Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sutherland. Dunrobin Castle. Clearances of Crofters.

Dunrobin is notorious here in the old Norse "south lands" -- from which the family Sutherland took its name when first settled by a Fleming in the 1200's. 

This castle, later remodeled in the French chateau mode, represented the vast wealth of the noble classes who engaged in the brutal, profit-motivated clearances of poor crofters, the great evictions, so that the noblemen could make more money in sheep.

Clearances of crofters.  A crofter is a poor small-farmer, with tenure rights to till a portion of arable land, a means of producing food for the family. Dukes and Earls of Sutherland:  dominating the countryside. What is the difference?  King: Heavenly.  Prince:  Just below Heavenly. Duke:  highest after Prince. Then come Marquess-es. Then Earl:  below Duke.  Viscount:  below Earl.

Earl derives from the Norse Jarl, but in Scandinavia, could also mean rank like a Prince.  Earl was a term not used on the Continent. An Earl was a chieftain.  That rank authorized him to rule in place of the King.  In the middle ages, Earl was used less commonly, and the term Duke arose to rule.

The water beyond:  We went by car ferry from Scrabster, after arriving from the southwest and Hebrides;  to Stromness, Orkney; and returned with immediate aim to Wick and the northeastern coast of Scotland.  Suddenly, there was Dunrobin Castle.

On the upper floors was, it is said, the bedroom of the Lord's daughter, the 14th Earl of Sutherland no less, and he had forbidden her to marry her true love. She let down a rope to escape, and fell, haunting the place thereafter.

Ayrshire. Culzean Castle. Scots Kennedy Family. Robert the Bruce as well?

Ancestry buffs will enjoy that this is the Scots Kennedy family home, and that they claim ties back to Robert the Bruce.  Sir Thomas Kennedy was killed (murdered) on the beach at Ayr in 1602.  Scots hauntings: A spectral piper pipes on the occasion of each Kennedy marriage, it is said, and on dark and stormy nights, with a second ghostly apparition, a young woman in a ball gown seen, it also is said, in 1972.

 The architecture dates from 1759, so does not sport the walls and turrets and keeps of medieval times.  The echoes of those times are in attached decorative tower-elements.  It is located on the South Ayrshire coastline, about an hour and a half southwest from Stirling Castle.

See a room-by-room description at

There had been a castle on the cliffs here before the current version,  

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Largs. Viking Scotland

Largs is known as the last stand of the Vikings, whose King Haakon lost to Scotland's King Alexander in 1263.  The event, to the Norwegians, was but an inconclusive skirmish tangled by bad weather etc.  To the Scots, it was Battle.  Haakon planned further fights, but died in the Orkney Islands.  Both sides then negotiated rather than fight on and on, and the western Islands, Hebrides and also Argyll on the mainland, were ceded by the successor King Magnus in 1266 to the Scots. The event is commemorated annually, see By way of update, the 2013 celebration is shown at that site.  Go in September and enjoy.

A look at the geography of northern Europe shows navigable waterways, even for distances, seas, and islands that could be, and were, hopped-skipped-and sailed across by early Norse.  The Spring 2013 issue of Scottish Life, see; does not seem to show the article on page 22 about how and when all that happened -- migrations because of overpopulation on sparse arable lands, and later, incursions by Christian zealots intent on unifying all under the Christian Soldier Banner.  Soldier?  Really?  Who was it that turned that down in the first instance?

1.  Course began with the closest, Shetland and Orknay;
2.  The Northern and Western Isles, Hebrides;
3.  Northern areas of Caithness, Sutherland, Inverness.

In Edinburgh is an exhibition called Vikings! with artifacts and displays showing life in those days. Vikings were traders long before their anti-Christian response to the incursions of militant Christians in the late 700's - 800's and the centuries following.  But horned helmets be they none.   A fiction. So sad.