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Up Helly Aa

January 26, 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

Up Helly Aa celebrations take place on the last Tuesday of January . They are one of the United Kingdom’s most spectacular winter festivals. The festival, centred in Lerwick on the Shetland Islands, takes a year to plan and spans two days.

Roots

The modern version of Up Helly Aa – meaning “end of holidays” – has its origins around 1815 when young men returned from the Napoleonic war where they had experienced the banging of drums, fires, and guns. Out of such excitement came a desire to create an event which would enliven the long dark winter months. Early activities, particularly tar-barrelling where lit barrels of tar were pulled along the narrow street towards rival gangs, gave way to a more organised festival and by the 1950s the modern Up Helly Aa had evolved.02090271 The Festival is based around both the legends of Norse mythology and the very real links between Shetland and Norway which go back more than 1000 years. In the old Norse calendar Up Helly Aa was the last day of the winter festival and was celebrated on the 24th day following Yule. Shetland’s Up Helly Aa is held on the last Tuesday in January and concludes with the burning of a replica Viking long boat.

Guizers & the Jarl

02102225Each year, a Guizer Jarl or leader is nominated and the whole community work for some considerable time building and naming a new galley. Costumes and 1000 torches are prepared and arrangements are made for a series of parties. The Guizer Jarl (Head Viking) will have nominated himself to the Up Helly Aa committee 15 years in advance. It is therefore a long wait to fulfil the role. Preparation includes the selection of a squad of around 50 men who will form the squad. Direct debits will be set up over 15 years to pay for each costly suit (around £1,000) and other event costs. Being part of the Jarl squad is an honour and men spend long hours preparing their costumes and rehearsing.

 

Blazing Long Ship

02498940On Up Helly Aa morning the Jarl Squad meets, accompanied by the local brass band. All march to the Lerwick Legion where they receive their first dram of the day. Waiting outside are crowds of school children, locals and tourists – and, of course, the new galley, especially named for the day. The Guizer Jarl – wearing traditional Viking apparel – hoists his axe aloft aboard his long ship and calls on his Jarl Squad to begin the Festival. The Squad then processes through the town centre led by the Jarl. They carry banners and weapons as though on a raid.

The Proclamation

At this stage they deliver their “Proclamation” to the town – a light hearted document – which is displayed at the Market Cross in the town centre. Many folk stop to read and have a laugh as they read it. The proclamation (or bill) is erected as a large billboard which has been skilfully painted by local artists. The text includes local political topics and personal jokes. The Jarl squad spend the rest of the day visiting schools, hospitals, houses and the local museum.

The Last Rites

At 7.30pm, the leaders use crimson flares, or maroons, to signal the lighting of the torches and the start of the procession. Torches are wooden stakes, the size of fence posts, dipped in a combustable resin. They resemble giant matches. Lit by torchlight, the procession makes its way along King Erik Street and the Galley makes her last journey to the special burning site. Guizers, the Jarl’s men, wear specially made costumes inspired by mythological creatures such as serpents, double-headed eagles, and dragons. At the “Last Rites”, the procession reaches the burning site. The Galley is positioned as a centrepiece and the glowing torches are thrown into the boat. The flames engulf the galley reminiscent of a Viking leader’s burial. Only then are the feasting halls opened to receive squads. Those not involved in the procession have prepared food and set up parties. As dictated by tradition, the squad tour as many halls as they can. And the festivities last till morning.

For more pictures of Up Helly Aa including some stunning Hulton Getty photographs visit Scran.

Images © The Scotsman Publications Ltd., National Museums Scotland, Newsquest (Herald & Times), Scottish Media Group | Licensor Scran 

Art & Design in Perth & Kinross

January 22, 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

049446This term in Perth & Kinross, two schools are working in partnership with Scran to focus on Expressive Arts. Both Abernethy Primary School Dunbarney Primary School are taking a whole school approach to teaching Art & Design.

Before Christmas staff came together for the project brief. The challenge was to come up with common schemes of work for each year group, across both schools. Below are the topics each year group is investigating at present;

  • P1/2 – all aspects of tartan & weaving01980159
  • P2/3 – Roman life & collage
  • P4 – Wallace & Bruce through targe construction
  • P5 – Mary Queen of Scots through jewellery &  feltmaking
  • P6 – Burns by drawing & painting portrait work
  • P7 – Scottish Landscapes looking at Jolomo

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As well as these Studying Scotland themes, classes will be identifying opportunities for IDL. Significant aspects of learning and progression pathways are being addressed throughout the teaching & learning activities which are currently underway. This area for development is set to conclude during mid February, when both schools will exhibit the pupil outcomes, inviting parents to come in to celebrate the pupils’ achievement.

08470019Evaluation & moderation is an integral part of the project. Exemplars of pupils’ work will then be used during InSET on as the basis for a school Art & Design moderation.  Scran continues to provide support, subject specific knowledge and will also be doing Kite Aerial Photography, as an extension activity during the Spring with selected classes. We’ll keep you posted on their progress & share some of the outcomes in the coming weeks.
Images © Historic Environment Scotland, Trustees of Burns Monument & Burns Cottage | Licensor Scran 

Burns Supper

January 18, 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

Around January 25th, Burns’ Clubs, and other lovers of the poet, arrange Burns Suppers. Burns has always attracted massive support.

01980093This painting, by an unknown artist, depicts the 1844 Burns Festival. The procession, which started in Ayr, is shown passing over the new and old brigs o’ Doon and entering the festival site at the Burns Monument, where Burns’ three surviving sons were guests of honour. The event attracted over 100,000 participants and involved the construction of a banqueting marquee for 1400 invited guests, seen to the right of the picture. A platform was constructed in front of the Monument to enable the guests of honour to be seen by the crowds and to deliver the speeches.

History

01740151

Newton Stewart Burns’ Club dinner, 1904

Greenock enthusiasts founded the earliest Burns’ Club on 21st July 1801 and had their first supper on 29th January 1802; which at that time was mistakenly thought to be the anniversary of his birth. Following close on their heels were clubs at Paisley, Kilmarnock and Dunfermline. Throughout the century more and more clubs sprang up either in Scotland or wherever Scots met. One of the earliest in England was the Bristol Caledonian Society founded in 1820. By 1885 there were so many Burns’ Clubs in existence that an international Federation of clubs was instituted.

Format of Burns’ Supper

Welcome & Grace 00981150 (1)

A few welcoming words start the evening & the meal commences with the Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat and cannot eat.
Some cannot eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

Piping in the Haggis – Before the Haggis appears, one should hear the skirl of the bagpipes and the company should stand to receive the haggis. A piper then leads the chef, carrying the haggis to the top table. The guests accompany this with a slow rhythmic hand clap.

06710548Address to the Haggis – The chairman or invited guest then recites Burns’ famous poem To A Haggis. When he reaches the line “an cut you up wi’ ready slight”, he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife. The company applauds the speaker and then are asked by their host to stand and toast the haggis with a glass of whisky. The meal is then served.

The Immortal Memory – An invited guest is asked to give a short speech on Burns. There are many different types of Immortal Memory speeches, from light-hearted to literary, but the aim is the same – to outline the greatness and relevance of the poet today.

Toast to the Lasses – The main speech is followed by a more light-hearted address to the women in the audience. Originally this was a thank you to the ladies for preparing the food and a time to toast the ‘lasses’ in Burns’ life. The tone should be witty, but never offensive, and should always end on a friendly note.

Response – The turn of the lasses to detail men’s foibles. Again, this should be humorous but not insulting.

Poems & Songs

Once the speeches are complete the evening continues with songs and poems. The evening will culminate with the company standing, linking hands and singing Auld Lang Syne to conclude the programme.

Food Served

06320052The food varies according to custom and locality but, in general, the meal should feature a Haggis. The usual accompaniment is Tatties [potatoes] and Neeps [turnips or swedes]. Other components might include a soup such as Scotch Broth or Cock-a- Leekie and there may be Atholl Brose or cheese and bannocks [oatcakes].

Images © Trustees of Burns Monument & Burns Cottage, National Museums Scotland, Whithorn Photographic Group  & Scottish Life Archive and an Unknown | Licensor Scran

Robert Burns

January 6, 2016 by Scran | 0 comments


01850104Robert Burns is not only Scotland’s best known poet and songwriter but one of the most widely acclaimed literary figures of all time. He is held in very special affection by millions around the world, with Burns’ suppers taking place on or near his birthday on the 25th January.

Stature

02050042Burns’ stature owes much to the huge range of his songs and poems, some of which are still familiar nearly two hundred and fifty years after his birth. In fact, there would be few English speaking people who do not recognise “Auld Lang Syne” – a staple at New Year celebrations.

His popularity is also linked to his association with a brand of socialism radical for his time and timeless in its understanding of the plight of the common man. Burns would have naturally understood these issues having experienced hardships not untypical for the ordinary man of the eighteenth century.

Birth & Youth

He was born in 1759 in the village of Alloway, in Ayrshire and was the son of a small farmer, Jacobite in sympathies, who had moved from near Stonehaven in Kincardineshire. In Scots rural tradition – which Burns himself recognised in “The Man’s the Gowd for A’ that” – and probably because of his father’s support of education, Burns had a fairly extensive education. He attended several schools and was given lessons from his tutor, John Murdoch, who introduced him to Scots and other literature in the English language. The family was never wealthy, living on and scraping a bare living from poor farming land. When Burns’ father died in 1784, he and his younger brother, Gilbert, tried and failed to make a success of farming at Mossgiel, near Mauchline. Also at this time, Burns began what was to be a stormy relationship with Jean Armour whom he left and betrayed many times.

His intensity, bred of hardships, seems to have caused Burns to produce some of his finest literary achievements. With a formal educational background, supplemented by a desire to read great literature and an admiration for the work of Allan Ramsay the elder, and steeped in Scots traditional ballads and legends, Robert Burns began to create his earliest and some of his best loved poems.

Poetry & Fame

In 1785 and 1786 alone, Burns wrote, amongst other works, ‘The Address to a Mouse‘, ‘Holy Willie’s Prayer‘, ‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night‘ and ‘The Twa Dogs‘ and published his later famous Kilmarnock Edition with the intention of emigrating to Jamaica to seek a better existence. However, the popular response to his book of poems attracted him to Edinburgh to receive the adulation of the polite society of the capital, who became fascinated by the ‘ploughman poet’ and dubbed him “Caledonia’s Bard”. 3,000 copies of his Edinburgh Edition of poems were selling well at this time.

In 1787, he first visited Dumfries and was immediately made an honorary burgess. In 1788, unsure of making a living from the pen, he signed a lease on Ellisland Farm on the banks of the Nith and sought employment as an Exciseman. This was a latter day VAT man and Burns used his income to supplement his farm. His health was variable but during that time, he edited – with James Johnson – the second edition of the ‘Scots Musical Museum’. It was published in 1788 and contained 40 of his own songs. The third volume, which appeared in the following year, had 50 more.

01980173Burns asked Captain Francis Grose who was compiling a book on the antiquities of Scotland to include an illustration of Alloway Kirk. Grose agreed provided the poet would contribute a ‘witch story’ to accompany the drawing. The result was ‘Tam O’Shanter’. The poem was written in a single day on the banks of the Nith and is arguably one of his best works.

After two years, Burns gave up the farm and moved to Dumfries as a full-time Exciseman. During this time, Burns had at least one major affair and sired a daughter whom his own wife agreed to raise. Burns led an erratic lifestyle, being alternately drawn to and repelled by the bourgeois lifestyle. He wrote poems in English instead of his vernacular Scots, and flirted with ‘Clarinda’, Agnes McLehose.

00570461In May 1793 the family moved to a better quality house in Mill Street (now Burns Street). Their standard of living was good and they employed a maid servant. He was now writing songs for a new book ‘A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs’ produced by George Thomson. At the same time, some of his most lasting songs like ‘My Luve is like a Red, Red Rose‘ and others set to traditional airs, which revived the words and tales of ballads, were produced.

Ill Health & Death

The war with France was causing food shortages in Britain. In March 1796 there were serious food riots in Dumfries. Gradually, during the year, Burns’ health became poorer and in April he was unable to continue with his Excise duties. His friend Dr Maxwell mistakenly diagnosed his illness as “flying gout” and prescribed sea bathing as a cure. On the morning of Thursday 21st July he became delirious. His children were brought to see him for a last time and shortly afterwards he lapsed into unconsciousness and died. He was 37 years old.

It was the intention of friends that a biography of Burns should be written as soon as possible and the profits used to aid Mrs Burns. Dr James Currie, a Liverpool physician, who came originally from Annan, was chosen as biographer. The biography, published in 1800, was an immediate success and raised £1400. However, when Dorothy and William Wordsworth visited Dumfries in 1803 they had difficulty in even finding Burns’s grave. So, in 1813 subscriptions were sought. One of the subscribers was the Prince Regent, later George IV. On the 19th September 1815 Burns’ body was exhumed and placed in the new mausoleum. In 1823 the cenotaph on the banks of the Doon at Alloway, Burns’ birthplace, was completed at a cost of £3300. In 1844 a huge festival in his honour was held at Alloway, presided over by the Earl of Eglinton. The centenaries of his birth in 1859 and his death in 1896 saw nationwide celebrations.

Reputation

The cult of Burns rapidly rose. As the ‘National Bard’ he assumed spiritual dimensions, becoming all things to all people – admired as poet, nationalist, democrat, republican, conversationalist, womaniser, drinker, naturalist, folklorist, lyricist, Freemason and atheist to name a few. His humble origins, in particular as the ‘heaven taught ploughman’, have added to the idolatry.

Timeline

1759 January 25 Robert Burns born at Alloway
1781 Works as a flax-dresser in Irvine
1782 Returns to Lochlea after the burning of the Irvine shop
1784 Father dies. Robert moves to Mossgiel. Meets Jean Armour
1785 Birth of Elizabeth, daughter by servant Betty Paton. Writes To a Mouse. Affair with Highland Mary Margaret Campbell.
1786 Kilmarnock Poems published. Re-unites for a time with Jean Armour. Plans emigration to Jamaica. Stays in Edinburgh. Jean remains with family in Mauchline.
1787 Edinburgh Edition of Poems
1788 Ellisland Farm, Dumfries. Commissioned as exciseman. Marries Jean Armour. Writes Auld Lang Syne.
1790 Tam o’ Shanter completed
1791 Jean and Robert move to Dumfries
1792 Accused of political disaffection during revolutionary commotion in Dumfries.
1793 Second Edinburgh edition of Poems
1795 Ill with rheumatic fever
1796 July 21 Burns dies at Dumfries
1796 July 25 Son Maxwell born on day of his funeral

 

Images © Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Trustees of Burns Monument & Burns Cottage, Bayley & Ferguson Ltd| Licensor Scran 

The Christmas Card Phenomenon

December 9, 2015 by Scran | 0 comments

Festive Greetings06712558

Christmas greetings cards have become a regular feature of the traditional British Christmas with billions changing hands within the UK each year, but where did this tradition begin and why did it continue to thrive?

Humble Beginnings?

The first Christmas card is thought to have been designed by British artist John Calcott Horsley in 1840. With the invention of the telephone still over 30 years away, sending hand-written letters by mail was the primary means of communication. Faced with the tedious task of writing to all his friends and family members with Christmas greetings, a friend of Horsley, civil servant Henry Cole, conceived the idea of a printed card bearing a suitable message which could be signed and sent to one and all. Horsley embraced the idea and produced a design which was published in 1843. Cole had 1000 of the cards printed and placed on sale at the rather princely sum of 1 shilling each. Little did he realise just how popular his idea would become!

National Mania

09230757Times have changed since Henry Cole’s moment of inspired laziness: mail is no longer the mainstay of communication. The telephone network has joined up the remotest corners of the world and the cheap, paperless, instantaneous communication afforded by e-mail has threatened to make ‘snail mail’ altogether obsolete. The Christmas card, however, goes marching on, and in no small way.

We are still crazy enough about Christmas cards to cause enormous disruption to the postal system every December. This year, postboxes will be stuffed with an estimated 2 billion cards and on the busiest day the national mailbag will contain almost double its usual 84 million items. Such is the congestion that Royal Mail recommend posting second class seasonal dispatches 8 days in advance to guarantee arrival in time for the big day.

Conscientious Choice

06712561Two billion cards amounts to a lot of paper and a lot of spending. Many consumers are now looking for more conscientious ways to enjoy the tradition. Each year, around a quarter of shoppers will choose charity cards in the hope that good causes can benefit from their seasonal spending. However, the percentage of proceeds finding their way to good causes varies widely. Research by the Charities Advisory Trust suggests that some charity cards are just not all that charitable after all: the most miserly example they uncovered passed only 0.3% of proceeds to the named good cause. Others will aim for a more ethical celebration by boycotting Christmas cards altogether, feeling that their seasonal goodwill is better expressed by not contributing to the tonnes of paper waste generated from cards each year.

‘Tis the Season to Recycle?

  • 06710368An estimated 1 billion Christmas cards and 83 sq km of wrapping paper will end up in our bins this year
  • We bought around 7.5 million Christmas trees in 2001: at least 1.1 million were recycled
  • 20 – 30% more glass and cans will be collected for recycling over the festive period

Christianity back into Christmas?

Horsley’s original card had its opponents too, but for different reasons. It bore an image of a family raising their glasses to Christmas which incited fury amongst Puritans of the time. In what was still very much a Christian state the uproar was caused by the association of the evils of alcohol with the sanctity of the feast of Christmas. It is interesting to note that, while scenes of the Nativity and other connected imagery went on to become regular features in the design of Christmas cards, the genuine article was quite secular in its design.

Controversy about the presence or absence of Christianity in Christmas traditions rages in Britain to this day with many Christians bemoaning the seeming transformation of the feast from a religious event into an orgy of consumerism. Others would praise the fact that in our modern British society, one characterized by a far more diverse range of religion and cultural traditions than the Victorians would have recognised, the goodwill of Christmas is now often shared across faiths and cultures. The disagreement reaches beyond the UK too. In 2005 the president of the USA received angry feedback about the official White House Christmas card: the secular design of the card horrified some recipients (it featured two of the head of state’s pet dogs frolicking in the snow on the White House Lawn).

Question of Taste

The official White House card illustrates how the sending of Christmas cards has become protocol in the USA. The same is true in Britain: businesses are careful not forget their customers, and refuse collectors all over the country will receive cards from perfect strangers during the season. Is a Christmas card from the paperboy evidence of lasting Christmas spirit or just a hint that a tip might be in order?

A wide variety of designs have evolved to suit these myriad purposes. Horsley’s original design showed a scene of Christmas cheer. Cards like this are still popular, alongside Nativity scenes and informal cartoons. When the Christmas card was still a relatively new idea the Victorians became very fond of elaborately engineered pop-up and trick cards. Nowadays, hand-making cards is a popular hobby and parents everywhere are still best pleased with the lovingly prepared designs in glitter and glue brought home by their sticky-fingered schoolchildren.

What makes a good Christmas card? Can a piece of stationery really embody the Christmas spirit? Why not try making a Scran card to find out? Search for an image and click Create to make a greetings card in a few easy steps and see if you can make someone’s Christmas!

Images © Scottish Life Archive, The Scotsman Publications Ltd | Licensor Scran

Saint Andrew – Patron Saint of Scotland

November 26, 2015 by Scran | 0 comments

078834 (1)The St Andrew’s flag – or the Saltire – is flown all over Scotland. Until recently, the man and his day have been often neglected. However, celebrations for St Andrew’s Day on the 30th November are growing in popularity and it is now a recommended public holiday in Scotland.

Who was St Andrew?

Andrew and his brother (Simon) Peter were fishermen from Bathsaida on the Sea of Galilee. While living in Capernaum they became disciples of John the Baptist, who introduced Andrew to Jesus of Nazareth. Andrew recognised Jesus as the Messiah and became the first Apostle. He then introduced Peter to Jesus, “Come with Me, and I will make you fishers of men”

After the crucifixion of Jesus, Andrew traveled to Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Southern Russia. He became a missionary, telling people about the life Jesus had led. While he was preaching at Patras/Pátrai in Greece he offended the Roman governor (possibly for baptising his wife). He was then tied (not nailed) to an X-shaped cross, where he continued to preach for two days before dying on the 30th of November.

The majority of his bones were taken to the Church of Holy Apostles in Constantinople around 375 AD, when it was the capital of the (Christian) Roman Empire. It was during this time that some of his remains were taken to Scotland. In 1206 they were moved to the Cathedral of St Andrew in Amalfi in Italy by Cardinal Pietro of Capua. However in 1964 they were returned to Patras by Pope Paul VI. They now lie in the Church of Saint Andrew.

What were his associations with Scotland?045335

At some point during the 730s some of St Andrew’s relics were brought to the Fife coast. This is widely credited to St Rule (Regulus). In the legend, an angel comes to St Rule in a dream, asking him to take the bones of St Andrew to the ends of the earth. He arrived on the Fife coast by boat (possibly shipwrecked) bearing a tooth, an arm bone, a kneecap, and some fingers of the Saint. A chapel was then built to house the relics, and the town of St Andrews was founded. There is however little evidence to prove the validity of this version of events.

A more plausible explanation involves Acca, the Bishop of Hexam. He was a renowned relic collector and could have bought them after they arrived in England with St Augustine. When Bishop Acca sought asylum in Scotland in 732 he took the bones with him to Kirrymont, later renamed St Andrews.

St Andrews

The bones were initially stored in St Rule’s Church, but were transferred to the cathedral in the 14th century. Twice a year the relics were carried in procession around the town. Cathedral and church bells rang and in the evening there were bonfires and fireworks.

St Andrews became the religious capital of Scotland and an important place of pilgrimage. Around the middle of the tenth century he became the patron saint of Scotland. In the 11th century, Saint Margaret, Queen Consort to Malcolm the Third, provided a free ferry across the Forth Estuary (now known as North and South Queensferry) and housing for pilgrims to the relics. The 1320 Declaration of Arbroath recognised St Andrew as Scotland’s patron saint.

On the 14th of June 1559, John Knox and his followers arrived in the City of St Andrews. They entered the cathedral and proceeded to remove all valuable items. At this point, the relics of St Andrew (along with many other important historical artefacts) were lost. This was done to aid the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. Scotland became a Protestant country in 1560, with the aid of Queen Elizabeth of England.

There are currently two relics of St Andrew in Scotland. They are kept in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh, at the National Shrine to St Andrew. The first was given as a gift from the Archbishop of Amalfi to the Archbishop of Strain in 1879, after the restoration of Catholic Emancipation in 1793. The second was given to the newly created Scottish Cardinal (the first in 400 years) Gordon Joseph Gray by Pope Paul VI in 1969.

The Saltire46

St Andrew is usually portrayed carrying an X-shaped cross. As legend would have it, St Andrew appeared in a dream to the Pictish King Angus in the 800s. In the dream, St Andrew gave him advice on the forthcoming battle of Athelstaneford against the Northumbrians. When that battle took place, the cross of St Andrew’s appeared in the sky, leading to a Scottish victory. King Angus adopted it as his flag to commemorate that day, but it was not until 1540 that the Saltire was officially adopted in the form we see today. Before that, various forms of the Saltire were used, including on military uniforms from 1385.

The St Andrew’s cross and the Cross of St George were combined to form the Union flag of Great Britain. With the addition of Northern Ireland the final Union Flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was formed.

The 30th of November

The 30th of November is a celebration of “everything that is good about Scotland”, with ceilidhs, haggis suppers, and general whisky drinking. In the town of St Andrews, a week long festival is held in celebration. However St Andrew’s day celebrations are a relatively new development. It has always been celebrated by Scots and their descendants living abroad, but a survey by Famous Grouse revealed that only 20% of Scottish residents knew when St Andrew’s Day was (compared with 64% for Burns night). The Scottish Government declared that from 2007 St Andrew’s day would be a public holiday, although not a statutory one. St Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Russia, and Romania.

Images ©  Crown Copyright Historic Scotland & Cairns Aitken  | Licensor Scran

Robert Louis Stevenson

November 12, 2015 by Scran | 0 comments

02050089Robert Louis Stevenson was one of the most famous Scottish writers of the 19th century, perhaps his best known works being Treasure Island, Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and The Body Snatcher.

Early Years

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was born on November 13 1850 in Edinburgh to parents Thomas Stevenson and Margaret Balfour. The Stevenson family were already well known as Thomas and his father, Robert Stevenson, were both famous lighthouse designers and engineers. From them, Robert Louis inherited his adventurous nature that would stimulate his imagination and spark his interest in literature. As a child Robert was severely ill due to a weakness in his lungs which he inherited from his mother. His health improved with age and after a troublesome time at Edinburgh Academy he entered Edinburgh University at the age of seventeen. Lacking the necessary approach for engineering, he instead pursued law and was called to the bar at twenty-five. This was a reserve plan to fall back on should his true passion – literature – fail.

The Traveller

rcahms1a_00998241A man who saw great romance and art in all aspects of life, Stevenson decided to travel. This was most likely in search of better health but also for adventure. As a writer, he craved stimulation for his imagination and he created notes of all he saw. His travels took him to Grez-Doiceau, Belgium and France where he visited Nemours and Paris often. A canoe trip in 1878 inspired his travelogue An Inland Voyage and later Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes. He also wrote a number of articles and essays to generate income. Two years before this, he had met Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne, an American divorcee, in France and fallen in love. A few months later she returned home and fell ill. When the news reached him, Stevenson, against the advice of his friends, departed for San Francisco. The journey from New York to California almost killed him. However, it inspired his works An Amateur Immigrant and Across the Plains. He eventually arrived in San Francisco with scarcely any money at all. By the end of winter 1879 his health declined once more. Fanny nursed him back to health.

Master of Literature

In May 1880 he and Fanny married. They would spend the next seven years seeking a suitable environment for his ever declining health. Having suffered so terribly in winter during his life, they would reside in Scotland and England during the warmer months, and spend winters in France . His greatest works were created in this period: Treasure Island, The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Kidnapped. He also published two volumes of poetry: A Child’s Garden of Verses and Underwoods. Stevenson’s father died in 1887. In June 1888 Stevenson chartered the yacht Casco and he and his family sailed around various locations. This period also saw the production of further work including: The Master of Ballantrae, The Bottle Imp and The South Seas.

The Latter Years

In 1890 Stevenson and his family mo06375482ved to the Samoan island of Upolu where he would live out his final years. He named his estate Vailima, meaning “Five Rivers”. His literary work and reputation was influential and the locals would consult him for advice. They named him the Tusitala – the Teller of Tales. His interaction with the locals led him to observe that European rule was less than benevolent and he published the highly critical A Footnote on History. Given his literary power, his work caused two officials to be recalled. As well as supporting the natives and building his estate, Stevenson published further works such as David Balfour and Ebb Tide. He also wrote the Vailima Letters in this period. With his health waning, Stevenson became depressed and concerned that his creativity was being exhausted. His spirit refused to succumb and he began his masterpiece, the Weir of Hermiston. He apparently remarked: “It’s so good that it frightens me.” He would not complete it. On December 3 1894, after working on his book, Stevenson collapsed in the company of his wife. He was 44 when he died as a result of a cerebral haemorrhage. The natives surrounded his body and carried their Tusitala upon their shoulders to a cliff top where he was buried.

Imagery © Scottish National Portrait Gallery, RCAHMS, Dundee Central Library –  Licensor Scran

From Agros to Zygi

November 10, 2015 by Scran | 0 comments

On the road again in Cyprus,  so what did we do with Archnetwork today ?

SIMG_9852aturday 19th September 2015. After such a full day in the capital, we stayed local and visited the neighbouring village of Kato Drys. Firstly, we went to the top of Sotira hill, behind Lefkara to get panoramic view across the Larnaca District and surrounding landscape and visited the tiny church perched there. It had some charming icons dating from the early C20th.

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Next stop was by an ancient oak and some knarly, old olive trees. We heard from Martin some local folklore about village rivalry & how the village took its name from the many “Dryes” (oaks) that grew in the area. Martin also informed us about community efforts to sew acorns & regenerate some of these magnificent trees.

We had the pleasure of visiting house of Elli Papachristoforou, who generously let us sample some of her honey which was rather special. She then gave us a guided tour of both the (Embroidery) Museum of Folk Art and the (Bee) Agricultural Museum of Kato Drys. Both were captivating and provided further context for everything we had learned over the previous days in respect of Cypriot culture, nature, social & economic growth. The homestead of Reo Stakis was pointed out to us, the famous son of the village who built the Stakis Hotels empire.

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Sunday 20th September 2015. In the capable hands of our host for the day, Adriana Patkova, we wove our way through the twisty mountain roads of Cyprus, spotting beehives, bikers, wind turbines, reservoirs, solar farms, eucalyptus trees, terraces & an asbestos mine.

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I took issue with the interpretation on site, there was the distinct lack of information about the hazards of asbestos & the effects on the nearby mining villages as clearly studied in here. 02497501Report on the Health Effects of the Asbestos Mines on the … Some advice for visitors poking around in the rocks would not go amiss. Contaminated land from historical mining in Cyprus is an issue. The Amiantos Asbestos Mine in the Troodos National Park, where we stopped is undergoing restoration. The biodiversity conservation, restoration and management project concludes at the end of December 2015.

Moving on. IMG_9976We arrived at picturesque Agros where we visited a smokery, had a peek into the smoking room at Kafkalia and sampled their products; posirti, lountza, loukanika, hiromeri, zalatina, tsamarelle and pastourmas. After lunch we continued to climb to the top, reaching Troodos Square we couldn’t help but notice the familiar environment, it looked like Scotland! There was a thistle to prove it. The British military presence was again, all around. We went to the rather dated visitor centre and proceeded to Pano Platres where we saw a peculiar post box. Finally we had a long drive, down to the coast and back to Lefkara with a pit stop in Zygi.

Silversmithing & Stansted

Monday 21st September, our final day. IMG_9845We made an early morning visit to the silversmiths in Lefkara and learned about their processes, which are mostly mechanised but involved all sorts of materials, rubber, wax, plaster and of course silver. The workshops were very interesting but we could not linger. Adriana had to get us to the airport for our incredible journey home to Glasgow, via Stansted. I’m glad to say on our way to Paphos she took us to see Aphrodite’s Rock, the ideal way to say goodbye & ευχαριστώ

The experiences of this week were fascinating. From knowing very little about Cyprus I now feel after this cultural exchange that I have gained a decent understanding of Cypriot life, both contemporary and traditional.

Everybody we encountered was genuinely friendly & extremely welcoming. I found more personal parallels with the socio-political divide in the country than I expected. The cuisine was fabulous, the crafts exquisite, the landscape so dry and different & the company… well, we had a lot of fun too.

Imagery © Newsquest, Licensor Scran &  J.Sangster

 

Remembrance

November 5, 2015 by Scran | 0 comments

105500077My Grandfather Dreams Twice of Flanders, is a poem based on an experience Ron Butlin had when he was around six years old. That was when he first noticed people wearing poppies, and he asked his mother why. She explained about war, and about death, neither of which made much sense.

Then she told him about his grandfather who had ironically died on the day peace was declared, after lying in hospitals for years with injuries sustained earlier in the war. As a child he had nightmares, and the poem is a sort of exorcism.

Ron Butlin was born in Edinburgh in 1949, but grew up in the countryside in the village of Hightae near Dumfries. He has been a computer operator, security guard, footman and model, as well as Writer in Residence at Edinburgh University. He writes in English and Scots.02492954

 

 

Images: © Poppy Scotland (Eamonn McGoldrick), National Library of Scotland (Scottish Screen Archive)  & Newsquest (Herald & Times).

Licensor www.scran.ac.uk

Loulla’s Farm, Lefkosia North & South

November 2, 2015 by Scran | 0 comments

Another instalment from our education officer’s report on the Archnetwork Erasmus+ course, Empowering Communities in Cyprus

Friday 18th September 2015. Today started with a trip into the countryside for breakfast. On our way a black snake slid across the road in front of us, apparently a large Whip-Snake, quite a sight. At Loulla’s Farm we found out how Cypriot cheese is made, we had a demonstration of how the goats’ milk is treated, brined and stored to producehalloumi – yum! The process was straightforward with the addition of a pinch of mint and a vacuum pack, done. Outside there was a cheese safe containing what I believe was maturing kefalotyri, another Cypriot delight. We got to visit the goats & even meet a day old kid. Now we were ready to see Lefkosia or Nicosia, on both sides.

NIMG_9765earing the capital city of Cyprus I was surprised to see a giant Turkish Cypriot flag painted onto the side of the Kyrenia Mountains – what a statement. Following the conflict of 1974, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus TRNC became a self-declared state, however it is only recognised by Turkey. The political and military dispute in Cyprus remains unresolved and the island continues with life, divided. The Green Line runs 112 miles from east to west across the island, splitting families, property and communities.

We parked by the C16th Venetian city walls and continued on foot through the narrow back streets to our first destination, Helen’s of Kyrenia, a lace shop at 33 Ippokratous. The stock in the shop dated back decades. To my delight amongst the heaps of lace, tatting & embroidery, I found a packet which explained the provenance of the Lefkara lace within; Guarantee Hand Made – Made in Cyprus – Irish Linen – French Thread. Perfect.

Despite the daily impasse, the people of Nicosia go about their business as usual, at least on the surface. Once you start to look around however there are clues on the streets. Still on the south side of the city, we began to notice thought provoking graffiti, not unlike the imagery that adorns the barrier walls of Bethlehem or indeed the peace lines of Belfast. When people live conflict every day for 40+ years, it cannot be ignored. at the time The Scotsman newspaper reported08930264 on the Turkish-Cypriot war & is documented with poignant imagery from 1974. (Image © The Scotsman. Licensor Scran)

FullSizeRender (10)Nicosia is a vibrant & sophisticated city, with a buzz in the streets. Trendy shops & coffee houses lined the artists’ quarter. After a little pick-me-up in the form of some Cyprus coffee, μέτριο for me please, we neared the Green Line. Passports at the ready we crossed over to the north side of the city through two sets of border control, Greek & Turkish. It was easy enough the pass through, plenty of tourists and locals alike were going to & fro. Yet, CCTV was evident, uniformed armed guards were on duty & signage warned us that photography was strictly forbidden in this narrowIMG_9794slice of no-man’s land. The freely available maps of the city tell their own story, both versions simply do not show basic information on their enemy’s side. Visitors must use not one, but two, maps to see the lay of the land and get their bearings in Nicosia.

IMG_9797Once we had crossed the Green Line we made our way to the breath-taking Buyuk Han or Grand Inn. It as built in 1572 by the Ottomans and was been restored to it’s former glory in the 1990s. The contrast in the city was immediately apparent. We passed by the intriguing Selimiye Mosque as the call to prayer rang out. Formerly it was the Cathédrale Sainte Sophie, so architecturally & spiritually it has been re-purposed. IMG_9809The result is an odd juxtapostion of east meets west – gothic grandeur, flying buttresses with minarets and ornate window grills. I even spotted a Green man lurking in the masonry over the entrance. Also by the main door there was a suspiciously Scottish looking, ironwork structure used for the washing of feet. It was not dissimilar to a bandstand, however it had obviously been re-purposed too. I was unable to find any makers mark but it was reminiscent of the products shipped around the world by The Lion Foundry of Kirkintilloch. (Image © East Dunbartonshire Council. Licensor www.scran.ac.uk.)IMG_981506400282

The many souvenir shops in the area were selling Turkish Delight, not Cypriot Delight, as they were just a few hundred metres away. Within the Buyuk Han, we feasted on a meze of Turkish Cypriot dishes and then visited the wonderful Senay Ekingen, at Su-Ha Tic. Senaye studied tourism in England and has run her business since 1987, making Lefkara lace in the traditional manner as well as creating new products to incorporate it, such as bags & jewellery. She also imports her base fabric from one of the last linen producing mills left in Ireland, Thomas Ferguson.

IMG_9826Not only is she a successful businesswoman, but Senaye also works on bi-communal projects, using craft to bring together Cypriots from both sides of the divide and trains up young apprentices too. Thereby generating hope for the future and breaking down barriers. Later we visited the amazing Yagcioglu haberdashery, which stocked the all-important DMC (Dollfus-Mieg & Compagnie) French embroidery thread for making Lefkaritika, in an extensive back catalogue of colours. (Here’s an example of embroidery on Scran using DMC thread)

IMG_9806We wound our way back along the colourful Ledera Street, via the folk arts museum, stumbled on some Limassol Brick & Tile co. roof tiles for good measure & once again crossed the Green Line, pausing to look at the contemporary sculptures in our path.

Imagery © J.Sangster

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