Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A summary of Scottish History - the early years

I have been making a summary of the history of Scotland.  As we visited many of the castles it has been difficult keeping all the dates and events straight.  So, I have made a summary.  After writing much of it, I realized that it was too long to include in one post - especially when I tried to summarize the history of the events of the 14th century and later.  I will post the history in multiple posts.  So, where do we start now?  Of course, at the beginning...

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…

Maybe we don’t need to go that far back in history to understand the Scottish history.  However, I found this story that might help.

In the beginning when God was creating the world, He was sitting on a cloud telling His friend, the Archangel Gabriel, what He planned for Scotland.

“Gabriel”, says He, “I’m going to give this place high majestic mountains, purple glens, soaring eagles, streams laden with salmon, golden fields of barley, green lush spectacular golf courses, coal in the ground, oil under the sea, gas…”

“Hold on! Hold on!” interrupted the Archangel Gabriel.  “Are you not being too generous to these Scots?”

Back came the Almighty’s reply…

“Not really, wait until you see the neighbours I’m giving them!!!”

The uniqueness of the Scots has been acknowledged at least since early medieval times.  Their status as a separate nation has not been in doubt since the 14th century, even though they have had constant battles with England since that time.  There are some fascinating characters in Scottish history – Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, John Knox, and Bonnie Prince Charlie – just to name a few.  But the history begins earlier than this…

Scotland was gradually populated by nomadic people from south at the end of the great ice age, about 7000 B.C.  The sea was a highway, not a barrier.  The first people who have left any physical evidence of their presence in Scotland are the Neolithic or New Stone Age settlers who began to arrive around 4500 B.C.  

 We saw these standing stones on our trip to Stornoway.  No one really knows who built them or why they were built.  Becasue of the shape or organizaiton of the stones it seems that there was a purpose.

Many of the traces of early settlements in Scotland can be seen in to Orkney Islands and the Western Isles or the Outer Hebrides.  These early settlements were mainly from the Vikings who invaded in 8th century.

The arrival of the Iron Age brought the Celts from central Europe.  The Celtic society throughout Britain was about to meet with the Romans.  The Roman general Claudius – later emperor – landed in southern Britain.  By the late 70 A.D. the Romans had conquered all of modern England and Wales and moved on into Scotland.  The Roman presence in southern Scotland was gradually pulled back farther and farther until the Emperor Hadrian, on his visit to Britain in 122 A.D. ordered the building of the great wall that was named for him – Hadrian’s Wall.

 This is a grist mill that was operated by running water.  Below is the actual mill that was used to grind the grain.

Hadrian’s successor, Antoninus Pius ordered a re-invasion.  The Romans secured the line from the Firth of Clyde to the Firth of Forth (the line between Glasgow and Edinburgh) building a defensive wall known as Antonine’s Wall which was maintained until the 160s and then abandoned.  The Romans called the land north of this wall Caledonia.  Even today Scotland is often referred to as Caledonia.

 These are called "Black Houses".  They date back to prior to the 11th Century.  Many of them housed the weaving machines that were used to weave Harris Tweed.

The raiders from the kingdom in Dalriada in north-east Ireland established a sister kingdom in Argyll (Western Scotland).  They brought their language (Gaelic) and also Christianity.  St Columba was from Ireland who came to Iona (the Isle of Mull in Scotland) with twelve companions in 563.  He carried out a wholesale evangelisation of the Picts, in the north, and formed a friendship with the Pictish king in Inverness.  At the other end of Britain, St Augustine arrived from Rome with 40 monks charged by Pope Gregory I with the task of converting the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity.  The remote Christian church in Scotland was out of line with Roman orthodoxy on a number of issues.  This led to much friction between Augustinian evangelisation and the Columbans in Scotland.  These differences remained for the best part of the next 500 years.

This man is weaving Harris Tweed.  Even today all Harris Tweed is woven on manual looms.  The quality is supervised the the Harris Tweed Authority.  They come to all the weavers and inspect the quality.  Authentic Harris Tweed will always have the Harris Tweed label.

The Scots from Dalriada, the Picts from above the Forth-Clyde line, the P-Celtic speakers of Strathclyde and the Anglo-Saxons in the borders were all Christians.  The Vikings announced themselves in 793 when they invaded and destroyed many of the monasteries and sacked Iona.  The Vikings managed to establish colonies in the Orkney and Shetland islands and in the Hebrides.  These invasions brought the Scots and the Picts closer together and Kenneth MacAlpin ascended to the throne of Dalriada in 839.  Four years later he establish himself in the ancient Pictish centre of Scone in Perthshire.  From Iona he brought the remains of St Columba and he also brought the Stone of Destiny. 

The Stone of Destiny is now located in the Edinburgh Castle.

This stone was reputed to have been the biblical Jacob’s pillow and St Columba’s writing desk.  For the next 4 ½ centuries it was the sacred coronation stone of the Scots until King Edward I of England stole it and took it to Westminster in London.

Kenneth MacAlpin was the first King of Scotland and the common ancestor of every Scottish king for the next 500 years.  But he was not the king of modern Scotland.  He never established himself in the Borders although the Scots captured Dumbarton in 870.

The royal succession of kingship in Scotland was that a king might be succeeded by any of his male relatives who shared a common great-grandfather.  Succession with the old Picts or Anglo-Saxons to the south was through the first-born in the female and male line respectively.  Because of this, the seven successive kings in Scotland, from Malcolm I to Kenneth III died violently.  Their combined reigns covered only 62 years.

Scone Castle

More History will be summarized in later posts... 


Friday, August 8, 2014

A little work, a little play, and a lot of driving

Recently we took another trip to Ireland - and probably our last before we come home.  We quite enjoy these opportunities to see beautiful country and meet with wonderful people.  It is a long day when traveling to Ireland.  We left our flat about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and drove about 2 ½ hours to Carinryan to catch the ferry to Belfast.  The drive is beautiful and has become familiar as this was our 5th time going to Ireland since arriving on our mission.


This is South Ayrshire just out of Maybole.  Down the hill towards the water is the Trump Turnberry Golf Resort.

It always is amazing to me what they load on the ferry for the 2 ½ hour crossing.

In addition to about 8-10 Semi-trucks, they loaded at least 5 big tour buses full of people.  They also loaded nearly 100 cars.

When we arrived in Belfast it is then a two hour drive south to Dublin and then two more hours west to Galway.  We reached Galway about 5:30 p.m.   Galway is a lovely town and we always enjoy wandering through the old part of town. 

 This view is looking back to Galway across the bay.  Notice that the tide is out and the boat is sitting on "dry" ground.  This is common with many harbors in Scotland and Ireland.  The "coming & goings" must be timed with the tide...

Wednesday we drove to the Cliffs of Moher.  The drive was quite a challenge as the road was very narrow and traffic was more than expected because of all the tour buses.

This was a wide spot in the road where I could  pull over to take a picture.  For most of the drive the road had no shoulder and there was often a stone wall about two feet from the pavement.

Standing 702 feet at their highest point they stretch for 5 miles along the Atlantic coast of County Clare in the west of Ireland. From the Cliffs of Moher on a clear day one can see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, as well as the Dingle Peninsula to the South.  

The Cliffs of Moher have appeared in several films, including The Princess Bride (as the filming location for "The Cliffs of Insanity"), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Leap Year.  Note the little "dots" on the top of the cliff - up the path - there are people standing on the top right near the edge of the cliffs.

From the Cliffs we drove to Limerick for some meetings with the District Presidency and the District Employment Specialist.  Thursday morning we drove to Dublin but stopped first at the village of Adare, just south of Limerick.

Adare village is an architectural mix of centuries blended into everyday life.  The main street of Adare is lined with original thatched cottages which have survived for hundreds of years. Some of the cottages are kept by local restaurants and Arts & Crafts shops, but many are still privately owned.

We had meetings in Dublin Thursday evening and then Friday took a day to explore some of Ireland.  We drove to Belleek to tour the factory where the Belleek Pottery is made. 

 This is the bridge at Belleek
The pottery made at this factory is amazing.  This piece was made in the 18th Century.

 This shows the delicate baskets made of china that are all hand painted.

We then headed to the north shore of Ireland to visit the Giant’s Causeway.

According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant (Finn MacCool), from the Fenian Cycle of Gaelic mythology, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Finn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet.


In one version of the story, Finn defeats Benandonner. In another, Finn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than he. Finn's wife, Oonagh, disguises Finn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the 'baby', he reckons that its father, Finn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Finn could not follow.


This is the backside of what was showing in the previous picture where one only sees the tops of the columns.  Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal's Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this.


We arrived in Belfast Friday night and taught a Career Workshop on Saturday, stay for Church and more meetings with Stake leaders on Sunday and took the ferry back to Scotland on Monday.