Monday, 29 May 2017

Walking on By

    There are things that we see on a regular basis and for some reason we never take any real notice of them and one such thing that I haven't taken a great deal of note of, is the Cross Well, in the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow. I've featured Linlithgow's, loch and the palace on several occasions, but, for some reason I've just walked on by the well.

     It most certainly isn't a new guy in town, the stone carved crown which sits outside the Burgh Halls,  is kind of hard to miss. The original Cross Well, was a dipping well which also provided the town's folk with their water supply and was erected in 1535.

    Linlithgow witnessed many bitter battles, as Scotland struggled to save its national sovereignty. The well was damaged on the arrival of Oliver Cromwell's, Roundhead troops, after defeating the Scots at Dunbar in 1646.

    Restoration was undertaken in 1660, by order of Charles II and what stands on the site today is said to be a replica of this, carved in the 19th Century. Recently, it has went under restoration and the water is now again running, interestingly a time capsule has been inserted. What ever happens in the future, the residents of Linlithgow will get a glimpse of their past.


Friday, 26 May 2017

A Hair-Raising Experience

    Something I have never really thought about before is how the whole concept of libraries came about. While they may have evolved differently throughout the world, I want to talk about the UK. I thought I'd find out a little more about it, because it's the 291st anniversary of the first circulating library opening in the British Isles.

    It was Edinburgh wig-maker, Allan Ramsay's interest in the written word that lead him to become a founding member of the, Easy Club in the city. The club's members were like-minded young men who had an interest literature. Ramsay's visits to the club developed his own writing skills. Leading him to  close his wig-making business and concentrate on being a poet, playwright and publisher. On, May 25th 1726, following the opening of his own bookshop, he began to rent out his stock of books and from this, the first library was born in the Britain.

    Ramsay wrote song and verse in English and Scots. Upon whose style, Robert Burns based his own wording in song and verse on.  Burns acknowledged this well respected man in this verse,

'Ramsay an' famous Ferguson
Gied Forth an' Tay a lift aboom
Yarrow an' Tweed, to monie a tune
Owre Scotland rings
While Irwin, Lugar, Ayr an' Doon
Naebody sings."

    Ramsay continued throughout his life to contribute to the arts in many ways, publishing other writers works and investing in plays being brought to theatre.

    We continue to fight for the survival of libraries and I wonder what this man would have to say about their demise.

Works by Ramsay:

The Gentle Shepherd (1725)
The Tea Table Miscellany (1724)
The Ever Green (1724)

Photo used of: Kings Bookshop Callander By CR

Sunday, 21 May 2017

When You Have Eliminated the Impossible


     ‘How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?’
                                                                                                          Sherlock Holmes

    Body snatchers, hiding in the shadows of Greyfriar's graveyard. The overwhelming stench of human waste, overcrowded slums and child labour. These are some of the characteristics of 19th century Edinburgh.

     It may be living in this dark, grisly place as both child and man, is what gave Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, one of the foundations for his wonderful mysteries.

    Born in Edinburgh, May 22nd 1859, Doyle returned to study medicine in  the city's university in 1876 until 1881. Here is where, they say he drew his inspiration for the character, Sherlock Holmes. The character itself is said to be based on one of the professors there. His first story of the sixty that Doyle wrote featuring the great detective, A Study in Scarlet, was written in 1886 and like many aspiring writers he received many rejections before publication.

    Also being interested in spiritualism, I'm sure added an extra depth to his writing. His stories having what seemed ghostly goings on, when in the end it could all be easily explained.

    Thank goodness his home town is no longer a place to fear, it's a place to enjoy. Unless you're scared of the ghosts that is.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 22 May 1859-1930 

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Message in a Bottle

    "Only after the last tree, has been cut down, the last river has been poisoned, the last fish caught,       
      only then will you find that money cannot be eaten."

A Cree Indian Prophesy

    The Pacific Ocean saw many bloodied battles throughout World War II. Thankfully, the naval ships are no longer engaged in active conflict there and the Australian spitfire squadrons flying overhead the islands are a memory. Without a doubt, a memory that will stay with us forever.

    However, there is still a battle going on there. A silent battle, one that humans have caused, but are reluctant to put a stop to.

    We live in a disposable society, one where we want our goods all nicely wrapped up in plastic from the supermarket. One where we want to drink our cold drinks on a summers day through a plastic straw and insert our tampons using a plastic applicator.

    There is public outcry when we see on our social media pages, the cruelty that is inflicted on any animals, dogs, cats, and horses for example. However, if it isn't stuck in front of our noses we hide our heads in the sand and ignore what is happening to our world.

    Marine life and birds are what I'm focusing on today. Fish of all kinds are digesting plastic pellets, which are the remnants of our plastic bottles, we drink our water, or fizzy drink from. Birds eating bottle tops, plastic cigarette lighters, their beaks being tangled in discarded fishing nets and lines. Nesting crabs taking up residence in our so called disposable polystyrene food trays, cups, along with any other trash that finds its way onto the rocks and beaches. If you're a fish-eater remember you're eating the plastic too and as yet we don't know the consequences of humans digesting plastic.

     Beaches, rivers and seas all over the world are being used as dumping grounds and the Pacific Ocean, in particular is badly polluted with our rubbish. Yes, our rubbish the stuff that belongs to all of us. Instead of throwing that plastic bottle in the ocean with a romantic message inside, we need to dispose of it responsibly and forget the romance. Because we need to start giving a hoot and don't pollute.


Monday, 15 May 2017


I don't know where I've been
I don't know where I'm going 
I drift along the coast aimlessly
Never knowing if it's time for me to beach
Each shoreside enticing me to stay
I don't know if I will ever belong
Maybe for now, I'll keep on drifting

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The Power of a Smile

 What sunshine is to flowers
Smiles are to humanity
These are but trifles, to be sure
But scattered along life's pathway
The good they do is inconceivable

                                                                                          Joseph Addison

    There is nothing better than seeing and hearing a baby gurgle with laughter. When we stick our heads into their pram, or crib, we talk silly, make faces and tickle them in an effort just to get that smile.

    I'm no doctor, but having read and experienced for myself, I can confirm that laughing is a tonic. Basically, because when we laugh and smile, endorphins, a group of hormones which hide themselves away in our brain and nervous system are released into our bodies.

    I would love to explain the ins and outs of what goes on, when these little guys go shooting into our system's. But, at the risk of repeating myself, I'm no doctor.

    Yes, we don't always have something to smile about, however even a stranger giving us a smile can lift our spirits.

    I read this morning about recent research, that has found that smiling can make us look two years older. Therefore, if we don't want those laughter lines ageing us, we'll need to go about with a poker face.

    Umm, I think I'll just keep the ever-growing number of crinkly lines at the sides of my eyes. I hope you have something to smile about today and if you can spare one, give it to someone else. They may need it more than you.

    So, remember today,

    A smile costs nothing, but gives a lot
    It enriches those who receive it
    Without making poorer those who give it

                                                                                                     Author unknown

Monday, 8 May 2017

Over the Sea to Pervyse

Mairi Chisholm and Elsie Knocker in the trenches
    A show I used to love on TV was M*A*S*H.The comedy show was based in an army hospital in the Korean War and featured the antics of the staff there. Life always became a lot more serious when they heard the helicopters approaching, it was time to knuckle down and get down to business. The business being to take care of the sick and wounded personnel being brought in from the front line.

    Getting medical treatment quickly was the difference between life and death, helicopters playing an important part in the service personnel's transfer. Otherwise, logistically it would have been more difficult, probably impossible in some instances.

    Thirty-six years before, WWI was being fought and transporting the wounded to receive the medical help they needed was slightly more difficult. It was also important to the cause that  those who had less serious injuries were required to take up their place in the trenches once again. Medical staff therefore had to be stationed as forward on the front line as possible.

    Medical staff being male, as women were expected to keep the home fires burning. However, some women did travel overseas to help, taking up their roles as nurses and ambulance drivers, some distance away from the dangerous battle-field.

        Two women, who became increasingly frustrated at their role's in the war, were Scottish nurse Mairi Chisholm and her English, friend Elsie Knocker. They knew they could help on the front line and did.

The beach, Nairn, hometown of Mairi Chisholm
    Eighteen-year- old Mairi and thirty-year-old Elsie travelled to Pervyse, Belgium, and were the only women on the Western Front. Carrying out their nursing roles under less than perfect conditions, gas attacks, shell and sniper fire, were part of every day life.

    Receiving, seventeen medals between them, including the Order of Leopold II, Knights Cross, awarded to them by King Albert of Belgium, in recognition of their bravery.

    These two women also known as the, Madonnas of Pervyse I wanted to mention because of their contribution to nursing. However, there are many nurses who will never be named, or receive medals for the great job they do each day. That's why we should pay tribute to all of them May,12th #International Nurses Day.

 WW1 image source:

    Interested in finding out more about Mairi, or Elsie? 
 Book by Diane Atkinson 

Friday, 5 May 2017

His Devilish Watch

Main Hall

        The wooden floorboards creaked and groaned, each step I took echoed around the main hall of Cowane's Hospital, Stirling, when I visited there last week.  The eyes of the former, Deans of the Guild, in the paintings that adorn the walls seeming to follow my every move, adding to the ambiance of this already eerie 17th century building.

Exterior Cowane's Hospital
       On the death of John Cowane, a rich, local merchant, funds he had bequest were used to set-up this once charitable home for Guildry members of the burgh. The merchants who had fallen on hard times were expected to abide by certain rules and regulations on their stay here and are worth a read.

Bowling Green

    A bowling-green which was used by the members sits between the building and the Old Town Jail, with wonderful views over the neighbouring countryside. The building has been used in the past as both a school and hospital. During a cholera outbreak in the city 1831-1832, Cowane's was used as an isolation unit. Considering, Stirling lost a third of its residents during this epidemic, the buildings location next to the Old Cemetery, may have been one of the factors that influenced the decision in it being brought back into use at this time.

John Cowane

     A statue of John Cowane watches over the entrance and is said to come alive on New Year's Eve, dancing along with the other revellers in the city. Ghost walks in the Old Town and paranormal investigations hosted in the hospital are always under his devilish watch.

    It is obvious that restoration is badly needed to the exterior and funds are being raised to do so. Pieces of history like this deserve to be conserved and I hope that the work planned to start next year returns the building and statue to its former glory. Making sure the people of the Royal Burgh can treasure it for the next 400 years.


Monday, 1 May 2017

The Zealot and the Two Marys

    Religion has played a strong part in the turbulent past of Scotland. In modern day society there is no place for bigotry, but I'm afraid that there are sporting occasions when it still does rear its ugly head.

    However,  thankfully we no longer take those who disagree with the majority on the day and execute them. This is what happened to two women from Wigton, Scotland in the seventeenth century, who refused to recognise that the then monarch, King James VII, as the head of the church.

    Found guilty of treason eighteen-year-old, Margaret Wilson and sixty-year-old Margaret McLachlan were sentenced to death by drowning. The two women met their fate on the Solway Firth, England, where they were tied to a stake and drowned by the incoming tide.

    While the two Margaret's have no connection to Stirling a local farmer and business man wanted to commemorate, Presbyterian martyrs and a monument was erected in memory of them in the, Old Town Cemetery, Stirling in the nineteenth century.

    It's an amazing monument and when I came across it the other day, I could hardly take my eyes off it. The angel watching over the two women, makes a powerful statement.