Wednesday, May 28, 2008

From a Scottish newspaper


By Jenny Haworth, Environment correspondent

IT IS a rare lunar spectacle whose significance dates back to ancient times, drawing visitors to the Isle of Lewis from across the world.
But now the druids, pagans and witches who gather at the Callanish Stones fear the next time they visit their treasured view of the Moon could be ruined by a 53-turbine wind farm.

According to local belief, the Callanish Stones were erected so they would have a special relationship with a range of hills opposite, known as the Old Woman of the Moors.

Also called Sleeping Beauty, it is thought to resemble a pregnant woman on her back, and every 18.6 years the Moon appears to rise through her legs, as if she is giving birth.

It then sets between the Callanish Stones, as visitors beat drums and celebrate the lunar cycle.

Hundreds of new age celebrants gathered at the stones for the spectacle in 2006, but in 2024 when it is next due, they are worried it could be ruined by a wind farm.

Beinn Mhor Power plans to build turbines on the Eisgein Estate in Lewis, some of them on the Old Woman of the Moors. One would be built on a lump that looks like her knee, and others would be on the skyline.

Archeologist Ian McHardy said the lunar phenomenon is mentioned in the Historic Scotland guidebook for the area.

"I think it's an integral part of Callanish and should have been afforded higher protection. The wind turbines would be a significant part of the view."

Alice Starmore, a tour guide who has lived on Lewis all her life, said: "Every 18.6 years when the Moon in its cycle around the Earth is at its lowest, it appears between her knees, as though she gives birth. It's a lovely, life-affirming event.

"It's one of our most mysterious and intriguing national treasures. It's something that we should take care of. It couldn't be any more inappropriate than building turbines on her. We might as well say that we should build turbines on Stonehenge."

If the proposed wind farm gets the go-ahead it would be the first in Scotland to be built on a National Scenic Area and Ms Starmore is worried it would have an impact on tourism.

Thirty of the turbines would be in the South Lewis, Harris and North Uist National Scenic Area.

The application comes in the wake of the failed bid by Lewis Wind Power to build Scotland's largest wind farm on Lewis.

Ms Starmore said: "We have just finished celebrating the fact that the entire northern peatlands won't be covered in them, and now we have this one right in the heart of the most spectacular landscape that we have. It has been very stressful for us."

It has also attracted opposition from the John Muir Trust, which is worried it could set a precedent for other wind farm applications on scenic areas, and Scottish Natural Heritage.

Helen McDade, head of policy at the John Muir Trust, said: "It is ludicrous that the government would even entertain the idea of marching turbines across such a world-class landscape.

"Scotland can easily meet its 50 per cent renewable target by 2020 without encroaching on designated areas of national importance such as this one.

"Callanish is Scotland's equivalent of Stonehenge and must be left unscathed by industrial development so that it can be fully appreciated by future generations."

A public inquiry finished last week into the plans for the Eisgein Estate and a decision is expected to be made by a Scottish Government reporter later this year.


BEINN Mhor Power has scaled down its original proposal for 133 turbines to 53. There have been 3,900 objections and 85 letters in support.

The decision on the Beinn Mhor Power plan will come in the wake of the Scottish Government's rejection of a 181-turbine project on Lewis.

The plans by Lewis Wind Power were turned down last month after nearly four years of debate. Supporters believed it was a chance to advance the country's renewables industry and the economy of the Western Isles.

But environmental groups said it could threaten birdlife and damage the island's peatlands, which store carbon.

The £500 million project had been controversial since it was put forward in October 2004. Of 11,022 representations, 10,924 were against the plan, with only 98 in favour.

Lewis Wind Power has said it is considering its next move.

The full article contains 759 words and appears in The Scotsman newspaper.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lovely pictures from Scotland

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fact from

Fact of the Day

On this day in 1852 Robert Cunningham-Graham was born. Cunningham-Graham, the son of a Scottitsh laird, founded the Labour Party alongside fellow Scot Keir Hardie but was later elected as the first president of the Scottish National Party. Cunningham-Graham was also a prodigious writer who authored over 30 travel books.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Terrible things everywhere

Terrible things happen everywhere. Funny, I never think of those things happening in Scotland, but I guess they do.......

SPURNED-LOVER THEORY as financial adviser gunned down in her office
Date: 23 May 2008
A WOMAN was seriously injured when she was shot in broad daylight in an office in Glasgow's Chinatown yesterday.

There were claims last night she had been shot in cold blood by a spurned lover.

The 47-year-old financial adviser is in a serious condition in hospital following the attack in a shopping centre.

Her gunshot wounds were only discovered when she was examined in hospital.

Detectives are treating the case as attempted murder. They said the woman – who is not Chinese – was the intended victim.

However, Strathclyde Police said they were still trying to establish a motive. They are seeking a man in his 40s with a Scottish accent.

Witnesses described seeing the woman slumped in a chair in the back office of what they thought was a mortgage firm, just inside the shopping centre.

Andrew Tagg, 24, a fishmonger, said: "I was in the centre getting my lunch and was asked to help move furniture out of the way for the paramedics to get her out.

"She was spread out on a chair with sweat on her face. I did not know what was wrong with her and thought she might have had a heart attack or suffered a diabetic attack."

Mr Tagg, who works at the Golden Trawler fishmonger, which adjoins the shopping centre, said: "I didn't see any blood, but I heard about it later. People have been saying it was an angry lover and things like that, but nobody knows for sure."

Mr Tagg said he thought the woman was Scottish and may have started work at the centre only recently.

The shooting happened at about 2pm on Wednesday but Strathclyde Police only revealed details yesterday. It took place in the Chinatown complex in Cowcaddens.

The Chinese community in Glasgow yesterday expressed horror at news of the attack.

Lyman Chan, of the Chinese Community Development Partnership, said: "It has been quite a shock. We have not heard much about it, but I think the woman involved was a Scottish lady."

A woman from another Chinese organisation, who asked not to be identified, said: "It's been really shocking to the Chinese community, especially since it involved a woman and was in broad daylight. The police have been around all day. These things do not happen here."

Police described the man they are seeking as white, in his 40s, of medium build, unshaven with red or auburn stubble and a Scottish accent. He was wearing a brown bomber jacket and a baseball cap.

Detective Inspector John Mellon, who is leading the inquiry, said: "We believe that the injured woman was the intended victim and want to reassure the public that we are doing everything possible to trace the person responsible.

"The area around New City Road and within the mall at Chinatown would have been busy with people and we are keen to speak to anyone who may be able to assist us with our enquiry."

The entrance to the shopping centre was yesterday guarded by police and cordoned off with police blue-and-white tape. The shops were believed to be closed.

Several officers in white forensic boiler-suits and blue gloves were seen entering and leaving the building.

Only police vehicles were allowed to use the car park, which included one used by a crime-scene examiner from the Scottish Police Services Authority's forensic services section.

A line of officers in black boiler-suits and white gloves combed the car park for evidence. They also examined several drains in adjoining streets, using wooden poles and the assistance of a Glasgow city council street-cleaning vehicle.


THE Chinatown complex was built as a new trading centre for Glasgow's Chinese community in 1992, close to its traditional hub in Garnethill.

Situated at Dundas Vale in Cowcaddens, the warehouse-style building comprises an indoor shopping mall and associated businesses, such as restaurants and a fishmonger.

A Chinese archway marks the entrance to the centre's car park, in the shadow of an elevated section of the M8.

At the 2001 census, there were 6,000 Chinese in the west of Scotland, a third born here.

The full article contains 699 words and appears in The Scotsman newspaper.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Crime in Scotland

Right now, I'm writing a contemporary suspense novel, callewd VENGEANCE IS MINE. I am interested in all sorts of forensic stuff and found this on

Police hope new forensic techniques can identify murderer

Date: 21 May 2008
IT WAS a brutal crime that shocked the country but has remained unsolved for a quarter of a century.

When Sheila Anderson, a 27-year-old mother of two, was found with horrific crush injuries in Edinburgh on 7 April, 1983, police launched a hunt for her killer. But with no apparent motive and little in the way of clues, the investigation ground toADVERTISEMENTa halt.

Now a fresh attempt at tracing her killer has been launched by detectives who said advances in forensic techniques had prompted them to re-examine the murder.

They said new tests on flecks of paint found on Ms Anderson's clothing could help solve the case.

Lothian and Borders Police said Ms Anderson was found dying from "horrific injuries" in Gypsy Brae, Granton, and died in hospital hours later.

Detectives also confirmed that Ronnie Wilkinson, a former officer with the force, had never been considered a suspect.

They launched an appeal for witnesses yesterday as part of a new attempt to find the killer of Ms Anderson.

Officers said they were following "several positive lines of inquiry".

Detective Inspector Steven Reed, who is leading the investigation, said he was confident the paint on the clothing would be identified, and confirmed the victim had been struck by a car.

However, he said there was no evidence to suggest she was run over repeatedly.

He said: "Minute particles of paint were found on Sheila's clothing and efforts were made to trace vehicles, witnesses and people who may have been with her in the hours before her death.

"In this tragic case we believe advances in forensic science may help us resolve some of the unanswered questions.

"This was an apparently motiveless killing and I am appealing to anyone who has information about the circumstances of Sheila's death to come forward. It was 25 years ago and I appreciate that memories might have faded."

DI Reed said people who might have felt reluctant to come forward at the time will hopefully now be willing to talk.

Inquiries at the time revealed the victim left her home in the Drylaw area about noon on 7 April.

There were various sightings of her during the day in west Granton and Leith. The final confirmed sighting was in Commercial Street, Leith, about 11:30pm.

Ms Anderson's handbag was found two days later near a car park at Longniddry Bents in East Lothian. She left two boys, aged seven and two.

DI Reed said Mr Wilkinson, a former detective sergeant who found the handbag, had been re-interviewed as a witness as part of the new investigation and had supplied a DNA sample.

The force said he had voluntarily provided a routine witness statement as part of standard practice, and had at no time been considered a suspect.

Ms Anderson's family welcomed the case being re-opened.

They said in a statement: "Sheila was a loving mother, wife, daughter and sister, and her death in such tragic and sudden circumstances was a shock to us all.

"She was taken from us at far too early an age but we still hold in our hearts the happy memories that we all shared.

"Latterly in her life she suffered personal problems. But despite that and everything she endured, Sheila maintained her wonderful sense of humour. We remember Sheila as a gentle, loving, caring woman.

"She touched the hearts of all who knew her and was much loved by us all.

"As a family, we welcome the re-investigation into her death and hope that, after many years, we will obtain the answers to the questions that we have."

Mother's last hours before she met a killer with a car

Here is a timeline of events surrounding the murder of Sheila Anderson.

Noon, 7 April, 1983 – The victim left her home in the city's Drylaw area.

Afternoon – Various sightings of Ms Anderson, including in Leith's Blue Triangle of Commercial Street, Coburg Street and North Junction Street.

7:30pm – Ms Anderson was seen in the Willie Muir pub, West Granton.

11:25pm – Two plainclothes police officers saw her outside Lindean House on Commercial Street in Leith.

11:55pm – Ms Anderson was found unconscious with multiple injuries on a track by a sea wall at Gypsy Brae, off West Shore Road in Granton, by two CB enthusiasts, who immediately called an ambulance.

Early hours, 8 April – Ms Anderson died in Western General Hospital, Edinburgh.

7am, 10 April – The victim's burgundy suede shoulder bag was found near car park No1 on the shore at Longniddry Bents on the B1348 coast road from Musselburgh to North Berwick in East Lothian.

18 May, 2008 – A Sunday newspaper claims Ronnie Wilkinson, a former Lothian and Borders Police detective sergeant, is considered a suspect in the case.

20 May, 2008 – Cold case review announced by Lothian and Borders Police.

Officers said minute particles of paint found on Ms Anderson's clothing would be subject to new forensic testing.

Detectives leading the inquiry said Mr Wilkinson had been interviewed and given a DNA sample as part of standard procedure, but he was not a suspect.

Legal issues that leave murder cases gathering dust

THERE are more than 50 unsolved murders in Scotland, with some high-profile prosecutions collapsing due to lack of evidence.

One of the most notorious cold cases is Edinburgh's infamous World's End murders.

Detectives have never closed the investigation into the murders of Helen Scott and Christine Eadie, both 17, who were beaten, raped and strangled in 1977, shortly after drinking in the World's End pub. Their killer or killers were never traced, despite unprecedented publicity.

Angus Sinclair, a convicted paedophile and killer serving a life sentence in Peterhead Prison, appeared in the High Court in Edinburgh in August and September last year, accused of the rapes and murders. However his trial collapsed after Lord Justice Clarke said the Crown had insufficient evidence to proceed.

Since 2006, the Serious Crime Review Unit of Lothian and Borders Police has also reinvestigated the 1995 murder of Robert Higgins, whose body was discovered in a quarry in West Lothian. A suspect was identified and brought to trial last year, but the jury returned a not proven verdict.

On 21 January, 1987, the naked body of Ann Ballantine, 20, was discovered, naked and bound hand and foot, in the Union Canal, 100 yards from her flat in Polwarth, Edinburgh.

Police believe she was asphyxiated by a ligature round her neck. Her killer has never been caught.

Although a suspect was named and a report submitted to the procurator-fiscal, there was not enough evidence to prosecute.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In the world over

Bad things happen all over the world. I thought some of you who read this blog might like to know how another governments handles teens..........from the

The teenage crimewave the state could not stop

IT WAS a chance encounter for which Daniel Sweeney paid a heavy price. He was set upon by Darren Cornelius, punched and repeatedly stabbed by the complete stranger in an Edinburgh street in March last year.

The brutal attack at the hands of one of Scotland's most notorious teenagers left the victim scarred for life.

On that fateful day, Daniel Sweeney had the misfortune to be confronted by a self-professed thug who had been out of control since the aADVERTISEMENTge of 11, when he first carried out a frenzied stabbing.

Last night, hours after 18-year-old Cornelius became the youngest criminal in Scotland to receive a lifelong restriction order, politicians demanded an investigation into how he has been handled by the justice system.

At the High Court in Perth, Cornelius was ordered to serve a minimum detention period of five years.

He also become one of the first people in the country to be placed under an order that will require the authorities to monitor him for the rest of his days.

The sentence effectively means Cornelius will remain behind bars until a panel of experts say he is safe for release.

Lord Bracadale said the teenager would stay behind bars while he continued to pose a serious threat to the public.

The judge told him: "For someone your age, you have an extraordinary record for violence."

Cornelius, who was once compared to the killers of Liverpool toddler James Bulger, admitted permanently disfiguring the stranger after carrying out a random and frenzied knife attack on him.

The case has not only sparked demands for an investigation into how Cornelius was dealt with by the youth justice system, but has raised wider questions about Scotland's approach to young offenders.

Councillor Iain Whyte, the convener of Lothian and Borders joint police board, said that the authorities should have taken tougher steps to prevent Cornelius carrying out such a violent attack.

"It certainly seems like the trial judge has taken on board the seriousness of this and made sure Cornelius will not be able to be free to put other people in danger," he said.

"But the court and the children's panel should have looked at this before.

"Why have there been no concerns in the past to protect the public," Mr Whyte asked.

"I think the authorities – the court and the children's panel – should look at exactly why this kind of restriction was not placed on him in the past.

"There should be an investigation as to why the authorities did not look at these matters before, with a view to protecting the public."

Cornelius first hit the headlines in October 2000, when, as an 11-year-old, he carried out a knife attack on a girl of nine.

He abducted the girl from her grandmother's house, stabbed her eight times – narrowly missing the artery in her throat – and left her for dead near the Fountain Park leisure complex in Edinburgh.

He was not prosecuted for attempted murder because he was shown to have a mental age of less than eight, the age of criminal responsibility.

Cornelius was dealt with at a children's panel hearing and ordered to spend 17 months in secure accommodation.

However, he was released after only eight months, before being taken back into care amid allegations he had reoffended.

When he was 15, Cornelius faced five sex charges, but the case collapsed in court due to a lack of evidence.

He denied raping a 12-year-old schoolgirl in the grounds of a church in the Longstone area of Edinburgh in 2004 when he was on home leave from secure accommodation in Paisley.

He also denied a sex attack on another girl – aged 13 at the time – in her home on the west side of the capital.

His first nine-year-old stabbing victim had also alleged she had been raped by Cornelius.

The high-profile case led to calls for a review of the age of responsibility and saw Cornelius compared to James Bulger's killers, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables.

Bill Aitken, MSP, the Scottish Conservatives' spokesman on justice, echoed Mr Whyte's concerns, describing Cornelius as a "menace" who should have been subject to heavy control.

He also said the case highlighted a need to reconsider the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland.

"In my view, a full inquiry requires to be carried out as to why this individual was not brought under appropriate, much closer supervision earlier on," he said.

"This man is clearly a menace, and I have to ask whether or not the systems are in place to identify and control people like Cornelius, who have a predilection to offend repeatedly and seriously.

"There is something wrong with the system when situations like this can develop, and I do wonder whether or not we need to look at the age of criminal responsibility.

"And certainly we do need to be looking at the way in which people like Cornelius are monitored within the community, otherwise other tragedies will inevitably occur."

On his Bebo website, Cornelius boasts about his taste for violence and associates himself with the late American gangster rapper Tupac Shakur. He wrote: "A go to the gym and am well built. Sum say am mad, sum say am hyper. A say am me. A gd life is a thugs life."

Last night, a spokesman for the Scottish Government refused to comment on the particular case, but said people who received lifelong restriction orders – Cornelius is the seventh to be handed one – would be subjected to "stringent" controls when they were eventually released from jail.

He said: "Sentencing is rightly a matter for the courts, and we do not comment on individual cases.

"The justice secretary has repeatedly said that prison should be for serious and dangerous offenders and the Order for Lifelong Restriction is a valuable disposal for the courts when dealing with the fortunately few very high-risk offenders.

"Those who receive such an order will be subject to stringent restrictions for the rest of their lives," the spokesman said.

"The Scottish Prison Service is doing a good job with prisoners in difficult circumstances due to current overcrowding pressures.

"We want to further improve on this, so that prisons can continue to work with serious and violent offenders to reduce their risk. This includes diverting less serious offenders who do not present a risk to the public into tough community sentences.

"By doing so, we give these offenders the chance to turn their lives around and to give something back to the community."


SCOTLAND'S judges have been able to place the most serious violent and sexual offenders on an order for lifelong restriction since June 2006.

The orders apply to all those offences where a life sentence is available, but can also be given to other serious and violent criminals.

Local authorities are responsible for supervising released offenders, who will be monitored for life.

Offenders who are given an order serve prison terms – with minimum punishment parts – as before, but are subject to a lifelong risk management plan that is updated as needed to reflect the offender's risk.

That managed plan has to be approved by the Risk Management Authority, a public body set up to help improve the way dangerous offenders are monitored.

If the behaviour of an offender subject to an order of lifelong restriction gives cause for concern, they can be sent back to prison. They do not have to be convicted of fresh crimes for this to happen.

Other violent criminals to receive lifelong restriction orders include Colin Ross, who savagely battered Marty Layman-Mendonca, a teacher on holiday from the United States, and Steven Malcolm, 20, who raped a care worker at knifepoint.

The introduction of the order for lifelong restriction completed the high-risk offender strategy recommended by the MacLean committee, which examined the treatment of serious violent and sexual offenders.

The inquiry was established amid concern about the public's protection from serious violent and sexual offenders who are freed after serving a fixed term.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

From a Scottish newspaper

Just a tidbit today. I found it kinda' interesting--to know that the same thing happens all around the world.

It was 184 years ago today, the Red Barn murder took place at Polstead, Suffolk. Maria Marten was slain by one of her lovers. William Corder buried Marten beneath the barn floor, and she lay there until her stepmother dreamed of the incident and her father dug up the floor to discover the body. Corder was found guilty and hanged before a crowd of 7,000 people.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Preakness

I'm off to watch a day of racing. The Preakness at Pimlico Race Track is the second leg of America's Triple Crown of Thoroughbred racing. I hate to miss races, so I intend to spend the day watching the tube. Would rather be there but that's not this is one time that I thank the world for TV.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Scotland news

I believe Scotland is doing something that we don't do in America. Although, I wonder how many castles we have in the States--other than White Castles. lol I believe they're not charging admission for the period of a week. At least, those of you who like to visit Scotland or, like me, write about it, here's something about what the castles are today.

Is the castle still king?

Edinburgh, EH1 2NG, tel: 0131-225 9846
EDINBURGH Castle is one of Scotland's best known landmarks. The dramatic location atop a long -extinct volcano in the centre of the capital means it's hard to miss – but when was the last time you visited?

There's more to see than just bricks anADVERTISEMENTd mortar: the castle complex boasts the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Stone of Destiny, the Royal Apartments, the Great Hall built by James IV in 1511, and the famous One O'Clock Gun.

There's plenty to see for adults and children alike, but the sheer scale of what's on offer makes this a long day for very young children, and Marcus's enthusiasm waned quickly. Still, while sheltering in the café from the drizzle outside, he enjoyed peering down on the trains at Waverley Station.

OTHER THINGS TO DO: There are ample facilities including a (pricey) souvenir shop and the aforementioned café, with its views over Princes Street and beyond. You can hire an audio guide, but it's better to tag along for free with one of the regular guided tours.

PRACTICALITIES: Well served by local bus routes, and an easy walk from most city-centre locations. Waverley is just a ten-minute walk away. Parking isn't so easy, so it's best to leave the car at home. Disabled access is about as good as it gets.

BEST BITS: The views are great, but the portcullis left the biggest impression on Marcus, who was terrified by the prospect of "the big spiky door" falling on him

WORST BITS: The high prices and the ever-present crowds


Crichton, EH37 5QH, tel: 01875 320 017

THE main draw at Crichton Castle is its secluded location: the walk up to the castle from the little car park by Crichton Collegiate Church gives the impression you are walking back in time. Marcus was very excited on seeing the castle, but he did find the going a bit steep and slippery on the way up.

The castle itself is a ruin, with the main architectural point of interest being the grandiose quarters added in the late 16th century by the fifth Earl of Boswell, of which the ornate red-sandstone façade in an Italian renaissance style remains in excellent repair. Being in his own words "only little", Marcus was a touch under-whelmed by the interior, but with a little prompting entered into the spirit of imagining the castle in the days when royalty and nobles stayed here.

On the downside, the wet stone floors and steps were treacherous underfoot and, despite holding my hand, Marcus fell over, resulting in one very wet mitten.

OTHER THINGS TO DO: The facilities extend only to a tiny ticket booth with a few token souvenirs. The countryside hereabouts is perfect for ramblers and dog-walkers, and the views from the castle's towers are accordingly spectacular.

PRACTICALITIES: The site is remote, so isn't particularly suitable for those travelling by public transport or coach parties. Disabled access available with prior arrangement.

BEST BITS: The castle's magnificent windswept location, and the unusual Renaissance-inspired interior wall

WORST BITS: Getting there, especially the long boggy walk up the bridleway from the car park


Edinburgh, EH16 4SY, tel: 0131-661 4445

CRAIGMILLAR Castle is somewhere we had been intending to visit for several years, but just hadn't got around to, and the attendant in the shop confirmed many visitors say the same thing. Marcus, who had been eyeing a foam sword at the Crichton Castle shop, was rewarded with a plastic sword and scabbard, the ideal accompaniments to a day out at a castle.

Stepping through the outer wall into the tidy courtyard with its sprawling conifer tree and impressive carved coat of arms is like stepping on to a film set, and once inside Marcus was immediately moved to engage in some Errol Flynn-style swashbuckling with his new toy. The castle is associated with Mary, Queen of Scots, who is said to have stayed here in the 1560s, and we felt the sandstone walls were dripping with history. The views over Edinburgh and the Forth from the rooftop gallery are also spectacular.

OTHER THINGS TO DO: The shop is well-stocked, particularly with Mary, Queen of Scots-related items. Other than that, there's not much more to see here, though we enjoyed a picnic in the car park after our visit.

PRACTICALITIES: The parking is limited, and the nearest bus routes are a few minutes' walk away in either Craigmillar or at the new Royal Infirmary.

BEST BITS: One of Scotland's best preserved castles, redolent of the folklore associated with Mary, Queen of Scots

WORST BITS: Its location means it is too often overlooked.


Near Bathgate, tel: 01506 634622

WITH the wind whipping up, we drove from Blackness a few miles the other side of Linlithgow to this ancient ceremonial and burial site, which dates back more than 4,500 years. We took shelter in the visitor centre as the friendly guide explained the fascinating history, and how the site was excavated in the late 1940s. As the summit of Cairnpapple Hill has been significant for millennia, the site has evidence from different eras – Neolithic, Bronze Age, early Christian – which makes it quite complicated to grasp all its history, at least with an uninterested six and three-year-old prodding the displays. Out on the hill, a concrete dome covers the Bronze Age burial stones, which can be accessed down a metal ladder. We went down, looked around, then came up – not for us a spiritual and moving experience. The best features were the spectacular views and the Neolithic ditch which circles the summit, part of the henge monument, which was perfect for rolling down.

OTHER THINGS TO DO: There is a very small shop and self-serve tea and coffee.

PRACTICALITIES: Best for older children, aged nine-plus. It's not expensive, but was of limited interest to our group. Driving is by far the easiest way to get there.

BEST BITS: "Rolling in the ditch was fun" – Gigi

WORST BITS: There's not much to enthuse younger children and it's weather-dependent. "You don't have to pay to go to the top of Arthur's Seat" – Kitty


Near North Berwick, EH39 5PN, tel: 01620 892 727

IT'S wild and windy when we visit, which adds to the sense of drama, but also increases the need to supervise the children to ensure they aren't blown off the battlements.

This is a classic ruined castle, perched on cliffs with sea on two sides. It's an exciting place to visit and for the children to explore; there's plenty of open space for them to let off steam, both as you walk in from the small car park and around the back of the site as you look over to the seabird shanty-town that is the Bass Rock.

There are information boards and plaques dotted around the castle and a pretty tricky quiz-sheet that will keep the kids focused. Again, a good place to take a picnic and make an afternoon of it – you could probably write off three or four hours on a nice day.

OTHER THINGS TO DO: No café, but a decent shop/visitor centre with small range of refreshments and souvenirs.

PRACTICALITIES: Small car park beside the visitor centre; a bigger one is down the lane. There's a new lavatory block by the visitor centre. By public transport: take a train from Edinburgh Waverley to North Berwick, walk to High Street (at Quality Street) and take the Eve Bus no 120 (Dunbar) to Tantallon Castle. The journey takes about an hour.

BEST BITS: Great for dramatic photos. "Can I take a picture of Bass Rock and the castle, Dad?" – Seth

WORST BITS: It's challenging on blustery days. "Daddy, my ears are getting cold, it's very windy here" – Livvy


Seton, East Lothian, EH32 0PG, tel: 01875 813 334

THIS gem of a church, situated between Prestonpans and Longniddry, dates mainly from the 15th century and has great historic links to Mary, Queen of Scots (she was a close friend of the Setons and is believed to have worshipped here). There are links also with Rosslyn Chapel – some of the stonework is believed to have been done by the same masons. This is a more modest building, but there are still plenty of interesting touches to view: lots of quirky carvings, including a Green Man and a Green Cat, and grave-carvings of some of the Setons, which were (literally) defaced during the Reformation for their Papist leanings. Next door is Seton Castle, Scotland's priciest private home, worth a cool £5 million. Arn: The Knight Templar, an expensive and controversial Swedish film, was partly filmed here last year.

OTHER THINGS TO DO: There's a tiny shop and visitor centre, run by a very helpful man who will make you a hot drink and sell you toffee. No play area, but a nice short walk through the woods on the way in.

PRACTICALITIES: A small car park (turn left off the A198 as you leave Prestonpans heading for Longniddry); not good for public transport. A decent day out, but don't bring the younger ones. Fine for adults and children aged ten and up.

BEST BITS: Great carvings – "Look up there at that skull, dad," says Maya

WORST BITS: Limited interest for younger children – Seth: "Can we go and get some sweets now?"


Linlithgow, EH49 7AL, tel: 01506 842896.

ONE of the jewels in Historic Scotland's crown, Linlithgow Palace was home to Stewart kings and queens, including James V and Mary Queen of Scots. We had picked up some lunch in Linlithgow but, even so, energy levels and enthusiasm were starting to wane for this, the third and final site of the day. The weather, too, was turning. We stood in the roofless great hall, peering up at the impossibly high walls and made our way up one of the towers to the very top, for blustery breathtaking views over the town and parkland below. The fountain, now completely restored, is spectacular and the drawbridge suitably dramatic.

OTHER THINGS TO DO: There is a well-appointed shop, picnic area, small play area and walkway round the loch, home to an extensive bird population.

PRACTICALITIES: Suitable for ages three-plus, though with close supervision for younger ones. The palace is the easiest to visit of the three by public transport as it sits on Linlithgow High Street. Good value, though we barely scratched the surface. With better weather we could have spent much longer here, particularly with the loch and parkland. To fully enjoy the Palace, visitors are advised to come on Sunday rather than Saturday.

BEST BITS: Location, history and the views. "I liked looking for the stone statues" – Kitty

WORST BITS: "I want to go home. Now" – Harvie has enough of historic sites


Blackness, EH49 7NH, Tel: 01506 834807

LOOKING like a castle is supposed to, with imposing walls and a striking location on the shores of the Firth of Forth, Blackness Castle was a huge hit with Kitty, Gigi and Harvie. Built in the 15th century, it has been used as a prison, fortress, barracks and movie location. Notable moments in its history include when Cromwell's New Model Army laid siege to it in 1650.

Modified over the centuries, it has three main towers and a pier that stretches out into the Forth, where munitions were landed in the 19th century. There was plenty to explore and signs explaining various features such as the strategically placed gate for defenders to charge any attackers and the gun emplacement with 16ft-thick walls. The courtyard, which echoes wonderfully when shouting in the strong wind, is rough hewn from rock and very uneven. This only thrilled the children more, though Harvie, despite being very nimble, needed close supervision throughout the visit.

OTHER THINGS TO DO: There is a small shop with a few goodies, plus a picnic area and toilets.

PRACTICALITIES: The castle is three miles north-east of Linlithgow off the A904. For public transport, take a bus or train to Linlithgow and catch an Edinburgh or Bo'ness bus. Blackness Castle isn't suitable for wheelchair users.

BEST BITS: "I loved going out on the pier and the climbing" – Kitty. "It's the best" – Gigi

WORST BITS: Adults need to be on their guard to keep younger children safe.


Dirleton, East Lothian, EH39 5ER, tel: 01620 850 330

I HAVE driven past Dirleton Castle many times on the way to Yellowcraig beach, but never ventured in. Luckily, my four-year-old daughter attended a birthday party there recently, so she was happy to show me round.

It looks quite small from the road, but is actually huge, with different chunks built from the 13th century onwards. The biggest hits for children are the tunnels and staircases, nooks and crannies. It's a wonderful place for hide-and-seek, though you need to keep a close eye on under-fives because lots of steps means they are likely to fall over.

The landscaped gardens are lovely, the doocot amazingly well-preserved and you have terrific views over the island of Fidra and the Forth from the castle. You could easily take a picnic lunch and spend the best part of a day here.

The information boards are straightforward for older children to follow, and there is a quiz sheet and wordsearch.

OTHER THINGS TO DO: No café, but this is great picnic territory. You can get ice cream and soft drinks in the well-stocked shop, and there is a good playpark (and toilets) just outside the entrance.

PRACTICALITIES: Decent car park, but not great for public transport. The 124 First Bus from Edinburgh drops you three minutes' walk away, but takes more than an hour to get there.

BEST BITS: "It's brilliant for hide-and-seek," say Imogen and her friend Luke.

WORST BIT: Constant vigilance to avoid falls – "hold my hand up the stairs, daddy," says Livvy.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I've just had an interview posted in an Internet newsletter. Thought it would give some of you some giggles. Here's the URL:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Long post on English-Irish History

As you know, history is my 'cup of tea.' I love reading about it and have brought lots of facts into the three historical novels listed on this site. But this bit of news from Wasp's Weblog caught my attention and I just had to put it on the blog.

***If the attacks on Sir Basil Hamilton’s dykes were motivated by his Jacobite background, the anti-Jacobite element of the Galloway Levellers actions may have influenced their decision not to level a dyke built for Robert Johnston of Kelton parish. At first sight, as recounted as a tale told by the grandfather of Samuel Geddes of Keltonhill by Malcolm Harper# (and published over 150 years later, this incident may appear to be a piece of folklore rather than history. According to Harper:

A band of levellers and houghers, or as some call them ”Rablers” # having traversed the coast from Balmae to Kirkbean levelling dykes and houghing Irish cattle, the introduction of which was one of their grievances, they reached the estate of Kelton. Captain Johnstone was then laird, and had built a high dyke to fence his estate from the public road…anxious to preserve it he prevailed upon Mr. Falconer [minister of Kelton parish] to accompany him in going to the levellers with the view of advising them to desist from their destructive proceedings… Mr. Falconer then addressed the crowd… assuring them that no man or family would be evicted from Captain Johnstone’s estate on account of [the dyke] being erected - that every person on his lands should continue to have and hold his house, his yaird or garden, and the usual quantity of corn sown (in these days it was generally customary for the labourers to have a certain quantity of corn sown to produce a melder# for the family, and fodder for the cow and calf).

This speech, aided by the distribution of bread, cheese and beer provided by Captain Johnstone, persuaded the Levellers to pass on, leaving Johnstone’s dyke still standing. As confirmation, Harper says “On a stone in the dyke of the right hand side of the road leading from Lochbank to Furbar House, there is a date, which is now indistinct, but about thirty years ago [I.e. 1840] it was plainly 1725, and is now commemorative of the event.”. Unfortunately for Harper’s account, although there is an inscribed stone in the dyke next to Furbar House, the date on it is clearly 1757 and the events described would have happened in 1724.

On the other hand, in John Nicholson’s notebook# can be found the original account by Samuel Geddes of Keltonhill as used by Harper. This original account is dated 1831, so could realistically have been a story told to Samuel Geddes by his grandfather. In addition, William Falconer was the minister of Kelton parish in 1724 and is mentioned by Morton as one of the ministers alleged to have been sympathetic to the Levellers. Robert Johnstone became laird of Kelton in 1706, purchasing the estate #(centred on Kelton Mains farm, now part of the 1500 acre NTS Threave Estate) from William Maxwell, earl of Nithsdale.# In 1715, Robert Johnstone was one of the Steward-Deputes of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright appointed to help defend Dumfries against Jacobite forces led by William Maxwell.

As well as having strong anti- Jacobite credentials, Johnstone was (at least according to the Latin inscription on his gravestone in St Michael’s kirkyard in Dumfries) a “ strong opponent of Union and assertor of Scotland’s liberty” . In 1706 Johnstone represented Dumfries Burgh in the Scottish parliament and voted against the proposed Union.# As the rest of the inscription on Johnstone’s grave shows, he had also been several times provost of Dumfries and represented the burgh in the Convention of Royal Burghs. But although these anti-Jacobite and patriotic credentials distinguish Robert Johnstone from Jacobite landowners like Sir Basil Hamilton, Lady Mary Gordon (nee Dalzell) of Kenmure and George Maxwell of Munches, the origin of Johnstone’s wealth in trade as a Dumfries based merchant is more significant.

Like William Craik (a Dumfries based merchant who was Johnstone’s father -in - law and business partner and who bought the Arbigland and Duchrae estates in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright in the late 17th century. # ), landownership was secondary to Johnstone’s main economic activities. The income he derived from his Kelton (Threave) Estate was therefore supplemental. So long as his tenants provided a steady stream of income through mainly arable farming( Kelton Estate having been arable/ grange land since at least the 13th century #), Johnstone had no pressing need to gamble on the cattle trade and therefore no pressing need to evict his tenants to create a cattle park at Kelton.

Yet if the Galloway Levellers had only been able to draw on support from those directly evicted to make way for new cattle parks, like the sixteen families dispossessed by Murdoch of Cumloden, the events of 1724 would have been on a much smaller scale. If the eye-witness account of James Clerk is to be believed, the breaking of Sir Basil Hamilton’s dykes in early May 1724 involved 1000 levellers. Although it is possible that it was the threat posed to the ‘moral economy’ which mobilised such a large group, the emphasis given to the 43 Irish cattle ( out of a herd of 400 cattle) seized by the Levellers in their account of the incident and by James Clerk in his account suggests a more direct economic linkage. The smuggling of Irish cattle was also of concern to the customs officers in Dumfries.

So rigid were the revenue regulations at this period [1724], that when some charitable people in Dumfries commissioned two ship loads of oatmeal from Ireland that the poor might obtain it cheap when it was hardly to be had of home growth for love or money, the collector durst not permit the meal to be landed till he was specially authorized to do so by his official superiors. The officers were also scandalized by a daring innovation which had sprung up, especially at Kirkcudbright, of importing Irish cattle, and they sorely bewailed the connivance given to it by the County gentlemen and their tenants.#
Leopold’s research suggests that ths first Leveklers action took place at Netherlaw near Kirkcudbright on 17 Match 1724. In their Letter to Major Du Cary the Levellers mention this incident:
understanding that there were a considerable number of Irish cattle in the Parks of Netherlaw, we did, in obedience to the law, legally seize and slaughter them to deter the gentlemen from the like practice if importing or bringing Irish cattle, to the great loss of this poor country as well as the breeders in England, too much the practice of the gentlemen here.#

Although direct evidence of the import of Irish cattle is lacking in the case of Alexander Murray of Cally (Girthon parish, Stewartry of Kirkcudbright), who had “a large park that feeds one thousand bullocks, that he sends once every year to the markets of England” in 1723 #, Murray had inherited over 60 000 acres of Irish land, mainly in Donegal. Alexander Murray‘s ancestor, George Murray of Broughton in Wigtownshire, had been granted these lands in 1610 as part of the Plantation.# By 1621, cattle from these Irish estates were being sold in England.# In 1724, Alexander Murray would therefore have been highly likely to have been involved in the illegal import of Irish cattle and to have been a target for the Galloway Levellers - which he was. According to one of John Nicholson’s sources - Violet Nish, whose father Robert was born in 1715 at Enrick in Girthon parish- Alexander Murray’s dykes in Girthon parish were levelled in 1724 during an incident in which shots were fired.

At Cardoness in Anwoth parish, on the west bank of the Fleet and only 1 km (½ mile) from Alexander Murray’s cattle park at Cally, lay the cattle parks of Colonel William Maxwell.# If the Levellers had been intent on breaking the dykes of all such enclosures, then Colonel Maxwell’s dykes would have been a next and obvious target. But Maxwell’s dykes were left standing. Colonel Maxwell is mentioned in the Letter to Major Du Cary as having, along with ‘Laird Heron’ (either Patrick Heron senior or Patrick Heron junior, both of Minnigaff parish) as having reached an agreement with the Levellers “that we should live peaceably and throw down no man’s dykes.”. This agreement was negotiated immediately after an encounter between a party of armed heritors and armed Levellers at the Steps of Tarff. There appear to have been two such confrontations, one in early May and one in early June, but it is unclear which is being referred to.

More certainly, although the Letter to Major Du Cary includes the Herons “Yr. and elder” amongst its list of depopulating lairds, stating that “the little town of Minigaff belonging to Mr. Heron is only a nest of beggars since he inclosed all the ground about it.”, the Herons’ extensive cattle parks were not levelled. Yet, as Woodward notes in his comparative study of the 17th century Irish and Scottish cattle trade, “Patrick Herron sent 1000 or more cattle to England via Dumfries in each of the years 1689-91 inclusive.” .# Until the death of Sir David Dunbar (elder) of Baldoon in 1686, Patrick Heron senior had managed Dunbar’s cattle trading activities. After Dunbar’s death, Heron and his son built up extensive landholdings in Minnigaff parish to become the main cattle traders in Galloway.# Since these landholdings included both upland and lowland farms, this suggests that the Herons had developed a ‘vertically integrated’ approach to the cattle trade. The profitability of this indigenous business model would have been undermined by the illegal import of Irish cattle.

According to a letter dated 20 May 1724 written by James Clerk in Kirkcudbright to his brother Sir John Clerk:

Upon Wednesday last a party of about 100 [Levellers], all armed came into town, driving before them about 53 Black Cattle which they had, after throwing down the dykes, brought in the name of Irish cattle. They demanded us to assist in retaining said cattle…We thereupon refused to meddle in the affair, especially considered that we writt the Commissioners 15 days ago upon that account, and have as yet no orders to give any such assistance, upon which they drove them out of town and slaughtered each one [of] them in a barbarous manner notwithstanding as law directs proof was made… that they were not imported from Ireland, but bought of a Highland drover .#

According to Morton, the slaughter ‘in a barbarous manner’ was carried out in Dundrennan Abbey a blacksmith named McMinn, giving rise to the local folklore saying that “M’Minn’s fore-hammer was more deadly than a butcher’s knife.”. #. Between 1640 and 1700 the Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds record seven related McMinn’s who were blacksmiths and a Francis McMinn (blacksmith) was a portioner of Gregory croft near Dundrennan in 1724.#

Further confirmation that the alleged illegal import of Irish cattle was a significant factor in the events of 1724 is given by the Earl of Galloway in one of his letters to Sir John Clerk. In this letter, the Earl of Galloway describes an incident which occurred on the 12th May when the Levellers “slaughtered near Kirkcudbright 55 or 57 cattell belonging to Hugh Blair of Dunrod [parish of Borgue] notwithstanding he made it appear they were bred in Britain, and they have used some of Basil Hamilton’s cattell after the same way and manner upon Saturday morning last.”. #

The defence that the cattle involved were not Irish echoes that made on behalf of Sir David Dunbar (elder) by Symson in his Large Description of Galloway forty two years before.
Those of his [ Dunbar’s] owne breed, are very large, yea, so large, that in August ro September 1682 nine and fifty of that sort, which woulld have yielded betwixt five and six pound srerling the peece were seized upon in England for Irish cattell; and because the person to whom they were entrusted had not witnesses that there ready at the precise hour, to swear that they wer seen calved in Scotland (although the witness offered t depone that he liv’d in Scotland, wityin a mile of tthe park where they were calved and gred), they were, by the sentence of Sir J.L., and some others whl knew welp enough that they were bred in Scotland, knockt on the head and kill’d; which was, to say no more, very hard measure, and sn act unworthy of persons od that quality and station who ordered it to be done.#

By their seizure, public display and slaughter of over 150 ‘Irish’ cattle, the Galloway Levellers were trying to drive a wedge between those landowners and farmers who were involved on the legitimate cattle trade and those who were not. It is difficult to judge how effrchive strategy was in broadening the base of support for the Levellers’ actions in tge Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Certaainly in Wigtownshire the use of battering ram to demolish a dyke built raound the Fell of Barhullion by Sir Alexander Maxwwll of Monretih suggests the Wigtownshire Levellerx were numerically fewer. Maxwell was also able to enlist his tennats to defend his remaining dykes, although sevej of his cattle were houghed (had their hamstrings cut) in te night. This houghing incident, compared with the cery public slaughter of cattle in the Stewartry, is another indication that there were fewer Levellers in Wigtonshire. At Balsier in Sorbie parish, it was the tenant who organised the defence of a field dyke ( I.e. a subdividing enclosure) against the Levellers. In the struggle wgich ensued one of the Levellers was fatally wounded.# Finally and most tellingly, the Sheriff of Wigtown was able to suppress the Wigtownshire Levellers without recourse to the Earl of Stair’s Dragoons.#

If the Wgitownshire Levellers w ere fewer in number, why dir they not seek support from the Stewartry? One possibility is that if large ccale support for the Levellers was confined to the central parishes of the Stwwarty of Kirkcudbright, it would have been logistically difficult to level more dmstant dykes or tp give support to the Wigtownshire Levellers. When the known instances of dkye-breaking in the Stewartry are plotted on a map, they are all within a 16km (10 mile) radius of Kelton Hill. This may be a pracgical reason why the Herons’ cattle parks in Minnigaff parish were untouched. Minnigaff is 30 km (19 miles) in a direct line from Kelton Hill and approximately 45 km (288 miles) by existing tracks. Likewise, although ‘Murray of Cavens’ was alleged to jave threatened thirty families with eviction, his estate in Kirkbean parish was left unmolested. Cavens is 24 km (15 miles) in a direct line from Kelton Hill and approximately 30 km(19 miles) by existing tracks.

In a letter to Sir John Clerk of Pencuik dated 3rd June 1724, James Clerk states that two troops of horse and four of foot left Kirkcudbright at 3 am on the 2nd June and arrived at the Boat of Rhone at 8 am, expecting to confront a gathering of Levellers, but no Levellers appeared. The direct distance from Kirkcudbright to the Boat of Rhone (at the junction of the rivers Ken and Dee) is 15 km (9 miles). Even if the actual distance travelled along the rough tracks then existing was nearer 19 km (12 miles), the troops were travelling at 3.8 km/ hour (2.4 niles/ hour). A large group of Levellers are unlikely tp have travelled any faster than the troops so woulx have taken roughly 12 hours to reach Minnigaff from the centre of the Stewartgy and 8 hours to reach Kirkbean. Sorbie parish in Wigtownshire is 20 km (12.5 miles) south Minnigaff. It would have taken a party of central Stewartry Levellers at least 17 hours walking non-stop to provide support for the Wigtownshire Lfvellers. Any such attempt wold ahve been easily halted long before this by the two troops of horse stationed in Kirkcudbright.

Of the 23 Levellers pursued for damages by Sir Basil Hamilton in January 1725, having demolished 580 roods of dyke at Galtway (near Kirkcudbright) between the 12th and 16th May 1724, Thomas Moige and Grizel Grierson his wife lkve furthest away. Moire was the owner-occupier of Beoch farm in Tongland parish. Beoch ls 13 km miles) from Galtway. As a farm owner, Moire and his wife wkuld have been able to travel by horseback to Galtway. The other named Levellers all lived less than 9 k (5.5 miles) from Galtway and ths majority lived within 4 km (2.5 miles). Th ree lived at mills (xt Auchlane Miln and Nethermilns), two in crofts (Greenlane and Meadow Isle) and the rest were either tenant farmers pr cottars. One, John Martin, was the 14 year old son of a tenant farmer in Lochdougan.

The involvement of Thomas and Grizel Moire is significant since it reveals tgat at least some of the Galloway Levellers wdee owner-occupier farmers. Their respective family backgrounds also suggest that, at least in the case of Sir Basil Hamilton, the anti-Jacobite rhetoric of the Levellers had deep historical roots. Grizel Grier aas the eaughter of Thomas Greirsone of Bargatton farm. Thomas Moire was the son of Henry Moire of Beoch.# These are neighbouring farms.

In 1640, William Grierson of Bargatton (Grizel’s grandfather) was appointed to the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright War Committee of the Covenanters, and was one of the Stewartry representatives in the Scottish Parliament from 1644 to 1651. Between 1649 and 1704, William Grierson and his son, also William ( I.e. Grizel’s uncle) were Commissioners of Supply for the Stewartry of Kirkcudbrivht,# but by 1724, Bargatton was nl longer owned bg the Grietsons. Local auttor S.R. Crockett, who was born in Balmaghie parish in 1859, believed family members had rmigrated Virginia about 1708. Crockett also notes that t he Grriersons were ‘Reformed Presbyterians‘, I.e. Cameronian members of the Reverend John McMillan of Balmaghie’s independent church.#

In 1640, William Grierson of Bargatton (Grizel’s grandfather) was appointed to the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright War Committee of the Covenanters, and was one of the Stewartry representatives in the Scottish Parliament from 1644 to 1651.# McKerlie gives the details of the ownership of Bargatton, noting that it and seven other f arms in Balmaghie were owned by the Grierson family between 1600 and 1700. The farmd then changed hands several times. William Murray, x merchant in Dumfries owned them from 1700 to 1712, then Robert Maclellan of Barcloy had them until 1720, followed by his brother Samuel until March 1725 when Colonel William Maxwell of Cardoness bought them before they were sold againn ig 1735 to the Reeverend Walter Laurie of Redcastle (parish of Urr). The Laurie family were still in possession when McKerlie was writing in 1878, owning 12 farms and the viklage of Clachanpuck which Walter Laurie improved and re-named Laurieston. Mckerlie also notes that in 1678, Henry Mure (or Moide) commissary-clerk of Kirkcudbright owned Bellymack abd Grannoch Waulk Mill in Balmaghie parish.# Unfortunately, McKerlie apatr from noting that ‘Hendrie Moore commissar clerk of Kirkcudbright’ also had prinviple sssine og Beoch (Tnogland parish) in 1678 does not provide any fyrther information on the Moires of Beoch. However, McKerlie does reveal that in Mwy 1645, the Gordons of Kenmure had ‘superiorty’ of Beoch.# This suggests that in 1724, Thomas Moire’s feudal superior was Lady Mary Dalzell, widow of the Jacobite Viscount William Gordon of Kenmure.

The firsf mention of Henry Moire in the Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds is from 1666, when he had a five year tack of the Abbey of Dundrennan.# On 7th March 1678, “Henry Mure, Commissary Clerk at Kirkcudbright, was libelled for being preesent at hhouse and field conventicles where Mr. John Welsh, Mr. Gabriel Semple and Mr. Samuel Arnott were. He ackno wledged he had once heard Mr. Samuel Adnot at a field conventicle and thfough Bisbop Paterson of Galloway he was dismissed without further trouble.”.# Since hhe Kirkcudbright Shwriff Court Deeds show Henry Moire continuing to witness deeds as Commssary Clerk after this date, it was thf lkbel rather than Henfy Moire which was dismissed.

The mention of Samuel Arnot is of interest since, as discussed above, David Arnot’s support for his brother Samuel led to the enforced sale of Barcaple (the family farm) to Stuart loyalist Willoam McGuffog in 1674. Although McGuffog’s son-in-law Hugh Blair-McGuffog sold Barcaplee in 1687 to the Rev. John McMichen, in 1724, Hugh Blair-McGuffog still owned the farms of Lairdmannoch and Kirkconnel (where four Covenanters were killed by Grierson of Lagg in February 16685) .# In 1724, Hugh-Blair McGuffog’s cattle parks in Borgue parish were levelled, although they had been in existence for over 30 years.# rFom McKelrie, Lairdmannoch and Kirkconnel ( but not Beoch ) were owned by Robert Gordon of Garerrie in 1726, but returned to the McGuffog-Blairs in 1751. By 1799, Beoch, Lairdmanonch, Kirkconnel and 13 other farms in Tongland parish were owned by Alexander Murray of Cally.

It is not possible to be certain why Thomas Moire of Beoch and Girzel Grierson helped level Sif Basil Hamilton’s cattle park dykes in May 1724. That Grizel Grierson’s family had already lost Barhatton and emigrated to America may well have been a factor. The probability that she nad her husband were struggling to make a living on their small farm of Beoch would be another. Although such cattle parks in themselves were not an innovation ih 1724, the export cattle to England provided cattle traders like the Herons of Kirroughtrie, Murdoch of Cumloden, Murray of Cally and Blair-McGuffog of Dunrod with ready cash in hte form of Engoish guineas. This gave them an advantage (shared with merchant traders like Robert Johnston of Kelton) over lesser landowners and owner-occupiers who were less able (if at alp) to export their oats and bere or the few cattle or sheep their smalled landholdings produced.

As any attempt to follow the histories of the thousands oof ‘lands and their owners’ documented by McKerlie in his five volume study swiftly shows, the feuung out of Crown lands in Galloway (the 108 estates forfeit by the 9th earl of Douglas in 1456) and the break-up of Galloway’s great monastic estates (Dundrennan, Glenluce, Tongland, Soulseat, Lincluden and New Abbey) after 1560 led to a fragmentation of landownership which reached its peal in the latre 17th century. In turn, as the numerous wadsets noted by McKerlie attest, the fragmentation of landownership created a high level of economic insecurity with small estates or individual farms changing hand with bewildering rapidity. The finew and forfeitures of the political and religious struggles of the 17tth century added to this turmoil. Al though hastened by the economic advnfage created by the export r cattle, a process of consolidation of landownership would have occurred anyway, as the more successful farmers and landowners bought out the farms and estates of their less successful (or just less fortunate) neighbours.

Given Grizel Grierson’s family background, she and her husband would have been very aware of this process. They would also have been aware of the religious and political family history of Sir Basil Hamilton - a Jacobite and the inheritor of a lands acquired by his Sruart supporting grandfather and great-grandfather at from hhe Covenant supporting McLellans of Kirkcuddbright, including teh lands of Bombie where H amilton had constructed his new cattle park.

Tracing the background of the other Levellers accused of breaking Sir B asil Hamilton’s dykes is less easy. Some background for John McKnaught of Meadow Isle is given by the Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds. A 1676 tafk for Aireland farm in Kelton parish gives a John MccKnaught as possessing the Meadow Islle croft. In 1724, the farm was owned by aLdy Mary Dunbar. # For John McKnaught, the eviction of tenants and cottars to make way for Sir Basil Hamilton’s new cattle prk a t Bpmbie would have been a warning that the croft his family hzd possessed (but not owned) for ficty years was endangered.

For John Martin of Lochdougan, we have his own account in Nicholson’s Notebook. Born in 1710 at Halmyre farm in Kelton parish, in 1724 his father was a tenant in Lchdougan farm tao miles from Halmyre. John Martin seems to have made his own decision to become a teenage Leveller. He stole his father’s flail and joined the Levellers in their confrontation with the heritorz at the Setps of Tarff in May 1724. Here John armed himself with x musket dropped in front of him by an older but more nervous Leveller. John kept the gun with him until he was captured at Duchrae in October 1724. For possessing the gun he was fned £1000 sterling in addition to his share of the �777 Scots he was fined for damages to Sir Basil Hamilton’s property. Despite his youthful participation in the Levellers Uprising, John went on to become a respectable and respected watch and clock maker in Kirkcudbright where he died im 1801.#

The involvement of a 14 year old John Martin (armed with his musket), in the events of 1724 raises further questions about the motivations of the Galloway Levellers. Although it is possible that John Martin was motivated to join the Levellers because he saw the cattle parks as a threat to his future prospects as the son of a tenant farmer or cottar, he may equally have been motivated by the spirit of youthful rebellion against the status quo. Sir Basil Hamilton himself was only 18 when he joined the Jacobite Uprising of 1715.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Nothing much

With all the Irish and Scottish news I get every day, I couldn't find a single thing that I'd consider interesting or important to put on this blog. It's a good thing that most of the characters in my books are Celtic.

Even in Vengeance Is Mine, my suspense, the characters are primarily Irish. In Clan Gunn: Gerek, they're Scots. I guess growing up in Albany, NY, which is basically, or was, an Irish city, the lilt and the language is in my blood.

They always tell you to write what you know-----and there I am, or was------in the middle of a Celtic world. Growing up was fun--full of love and laughter. It's stayed in my memory forever.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pictures from Scotland

Scottish Snippets produces a color supplement every so often. I thought this one of the flora was especially attractive.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Irish happening

From the Irish News........

Hero Cop Set for Ireland
May 7, 2008

By April Drew

NYPD Detective Steven McDonald, who was paralyzed in 1986 after being shot while on duty, his wife Patti Ann McDonald, mayor of her hometown, Malverne in Long Island, and their 21-year-old son Conor, will travel to Ireland next week to mark the 10 year anniversary of Project Reconciliation – Northern Ireland.

The McDonald family, accompanied by a small group from New York, will return to Omagh 10 years after the Omagh bombing in which 29 people lost their lives. Chaplain of the New York City Fire Department, Father Mychal Judge, who died on 9/11, was part of the convoy that went to Northern Ireland in 1998.

Steven McDonald, 51, told the Irish Voice on Monday he is returning to Ireland to “continue to show the people of Northern Ireland that America support their efforts to secure lasting peace.”

Discussing their reconciliation trip in 1998 McDonald said, “I thought we were very successful last time. We met many people on both sides of the issue and we made friends with them, and some of them to this day are still our friends.”

The NYPD detective describes the timing of their visit in 1998 as a “God incident.” His party had planned for months to go to the North and “it just so happened that this terrible act of terrorism played out the day before we left. There are no coincidences in life,” he said, believing that God plays a role in everything.

McDonald described the Omagh tragedy as “devastating.” He remembers how families of the victims and residents of the town grabbed onto Judge’s robes while he walked down the street.

“We were very fortunate to be there for them. I think we were a help the short hours we were there to everyone we met,” he said.

Although McDonald admits he doesn’t have the financial means to support the people of the North, he said he has something better — his prayers.

“I have my prayers and experience that God has given me since I was shot 20 years ago,” he said. “People are still suffering, and it’s up to us to use our good will to secure a better future for those in Northern Ireland.”

McDonald and his delegation in 1998 met with many families who were affected by the Troubles. One particular lady stands out in McDonald’s memory.

Hazel McCreevey, a Protestant who was shot by a member of the IRA, turned to McDonald for support during his visit. “I spoke with her in January and she said that I made a difference to the lives of people in the North during our visits,” he said.

“I believe in the people of Northern Ireland, they have worked hard for their peace. People like me — all of us here in America — should be doing what we can do to support them in the days and months ahead with our money or talents. I hope with this trip I inspire people to get up and go and do something for these great people,” he added.

McDonald feels the recent peace process offers a real lesson for the rest of the world.

“We have many issues including racial violence here in our country, and if anything I’ve learned from visiting Northern Ireland people can co-exist and forgive each other. People chose to move forward and we should all take note of that,” he said.

McDonald explains that the visit, which will begin on May 11, is important to show the people of Northern Ireland that just because there is peace, “you are not forgotten.” This is McDonald’s way of supporting the Good Friday Agreement and helping it to “move forward.”

Monday, May 05, 2008

Scotland Murders

Since I'm interested in writing a suspense/chiller novel and am doing that now, I pick up all sorts of information that might later be of interest. Vengeance Is Mine is coming along. I'm writing more scenes and learning that many of them are not necessary to move the story forward--so I'm cutting as well. Nasty game, this writing.

Here's something for the books--and in Scotland--from The It's long but interesting.

Two families, two tragedies and four murders to solve
Police cordoned off the area at Lennoxtown while investigations continued.

By Michael Howie and Alastair Dalton
TWO Scottish communities are today united in grief after the violent murders of two pairs of siblings in chillingly similar incidents only a few hours apart.
The first double murder came to light shortly after 5pm on Saturday, when brothers aged six and two were found in a car parked at a beauty spot near Lennoxtown in East Dunbartonshire.

Their critically ill father is believed to have suffered severe burns after his silver Vauxhall Vectra was set on fire with the brothers, from Glasgow, inside.

The man was earlier seen several times, apparently asleep in the car at a turn-off around ten miles from Glasgow, which is used as an unofficial lay-by by walkers.

Meanwhile, 50 miles away, in the Fife town of Buckhaven, the bodies of Michelle Thomson, 25, and her seven-year-old brother, Ryan Thomson, were discovered by their mother in their home at about 7:30pm the same day.

The pair were discovered in separate bedrooms, in a scene detectives described as "harrowing".

The father of the two Buckhaven victims was found injured at the scene.

Police investigating both double murders were last night waiting at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline to interview the victims' fathers.

In both cases, the fathers are understood to have been estranged from the victims' mothers.

News of the deaths have sent shockwaves through both communities.

In Lennoxtown, prayers were said for the murdered young boys and their loved ones.

Margaret Tindall, the session clerk at Campsie Parish Church, who led its service yesterday morning, said: "We prayed for the relatives. It is such a sad situation. It was so desperately sad that no-one was able to intervene and help them in time."

Father William Conway, of St Machan's Catholic Church, said the 200-strong congregation at mass had "prayed for those affected". He added: "It is very sad."

Floral tributes from relatives, friends and neighbours were laid close to both murder scenes.

In Buckhaven, flowers were placed outside the detached home where the brother and sister were found.

A family friend laying a floral tribute said the brother and sister's parents had split up very recently and the father, 49-year-old Robert Thomson, was left with the children.

The house, called Muiredge Cottage, on Methilhaven Road, had its windows covered and was partially obscured by police tents erected around the back and side.

Fife Chief Inspector Andy Morris said: "This is a terrible tragedy which has shocked the community (and] the police officers involved in the investigation."

Brothers found in car had suffered 'violent deaths'


A MURDER investigation was launched last night after two young brothers were found dead in the Campsie Fells, north of Glasgow.

Police are waiting to question the critically ill father of Paul Ross, six, and two-year-old Jay, who were found in a car and are said to have suffered "violent deaths".

Strathclyde Police confirmed that the deaths were being treated as murder, following post-mortem examinations yesterday.

The father is believed to have suffered severe burns after the silver Vauxhall Vectra he was in caught fire with his two sons also inside. The family are from the Royston area of Glasgow.

Officers have not said how the boys died, or confirmed whether they were found in the boot of the vehicle.

Reports that they suffered carbon monoxide poisoning or had their throats cut have been dismissed.

The alarm was raised at around 5:15pm on Saturday when the car was spotted beside the gated entrance to a hill track off the B822 Crow Road between Lennoxtown and Fintry, near the East Dunbartonshire-Stirling border.

The man, who is in his forties and thought to be Asian, was earlier seen apparently asleep in the car at the turn-off, which is used as a lay-by by walkers.

Half a mile away, at a popular viewpoint car park, several floral tributes had been left yesterday. One message read: "For those two little angels taken on such a tragic day. Forever in our hearts."

The road remained closed until lunchtime while investigations continued. By then, the only sign of the incident was a scrap of blue-and-white police tape fluttering from a fence. There were reports that the boys' parents were estranged and the father had weekend access to his sons. Police have spoken to the mother.

A spokeswoman said officers were following a "positive" line of inquiry and were not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident.

The man is being treated at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Police officers are at the hospital, waiting to speak to him.

David Shephard, from Lennoxtown, who drove past the car several times on Saturday afternoon, said he thought the man had been asleep.

He said the Vectra had been parked pointing south towards Lennoxtown, with no sign of anyone else in the car.

Mr Shephard, 26, said: "I drove past the car with my girlfriend at about 1pm. It was in a wee lay-by. The guy was in the driver's seat, smartly dressed in shirt and tie, with his head lying to one side. I thought he must be sleeping.

"We passed him on our way back about 20 minutes later, then I passed him again at about 4:30pm when I drove up to take the dog for a walk."

Mr Shephard said he noticed at that time a small silver car had stopped, which he thought may have contained the people who raised the alarm.

When Mr Shephard was returning home about an hour later, he found the road had been cordoned off, with police cars and vans and an ambulance and fire engine at the scene.

Prayers were said at church services in Lennoxtown yesterday.

Margaret Tindall, session clerk at Campsie Parish Church, who led its service yesterday morning, said: "We prayed for the relatives. It is such a sad situation. It was so desperately sad that no-one was able to intervene and help them in time."

John Dempsey, a Lennoxtown councillor, said: "My thoughts are ones of shock at these tragic deaths.

"I have a three-year-old grandson, so I know how the family will be feeling."

Mother finds disabled daughter, 25, and son, 7, dead at home


POLICE are investigating a double murder after a disabled woman and her young brother were found dead in their home.

Michelle Thomson, 25, and seven-year-old Ryan were discovered by their mother on Saturday evening.

Police and paramedics were called to the house in Buckhaven, Fife, at about 7pm, but the siblings – found in separate bedrooms – were already dead.

The bodies of Ryan Thomson, seven, and sister Michelle Thomson, 25, were found in their home on SaturdayAnother sibling, 20-year-old Ross, was found in the house, but he was uninjured. Ms Thomson is understood to have suffered from severe disabilities.

The children's father, Robert Thomson, 49, was found injured at the house, and was taken to the Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline.

He is being kept in the high-dependency unit with a police guard.

Police last night refused to release details on the causes of death of the children, but described the scene officers were met with as "a harrowing one".

Yesterday, the main road out of Buckhaven was closed off and guarded by police as forensics experts examined the scene. The house, in Methilhaven Road, had its windows covered and police tents erected around the back and side.

Examinations of the crime scene are expected to finish later today.

Last night, neighbours said there had been marriage problems between Robert Thomson and his wife, June.

One family friend, laying flowers outside the house, said: "A couple of weeks back, June left him, but she had come back to try and patch things up."

She added: "My daughter cared for their daughter, Michelle, and was engaged to their eldest son, Shaun, so we knew the family quite well. I don't know what would bring someone to do something like this; it's just horrible to think."

Chris Arnott, 38, who also lives in Methilhaven Road, said: "It isn't nice to think this could happen on your street. I have spoken to the guy Bob in the pub a couple of times – he seemed normal. But they have only lived there for a little while and have been trying to sell that house practically since then – there was a terrible accident outside it a few years back."

Other neighbours told how the family had "kept themselves to themselves" since moving from Kirkcaldy.

The couple's eldest son, Shaun, 24, lives in Essex and was yesterday travelling back to Fife after being informed of the tragedy.

Floral tributes have been left outside the detached house.

Messages read simply: "Sleep in peace forever" and "God bless".

Nobody had been charged in connection with the deaths by last night. But police confirmed they had launched a murder inquiry.

Detective Superintendent Alastair McKeen said: "This is a murder investigation, but it is at a very early stage and we are keeping an open mind.

"Mr Thomson is likely to have valuable information about the events which took place in the Muiredge Cottage yesterday, and we will be keen to speak to him."

After appealing for information from the public, he said: "This is the type of event you hope you never have to see."

The full article contains 1564 words and appears in The Scotsman newspaper.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

A Painting from the

Everything comes up roses for Mrs Mac

A detail from one of two painted panels by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh.

By Tim Cornwell
Arts Correspondent
A PAINTED panel by the wife of the architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh yesterday set a world auction record for a Scottish work of art.

The White Rose and the Red Rose, painted in 1902 by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, sold for £1,700,500 in London yesterday. Bought by a private US collector, what was called a consummate example of the Glasgow avant-garde smashed the expected price of between £200,000 and £300,000.

A companion panel, The Heart of the Rose, sold for a more modest £490,900, though that was double its estimate. Mackintosh, who lived from 1865 to 1933, was an artist whose design work was called one of the defining features of the "Glasgow Style".

The Scotsman's art critic, Duncan MacMillan, said: "It would be a very fine thing on your wall. It's a beautiful thing by a rare artist of high reputation."

Her artwork appears to have doubled the previous auction record for a Scottish artist, set by the former coalminer Jack Vettriano when his painting The Singing Butler sold at a Sotheby's auction in 2004 for £744,800.

Featured in a Christie's auction of 20th-century decorative art and design, there was little hint that the Mackintosh panels would break records, but they have a rich history. The panels were shown at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art in Turin, Italy, in 1902, picked by Francis Newbury, head of the Glasgow School of Art.

They featured in the exhibition's "Rose Boudoir", in a collaboration of Mackintosh and his wife. It was seen as the height of the couple's work together.

They both trained under Mr Newbury, who also commissioned Mackintosh to design the GSA, one of his most famous buildings. After Turin, the panels were bought by Fritz Wärndorfer, the famous patron of the Viennese avant-garde and an admirer of the Mackintoshes.

Philippe Garner, a Christie's specialist, said: "We are thrilled to have set a world auction record. There was fiercely competitive international bidding throughout the sale in the room, on the telephone and online." The Christie's sale of art nouveau, art deco and early modernist work totalled £3,666,650.


WHEN Jack Vettriano's The Singing Butler, left, was sold for £744,800 in 2004 it was described by Sotheby's as "the record for any Scottish painting".

Sotheby's old rival, Christie's, appears to have smashed that record yesterday with the sale of The White Rose and the Red Rose for £1,700,500, claiming "a new world auction record for any Scottish work of art". The Scottish colourist SJ Peploe was the closest contender behind Vettriano in the price wars, with top works commanding about £500,000. In 2007 a painting by Scottish-born Peter Doig sold for £5.7 million, a record for a living artist, but Doig left Edinburgh as a baby for the Caribbean and North America.