Friday, May 7, 2010

Scotland Before Scotland

The first few chapters in Magnus Magnusson's book, Scotland: The Story of a Nation is about the first Scots, the Celts and Picts and ancient Gaelic tribes who fought against the vikings and the Romans. He talks of how the Romans came and tried to invade Britain and how they fought back. The Romans under Agricola tried to invade Scotland but found that the natives were none to happy with that. They met people like Calgacus who I talked about in an earlier post.

There were three tribes in the Lowlands at the time. The Votadini were in the east in Lothian with their capital Traprain Law. The Novantae in the south west (this in Dumfries and Galloway area now.) And then between them form Eskdale to the Cheviots was the Selgovae. This was really the beginning of tribes in Scotland, later to be known as clans. They were described as feuding tribes, unless they were threatened, at which time they would join together and fight their common enemy. This happened when the Romans came to conquer them. Calgacus and others who fought against them, were forced to gather together all the men they could, weather they were from feuding tribes or not. It was much the same throughout Scotland's history. And, of course, once the battle is over, they go back to fighting each other.

Then of course, you also have the wonderful standing stones from this time period, most still standing today. Eventually, I will write a whole post on some of the standing stones in Scotland. If you want to read up on them, There is a whole chapter devoted to famous stones in David R. Ross' book Desire Lines. Apart from the standing stones, there were also several burial mounds. One Magnusson mentions is the Maes Howe on Orkney. This one was quite a disappointment to the first people who stumbled across it, hoping for gold or jewels. These were Norse Crusaders who had dug a hole in the top to look around in the chamber, but were disappointed to find nothing of value in there. So they wrote a wee message on the wall to tell everyone else that there was nothing worth looking for in there:

To the north-west a great treasure is hidden. It was long ago that a great treasure was hidden here. Happy is he who finds the great treasure. 
It is surely true what I say, that treasure was taken away. Treasure was carried off in three nights before these Jerusalem-farers broke into this howe

I love how blunt they are. And how they admit right plainly that they broke in.

It really a shame we don't know more about the early Scots, but it's that way with all ancient peoples, and they didn't really have many records back then.

To go along with this post, here's a link to a website with a video of David R. Ross giving a wee tour of a church in Scotland that once had Viking connections and is now housing some wonderful artifacts from that time period. 

Talk to you again Monday. Have a good weekend!

Slainte, Hazel

Monday, May 3, 2010

A new month

Amazingly enough May is already here and it is more then stifling where I am right now. (More reason to stay inside and research, I say!) Unfortunately, May is another month that is slow in historic happenings, and I do apologize, but as soon as June hits we'll have all kinds of interesting things to talk about. This is mainly because, back in the day warfare stopped during the winter before picking up again in the spring, so that is why most of the battles fought in Scotland, are fought during the summer months. Besides that, I have also started a new blog for young or beginning writers called The First Scribbles so I will also be writing for that this month. 

Right now, though I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite Scottish blogs, Scotland For the Senses. This is a beautiful, wonderful blog and would be enjoyed by anyone who loves Scotland. It's like a travel guide, but more creative. The author has started a wee book club for anyone who wants to join and we will be reading Magnus Magnusson's book Scotland: The Story of a Nation. This has always been one of my favorite books (the first one I really started learning Scottish history with) and I am excited to be able to finally read it cover to cover. For anyone else who wants to read it along with us, please do! Magnusson is a wonderful writer. He writes like he's telling a story, not just putting the facts on paper and when I read him, I feel he's talking to me and not just this stranger on the other end writing the words. He's also accurate which is very good because I have found many books that are NOT. But I have not seen any glaring mistakes in Magnusson's book.

Also, if anyone has anything specific they would like me to talk about this month, I am open for suggestions, so questions, comments and concerns are all very welcome. 

Slainte, Hazel