Tuesday, 21 August 2018

The Kelpies

According to ancient Scottish legends kelpies are shape-shifting water spirits who inhabit the lochs and waterways of Scotland and appear most often as a horse, although they can appear in human form too, but can be recognised by water weeds in their hair.

A common theme in the Kelpie stories is of several children clambering onto the creature's back while one child remains on the shore. Usually a little boy, he then pets the horse but his hand sticks to its neck. In some variations the lad cuts off his fingers or hand to free himself; he survives but the other children are carried off by the kelpie and drowned, with only some of their entrails being found later. Gory!

These Kelpies are better behaved than that.

These Kelpie statues stand 30m tall (around 100 feet) and weigh over 600 tonnes.  Designed by Scottish sculptor Andy Scott and completed in October 2013, the Kelpies stand in the Helix Park in Falkirk. They pay tribute to the working horses of Central Scotland.

Each Kelpie contains 3,000m of steel tubing and 17,000 components, and the whole sculpture cost around 5 million pounds to build.

And I wonder what the Kelpies would look like under the surface......
One of the most astonishing sculptures I have ever seen. 

Saturday, 18 August 2018

The Forth Bridge

On the way out of Edinburgh we stopped for a photo op at the Forth Rail Bridge.

The Forth Bridge is a steel cantilever railway bridge spanning almost 2.5 kilometers. Construction started in 1882 and it was opened by the Duke of Rothesay (later to be crowned King Edward VII) in 1890.
Before the opening of the bridge, the rail journey from London to Aberdeen took about 13-1/2 hours. Once the bridge was in place, the journey was reduced to around 10 hours.
When I was at school I was taught that once the bridge was painted from one end to the other, it was time to start painting it again. "Painting the Forth Bridge" is a colloquial expression for a never-ending task, but in 2011, the bridge was covered in a new coating designed to last for 25 years. Paint crew no longer needed!
As a child I couldn't understand why the bridge was called the "FOURTH Bridge" when there were only three sections..... of course it wasn't "FOURTH", it was "FORTH".... as it crossed the Firth of Forth.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Waverley Station

This pic borrowed from Waverley Station web site.

Gosh, Waverley Station is huge! I traveled to Scotland by train, which was a wonderful journey, and when I arrived in Edinburgh, I couldn't find my way out of the station.

Waverley Station opened in 1846 and was rebuilt between 1892 and 1902. It lies in the valley between the old town and modern Edinburgh, adjacent to Princes Street, Edinburgh Castle and the Princes Street Gardens.
There's a huge shopping mall at the station Thank goodness for the covered escalators to get from the station level to Princes Street, it's a huge hill, I would hate to try and carry luggage up all the steps.
Here's a video of the Sation:
... and if you need to go to the Ladies Loo, it costs 30p, and you better have the right change.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Deacon Brodie

Deacon Brodie's Pub is a popular watering hole on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
But who was Deacon Brodie?
This story is unashamedly borrowed from a BBC article about him.

On 1 October 1788 William Brodie was hanged for theft in the Lawnmarket, Edinburgh, in front of a crowd that was the largest seen in living memory. He strode out to the gallows in fine clothes and a powdered wig. He was 47 when he was hanged and until his arrest had managed to maintain the illusion of being a respectable craftsman.

The prestigious title of deacon did not refer to religion, as many assume, but instead to his presidency of one of Edinburgh's trades guilds. His trade was a cabinet-maker and his position as deacon of the Incorporation of Wrights made him a member of the town council.

pubPossibly Brodie's double life was the inspiration for Edinburgh author Robert Louis Stevenson's infamous character Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which was published a century later.

Both Brodie's grandfathers were renowned Edinburgh lawyers and his father was a successful businessman. Brodie himself was a fine craftsman specialising in domestic furniture such a cupboards and cabinets. He was also a talented locksmith. Through his work he had access to the houses of very rich people and was able to make impressions of keys which meant he could come back at night and rob them. His criminal career began in 1768 when he copied keys to a bank door and stole £800, enough to maintain a household for several years. But it was not until more than a decade later that Brodie's crime spree got going properly.

Brodie's father died of palsy in 1782 and left him £10,000 in cash alone, a fortune in those days, plus at least four houses and the business. Brodie had been a member of The Cape, the most exclusive club in Edinburgh, but over time his interests turned to a disreputable tavern in Fleshmarket Close, which was notorious for late-night drinking and gambling with cards and dice. He was also keen on betting on cock fighting. In addition to his gambling, he was also supporting two mistresses (who didn't know each other!) and five children. He ran up debts during the night but his daytime business was thriving

In the summer of 1786 Brodie met an Englishman, George Smith, a locksmith who ran a grocers shop in the Cowgate. The pair soon became extremely busy targeting businesses and private homes in the Old Town. Towards the end of 1786 Brodie and Smith robbed a goldsmith's and a tobacconist's. On Christmas Eve they made off with a major haul from Bruce Brothers, including watches, rings and lockets. Before long they got involved with two more criminals, John Brown, a thief on the run from a seven year sentence of transportation, and Andrew Ainslie, a shoemaker.

By the summer of 1787 they had ventured further afield to Leith where they stole tea, a valuable commodity at the time, from a grocer's shop. Shortly after this they stole the ceremonial mace from the University of Edinburgh.

The Excise Office in Edinburgh was in Chessel's Court at the bottom of the Royal Mile. For this job, possibly for the first time, the gang were armed with pistols and, also unusually for them, they broke in. They were disturbed and fled with just £16. It was a disaster and it led to the gang falling out

John Brown was tempted by the reward of £150 being offered for information about a previous robbery and went to the sheriff's clerk to name Ainslie and Smith as the culprits. When they were arrested Brodie feared the game was up and prepared to disappear. He took the stagecoach to London and then a ship to Holland. But the reward for Brodie's capture led to him being tracked down and discovered as he hid in a cupboard in an inn. He was returned to Edinburgh where he stood trial with Smith. His trial lasted just 21 hours. He was hanged in front of a crowd of 40,000.

According to a legend, Brodie wore a steel collar and silver tube in his throat to prevent the hanging from being fatal. It was said that he had bribed the hangman to ignore it and arranged for his body to be removed quickly in the hope that he could later be revived. If so, the plan failed. Brodie was buried in an unmarked grave at the Buccleuch Church in Chapel Street. The ground is now covered by a car park behind university lecture halls. However, rumours of his being seen in Paris circulated later and gave the story of his scheme to evade death further publicity.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Edinburgh 3

The Scottish Parliament Building was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in October 2004. The building was designed by Spanish architect Enric Miralles. Some of the principal features of the complex include leaf-shaped buildings, a grass-roofed branch merging into adjacent parkland and gabion walls formed from the stones of previous buildings. It is located in the Holyrood neighbourhood of Edinburgh.

The Scottish Parliament is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), elected for four-year terms under the additional member system: 73 MSPs represent individual geographical constituencies elected by the plurality ("first past the post") system, while a further 56 are returned from eight additional member regions, each electing seven MSPs. The most recent general election to the Parliament was held on 5 May 2016, with the Scottish National Party winning a plurality.

Just down the road at the bottom of the Royal Mile is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Edinburgh. Queen Elizabeth was actually in residence when I was there. She was holding one of her fancy garden parties, but sadly my personal invitation must have been lost in the mail. Just as well, as I didn't bring my fascinator headgear with me.

The local police were very much in evidence outside the walls of the Palace.
A couple of the partygoers. Most of the men were in full Highland dress, kilts and all. Very smart.
The Palace is normally open to the paying public, but closed when the Queen is in residence, but we could still go into the gift shop and see what souvenirs Her Majesty has to offer. This embroidered velvet cushion would grace your sofa for the princely sum of 99 pounds....that's around $165 Canadian.
And who could possibly resist these sweet little Royal corgis?
Nope, I didn't buy one.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Edinburgh 2

Edinburgh is hilly! I was always either walking uphill or downhill, very good for the legs! But it was HOT weather.... almost too hot. Lots of opportunities to stop for a cold beer.
There are some very scenic alleyways connecting the back streets. I would have liked to have more time to explore. Some photos....

The Scott Monument is a Victorian Gothic monument to Scotland's best-loved author Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). It is the second largest monument to a writer in the world, and was built in Princes Street Gardens, completed after 4 years of construction in 1844. The story of the Monument is told in the Museum Room on the first floor. 

The Scott Monument was designed by George Meikle Kemp (1795-1844), but sadly Kemp did not see his design completed as he drowned in the Union Canal when the Monument was only half completed.
The tower is just over 61m high, and has a series of viewing platforms reached by a series of narrow spiral staircases. The highest platform is reached by 288 steps. The Monument is  rather rudely known as the Gothic Rocket! No, I didn't go up, but I wish I had. Too busy doing other sightseeing. Maybe next time. (I hope there is a next time, Edinburgh is lovely!)
A white Italian Carrera marble statue of Sir Walter Scott and his deerhound, Maida, is located at the base of the Monument. There are 68 figurative statues on the monument of which 64 are visible from the ground. Each figure represents a famous Scottish person or a character from Scott's literary work. Four figures are placed above the final viewing gallery and are only visible by telephoto or (at a very distorted angle) from the viewing gallery itself. 

The Monument was constructed of Binny sandstone from the local Ecclesmachan quarry in West Lothian. As it is a dark oily stone it has prematurely aged the appearance of the structure, although the soot of Victorian times and today's exhaust fumes contribute to the dark colour.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Edinburgh 1

The Men of Note concert tour of Scotland started out in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland since the 15th century. The population of the whole city area is approximately 1.4 million people, fairly small as cities go, but what a lovely place it is. We stayed at the Apex Waterloo Hotel, right in the downtown area. The first day we went on a walking tour of historic Edinburgh, ably guided by Mike, who was not only very knowledgeable, but entertaining with personality plus!
A selection of Edinburgh streetscapes.... sorry, I can't remember the names of all the streets or the history of the buildings. I should have taken notes but........

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

King Raedwald

Sutton Hoo, in Suffolk, is the site of two 6th and early 7th century cemeteries. I spent a day there in the company of my cousins, and the ghosts of ancient Anglo-Saxons.
There are around 20 earthen burial mounds in the Sutton Hoo area. Under one of those mounds excavated in 1938 was a ship burial.... yes, a whole wooden ship 89 feet (27m) long was hauled up the hill from the river estuary below and buried with a very important passenger, the body of an Anglo-Saxon warrior.
You can read details about the Sutton Hoo ship burial here and here.

The warrior was buried in an oak burial chamber inside the ship along with many of his valued possessions. The collection of 263 high status objects included weapons, silver cutlery, gold buckles, coins, and a distinctive full-face war helmet, many things that were needed in the afterlife.

The identity of the warrior is unknown, but it is believed to be King Raedwald, the most powerful of the English tribal kings. He was the son of Tytila of East Anglia, in the present day British counties of Suffolk and Norfolk. He reigned from about 599 until his death around 624. He was the first king of the East Angles to become a Christian, although he still maintained a pagan temple.... hedging his bets just to be sure!

A reconstruction of the king's burial chamber. Coins found at the burial are dated approximately at the time of Raedwald's death. Other items found are: An iron standard, a sceptre, spears, an iron-bound wooden bucket, a bronze bowl, a hanging bowl containing the remains of a musical instrument, drinking horns, a shield, a helmet, a sword, the iron head of an axe, the remains of a coat of mail, ten silver bowls, two silver spoons (engraved respectively with ‘Saul’ and ‘Paul’ in Greek), thirty-seven gold coins, three unstruck circular blanks, two small gold ingots, and various pieces of jewellery.
The iron warrior helmet found in the burial chamber, now on display at the British Museum.

A reconstruction of the warrior's shield.

A replica of the helmet was produced for the British Museum by the Royal Armouries.
Other burial mounds in the area have been excavated, with surprising results. A young man was buried with his horse, and a man and woman were buried with a horse and a dog. Another mound contained iron ship rivets from a small wooden ship. The cemetery also contained bodies of people who had died violently. Not all the mounds have been investigated. A fascinating place.