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.