Monthly Archives: June 2014

Review of The First Blast of the Trumpet by Alison Campbell

Alison Campbell > ‎Marie Queen of Scots

Last night I finished reading First Blast of the Trumpet by fellow page member, Marie Macpherson and I thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next instalment!
It was interesting to read about a slightly earlier point in time, and I felt subtly immersed in the era, without feeling like I was being drowned in period detail.
But most fascinating was having these historical personages fleshed out into real people. I think when reading about history it’s easy to fall into a trap of seeing people as one dimensional white hats and black hats, or perhaps seeing only certain individuals as fully rounded. Knox rather suffers from that, too often just a beard, a brow and a wagging finger. Nothing beyond the dour and censorious. But of course, like everyone he had motivations, nuances, positives and negatives but as we don’t have much back story or even many accounts of him outwith his own, there’s little to fill that in, especially if we try to judge him through modern eyes. Marie’s book did a very good job of colouring in the outlines to give us the man.
The other main characters are also interesting and well drawn. Elisabeth and David Lindsay’s relationship and the story built around it leaves you willing it to be true. And I look forward to seeing more of some of the youngsters so far only briefly introduced.
Some of you not from here, and even some who are may have trouble with some of the Scots words and phrases scattered through the book. But you’ll get the gist of if and soon acclimatise All in all I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in this period and its most important players.

The Life of Lady Katherine Gordon

The Freelance History Writer

Woman in 16th Century Scottish dress ( Woman in 16th Century Scottish dress (

By all accounts, Lady Katherine Gordon was a beautiful woman. She was the daughter of a Scottish nobleman with royal connections and married four times, including to the pretender to the English throne, Perkin Warbeck. She was a witness to many important events in Tudor history.

Katherine was born c. 1474, the daughter of George Gordon, 2nd Earl of Huntly and his third wife, Elizabeth Hay, who was the daughter of the 1st Earl of Errol. Katherine was the great-granddaughter of King James I and therefore of royal blood. She most likely spent time at the Scottish court in her youth and received an education worthy of her rank. She may or may not have heard rumors and reports about the war being fought over the English throne.

In July of 1495, a young man arrived at the Scottish court of King James…

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John Knox, the Hall of Heroes and the Yellowlees

Marie de Guise-Lorraine 1515-2025

John Knox. Stirling, Wallace monument. Marble bust of John Knox in The Hall of Heroes. The National Wallace Monument, Stirling © A.B.

Within The National Wallace Monument near Stirling in Scotland, I really didn’t expect him to be present. But there he was, amidst the white marble portraits of Sir Walter Scott, of young Robert Burns, of Livingstone and many other famous Scotsmen : John Knox, the 16th century reformer, pamphletist and gifted orator. A protestant minister of Renaissance times amongst scottish stars and celebrities in science, industry, education and the arts. I guess his contribution to education granted him the honour to appear in the Hall of Heroes, which forms the second level of the Monument erected around 1860 andfollowing.  It is doubtful that Knox’s marble bust is much noticed, as most visitors – me included – don’t look for 16th century intellectuals but sword wielding national hero William Wallace :…

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In a nutshell: the Linlithgow Palace fountain

The fountain at Linlithgow Palace where ‘Ane Satire of the Three Estates’ was first performed in 1540.

The Hazel Tree

 Where wine once flowed like water…

James V's fountainBuilt by James V in 1538, this ornate fountain graces the courtyard at Linlithgow Palace.

Standing over 16 feet high and designed to reflect the supreme power of the king, it was probably fed by an underground water supply which was piped up to the carved crown at the top.

Water fell from the crown – suggesting the king’s benevolence – into tiered bowls and out through rows of spouts shaped like mythical beasts and human heads.  One of them is said to represent James V disguised as a peasant or ‘gaberlunzie’.

When Bonnie Prince Charlie visited Linlithgow in 1745, the fountain was made to flow with wine. This was probably not the first time it had happened – another source suggests James V had the same idea, on his marriage to Mary of Guise.

In 2007 the fountain was restored by Historic Scotland…

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Linlithgow Palace

The Hazel Tree

Inside the courtyard

When you walk around the hollow corridors and cold empty rooms of Linlithgow Palace, you could be forgiven for glancing over your shoulder into the dark corners and listening for footsteps on the stairs.

Often overlooked by visitors to Edinburgh and Stirling castles, Linlithgow doesn’t have quite the same groomed magnificence (it’s a burnt-out shell, after all) but it certainly has the history.  Built in 1425 by James I, its walls have seen generations of Scottish monarchs come and go – their births, marriages and deaths, their hopes, joys, fears, victories and losses.

Looking down to the courtyard Looking down to the courtyard

Queen Margaret’s Bower

It was at Linlithgow Palace, in April 1512, that the future James V of Scotland was born;  a year later, his father, James IV, faced the Earl of Surrey’s army at the Battle of Flodden Field while his mother, Margaret Tudor, watched from the high north-west…

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A sport for kings at Falkland Palace

The Hazel Tree

Falkland Garden 4Following on from my tour of the amazing Falkland Palace, I want to tell you how I managed to step back in time in the gardens…

Because it was only the end of March, the herbaceous borders were still very much dormant;   a wren was flitting around a leafless bush, and in the lawns hundreds of crocuses were opening up to the morning sun.

Falkland CrocusesSeeing Colin absorbed in photography, I suddenly remembered something I’d read about Falkland Palace – one of its original features – and I took myself off to find it.

Across a paved area, through a door and down a few steps… and there was the original ‘real’ or ‘royal’ tennis court, built in 1539 for James V.

Falkland tennis court (1)I’ve never seen anything like this before.  I was standing in the spectators’ area, a long corridor with openings down the length of one side, facing onto the court…

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write on

Neill Russell - Writer

Over the course of the week I attended the Write On Festival in Haddington’s Library.

Write On is a mini festival within the bigger Haddington Festival where authors from East Lothian are coming together to put on a series of events aimed at raising the profile of local writers in the county. Some of the authors taking part are, Roddy Martine, Debi Gliori, Gerry Urwin, Linda Strachan, Sally Collins (illustrator), Erin Kaye, Marie MacPherson, and Bill Graham to name a few, and they are being supported by many others.

The mini festival comprised of two events: Writers Aloud and Inspiring Writers. Writers Aloud was an evening of readings from fiction to poetry and non-fiction, while Inspiring Writers was a writers’ panel discussing all aspects of writing, publishing and what it’s like to be a writer. Both events featured local authors.

The Writers Aloud session featured an open-mic section at…

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