Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dundee (The Other John Graham)

So, since I am a little pressed for time, and I just realized that it is already the 30th of the month (:O) and I have still not posted all I wanted to, instead of writing a whole new thing about Dundee I would just post something I had already written on him. A while ago I wrote a short story (A VERY short story) about him for a contest. (I actually won that one too :) But this is a little different, but I thought you all might enjoy this wee story that's my tribute to the great man. John Graham. Bonnie Dundee!

Tale of a Hero

Roderick MacGregor piled more wood onto the fire to stave off the chill of the autumn night in the Highlands. Orange sparks flew into the air as the logs settled into place. He looked out at the glen now purple with the heather of the season that glowed in the setting sun. He closed his eyes for a minute and breathed deeply, remembering days long past when he had grown up in this same glen as a bairn.

He suddenly heard the sound of footsteps behind him and turned with a smile to see his twin son and daughter running toward him.

“Da, we want to help wi’ the fire!” said the little lad, Jamie.

“Of course ye do,” Roderick said and took the lass, Flora, into his arms. “And when ye’re done, I’ll tell ye a story before ye go to bed.”

“What kind of story, Da?” asked Flora as Roderick put her down again.

“Ye’ll just have to wait and see,” Roderick told her and smiled at the two again as they each took one of his hands and went off with him to pick up more kindling for the fire.

Once they got back and tossed all the branches and twigs onto the fire, the night had settled in, that gentle gloaming time when the earth held onto the last of the day’s light before letting it go until the next morning. Flora and Jamie danced around the fire, watching the sparks fly off into the night. Their mother came out of the cottage they lived in and stood with a small smile as she watched her children play.

“Shouldna ye two be in bed?” she asked them, raising an eyebrow.

“But Ma, Da said he would tell us a story!” Jamie said and stuck his bottom lip out.

“Please can we stay up?” Flora begged.

“Let the wee ones stay up for a few minutes, Aileen,” Roderick told his wife. “I think they need to hear this story.”
Aileen smiled at the young ones and nodded her head. “All right, ye young rogues, ye can listen to yer da’s story.”

“Yeah!” Flora and Jamie ran to Roderick as he sat on a log by the fire and he took them up upon each knee.

“I want to hear a story about fairies, Da!” Flora said.

“No fairy stories tonight,” Roderick said.

“Is it a story about William Wallace?” Jamie asked excitedly.

“Not about Wallace,” Roderick told him. “This is a story about another great Scottish hero. One who always did what he thought was right for his king and country. Now, ye have to understand, my wee bairns, that some people may tell ye he was the villain, but they never knew the real story; never knew who he really was.”
“Are ye going to tell us the real story, Da?” Jamie asked, his eyes already wide.

“Aye, I am,” Roderick told him. “Ye see, this story happened when I was about your age. Yer Granda fought in the war that came about because of the trouble brewing in Scotland around that time. Ye see, my wee ones, Scotland was in a bit of a mess with the controversy of the Covenanters and all that, but ye’re too young to understand all the politics behind it so I’ll just tell ye what happened. Ye’ve heard my stories about the great Montrose who fought for good King Charles, havena ye?”

“Oh aye,” Jamie shook his curly head. “He was a great warrior.”
“Aye, that he was,” Roderick smiled. “Well, the hero of this story is his descendant. He was a great military commander and started off his career fighting in Holland until war with the Covenanters brought him back to his own country. Our hero loved Scotland, so he gathered all the loyal men he could find and fought for her right.”
“Just like Wallace,” Flora said excitedly. “Right, Da?”

“Aye, just like Wallace, mo chridh,” he said and kissed her on the nose. “And just like Wallace, he refused to serve a false king. His king, Scotland’s king, was James, and he fought for his right to the throne. When he was called to the banner of his rightful king, he knew he would never give up until the war was over or death took him.”

“Like a true Scotsman!” Jamie cried and grinned.

“Aye, lad. He certainly had a true Scottish heart. When King James tried to get the throne, it resulted in many battles, eventually causing the king to have to leave Scotland and sail for Ireland.”

“Oh, Da, he came back didna he?” asked Flora.

“I have to finish the story,” Roderick told her with a grin. “Our hero never gave up hope though. He still fought with his loyal men, having all kinds of adventures. Once he even scaled the rocky face of Edinburgh castle to talk to the man who was holding it for King James.”

“That must have been hard!” Jamie exclaimed even though he had never seen Edinburgh castle before.

“Aye, it was, lad,” Roderick told him. “But our hero did it. Before long he was outlawed for fighting against the English king and a price was put on his head. This didn’t stop him from fighting for what he knew was right, though. He gathered more men from the Highlands, Camerons under the Chief Lochiel, and marched out to meet the foe.”

“Was there a big battle, Da?” Jamie asked excitedly.

“I’m getting to that,” Roderick assured his son. “The English were scared at the force he had gathered and sent a regiment under the command of MacKay to send them packing. They met at the Pass of Killiecrankie, our hero appearing to the traitors over the top of the hill. He and his men, having the high ground and a strong cavalry charge, made it immediately clear to MacKay that they had the upper hand.”
“Because a Scotsman can always fight better with a hill at his back, right Da?” Jamie asked. “You always told me that.”

“Aye, that’s right. And they did have a braw charge at that! MacKay’s troops tried to hold them off, but as soon as the Highlanders charged down the hill, the Sassenachs lost their nerve and ran away.”
“So the Scots won, right Da?” Flora asked.

“They did,” Roderick told her. “But their victory came with a price. Many of the men were killed and our hero unfortunately was shot in the charge.”
“No!” Jamie cried and Flora grabbed Roderick’s hand.

“He died,” Roderick told them. “But he died leading his men intae battle, and there is nothing unworthy about that. His men carried him off the field and the piper played him a fine pibroch called Lochaber No More, you’ve probably heard it before. And he had a hero’s funeral.”

“But what happened to the war, Da?” Flora asked. “Did James ever become king?”

Roderick shook his head. “Nae lass. But I dinna want ye two to despair. Someday, Scotland will have her own king again and it will be men just like the ones I just told ye about who will make it happen.”

“What was the hero’s name, Da?” Jamie said suddenly. “Ye never said!”

“He’s known by many names,” Roderick told them. “The English called him ‘Bloody Claver’se’ because they made up rumors that he was a butcher and killed men mercilessly.”

“That’s no’ true though, is it, Da?” Flora asked.

“Of course no’,” Roderick shook his head. “The Scots wouldna follow someone like that. The Highlanders liked to call him the Gaelic name Ian Dhub Nan Cath, which means Black John of the Battles because of his black hair and his courage on the battlefield.”
“But what does everyone else call him?” Jamie asked.

“The normal people?” Roderick raised an eyebrow. “Well, his real name is John Graham, but ye know what the men who fought under him always called him?”

“What?” the two little ones asked with wide eyes.

“Isna it time ye get into bed?” Their mother, Aileen came out of the cottage and beckoned to them.

“Aw Ma!” Jamie whined.

“I let ye stay up long enough,” she said with a concealed smile. “It’s time for bed.”
Roderick stood up and took the two into his arms, carrying them back to the house. “Come on ye two. It willna do tae get yer mother mad!”

They complained as he tucked them into bed and kissed them goodnight. “Have sweet dreams my wee bairns,” he said to them.

“Da, wait!” Flora cried grabbing his hand. “What was his name? What did his men call him?”
“John Graham?” Roderick said. “For what he did for his country and his kindness, the men all called him Bonnie Dundee.”

And I have probably already told you this before, but read Rosemary Sutcliff's book Bonnie Dundee. As far as fiction goes, I don't think his story could be bettered.

Have a good day my feres and if I can, I will be back tomorrow with a post about Montrose. Weather it will be some heartfelt comments and drabbles or a little information, I don't know yet.

Slainte, Hazel

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sir John Graham

Sir John Graham (not to be confused with John Graham of the 17th century, who I usually refer to as Dundee to avoid confusion!) was the lad who fought alongside William Wallace and would have gone with him all the way, to the Smithfield itself if it had not been for his untimely death.

John Graham was born in Dundaff Ayrshire. His exact birthdate, as usual for common people of this time period, was not known. I also do not know when he met Wallace, I personally like to think that they met somewhat early on, seeing as they grew up about forty miles apart from each other. This was a long distance back in the 1300s, but at the same time, if hardship came up, families would get together so they could make a stronger stand. Nigel Tranter, the famous Sottish novelist, had Wallace and Graham become friends not long before his campaign after John's father refuses to help the young patriot. As a lot of Wallace's life, much is speculation. That is why, though I love William Wallace, he is a very hard person to write about accurately. Everyone seems to have their own ideas and stick to them until death!

However, their friendship started, it was very strong. They were true comrades in arms and they stood shoulder to shoulder in the many fights of Wallace's campaign for freedom. After the death of Wallace's other companion, Andrew Murray, I believe that Graham worked even harder.

Not much more is known about John, except that he died on the fields of Falkirk in that fateful battle where Edward Longshanks beat the Scots back using brute force. John Graham was left for dead, when Wallace found him and it is well known that he wept over the body of his dear friend.

In Blind Harry's epic, The Wallace, there is a segment for Wallace's lament for John Graham. I remember reading it a while ago, but I was not able to find a link for it on the internet, so if you want to look for it, be my guest. After John's death, he was taken to the churchyard of Falkirk and buried there. The gravestone on his tomb, bears this inscription:

Here lies Sir John the Grame, baith wight and wise
And of the chiefs who reschewwit (rescued) Scotland thrice
Ane better knight not to the world was lent
Nor was gude Grame of truth and hardiment

There's an area in Falkirk called Grahamston and it is named after Sir John Graham. There's also a monument to him at Victoria Park, with a block of granite at the base and a Lion Rampant on the top of it. This was put there in 1912 and paid for by Robert Dollar. The inscription says that John Graham fell in the spot, but it is unlikely.

So, John Graham was a great hero of Scotland's Wars for Independance and he should be remembered along with all the others as a true son of Scotland!

I'll be back later this month (hopefully before it ends!) to talk about Montrose and Dundee!

Slainte, Hazel

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Paddy's Day 2011!

Have a grand St Patrick's Day out there any of you Irish who might be reading! Even if you're not Irish, remember that St. Patrick was actually Scottish!

Next year, you can wear one of my lovely t-shirts from my online store, History Buffs Unlimited!

I also suggest you treat yourself this St Patrick's Day and buy The High King's new album "Memory Lane". It's very good, and I suggest it highly!

Here's a couple other Irish songs for you to enjoy in the meantime:

And one of my favorites at the moment:

Highland Paddy (It's about the Irish who had been living in Scotland and went back over to Ireland to fight for their own people)

Share your favorite Irish song with me this week! Drop me a comment or email and let me know!

Erin Go Bragth Everyone!

Slainte, Hazel

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Clan Graham

Well, I said I would try to write more than I did last month and things just keep preventing me (mostly myself!) I've been working on too many things, and I was not home all weekend, so it builds up after a while. However, today I am going to tell you about the Clan Graham.

Whenever there was a battle to be fought for the good of Scotland, you could find a Graham there. Sir John Graham who fought with Wallace, James Graham the Great Marquis of Montrose and his descendent, John Graham known as Bonnie Dundee. They were fearfully loyal, would fight to the death as many of them did, and would never give Scotland up to tyranny.

The Grahams actually came from Norman stock like the Bruces, and the first Graham in Scotland was Sir William de Graham. The names derives from Grantham in Lincolnshire. Sir William de Graham accompinied David I on his way to claim the Scottish crown and also witnessed the charter founding the Abbey of Holyrood in 1128. His line of Grahams were that of Montrose. Those who have always fought for the king.

Tha Grahams took no part in the Jacobite troubles of '45 however, but James Graham 3rd Duke of Montrose pleaded with parliament to repeal the Disarming Act; the law that forbid the Highlanders to wear their tartan.

The Graham's badge shows a falcon Proper killing a stork Argent. For those of you who do not know heraldry, you can see a picture of it here as well as other information regarding Clan Graham. The clan motto is Ne Oublie. It's French, likely something from Sir William being a Norman, and means "Do not Forget". This was also the Graham's war-cry when going into battle.

The clan plant badge is the spurge-laurel, I couldn't find a picture of that, but I'm sure you can look it up. The Graham tartan, as registered in the Vestiarium Scoticum is a green tartan with black plaid stripes. A very simple tartan by comparison to others.

The Chief of Clan Graham is known in the Gaelic as An Greumach Mor or The Great Graham. The Chief resides at Buchanan Castle now, though in the old days, he lived in Mugdock. However, most of them owed several different places. Montrose did for example.

I will promise to at least be back next week to tell about some famous Grahams. If you think of any famous Grahams would would like to know more about, please let me know and I will do my best!

Slainte, Hazel

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gallant Grahams

Well, I apologize for the not very epic petering out of the MacGregor month. That's what you're just going to get when I'm writing! ;-) But I did a lot of Rob Roy last year, so if you want to read about the most famous MacGregor, look back to some of my earlier posts.

This month, however (and I will try to write a bit more this time) I am going to focus on Clan Graham. Right now I am reading Nigel Tranter's amazing novels on James Graham, the first Marquis of Montrose and I wanted to share a little bit of his story with everyone, so I decided to do a Graham month. We will also be talking about the many John Grahams and how they turned the tide at many battles. (I will also try to tell you a good way to keep them strait!)

The next post, I will write a little of quick information about the clan itself. If you have any questions or comments, are from Clan Graham or you want to know about a particular Graham, just let me know, and I will do my best!

Slainte, Hazel