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  • Scotland Stories | www.26treasures.com
    Loos The first day of engagement the 25th September 1915 was a disorganised mess the wrong gas cylinder keys had been sent and what gas could be released before the British infantry attacked blew into their own faces on the changeable light south westerly wind exacerbated by the downdraft produced by heavy german shelling Poorly designed gas masks were discarded as a hindrance and men were overcome by the Red Star chlorine smog gathering in the trench bottoms exactly where the men were cowering for cover Seeing the distress and destroyed morale the CO implored For God s sake Laidlaw pipe them together Laidlaw recounted On Saturday morning we got orders to raid the German trenches At 6 30 the bugles sounded the advance and I got over the parapet with Lieutenant Young I at once got the pipes going and the laddies gave a cheer as they started off for the enemy s lines As soon as they showed themselves over the trench top they began to fall fast but they never wavered but dashed straight on as I played the old air they all knew Blue Bonnets over the Border I ran forward with them piping for all I knew and just as we were getting near the German lines I was wounded by shrapnel in the left ankle and leg I was too excited to feel the pain just then but scrambled along as best I could I changed my tune to The Standard on the Braes o Mar a grand tune for charging on I kept on piping and piping and hobbling after the laddies until I could go no farther and then seeing that the boys had won the position I began to get back as best I could to our own trenches The shell that wounded Laidlaw had exploded only a few yards distance from him sending up a section of barbed wire entanglements previously cleared by his charging comrades The wire cut off the heel of his boot and a strand lodged in his foot The same shell blast killed Lieutenant Young Laidlaw was now hindered from following his troops but continued until forced from loss of blood to kneel and then become prostrate never ceasing his piping all the while You see he said later I was only doing my duty Duty seems to say it all it is the calling that supercedes common sense the motivation for heroism Duty Such a modest word For King and Country Sentiment almost inconsequential in our modern society obsessed with individual success and the epistemics of constant self evaluation To whom do we pay our duty today Whereas even the the last British soldier who died in action during WWI is an honorable death because his sacrifice was dutiful Ellison G E Private 5th Royal Irish Lancers was unhappily killed only an hour and a half hour before the Armistice came into force The path of duty was the way to glory If Nelson s

    Original URL path: http://www.26treasures.com/scotland/creationstories/410 (2016-02-12)
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  • Scotland Stories | www.26treasures.com
    get familiar with Saint Fillan it seemed only natural to put on my walking boots for a stroll between Tyndrum and Crianlarich In a broad valley between some of Perthshire s blunt topped high hills the ruins of the Priory dedicated to Saint Fillan shelter in a copse of trees right on the route of the West Highland Way The nearby graveyard prominent on the mound next to Kirkton Farm dates back to the eighth century More remarkable to me though is the holy pool about a mile away associated with Fillan s early life here and his healing powers For many centuries a monthly ritual its date dictated by the phase of the moon drew gatherings of mentally ill people The pool naturally divided in two by topography maintained a discreet segregation of the sexes After immersion the ill were taken to the Priory and clamped into some kind of device overnight covered in hay and left with Saint Fillan s Bell another holy relic on their heads If they weren t cured by the morning this ritual might have to be repeated Despite the shimmering heat on the day of my walk I shivered a little looking at the pool s glassy dark surface and declined a dip myself As with the lasting power of the holy pool belief in the Coigrich seems to have grown over generations surviving the Reformation and other moves against superstition So great was its reputation that even when the relic s keeper of the time Archibald Dewar emigrated to Canada in the 19th century and took it with him Canadian highlanders still sought it out following the tradition that waters touching it could heal cattle Such stories have had me scouting for words like foot rot lumpy jaw wooden tongue the wonderful

    Original URL path: http://www.26treasures.com/scotland/creationstories/408 (2016-02-12)
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  • Scotland Stories | www.26treasures.com
    the long process that formed metamorphic rock and watched the video which opens with the evocative words translated from Derik Thomson s Gaelic poem called Strong Foundations But most of all we looked at and touched and stroked the Lewisian gneiss Gneiss is ancient rock Over millions of years or super eons it stretched and split from the Earth s crust and found its way across the globe to Norway and North America as well as places like Loch Finbay in the Outer Hebrides Sometimes called the old boy and the haunted wing of geology it s Scotland s basement Haunted Criss crossed with stripes of white and pink sparkling within the folds are ghostly shades of granite and ancient rock deposits I dug a word bank from out of the dry statistics chipped away the facts to discover a story forgive the geology puns undulate meld shimmer spark steam fold cleave building blocks South Pole Cape Wrath volcanic ice laden Thinking of the rock as a person the old boy combined with these deliciously descriptive words an image emerged not of the old boy but of his younger self And a story began to emerge of how his movements across the globe created the dramatic Scottish landscape we now have It s a story about a journey a young man s quest northwards from the ice laden seas at the South Pole Using found words I decided that the epic the oldest written poetic form was the best structure for my poem about the oldest European rock It isn t a story of conquest although to be frank it takes a lot of force and steam and volcanic pressure to create gneiss Nor did I want to write a ballad romance of a swooning female waiting for the handsome

    Original URL path: http://www.26treasures.com/scotland/creationstories/406 (2016-02-12)
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  • Scotland Stories | www.26treasures.com
    1915 that Mary Barbour was leading her army of women on the streets of Govan my Scottish grandfather was most likely also in Glasgow where he was working in the Clyde shipyard A few years later Charles Finn travelled where I had come from Deal in Kent to work as a sinker for the new coalfield in the 1920s He stayed a miner all his life My father and his six siblings were born in Deal but as far as I knew none had visited Campeltown where Grandpa Finn came from He was a child of a fishing family and his parents the story was told had a fishing fleet which plied between Ardglass in County Down and Campeltown Children were born in Ireland or Scotland depending on where the herring were at the time Last year I went to Northern Ireland determined to flesh out the story from very bare bones but more than 30 years of journalism did not prepare me for the slipperiness of memory and holes in hand down family yarns I could find nothing but conjecture about my great grandparents although dredged up plenty on the breeding patterns of herring But back to Campeltown in my heart for years and especially with grandparents and parents long gone The tale told me by an aunt was that Grandpa Finn was related to Cecil Finn a Scottish fishing luminary and decorated for his work over decades Through him I thought I d get the full story Except when I met him nothing was resolved Obliging as he was with family history Cecil hadn t heard of any relative called Charles Finn and we couldn t find any other names of likely overlap If my Finn line came across the sea from Ardglass where it went after that

    Original URL path: http://www.26treasures.com/scotland/creationstories/404 (2016-02-12)
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  • Scotland Stories | www.26treasures.com
    like a Celtic circlet incongruous in a case of primitive hand tools used in mining of the 18th century A closer look scrubs out a jewellery definition At the back a hasp and staple arrangement show its purpose three slots to adjust the grip round the neck a reusable token denoting one person owned by another I lean forward read the legend already intrigued A man Alexander Steuart convicted of theft in Perth in 1701 sentenced to hanging commuted to being gifted as ane perpetuall servant to another Sir John Erskine of Alva a mine and apparently a man owner My mind is buzzing What did he steal Why was he pardoned Why fit the collar when it was standard practice to brand the forehead with ane mark the size of a sixpence to mark each criminal Is there something particular something personal about this crime this criminal that requires such a humiliating marker I lean closer note the detail of the forging and rolling the inscription the decoration Surely a simple metal collar hammered to a circle on an anvil would have sufficed My gaze shifts sideways to the paraphernalia of coal cutting by hand a shoulder stool to support a man undercutting a tallow candle holder a bottle for water the diagrams of working conditions for men hacking women and children hauling in never ending unbearable toil I imagine one among them Alexander Steuart bent to his work irritated by the unremitting rub of the metal round his neck considering his interminable future The following day comes a package from the museum with more tantalising information our serf a Highlander would probably not have had the skills to work in the mine but may have been employed as a surface labourer He was one of four judged and

    Original URL path: http://www.26treasures.com/scotland/creationstories/402 (2016-02-12)
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  • Scotland Stories | www.26treasures.com
    with small pieces of shaped tin An historic find indeed although according to another report of the day in The London Times dated July 20th 1836 its significance was lost on the youngsters a number were destroyed by the boys pelting them at each other as unmeaning and contemptible trifles Some coffins were in a bad state of decay and did not survive but those that did were later recovered according to some records by the boy s schoolmaster who opened them to discover that each contained a small wooden figure dressed in a sewn cloth garment What is known of the chain of ownership from then is unremarkable until their donation to the National Museum of Scotland in 1901 Such is the context in which the miniature coffins were discovered But of course the interest lies not in their discovery but in their creation and purpose A scientific study of the coffins and their occupants published in 1994 gave new insights into the mystery Those that attracted me bearing in mind my intention included the suggestion that the uniformity of the rough cut figures the markings on them and the remains of paint implies that at one time they may have been part of a set of toy soldiers This may be supported by the fact that several figures had arms removed to allow them to fit into the coffins suggesting that they had another prior purpose and had not been created for burial in the coffins The examination of the textiles and threads suggest a date of interment no earlier than 1830 and the tin from which the coffin decorations are made is similar to the sort used in shoe buckles of the time but while the tin work suggests a degree of proficiency the coffins were not

    Original URL path: http://www.26treasures.com/scotland/creationstories/400 (2016-02-12)
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  • Scotland Stories | www.26treasures.com
    Europe But then I met Alison Sheridan and we decided that my time would be better spent in the libraries of the National Museum Short for time Alison marched me down to the prehistoric underworld of the museum where the Towie Ball and I were finally introduced I was surprised by the rush of excitement that thundered through my caffeine riddled veins when I laid my eyes upon it Oh my god it s tiny In my mind this 3000 year old carved stone ball was like those big bad spheres from World s Strongest Man It is not It s a wee thing that could easily fit in the palm of your hand if only I could touch it The hairs stood on end from my ankles to my ears as I found myself in the presence of greatness The Towie Ball is classified as a Prestige Object and I m starting to feel quite smug that my treasure is so very prestige Intricate spirals and concentric circles have been painstakingly etched into the glacial Aberdeenshire stone It sits serene next to a vicious spiked stone ball and what looks like an antiquated grenade They are surrounded by Jadeite axes and maceheads carved from flint and antlers But this is no weapon The spirals are the key to unlocking the secret of the enigmatic Towie Stone whose use is wholly unknown The pattern can be found on the kerbs of the passage tombs in Newgrange Ireland They appear on the lintels of ceremonial monuments in Orkney And you can find them on maceheads discovered in Norfolk The spiral is thought to be a symbol of power and seems to be associated with life death and the supernatural If you had one of these in your back pocket you were

    Original URL path: http://www.26treasures.com/scotland/creationstories/398 (2016-02-12)
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  • Scotland Stories | www.26treasures.com
    have been conscious of the importance of the moment and his role in it For it had been decided and written into the Treaty that the Honours would stay in Scotland kept forever in Edinburgh Castle a marker of all that remained of Scottish independence And maybe he was aware too of the trouble in the streets the cries of rage from the markets and taverns the unrest at the selling of a nation for English gold or gold of any sort Maybe he knew that the significance of the jewels was much greater than their value or their symbolic power Perhaps he believed as many others did that they were the soul of Scotland something people would sell their lives for They already had during Cromwell s brief but brutal reign when they had been shielded against overwhelming odds in Dunnottar Castle and then smuggled out a frantic desperate escape to be buried again in Kinneff Chapel for eight years until Charles II mounted the throne and Cromwell s head rested on a pike Maybe he knew that symbols though they were they stood for something like the Stone of Scone that people would remember and long for again The Which Day Local poets on that fateful day in 1707 even gave the Honours a voice sadly lamenting their fate The Croun s last speech 26 March 1707 When lodged in ye castle of Edinr after ye rising of ye parliament I royal diadem relinquisht stand By all my friends and robbed of my land So left bereft of all I did command And they were indeed lost In fact the crown orb and sceptre were to disappear for over a hundred years forgotten the cast off relic of a cast off nation And not until a new era

    Original URL path: http://www.26treasures.com/scotland/creationstories/396 (2016-02-12)
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