Remembrance Sunday

Today’s post is a guest one from A Son of the Rock (Jack).

Poelcapelle War Cemetery, Flanders, Belgium

Poelcapelle is today spelled Poelkapelle. The village is a few miles north-east of Ypres (Ieper.) The British War Cemetery (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) is by the N313 road from Bruges (Brugge) to Ypres.

Poelcapelle War Cemetery,  Belgium

I’ve been to Tyne Cot but nevertheless still gasped when I entered Poelcapelle Cemetery. There are nearly 7,500 burials here, the vast majority, 6,230, of which are “Known unto God”.

View of interior from entrance:-

Interior of Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Graves:-

Graves, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Some of the unidentified soldiers of the Great War:-

War Graves, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Lines of graves:-

Lines of Graves, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice and Stone of Remembrance:-

Cross of Sacrifice and Stone of Remembrance, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Memorial to some of those whose earlier graves were destroyed in later battles:-

Memorial Stone, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

As usual the graves are beautifully kept. A Soldier of the Great War, Known unto God and Private F J Patten, Hampshire Regiment, 4/10/17, aged 21:-

Planting, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Two Soldiers of the Great War:-

More Planting, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

There is one World War 2 grave at Poelcapelle. Private R E Mills, Royal Berkshire Regiment, 30/5/1940, aged 19:

WW 2 Grave, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice and Stone of Remembrance:-

Cross of Sacrifice and Stone of Remembrance Closer View

Enduring Eye – Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition Exhibition

Enduring Eye – is an exhibition at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. It’s about Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition and has been on since June but closes in a couple of weeks, we just got around to visiting it a couple of days ago. If you’re near Edinburgh and you’re interested in explorers and the Antarctic then you might find it interesting.

The photographs are amazingly clear and there’s even some film footage of Endurance breaking up as she was crushed by the ice. The expedition was from 1914 to 1917 and of course when they did get back from being marooned on Elephant Island for months the men had a lot of news to catch up with, World War 1 had barely started when they left Blighty.

You can see a lot of Frank Hurley‘s Endurance photographs here. He was an Australian and he went on to become a war photographer and took many of the iconic images of World War 1.

There are some artifacts on display too, but it’s really the photographs that are most interesting. You can see more photos here, mainly of the inside of the ship, showing what it was like for the men.

Bergen (Gateway to the fjords) Norway

I had visited Bergen before when I was eleven years old, on an educational school cruise, sailing on the SS Uganda. I had hardly any memories of the actual town, apart from the fish market that was on the quayside way back then. I think it was probably the horror of that that stuck in my mind. The Bergen housewives chose their fish from small sinks full of writhing live fish. I suppose it meant they were super fresh, I’ve never been keen on fish dead or alive, but I was even less keen on seeing them getting the chop, literally. Anyway the fish market has changed quite a bit, I only saw some crustaceans alive in tanks and the plastic awnings weren’t an improvement.

Street View in Bergen

I had no memories of the old wooden buildings in Bergen, probably because we were taken by bus to the composer Edvard Grieg’s home (he was of Scottish descent) and I have a lot of memories of that. Jack didn’t want to visit there though, so we walked around the town, going a bit further than most people probably. Jack is always on the lookout for art deco style buildings to photograph, and he did find a few but I’ll leave those for him to blog about.

Bryggen, Bergen

Bergen is a very old city, it was probably founded around 1070. In the 13th century it was the capital of Norway and eventually became a city of the Hanseatic League which was a sort of medieval European marketing union. This square was bit more modern though.

A Street in Bergen

After doing a wee bit of shopping we took the funicular railway up a very steep hill to get a good view of the city from above, but I’ll leave that post for another time.

You can see more images of Bergen here.

Earl’s Palace, Birsay, Orkney, Scotland

Earl's Palace , Birsay, Orkney

I’m casting my mind back to early June when we had a week’s holiday in Orkney, it was the first time either of us had been there. The Earl’s Palace at Birsay was one of the places on our list of places to visit.

Earl's Palace  Birsay

It’s a ruin, as you can see but that’s no surprise as it was built between 1569 and 1579. Earl Robert Stewart built it, he was an illegitimate son of King James V – so a half-brother to Mary, Queen of Scots and he obviously had high ambitions for himself. He was a bit of a swine by all accounts – but weren’t they all?!

Earl's Palace  at Birsay, Orkney

His son seems to have been even worse though. I always remind myself when I visit any stately homes or castles that the people who built them only managed to do so because they were the most violent bullies in an age when that was what was needed to get to the top of society. Thinking about it though – I’m not at all sure that things have changed much over the years!

Info Board

Birsay is a very small settlement, but I enjoyed a walk around the graveyard there, that was when I realised that the surnames on Orkney are so different from those in other parts of Scotland. They’re mostly of Viking descent, so no Macs or Mcs here – well very few if any.

The Kitchener Memorial and Marwick Head, Orkney

We were just driving along a very skinny road when we noticed a signpost saying Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head, Orkney. Obviously we knew that Kitchener had drowned not long after the beginning of World War 1 when the ship he was on, HMS Hampshire, hit a German mine, but we had no idea it happened just off Marwick Head. This massive tower was built in his memory.

Kitchener Memorial from path

A view of the Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head, Orkney.

Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head on Orkney

Marwick Head is absolutely awash with rabbits as you can see, they aren’t at all bothered by humans it seems.

Rabbits

It’s a long way down and it was windy so I wasn’t going to go too close to the edge, some people are thrill seekers though.

More Cliff at Marwick Head, Orkney

It’s a beautiful area and there’s a lovely cliff path if you fancy a long walk. If you click on the photos you can zoom in to enlarge them.

Marwick Head, Orkney

Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport

Caught in the Revolution cover

Caught in the Revolution – Petrograd 1917 by Helen Rappaport was published in 2016, is non-fiction accounts of what people witnessed in Petrograd in the run up to the Russian Revolution. This is a subject that I’ve been interested in since ‘doing’ it in second year at Secondary School, so I knew all about the political details but this book focuses on what was happening out in the streets, how events were affecting ordinary people.

It seems that Petrograd was full of foreigners so there were plenty of people writing of their experiences in a chaotic environment. At the beginning the Tsar is still in power and the people (particularly the women) are having to spend hours every day in queues just to get some basic foodstuffs – if they are lucky.

There seemed to be an awful lot of foreigners in Petrograd, including Arthur Ransome of Swallows and Amazons fame although this is before he wrote those books, he was a reporter for the Daily News and Observer. The writer Hugh Walpole was reporting on events for the British Foreign Office, there were lots of people writing diaries, so I found this book to be a really interesting read.

There were plenty of British and American manufacturers there such as a Singer sewing machine factory, Thorntons woollen mill and Coats of Paisley threads company. The revolutionaries encouraged the workers to demand exorbitant wages for a much shorter working week. Basically everybody gave up working and everywhere was filthy.

Sadly of course after the Bolsheviks took over things got even worse for the ordinary people and food was even more scarce than before. Although I’ve read a lot about this period I don’t think I had realised before what an evil swine Lenin was – but he was a clever one.

The Tsar doesn’t really feature much in the book, but as ever I just wanted to grab him and talk some sense into him, but better people than me tried, such as the British Ambassador Sir George Buchanan. I find it bizarre that considering Tsar Nicholas was so close to the British royal family, and his cousin King George V in particular – he just couldn’t contemplate changing the Russian Imperial system to something similar to the British.

Other well known people who were eye witnesses were Somerset Maugham and Emmeline Pankhurst. Maugham’s experiences formed the basis for his Ashenden collection of short stories which were published in 1928.

There were quite a lot of newspaper photographers in Petrograd at this time but there are frustratingly few photos surviving. There are some in this book but nothing of great interest, the book is a great read otherwise.

Balbirnie Stone Circle, Fife, Scotland

Balbirnie Stones board

After visiting so many Neolithic standing stones and cairns when we were in Orkney I thought it was about time I did another short blogpost about the local ones near me in Fife, the Balbirnie Stone Circle.

Balbirnie Stones

I did blog about them donkey’s years ago and of course they don’t change although they now have a new and legible information board. There was evidence of 16 cremation burials as well as a flint knife, a jet button and beads and a complete food container when the area was excavated.

Balbirnie Stones

The powers that be decided to move this stone circle when a nearby road was being upgraded – which is truly sacrilegious, but at least they re-arranged them as they had been originally. They are now 125 metres to the south-east of their original location.

Balbirnie Standing Stones 3

There’s a burn nearby and I presume that that is why people settled in this area over 2,000 years BC. I must admit that I like to think of families living and working here all those years ago.

Standing Stones, Orkney

On this Summer Solstice I thought I would do a post about the Neolithic stones we recently visited on Orkney.

The Standing Stones of Stenness are well worth going to see although it can get a bit busy. We were lucky, there weren’t too many people around and we did get them to ourselves for a wee while. You can see the Ring of Brodgar and Maeshowe from this location, and when you go for a walk around you are literally tripping over settlements which haven’t been excavated yet, there are just too many of them around and presumably not enough resources to start digs.

Stones of Stenness Information Board

This area was well populated 5,000 years BC, in fact Orkney was the centre of the Neolithic world apparently! Unfortunately I didn’t notice the electricity pylon sticking above one of the stones in the photo below.

Standing Stones on Orkney

It’s a great location near the banks of the sea loch the Loch of Stenness and the freshwater Loch of Harray.
Stones of Stenness

Just to give you an idea of how big the stones are, below is a photo of me beside one, somewhat windswept!
Stone of Stenness and me

St Mungo’s Churchyard Penicuik, Midlothian

We were driving through Penicuik a couple of weeks ago when I spotted a Commonwealth War Graves sign on some old churchyard gates. There was a car park just across the road so we were able to stop for a mooch around the graveyard which is a really old one and has the remains of an ancient church in the middle of it, as well as the large replacement Victorian church which is still in use.

Penicuik St Mungo's

Penicuik St Mungo's

Penicuik St Mungo's 7

The photos above are all of the original St Mungo’s. The photo below shows part of the Victorian replacement.

Penicuik St Mungo's 4

Some of the gravestones are really ancient. There are the usual warning signs of danger from unsafe stones.

Penicuik St Mungo's 6

This is one from the sixteenth century, back and front – the best I’ve ever seen of that type.

Penicuik St Mungo's

Penicuik St Mungo's

From what I can make out it’s of Annie Melrose, spouse of John Hodge. In Scotland women are (or were) reverted to their maiden name after death. It makes sense because often men went through three or four wives what with women dying in childbirth or whatever.

St Mungo – or St Kentigern as he is sometimes called – is patron saint of Glasgow but was apparently born Culross which is not far from us in Fife.

Another Trip to Edinburgh

Last week we decided to have another jaunt over to Edinburgh, mainly to visit the J.M.W. Turner watercolour exhibition which is on every January and then disappears for the rest of the year.

So we made our way along Princes Street to The National Gallery where we met up with a couple of family members who had never seen the watercolours. You can have a look at the collection and watch a wee video here. It’s a bit of an annual pilgrimage for us, but this time it was busier than usual, it serves us right for going on a Saturday!

After that it was time for lunch so we crossed Princes Street and went up South Saint David Street (I think – I’m not good with Edinburgh’s geography), turned left into George Street to have lunch at The Dome. It’s a fabulously ornate building in Edinburgh’s New Town (which of course is quite old by now, Georgian in fact.)
Dome

The Dome

The Dome was indeed originally a bank, it definitely has that feel about it, very opulent, all of our poshest buildings seem to have been built by banks – nothing changes does it?

The Dome

The Dome

You can see more images of The Dome here.

After that we went back up to Princes Street, really so that we could sign up to become ‘friends’ of The National Galleries.
Princes Street

Princes Street

Then we walked through the Christmas market, I thought it would have been cleared away by now but it’s still hanging on. It is really incongruous to see these fairground rides sitting cheek by jowl with Sir Walter Scott’s monument. I must say that they do get a great view of it from those swing seats but you won’t catch me up there!

Princes Street Gardens Christmas 7