Mary Queen of Scots Book

2018 is the 450thanniversary of a momentous week in Scottish history.  On 13 May 1568 Mary Stuart, the former Queen of Scots (she had been forced to abdicate only 10 months earlier) was defeated at the Battle of Langside, now a part of Glasgow, by her half-brother the Earl of Moray. On 16 May she left Scotland forever in a small fishing boat, to ask her cousin Elizabeth I of England for sanctuary and help in reclaiming her throne.

I have written a short book on her life, “Mary Queen of Scots – A Brief History” which focuses on her time in Scotland.  This is intended as an easy to read introduction and is available from Amazon and Apple’s iBooks.

On Amazon US.   https://amzn.to/2wjCBmy

On Amazon UK    https://amzn.to/2jJfFnR

On Apple’s iBooks: https://apple.co/2IyLYUe

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Political Spin in 1815

 

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Above is a photo of St John’s Church, near Farley Mount in Hampshire.  It is a beautiful isolated church that I visited yesterday, which includes a piece of political spin relating to Scotland.

So what does the church have to do with Scotland?

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The second photo is a memorial plaque in the church to the interestingly named Thrift Smith from Fifeshire “North Britain”, who sadly died aged only 27.  The reference to North Britain provides an insight into England’s view of the Union with Scotland at that time. Political spin was alive even then!

Thrift’s family address is a reminder of the attempt in the 18thand 19thcentury to downplay Scotland as a country, and turn it into a British region.  The best known example of this is the former North British hotel near Waverley Station in Edinburgh, which was renamed the Balmoral Hotel about 20 years ago when this practice was seen as outmoded and insulting.

Strangely enough I have not seen places in England referred to as being in South Britain.

Tomorrow, 21 June, is the anniversary of one of Britain’s greatest defeats in WW2, when after a brief battle Tobruk surrendered and 30,000 Allied prisoners were taken. Bert Martin was one of them, and spent the rest of the war in PoW camps in Italy and Germany. Bert kept detailed diaries, which are now held by the Second World War Experience Centre, https://war-experience.org/, a charity dedicated to recording and conserving the experiences of people in WW2. Bert’s diaries are now published on Amazon and iBooks, and a review is attached. for FB

Dundrennan and Kirkcudbright

I haven’t posted for some time, because I have been working on a book on Mary Queen of Scots. Being a man, I can only focus on one project at a time. The book will be published in May, so I can now put some energy into my blog.

On 25 February, a bright but very cold, occasionally snowing day I drove down from Ayrshire, where I had been visiting my brother and his family, to the village of Dundrennan, to visit the abbey ruins and hopefully the small port where in May 1568 Mary Queen of Scots had left on her fateful journey to England, which resulted in 19 years of captivity and her eventual beheading.

 

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I visited the Abbey, which strictly speaking was shut for the winter, but I managed to get in. I have an annual pass for Historic Environment Scotland, so they didn’t loose any money. This was my fourth visit. But unfortunately wasn’t able to get to the abbey’s small port, about a mile and a half away from the Abbey. It is beyond an army firing range, and unfortunately on the day of my visit the range was in use and closed to the public. Next time I hope.

After visiting Dundrennan, I drove about 6 miles north west to the small town of Kirkcudbright. I really like Kirkcudbright, or the Artists’ Town, as it likes to be known. For several decades around 1900 some of Scotland’s best know artists based themselves in Kirkcudbright, including Edward Hornel, Samuel Peploe and Francis Cadell. It is still an attractive place for creatives, with a number of galleries and attractive coffee shops etc. With its brightly coloured houses Kirkcudbright has a feeling of buoyancy and optimism that many small Scottish towns lack these days, suffering as they do from de-industrialisation as a result of globalisation.

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One of the problems with visiting in February is that many sites are shut. MacLellan Castle was, but I took a few more external photos in the snow and limited visibility  to add to my collection. There is substantial scaffolding, so it is obviously undergoing some remedial work.

 

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I visited the Stewartry Museum in the town, an impressive little museum for a town of only 3,400 people, with a very varied collection of exhibits, mostly gifted by local people over the last 150 years. Their collection of antique guns is the highlight in my view.

Then a trip to the Tolbooth, which along with the castle is one of the oldest buildings in the town. It was built in the 1600s. The Tolbooth is now an arts and culture centre, and when I was there there was an excellent exhibition of photographs from several of the local camera clubs.

I wandered round the town, and down to the harbour only 100 yards from MacLellan Castle. The harbour is both a working fishing harbour and a leisure harbour. As a condition of joining the EU four decades ago a disgraceful British government gave 60% of what was under international agreements UK fishing waters to other EU countries. There are arguments for and against Brexit, but one real positive is that after Brexit the UK will get back its full fishing territories. This will bring renewed prosperity to many of the Scottish fishing ports.

Tanpits Lane, presumably once a centre for leather tanning, is now an attractive lane bordered with attractive houses, It has a statue which includes a list of provosts (mayors) of Kirkcudbright from This is fascinating, because it is a good indication of the families that were the real powers in the town. The MacLellans clearly dominated for 150 years from 1466, but after that disappeared from the record. What happened I wonder?

 

I am sorry that some of the photos aren’t up to a high standard. But I am writing this on my ipad in a hotel in Dumfries, and don’t have the software available on my desktop at home.. My car broke down on the return journey to Hampshire, and I may be here for some time!  The UK is also experiencing its coldest March ever, so my journey south when my car is fixed could be interesting.

For more on Scottish hsistory, please see my book Exploring History is the Scottish Borders” available from Amazon.

Ian Douglas

 

 

Visit to Glasgow

I visited Glasgow on 15 June 2016, travelling by train from my holiday apartment in Edinburgh.  It was a busy day.  Firstly I visited Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis.  The cathedral title is historic.  Originally a Catholic cathedral, at the Reformation it became a Church of Scotland church, and the Church of Scotland doesn’t have cathedrals.   It is the only Scottish mainland cathedral which was not seriously damaged by Protestant zealots at the Reformation – perhaps a comment on how much the citizens of Glasgow appreciated it.

 

 Glasgow Cathedral

In the afternoon I visited the Hunterian Museum in the very attractive precincts of Glasgow University, and the Kelvingrove Museum, both excellent.  At the Hunterian I was particularly impressed by the Antonine Wall exhibition, and Kelvingrove is a great museum with an enormous amount to offer.

But the highlight of the day’s tour was stumbling across a range of murals, on walls and gable ends of buildings, on the cathedral side of the city.   Some are four stories high.  I enquired at tourist information, and some are “official”, commissioned by the council, others are unofficial.  Some are of the highest quality, but unfortunately because of the Glasgow weather, I suspect they won’t last many years.  I hope someone is documenting them properly.

I only scratched the surface of what there is to see.  Glasgow has certainly got its act together and improved since I was a boy and lived nearby.  Unfortunately the weather hasn’t improved, and the regular rain certainly limited my photography.

A very busy day.  I even managed to fit in lunch with my son Tim who is working in Glasgow at the moment.

Isle of May

 

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We visited the Isle of May on 13 June.  The Isle is at the entry to the Firth of Forth (the estuary of the River Forth) in Scotland.  It is a bird sanctuary, about a five mile (8 km), boat trip from Anstruther in Fife. In the spring there are about 46000 pairs of breading puffins, and in the winter ma

Mary Queen of Scots Visit to the Scottish Borders

Earlier this year I visited Jedburgh, and the house Mary Queen of Scots is believed to have stayed in during a visit to Jedburgh in October 1566.  The house is now a museum, dedicated to Mary.

Mary Queen of Scots House

Mary Queen of Scots House

I attach photos of what is now called Mary Queen of Scots House, and of the ruins of Jedburgh abbey.  Jedburgh Abbey was burnt down by Henry VIII’s forces in 1523, and when partially rebuilt destroyed again in 1544 and 1545 during the “rough wooing”.  The rough wooing was an attempt by Henry VIII to terrorise the Scots into agreeing to their infant queen Mary being married to Henry’s son Edward when she was of age (often in the 16th century 12 years old would be considered to be old enough for the bride).

Jedburgh Abbey

Jedburgh Abbey

Mary visited Jedburgh just 6 months after she had given birth to the future James VI/I, to preside over the 16th century equivalent of a circuit court.  During her visit she learned that James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell, had been hurt.  Mary had been romantically linked with Bothwell.  He had been involved in a skirmish with border reivers, and the injured Bothwell was taken to Hermitage Castle (see photo).  When she heard of Bothwell’s injury, Mary made the 25 mile journey to Hermitage with a small party to see him.

Hermitage Castle 2 – Legends and History

Hermitage Castle

After two hours with Bothwell, Mary rode back to Jedburgh.  Perhaps she had pressing business in Jedburgh, or considered it inappropriate to spend the night in the castle.  Having cycled between Jedburgh and Hermitage, I can confirm that this would have been a difficult and exposed journey across high and bleak moorland.  On her return journey, although Mary was an expert horsewoman, her horse threw her. When back in Jedburgh she was ill with a fever that nearly killed her.  During her long imprisonment in England, Mary is reported to have said that she wished she had died in Jedburgh.

Mary Queen of Scots House is near the centre of Jedburgh and has excellent displays on the tragic queen’s life.

To learn more about the fascinating history of the Borders area, “Exploring History in the Scottish Borders” is available from Amazon.