Knapdale

Kilberry Church

Our short break at the Stonefield Castle was only for two nights, so on our second morning we had to pack up and head for home. We took a detour through Knapdale – Gaelic cnap (hilland dall (field) – the area of Argyll immediately north of Kintyre, stopping at Kilberry.

This was November 11th and, as we arrived at the church just after 11 am, we thought there might be a Remembrance Service on. However, a notice on the gate told us the service wasn’t till 2pm so we were able to have our own moment of remembrance in the beautifully prepared church.

 

Kilberry also has a collection of medieval grave slabs, dated from 14th to 16th centuries. It’s thought that they came from a burial ground beneath the current bowling green where human bones were found in the 1920s.

 

Finally, we enjoyed magnificent views over the Isle of Jura before our detour ended and we took the road home to Glasgow. We had another trip planned for the following weekend – Dundee.

 

Kintyre

Stonefield Castle Hotel

The Kintyre peninsula is about 40 miles west from Glasgow – if you’re a bird. Because of the numerous sea-lochs on Scotland’s west coast, you have to drive north then drop back south making a journey of over 2 hours. In November, we spent a couple of nights at the Stonefield Castle Hotel, just outside Tarbert in Kintyre.

Stonefield is a Scottish Baronial manor house designed by William Henry Playfair and built in 1837 for the Campbell family who owned it till 1948. It became a hotel in the 1950s and was extended in the 1970s – one of the extensions being the glass-sided dining room you can see above and below.

It was too dark to see anything at dinner, but at breakfast the view was wonderful. In the evening, the cosy bar was enjoyable too.

There are 60 acres of grounds at Stonefield, so on our first morning we had a walk around after breakfast.

Then we drove down to Tarbert itself, with its lovely harbour. You might remember that we stayed in a place called Tarbert in Harris last summer. There are several Tarberts in Scotland (sometimes Tarbet) – in Gaelic, an tairbeart means the isthmus. In this case, Tarbert village lies on the east of the narrow strip of land which prevents Kintyre from being an island.

Some of the pictures in the gallery above were taken on the climb up to the castle. The earliest fortifications on this hill date to the 13th century, but the most noticeable remains are of the 16th century tower house.

I had my first fall of the day at the castle – the weather was lovely and bright, but it followed a period of heavy rain so the grass was very slippery and I slid down a slope onto my bottom. Fortunately, no harm was done apart from a muddy patch on the back of my coat and the damage to my dignity! So it was on to Tarbert Sculpture Walk where we met some pretty black sheep.

Next stop (by car) was Skipness, with another 13th century castle overlooking the Kilbrannan Sound.

Close by, as you can just about make out in the last shot above, is the ruined Kilbrannan Chapel, dedicated to St Brendan and dating from the late 13th or early 14th century. It had an interesting graveyard attached which I enjoyed looking around.

As usual, I grieved at the graves testifying to the terrible rate of infant mortality. Anne McLellan lost three children in infancy, her husband in 1895 and a son in the First World War. Unimaginable. The black gravestone commemorating Emma Berrington also intrigued me – how did someone who was born in West Virginia and died in Wales end up here? Maybe her son lived in Kintyre? The stone gives no clue.

The current church was back near where we had parked. This was November 10th and a couple had just arrived with a car full of flowers to decorate the church for the following day’s Remembrance Service, so we didn’t look inside. The war memorial looked unusual to me with its clock – note my square shot. At this point I imagined I was going to take part in Becky’s daily #timesquare project in December. The thought was there at least …

There is also an iron age fort nearby – we set off through the woods to find it, but the rough path with treacherous tree roots and protruding stones hidden by a combination of mud and fallen leaves resulted in my second fall of the day. This time I came down with a heavy thump, banging my shoulder and ripping the elbow out of my coat. Walking was abandoned for the day!

Back in the car, we continued down the east coast of the peninsula to Saddell. The bay here is where the pipers marched in the video for Paul McCartney’s Mull of Kintyre, but we didn’t visit – we looked at the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey (active 1160 to 1507) and its magnificent medieval grave slabs. Apparently, the abbey is haunted by a huge black spectral hand, but we were lucky to miss that …

We then drove on towards Campbeltown, the biggest settlement on Kintyre. By this time, the light was fading – and can you see the hint of a rainbow in the first picture?

In Cambeltown itself, we visited the Linda McCartney memorial garden (hmm, not sure about the merits of that statue) and had coffee in the recently restored art deco cinema. You might also spot another potential #timesquare that went unused!

By this time, it really was dark and not worth continuing to the Mull of Kintyre itself. That will have to wait for another visit.

Glasgow Gallivanting: January 2019

The Giant Lanterns of China

On the first Saturday of the New Year we headed over to Edinburgh armed with tickets for The Giant Lanterns of China at the Zoo (still on till mid-February). It was amazing! Three sections covered Chinese legends, Scottish myths and animal species, especially those threatened or extinct. It was good that even the information boards about the mythical creatures all had a section on conservation, eg The Monkey King board warned against the trade in exotic pets.

Chinese legends
Scottish myths
Animal species

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

We visit Kelvingrove regularly throughout the year. While another Glasgow Museum, the Burrell Collection, is closed for refurbishment Kelvingrove has a changing display of some of its treasures. The current exhibition is on medieval art which has some stunning stained glass panels.

However often we go, I always spot something new. How did I miss this, I wonder? It’s A big cat with a bit of writing underneath by John Knowles which has been in the collection since 1992. Bright and eye-catching though it is, it was the words (to which the information panel made no reference) that drew my attention: WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union) and 1913 Cat and Mouse Bill. This was the common name for the Bill which became the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health) Act, by which the government sought to deal with the problem of hunger striking suffragettes. It allowed the early release of prisoners who were so weakened that they were at risk of death.  They would be recalled to prison once their health was recovered, where the process would begin again, hence cat and mouse. Horrific!

Celtic Connections

I never have that feeling of January being a bleak month after Christmas. In Glasgow we have Celtic Connections, the brilliant winter music festival!

This year we went to six events with musicians from Scotland, Ireland, the US and Canada. The most moving was An Treas Suaile (The Third Wave) written and performed by Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis and fiddler Duncan Chisholm. It commemorated the Iolaire disaster which I wrote about in one of my Hebridean Hop posts. In the early hours of New Year’s Day 1919 the Iolaire, carrying 280 servicemen home to Lewis, sank just outside Stornoway harbour, almost certainly due to navigational errors. Overcrowding (the capacity was only about 100) and insufficient crew compounded the problems, with the result that 201 men were lost in a tragedy which reverberates in Lewis and Harris to this day. Fowlis and Chisholm created a multimedia event honouring both those who died and those who survived, many of whom performed heroic feats. I can’t say I “enjoyed” this exactly, but it was definitely a highlight.

No photographs of that concert, but below are Rhiannon Giddens, Karan Casey and Loudon Wainwright III. Can’t wait for next year!

Burns Night

January also has Burns Night in memory of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns. This year we celebrated at a local restaurant, The Bothy, with good food, good company from our friends John and Pat and good entertainment from The Caledonian Cowboy who piped, recited and made us all laugh. I learned that, when you take religious subjects out of the count, the three most popular people for statues are Christopher Columbus, Queen Victoria and Robert Burns.

The menu wasn’t wholly traditional – there was haggis but not in its plain haggis, neeps and tatties version – and I’m fairly sure Burns never ate a deep-fried Mars Bar. I can now say I have. The verdict? Not as sweet as expected but not something I plan to repeat either.

Glasgow Cathedral

It’s a while since I’ve been into the cathedral – the last time was for a funeral. This time I wanted to see a new exhibition, Scotland From The Sky, which features a series of aerial photographs from around the First World War onwards. We spent a long time in front of a shot of Glasgow in 1988, of which you can see a detail below. X marks roughly the site of our house which wouldn’t be built for another five years.

Whilst there, we also took time to look at features such as the stained glass and the crests on the ends of the pews. I picked out a few crests that meant something to us (clockwise from top left): Glasgow University (John’s employer), Glasgow Academy (his old school), the city council and Strathclyde University (my former employer).

Banton Loch and Colzium

The weather in January wasn’t great, but we did seize one sunny Sunday afternoon to stroll round Colzium Estate and Banton Loch. Once home to the Edmonstone family, Colzium House now belongs to the local council and its grounds are very popular with walkers. Banton Loch is actually a reservoir – it was built in 1773 to feed the new Forth and Clyde canal, flooding the site of the Battle of Kilsyth (1645). Apparently, bones and armoury are still being found in the fields to the north of the loch – although fortunately not by us!

The last bit

I wrote a different kind of guest post this month for my professional body, CILIPS, which is running a Meet our Members strand. I was invited to reflect on library life after retirement – you can read it here. I’ll let you into a little secret. I’d actually decided that, six years after I finished work, it was time to let my membership lapse. Then they asked me so nicely to write this post that I paid up again. Don’t tell CILIPS or they’ll be asking me to write something every year …

Finally, to my Scottish word of the month – in fact I’ll give you two. The word bothy has cropped up twice: once as the name of the restaurant where we had our Burns Supper, and then in the gallery above where you might have noticed the sign for Stoury Bothy. Many of you will know that a bothy is a hut, either basic accommodation for estate workers or a shelter in mountainous areas. “Basic” certainly doesn’t apply to the restaurant, but what about Stoury Bothy? Looking on Trip Advisor I find it is a very attractive holiday cottage, not basic and not stoury either – stour being a Scottish word for a cloud or mass of dust (pronounce stoor as opposed to the English place name which is pronounced to rhyme with flower. See also oose which has a similar meaning.)

In conclusion 1) if that were my cottage I would call it something else and 2) I do not mean to imply that you need lots of synonyms for dust. I’m sure you never have any.

Happy February!

Hebridean Hop 22: returning home

Saturday 18th August 2018

After an early start, we were in the ferry queue at 7am ready to depart Castlebay at 0755. Once on board, we positioned ourselves near the restaurant ready to beat the rush for breakfast when it opened. That rush didn’t materialise, and wandering round the ship later we found out why. Many people had brought their pillows and duvets and were catching up on sleep! When we got to the top deck, we were amazed to have it to ourselves most of the time. The howling wind might also have had something to do with that …

More or less on time, at 1240, we approached our destination, Oban.

We didn’t linger, choosing to drive to a pub outside town for lunch, and then to make our way home to Glasgow. Our Hebridean Hop was over. Some thoughts:

  • We drove just over 1000 miles, a seemingly modest amount for three weeks, but once you’re on the islands there aren’t a lot of places to drive to! The roads are greatly improved since our previous visits, but most of them are still single track and consequently slow. Being impatient to get straight from A to B just doesn’t work.
  • Other infrastructure – museums and cafés – has also improved greatly, enhancing the tourist experience and, it is obvious, bringing greater prosperity to the islands. It’s probably selfish to feel that this diminishes the charm and makes the islands feel less remote. However, I’m glad to have caught them at this point before they become overrun, as seems to have happened to Skye.
  • We were lucky with the weather – and I mean that, despite having written about some terrible downpours. It could have done that every day, whereas most days were reasonably fine and some were sunny and warm. However, if you must have guaranteed sunshine, the Hebrides will not be for you!
  • We walked, on average, seven miles a day, much of that on beautiful, golden sands. This was enough for our collection of dodgy knees and feet!
  • It’s 25-30 years since we last visited any of these islands and we can’t understand why we left it so long. This year, current thinking is that we will visit some of the Inner Hebrides, but they don’t lend themselves so obviously to a “hop” and will involve more route planning.
  • Thinking of going to the Outer Hebrides? Yes, I think you should! Find all my posts with the tag Hebridean Hop for inspiration.
  • Finally, I’m linking this post to Cathy’s On returning home invitation. Check the link for details: Cathy’s current post is about leaving Japan after teaching there for a few months.

Hebridean Hop 21: Kisimul Castle and Northbay

Friday 17th August 2018

Kisimul Castle from the jetty

Our last day dawned dull and wet, but we hadn’t been to Kisimul Castle yet so this had to be the time. There is a little jetty to wait on, above, and a boat comes from the castle to pick up passengers on the hour and half hour. Here it is!

Kisimul Castle probably dates from the 1400s, though the rocky islet it is built on might have been fortified for several centuries before that. The stronghold of Clan MacNeil, it was significantly restored in the 20th century and since 2000 has been on 1,000 year lease to Historic Scotland.

Compare and contrast – the pictures below are from our visit in 1992 with our friends Pat and John. The basket, presumably for a beacon, above Pat’s head suggests these were taken at the top of the tower (the same basket can be seen in the gallery above if you look hard enough). It’s not possible to climb the tower now, which I found disappointing.

The weather showed no signs of improving, so once back on dry land we collected the car from the hotel and set off for Northbay. If nothing else, we knew there was a good place for lunch there! We were lucky to get a short, dry stroll on the Woodland Walk (woodland, however small, is something of a rarity on the islands).

Once we arrived in Northbay itself though, the heavens opened. We could have done with those yellow and orange waterproofs below. Fortunately, we could shelter in St Barr’s Church for the worst of it.

For lunch we visited the Heathbank Hotel which we remembered as a seedy dive on our last visit, but which has come up in the world since then. Our waiter confirmed our memories, that it had been very much a fishermans’ pub. His granny probably told him – he turned out to be the young man who played the fiddle as we ate our curry in Castlebay the previous evening. He’s also a student at Glasgow University, though we haven’t spotted him around. These coincidences don’t happen so much in Glasgow!

After lunch, we stopped once more to walk ( across rather wet ground) to the abandoned village of Bolnabodach on the shores of Loch Ob. These collapsed blackhouses date from 1810-1840.

From here it was back to the hotel to pack and load up the car, keeping just an overnight bag behind. Our ferry in the morning was at 0755 and we had to be in the queue by 0710 at the latest. A good night’s sleep was required!

Hebridean Hop 20: Craigston, Cleit and Eoligarry

Thursday 16th August 2018

St Brendan’s Church, Craigston

Having rejected the previous two days as too dreich to get the boat out to the castle, we then decided this day was too nice. We wanted to explore the island in the sun. Driving up the west coast, our first stop was at St Brendan’s Church where Father John MacMillan (1880-1951), about whom we had seen an exhibition in the heritage centre, was once priest. He spent most of his life ministering to the people of the islands, including two years in Canada when, after the First World War, many Hebridean families settled in Red Deer in Alberta. MacMillan volunteered to emigrate along with them in 1923, but left after a fight with the Canadian authorities which he felt were inflicting unnecessary hardship upon the immigrants. Father MacMillan wrote Gaelic songs, and was also immortalised in both a piping march and in his friend Compton Mackenzie’s book, Whisky Galore, in which the character of the priest, Father James Macalister, is based on himClick on the link above to read more about this remarkable man, including the Canadian story.

The church dates from 1857 and is almost as simple inside as out.
From the church it was a short walk back along the coast to find Father Macmillan’s grave in the cemetery. The scenery was stunning, and the neighbours friendly.

And here is the grave we were looking for. Twelve hundred mourners from all over the Hebrides attended the funeral, processing from Craigston to the cemetery behind six pipers. It must have been quite a day.

After a short drive further up the main road, we turned off at Cleit to explore another fine beach. On our way down, we passed this desirable holiday home.

We chatted to a trio of elderly tourists and watched a group of body-boarders for a while. It looked cold!

On the other side of the car park was a small geo (chasm) where the water rushing in and out fascinated me.

However, beautiful as these stops were, our main plan for the day was an 8.75 km walk round the Eoligarry peninsula, Barra’s most northerly point, so it was time to move on – stopping at the excellent airport café again for lunch.

The walk started at Eoligarry jetty, from which the passenger ferry to Eriskay used to run when we last visited. Now, there was nothing much there, but it was a convenient place to leave the car.

We soon came to the old church of Cille Bharra with a replica of the Kilbar Stone, a Viking grave which once stood here. I detect some unhappiness about its absence.

I was delighted to pick up a history of the church and to realise that it was written by Alan Macquarrie, a former colleague of mine.

Onwards again – that was the flat part of the walk. There were a couple of short climbs coming up, first to the remains of Dun Sgurabhal, an Iron Age fort, with views to beaches on all sides. The cows liked it up here too.

Coming down from the fort, we stumbled over lumpy grazing land before climbing again to Beinn Eolaigearraidh Mhor. Despite mhor meaning large, at 105m it wasn’t – but still had panoramic views to admire.

We descended to the west of the peninsula to Traigh Eais, crossing the dunes to the other side after 1.25km of beach walking. This took us back to the beach runway at Traigh Mhor. The day’s planes were long gone, so the airport was now closed with no chance of a further visit to the café.

This also meant we could disregard the warning signs and walk back to Eoligarry along the beach rather than the road. Traigh Mhor is also known as Cockle Strand – the cockle pickers were back on the beach too.

This was one of our loveliest days in terms of weather. It was also a culinary highlight. Who’d have thought that a tiny place like Castlebay would have an excellent Indian Restaurant? Café Kisimul holds a folk night on Thursdays and we had booked almost as soon as we arrived on the island.

We do look rather happy, don’t we? The food was excellent (as was the beer).

As I’ve mentioned before, on these small islands you tend to run into the same people several times. Also eating in the restaurant were the elderly tourists and the body-boarders we saw in Cleit in the morning, and the young man tuning up his fiddle above would serve us lunch in a different place the next day. That would be our final day on the island so, rain or shine, we had to get out to that castle at last!

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk – it’s almond blossom time this week.

Hebridean Hop 19: Tangasdale

Wednesday 15th August 2018

Should we go out to the castle today? Hmm, no – the weather was too dreich again. Instead, we headed out of Castlebay for a short walk. Starting at Loch Tangasdale, we first passed MacLeod’s Tower, built in 1430 by the son of Marion of the Heads. She was the widow of the chief of Clan MacNeil and had her two stepsons beheaded so that her own son would inherit.

Further on, in a small glen, are the ruins of an old settlement inhabited by another MacNeil, Roderick the Dove, in the 18th century. His name suggests he was much nicer than Marion!

As the path climbed, we could see down to Halaman Bay at the side of which perches the Isle of Barra Hotel – this is where we stayed during our 1990s trips to Barra.

The climb to Dun Ban, the 2000 year old remains of a fortified broch, was rugged but worth it.  I liked the way the stones had been taken over by nature.

On our return, we dropped down onto the beach at Halaman – probably a mistake! As the rain and the wind built up we got soaked through and the sand whipped into our faces. As we struggled to stay upright on two feet, hopping on one leg to don the waterproof trousers wasn’t an option. It was still beautiful though, and I don’t think you can tell from the pictures how bad the weather was. (As a bonus, I’ve included a picture of me on the same beach on a better day in 1992).

We have rarely been so pleased to reach the car. When we got back to the hotel, we just had time for a quick change of clothes before we caught last orders for lunch.

A relaxing afternoon with a book followed. Amazingly, the sun came out later and it was a lovely bright evening. We watched the ferry dock from our room and managed to bag a window seat at dinner. Not a bad day overall, despite the weather doing its worst – slàinte!

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk.

Hebridean Hop 18: Vatersay

Tuesday 14th August 2018

Macroon’s Café scone

I last wrote about our Hebridean Hop at the beginning of November – how time flies! We had just arrived in Barra, our last port of call on the trip. Now the story continues …

Our first morning dawned very dreich – not the weather for getting the boat out to the castle as planned – so we visited Dualchas, the small heritage centre, instead. (No photography allowed.) Its main collection heavily features the history of the herring industry: more interesting than it sounds, particularly the story of the herring girls who followed the fish down the coast to Great Yarmouth as long ago as the 1880s. (There’s an interesting post about them on F Yeah History.) The special exhibition when we were there was on Father John MacMillan (1880-1951), another of the inspirational island priests we kept coming across on our travels. A few days later, we went searching for his grave: apparently 1200 people attended his funeral.

It wasn’t quite lunchtime, but we needed somewhere to go to plan our next move so headed for Macroon’s Café in the Post Office. Both parts of the business are run by an enterprising Yorkshire couple who relocated to Barra after redundancy simply because they liked Whisky Galore – Macroon is the name of the postmaster in the film. The scones, as you can see above, are awesome.

Our decision was to drive to Vatersay, a neighbouring island attached to Barra by a causeway, to take a walk there. After parking the car, we headed for Tràigh Siar (West Beach) passing the memorial to the Annie Jane on the way.

The Annie Jane ran aground here in 1853. With at least 450 emigrants bound for Canada (it’s impossible to say exactly how many because children’s names were not recorded), the ship hit rocks in a storm and broke into three parts. Only about 100 people survived, and the dead were buried in two mass graves in the dunes.

At the end of the beach, we turned uphill to the summit of Dun Vatersay. This was very wet and boggy, and the locals watched us struggling with some interest! From the top we could see both Tràigh Siar and Bàgh Bhatarsaigh (Vatersay bay) as well as Vatersay village.

We continued the boggy struggle, passing a standing stone (though some think it might be just an old gatepost) on our way to Bàgh a Deas (South Bay) which we shared with more locals.

The next point of interest was the ruined village of Eorisdale built by the Vatersay Raiders. At the beginning of the 20th century the island, which her tenants farmed as a single holding, was owned by Lady Gordon Cathcart. Pressure on land throughout the Western Isles led ten men to raid Vatersay, build huts and plant potatoes without permission. In 1908, some were imprisoned for refusing to leave, but the case caused an outcry across Scotland, and in 1909 the Government responded more positively by buying the island and dividing it up into 58 crofts. The village was built at this time and was inhabited as recently as the 1970s.

Finally, after more boggy walking, we descended to Vatersay Bay.

We’d been here before! The first photograph below shows me with our friends John and Pat in 1993. I remember then there were lots of abandoned cars in the dunes. We didn’t spot any this time, but they are probably still buried there – the next photograph of the fence at the top of the dunes on the way back to the car shows how quickly the sand can shift.

On the way back we stopped a couple of times – at the unusual war memorial and at a viewpoint over Castlebay.

Maybe we’d get out to the castle tomorrow?

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk – she’s settled in Portugal now.

Glasgow Gallivanting: December 2018

In December I gave my talk! As part of a Suffrage afternoon at the Mitchell Library I spoke about Jessie Stephen, the Glasgow Suffragette I have been researching this year. It was well received I’m glad to report, in fact the Chair described it as a barnstorm. The pictures show me giving it laldy (ie speaking with great gusto).

The Hunterian

We visited the Hunterian a couple of times, Glasgow University’s museum and art gallery. The first time was an evening event in the museum for university staff and their guests, which we enjoyed. Prosecco and canapés, what’s not to love?

Our second visit was across the road in the art gallery. The Hunterian is named after William Hunter (1718-1783) who started it all off by leaving his collections to the University, his alma mater, and the gallery has currently been cleared of its usual contents for an exhibition marking the tercentenary of his birth (closes this weekend, so hurry along). Hunter was an anatomist and physician (he delivered most of the children of  Queen Charlotte and George III) but also a collector of books, paintings and other artefacts so the exhibition was not just medical. Here are two portraits of Hunter, for example, one by his friend Allan Ramsay, and the other commissioned from Sir Joshua Reynolds after Hunter’s death.

Other than the exhibits themselves, there were two things I really liked. First, the booklet which replaced labels meaning you didn’t have to peer at the wall to find out what you were looking at and, second, the fact that we arrived just at the right time to join a tour by volunteer guide Finlay, a medical student, who added a lot to the experience.

My friend Jessica of Diverting Journeys has reviewed this exhibition concentrating largely on the anatomy exhibits, so head over there if you want to know more. I’ll restrict myself to the anatomy section I found most disturbing, the display of drawings and models contributing to Hunter’s 1774 Anatomy of the human gravid uterus. I’ve seen some of the models before – they are usually displayed vertically in the museum, but lying them on their backs as if in childbirth made them much more poignant. Who were these women? When and how did they and their unborn children die? If they had known that three centuries later we would be looking at their most intimate parts how would they feel? Troubling questions to which we’ll never know the answer.

It will, of course, not surprise you to know that I was fascinated by Hunter’s book collection. Most were difficult to photograph because of the glass cases, but here are a few examples. There were actually three copies of Newton’s Principia Mathematica on display, but I liked the one below best because it was published by the Royal Society in 1687 while Samuel Pepys, one of my historical heroes, was President and thus has his name on it.

Even better, I note that Hunter looked after his books carefully and created both a catalogue and a list of books lent. A man after my own heart!

Carmunnock

Carmunnock describes itself as “the only village in Glasgow” and had two attractions for us one cold Sunday afternoon: a heritage trail round its historic centre and an excellent restaurant, Mitchell’s, where we could warm up after our short walk. The restaurant originated in 1755 as Boghead farmhouse and steadings, and became the Boghead Inn in the late 19th or early 20th century when it was also the centre for public transport in the village. Quite a lot of history to contemplate while enjoying delicious food!

Sighthill Cemetery

One of John’s historical heroes now. Over the last year or so, we’ve made three visits to Sighthill Cemetery looking for a particular grave, each time armed with slightly more information. This month we found it! William John Macquorn Rankine was Professor of Civil Engineering and Mechanics at Glasgow University (where a building is named after him) from 1855 to his death in 1872, aged only 52. It’s not surprising we missed it the first twice as the gravestone has tumbled downhill and now stands on its head. 2020 is the bicentenary of Rankine’s birth, so hopefully something can be done about this before then.

I do like a wander around an old graveyard – here are some of the other things that caught my eye over our three visits. The Martyrs’ Monument commemorates two men, John Baird and Andrew Harding, who were executed after a radical uprising in 1820.

Eighteen other rebels were transported to Australia, including Benjamin Moir. His brother James, a tea merchant and Glasgow councillor, has a rather fine obelisk elsewhere in the cemetery. As mentioned on the inscription, on his death he left his books and £12,000 to the Mitchell Library where I gave my talk earlier in the month – in the Moir Room!

Some of the family gravestones are a sad testament to the scourge of infant mortality.

Some stones I just liked – particularly the tribute to the lady who worked for Henglers Circus for 45 years.

As we left on our most recent visit, the sun was setting. A graveyard at dusk? Not spooky at all!

The last bit

Al fresco art spotted this month includes this lovely house decorated with shells in Anstruther in Fife. And the gap site on Sauchiehall Street caused by a fire (not the Art School one – this one was earlier in the year) has been concealed by some adorable cats.

My Scottish word of the month is a Gaelic one. As I write, British politicians are still fighting like ferrets in a sack over what some of the Scottish media have started to refer to as the Brexit bùrach (boo-rach with a guttural Germanic ch sound). It means complete mess, enough said …

So I’ve almost got to the end of a post about December without mentioning Christmas and New Year! We had a lovely time at both with family and friends, as I hope you did too, and in between we visited Dunkeld for a few nights. That’s added to the list of posts I still have to write – my New Year’s Resolution is to get back to blogging regularly.

This is also the time that I look to see what have been the most popular posts written this year. I’m usually surprised – this year’s top read by some way was A walk on Great Cumbrae in April, I’ve no idea why. I suspect WordPress gremlins!

Finally, my heartfelt thanks to you all for your friendship over the last year and a special mention for one who is absent. Rest in peace, Joy loves travel. You are missed.