"O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to heaven is sent;
Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content"
Robbie Burns

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


The third weekend of August every year in Milwaukee all the Celts of the midwest be they Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Cornish, Britons or Isle of Mann converge on the Summerfest Fairgrounds at the Milwaukee Lakefront for four days of great Celtic music, dance and culture.  This year the anticpated 150,000 plus vistors were able to enjoy the festival thanks to a truly enjoyable weekend of warm weather and clear skies. 

Festival goers sampled this year's Scottish Music Sampler thanks to the Scottish Arts Council and were finally able to sample some Irish liquid fare... Jameisons Irish Whiskey,  sampled and sold for the first time on the grounds.  As usual AirLingus had their great festival travel deal to Ireland, despite an increase in airfair, festival goers were able to book a flight to Ireland via Chicago for $358 round trip.  

The Cultural area was busy as usual with an excellent display of the archival records of Irish Arts in both traditional and popular music.  The genealogy tent sponsored by was a very busy place as they had people on hand to help navigate the Irish records found on this popular online site.  As usual there were our furry friends in the Irish Kennels: Irish Wolfhounds, Kerry Terriers, Irish Terriers and of course Irish Setters.

Those seeking a bit of a break from the heat could sit along the shaded lakefront and watch the currach races on both Saturday and Sunday. For those who were more daring there  was the dance floor in the dance pavilion as well as the court at Crossroads.  Though not quite like the Highland games with their heavy sports, again this year local teams competed in the Tug of Wars and in Hurling. 

But for many they were there for the music.... with five main stages throughout the park  and many smaller stages tucked in tents and in hideaways,  there was something for everyone at this year's Irish Fest be it the traditonal sound of the Makem Brothers or the clash of Celtic rock of the Peatbog Fearies.  The following are just some of the scenes of the day.... 

Some of the great music talent... 

Irish Dancing....

Plenty of pipe music....

Billy Mitchell Pipe Band and Caladonia Dancers's 28th 
apppearance at Irish Fest. 

Kilts big and small....

A boy never forgets his first kilt and sporrin...

Scottish Highland Dancing...
with the Caledonian Dancers.

The Clergy blessed the weekend...

with great weather for a grand hooley for all. 

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Dundrennan Village and Abbey Ruins
My last post was on the more famous abbeys found in the Borders of Scotland that were developed at the behest of Kind David I of Scotland. Many were founded by the Cistercians who were an order founded by Robert of Molesme in 1098 at Citeaux Abbey, located south of Dijon, France. Their order was further influenced by St Bernard of Clairvaux. They received the nickname of the White Monks because they wore white robes often covered by a black apron. They founded their abbeys in remote areas and  embraced a lifestyle that reflected the life of St. Bernard which was austere. They encouraged a return to manual labor and were known for their well developed farms reflecting the importance of  field work to the Order.  

Dundrennan Abbey is located south east of Kirkcudbright, in inland from the Solway Firth. The Abbey was founded by King David I when he invited the Cistercian monks from Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire to develop an abbey at Dundrennan. The area was perfect for the  austere lifestyle of the monks. If one has been to this part of  Scotland, the area sports rolling hills and many farms inland as well as small fishing villages and an idyllic lifestyle.  The White Monks at Dundrennan were able to live there for almost 400 years before the advent of the Scottish Reformation.  The Abbey's farms were famous for wool, much like their neighboring abbeys; wool that was exported to the Continent that helped to boost the local economy. Historically, Mary Queen of Scots on May 15, 1568 spent her last night on Scottish soil at the Abbey before she sailed from what is now Port Mary, to England where she was imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth.

After Scotland's Reformation, the abbey became the church for the locals well into the 1600's. The site became part of the State care and later the stones were sold to the city of Kirkcubrightshire maybe ten miles away. The local community of Dundrennan today (above)  is populated by approx. 230 people. However, the parish of Rerrick is much larger and the parish church is located just a block or so from Dundrennan Abbey. The graveyard at the Abbey still has burials for local familes. 

                                                     Monks rooms/Dundrennan Abbey
The little village is basically 2 blocks long and if you sneeze you will miss it. However, for me it is wonderful place to explore as it is my families stomping ground.  In 1852 my great great grandparents Isabella Mctaggart and William Clarke left this village to come to the US. Isabella was born on a farm (Flathill) just above the church and William was born on a neighboring estate, Barlocco which was estate of Sir Alexander McCartney. My g-g-g-grandmother Mary McCartney (Wm's mother)  may have been his "natural" daughter.  

Other local abbeys include: 

Crossraguel  Abbey  founded in 1244 by the Earl of Carrick.  After taking the monks at Paisley to court, monks came from Paisley Abbey  to run it. The monks were from the Cluniac order of Benedictines and were known as the Black Monks because of the color of the habits not their behavior. The name of the abbey may be derived from a former church that had a cross on the site, the site being named for a "royal cross".  The abbey is set near Maybole in Ayrshire and the area like much of the Southwest of Scotland was subject to the raids by the English including Henry Percy whose army was in the employ of Edward I and attacked the Abbey. There have been reports of manifestations of the former monks who still walk the ruins.

Glenluce Abbey founded in 1190 by the Roland, Lord of Galloway, was a Cistercian Abbey. It is a sister house to Dundrennan whose monks were sent to house Glenluce Abbey.  In 1200
the great Scottish Wizard Michael Scott was to have imprisoned  "the Plague" in the dungeons thus starving it to death. Like other abbeys it housed about 15 monks and many lay brethren. Like many of the abbeys today in the region it is a ruin, however the Chapter House ( from the 1500's) has been preserved in the 1990's to give the visitor an idea of what it was like.  At the Reformation those monks who embraced the new faith were allowed to stay. The site was then turned into a house and late a church manse, until 1933 when it became the property of the State and now Historic Scotland. 

Kilwinning Abbey is located in North Aryshire. There has been a Christian church on the site since the time of St. Columba and St Mungo and was the home to the Culdees of the Celtic Church.  A Benedictine house was built  by Sir Hugo de Morville, Constable of Scotland but others believe Richard de Morville (of the Becket murder fame) was the founder. However Hugo had a stronger claim because the land and security over the 
land was given to him by King David I. Benedictine monks from Kelso came to man the Abbey and quickly the life of the abbey and the surrounding community was flourishing with an income of 20.000 pounds sterling a year.  The Bishop who helped to write the Declaration of Arbroath, Bernard Linton, was buried here at this abbey although he never served here. The thought was because he was part of the same order as those monks at Arborath and because of his link with the Isle of Mann it seemed a likely place for his final resting place. 

Whithorn Priory  was founded by Fergus, Lord of Galloway in the 12th C however there has been an active church here for 16 centuries enduring  three phases of Christianity.  The first on the site was Candida Casa or the White House established by St Ninian who brought Christianity to Scotland about 390's before St Columba. There was also a trading port not far from Whithorn where the locals traded with both the Irish and the Isle of Mann which created a triangle of trade. Clearly this trade shows Scots of the region who were Britons (Welsh Celts) were involved with the Irish long before the Irish (Scoti)  who were later to be the Scots of the Highlanders showing the integration of the Irish language before the later Scots. When St Ninian died the site became a place of pilgrimages. 

In the 700's the area was Norse which added to their influence in language and culture.  But by 1128 the Norse were pushed out by the growing number of influences from the south and the Whithorn was re-established 1128.  This new emergence of Christian influence resulted in a cathedral and priory.  The final state of Christianity was the Scottish Reformation in 1560, which resulted in the lost of a bishopric and the disrepair of the cathedral as a place of workshop of the old faith. Through the 1600 and 1700's the site fell into ruins but in 1822 a new parish church was built on the site of the remaining east side of the cloister.  In 1800's the Marquess of Bute restored the site and excavated to find the original church of St Ninian. The site now houses the an excavation as well as a museum. 


Sweetheart Abbey has a wonderfully romantic story at its origins. The Cistercian Abbey is located south of Dumfries at the edge of the West Marches of the border with England. In 1275 Dervorguilla, the daughter of Alan, Lord of Galloway, founded the abbey in honor of her husband, John Balliol, who founded the Balliol College at Oxford. While she was alive she carried his embalmed heart in a ivory/silver religious casket and when she died in 1290 it was buried with her at Sweetheart Abbey.  As a sister house of Dundrennan the abbey was built with local red sandstone bricks.  In honor of this lady the monks named it Sweetheart Abbey because of the love she had for her husband however the real name is New Abbey.   It is important to remember she is the mother of John Balliol, who was king of Scotland (Edward I's choice) from 1292 to 1286. Like many of the Cistercian Abbeys in Scotland the monks  introduced many new and innovative agricultural skills which developed and later improve the local economy and when they left after the Scottish reformation, the economy was well established for the locals and the landed gentry. 

During the many years of dispute with England, Kind Edward I was known to have stayed there and often this Abbey didn't meet the same ends as other Border Abbeys did when there was war with England.  Some believe he had a special connection to the Abbey but more often it was likely its location which was at the far west of  the West March.  Later it became under the protection of the Archibald "the grim" Douglas, a prominent family surname in this region for  throughout Scottish history.  At the time of the Reformation, the abbey was under the protection of Lord Maxwell who as a Catholic let the Abbot remain.  The Abbot was later imprisoned at Blackness Castle but when released he returned to Sweetheart for his goods which has been publicly burned in Dumfries. He was later exiled to France where he died.  The Abbey became part of the Historic Scotland  in 1928.  The graveyard is also the resting place of the founder of the Bank of England, William Paterson who died in 1719.

The next posting will be a feature on THE HERMITAGE in the Borders. 

Saturday, June 14, 2008

King David I and Border Abbeys

Borders of Scotland: 
If we want to talk about the Borders of Scotland we can't help but discuss the economic impact that the early abbeys in the region had. From about 1100 ce forward the emergence of the border abbeys were a direct result of the work of King David I, the youngest son of King Malcolm and Queen Margaret. Many historians believe it is his love and devotion to his mother and her work to bring the Roman Church into being in Scotland that influenced his dedication to the growth of the Church's influence by building  the many abbeys and priories in the region. This growth of abbeys was not only within David's domain as he influenced others over the next couple of centuries to patronize other abbeys and collegiate churches. The second part of this look at the lowland abbeys of Scotland will discuss those in Galloway and Dumfries.

So who was King David? We know that many of the claimants to the throne of Scotland in the late 13th century be they the Balliols, the Bruces and even the Comyns claim kinship that goes back to King David. 
Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh, Scotland 

King David I ( reign 1124- May 24 1153) 

Born 1083/1085 Youngest son of King Malcolm III (Canmore) and Saint Margaret of England.  

Although he spent his youth in Scotland, he in was exiled in 1093 and became part of the court of Henry I of England and thus began his influence of Norman customs. Because of his time  in Henry's court, when Henry died and left his daughter Matilda as empress of England, David took her side in the conflict she had for the crown with Stephen. He returned to Scotland to become Prince 0f Cunbria from 1113- 1124 in large part it was Henry who convinced King Alexander to accept David's claim to the area of Cumbria which included most of the borders region of Scotland. David married,  at the behest of Henry I of England,  Maud of Huntington. This area he  was prince of included the present day  counties of Roxburgh, Selkirkshire, Berwickshire, Lanarkshire, and Peebleshire. He didn't have any control of the are of area of Dunfries and Galloway, the west marches. 

He followed his older brother Alexander I to the throne of Scotland in the spring of 1124 after a number of battles with Alexander's son Mael Coluim. As King he  was able to bring his lands of Southern Scotland and what is now the borders along with the Alexander's domain creating a greater Scotland (Alba) domain. And it was during his reign of King of Scotland where had the most influence creating the Davidian Revolution.   He began to encourage more Norman and Flemish  knights to come to the larger Scotland domain where he offered them land  and encouraged Flemish merchants  from Continent to relocate to Scotland.  He brought to Scotland  military feudalism, Scotland's first coinage, monasticism (abbeys) and created Royal Burghs. 

Royal Burghs: 
David created these Royal Burghs (cities) as both economic trading cents where the good/resources from his lands could be traded and as administrative districts. The first of these Royal Burghs was Berwick (Berwick on Tweed) to be followed by Stirling, Dunfermline, Aberdeen, Perth and Scone.  The King's land in these areas were overseen by a Sheriff, they were initially located at Roxburgh, Scone, Berwick, Stirling and Perth. 

David encouraged Norman and Flemish Knights to relocate to Scotland and offered them land in return to military service to him. The de Brus ( Bruce) family came to Scotland and were granted the land at Annadale in the Borders.  This created the arrival of feudalism to Scotland at least in the military sense. 

He owned a silver mine in his English lands and mined it to create Scotland's first coinage. This creation of coinage was  used to link the economic growth of Scotland to the government of Scotland. The use of coinage in trade, always keeping the image of the king  and his power in front of those who used the coinage, which helped to create the economic growth of the country both within and as the exchange of goods from the continent with that of Scotland.   A large part of the export of goods to the continent was wool, wool from the sheep from the herds of the abbeys in the Borders. 

David was often referred to as the "Saint", due in large part to the influence his mother made on him spiritually. It was St Margaret who brought a stronger influence of the Roman Catholic Church to Scotland who were Christians but adhered to the Celtic version still. David in honor of his mother's dedication to the Church had built  a number of abbeys. The first of which was when he was Prince of Cumbria in 1113, the Selkirk Abbey, which house the grey monks of the order of Tironensians.   During his reign he was patron of 15 monasteries in the lowlands of Scotland. These brought learned men to Scotland from the continent which helped to Europeanize Scotland, they also brought new agriculture practices that were employed. These e Abbeys were now no longer just spiritual centers but were also economic centers for an area and for the Church and to a degree the crown. Wool was the number one export from abbeys in the Borders and the Lothians and Scotland was the most important supplier of wool to the continent. It is because of this early trade that economy of the lowlands of Scotland was able to survive during hard times, especially during the clearance of the early 1700's in the lowlands.

Abbeys of the Borders: 

A church has been on this 
spot in Scotland since 650 CE. St Cuthbert is believed to have grown up in the borders of Scotland and was one of the first to serve at Melrose (Mailros) and later served at Durham, where he became their most beloved saint. In 839 the Scottish King, Kenneth McAlpin destroyed Mailros.  In 1136 King David brought monks from an English abbey at Rievaulx, which was a Cistercian Abbey and a Norman styled abbey was built. Melrose quickly became one of the wealthiest abbeys in Scotland, by the 1300's it was thought they had a herd of sheep which total in excess of 15,000.  Set so close to the borders with England the abbey was victim to many raids: Edward I of England in 1296 and Edward II in 1322. King Robert Bruce  rebuilt the abbey. It was destroyed again by Richard II  
and was ransacked during the period of "Rough Wooing" in the mid 1500's. It was deserted at the time of the Reformation in 1560 however it was used by locals as a church until 1810. Many visitors visit Melrose even though it now a ruin because of the beauty of the gardens and richness of the remaining architecture. Also others come in pilgrimage to pay honor to one of Scotland's greatest kings, Robert Bruce whose heart his buried at Melrose.  However, his body is buried under the pulpit at the abbey at Dunfermline. 

Jedburgh  was founded in 1138 and was home to Augustinian Monks in the Middle March close to the Scottish and English border. The monks came from St Quentin Abbey in France. Jedburgh originally was a priory in 1154. Monastic live wascontinually disturbed because of the border conflicts with the English. In 1258 Alexander III  married his second wife at Jedburgh Abbey. Edward I lodged his entourage when he had come to Scotland to pillage Scotland in 1296. The abbey was saved from damage during the "Rough Wooing" in 1544.  And a new church was built with in the Nave in 1688-1670 but in 1875 a new parish church was built in another location. The demise of monastic life happened with the Scottish Reformation in 1560 when it became a 
church of the new faith. The abbey introduced new agricultural methods and was a center of live to the community and surrounding  area. The abbey is a ruin now but the naive and the transepts are still standing.  

This abbey was not patronized by King David but by Sir Hugh de Moreville,  constable of Scotland, in 1150 and was home to the Premonstratensain Order which was found in France in 1120. Sir Hugh became a monk at the order before his death. The abbey was located on the banks of the River Tweed and like other abbeys was often at the mercy of the Borders wars and reivers. In 1322 it was destroyed by the English, and rebuilt only be destroyed again by Richard II in 1385 and was a constant victim to the battles of the "Rough Wooing in the mid 1500's. At the time of the reformation the cannons accepted the new faith, setting aside the Catholic Church. The ruin abbey is the final resting place of a son of the Borders, Sir Walter Scott in 1832

The abbey was established in 1128 when the monks of the Tironsensian from Selkirk came to the area  and established a new abbey. It took them 75 years to build and like most of the abbeys in the Border Region it took the a beating from the Scottish War of Independence in the late 13th and early 14th century.  It took a terrible beating during the "Rough Wooing'  and was not restored especially when  15 years later Scotland experienced its Reformation. In the 1600's it was made into a parish church until the mid 1700's when a new local church was built. As with a number of the abbeys the stones were removed for local building creating further destruction of the abbey which was not a ruin. Today the ruin is administered by Historic Scotland. 

In 1126 King David established an abbey at as act of thanksgiving when he survived the attack of a hart (a red deer) on Holy Cross Day and apparently he saw a cross between the antlers of the deer and took that as a sign to build the abbey in thanksgiving at being saved. The abbey was established for the cannons regular at St Andrews, who were Augustinian Monks. The church  
relic was a piece of the true Cross that his mother brought to Scotland. This relic was referred to as the Black Rood of Scotland. Unfortunately it was taken by the English in one of their many raids into Scotland and taken to Durham, but at the Reformation in both countries it disappeared.  The Abbey which is now a ruin that is located next to Holyrood Palace, which was completed in the early 1501. 

Holyrood Abbey has seen the birth of kings, (James II), crownings (Queen Mary, wife to James II) and the marriage of James III and Mary, Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley in 1565. Although not located on the Borders like the other abbeys, Holyrood was sacked by unruly Protestant reformers as the behest of John Knox in 1567. The Abbey ruins that stand today in the same location of the original site were built by Charles II in 1670.  In 1667 James II created the Order of the Thistle and the nave of the abbey was created into a chapel for the Order. Although the abbey is a ruin located to the Holyrood Palace, the surrounding gardens and park are a favorite location for both the visitor and the locals to enjoy. 

Next posting will include the other abbeys of Dumfries and Galloway. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

APRIL 6TH 2008

I know this next post was to be of the Borders of Scotland but we are going to take a bit of a detour. On Sunday, April 6th  I attended the Clan Donald annual KIRKIN' OF THE TARTANS at All Saint Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Wearing my Wallace plaid, I like all those present went to the alter to have my tartan blessed with wee dram of whisky. My poor husband cringed at this use of his favorite beverage and I told him no licking or sniffing my shawl for the next week so as the blessing won't wear off. 

For those of you who don't know what the Kirkin' of the Tartan is, it all began on April 27, 1941 by the Reverend Peter Marshall, who was minister of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC.  Rev. Marshall, who was born in  Coatbridge, Scotland, held prayer services to raise funds for the British War relief.  It was at the April service when he delivered the a sermon entitled "the Kirkin' of the Tartans" which celebrated the shared traditions of the American Scots and their brethren in Scotland.  What began as a celebration of pride in their heritage has become an annual event that often includes pipers, dancers, reading of the names of the deceased since the last Kirkin', the reading of scripture  and of course the blessing of the Tartans.  After Rev. Marshall's death in the 1950's it has moved the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. where the tradition has continued to this day. Though the Kirkin' can be held at anytime during the year, the two days most popular are on November 30th which is St. Andrews Day ( St. Andrew being the patron saint of Scotland)  and April 6th, TARTAN DAY which commemorates Scotland's declaration of freedom- Declaration of Arbroath, on April 6th 1320 from English oppression during the war of Scottish Independence. 

Now 688 years later,  April 6 is celebrated in Scotland as National Tartan Day with events celebrating their heritage, if not their freedom from English rule (thanks to the Act of Union, 1707). This year's honorary spokesperson for the day was Scottish Born actor, Brian Cox, who recently appeared the movie THE WATER HORSE: The Legend of the Deep , a children's story about the legend of the Loch Ness monster.   Scotland's Tartan Day was the inspiration for our country's National Tartan Day. What, you didn't know the US had designated a national holiday  called Tartan Day?  Its not surprising but when one thinks about the contributions that scores and scores of early Scottish immigrants have made to the United States it is staggering as a group they have not been honored before this. 

Some of those contributions include: 

Place names from their their homeland and families/clans (Campbellsport, WI and Dundee, Wi to name a few of the local to me) much of Nation's capital is the result of Scottish Stone Masons plying  their craft.         
Sports:  How about the growing popularity of both Golf and Curling , both of Scottish heritage/origin some believe our track and field has strong ties to the heavy athletic  events that originated at highland games down through the century. 
 Religion: Many of the early Scots who emigrated to the US were "transported" here involuntary because of their religious preference, the US Presbyterian Church has grown to be one of the most influential of all the Protestant faiths.  Much of our American work ethic is result of these early settlers from Scotland, be they Highlander  or Lowlander. 
 Education:  The Scots who emigrated here in the 18th century were well educated and literate, thanks to the Scottish Reformation, and helped to develop the  importance of education.  Many were tutors or headmasters in schools and some went on to develop universities like Princeton. 
Medicine:  Many of the earliest doctors in America were born and trained in Scotland or had traveled to Scotland to be educated as Scotland had established itself as a leader in medicine of the period. Probably in large part because they had such an educated populace. Many of the earliest medical teaching facilities  which were uniquely separate from the established medical hospitals and were started by Scots or those of Scottish descent who brought the concept one must also heal the mind as well as the body. 

2008, US National Cathedral Kirkin of the Tartans

With the popularity of the Kirkin' of the Tartans in Washington, DC since the mid 1950's it seemed inevitable that we in the US would adopt this holiday as well. Though it was the Canadians, who like us have a long historical tie to Scotland, created their National Tartan Day in 1993.  In  April, 1997 a resolution was presented on the floor of the US Senate to create a permanent day to recognize the contributions those of Scots descent have made to this country. But it was the Senate Resolution 155  in March 1998 that recognized the first US National Tartan Day celebration, April 6th.  However, it took the House  to also recognize April 6th as National Tartan Day until  2005 to pass  House Resolution 41.    From this time forward throughout the US, those of Scots and Scots/Irish have been celebrating their Scottish heritage at events sponsored by clans/families, the  St Andrews Society, the Robert Burns Clubs and the Caledonia Society as well as churches and communities with strong historical ties to Scotland. April 6th is now recognized as National Tartan Day. 

Declaration of Arbroath 

The Arbroath Declaration 2008. presented by the Arbroath Abbey Pageant Society who recreate the signing of the declaration at Arbroath, Scotland 
In spite of the Scot's stunning victory at Bannockburn, which repelled King Edward II to return to England, the Scots independence was not assured and by 1319 the  English had recaptured the Border town of Berwick crucial to Scottish defense. The war with England continued and the Scots under the leadership of their crowned and anointed King- Robert de Bruce appealed to the Pope to recognize the Scots rights for independence. The Pope however wasn't so willing has he had excommunicated Brus for his murder of John Comyn in a Church in town of Dumfries in 1306. This was all part of the battle over who had stronger rights to the throne of  Scotland: the Comyns/Balliol connection vs. the Bruce family: all descending from David I but often through the female line and through marriages.  

However on April 6th , 1320 at the Abbey of Arbroath, by the Chancellor of Scotland a major Declaration of Independence (the most important Scottish document to date) was written and signed,  which declared Scotland's right to be an independent nation from England. What made this Declaration of Arbroath unique ( and it is often said our own American Declaration of Independence was influenced by this one) was the strong wording:

Yet if he should give what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we be on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth nor for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting but for FREEDOM- for that alone, which no honest man gives but with life itself. 

It was from this time forward, that Robert Bruce declared he was king only at the will of the people and that with that responsibility if he were to fail them, they had every right to be rid of him. From this point in history forward, all kings and queens of Scotland reigned as King or Queen of the Scots, they were such of the people NOT of the land as it was done in England. It is thought that this position was a result of the Scots long ties to their Celtic heritage that was shared by many including Robert Bruce. It was a unique declaration of popular sovereignty, which meant the King was chosen by the people and NOT God or by the Pope who anointed ( or recognized) the King. This declaration was signed by 38 Noble families
 of Scotland and their (rag) seals can be seen on the original doctrine as well their names appear in the document itself. Many of  whose same name appeared on Edward I oath of allegiance early in the War of Scottish Independence, which shows the precarious position the noble families of Scotland were in at this time.

When the declaration was carried to the Pope's court at Avignon, despite Brus being excommunicated (numerous times in his life), only some measure of peace occurred between Scotland and England as a result of the Treaty of Northampton which declared England had no rights over Scotland. Unfortunately it wasn't until March of 1328 that Edward III signed it and a year later King Robert Brus died leaving his young son of five years as King. The fact that young David was married to the daughter of Edward II as per the Treaty of Northampton his first reign through the use of guardians was short lived  when Edward Balliol, the nemesis family of the Brus's, throwing Scotland into more turmoil as the young king and his queen were whisked away to France. It wasn't until 1341 that he was able to return to reign as a Scottish King. He left no heirs and it was the Robert II, the son of Marjory Bruce (King Robert's daughter from his first marriage)  and Robert Stewart, High Steward of Scotland.  And so begins the Reign of the Stewarts, who later adopted the French version Stuart, an influence of  Mary Stuart's.

Because so much of the early squabbles for the Kingship of Scotland at this time stemmed form each families relationship to David I  my next blog is going to be about David I's influence on Scottish Monasticism, which will finally take us to the Borders of Scotland and all the abbeys he and others help to found in the 12th and 13th century.  

Thursday, March 27, 2008


The last time I was in Scotland in 1999, while traveling from London to Edinburgh on the train, I spied the towers of Durham Cathedral, but was disappointed that time didn't allow me a chance to return to explore this wonderful medieval town. So much of the Anglo/Scots border history is tied to the history of both Durham and Cathedral as the Cathedral's Bishops were not only the spiritual leaders of the north but also the political and military authority of the region. This trip I was finally able to visit the site.  

We hiked up to the Cathedral and I have to admit I was rather disappointed at the interior of the place. It seemed so plain, but I guess in comparison to Westminster Abbey in London it would seem sparse. Unfortunately, as it still has an  active religious congregation, we were not allowed to take pictures in the sanctuary. But the sheer size of the building, with its blending of both Norman and Gothic architecture was well worth the visit.  I especially liked the feel of the green which bordered  the Cathedral with buildings of the University of Durham. You could feel the pulse of the community just  sitting on the green and people watching.  As we hiked up to the location, my husband took pity  on me and let me take the bus back to the little square for a bit of lunch and shopping before we headed off for out next destination. 

From Durham we headed north toward Berwick on Tweed and  along the way we stopped at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve.  I wanted to drive out to the Holy Island but the tide was coming in so we decided not to chance it. You see my husband was in a hurry to get to Berwick anyway because he had heard of a great golf course there, the most northern one in England  and he had made a goal this trip to play at least one golf course in each of the four countries  we would visit. With Berwick's incredible history I knew that I would have plenty to do exploring the walled city, so he could have his afternoon of golf. A bit of the history of the area is in order: during all the Border warfare over the medieval and renaissance period  Berwick changed hands from the Scots to the English to the Scots and finally in 1482  back to the English  who retains the  control today. The city was  under constant attack and a wall was built during the reign of Elizabeth I to keep the Scots out. Unfortunately, by the time we got there the weather had turned right nippy and cloudy and my husband had decided to play only a few holes of the course before we had to head back to Gretna Green where we were staying. The course is a lovely and located right on the North Sea with the walls of the city at its back.  As the days are much shorter this time of year we headed back toward Gretna didn't want to drive the Border roads in the dark.   But I had one important stop to make as we drove along the border thru the Border Marches,  of England and Scotland.

I wanted to stop at Flodden Field which is just about 12 miles or so inside England, just south of Coldstream which is on the Scottish side of the East March. The reason for this visit is that on September 9, 1513 Scotland suffered one of its greatest defeats at the hands of England.  There was scarcely a Scottish clan or family who didn't lose a loved one at this battle which occurred at Branxton Hill. My interest was because of Scotland's great King James IV, my favorite Scottish king, who was killed on the battlefield along with his natural son Alexander Stewart, who was Archbishop of St. Andrews as well as  three bishops, 68 knights, 12 Earls, and 14 lords of Scotland as well close to 10,000 Scottish men. In comparison the English who had a smaller overall fighting force only lost 1500 men. It was not only the largest battle between the two countries but it was the greatest defeat the Scots suffered at the hands of the English, much worse than Culloden two hundred years later.  

It was just about dusk with the wind and rain kicking up,  but after lot of grumbling from my husband  about the poor signage we finally found the small car park to the site. Unlike the Battlefield at Culloden, in the Highlands near Inverness, where there is a wonderful visitor center, at Flodden there is a rutted carpark with a small switchback gate that leads up the hill to the memorial (above). As it was now rather nasty out,  my husband opted to stay in the car and read while I trekked to the top of the hill by myself. It was really very lonely with the gray sky above and no sounds but the distant bleeting of some sheep. But to be honest it added to the solemn atmosphere  of the place and I welcomed the solitude.  I do know the place is reputed to be haunted with locals reporting sightings, even today, of soldiers in the period dress spotted leaving the area but as an intrepid watcher of Ghost Hunters, I kept hearing Jason and Grant's  voices saying residual ghosts can't hurt you. I sure hoped they were right. 

I have to say I was a bit nervous up there by myself at first. I am all for history renactments but I'm not sure I was ready for the ghostly kind.  But after sitting up there for about a half hour I was glad I  made the effort to go if  by myself.  It was peaceful and a great place to reflect on what it must have been like. There isn't much to see as the battlefield like many in the UK is now a farmer's field, but one does  get a sense of what it must have been like for the Scots and the English that day.  The picture above shows the battlefield as it is today looking south. Oddly enough the English were on this side (north with their backs to Scotland)  looking up at the hill to the south where King James and the Scots were located with their route to Scotland blocked by the English, which was probably much of the reason for the Scottish defeat.  

This  picture  is the small church, in fact the very  same church, where King James's body was taken by the English after he was killed on the battlefield.  His body was later taken to London but was never returned to Scotland, sadly. It isn't known where his final resting place is but there was some legend that his head was removed from his body and used by some local workers as a bizarre sort of  soccer ball, a very sad end to the first of the Scottish Kings (and in my opinion the best Stewart/Stuart king) to unite ALL of Scotland including the Lord of the Isle into one nation.   I will end this entry on this sad note, and the next entry will be on the Scottish Borders.   Enjoy.