A Chasm in Time by Patricia R. Andrew

 A Chasm in Time cover

A Chasm in Time: Scottish War Art and Artists in the Twentieth Century by Patricia R. Andrew is a beautifully produced book and a great read. Anyone interested in art and history will find it fascinating I’m sure, you don’t have to be Scottish!

I was most interested in the World War 1 art which features such images as warships in Scapa Flow and the Firth of Forth, but it isn’t only war and weaponry that feature in the paintings. I particularly like James McIntosh Patrick’s Tay Bridge painting, but I hadn’t realised that this was the view from the front of the artist’s house. The government had commissioned art which showed the civilian side of life during the war.

The Tay Bridge from my Studio Window

Tay Bridge
The domestic scene below is of the view from the back of the artist’s house, showing his wife hanging out the washing and their wee daughter helping.

A City Garden
a city garden

There was only one thing that annoyed me about this book – it should have been proof read more closely. I know, I know, you could say that for almost any book nowadays. I think people run a spell checker and think that will sort things out but it doesn’t weed out such things as abroad when aboard should have been printed, or panting instead of painting. There were also quite a lot of hyphenated words where no hyphens should have been, such as wit-nessed, com-bination and Cran-ston. I think these must have come about when the book was being set out differently and not corrected when the design was changed. But that’s me being nit-picking, it’s just that I know that if I had written such a lovely book I would have been furious at these mistakes.

I borrowed this from the library but I intend to buy a copy of it as I know I’ll want to dip into it now and again.

St Athernase Church in Leuchars, Fife

Leuchars in Fife is a village just five or so miles from the far bigger and better known town of St Andrews, and probably that’s why we had never been there before, as St Andrews is my favourite place in Fife and by the time we’ve had an afternoon out there I’m usually tired and just want to get home.
St Athernase

Last Wednesday we planned to visit Leuchars at last, mainly to see St Athernase Church, we had seen an information leaflet about it, aimed at tourists I suppose but you know what it’s like – you rarely visit the places on your own doorstep. The really ancient part is the rounded area with the tower. Until recently I had assumed that all these old churches had originally been Roman Catholic but of course there was a Celtic church originally and at some point the RCs took over.

St Athernase

There has been a church on that site since around 1225 and although quite a lot of the church from that date is still surviving it was damaged during the Reformation, so there has been some rebuilding done over the years and the main part of the kirk which houses the congregation was built around 1745. It’s the really old bit that has the most charm for me though. I love the gargoyle-like faces on the wall which is where the original altar would have been. To me they don’t look at all Christian, more Viking or Celtic.
St Athernase

The next day was Maundy Thursday and although I’m not at all into organised religion it seemed apt to visit an ancient church around Easter. I think all of those really old churches, or kirks as we call them in Scotland, were built on the highest land in the settlement they were located in. So you have to walk through a gate and up quite a few steps to reach the churchyard. Almost as soon as we got into the churchyard a man approached us and asked us if we were documenting the graves, we aren’t of course. He was thinking of doing it if nobody else is, and I can’t find any evidence that it has already been done, I hope he takes on the task.

St Athernase

We were just looking around the churchyard, never thinking that the church would actually be open, but the minister – Rev. John C Duncan – hailed us and asked us if we would like to look around the inside – and so he ended up giving us a very interesting guided tour. I’m usually quite wary of ministers but this one couldn’t have been nicer, perhaps his previous experience of being a minister in the army made the difference. He was awarded an MBE for his service.

Luckily it seems that the Christian fundamentalists (the equivalent of those maniacs destroying everything they don’t approve of in the Middle East) didn’t spend too much time trying to destroy St Athernase because they were probably in such a hurry to march on to the more important St Andrews Cathedral – and they certainly well and truly smashed that.

If you’re interested have a look at the images of Leuchars here. There used to be an RAF station there but recently the army took over from them.

St Athernase

Dunkeld, Perthshire

Last Saturday was a gorgeous day, unseasonally warm for early April and we drove up to Dunkeld again. After having lunch at Palmerston’s and having a poke around a wee antiques shop and an unexpected church jumble sale – where I bought a big bag of tapestry wool (when will you use it? said Jack) and some cute wee individual Pyrex dishes, we set off for a walk around the outskirts of the town. So we walked through the gateway below which is at the beginning of a long driveway leading to a hotel in beautiful surroundings.

Dunkeld

As you near the hotel they have a boat planter full of spring flowers and an ‘angler’ catching a wooden fish.

Dunkeld

Perthshire or Perth and Kinross as I think the county is called now (why do they have to keep changing names?) is well known for beautiful trees and some of the ones around here are quite historic. As you can see from the ‘hills’ of earth on the bottom left hand of the photo the moles have been hard at work!

Dunkeld

As the walk goes uphill towards the end you end up quite high above the River Tay.
Dunkeld

It looked really placid from a distance but when you are close up it’s really fast flowing.
Dunkeld

This is a circular walk and it leads you back into the centre of Dunkeld, straight to the cathedral, you can see images of it here.

Beatrix Potter visited Dunkeld and the neighbouring village of Birnam every summer with her parents for years and was inspired to write some of her stories here. She also took up the study of fungi and painted beautiful specimens she had collected, unfortunately as a woman she wasn’t taken seriously by the men in charge of such sciences. There is a Beatrix Potter Exhibition and Garden at the Birnam Arts and Conference Centre which displays some of her botanical drawings. Birnam and Dunkeld more or less run into each other but are separated by the river.

There’s also the nearby Birnam Oak which is all that is left of the Birnam Wood of Shakespeare’s Macbeth fame, but I’ll save that for another post.

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.

Kemback, Fife, Scotland

I was mooching around on Kingsbarns beach a while ago, it was just after a big storm and I practically fell over some stones with fossils in them. I’ve been back there since and haven’t been lucky enough to find anything interesting like that again, so I googled fossils in Fife and a village called Kemback was mentioned.

Now I’ve lived in Fife for over 35 years but I had never heard of Kemback before, so it was put on a list of places to visit, and one beautiful afternoon last week we got around to going there.

It’s close to Cupar and in Victorian times a mill was built there, taking advantage of the rushing water of the Ceres Burn which looks far too big to be called a burn if you ask me. The photo below is of a lovely waterfall which feeds into the river after running underneath the road. At some point it runs into the River Eden I believe.

Kemback waterfall

The waterfall is to the left of the Community Hall which you can see in the photo below.
Kemback waterfall
There are quite a few big-ish houses and a row of small terraced houses that must have been built for the mill workers, there’s a community hall and up a very steep hill stands a church and a graveyard.

But it’s the waterfall gushing down a cliffside that is the most attractive aspect of the place, it’s the one reason to visit the village really as although the waterfall feeds into the ‘burn’ there seems to be no easy way to access the burn banks or the enticing woodland over the other side of it which is really frustrating.

I love bridges in general and this one is a cute wee thing, it’s a shame about the rubbish that someone has probably chucked out of a passing car, litter seems to be all over Fife and it’s about time they started fining people because where there is a fine, such as around the Glasgow area – there is no litter on the roadside verges.

Kemback Bridge

As you can see from the photo below, it’s a fairly skinny road through Kemback, but not so narrow that passing places are needed.
Kemback cliffs

The road leading up to the church was another matter though, it’s very steep and narrow and I was terrified that we would meet a monster of a 4×4 coming in the opposite direction – but we were lucky, it’s a surprisingly busy teeny road. The church is a replacement of the original one which is just a shell in the middle of the graveyard and it was built in 1586.

Kemback Church and War Memorial

As you can see the World War 1 war memorial is in the shape of a Celtic cross.

It was the old church that really interested me, it’s situated below where the existing church is now and is surrounded by a graveyard which is still in use, but some of the graves go back hundreds of years. The church was built in 1582 and it replaced one from 1244, so it’s a fairly early Christian area. There’s only one World War 1 grave which is in front of the church in the photo, the poor soul must have been brought back home wounded – and lingered until 1920.

Old Kemback Church

The photos below were taken inside the church, where there are some ancient gravestones.
Old Kemback Church
Old Kemback Church

A view of some of the surrounding hills.
hills, Kemback< Fife

We went for a wee walk beyond the village and below is a photo of the road leading back into it. The orange thing to the left in the distance is a temporary barrier as it looks like some idiot had crashed into the wall recently. The walls around Fife seem to have taken a battering over this winter one way or another.
Kemback road

No doubt in the past this area has been quite industrial but now it’s a quiet backwater, apart from the roaring of the water that fuelled the industry.
3rd waterfall

There’s nothing else in the village apart from the community hall and the church it seems. Nobody has been tempted to open up a tearoom – which would no doubt have bought loads of visitors, but I’m not surprised that the inhabitants want to keep the place to themselves. I didn’t see anywhere that looked like a good place to find fossils, but we had a lovely afternoon out there.

You can see more images of Kemback here.

Mauchline ware

After yesterday’s blogpost about Clark’s and Coats artificial silk thread, I was surprised that some people didn’t realise that those very successful companies had begun in Paisley in the west of Scotland. Paton’s and Baldwin’s wool and Anchor embroidery thread also hailed from Scotland, but I’m not sure if those companies became well know outside Britain. Like so many other things the manufacturing seems to have been moved abroad in recent years to cut costs.

Anyway, I used to collect Mauchline Ware, another Scottish invention, if you can call it that. Originally they were mainly small boxes made from good quality boxwood. These were produced for tourists so they have a huge variety of places printed on them, many castles of course and big houses, sometimes a view of a whole town or a bridge. With the coming of trains and the consequent opening up of the country, people were able to travel around as they never had before and they wanted to take a souvenir home as a reminder of their travels.

Mauchline Ware Collection

The manufacturers often decorated their wares with tartan paper, the boxes have several layers of varnish on them to protect them. When ferns became wildly popular in Victorian times they were used to decorate the goods. Of course Victoria and Albert started the craze for all things tartan and when Albert died Victoria went into mourning forever more and I think that is when Mauchline ware began to appear in black.

Originally made in the small Ayrshire town of Mauchline in the 1820s, other places in that area got in on the action, but the last of Mauchline ware was made in 1933. By then they had expanded their repertoire and made all sorts as you can see. Sewing things were popular – pin cushions, needle cases, thimble cases and crochet hook cylinders. Glove stretchers, egg cups, money boxes, napkin rings, glove boxes, watch stands, rulers, page turners, whisky glass cases – you name it and they made it.

As so many sewing related articles were made adverts for Clark’s thread and similar things began to be inserted inside the boxes, as you can see from the photo below.

Mauchline Ware Sewing Related

A huge fire at the last Mauchline ware manufacturers in 1936 put an end to the production, but so much of it was made that it’s easy to find at any antiques fair and sometimes charity shops.

They also put foreign tourist spots on their wares – such as Bunker Hill and the Champs-Élysées and sent them abroad for sale in America and France. Germany nicked the idea and made similar objects but these are easy to recognise as the quality is so poor compared with Mauchline ware. The German wood is pine and much rougher looking and the scenes depicted aren’t nearly so well defined.

You can see more images of Mauchline Ware here.

Visit Scotland Burns Night tips

Are you all organised for Burns Night on Wednesday? I am as I’m stocked up with various veggies, beans and lentils, not forgetting black pepper, the main flavouring of haggis. Yes I’m making my own version of haggis again.

In fact we’re going to another Burns Supper on Thursday night too, that’ll be a traditional haggis, turnip and tatties I think, but no dancing will be going on.

If you want to know what should happen at a traditional Burns Night have a look at Visit Scotland’s Burns Night tips. You can even see some wee videos of the dancing involved, that’s the easiest way of experiencing it – armchair dancing, the real thing is absolutely exhausting!

Visit Scotland – Orkney

Scapa Flow

One of the places we hope to visit this year is Orkney, doesn’t the photo of Scapa Flow above look great?! It’s all incredibly historic, or maybe I mean pre-historic.

The photo below is of Skara Brae, I’ve wanted to go there for years even although I thought it was just what you can see in the photo, but last week I saw it on TV and the site is much bigger than this. The dwellings are 5,000 years old.

Skara Brae

You can see lots more photos of Orkney on Visit Scotland here.

A Day Out in Edinburgh

On Wednesday we drove into Edinburgh, we don’t go into the centre all that often, mainly because the more interesting wee independent shops are elsewhere. I really wish I had my pedometer with me to see how many steps I walked because we were all over the place in a big circle from Meadowbank to George Street where we had lunch at Cafe Andaluz. Then we walked on to Lothian Road the West Port and the Grassmarket and back to Meadowbank where we had parked the car. Click on the links if you want to have an armchair trip to Edinburgh with me. The castle just looms up on you as you can see from the photo below. It does seem incongruous when you’re out shopping but the rock and castle were there long before anything else.

acastle 1

acastle 2

The Christmas lights in George Street are truly hideous. I didn’t even bother to take a photo but I found the one below online. Oh for the days when we just had ordinary coloured light bulbs strung from side to side across streets in various patterns!

hristmas lights

I hate these modern LED lights, the light they give out is so cold and brash looking. You can see photos of Princes Street Christmas lights here. I noticed that Google and umpteen other places on the internet think that it is Princess Street – it isn’t!

We were aiming for the second-hand book-shops around the West Port and Grassmarket area, we hadn’t been to those ones for ages so I had high hopes of finding some goodies. But as ever when you have high hopes you tend to end up disappointed and I only ended up getting a couple of J.I.M. Stewart (Michael Innes) paperbacks.

From West Port we made for the Grassmarket and by then it was quite dark and the tree lights were on. This is the old town and in our younger days we used to frequent this area. As you can see Edinburgh Castle towers over this area too.

acastle 3

alights 1
It was quite atmospheric in the gloaming.

alights 2

Below is Victoria Street, a steep one which I could have been doing without but Edinburgh is very hilly and multi-layered, so you just have to get on with it. Just above the top set of lights there is actually another street but you can’t really see it in this photo.

alights 3

You can see more images of The Grassmarket here.

From there we went on down The Royal Mile which had absolutely no signs of Christmas about it, it seemed appropriate for that very Presbyterian stronghold. You can read about that area here.

By then I was fairly exhausted but we still had a long way to go to get to the car, all the way down the Royal Mile (High Street) past the Scottish Parliament building, yes – it IS a bit of a mish-mash!

We walked on past Queen Mary’s bath house. I love that wee building, it’s like something out of a fairy tale.

At last we reached the car and drove on to Morningside to visit one of our ‘boys’ and his lady. By this time it was getting on for dinner time and we were lucky to find the Oxfam book shop still open. I was so lucky to find three Dorothy Dunnet hardbacks that I had been looking for – and a third of the price of the others I had seen and decided against earlier.

We’re at that stage in life when we really don’t need or want anything in the way of expensive presents. It’s going to be a very bookish Christmas for us both.

I hope you enjoyed that armchair trip around Edinburgh. It’s the best way to do it really, a lot less tiring anyway!

Dunkeld

A couple of weeks ago we decided to go to Dunkeld for the day. It’s one of my favourite wee towns. It was the day we were in search of autumnal trees.

aDunkeld trees 4

I took the photo below from the bridge in Dunkeld, looking north up the River Tay.

aDunkeld trees 1

I crossed the road to the other side of the bridge to capture the view to the south.
Dunkeld trees 3

Some houses just off the High Street in Dunkeld.

aDunkeld street 5

The town was decorated with bunting, it wasn’t long after Halloween but I think it was something to do with a local tradition.

aDunkeld street 3

aDunkeld street 2

If you look closely at the photo below you can just see the beginning of the bridge.

aDunkeld street 1

Here’s the bridge itself, built by Thomas Telford.

Bridge through trees

The River Tay is famous for salmon fishing but you have to put them back if you catch any.

aDunkeld trees stitch