Monday, December 30, 2013

Lang may yer lum reek...

Christmas is over and the big celebration of Hogmanay is upon us.  Hopefully you all enjoyed the Christmas holiday.  We had a wonderful visit to our son Steve and his family in Lakenheath, England.  He is stationed at the Lakenheath Air Base.  We received permission to travel down on Monday and we came home on Saturday.  Now for the festivities of Hogmanay.
Christmas in Edinburgh is very festive...there are a number of wee shops set up along Princes Street (the main street in town).  Rides are set up and an ice rink is built near the main park.
This is the rink which is surrounded with wee shops selling food and other gift items. 
This is looking back toward the ice rink and one of the main rides near the park.

 Boxing Day is celebrated in Scotland.  It has traditionally been the day following Christmas Day.  The servants or poorly paid help who were required to work on Christmas Day would be given the day after Christmas off to visit their families.  The employers would present them with a Christmas box…hence -  Boxing Day.    

There are many other descriptions of how Boxing Day began.  During the age of exploration when great sailing ships were setting off to discover new land, a Christmas box – or small container – was placed on each ship while it was still in port.  It was put there by the priest and crewmen who wanted to ensure a safe return would drop money into the box.  It was sealed for the entire voyage.  If the ship came safely home, the box was handed over to the priest in exchange for the saying of a Mass of thanks for the successful voyage.  The Priest would keep the box sealed until Christmas when he would open it and share the contents of the box with the poor the day after Christmas.

The “alms box” was placed in every Church on Christmas Day, into which worshipers would place a gift for the poor and needy of the parish.  These boxes were always opened the day after Christmas and the contents shared with the poor…hence, Boxing Day.

We were at the bus stop and I took this picture looking back over the city.  (taken at 3:50 p.m.) The Edinburgh Castle is in the far back left side and the rides and shops are on the right.  The center of the picture is the glass roof of Waverly Train Station - the main train station in town.  The buildings in the center distance are the Scottish Art museums.

Now, you are probably asking about the title of this post...
"Lang may your lum reek" is a Scottish phrase and it is a salutation wishing long life and prosperity.  Literally, it means "Long may your chimney smoke" and many add "...with other folk's coal".

The "other folk's coal" is a reference to a Scottish New Year's Eve tradition as part of Hogmanay in which visitors bring a piece of coal to a house when they visit on New Year's Day.  This is to bring good luck and prosperity during the coming year.  This is especially important for "first footin'".  The tradition is that the first visitor of the new year should be tall, dark, and handsome and bring a gift...or at least a piece of coal.  This will bring prosperity for the new year.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Our Chrisitmas message

Tonight we attended the missionary concert at the Edinburgh Chapel.  It was very good.  The concert was called "Putting Christ Back Into Christmas".  It was about an hour + of Christmas hymns, videos about the birth of Jesus, and a very strong spirit of what Christmas is all about...the love for our fellowmen.  I have not been able to send out our Christmas message to everyone, so I thought I would include it here.  Merry Christmas to everyone.  We miss you all...

We are excited to spend Christmas with our oldest son and his family who are living in England.  Steve is a doctor in the Air Force and is stationed at Lakenheath, England.  We are leaving for England on Monday and will be back to Scotland on Saturday (just in time for the Hogmanay celebrations - more to come on that later)

Our Christmas message...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What e’er thou art…

They have built a new “monument” of sorts at the Mission Home in Edinburgh for the stone that had a major impact on the life of David O. McKay.  David was a young missionary in Scotland in 1898 and he later became the 9th prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He often told the story of when he was a young missionary serving in Stirling, Scotland.  He was homesick and had become discouraged and one day he and his companion had visited the nearby Stirling Castle.  As they returned to town a curious stone sculpture with a carved inscription over a doorway caught his attention.  He went over to read the inscription: “WHAT E’ER THOU ART, ACT WELL THY PART”.

This is the new monument built in the front garden of the Mission Home.
 This statement had a profound impact on President McKay and the effort he was making in his missionary labours.  This message struck him so forcefully that he vowed to devote himself completely to his missionary efforts and to always do his best in whatever responsibility he had.  These words became an inspiration for the rest of his life.


When the old building was being torn down, President McKay made arrangements to acquire the stone.  For years it was in the garden behind the Mission Home in Renfrew, Scotland.  That is where I first saw it when I was here as a young missionary.  Later, when the old Mission Home in Renfrew was sold, the Church moved the stone to the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City.  A replica of the stone is now in the garden of the Mission Home in Edinburgh.  They have erected this monument to hold the replica stone.

This is the plaque above the stone.
The original stone was designed by an architect named John Allen. Along with the inscription he included a design known as 'a magic square', or could this be the first Sudoku game?  Each shape within the square represents a numerical value, and when you add the numbers in any direction – across, down, or diagonally – it will always equal 18.

One theory as to why the magic square was included with the phrase What E're Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part is that if any of the shapes are rearranged or their values were changed, then the square will cease to be magic as it won't equal 18 in every direction. So in life, as we have different roles and responsibilities, if we don't do our part or give 100% then it will affect the outcome, be it family, church, or work, the whole organization will not function as intended, or in other words What E're Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part – and the “Whole” will function perfectly.


Traveling Christmas Choir of young missionaries...

The Scotland/Ireland Mission has formed a missionary choir.  They have gathered together about 30 missionaries from all over Scotland and have arranged for this travelling choir to go throughout the mission presenting a Christmas Concert.  They will be performing in malls and some churches throughout Scotland.  There is an amazing pool of talent among these young people.

They all came to Edinburgh on Monday to practice at the Stake Centre.  Monday is Preparation Day for the missionaries and is the time they can email to friends and family.  They came to practice but all wanted to be able to write their emails.  We were asked if we could set up the computers in our Employment Centre for them to use.  We had the 5 computers from the Family History/Employment Centre, one laptop from the Employment Centre we have in our flat, plus my personal laptop and our iPad.  They rotated turns to allow everyone a chance to get in their emailing between practice sessions.

This is our Employment Centre with the eight computers set up for the missionaries to do the weekly emailing.  For many, this was the most important part of the day. 
Monday evening they all went to the Mission Home which is next door to the Stake Centre for a dinner.  The senior missionaries who are in the Edinburgh area were also invited.  Carolyn made a big floral arrangement for the table and we had a feast – Chinese take-out food – for about 35 people. 
Carolyn has been having withdrawal symptoms because of not being able to make her normal Christmas floral arrangements.  She was very happy to put this one together for the dinner table.  She gave many of the trees around the mission home a "wee trim" to find enough greenery for the decoration. 

The table is set awaiting the feast to begin.  One of the Senior missionaries who works in the Mission Office, Sister Price, was leaving to go home on Wednesday so the dinner was also a goodbye dinner for her.  The place mats all had different pictures of her and her activities with others during her stay in Scotland.

President & Sister Brown and other missionaries

We ordered Chinese food from a nearby restaurant - what a feast we had.
After dinner we gathered around the piano and sang Christmas carols and Church hymns.

After the singing the missionaries went back to the Stake Centre for one last rehersal before their “tour” began.  Tuesday they were singing in Dundee and then up to Aberdeen.  They will be back to Glasgow and the areas south and then a final concert Saturday night in Edinburgh.  We watched the final practice and it will be a wonderful concert.  The concert was named "Putting Christ back in Christmas".  The concert was singing with two short videos about the life of Christ.  In addition to the Choir there are solos, duets, trios, and quartets singing.  They use the piano, organ, a violin, and a harp in the presentation.  Very talented young people!!


Merry Christmas to all!!!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Am I really that old...

This has been a week of lots of driving.  I have added a map to see if you can follow our travels.  Monday we drove to Motherwell, Hamilton, and East Kilbride to do missionary flat inspections.   This is about 45 miles round trip.  Wednesday we drove to Paisley and Dumbarton for flat inspections...about 65 miles round trip.  Saturday we drove to Beith for a workshop and then back home via Falkirk to be at the baptism of a fellow we have been helping with finding employment.  Today we drove to Ayr for a special meeting (almost two hours one-way).  Lots of driving - about 600 miles since December 1st - and the weather has not been great...rainy most days, plus we are doing a lot of the driving in the dark with the late sunrise and early sun set.  

Today was a very interesting day.  If I stopped to think about the event, it made me feel really old, but when I just sat back and took a deep breath, I enjoyed the day and things were OK.  What was the event you ask…?

Well, it all started a few months ago.  We had decided to reach out to the Bishops in the Paisley Stake to see how we might be able to help them with employment issues in their Wards.  I was looking up the email address of the Bishop in the Ayr Ward.  When I was here as a young missionary – many years ago – the first area I worked in was Ayr and I lived in a little village outside town called Drongan.  I noticed that the current Bishop of the Ayr Ward lived in Drongan and also he had a counselor with the last name of Bloy.  When I lived in Ayr, I knew a Walter Bloy so I thought this might be his son.

Through my contact with the Bishop I learned that Walter had immigrated to Australia many years ago and his counselor was actually Walter’s brother.  I shared with the Bishop that I had lived in Drongan as a young missionary and worked in the Ayr Branch for about 5 months.  He told me that they were having a celebration on December 8th for the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Ayr Chapel.  He asked when I was in Ayr as a young missionary and I told him that I was there for the dedication service in 1963.  He invited us to attend the celebration service.  We have been planning to attend since that call.

Yours truly standing in front of the Ayr Chapel

About three weeks ago the Bishop called and asked if I was able to attend the celebration and if so, would I be willing to be one of the speakers at the meeting.  He thought it would be meaningful to have someone on the program who had attended the dedication.  Soooo, today we went to Ayr for the special Sacrament Meeting and celebration.  It was really an honor for me to be there and also to be one of the speakers.  There was one other member of the Ward who was also at the dedication service who spoke on today's program.  The Provost of South Ayrshire (like the Mayor) also attended the meeting and spoke.  It was a good day to reminisce about memories from the past.

Front cover of today's program.

Inside of program.  On the left is the program from the dedication in 1963.  On the right is today's program.  The building was dedicated by Elder Mark E. Peterson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  After the dedication service Elder Peterson interviewed all the missionaries who were in attendance.  It was interesting that Walter Bloy said the closing prayer at the dedication service and his brother conducted today's meeting.

What a flood of memories have been coming into my mind today as I have thought back on events that took place 50 years ago.  I didn’t think I was old enough to have participated in a dedication of a building that took place 50 years ago, but I guess I am…



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Odds & Ends...

I just wanted to catch up on odds and ends.  The weather has been turning colder but the last few days have been really nice.  A couple of weeks ago we left for church about 9:30 a.m. and found that overnight the raindrops had frozen on the car top and windows. There have been a few mornings that we needed an ice scraper to clear the windscreen of ice. 

The time of the sun setting still is amazing to me.  Not only are the days getting shorter but the sun does not arch very high in the sky.  It is December 1 and today’s sunrise was at 8:19 a.m. and sunset was at 3:44 p.m.  To show the contrast I took the following picture in June at about 10:00 p.m. 

You can still see the sun shining on some of the clouds behind the grey clouds.  This next picture was taken on Thursday at 4:00 p.m.  The sky was a golden orange at 3:30 as we left the church building.  On the drive home we were amazed at the sight.  I took this picture behind our flat


Thanksgiving is an American holiday which the Scots don't celebrate.  This year  we made our own Thanksgiving celebration.  We decided to have some of the young missionaries come to our flat for a “Thanksgiving Dinner” on Thanksgiving Day.  We made believe we had a turkey and substituted it for a couple of chickens cooked at the deli rotisserie next door.  We had all the trimmings including turkey gravy, mashed potatoes, dressing, yams, green beans, rolls, and the traditional pumpkin pie.  I think they enjoyed the dinner…

 Since there is no Thanksgiving holiday here, all of the decorations in the stores changed to Christmas decorations on November 1st…right after Halloween.  (Wait a minute…that is the same thing that happens in the States even with Thanksgiving.)  Christmas shopping has begun here big time.  All of the stores are very crowded and everything is geared to the Christmas shopper.  We were in a large department store on Tuesday and one would have thought it was “Black Friday”.

We (the senior missionaries) decided that we would have our own Thanksgiving dinner.  Since Thanksgiving day here was a “normal” work day with scheduled meetings, we had our dinner yesterday, Saturday, November 30th.  Most of the senior missionaries in Scotland were able to attend the dinner.  Our task became where to find a whole turkey.  In all the butcher shops you can find sliced turkey or a turkey breast but not a whole turkey.  We finally found a few frozen whole turkeys at a grocery store.  They came in “medium, large, extra large, and XX Large” sizes.  We had 23 people coming to dinner so we bought the XX large turkey.  The weight was 10.3 kg – or about 22 pounds.  The cost was £30 or about $48…for a turkey!! 

We had the dinner at the mission home which is a large old home in Edinburgh that was probably built in the late 1800s.  It has been remodeled and a mission office has been added to the back.  The rooms are very large with very high ceilings.  You can see from the decorations that it was a combination Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday dinner.  :)

We cooked the turkey at the mission home and had a ton of food...Here President Brown, our Mission President, is carving the turkey.  Following dinner we gathered in the front room and sang Christmas carols.


 The detail in the ceiling of this old house is amazing. 
This does not do justice to the beauty of the room, but his is a corner of the ceiling.

The big thing I am thankful for this year is…I passed my written driving test!  I have been studying for the last few months for the theory test (written test) for the drivers license.  The UK recognizes my AZ drivers license for one year.  Since we will be here for 18 months I need to get a UK drivers license.  I had to pay £50 for a Provisional License (a learners license) and then £31 for the privilege of taking the written test.  (That is about $130 and I still can’t drive without my US license)  The positive part of this is that since I do have a valid US license I dinnae (that is Scottish for “don’t”)  need to have the “scarlet letter” on the car.  One can drive in the UK with a Provisional if they are accompanied by a UK licensed driver but they must display a large red “L” on the front and back of the car to show the world that they are learning to drive.

Many of the senior missionaries don’t worry about getting their drivers license.  If they are assigned to work in Scotland, they will be transferred to the Republic of Ireland when the one year is up.  The clock is then reset.  If they are in the Republic, they will be transferred to Scotland after the year to reset the clock.  Since we are assigned to Edinburgh and need to stay here the full 18 months, we don’t have the option of being transferred to the Republic…so I need to get my license.







Sunday, November 24, 2013

A day of exploring…

Yesterday the sun was shining…most of the day…and we decided to make a trip to Inverary.  There is a castle there which is supposed to be quite nice.  We learned that the castle is not open for tours from October to March but decided to go for a ride anyway.  The goal was to drive to Dumbarton and then up along Loch Lomond and then over to Inverary.  Just to put this in perspective I have included a map.

People in Scotland would think we were daft (crazy) to make this trip in one day, but it isn't really that far...about 110 miles one way.

We drove to Dumbarton to find the castle.  Dumbarton Rock is located on the Firth of the Clyde where the River Leven empties and is a volcanic outcropping.  The history of this castle reaches back nearly 1500 years.  They have discovered artifacts dating from the Romans.  According to tradition, in about 450 A.D. St Patrick wrote to King Ceretic of Strathclyde reprimanding him for attacking Irish converts.

This is what the "Rock" looks like from the Clyde.  We were able to hike up to the top of the right side to see the view of Glasgow and down to Greenock.
You can see from this poster that the "Rock" is really that...just a big rock sitting at the mouth of the River Leven.  Structures were added to the location over the years.  From the13th century forward the "Castle" was used for different purposes.

This is the Guard House which dates to the 16th century.  It is built between to two craigs and you walk through a passage under the house to get to the upper levels of the rock.

Up on top one can see Glasgow to the East, Greenock to the West, and Ben Lomond to the North.  The day was somewhat overcast when looking up or down the Clyde.

They are doing some repairs to the house which was built in front in 1735
From Dumbarton we drove along Loch Lomond to Ben Lomond.  Then we turned west and headed for Inverary.
This is Ben Lomond.  As we climbed in altitude we had more cloud cover move in which added to the beauty of the day.  Yes, that is snow on Ben Lomond.  The top of Ben Lomond is about 3,200 feet.  It sits on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond.  On a clear day one can see Ben Lomond from Stirling Castle.
From Ben Lomond we turned west and went through a beautiful canyon as we came to the summit and started down the other side we viewed the scene above.  We thought we had found Brigadoon.  As we came down the hill we found Loch Long.  The water was unbelievably calm

The reflection off the water was incredible.  We drove around the tip of this loch and headed to Loch Fyne and the town of Inverary.  The town almost looked like a fairytale city with the low hanging clouds. 
This is the village of Inverary from across Loch Fyne.  Most all the buildings in the main part of town were painted white.
This loch also was just like glass.  Everywhere I looked I wanted to take another picture because of the amazing reflections that were seen.

It was a beautiful little village...much smaller than I had imagined it would have been.

This was a one-lane bridge with traffic controlled by stop lights to avoid a collision.

We left as the sun was getting close to the horizon.   I looked back at the town just after crossing the bridge and had to take this picture.  The loch had stayed this glass...for all afternoon.  This was taken at about 2:30 p.m.  Now it is nearly dark between 4:00 and 4:30 p.m.

We headed back towards Dumbarton and passed Ben Lomond and Loch Lomond as the sun was starting to set.  This picture was taken about 3:30 p.m.

We left Loch Lomond and headed to Dumbarton and then back to Edinburgh on the M8 Motorway.  It was a grand of those days I wish I could do a "brain video download" so you could really see all the beauty of this country.  These pictures don't do it justice and I have about 45 more taken during the trip that are just as amazing as these.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Tomorrow is "Remembrance Day"...

November 11th is Armistice Day, or Veteran’s Day, or so it is called in the United States.  For most of my life growing up, Armistice Day was pretty much a “non-holiday”, (except for Federal employees), and a day where there were a few ceremonies to remember the veterans of past wars.  The News channels would give a 30 second sound bite of the President laying a wreath at the grave of the Unknown Soldier.  I have been touched this year with the way in which the Scots have remembered veterans.

In the United Kingdom, Armistice Day is called “Remembrance Day”, or “Red Poppy Day”.  As you will remember, the Armistice to end the first World War was signed at 11:00 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. 

For a fortnight leading up to November 11th many people in Scotland, and around the UK have been wearing a red poppy as a symbol of their “remembrance” of the wars past and the many men and women who have given their lives to allow us to have the freedoms we enjoy.  Little red paper or plastic poppies can be purchased on the street or in many of the market entrances and the cost is a “donation”.  The money goes to the Royal British Legion charity.  Last year’s Poppy Appeal raised $56 million for the Royal British Legion’s charity work which supports veterans and their families.
There are many poems about Remembrance Day and the poppy.  The red is a symbol of the blood that has been shed in war.  The black is a symbol of grief for those who have died.

Today (Sunday) was “Remembrance Sunday”.  At eleven a.m. we stood in Church and observed two minutes of silence in remembrance of those who gave their lives during the First and Second World War and the many wars that have followed.  The remembrance was to recognize the sacrifice made to preserve the freedoms we enjoy today.  This was a fitting gesture on a Sunday as it followed the passing of the Sacrament emblems where we had given our “remembrance” of Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice for us…a sacrifice that will allow us to return to God’s presence if we keep His commandments.

It is obvious that this “Remembrance Day” is taken more seriously by the Scottish, and the people in the UK, than by most Americans.  I think this could be because the first and second world war was much more real to them.  They not only lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the wars like we did in America, but they also suffered much damage through the bombing raids here in Scotland and in England.  As Americans, many have drifted to take for granted the sacrifices made for our liberty and the freedoms we enjoy.

This event today has also had an impact on me this year since by coincidence I have been reading in the Book of Mormon about Captain Moroni and Helaman and his 2000 stripling warriors going into battle against the Lamanites and how they raised the Standard of Liberty as a symbol of their fight to protect “…their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.”  Today has made me very grateful for the country in which we live and the freedoms we enjoy, for the ability to enjoy my family and have the ability to worship freely.

I have learned a wee bit about why the poppy is the symbol of Remembrance Day.  The poppy’s origins as a remembrance symbol lie in Canadian soldier John McCrae’s 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields.”  He was serving as a Major and a military doctor and was second in command of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery.  It is believed that the death of his friend, Alexis Helmer, was the inspiration for the poem.   One account says that he was seen writing the poem sitting on the rear step of an ambulance while looking at Helmer's grave and the vivid red poppies that were springing up amongst the graves in the burial ground.
Tomorrow is Remembrance Day...November 11th.  May we all remember!!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Scottish Liquid Sunshine...

Today we experienced the Scottish liquid sunshine first hand.  We were driving back to our flat from a trip over by the South Leith area.  As we drove, the sun was shining so brightly that I had to use the sun visor on the windscreen and Carolyn was putting on her sunglasses.  Then I realized that I needed to turn on the wipers as it was beginning to rain.  At first it was just a sprinkle then it got heaver.  All this time the sun was still shining in our eyes.  We could only see blue sky out the front window but to the side and the back there were dark clouds.

The rain soon turned to hail...yes, our first hail storm in Scotland...but the sun was still shining through the windscreen.  The temperature was about 5 degrees Celsius (about 41 degrees Fahrenheit.)   I commented that this is probably what they call "Liquid sunshine".  Heavy rain but blue skies!! 

We have had a quiet week.  We had two or three visit us in the Employment Centre.  We are still waiting on the confirmation of the dates for our next trip to Ireland.  We will be visiting the Beith Ward on Thursday to meet with a lady and tomorrow we are meeting with 2-3 individuals in the Falkirk Branch.  It has been windy and a wee bit colder.  On Monday morning I had to scrape frost off the windscreen.

As I am typing this I am wondering who is reading these posts.  Hopefully they are being read...but if not, I at least have a good record of things we are doing.  ;-)

This is the South Leith area on a sunny day.  We were near this area today
this is the Jedburgh abbey.  this great hall was built in about 1300

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

It’s Guy Fawkes Day!

Today, November 5th, is Guy Fawkes Day which is “celebrated” in the UK.  It is celebrated by fireworks and bonfires…though we have not seen any fires as of yet.  We are hearing fireworks tonight however.  The bonfires are to burn Guy Fawkes in effigy.  In some areas kids will walk around during the day singing "a penny for the Guy" in hopes of gathering money to build a "guy" to be burned on the bonfire.



Monday, November 4, 2013

Another historical castle

Saturday was another day to visit historical Scotland.  There is always something to see in this beautiful country.  We joined 6 other senior missionaries and drove to the village of Dollar.  The town of Dollar is between Dunfermline and Stirling in the local governmental council area of Clackmannanshire.  Clackmannanshire is near the end of the Firth of Forth. 

Just outside the village of Dollar is Castle Campbell.  This castle is tucked back up in a canyon and is in a beautiful setting, but one that was well protected from invasions.  The tower portion of the castle was built in the late 1300s.  The stronghold came into the possession of the chief of Clan Campbell in the 1460s.  Over the next two centuries the Campbells played leading roles in Scotland's history.

This is a view of the castle from across the canyon.
This is a drawing of what the Castle looked like in 1848.

The inner courtyard of the castle.

This is the original tower that would have been built in the late 1300s.  They have restored the floors so one can climb up the tower.  At the top is a great view of the valley.
The view from the roof.  About 15-20 minutes after I took this picture it began raining and it was so heavy that ya couldnee see (that is Scottish for "you could not see") the valley.  It rained the rest of the day very hard.