Thursday, 30 September 2010

Earlier - in 2008

Today's dip into my photographic archive comes from early in 2008 - looking back at them I can't possibly believe that it's two and a half years already. We'll start with a quick trip to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh which you can't go and visit for a year or two yet because it's closed for refurbishment. In the hall and around the main staircase is a wonderful frieze by William Hole, painted in 1898, of scenes from Scottish history. I remember them being a feature of a history book I had when I was at primary school.

St Columba converts the Picts

A door into the Battle of Bannockburn

Saint Margaret arrives in Scotland

The Battle of Largs

Some strange goings on in Glasgow

I've no idea either???

Much of that time was spent driving about the area with Bev and the following few items we managed to knotch up in a particularly busy weekend. This drystone ball, for want of a better description was found half way up Queensbury hill (the highest hill in Dumfriesshire). I think we'd been to the top before this picture so really it's half way down.

A siamese fish from Hawick museum.

Langholm, where I lived during my secondry school days, has two famous sons - Thomas Telford, who built a bridge in the town and has a street named after him and Hugh Macdermid (or Christopher Murry Grieve as his parents called him) who was one of the giants of 20th century Scottish poetry, writing in an almost unreadable scottish tongue. He very much split opinion in the town so some time after I left they put a monument up to him which also split opinion somewhat. Actually, I quite like it - you'll find it hidden round the back of one of the local hills, quite out of view from the town.

Miss B grabs a quick snap

Our local make of cow - the belted Galloway

Fuelling up to type up another monster blog

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Hoa Hakananai'a - our hidden friend

Here I am at sea where nothing of any great interest happens. That’s the way I like it – interesting things happening at work are seldom good (with the very occasional occasion of dolphins and whales) nor are they really very interesting. Interesting or not, I should imagine that my employer might be interested if he found out and I might have the terms of my contract examined. Never mind, it so happens that I have a pile of old photos out with me so why not a few odds and ends from the archives.

The lab internet has been working particularly well since I came on board, not only enabling me to post blogs but it’s also working well enough for me to listen to the radio in the BBC listen again service, so for the last few days I’ve been catching up with The History of the World  in 100 Objects - a superb collection of 15 minute programs which complement a chemist’s labours excellently but I would just as easily recommend them with a cup of tea and a couple of digestive biscuits. The objects are all from the British Museum, which is a rather marvellous place and well worth dropping into if you’re out that way . One of those objects featured in the programs I listened to today was the Easter Island statue  (or Moai) known as Hoa Hakananai'a which can be translated as  hidden friend. I saw him the very first time I was in the Museum in 2006 on a very footsore day.

He is around 4 tons of the most memorable basalt you’re likely to come across (one of 16 Easter island statues made form basalt – the rest are made from softer stone) and thought to have been made around 1000AD and would originally have stood on a stone platform at the edge of the island with his back to the sea. He had inset eyes of coral or obsidian and was painted red and white, but this washed off in the sea when he left the island. He was probably carved to commemorate ancestors but in the middle of the seventeenth century he had his back carved with figures and symbols relating to the Birdman cult with was prevalent on the island at that time.

On the 7th of November 1868, the people of the island helped to carry Hoa Hakananai'a on board the HMS Topaze and he arrived in Portsmouth the following year on the 29th of September. From there he found his way into the British museum where he dominates the room he is in but not in an unfriendly way.

Later on in the day, I was listening to a program on a Ming banknote. It had a picture of the number of coins it was worth on it – perhaps our fiver should have a little picture of ten 50p pieces on it. But what amused me was that it was referred to as a treasure certificate – surely far better than calling it a note. Looking in my pocket, I see I have £15 pounds worth of treasure certificates.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Going to Dunoon mostly

Tomorrow marks the end of what has been a very long break and it would be quite ridiculous to offer any complaint about having to go to work for a fortnight, so I won't. Having a wee rake through the last months pictures for unreported odds and ends I notice a batch that belonged to my trip up to Dunoon last week. I go there every month or so because my kids live there but normally I don't have my camera as I go straight from work.

In Dumfries, as I was going for the train, the local falconry centre had a stall out in the High Street trying to drum up a few funds and new enthusiasts. I find birds of prey quite magnificent things and always worthy of a couple of snaps, even when they are firmly attached to the pavement.

A harris hawk

A lanner/peregrine hybrid

An owl (see my deep knowledge of birds)

Going to Dunoon involves a half hour ferry trip across the Clyde (at a point where it's more the sea than a river). Being Scotland, it was a bit wet then sunny for a while - good for rainbows if nothing else.

Most foot passengers take the Caledonian Macbrayne, from which these pictures are taken. Most car types are better of using the Western ferry, which operate a few of the wee red affairs below.

A yacht passes the entrance to the Holy Loch

Seemed quite a busy day for yachts

Arriving in Dunoon

A few days later in Edinburgh, where I arrived in time to get a mighty fright from the one o'clock gun and from here the previous blogs carry on quite nicely

This mighty time off has been great for catching up on my reading

Probably only a reduced, if any blogging service in the next two or three weeks (although you never know, my lab internet might work like a dream and I'll be full of things to write). I'll leave you just now with a picture of the castle near my sisters house in Doonfoot near Ayr, whose name I don't know.

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Wylam Dilly Locamotive.

This is a very old steam engine. Built in 1813, it once upon a time pulled coal along the Wylam wagonway to the river somewhere in a Newcastle on tyne direction. The information says that it is one of the two oldest surviving steam locamotives in the world - I assume by this that it is the second oldest. Perhaps the sign makers at the National Museum of Scotland had a little trouble admitting somebody might have an older one.

Without moving from the spot, I could have turned round and taken a picture of Dolly the Sheep, I didn't, but I could have because I was about half way between the two. Dolly was the first ever cloned mammal in the world - I do believe her information doesn't say she was one of the first two cloned mammals!!!

Friday, 17 September 2010

The MacKenzie Poltergeist

Behind these gates lie the area of Greyfriars church yard that was used as the covenanters prison in 1679 – at the time it was outside the churchyard walls and the mausoleums and graves within are since that date. The covenanters were supporters of the National Covenant which swore to defend Presbyterianism against interference from the crown. They were defeated in the battle of Bothwell bridge in 1679 and over a thousand of them were imprisoned here without shelter and a food allowance of 4 ounces of bread a day for 4 months. During that time, some died, some were executed, some escaped and some signed allegiance to the crown. In November of that year the remaining 257 were loaded onto a ship at Leith to be transported to the American colonies – the ship was wrecked off the Orkneys and most died.

The following tale appears on the internet with many variations but when you piece them all together, what happens appears to be something like this. In 1998 a down and out broke into the mausoleum of George Mackenzie who died in 1691, a judge who took such glee at sentencing the covenanters to death that he earned the title of Bloody MacKenzie. Some say the down and out crawled in beside the body to get a nights sleep but either way he caused some damage and was seen running screaming from the scene and was later found by police in a state of delirium. He appears to have been the initial cause for the activation of what has become known as the Mackenzie Poltergeist which seems to occur more around the area of the prison but also at the MacKenzie mausoleum. The activity has attracted local ghost tours which seem to have further increased activity and the Mackenzie poltergeist is now one of the most active in the world with hundreds of attacks to it’s name. These attacks are mainly in the form of bites, burns and scratches as well as people passing out. The Poltergeist has twice resisted attempts to exorcise it with one of the exorcists dying shortly afterwards.

The Creepy wee shop (it’s name) at the graveyard entrance keeps a log of occurances. From the last few weeks these appear.

Mrs Todd writes: My husband received a bite and I received a scratch / welt on my back. Quite excited by this, will come back.

Ms Palmer from Nuneaton write: Just stepped inside the crypt just by the door. Been in there about 5 minutes and suddenly felt very nauseous and sick. Left tomb and felt fine within minutes of stepping out.

Katherine from Belgium writes: I was standing in a corner at the gate & I felf someone / something grabbing my head. It squeezed my head on the right side. After the tour I still feel my head and my face tingling.

Someone who doesn’t give a name: In the tomb I felt a stinging in my back as if somebody had scratched me but I was against the wall??

The covenanters prison is kept chained closed but not very well. There is a gap through which I would fit without any real trouble what so ever and have a chance to get the place all to myself. Did I go through – you betcha I didn’t!

Greyfriers and it's churchyard

From the Grassmarket, I wandered up Candlemaker row which has the well known statue of Greyfrier's Bobby at the top of it.

This is just opposite Greyfrier's churchyard

The grave of John Gray, Greyfrier's Bobby's owner, where loyal Bobby remained after his master's death - awwww.

I actually managed to get into the church on Wednesday which is a first for me - they were having a furniture exhibition in there, which though perhaps not the most ecumenical use, probably repairs the odd tile on the roof. You will realise by now that I'm a sucker for a nice bit of stained glass which this church has though not terribly old I think.

Good grief - there was enough Scottish sun shining through that one to project it onto the ground

Greyfrier's isn't all about nice glass and fluffy bunny stories just asking for that Disney treatment. It's actually the creepiest place I think I've been in broad daylight as we'll find in the next blog.

In the mean time, here's an open crypt to be looking into.

Old Haunts

Well rested on Wednesday morning with a couple of cups of tea inside me and some toast and marmite, I bade farewell to Cy (David having made his escape a little earlier and the kids off to school/nursery) and trundled off to catch a perfectly timed bus for town. For old times sake I got off the bus in Bruntsfield for a gentle (none of your cross city hiking stuff today) stroll into the heart of the city. For complete authenticity, I wandered round to Bruntfield Crescent to start my walk at No 10, where I had spent 2 most enjoyable years as a student. Now a days it has been turned into several flats but back in the day it was know as The Green Lady House on account that it shared a ghost with a couple of other houses in the street - I never saw it but I know people who did.

In what you will soon realise is a bit of a theme going in this blog, you cross over the Bruntsfield links and pass one of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh, the Golf Tavern. Dating back to 1456, it's a quiet old place, off the main road, over looking the worlds oldest short hole golf course (that's what the official blurb calls it but it looks more like a pitch and putt course to me). Back in 1456 there would be a definite Ryder Cup advantage - America hadn't been discovered. 

This wasn't really one of our normal haunts and I think that in my 4 years in Edinburgh, I was only in there once. We normally wandered down the road for a further 10 minutes till we came to the grass market, a large open market place, which really hasn't changed all that much since this old picture was painted - stick a couple of modern shops in and a little parking down the middle and you're just about there.

The Black Bull is the first pub you come to that we tended to go into - perhaps needs a special mention as it was here that my sister met her husband.

The White Hart is occasionally quoted as being the oldest pub in Edinburgh even though it started in the century following the Golf Tavern. You also have to pretend that Duddingston isn't really part of Edinburgh as The Sheep's Heid there has a history dating back to 1360. Burns stayed here in 1791, scribbling a poem on one of the beams (it's a wonder he didn't get chucked out of more pubs as in Moffat he scratched a poem on a pub window). For our part, we went to the White Hart in the mid '80s because it had regular folk music on. At the time it also had astoundingly bad beer - I really should pop in at some time and get an update on the beer quality.

Just along from the White Hart was another of our favorite hostelries, The Last Drop, so called because it overlooked the spot where Edinburgh held most of it public hangings (not to mention the odd beheading). I remember the last drop had a carpet that had lots of little gallows woven into it.

The spot where most of the executions were held. (notice that the square pump in the left of this photo appears clearly in the old picture earlier on)

A new shop in the Grassmarket is Olde Jock's Pie Shop where I bought a rather tasty haggis pie and a cuppa for my lunch

At the end of the Grassmarket 3 streets come off it. 2 go up to the George IV bridge and the other The Cowgate goes under it. The Cowgate is a dark old street with high sides and I think gives a feel of how ancient Edinburgh must have felt.

Just a little way down the Cowgate is Sneeky Pete's pub which I'm not surprised to see is closed here since it's the hours of daylight. Some years ago, David and I went back into Sneeky Pete's to find disappointingly clean and tidy - you should never go back to places, they only change.