr (or nearby) to Tighnabruaich.

Jul 19: train to Dun Eideann (Edinburgh)

She disembarked (minding the gap when alighting from the train) at Waverly Station. Been there, done that. Very cool. She shopped on High Street seeking a set o’ the pipes. But the cost was too dear. She did purchase a sporran, glengarry and some books which she had shipped to Ellen (I assume Aunt Ellen?).

She even saw the Royal Family. Not that I am impressed but she certainly was. She also visited Princes Street Garden. I am not much on gardens but Princes Street Garden is stunning !!! I attached a picture that I took of the garden. Grass very green in May !!!

July 24: left Dun Eideann, headed back to Coatbridge.

Time for me to sign off. More to come.

Note: by the time I posted this to the blog, from my email, I received email from the webmaster (previously mentioned) who confirmed Gram could have taken the Marchioness to Tighnabruaich.

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Next few days of The Notebook

It turns out that Gram also stopped in Motherwell, and from there took a cab to Coatbridge. I am not sure why this was done; according to online information the Central Station was built early in the 1900s. Regardless, she took a cab from Motherwelll to Coatbridge, where she stayed with Davie on Manse Street(?). On the 23rd she received a letter from Grandpa Lane, which delighted her. Later she walked “downtown” and noted it looked very much the same, except for a movie house, The Odean, (still there) near the fountain.

On the 24th, “on the spur of the moment” she and Ida(?) traveled to Ayr to visit Aunt Mick(?), visited the Burns Cottage, and walk along the shore. Prior to leaving, they went downtown to the “food office” (ration board) to acquire her rations. Apparently she received quite a collection of items and was “very much envied”. While visiting, Mary/May?, who was still unmarried and living at home came in from work and exclaimed “oh gings, Susie Bryden”.

On the 26th she started out for Butlins Holiday Campand also found Dunduff Farm (now a B&B), which apparently Bob Howland was interested in. Finally, Culzean Castle was a destination but it was too late in the day so they headed back to Coatbridge, arriving at 11PM.

More to come.

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The Notebook. First impression(s).

This blog post is what I sent, via e-mail, to relatives after receiving the previously-mentioned journal kept by my maternal grandmother. I have italicized the text.

A few of you know about this but I wanted to share with all. A journal, kept in a notebook by Gram, has been sent to me by my Mom, via Doodle Mama, via Uncle Buddy. The entries begin on Jun 17, 1947, end Aug 12, 1947, and detail her return to Scotland (she left in 1925 … more than 20 years earlier) to visit when my Mom was a wee girl. I cannot find the words to accurately describe how I feel when I read her writing and what she was thinking about, where she was, what she did, etc. Initial thoughts and observations, some probably “meaningless” to anyone except me:

1. Her writing reminds me of mine; somewhat challenging to read. Of course the ink has faded somewhat over the past 60+ years.

2. She loved the United States, frequently referring to it as “good old” or similar.

3. On July 2, mid-sentence, she stopped using blue ink and began using black. Her penmanship seemed to slightly change as well.

4. On July 4th she visited “the old homestead”. Her entry reminds me of a sentence I read in a book called The Highland Clans;”Chaneil nith an seo man a bha e” (there is nothing here now as it was).

5. There were places/sites she wanted to see, and she did a lot of walking around and exploring in addition. I did the same during my visits.

6. She was on a train, with brother Dave, and saw two soldiers home on leave from India. They were headed to Motherwell; during my Dec 2009/Jan 2010 trip I spent a lot of time at the Motherwell train station. It holds a special place in my heart.

7. She did not mince words and wrote down some of the negative experiences, as well. Hard beds, bad food, paying 2 shillings for a magazine that turned out to be almost 1 year old (“was I mad”).

8. On Jun 20, 1947 the first sentence is a birthday greeting to my Mother.

Anywho, I shall end with that entry. If anyone cares, I’ll share more as I continue to read it.

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The Notebook

Some time ago, after my January 2011 entry, I was given a treasure I did not know existed. A journal kept by maternal grandmother, Susan Robson Bryden, when she returned to Scotland (via England) to visit between June 17, 1947 and August 13, 1947.

She had been away for more than 20 years. World War II had come and gone, but some of the places she saw still showed the signs of German bombing, and Scotland was still rationing food and clothing. According to page 176 of Scottish Customs: from the Cradle to the Grave, rationing was strictly enforced into the 1950s.

Grandma Bryden left Scotland a young woman. When she returned to visit she had 7children including my mother, the youngest. Mom turned 6 years old 3 days into my Gran’s visit; Grandma Bryden even wrote “Happy Birthday Honey” in the journal.

As I pored over the journal, trying to read her writing which is now more than 60 years old, some of the ink faded, I marvelled at the number of places she visited, or mentioned, that I have seen. I felt a sense of sadness at the places she visited that I had wanted to visit during my visits but for various reasons were never reached. Perhaps/definately next time.

It took me some time to read all of the journal, because some sentences needed re-reading, and more than once I “googled” for information about some of the places she visited. I even used what little of the Gaelic I possess in order to find a place she mentioned but she wrote its name in a sort of English.

Over the weeks I read the journal I sent my thoughts, via email, to relatives and friends who I thought might want to follow along. I have been encouraged to copy/paste my emails to this blog so that others can also read what I had to say. Therefore, the next few entries will be devoted to The Notebook. Then I’ll share another treasure, that I did know existed, I received from Scotland.

Until then, may the best you’ve ever seen be the worst you’ll ever know.

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