Friday, January 29, 2010

Here's a list of books

As I promised yesterday, here is a list of books that I found helpful in my research into Scottish history. 

Scotland: The Story of a Nation by Magnus Magnusson-This was the first book I got. It is a very good one to start out with especially if you are doing a study on just Scotland in particular and not on any one subject. Magnusson writes it as a story, so it is also very interesting for younger readers. I still use it as a reference when I just need to look something up quick.

David R. Ross:

A Passion for Scotland-This is the book every Scot needs to read. David R. Ross is my favorite historian ever. He is so funny and the way he writes gets you right into the history without bombarding you with facts and dates and stuff and you still learn everything in the end anyway! This one is mainly an overview of Scotland's history and connections.

Desire Lines-I am still reading this one at the moment. This book is a step-by-step guid through Scotland with history sprinkled throughout. David takes you to hundreds of different places where Scotland's greatest sons and daughters walked through the ages. Perfect for someone who is planning a trip to Scotland.

On the Trail of William Wallace-If you are studying William Wallace, this is a book you need to read. It helped me when I was writing a novel on Wallace and I would suggest it to anyone.

On the Trail of Robert the Bruce-I have not read this one yet, but it's mainly the same as the one about William Wallace and I trust David's information enough that I can suggest this book without reading it.

On the Trail of Bonnie Prince Charlie-Again, a book I have not read, but if you are studying the Jacobite Uprising of '45 then you should try to find this book.

For Freedom: The Last Days of William Wallace-This is more of a tribute then an actual history but it is a must read for anyone who feels for William Wallace. It recounts his last weeks and also David Ross' Walk for Wallace, a commemoration he put together to remember the 700th anniversary of Wallace's death. A fantastic book that will bring a tear to your eye.

On the Trail of Scotland's history-I haven't read this one either, but it's going to be one of the next ones I get. It's just what it sounds like!

James the Good: The Black Douglas-Another one I haven't read, but this is a biography on James Douglas, one of Robert Bruce's most loyal followers. He was an amazing man and a true Scottish hero.

William Wallace: Brave Heart by James MacKay-I read this book when I was writing my novel on William Wallace. It is good, if not a bit exhaustive in parts and I would suggest it, though, as a warning, he had a couple inaccuracies in his book, but as long as you supplement it with David R. Ross' book, it shouldn't do too much harm!

William Wallace: Man and Myth by Morton Graeme-This is a very interesting read for anyone who has in interest in William Wallace. It is not really a history, but it goes through the legacy of Wallace from the day he died up until modern times. 

Rob Roy MacGregor His life and Times by W. H. Murray-If you're looking for a biography on Rob Roy, this one is probably one of the best. It's written almost like a novel and not only does it look into Rob's life, but also how people lived back then. I found it really helpful to understanding just the normal every day life of the Scottish people in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Under the Hammer: Edward I and Scotland by Fiona Watson-I just got this book a couple weeks ago, so I have not really had the chance to go through it yet, but I have heard good things about Fiona Watson and the book sounded good. It kind of goes through what it was like living under the reign of Edward I, or Longshanks as we call him, and of course goes through the lives of Wallace and Bruce. Once I read it, I will tell you what I think.

That was only a few of the books I have found helpful. If you have any questions about books you might have picked up or others that might be helpful, I will do my best to point you in the right direction. If I have not read all the books myself, I have at least heard of them and can probably tell you weather or not they are a good read.

I'll say good bye for the weekend then! Talk to you again Monday!
Slainte, Hazel

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Are they Scottish?

The last post was short, so I decided to give ye another shortie. I got a book from the library a couple weeks ago called The Scottish 100 by Duncan A. Bruce. It has short biographies on 100 famous Scots. Going through it, I found that there were a lot of people I knew from history but didn't know they were Scottish. Some of these may surprise you as well, so here is a list of some people you may not have known were Scottish.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) A famous writer. Author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped and many other very good books.

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) Inventor of the telephone.

Thomas A. Edison (1874-1931) Inventor of the lightbulb. (The real light bulb, mind, not those florescent ones they have today that don't give off any light!)

James Cook (Captain Cook) (1728-1779) Famous explorer.

David Livingstone (1813-1873) Missionary, famous for his exploration of Africa.

Washington Irving (1783-1859) Famous poet.

George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron) (1788-1824) Famous Poet.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) Writer and poet.

John Paul Jones (1747-1792) Famous naval commander of the American navy in the American revolution. (Ever heard the quote, "I have not yet begun to fight!"?)

Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) Hero of World War II.

Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1866) Commander of the Union army in the American Civil War.

Patrick Henry (1736-1799) Famous patriot supporter in the American Revolution. ("Give me liberty or give me death!")

Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) Another famous patriot supporter of the American Revolution.

Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) Author of Sherlock Holmes.

So as you can see a lot of people were Scottish and we probably never knew it. This is just to name a few. Tomorrow, I will be posting a list of books to help your research into Scottish history, so make sure you come and check that out!

Slainte, Hazel

The Thistle

Scotland's national plant is the thistle. It shows up a lot in Scottish art work and they grow profusely in the terrain. There's a funny wee story as to how it actually became the national plant. It's very widely known and most likely has some truth to it.

In the days when the Vikings roamed the seas, one of their favorite places to raid was Scotland. There are a lot of places of the coasts that have Viking connections, especially on the northers shores of Scotland. The story goes that, centuries ago, a band of Scotsmen were sleeping in the woods somewhere when an army of Vikings discovered them. The Vikings had this idea to sneak up on them unawares and kill them in their sleep. The began to take off their shoes to make their approach as quiet as possible. Unfortunately for the Vikings, they were standing in a huge patch of thistles and they stepped on them, crying out and alerting the Scots of their presence so that the attack didn't go the way they had thought at first. So it's a funny wee story as ye can see, but there are many others like it in history so I see no reason why it shouldn't be true!

Slainte, Hazel

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Lion Rampant

Scotland, actually has two flags. No, it's not like the American flag and the Confederate flag; these are equals and flown side by side, not used for another opinion! The Saltire is the flag of the normal people and is flown more commonly, but their second flag, the Lion Rampant, is the flag of the Kings of Scots.

It originated in the 1100s when King William, nicknamed "The Lion" was either gifted or sold lions as pets and he was so taken with them, he decided to change the royal badge of Scotland from the boar, which it had been before, to the lion. 

The flag has a gold or yellow background with a red lion rearing on it's back legs in the center. In heraldry, the lion in this position is known as the "Rampant" thus, where the flag got its name. Here a link to a picture:

A bit of interesting history about the flag can start with telling about a man named Alexander Scrymgeour who was a close friend of William Wallace, one of Scotland's greatest heroes. In 1297 when Wallace went to fight the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, he had to leave off a siege of Dundee Castle, so he left Scrymgeour in charge. Alexander was successful in capturing the castle and Wallace bestowed on him the title of Hereditary Standard-Bearer. To this day the Scrymgeour family are still the Hereditary Standard-Bearers of Scotland. It just shows how many things never really change even after seven hundred years!

Slainte, Hazel

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Saltire

This first week, I see it fitting to introduce some of the things that make Scotland Scotland. What better to do that then telling the story of their flag? You have most likely seen it without realizing what it was for it is the white X behind the red cross on the Union Jack. This was a result of the Union between Scotland and England in 1707 and combined the Cross of St. Andrew (the Scottish flag) and St. George's Cross, (the flag of England.)

The Scottish flag called St Andrew's Cross and more commonly known as the Saltire, is actually the oldest flag still in use. It was not just a fancy of color choice, but a picture of an event from Scottish history.

We're not sure of the actual date, but some time around 832 AD, an army of Scots and Picts were being pursued by an English army, who were led by their king, Athelstan. The Scots saw that it was pretty much hopeless, for they were outnumbered, so they crossed a ford and decided to make a stand and die fighting like men. The story goes that then, they saw the white cross of St. Andrew appear in the blue summer sky and, thinking it was a sign from God, they charged the English army with new vigor and won the day, the battle even resulting in the death of the English king.

The place where this happened is now called Athelstaneford after the English king who died there. The church in the village, that dates back to the eleven hundreds has a cairn in memorial of this event. The inscription on the cairn says:

Tradition says that near this place in times remote Pictish and Scottish warriors about to defeat an army of Northumbrians, saw against a blue sky a great white cross like Saint Andrew's, and in its image made a banner which became the flag of Scotland.

This was the flag that flew in the field of battle ever since that day and saw all the victories and defeats that Scottish people did. It flew over William Wallace and Robert the Bruce and at Culloden above the Jacobites. The late Scottish historian, David R. Ross, who sadly just passed away at the beginning of this month, penned this tribute to the Saltire:

"I stand before this flag. The white Saltire of St. Andrew in the blue summers' sky. It represents the soil from which I sprang, and to which, one day, I must return. It represents Scotland. As it was. As it is. As it will be."

Slainte, Hazel

Monday, January 25, 2010


Hi everyone! As this is the first post, I thought I might explain my blog. Bonnets and Broadswords is a blog about Scottish history. This is not the kind of stuff you will find in text books but interesting stories about events and people that made Scotland the nation that she is today. My main reason for writing this blog is that Scottish history is sadly lacking in the world. No one learns it in school, I never even knew anything about Scottish history until I read a historic novel a few years ago and then decided to research into the time period more. That caused me to begin learning about Scotland and her history and I began to love it more and more. Scotland has a history full of excitement, sorrow, wonderful heroes and evil villains set against a wonderful landscape full of mystery and as old as the mountains that grace it. Having a Scottish heritage myself, I was soon lost in the wonder of it all, and found myself unable to stop learning about the famous men and women who served Scotland over the many centuries.

I want to be able to share this with everyone. I hope that this blog will help students of history or just people wanting to learn more about Scotland be able to do just that. My promise as a historian is that the information on this blog will be as accurate as it can be with the information that we have in the world. In other words, this is not just a bunch of stuff I came up with to amuse people! This is real history and should be kept that way!

I am open to any questions you may have. Do not be afraid to ask! I will do my best to answer them. Please comment on the posts. You can also email me at

So please enjoy the blog! I will post something new every other day or so, so please check back frequently!

Slainte, Hazel