Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Maine (USA) Highland Games

Jacqueline and I drove a wee bit north this past Saturday to attend the Maine Highland Games..

We met Douglas MacKay from Clan MacKay and had a very pleasant visit with him, during which he inquired about tablet made by Jacqueline. There were Johnston(e) and Maxwell border reivers in attendance as well as several other clans, and families, but (sadly) no MacLea/Livingstones.

One of the interesting facts I discovered while perusing the Maine Highland Games website, and following associated links is: "U.S. Census Data (2000) confirms that Maine has, per capita, the highest percentage of Scots descendants in the entire USA, and ranks third in the country for Scots-Irish descendants." For more information on the Maine Ulster Scots visit their website.

Finally, we saw some women "working" tweed, while singing waulking songs. I was able to take a photo of their song book, and yes, they knew the traditional fixing element for the tweed !!!

Until next time .... Slainte !!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Oor Alba Blog "header" with background picture

This post has nothing to do with Scotland per se (except that the picture was taken on the road between Ardbeg, and the Kildalton Cross) but if anyone is reading this blog, does the new banner, with the picture as background for text, "work"? As much as I like the picture I believe the text is too difficult to read. Comments appreciated.

ETA: reader response was that the "blue bells" banner was attractive but difficult to read. It has been replaced with the above picture of Loch Fynne, taken in Inverary.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Susan Robson Bryden (Lane)

This entry is dedicated to a woman I do not remember: my Grandmother. It's also dedicated to my mother, my Aunt "Doodle Mama" Edie, and mo bhean (my wife) Jacqueline for their support and encouragement.

My maternal grandmother, Susan Robson Bryden, born 1906 in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, Scotland, left Scotland at the age of 18, bound for Canada; to be (so I've been told) a domestic (indentured?) servant. From Canada she eventually moved to the United States where she met and married my grandfather, John C. Lane. Sadly, for me, she died when I was still a wee lad. But, as the embedded picture shows, she knew me.

During my Hogmanay 2009 trip to Alba I was blessed to be able to walk the street(s) that she would have walked in Coatbridge, and I was even guided to Buchanan Street, which is where she lived. Based on street number, I believe and residents of the area confirmed, the section of Buchanan Street where she lived is now the site of The Time Capsule, a public pool. It was suggested I take a bus to Airdrie and visit the library where I would find photographs of Coatbridge as it looked during my Grandmother's child hood. I took several pictures, for my own sense of history and connection, and have posted one of them, Buchanan Street circa 1967; I hope I am not stepping on copy-rights.

During our 2010 Feis Ile trip, I had hoped to visit Gourock,and Greenock.I could not explain why I wanted to visit those towns but for some reason they were calling. Regretably we did not visit either of those locations because it was suggested that we visit Stirling that day. I later learned why those towns were calling; it's probable Susan Robson Bryden left Scotland on a boat that left from either Gourock, or Greenock. I still hear them calling and hope to be able to access, on-line, any information that will tell me what ship she took and when she sailed. Then I will make it a goal to visit where she last stood, or at least be in the general area.

Over the years my mother, and her sister Edie (aka "Doodle Mama") have given to me, and my wife, various items that belonged to my Grandmother. Most of the items have been books, but recently were were given a wee butter dish that has a tiny thistle in its clear handle. Granted, none of these items is (probably) worth much money, but to me, they are piceless. I hope someday to meet my Grandmother; God willing, I will.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

As promised .. the last few days of Feis Ile 2010 trip

Mike writing: many apologies for the delay in this entry. As we mentioned in the last entry, dated 31-May, we had a bit of an adventure during the return to the USofA. Since then we've been busy and I was completely remiss in my obligations to readers of Oor Alba Blog; on the plus side I have been making a list of blog subjects that will keep me busy, and you reading, until our next only-God-knows-when trip home.

We left Islay on Saturday the 29th at approximately 2PM, via the ferry from Port Askaig. We wanted to leave from that port as the ferry passes by Dunlossit House and McArthur's Head Lighthouse. But between waking, packing, loading the car and boarding the ferry we had some time.

The first place we (re)visited was The Spar, in Bridgeend where we bought a wee book about Gaelic to add to our growing collection, and hopefully assist us in our goal of learning the language. Then we were off to Finlaggan, specifically to ask for information regarding Mulreesh, a now abandoned settlement that was in the Finlaggan area. We were provided some assistance and off we drove. Eventually though we encountered a gate, and rather than open it, drive through, close it and continue, I executed a 40 point turn in the one-track road and we headed back to the main road.

Back at the main road we decided to visit Caol Ila distillery but it was closed; I had completely forgotten the day was Saturday. So, we sat there for a while, chatting, writing, eating some snacks, and taking more pictures of The Paps of Jura. Soon enough though it was time to get into line for the ferry so we headed to Port Askaig.

After boarding the ferry, J sought shelter from the rather raw/windy weather in the lounge. I stayed outside taking pics (including even more of The Paps), chatting with other passengers, and waiting to see the lighthouse. Eventually we were back at the Kennecraig terminal and headed to our overnight destination, just a few miles down the road ... a (we believe) God ordained stay at Bluebell Cottage !!! BBC is very modern and our hosts, Iris and Graham Terry, were friendly, and helpful; we highly recommend BBC.

After settling in we asked about a place to eat and the West Loch Hotel was suggested. Graham called ahead and was told that if we "come right over we'll seat them in the back bar." Well we headed right over, were seated, and had a lovely meal, and conversation with 3 locals who were sitting at a table next to us. If they are reading this we thank you for making our evening so enjoyable and memorable.

The next day, after a great breakfast, we packed up and headed back toward Glasgow (where we would be staying with our friends Gordon and Margaret Campbell in Duntocher), stopping for petrol in Tarbert. As an FYI for our state-side readers, we paid almost 1pnd 30pence for a liter of petrol. There are 4 liters per gallon. Assuming a pound is worth about $1.50, you do the math. Yes, more than $6.00 per gallon !!! True to my form I spent several minutes chatting with folks I met in the station. I cannot express how much I love being in Scotland and talking to anyone who will talk to me. Then ,,, we were off.

It was about noonish that we arrived in Inverary and I wanted to visit the Loch Fyne Whiskies store, but we had to wait until 12:30. See the picture of the sign; I love it. Inside the shop I found a wee bottle of Inverleven that I purchased. Despite my love for Islay whisky I am also a fan of Lowland (go figure, eh?) and I keep a list of lowland in my wallet so I know what I am looking for whenever I have a chance to shop. With only a few minutes to spare on the parking meter we departed Inverary.

Arriving safely at Gordon and Margaret's in Duntocher, we visited for a while and then Gordon and I returned the car hire to the airport. Then we (Jacqueline and I) were treated to a dinner-out at a Chinese Restaurant, followed by a a few drams and conversation at the Campbell's home, until it was time to sleep. The next day we rose early, ate breakfast, packed and were conveyed to GLA. And you know what happened there.

God only knows when, or if, I or we, will ever make it back to Scotland. We pray that it will be so. We pray for an opportunity to live there, at least for a short time. One of the greatest blessings of our trip(s) is the friends we have made. We hope someday to be able to return the favor of hospitality if any of them visit the USofA.

God's blessings and peace to all we have met and who provided places to stay, advice, and more.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Left Alba, arrived USA, thanks to ...

For the past few days we have been without internet access as we made our way back from Islay to the USA. It's almost 9:30PM on May 31, 2010 and we have been back at oor wee cottage for about 2 hours.

The flight back was an adventure that began when we learned, at GLA, that our 10:40AM flight to Heathrow was cancelled !!! However, we were soon booked onto a 10:00AM flight into London's Gatwick airport and from there we took a bus to Heathrow and caught our connection as it was boarding.

My (Mike) next post will be about the last few days of our trip. Subsequent posts will be further thoughts regarding some of what we saw and did, or hope to see and do in the future. After that ??? So ... come back soon.

Thanks to our families and friends (on both sides of the Atlantic) that encouraged, hosted, and supported us.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday night 8:45PM entry

This will probably be the final entry during the trip. We leave Islay tomorrow and between then and Monday night, when we are back in the states, we do not anticipate any ability to be "on line". However, we will post more entries following our arrival back in the USA. We have been very busy up until very late at night, and as explained earlier we must access the wifi at a local pub. So, that's why our blog postings have not been as frequent as we would have preferred.

Briefly, these are the events of the past few days:

We drove to Kilnave/Loch Gruinart, the site of the Kilnave Cross and the battle of Traigh Ghruineard in 1598. Traigh Ghruineard was the last major clan battle on Islay. There is much more to it (and I will post more in the future) but here is a summary: One side killed the clan chief of the other, then sought refuge in a chapel. The now-chiefless clan burned the chapel. The site is also known for its cross which is beautiful in its own right but perhaps not as well known as the Kildalton cross. Later that day we attended a Gaelic Concert in Bowmore. The performers sang, danced and play various instruments such as accordion, pipes, and clarsach (Gaelic harp).


We started our day by doing laundry. Later that day we visited our friends Maggie and Robin Woodman at Samhchair, then drove down to the "Singing Sands" beach at Kilnaugton Bay. Maggie and Robin were instrumental in making our first visit to Islay a positive experience and we have kept in contact with them over the past year.

A special thrill that day was visiting Neil and Ruth McEachern of Keills, Port Askaig, Islay. We met them when we attended church at Kilmeny, and I had asked if anyone spoke The Gaelic. We were introduced to Neil and his wife. Neil grew up speaking The Gaelic, and was raised in a now abandoned village near Finlaggan, and we received an invitation to visit them in their home. So we did and what a pleasure it was to sit and hear about their lives on Islay and its history. We hope to be able to visit them again, soon, and perhaps speak more Gaelic than simply ciamar a tha sibh?


We drove down to Bunnahabhain distillery for their open day and to hear Skerryvore. We collected a free bottle of Black Bottle whisky, took some snaps and had fun. From there we drove to Port Nahaven where we ran into Alan Jenkins, my chess opponent from last year !!! He was kind enough to take a picture of us with Port Wemyss (weems) in the background. Then we stopped at An Gleann which served as the inspiration for Jacqueline's tablet business and followed that up with a long walk to Grimsay, an abandoned village some distance from Port Charlotte.

Well, that's it for now. The 'puter, running on batteries is low and I must be away. Please stay "tuned" as we continue to blog and provide more detail and information about our trip. I have not even been able to keep up with my journal: I am trusting the hundreds of photographs will jog my memory. Some of the better pics that are not blogged will be posted to my website, Flickr or Facebook.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wed (26th) and Thu (27th)

This is an early entry for May 26 and 27. We are planning on attending some night time events tomorrow (Wed) and Thursday; a Gaelic concert Wednesday in Bogh Mor ... Bowmore, and Clootie Dumpling Ceilidh in Port nah Abhainne ... Port Nahaven on Thursday so we might not have another blog entry until Friday night. Friday is our last full day on Islay before we return to Tarbert on the mainland, then to Glasgow and back to the USofA.

Meanwhile the weather has been very good most of the time. Breezy but sunny and cool.

Eilean Dhiura

Tuesday, May 25, 2010, 17:30 hours

Today we took the ferry Eilean Dhiura (Island of Jura) to ... the Isle of Jura !!! From Port Askaig it's only about a 15 minute ride. After you drive off the ferry your options are limited as there is only one primary road. There are some "off shoots" but for all intents and purposes your drive will be along a twisting-turning, upsee-downsee, most-of-the-time-one-track, and occasionally very rough road. We passed many folk riding bicycles, and a fair number of walkers, but I think you need to have much time and be in phenomenal physical condition to last more than a wee while.

The road is more than 30 miles long and runs along the coast through, or past settlements and wee villages, ruins many years old and some not so old. It's difficult to describe the landscape and a picture taken without a proper wide-angle lens cannot accurately depict what it's like to drive down a road that seems to be "in the middle of nowhere" and when you least expect it there is a house (new or old) or even a small group of houses, or a working farm, Many of these are situated
quite close to the water. Many more ruins, iron age and other, are accessible only by walking some distance.

I chatted with one native (he says he "belongs to Jura") that was training for a foot race that runs up/down several hills including The Paps and is about 17 miles. He says it takes him about 5 hours to do the course. He is a fisherman (I think he said the only one) and told me about a diver who gathers scallops. Others work for one of the several estates that own most of the land, or they work for the hotel. The population numbers only about 200 folk so you can see that much of the land is unoccupied.

We had lunch at a very nice bistro called "The Antlers". Jacqueline had a seafood bisque because there was no more Cullen Skink, and I had a venison burger. Dessert was Tablet Ice Cream and it was very good !!! We hope to get back to the Ardbeg distillery Old Kiln Cafe later this week for some Cullen Skink (Gordon rates theirs a "10") and Sticky Toffee Pudding.

I think that Jura, much like Islay, would require several trips in order to see most of the sites there are to see. I know that I am becoming more and more interested in walking out to many of the more remote, but historic, sites on both islands. This surprises me because I thought this trip would probably be my last to Islay. We shall see.

Shopping, Laphroaig, The Oa and Monument

Mike here ...

Another entry written, and posted, some time after the events. In this case I am writing at 08:00 Tuesday the 25th about yesterday, Monday the 24th. I had hoped to post Sunday last night but we were visiting friends and did not return to our flat until it was dark ... about 10:30PM and that was too late to visit the Ballygrant Inn to access their wi-fi.

Yesterday we headed into Bowmore to do laundry, a bit of grocery shopping and visit the bank. From there we would head to Laphroaig to pick up our "rent" (a free wee bottle of whisky) then on to The Oa and see the American Monument. Interestingly we visited Laphroaig,and the monument last year on a Monday.

Unfortunately the laundry is closed on Monday so we had to wash a few items by hand. The bank was a better experience; we walked into the bank and the young lady at the teller booth asked me "Back for another visit to Islay?". She remembered me from last year!!! We chatted about our trip, and the weather.Her husband is from Wishaw, and she told us that this past winter they were stuck at their home when the snow packed to ice and there was no ability to remove it so they waited for it to melt. From there we headed to the Co-op, a grocery store, to buy some needed items. The store is tiny compared to the typical store in the states and the aisle signs are in The Gaelic (first) followed by English. If I recall correctly, an interesting thing about some Gaelic words is there was/is no such word originally so the Gaelic word used is essentially the English word spelled in correct Gaelic grammar.

Groceries packed into the boot of oor wee car we headed to Laphroaig where Jacqueline was greeted by John Campbell, the distillery manager who said "You are the lady who sent the tablet to me?" They chatted for some time and were eventually joined by Simon Brooking, Master Ambassador for Beam Global. Eventually we entered the Visitor Centre to receive our rent and then we were off to The Oa (pronounced "Oh") and American Monument. Last year when we visited the Monument it was windy, gray and overcast so the pictures we took have a gray haze in the background. This day started as the same but the ckouds and haze cleared and it was spectacular, although very windy.

Following that we headed to Kintra (Kentraw) Farm to see if I could determine the location of some old ruined villages. We chatted with a young man who rode past on a bicycle who told us that the return (round trip) walk to the ruins takes about 3 hours. As we were planning to visit friends at Samhchair in 2 hours that walk was not going to happen. During our visit at Samhchair I asked about the walk and was provided a guide book but per the book, and Maggie who is familiar with the walk, it's not well marked, is rough and isolated, long (more than 5 miles, and about 4 hours time, return trip) and the area prone to sudden changes in weather. So, despite my desire to see the ruins it's not likely to happen this time round. I will have to plan it for another time and do it with someone who is familiar
with the area.

Today we hope/plan to take the ferry from Port Askaig over to the Isle of Jura ... about a 15 minute ride. That should be fun !!!

Church in Kilmeny, Bruichladdich Open Day

Mike here ... this being written at about 9:45PM on Sunday the 23rd, but probably not posted until Monday.

We had a busy day which started out with worship at the Kilmeny Parish Church, which dates back to about 1800. After the service we chatted for a while, outside, with a few of the parishioners and we were invited to pay a visit to one of the couples' homes. So, we will make the time for that ... it was a blessing and it is
exactly why we so enjoy Scotland. An added bonus is that The Gaelic is spoken in their home !!!

Following church was open day at the Bruichladdich Distillery, where we had lunch served up by the Nippy Chippy of fish and chips, meatburger (it seems a hamburger is in fact ham), 2 egg/spring rolls, CocaCola and Irn Bru for drinks. After that we met up with Gordon and Margaret Campbell and their friends Norrie and Claire. The weather was nice, but a bit breezy. We took a tour of the distillery, listened to music, watched highland dancing, etc. We also ran into Simon Brooking, who invited us to attend "The Gathering" of Friends of Laphroaig even though we were too late to have our own special commemorative pair of Wellies. So we did that at about
7PM then stayed for a while at the ceilidh afterwards.

When we left the ceilidh, and got into our car we were approached by a young man who asked if we were going to Port Askaig, which is approxinately 20 miles. We told him that we were not going to Port Askaig so he thanked us and began walking away. Jacqueline suggested that we could offer him a ride to Ballygrant which is on the way to Port Askaig. So, I rolled down the window and yelled "Oi, mate, we can take you to Ballygrant if that is helpful." He thanked us and got in. His name is Edward, he is Australian and he is actually staying in the Ballygrant Inn just down the road from us. Not sure why he mentioned Port Askaig ... perhaps because Ballygrant is not as well known as some of the other locations. In any case we were very blessed by his
company for the 30-45 minute drive. If you are wondering how it can take 30-45 minutes to travel less than 20 miles, it's because the roads are Islay roads and unless you are a tourtist there is nae hurry. One thing worth mentioning were the daft sheep that were wandering about in the "low" (there is also a "high road"and they are both on Islay, in Scotland) road. They are not easy to see in fog and at "dusk", but see them I did and I am thankful.

Tomorrow we will spend the morning in (Bogh Mor) Bowmore poking around while we wait for our laundry and go to the bank to convert some $ to pounds. We will also look for a bottle to share with Gordon, Margaret, Norrie, Claire, Maggie and Robin when we visit Samhchair to say "hi". If you've read OorAlbaBlog for long you might remember that last year we stayed at Samhchair, and that is where we met Gordon and Margaret.

Maggie and Robin were our hosts and asked us to visit them next time we were on Islay. Norrie and Claire are friends of Gordon and Margaret, who are becoming friends of ours. It helps that four of us share an appreciation of whisky, and all of us a love of Scotland and its history. Between Bowmore and Samhchair
we plan to revisit the American Monument on The Oa, and try to locate one of the abandoned villages near Kintra. It promises to be another busy day.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A special thanks to Pastor Marshall Cross, Michelle (his wife) and ...

the members of their church for welcoming us to their home and their fellowship.

We were unable to spend as much time with them as we would have liked, primarily because of the cancelled original flight, but we hope/pray to soon return to Scotland and enjoy their company.

God's blessings on you all !!!!

Drive frae Wishaw, Ferry tae Islay

Approx 8PM, Sat 22 May 2010

Jacqueline here; just beginning to recover from jet-lag and already missing Michelle and Marshall Cross, our dear friends in Wishaw, near Glasgow. Last night our home-away-from-home was a caravan in a garden near the ferry landing of Kennecraig (near Tarbert). This place had special significance to Michael and me so we knew we were highly blessed. The caravan sat down a gated woodland walkway, amidst shrub groves,
carpeted with bluebells and ferns. A wee brook circled round the back just beyond a daisy-dotted lawn. Our hosts were clearly gardeners, bird and critter lovers with many feeders hanging about where colorful birds flitted and fed; baby bunnies munched on the new grass and we were told to watch for deer in our backyard come morning. Lambs could be heard crying out to their mammas in the pasture beyond the woods. Inside the caravan we relaxed in a sun-drenched sitting room with hot tea
and ginger snaps upon arrival. I could have spent the rest of my days in this
lovely peaceful place but we were up at the crack of dawn today to catch our ferry to Islay.

We met up with Gordon & Margaret Campbell and their friends Norris & Claire who we
visited with throughout the 2 hour cruise. The weather has been fantastic; sunny, warm and clear. Once on Islay, we had lunch at Lagavulin Distillery's Open Day, then re-traced our steps of a year ago by visiting the remains of Kildalton Church with its famous Celtic Cross and ancient cemetary. We drove to Balygrant where our flat is located and now look forward to a good-night's rest and worship at nearby Kilmeney Church of Scotland in the morning, followed by Bruichladdich's Open Day festivities. Till then, cheerio!

Mike here:

I am posting this from the bar in the Ballygrant Inn, which has free wi-fi (I think though they expect you will purchase a dram, or a beer). More than 200 malts available for the tasting. My dram is Bruichladdich Peat because I've never had it and it was reasonably priced. I am "itching" to dram Ardbeg's Lord of the Isles but at more than 20 pounds per, I think I'll pass. J is back at our wee flat resting. It was a long day and she is tired. So am I but I want to update the blog, so here am I.

Yesterday's drive from Wishaw took about 4 hours (of driving time) but the scenery was spectacular; I think. I did not dare take my eyes from the road to look around all that often. I have not driven a manual transmission for some time and shifting with my left, driving on the left, steering wheel on right ... Well, I am grateful the drive was not longer because I was very tired when we arrived at our destination. In about 10 days I'll do it again, but in the other direction !!!

Outside of Glasgow the route I chose is primarily coastal but a significant portion (the A814 along Gare Loch and Loch Long) is rather narrow (not much more than 2 cars wide) and very windy. On one side are cliffs and the other a stone wall, then the Loch. Yikes. I would have liked to take a picture but there are few places to stop and those that exist come up very quickly and then are gone. So, no picture of that section but I did attach a picture of the A83 as it runs West between Arrochar and Loch Fynne. We stopped at a vantage point known as "Rest and Be Thankful". Well, we did and we were !!!

If you care to look at a map and follow the route (assuming I am correctly remembering from memory ... I do have it written down at the flat): M8 through Glasgow to A82 to A814 to A83.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Manual transmissions, Martyrs, Wallace, The Bruce

07:30 Friday, May 21, 2010

Yesterday we picked up our car hire at the airport so today we can drive to Tarbert and begin the Islay portion of our journey. What fun driving a manual transmission with right hand steering on the left side of the road !!!! God blessed me though and I made it back to Pastor Cross's house intact. It helped, greatly, that Pastor was ahead of me and I was simply following him. Just be sure, Mike, to enter the roundabouts from the left side !!!

Following that adventure we walked to the Wishaw train station, travelled to the Argyll Street station in Glasgow, walked to the Queen Street station and then on to Stirling where we visited the Martyrs monument, "stormed the castle" and paid our respects to Sir William Wallace. Stirling is a beautiful city with steep, narrow roads, olde houses, walls, gardens, etc. We could easily spend a day simply walking around looking at all there is to see.

The Martyrs monument is to remember the deaths, by drowning in the Solway Firth, of two young women who refused to renounce their faith. The castle is very imposing but far too large to take it all in with a picture when standing on the site. Additionally, after walking up the hill I am not sure how much energy anyone would have had left to mount a realistic attack. And if any are curious, no we did not tour the castle; it cost 9 pounds per to do so. Instead we enjoyed some Luxury Scottish Ice Cream and a bus ride (just under 4 pounds each for a return ticket) to kinda-sorta near the Wallace Monument.

Reaching the Wallace Monument required a bus ride to just outside the rear entrance of Stirling University followed by a walk of several hundred yards to the entrance of the monument grounds and then a very steep climb up the hill. Still, the view of the area in which Wallace defeated the English is impressive !!! Equally impressive is that hundreds of years before Wallace smashed the English, the Scots defeated the Picts in the same area.

Well, it's about 8AM and time to finish off this post so we can prepare for the 3-4 hour drive to Tarbert. Oh, by the way, the train back to Wishaw arrived at 10ish PM and it was still somewhat light with a very pretty blue sky.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

(Let Us Haste Tae) Kelvin Grove ... bonnie lassie o

Today we visited Kelvin Grove (museum) which has been a goal for several months after I visited Scotland in December. Gordon Campbell pointed out the museum and suggested I visit it. I told him we have a song called Kelvin Grove on CD. He began to sing the song. When I told Jacqueline about it we decided to visit, and the song has become a romantic favorite of ours. We made the journey via train and underground. Some of the staff were surprised to hear there is a song called Kelvin Grove. But now they know. Following the museum (and grounds, surrounding area visit) we travelled back to Glasgow central to head off toward the other destination for today .... Crown Street.

My cousin Kyle MacLea has researched our family (my father's side) and learned that a Peter McLea lived on Crown Street in a settlement/area of Glasgow known as Hutchesontown, across the River Clyde from Glasgow Green. I told him that I'd make point of walking to that area and taking a picture. Kyle, the attached is for you. Slainte !!!!

Dun Eideann (Edinburgh)

I spelled the Gaelic for Edinburgh from memory. Apologies if it's incorrect. One of the challenges we are facing is maintaining our personal journals of the trip, this blog, etc. while making certain to "do" what is to our mind the very reason for this trip; spend time with friends, old and new, so that we build relationships. This blog entry is rather "rushed" because we need to start our day so we can return and attend Wed evening church with Pastor Cross and his family. At the service we will meet even more new friends.

It's Wed morn, 19th, about 08:30. Yesterday we travelled to Edinburgh to visit Scott Miller. John Colvin, from Dumfries, joined us. Pastor Cross conveyed us to the train station in Motherwell where we would begin our day of travel. I was keen to see if any of the folks I had chatted with in Dec/Jan would be there. We entered the station and I immediately recognized Andrew and Garry. As soon as I began speaking, Andrew remembered me. Then Garry, standing several feet away, pointed at me and said "It's you !!!". So that was a great start to our journey. The train ride lasted only about 45 minutes and we quickly found Scott, and John, at the Sir Walter Scott Memorial. John attended University in Edinburgh, and is a virtual encyclopedia of information about the history, and places so it was a fascinating and educational day in Edinburgh.

We began oor tour by climbing the almost-300 steps to the top of the monument. From there to Grassmarket, Greyfriars Kirk, Flodden Wall, Martyrs Monument, Netherbow Port, National Museum of Scotland (quickly ... we plan/hope to return and spend at least a day in that one building), Calton Hill, etc. I know not how far we walked but it was quite a distance. There was much to see and "drink in" including a bottle seen, but not drunk, of Campbeltown whisky which had a price tag of 50,000 pounds. You read that correctly: 50,000 pounds ... approx 75,0000 dollars !!!

Today we are heading to Kelving Grove, as well as the center of Glasgow, and it's now 900AM so I must sign off.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Praise God ...we arrived safely

However, last night at almost 9PM there was a chance the flight would be cancelled due to the ash cloud. But it was not, thank God. We were picked up at the airport and are now being well cared for at the home of Pastor Marshall Cross. Tomorrow we are off to Edinburgh. Very tired now though so time to go to sleep. It's just after 8:30PM and still very light.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

In less than 12 hours we will try again ....

Another trip to the airport, check in, security, boarding, etc. Our friends are confident we will be in Scotland tomorrow.

It has been suggested we try to extend the trip "on the other end" by a few days. It's a tempting suggestion but we would need to arrange accomodations for us, and even if we were offered a free place to stay it would cost extra pounds if we wanted to actually do anything or go anywhere.

Additionally, (The) Ghillie, oor 6YO Border Collie, is being boarded and extending our trip would require the boarder being able to board him, I provided only enough food for the expected journey (short sighted?) and it would cost more $$$. Still, I should probably prepare more food for him and give it to our Pastor just in case.

After all, God's ways are not our ways.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

God's ways are not oor ways (Isaiah 55:9)

When our Pastor dropped us off at the bus station for yesterday's ride to Logan Airport, just prior to his leaving us he prayed for our safety. Safe we are ... but not as we expected. We expected that God would safely see us to Scotland. That's not how it happened.

Just after boarding the aircraft it began, unexpectedly, to rain. Hard and heavy. Then thunder and lightning. It was during this unexpected delay the problem with an engine was observed. Ultimately the flight was cancelled so we are safe in oor wee cottage, waiting until tomorrow when we head back to Logan, and hopefully, successfully to Scotland.

Jacqueline's family recently suffered a tragic loss and her (Jacqueline's) mom is very relieved that we are safe. So are we. Again, not as we expected, but safe. As is everyone else that was on that plane ... and it was full of men, women and (some very young) children. Thank God for that rain, eh?

Of course arriving 2 days later than expected requires a change in our plans but we remain hopeful we are merely delayed rather than blocked.

Flight was cancelled

After several delays due to continued engine trouble, our flight was cancelled at 03:00AM. We retrieved our baggage and waited in a loooooooonnnng, virtually unmoving "rebooking" line for approximately 45 minutes before I was provided a telephone number to call. Our flight has been rebooked for Sunday night, same time, flight #, etc. I will have to contact our hosts, etc. and let them know about the new plan, although I did speak to Margaret Campbell. Meanwhile we are headed home to rest; we've not slept since we woke Friday morning, and have had nothing to eat since about 7PM last night.


It's generally best to learn there is engine trouble before your aircraft is thousands of feet above the ocean, and hundreds of miles from land. We are still @Logan @ 11:30PM. Probably at least another hour before the engine part is replaced. We will be missing our connecting flight to Glasgow.

Friday, May 14, 2010

If anyone is reading this ,,,

We are in Logan Airport, it's about 8PM, flight should be leaving in less than 2 hours. Hope to be able to post an entry at Heathrow but that will depend on the "freeness" of the interknot connection and how much power is in the 'puter battery. Our arrival time for Heathrow is approx 930AM local time. It is now approx 1AM London. Signing off for now.

Today is the day !!! Tha mi agus mo bhean a dol a Alba an-diugh.

If I phrased The Gaelic correctly it translates my wife and I are going to Scotland today. This entry is being made rather quickly due to the time limitations.

We will be in Alba for 18 days. Our friends Gordon and Margaret Campbell will pick us up and convey us to where we will stay for the first "leg" of the journey: the home of Pastor Marshall Cross, and his family, in Wishaw. We plan/hope to fellowship with Pastor, his friends, etc. and visit Kelvingrove Museum, a street that my cousin Kyle McLea has determined is where an ancestor lived and ??? We will also travel to Edinburgh, Greenock, Gourock, and Wigtown.

Following the Glasgow leg we will drive to Tarbert then take a ferry to Islay where we will stay for several days. While there we will revisit several of our "old favorites", see some new sites (Kilnave, Kintra, iron age forts, and Jura) and revisit friends we made last year.

God has been gracious to us and we anticipate spiritual blessings during this time. Thanks be to Him, families and friends who have been encouraging, and supportive.

Well, I need to sign off for now.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Heart and treasure ...

" ... where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21, NASB)

God willing my wife and I will be sitting in Logan Airport one week from tonight waiting for our flight to Alba.

Over the years my mother has given to me (and my wife) items that were owned by my Grandmother. Those items include a few books, and a knick knack that has a copy of the Lord's prayer printed on one side and "God grant me the serenity ..." printed on the other. Most recently my Aunt "Doodle Mama" Edie passed on to us a wee butter dish that was my Grandmother's. None of these items is worth much money but we treasure them more than words can say.

We hope God grants our wish and desire to live in Scotland ... even for a short time. My mother has told me several times that my Grandmother enjoyed living in the USofA but never lost her love for Scotland. I can say that even though I have only visited Alba twice I can appreciate that sentiment. We look forward to our return in several days and our visits with friends, as well as seeing familiar places and new places.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Irn Bru

For more than 20 years (indeed, perhaps most of my life) I have drunk a can/bottle of CocaCola each day with lunch. I thought it the best soft drink ever, no contest. Then I travelled to Scotland and tried Irn Bru. CocaCola had met its master. Bright orange in color, nice and sweet, and infused with caffeine, it meets my dietary lunch beverage requirements. And it's Scottish. What more could I want? Interestingly, I was told by a friend in Scotland that Irn Bru is the number one soft drink in Scotland and that has for years knotted the knickers of CocaCola. My only question is ... why orange and not blue? Regardless, I am committed to securing a source of my preferred beverage.

Links to Irn Bru, and a story about Coca Cola's desire to be #1.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pressing forward to the goal, more family information

Wow, has it been a month since my last entry? Time has flown.

We continue to plan our trip to Alba. It looks this time to last almost 3 weeks between the 2010 Feis Ile on Islay, and several days exploring the same sites that I saw during 2009 Hogmanay/New Year. The only thing left "to do" is book the flights and the car hire; we have arranged accomodations in all areas. We look forward, very much, to our return to Scotland.

As for family, I've begun digging a bit more vigorously into the paternal side of my family, where the names MacLea,and MacKay are represented. I will continue to research those clan names, my family and hopefully have the opportunity to take a picture or two of where they lived, much as I did in Coatbridge.

Sorry, no pictures this time.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Bagging" Scotland

This blog entry has been on my mind for several days, perhaps longer, since "Bagging Scotland" was brought to my attention via Armin Grewe's Islay Blog. A link to his blog entry is here.

So, what exactly is "Bagging Scotland"? Well, rather than try to explain it, I'll quote from the Bagging Scotland website:

"Give your vacations, short breaks or holidays a sense of purpose! Aim high and make it your life’s work to bag Scotland’s 3,000(ish) Castles or why not try to bag ALL of Scotland’s 95 inhabited Islands in a year? By Bagging the 85 Malt Whisky Distilleries in Scotland, you’ll just happen to pass through some of Scotlands best scenery which is full of Castle culture, history and heritage as well. It’s simple, with Bagging Scotland.

At the risk of sounding narrow minded, I honestly don't understand why anyone would desire to "bag" Scotland. "Passing through" scenery on your way to put another notch in your bag-belt is hardly the way to appreciate the country or its people. I freely admit I've not spent a lot of time in Scotland but what time I have spent has been more enjoyable than my wildest dreams would have expected. I attribute the enjoyment to the simple fact that I was not out to see as much as possible in a limited amount of time.

As a matter of fact, in 2009 mo bhean and I spent more than a week on Islay itself and still did not see all that we wanted. I recently spent more than a week traveling between Ghlaschu, Dhun Eideann, and Dumfries and only scratched the surface. How, I ask, can anyone expect to really appreciate Scotland by tramping all over the place in a mad rush to see all the castles, islands, distilleries, or whatever, in 'x' amount of time?

My opinion is that Scotland is like a beautiful woman (or handsome man, if my reader is a woman): she should be savored and appreciated through time spent in her embrace, lingering for a time at each spot and drinking it all in prior to moving on. Then, when you must leave, return again and again, as many times as possible, but don't rush the moment, and certainly don't be in a hurry to rush to the next "baggable" location.

In any case, that's my opinion. I'd appreciate any readers comments whether, or not, you agree with me.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sticky Toffee Pudding

During our first Scotland visit, to Islay, we were fortunate to be able to have some meals in the Old Kiln Cafe at the Ardbeg Distillery . One of the highlights of the meals was Sticky Toffee Pudding.

The other day, using the Scottish cookbook given to us by Gordon and Margaret Campbell, my wife made some STP. The recipe called for the toffee to be poured over the pudding so the result was different from what we had experienced in the past; a pudding swimming in a sea of sticky toffee, and (ice) cream !!! Still, it was delicious and I've been eating a bit each day since its creation.

Jacqueline has decided that her next batch of STP will be small, individual puddings, rather than one large. Still, as delicious as it is homemade, we look forward to our next visit to the Old Kiln Cafe, or the Criffel Inn in New Abbey, for a wee taste of STP.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Porridge (oatmeal)

During my Hogmanay 2009/New Year 2010 visit to Alba, my friends Gordon and Margaret Campbell gave to me a copy of Scots Cooking, by Sue Lawrence. It's a treasure trove of recipes and their backgrounds, as well as Scottish "folk lore". The book is divided into sections, such as "Breakfast", and so forth. Well, upon arriving back in the USofA, my wife and I were perusing the recipes, and I was shocked, nay dismayed and chagrined to learn that every day, for more than 4 years, I have been cooking and eating my porridge in a manner more fitting a Sassenach than a Scotsman.

My personal recipe (developed over the past 4+ years) calls for equal parts oats, water, and milk, along with raisins to suit, and a diced apple. All ingredients are placed in a sauce pan, heated to boiling, simmered for a few minutes then served with a bit of milk poured over and sweetened to taste with brown sugar, honey, or whatever you like.

Weelll ..... according to the book, the porridge (oatmeal) should be soaked in water (not milk) overnight then cooked for about 15 minutes the next day. And only a Sassenach pours milk over the porridge; the correct manner of eating is porridge in bowl, milk in separate bowl; use horn (spoon) to grab some porridge, dip into milk, eat. This allows the porridge to remain hot, and the milk to remain cool(er for longer).

So, my wife and I have begun soaking the old fashioned slow cook oats overnight, and the difference in post-cooking texture is remarkably different from that of not-soaked, but I must confess I like the added creaminess of milk so we do use milk. With that said, if I was planning to pour the porridge into a kitchen drawer (or kist in NE Alba), to let it cool, then cut it into slices (calders) for frying I'd never use milk ... the milk would spoil and that would be nasty. Next up is to try dipping the porridge into a bowl so it stays warm rather than cooling it off by dousing it with cold milk.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2010 Feis Ile

Booked the ferry passage (Caledonian MacBrayne) from Kennacraig to Port Ellen for 22nd-May. This was done because we plan to take a car with us to the island rather than hire one at the location. Rather dear $$$ to do that though; still, the auto will be useful on the mainland and we are looking forward to site-seeing during the drive from Glasgow to the terminal. We will leave Islay from Port Askaig, so we can see a wee bit of the Sound of Islay, on the 29th May. After we depart Islay on the 29th we hope to spend a few days retracing my footsteps from 2009 Hogmany/2010 New Year. Still, much planning remains to be done for the 2010 Feis Ile journey.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Back in the USofA, Highlights of visit

I've been back in the states for almost one week and wanted to share a wee bit about the return, as well as highlights of the visit.

My friend Gordon conveyed me to Glasgow Intl airport on the 6th where we learned my original flight was cancelled !!! Gordon explained my situation to one of the airport/airline employees and I was placed on a different (earlier) flight, which I believe was the last flight leaving Glasgow for Heathrow. Ironically that earlier flight departed later than my originally scheduled flight, but because my Heathrow flight was not scheduled to leave until almost 6PM, that was no problem. My flight from Heathrow was delayed a bit due to security (or the airline) deciding to check all carryon bags, just prior to boarding, and that can be interesting. Sadly, as with our previous journey, the worst experience was with Border Patrol/Customs upon reentering the USofA. For some reason I/we seem to encounter very bad attitudes on the part of the defenders of our borders. Ultimately though, despite delays and such I arrived safely back in the USofA just about the same time I was originally scheduled !!! PRAISE GOD !!!

Talking to my father a few days later, he asked me what were the highlights of the visit. As cliche as it might sound, the entire visit was a highlight (of my life), but, thinking about it a wee bit there were a few particularly memorable events or aspects:
  • Jim Gellatly (the Unknown Scot) googling for various words I used during a conversation, and finding this blog. Here's a link to that blog entry ....
  • The overwhelming hospitality of the Scots with whom I spent time, many of whom I met for the first time during the visit.
  • The realization that not hiring a car was the correct decision. Had I taken the advice to hire a car I would not have been blessed with the conversations that I had while traveling on the trains, buses, and private automobiles. It's also quite likely, had I hired a car, that I would still be lost in Glasgow, or trying to find my way back from Wales, Cape Wrath, or John o'Groats !!!
Hopefully soon I will be posting many of the pics from this visit, and the 2009 Feis Ile, to a photo gallery on Flickr or ... and I'll post to the blog an appropriate link. So, please keep an eye on OorAlbaBlog.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mar sin leibh (goodbye) ... but I will return

This is the last post of the journey. After this I must prepare for the trip back to the USofA.

Last night my wife suggested I had enough time today to revisit the Central Station area of Glasgow, so this AM that's what I did, but I arrived a bit later than planned. I boarded the Newton to GC train which made it almost to Cambuslang before stopping due to a broken down car ahead on the tracks. Eventually we were transported back to Newton where we all boarded the "high rail(?)" to Glasgow Central Station. I walked aboot a wee bit and had lunch at a pub. A few hours later I boarded the train back to Newton, and here I am with my final words.

I stood on a wee hill near where I am staying and took the attached picture. Several days ago I arrived in Glasgow, alone, knowing noone face-to-face except Gordon and his wife, who picked me up at the airport and conveyed me to where I would stay. Duringthis stay I have used public transportation, or been chauferred (sic?) to various places by Gordon, and others who I met during my stay. In short, I have had to rely on others for assistance and direction, and they have all been more of a blessing that I could have imagined.

Many years ago my grandmother left Scotland for a strange land where, to my knowledge, she knew noone. As I stood on that hill looking out over Glasgow my wish was that I could hear her voice telling me what she felt as she left Scotland for a place she did not know, because right now I am rather sad to leave Scotland, a place I want to know well, and I am eager to return.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Mind Yer Heid !!!

Returned to Dumfries, and area, today courtesy of, and with, Ann and Bob Baird. We had lunch at Robbie Burns favorite howff, the Globe Inn, which dates back to 1610. After lunch I wanted to visit T.B. Watson's and see what there was to see. While there I was able to sample Bruichladdich's Octomore: what a dram !!! From there we drove along the A710 through Drumburn, as far as Kirkbean, until it was getting dark, and time to head back to Glasgow.

Tomorrow is my last full day here, in Alba, but some of it will be spent preparing to return to the USofA. I have had fun, seen much, made friends, and hope God blesses me to return with my wife and continue to explore, perhaps as residents for a time.

Because I will probably lack the time tomorrow to blog I would like to thank the following people in Scotland who made this adventure possible through assistance, advice, encouragement, etc:

Scott Miller
John Colvin
Bob and Ann Baird
Alan and Margot Ross
Paul and Heini Euliano
Gordon and Margaret Campbell

The public transport workers who answered my many questions about "How do I ..."

To the unknown Scot who found this blog while he, I, and another Scot, were standing at the Newton train station one morning, and he (the unknown) "googled" for keywords, based on our conversation, then asked me "How was the cullen skink?" My friend, you made my day with that comment. I hope you have read, and enjoy, the blog. Slainte !!!

There were others, such as Allan McGregor, who I did not have a chance to meet. Hopefully next time. There were still others, such as the (Gaelic speaking) members of St Columba church whom I hope to remain in contact as well.

If I did not mention anyone who believes they should have been mentioned, please forgive.
If you've been following, please continue to do so. I will be posting further thoughts, and pictures. Ideally I'd like to provide a link to a photo gallery rather than have to embed photographs.