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  • Scotland Stories | www.26treasures.com
    torso and who may have his arms bound A prisoner then marked out for death perhaps in the arena execution as entertainment Pour encourages les autres But who is he What was his crime Why does he go so blithely to his maker An early Christian martyred for his belief A common criminal glad his tortures are over at last A rebellious general convinced his cause will yet prevail The sandstone is probably British and possibly local Yet apart from Toblerone teeth the lioness is terrifyingly naturalistic as if the sculptor had surely seen such beasts close up in the wild or in the cages under the Coliseum So his stone might be local but sculptor and subject are not Why did he come to Britain Why to this the Northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire Was he exiled here To serve a military master with decorations for his tomb And was this indeed its purpose as the snakes curling over the plinth are said to imply The story of its discovery bears telling Although two million tides had ebbed and flooded over its head since Roman days winter storms in 1996 scoured the concealing and protective silt away to expose the lioness face at low spring tides Positioned as it was below the quayside steps Mr Graham thought it first a rock which might damage his boat and then as its carved nature emerged a possible garden ornament for his Forth side lawn But when he set to digging it out he soon saw it was something greatly more substantial and reported his find Careful excavation removal cleaning and preservation followed until now it crouches menacing and powerful in the NMS It is remarkable that the building of the Cramond quay did not lead to its earlier discovery to

    Original URL path: http://www.26treasures.com/scotland/creationstories/394 (2016-02-12)
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  • Scotland Stories | www.26treasures.com
    Maiden which stands in the Law and Order section of the Kingdom of the Scots display I had a wander round some of the other galleries In the Scotland Transformed exhibition a couple of floors up I found what at first glance looks like an enormously expanded version of the Maiden built perhaps to decapitate ogres This is Thomas Newcomen s 1712 steam engine actually used to pump water from coalmines in Ayrshire It therefore represents progress of a kind but the Maiden was still at work and was not retired until 1720 By that time it or she as we might refer to her in deference to her name had removed the heads of more than 120 people Hanging became the modern way of carrying out capital punishment As late as 1820 though the leaders of the Radical Rising had their heads chopped off in Stirling with an axe as a warning to other would be rebels against the state They however were already dead having been hanged first The Maiden was a big boned lass ten feet tall and with a heavy oak frame but she was also portable When not in use she was dismantled and packed away in storage then reassembled to perform her grisly task at various locations in Edinburgh including the Grassmarket Castlehill and the Mercat Cross It s said that she acquired her virginal name because she wasn t used for a number of years after being built Maybe this is true but the French called their beheading machine Madame Guillotine so it could be more about the macabre allure of femmes fatales in popular culture Women who kill are much rarer than men who kill and are therefore often regarded with greater horror and hatred The man believed to have introduced her

    Original URL path: http://www.26treasures.com/scotland/creationstories/392 (2016-02-12)
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  • Scotland Stories | www.26treasures.com
    worn and threadbare It is not a garment for grand occasions But this is the Church section remember and the church in question is an unforgiving kirk where questing nostrils were constantly alert to the stench of moral turpitude and the salvation of souls was prosecuted with much energy zeal and inventiveness The chair and garment are two of the great seventeenth and eighteenth century instruments of ecclesiastical discipline Otherwise known as the Stool and Gown of Repentance they were to be sat upon or worn in front of the congregation by fornicators adulterers slanderers and other wrongdoers Jonet Gothskirk was one such Between July and November 1677 she appeared before the congregation of West Calder kirk on thirteen successive Sundays for her adultery with a certain William Murdoch Because of her stupidity and that she could discover no sense or feeling of her sin nor sorrow for ye same she continued to wear the gown each Sunday week after week while the minister fulminated at her wickedness Nature eventually intervened and she was released on account of the imminent arrival of her child But what did she feel what did she think to herself while she stood there Sunday after Sunday her belly swelling her legs aching the sackcloth scratching at her skin Did she look out at the congregation and read behind the pursed lips the solemn faces There but by the grace of God go I Did she glance at the minister and rage at the hypocrisy that the Bard would immortalise a century later in Holy Willie s Prayer Was she so cowed by the collective opprobrium that she simply stood there and hung her head in misery Did she long to be back in the arms of William Murdoch for whom no punishment was recorded

    Original URL path: http://www.26treasures.com/scotland/creationstories/390 (2016-02-12)
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  • Scotland Stories | www.26treasures.com
    Chest before googling the hell out of it This simply because someone decided it was mine The lock they and I and a swarm of blue blazered schoolboys arriving later so admired is a marvel of technology and aesthetics A Heath Robinson affair or Rube Goldberg I might have said to the Americans it s a montage of swirling strips of iron which mesh or push past one another to activate the intricate mechanism They terminate in carved arrows while tiny unnecessary flowers cover the heads of bolts or joins Someone with an eye for beauty took time crafting this object Someone proud to win the commission for such an important treasure chest Someone perhaps who believed it stood for Scotland s brave new future who unlocked his own smaller casket to retrieve coins to the worth of 5 to invest in the Company of Scotland I misbehaved during my visit During a summer internship at the Cloisters museum many years back I learned that there are two mortal sins of museum going walking backwards and touching the exhibits I knew that and I touched the chest anyway to understand how cold and hard and enduring it was Then making certain no one was looking I leaned down and inhaled pulling the stench of iron so like blood right into my lungs I very nearly crawled into the chest It looked roughly the right size to accommodate someone bent double The allure of history has been with me always As a kid I wondered about everyone who d gone before never speculating forward about rocket ships or life on Mars I was immediately attracted to the concept behind 26 Treasures because while the facts and figures comprising human history are compelling I ve always been amazed at how universal and

    Original URL path: http://www.26treasures.com/scotland/creationstories/388 (2016-02-12)
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  • Scotland Stories | www.26treasures.com
    wig is peaty brown and matted My task now is to write a 62 word response for the 26 Treasures exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland I m grappling with any response apart from a desire to run in the opposite direction so look into Peden s story instead Hunting the outlaw priest Peden was one of the ministers who signed the 1638 National Covenant that opposed interference in the Scottish church by the Stuart monarchy He was on the run from government forces for 11 years and preached at illegal conventicle meetings on hillsides to thousands of believers By 1670 preaching at conventicles was punishable by death Peden would have worn this wig and mask in the hope of evading government forces By the way read The Fanatic by James Robertson for a fascinating insight into the Covenanting ministers who lived and died during the Killing Times when up to 18 000 people were brutally put to death Despite being sent to the Bass Rock the Scottish Alcatraz Peden avoided the hangman s rope and died a natural death aged 60 But he seems to be a footnote among Covenanting ministers and many details of his life evade capture However there s a chapter on Peden in Scots Worthies by John Howie which discredits talk of his prophecies and you can see his bible in Greyfriars Kirk open appropriately enough at the Book of Job One of a kind I d presumed that all Covenanting ministers would have worn masks But curator George Dalgleish says that this is the only surviving example and that there is no documented evidence that it was a common practice for Covenanters to disguise themselves this way And the closer you look at the mask the stranger it becomes How would you make

    Original URL path: http://www.26treasures.com/scotland/creationstories/386 (2016-02-12)
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  • Scotland Stories | www.26treasures.com
    an harvestmen Wee Lizzies Ye micht get raivelled at this neist Lizzie walked the swamps i the back end o the Carboniferous years So she cannae be a lizard They didnae evolve til 180 million years aifter that She could be a reptile or an amphibian reptiles lay eggs wi shells on the grund amphibians lay eggs in waater Let s nae argie bargie aboot the turn o her ankle though some jalouse that maks her an amphibian Let s mak believe Lizzie is a reptile The bad news mibbe her particlar evolutionary line cam tae a sticky end lang ago Let s mak believe it didnae Reptiles the day an mammals shared an ancestor awa back in time so Lizzie micht be oor distant relative But I m nae even gaein tae try tae work that oot I aye thocht a great aunt was somebodie that gied ye a penny and I still get dottled wi second cousins twice removed Mair mixter maxter Lizzie s secret the lassie could be a laddie And if that s richt she s surely Jock Tamson and we re her bairns Whit on earth can I scrieve Westlothiana lizziae Westlothiana Lizzie West lothi Ana Lizzie Anna Lizzie That s braw Annie Lizzie in Scots Annie Lizzie Whaur hae I heard that afore The sands o time rin doon doon The years turn blin and spare Annie Lizzie s gane and wi her A that s young and fair But Hereawa or thereawa On midsummer s eve Young Annie Lizzie s At her game o Mak Belive Midsummer s eve Mak believe Spooky Whit wey did Marion Angus dae that References The Fox s Skin The Tinker s Road and Links o Lunan by Marion Angus in The Singin Lass Selected Work of Marion Angus Poygon 2006 Westlothiana lizziae A collection of poems by Marion Angus 1865 1946 fell from a library shelf as if by magic at my feet Her Scots tongue inspired me Her mystical and ghostly poetry and her enduring interest in the cyclical nature of time fascinated me A thoosand years o clood and flame An a thing s the same and aye the same So when I read in her obituary no life could be less conspicuous I was angry enough to do some research I wrote a biography introduction to a selection of her work It wasn t enough I wanted a perspective more in tune with her spirit as revealed through her attitudes and values Uncanny coincidences made me shiver as I journeyed with her along her Tinker s Road but five years later I won ower the tap finished a novel which gets nearer the truth than facts did What happens now What do I do next Will I be able to move on turn my back on Marion Three weeks of uncertainty then 26Treasures appeared as if by magic on my laptop screen I left Marion behind without regret The National Museum of Scotland I

    Original URL path: http://www.26treasures.com/scotland/creationstories/384 (2016-02-12)
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  • Scotland Stories | www.26treasures.com
    were held on the sands at Leith before the docks were built they then moved eastwards to Musselburgh where I sometimes go the races myself Phew a link My teapot and I have horseracing in common and I can sketch mental pictures of the crowds the races the horses though they must have been far heavier in 1738 to cope with running miles over wet sand The mental pictures brighten as I read the texts Racing was traditionally a sport run by the gentry for the gentry it still is though you should now substitute rich for gentry But like today its appeal stretched far beyond the people who owned the horses While the King and the wealthy and the rising middle classes awarded each other gold teapots and other fashionable treasures at Leith Races in 1738 thousands of less socially elevated Scots were spending the week drinking fighting womanising and generally having a riotous time Imagine the Bath of Jane Austen juxtaposed with a week long Hearts Hibs derby There s clearly a class angle and social change too The goldsmith was James Ker who later became an MP Having bought himself an estate in Roxburghshire he took on the grander identity of James Ker of Bughtrig As the helpful legend in the Museum tells me this was the age of improvement Horseracing social change class the Enlightenment James Ker s teapot becomes more interesting Several days after first scrutinising the teapot I belatedly realise there s yet another story Tea The teapot dates from the era when Britain was falling in love with tea When Samuel Pepys first tasted tea in 1660 it was barely known in Britain Over the next century in Britain it became a passion a fashion an addiction There were tea taxes tea smugglers

    Original URL path: http://www.26treasures.com/scotland/creationstories/382 (2016-02-12)
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  • Scotland Stories | www.26treasures.com
    Treasure I wrote the poem Faodail a word MacLean uses a lot in about an hour in the same spot looking out to Knoydart on the mainland from Buaile Mhòr where I d been reading O Choille gu Bearradh a month or so beforehand The English version also 62 words if indeed word is the word is in a form I have recently adopted I call it intertonguing or subversion or traduction as I have come to the conclusion that Gaelic poetry and MacLean s work is a case in point is untranslatable In spite of regular residencies most recently at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Gaelic College in Skye the full time professional poet is not for me I m sorry to say and I make my living primarily as a translator for amongst others the Scottish Parliament but that s quite another matter The English version given here does not indicate for example that the original includes homophones for Shetland and Pict and that the Gaelic for excavation and research originally meant to ransack deriving like many Gaelic words from Norse in this case from rannsaka to search a house according to Alexander MacBain s delightful Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language 1896 MacBain s work by the way is not to be confused with Charles Mackay s fanciful conjectures published as The Gaelic Etymology Of The Languages Of Western Europe And More Especially Of The English And Lowland Scotch And Of Their Slang Cant and Colloquial Dialects in Copenhagen in 1877 Mackay who was educated at the Caledonian Asylum in London also published Songs and Poems 1834 and Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds 1841 The word in Scottish Gaelic for Ulster also denotes a treasure and echoes tasgadh which also means burying and seòid means both

    Original URL path: http://www.26treasures.com/scotland/creationstories/379 (2016-02-12)
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