Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Kelvin Grove at Crossraguel Abbey, alto flute





For those who missed it...Westering Home is out!  It is available on Amazon, Smashwords, and elsewhere in print or any ebook format.  A print copy can be ordered from any brick and mortar store.



An early reviewer says:

I consider the Blue Bells Chronicles to be the best fiction I have read in my life.  I include in that list C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov.....  The development of characters in her books reminds me of Tolstoy's work in Anna Karenina, but I think her work is better.  Her meticulous research reminds me of Elizabeth Kostova's work in The Swan Thieves, and The Historian, but Vosika's work in Scottish history is much better....  [Her] books are eminently readable, you can't put them down.  Her work has been compared to the present day Dana Gaboldon.....


The piece in the video is Kelvin Grove, played on alto flute at Crossraguel Abbey.  This abbey is in the Ayrshire area, in the southwest of Scotland, and was founded by Donnachadh, one of the earlier Earls of Carrick.  Students of Scottish history will know the more famous Earl of Carrick, the Bruce himself.


The name may refer to the Cross of Riaghail (St. Regulus) that once stood on the grounds.  It was a Cluniac Abbey, run by monks known as the black monks for the color of their robes.  Readers of the Blue Bells Chronicles will remember the black and gray friars of Carlisle--also named after the colors of their robes.


Crossraguel Abbey was sacked by the army of Edward I in 1307.   Given that he died at Burgh by Sands near the Solway Firth, looking into Scotland on July 7 of that year, Edward himself was presumably not there.  Or, at least, only in spirit.  How appropriate.


It's days as an abbey ended in 1560 with the Reformation, although the last monks were allowed to live out their lives there, the last dying in 1601.  However, the abbey lands were 'acquired' by the Kennedy family in 1565 by means of torturing Allan Stewart, Commendator of Crossraguel Abbey, until he 'agreed' to hand it over.  Funny what a little roasting over an open spit will convince a man of, and really, could there be a more honest way to acquire lands?


And so, today, Crossraguel is a beautiful ruin set on green lawns, where children visit and people play alto flutes to the glorious acoustics of the vaults that remain.



The song is Kelvin Grove.  It refers to an area northwest of Glasgow, where young people once liked to gather on summer afternoons.

Let us haste to Kelvin Grove, bonnie lassie o
Through its mazes let us rove, bonnie lassie o
Where the rose in all her pride
Paints the hollow dingle side
Where the midnight fairies glide, bonnie lassie o


And many more verses.....

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Foggy Dew





My goal with these videos is merely an interesting and different way to show a little of Scotland and its history.  The song here is The Foggy Dew, which is actually an Irish song.  The current words are about Ireland's Easter Rising in 1916, although the melody is quite a bit older, originally known as The Moorlough Shore, and was a love song, not a war ballad.

I digress.  I played the song here because its current lyrics reference the North Sea, and this is the Great North Sea behind me.  I'm at Thurso, Scotland, killing a bit of time before heading to the ferry to sail to Orkney, and this has a great deal to do with Scottish history, for it was the North Sea that the tragic Maid of Norway sailed, trying to reach Scotland to take the throne, and it was at Orkney that she died, only seven years old.

Margaret was Scotland's last hope.  In fact, some called her Obi Wan Ke-Margaret.  No....wait!  That's a different Obi Wan!  However, she was the last clear heir to the Scottish throne, when her grandfather, Alexander III of Scotland, died.  (And that in itself is a bit of a tragic love story.)  

Alexander ruled over Scotland's Golden Age.  All was well only a few short years before his death, in 1286.  He was still relatively young, had a wife and three children, including two sons.  However, in very short order, his wife, and all three children died, including his daughter Margaret, married to Eric, King of Norway.  The deaths of his sons left only Margaret, a very young child at the time, as the only heir.

And so, a medieval king does what a medieval king must do, and finds himself a bride, to get...or rather, beget...more heirs.  And so, he was racing home to his new bride, despite the storm, despite the pleas of his councilors, despite the prophecy of Thomas the Rhymer that this would be very bad news for Scotland.  The ferryman pleaded with him not to make the crossing that night.

I can only imagine that Alexander felt a little smug toward the ferryman when they landed safely on the other side.  Sadly, however, the ferry crossing was not the problem.  Alexander took his horse off into the dark and stormy night, still looking forward to Yolande, but somewhere in the dark, the horse slipped.  Alexander was found dead with a broken neck.  It was March 19, 1286.  He was 44 years old.

There was some question as to whether Yolande, Queen of Scotland, was already pregnant.  Stories vary, some claiming she faked pregnancy while others state that she had a miscarriage, or even a stillbirth, with witnesses in attendance who verified this.

Regardless, Margaret, just short of her fourth birthday when her grandfather died, became the heir on the 25th of November, 1286, the date that some sources say Yolande's child was stillborn.

However....this will hardly be a surprise to anyone who knows Scottish history...there arose inter-clan fighting, including between Baliol and Bruce, the Bruce capturing strongholds in the name of Margaret, Maid of Norway.  

And yet, apparently, none of the Scots summoned Margaret to Scotland.  It was her father, King Eric, who raised the question.  In addition, he was discussing with Edward I, Hammer of the Scots, her future marriage to his son, Edward II, Prince of Wales.  Being her father, this was something over which the Guardians of Scotland had no control.

Thus, it was in their interests, finally, to sign the Treaty of Salisbury, agreeing that she would arrive in Scotland before November 1, 1290, and delaying official decisions about her marriage until she arrived in Scotland.

So the seven-year-old Margaret was put on a boat to cross the North Sea.  However, she became ill, and they landed at Orkney.  There, she died, leaving Scotland with no heir.

And the rest...is history.







Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wild Mountain Thyme at Smailholm Castle





Years ago, my favorite childhood novel was In the Keep of Time, by Margaret J. Anderson.  So it was a thrill, this past summer on my third research trip to Scotland, to finally be able to get to Smailholm Tower.  The inside has been refurbished since the days Margaret knew it, and hence is very different now from what she described.  But I could still see it all.  I could still find the face carved on the fireplace frame, just as she described it.



In my on-going quest to play Scottish folk songs at Scottish locales, here I am playing Wild Mountain Thyme, one of my favorite songs, as befits the setting of one of my favorite books.