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Barons of Scotland Pave Way for Declaration of Independence

Seals of Scotland’s bravest & finest: crests shown: Cheyne of Duffus, Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, and Gilbert de la Hay, Baron of Errol in Gowrie

BARONS OF SCOTLAND PAVE WAY FOR DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
700 Years since Declaration of Arbroath 1320: Food for Writerly Thought in 2020

For so long as there shall but one hundred of us remain alive we will never give consent or subject ourselves to the dominion of the English. For it is not glory, it is not riches, neither is it honours, but it is liberty alone that we fight and contend for, which no honest man will lose but with his life
Barons of Scotland, April 6th, 1320 Aberbrothock

Arbroath, former Aberbrothock, is an historic royal burgh (town), North Sea fishing port, and holiday resort in the county of Angus, Northeast Scotland. Dundee, home to RSS Discovery (Capt.Robert F Scott’s frozen Antarctic vessel),jute, jam and journalism, lies 15miles south. Aberdeen 50 miles north.

It is famous today for Arbroath smokies—or smoked haddock ‘kippers’. And for its mediaeval Abbey, once foremost (richest) cathedral church and chief Benedictine monastery in the realm.

Founded 1178 by King William the Lion for Thomas à Becket, Arbroath Abbey served by 14thC as both secular parliament and most revered religious hub


Arbroath Abbey, the richest and most influential religious center in the North, was founded in 1178 by King William I, the Lion, of Scotland, who chose to be buried there. The Declaration of Arbroath, asserting Scotland’s independence from English rule, was a letter written 700 years ago this week to the (French) Pope by Bernard de Linton, Abbot of Arbroath and Chancellor of Scotland.

It is one of the great icons of the Scots, written in Latin to the Pope in Avignon, and signed by eight earls and 31 barons of Scotland. They plead with him to rescind excommunication—which the Roman Catholic church had just imposed on the King of Scots along with his earls and nobles, based on claims by the English king Edward. They ask him to acknowledge Scotland as an independent nation—which eventually he does.

It has been claimed to serve as model for slave-owning American landowners in their 1766 Declaration of Independence, but history may dispute that.

It was signed by Nobles and Parliament at Arbroath Abbey—richest and most elite religious and secular center of the land. Those nobles unable to attend sent their seals by messenger to the Chancellor to be affixed to the final document. The Declaration was then sent by sea from the small fishing port to Pope John XXII at his court in Avignon. It left the harbour—looking much as it looks today—in a small fishing vessel on April 6th, 1320, headed for Provence and the Mediterranean coast.

By then, as the nation’s supreme cathedral church, the Abbey was enlarged through 14th-16th centuries inkeeping with its grandeur. The Abbey church at that time boasted the nation’s largest known stained glass windows—in the south transept. It replaced nearby St.Vigean’s (Pictish 8thC heraldic/religious stone center) and was briefly home to Aberdeenshire‘s Monymusk Reliquary, believed to hold relics of St. Columba, now housed in National Museum of Scotland.

Cancelled Celebrations and Call for Loyalty in 2021
It is no surprise to learn that the City & Burghers of Arbroath have announced cancellation of their long-awaited “700 Years” Festival for this year, but have rescheduled festivities for 2021. Hurrah for the smokies!

Signatories included the Earl Marischal Robert Keith, Gilbert de la Hay Constable of Scotland, the Earls of Mar, Fife, Ross & Sutherland, & Lords of Brechin, Kincardine, Lovat & Saltoun. No seal represents the Comyn Mormaer of Buchan

Scots, wha’ hae wi’ Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome tae yer gorey bed,
Or tae victorie

Now’s the day, an now’s the hour:
See the front o’ battle lour,
See approach proud Edward’s power
Chains and Slaverie

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha will fill a coward’s grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn an’ flee

Wha, for Scotland’s King and Law,
Freedom’s sword will strongly draw?
Freeman stan’, or Freeman fa’,
Let him on wi’ me…
Robert Burns, 1793, recently used as SNP anthem

Words put in the mouth of Robert I Brus, self-proclaimed king of Scots, on eve of Bannockburn, 1314. Reason for papal decress: Bruce, a west-coaster claiming royal lineage, had murdered last Pictish Earl and Mormaer, John “Red” Comyn of Buchan, 1306 on the altar of Greyfriars church, Dumfries. His army of followers subsequently put torch to all Comyn hunting lands in N.E.Scots landmass: Buchan——modern Aberdeenshire——and the people spoke of the Herschip o’ Buchan Caledonian hunting forests,”burning for 30 years” i.e. fires were still smoking during Bannockburn; Comyn’s descendants did not sign the Declaration, above left; no signature represents Buchan or half the landmass of NorthEast Scotland on the document.
[caveat:In 242 sq.miles of Buchan ‘Broch loons’ and ‘Doric quines’ still feel this way aboot R the B]

The Round O and Reid Lichties
We sympathize with all Scots at this time, particularly celebrants in the coastal town—so-called Reid Lichties*—for their temporarily-suspended Festival because of Corona virus precautions. Councillors and festival organizers have proposed April 2021 as the month they will be “ready to roll” once again.

Distinctive round window high in the 15thC south transept, top, was originally lit up at night as a beacon for mariners aiming for the North Sea port. It is known locally as the ‘Round O’. From this maritime tradition inhabitants of Arbroath are colloquially known as *’Reid Lichties’ (Scots reid = red). Not to be confused with any other red light district.<3

Earth Week now Earth Month
April, as we writing fanatics know, is A-to-Z Challenge month—2020 Challenge sign-up closes April 5th. So my writing cohorts, Insecure or otherwise may forgive me for sidestepping our usual first Wednesday blog-hopping ritual—and daily wordcount—in order to give precedence to Scotland’s historical milestone. I feel Arbroath deserves the mention. There are many American descendants of those noble families whose seals deck the document who may feel inspired to visit the great Abbey after all this medical stuff has blown over. I hope they will.

And we writers KNOW—when the Muse speaks, we listen. We ignore her at our peril. So what’s a few missed sentences between the centuries?

Post scriptum: On Christmas Day 1950, the Stone of Destiny—used in recent centuries for royal coronations—was removed from Westminster Abbey, London. On April 11, 1951, the missing stone was found lying on the site of the Abbey’s altar at Arbroath.
©2020 Marian Cameron Youngblood

April 1, 2020 Posted by | blogging, culture, history, sacred sites, traditions, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Space Weather 30-year Storm: Earth fights back

Frozen in mid surge

I need hardly remind residents of Scotland that we have only just weathered the thirty-year storm. Most households living through four solid weeks of sub-zero temperatures in an Atlantic weather zone (even with the miracle of central heating) will remember this winter (and last month especially) for many years to come.

Fortunately our civilization has advanced enough so that we experienced minimum electrical ‘outages’, despite heavy snow, icicles and ice on power lines. There were, however, multiple power ‘surges’ and computers countrywide were frozen in mid surge. Mac and pc-owners and related computer businesses are still counting the cost. Curry’s have been doing a roaring trade in replacement laptops!

It seems to have hit a lot of young ones harder than they might have thought: not that closing schools and cancelling bus and train services are a hazard; more time to make snowmen, play and enjoy winter sports, you might think. Lack of reliable public transportation, however – counting on any public services, in fact – four weeks without refuse collection borders on neglect, were commuters’ and householders’ concerns. Abandonment, remoteness and surprise at being cut off suddenly are what hit the teens hardest, I think because they are unaccustomed to having their social life curtailed by ‘weather’ and few had experienced conditions such as these in their young lives.

Some of us older oldies remember the winter of 1981/2 with shivering empathy; electrical failure, power cuts, snow drifts higher than houses; evacuating and rescuing neighbours, birds frozen overnight in trees. But that was back in the Thatcherite era, before the internet, when we didn’t EXPECT everything to run on time, snow ploughs to get through, petrol in cars not to freeze.

Human culture has changed in nearly 30 years: Even in the modern backwater of Aberdeenshire, the County of no motorways, the self-styled Oil Capital of Europe.

Tea Clipper Thermopylae was built in Aberdeen by Walter Hood for the White Star Line

For those unfamiliar with our ways, this corner of Scotland – the Northeast triangle between Rivers Don and Dee and the balmy Moray Firth – has always flourished, but more than that, it looks after its own. Rather, I suppose, like Geordies idolizing their working-class heroes that went ‘down the pits’ or Scousers joking ‘don’t bomb Iraq; nuke Manchester’. Parochial in the extreme.

Unlike some other lesser-urban metropolises, however, (Dundee, Perth, Stranraer), Aberdeen has always pulled through its hardest times: Dundee used to be known (an age ago, when the world was young) for its Jute, Jam and Journalism. Now it is home to none of these; but it has Robert Scott’s ‘Discovery‘, the Tay Bridge and it’s on the way to St. Andrews, which every golfer in the world has heard of; i.e. it participates peripherally in tourism, but some of its poorer districts are in appalling shape.

Perth floods every year and millions of national money poured in to rescue low-level housing has been a nightmare. Stranraer we won’t go into. It’s no longer on the way to anywhere.

Then there’s Aberdeen.

Perched on the westernmost limb of the North Sea’s mild Gulf Stream current, its dry climate (usually, rain from the west is captured by the Grampian mountains before it reaches the plain) and its remarkable latitude (57ºN2ºW ), akin to central Alaska, give it a climatic anomaly. Its farming hinterland was rich in Neolithic times and has grown richer.

Tall Ships Race reenacts 19thC sailing contest in the Clipper tea trade


A century and a half ago the city was hub to a thriving fishing industry; its harbours built, housed and skippered trawlers, tall clipper ships, deep sea schooners and whaling vessels. Thermopylae and Elissa were built here. Names like Alexander Hall & Sons, John Lewis and Sons, the Devanha Fishing Company sprang from everyone’s lips. As a merchant marine capital it was second only to Glasgow in Scotland and Liverpool south of the border.

Aberdeen, however, was never one to have only one egg in one basket: it was also the sole exporter of granite to needy growing urban centres: London streets were indeed paved with (Aberdeen granite) gold. Craigenlow quarry at Dunecht supplied the English capital with tons of its ‘cassies’ or granite sets – hand-cut granite blocks the size of a gingerbread loaf – to meet the demands of a city experiencing growing Victorian traffic problems. If they had but known…

At the height of Georgian expansion, Aberdeen city burghers were so wealthy, their coffers overflowing from the ocean tea trade, the Baltic route, their fishing ports supplying Europe’s tables (nowadays it’s the other way around), their granite exported the world over; that they chose to beautify: and the mile-long boulevard known as Union Street was built in 1801-05. This grandiose gesture – a feat of engineering which levelled St. Catherine’s Hill and carried the extra-wide thoroughfare across arches built over the previous lower Denburn and ancient market Green – almost bankcrupted the burghers, but brought the city fame to add to its already growing fortune.

Danzig Willie's Craigievar

As early as the mid-18th century, Aberdeenshire’s famous Baltic merchants continued to bring their fortunes back home; so the county continually thrived, regardless of the ups and downs of a world economy. Robert Gordon (1688-1731), founder of the Robert Gordon Hospital, now RGU, was famous for lending money made in the Danzig trade to Aberdeen businessmen who needed large working capital at even larger rates of interest. ‘Danzig Willie’ Forbes ploughed his fortune from the Baltic trade into the building of exquisite Donside château Craigievar between 1610-1625 on the family estate of Corse, when he was already landowner of Menie estate on the Belhelvie coast north of Aberdeen. John Ramsay, an Aberdeen merchant in 1758 built his palladian mansion at Straloch. Others followed suit. The county is today littered with stately Renaissance piles and Georgian mansions more appropriate to the valley of the Loire, the home counties or the wilds of Gloucestershire.

Within this mix stir a couple of ancient universities – one founded in 1495, the other in 1593, both fostered and supported through the centuries by Aberdonian merchant success.

The world joke about the Aberdonian who watches his pennies is not entirely untrue. And the tradition goes back farther than the fifteenth century.

Aberdeen Harbour shipping with ice floes in the 1920s

Even more relevant to the characterization, perhaps, is the fact that Aberdeen Harbour (presently run by the independent entity Aberdeen Harbour Board) is in fact the oldest running business enterprise in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, having been founded by charter signed by King David I in 1136. The business head of the kingdom resides on the edge of the North Sea.

But the bell tolled. The fishing industry worldwide killed its own small fry: when container ships and tankers beheaded sailing vessels, similarly Icelandic and Norwegian refrigerated freighters signalled the death knell for trawlers and owner-operated fishing boats; and Aberdeen’s shipbuilding days were over.

In the early 1970s, Britain was experiencing the three-day-week, unemployment stats for the country were the highest then known, and even the granite industry declined. Its clients metamorphosed from those who appreciated polished stone to faceless ‘councils’ and ‘road departments’ which required the precious quartz and gneiss resource to be ground into dust-like fragments which could be mixed with tar and spread in increasing quantities on the nation’s arteries.

It looked as if Aberdeen, like every other Scots city, might founder on the rocks of history.

North Sea Oil baled Aberdeen out on the death of shipbuilding and fishing

Then, lo and behold, along came oil. Bubbling up from below the North Sea in 1971, another industry was born. And the ‘silver city with the golden sands’ was perched on the shoreline, ready to receive it.

It is said that because of its very geographic isolation the county learned to take care of itself. And its humour has a lot to do with its character.

Now that there is talk of worldwide recession and dwindling of the oil resource, the current Aberdonian humorous response is ‘oil goes out, Donald Trump comes in’. This refers to the New York entrepreneur’s £1 billion golf course resort where sand dune reinforcing work has just begun on the very landholdings of Menie once owned by Danzig Willie. Aberdeenshire is not averse to turning full circle. It has so far weathered many storms through centuries of change.

So how did we fare in this last Great Storm? How did the planet fare?

Greece had 100ºF temperatures at Christmas and Abu Dhabi and Dubai had HAIL the day before the launch of the 2,717-feet Burj Khalifa tower in the first week of January.

Scotland and Aberdeenshire in particular were at the time experiencing the grip of an Arctic winter, with traffic on all roads down to minimum and gritting and snow-ploughing said by Council spokesmen to be ‘impossible’. While they reported worries that supplies of salt from the Cheshire salt mine might be exhausted, citrus orchards throughout the state of Florida were hit by snow and frost lingered long enough to decimate their total citrus crop for 2010.

At the same time Mount Nyamulagira in a sparsely populated area of the Democratic Republic of Congo erupted, threatening an enclave of rare chimpanzees.

Eureka and Haiti had 6.5 and 7.2 Richter earthquakes respectively, while inland Northern California and Southern Oregon, usually inundated with snow, received not one drop. States of emergency were declared for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco and Siskiyou counties and as the rainstorm headed east, floods swamped the Arizona desert, threatening homes and killing migrant birds. Las Vegas, Nevada had more rain in two days than for the total year of 2009 (1.69 inches). Alligators in the Everglades froze to death.

France’s Mistral blew early this year, wreaking havoc and damage to vines and vineyards in southern départements of Lyon and Provence; the Riviera harbours of St Tropez and Marseille suffered damage to private yachts.

Since the snowmelt arrived in Scotland in mid January, it is superfluous to mention that the resulting floods have routed gutters and drains in cities and country towns and overflowed ditches in outlying country areas. Perth (again) and Inverurie, Huntly and Kintore were unable to cope with the deluge. These levels of precipitation bring Aberdeen’s rainfall statistics for the year 2009 to mid January 2010 to 101.23 inches, for a county normally experiencing 33.6 inches per annum.

The Earth doesn’t like what we’ve been doing to her in the last thirty years. She’s beginning to fight back.

January 26, 2010 Posted by | crystalline, environment, gardening, history, nature, organic husbandry, seasonal, weather, winter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments