Americans in Scotland-our last day! Jun 13, 2007 1:07:17 GMT
Post by mary ailean on Jun 13, 2007 1:07:17 GMT
Friday, July 7
The Last Entry...My thank yous are at the end...
(Remember to Click on each link for more information and additional pictures)
We’d saved one of the best sites for our last day of touring in Scotland. The location of Scone Palace made a convenient stop on our way from the Highlands to Edinburgh Airport and the flight home. We overshot the turn-off to the palace and had to ask directions, but easily found our way at last. A tartan-clad Willard Scott* double sprinted out to our car from the entry gate and, grinning from ear to ear, told us where to park. We planned to picnic at Scone with the last food supplies taken from the little Gate Lodge refrigerator that morning. I made sure that our food bag was stowed out of the sun in the rental car, and we made our way down the gravel road to the front of the palace.
*Willard Scott is an entertaining, ‘folksy’ weatherman who was on the U.S. morning TV program, ‘The Today Show’, for many years.
He is sometimes still featured.
When we arrived near the entrance of the palace we saw several birds of prey, each one held by a leg tether to a display post. We had stumbled into a Falconry demonstration that was to begin in about 45 minutes. The first Friday of the month is the only day that the show is given. The program was to feature a costumed falconer who brought some of the birds he has used since their birth. After touring the chapel on ‘Moot Hill’ we found a place on a grassy hill near the falconer’s tent.
The young gentleman came out, dressed in a green Robin Hood tunic, holding “Fred”, a 16 year old Harris Hawk, on his arm. We were told that Harris Hawks have only been on the scene for about 50 years, but because they are so laid back they have revolutionized the sport. We had a chance to see Fred’s calm demeanor when a large male peacock strutted back and forth behind them.
The falconer told us that kestrels and other types would be totally undone by the brassy conduct of this larger bird. He said that it was the mating season, and that was why the Peacock was boldly checking things out. Harris hawks, a North American falconry bird, fly and hunt as a pack.
Falconry itself goes back to Pictish times. An elitist sport, falconry was practiced among royals and the noble class. I had learned a little about the sport from a book by a Scottish falconer, Emma Ford. Emma was raised in Kent, and opened the British School of Falconry in 1982, one of the first dedicated falconry schools. In 1995 she opened a U.S. branch in Manchester, Vermont.
From the book jacket,
“Fledgling Days, memoir of a Falconer” by Emma Ford
“…she divides her time between the U.S. and Perthshire, where she lives with forty hawks, six dogs, five ferrets and her husband.” I laughed at the position Emma’s husband holds in the sentence listing her roommates! Ford has also written: "Falconry: Art and Practice". If you click on below there is a long essay about the history and practice of the sport of falconry.
(a picture of Emma with her husband in her earlier falconry days.)
The Book Cover:
We enjoyed the falconry demonstration, and I filmed quite a bit of it on the camcorder. Our viewing group started with about 10 people and, during Fred’s swooping in and out of the area on command, it grew to about 50.
Our falconer has also trained Sparrow hawks and Goshawks, types smaller than the Harris. These two representatives of the sport, we were told, are highly strung and wouldn’t have put up with the crowd or the peacocks roaming freely. Fred was aware of the bold bird coming up close to him, but he paid attention to his master. In the wild, the falconer said that Fred would be quite old, but he did some beautiful flying. He has a white tail that is evident when the feathers are extended. We were given a brief talk about this bird, born in the man’s home, and how it bonded to him fairly quickly.
I really enjoyed seeing the Harris fly up to a tall oak, and disappear into the foliage. I remember thinking that Fred might not come back, and that our falconer would have to move on to another of his birds. Quite a bit of time went by, and then a whistle command was given. Fred flew back down immediately to land on the leather-clad arm of his master.
One of the most outstanding ‘tricks’ that Fred performed was ‘the drop’. The Hawk flew up and, on command, he suddenly dropped down in a straight line to the ground. We saw other maneuvers like that, and were totally impressed with this man’s ability to train birds of prey. A mature Harris Hawk can have a wingspan of 43” the following site reports. Emma Ford must be sold on hawks if she keeps 40 of them for her falconry business.
www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/Infocenter/i3350id.html (Harris Hawk)
The next bird to be demonstrated was a European Kestrel, one of the traditional falconry birds. In times past a bird like this would be used to train an apprentice. Six to Seven years was considered a long life for a wild kestrel, but the usual lifetime of a kestrel in captivity is 12 years old.
We did not see the Peregrine falcon fly, and I wondered if the presence of the peacock male made the falconer change his plans to show all the birds that day. He sat on his wooden perch stand during the show, and the falconer's wife or assistant tended to him.
We saw the lovely kestrel catch a training mouse in the air and bring it down. The falconer got on the ground with the kestrel and tried to take the mouse away, but the bird wouldn’t let it go. Then an exchange procedure was shown. The falconer took a bird treat from his leather pouch and laid it on the ground in exchange for the mouse, and the bird allowed the mouse to be removed. The kestrel also did some beautiful, wide swoops directly over our heads, always landing back on the arm of the falconer.
www.hawk-conservancy.org/priors/kestrel.shtml (European Kestrel)
The man put the kestrel on a stand off to the side, and brought out “Wizard”, his 7 year old European Eagle Owl. This bird is native to the pine forests of Germany, Scandinavia and Western Russia. The Eagle owl is the largest variety of owl in the world, and the female is 1/3 bigger than the male. The falconer demonstrated Wizard’s ability to land feet first, and he told us that owls rely on sound, and not sight, for their night hunting. They can catch something as big as a hare with their feet. Wizard looked beautiful while extending his feet out in front to land. His owls are hand reared, and they are easier for him to train than his other birds, the falconer told us.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasian_Eagle_Owl (Eagle Owl)
One of Wizard’s actions was to fly by a small fruit tree at the side of the palace. When he approached the tree in flight, we were all startled by the great outcry from the small birds that we had not seen inside the leafy canopy! The falconer said, “The birds are telling all their friends that there is a big owl coming!” They continued their outcry until he flew away from the tree. (The Eagle owl is the same type of bird that Fergal and Duncan were taking care of in the Glenbogle fenced enclosure.)
The man flew Wizard all about to demonstrate various types of flight, but he said because it was hot he wouldn’t push the owl. We learned a lot in an hour about the ancient art of Falconry, and it was fantastic to hear about this man’s devotion to his birds. He talked of each one as if it was his child, and I could picture him in a home entirely centered on the rearing process of falconry birds. I was so very fortunate to land in Scone for an event of great interest to me. Wouldn’t it be fun to take a falconry vacation to Scotland?
After the falconry demo, we went to the car to get our lunch bag. I’d eaten all of the Scottish custards at the lodge, but we still had lovely cheese and bread to eat with some oranges. We found a picnic table under the trees, across the way from the palace, and spread our lunch out. I was glad that the wee urchins who were chasing the peacocks didn’t persist or I would have had to intervene! The peacocks were walking through the play yard, and they were simply irresistible, I imagine.
I was amazed at one mother on a picnic blanket who allowed her baby to touch the tail feather skirt of a male peacock as he walked by them. I took a picture and you can see it below. I would have been afraid of a ‘pecking’ incident! I took another beautiful photograph of one of the white male peacocks with the camcorder. He had his full tail display fanned out and quivering, and then we saw, ‘her’, the object of the dance. We felt sorry for the male because the female he was trying to impress seemed to ignore him. When she walked away he tucked everything back away for the next girl. He’d be pleased if you admired him, anyway, so I’ll post his picture.
www.rampantscotland.com/visit/blvisitscone.htm (Scone over-view)
After lunch we turned our focus on the palace itself. Scone has the best castle self-tour of those we’d seen in Scotland. It was Bruce’s favorite, and I have to admit it surpassed my favorite, Glamis, in that way. You know me by now. I, of course, purchased the official guidebook, and I’ll give you some interesting facts from that and other writings.
Scone Palace Guidebook: ISBN 085101-3775
Scone is the crowning place of Scottish Kings. 1,500 years ago it was the capital of the Pictish Kings, and a seat of the ancient Celtic Church. The home of the Earls of Mansfield, it was once the House of Parliament, and it has housed the Stone of Scone. The palace was immortalized by Shakespeare in his play, Macbeth. The castle, above the River Tay, was given to Sir David Murray of Gospetrie, James VI’s cup-bearer. (Erica, another important Murray!) Kenneth mac Alpin was the first to become King at Scone in 838, and in 1651 Charles II became the last monarch to be crowned there.
The crowning place is on ‘Moot Hill’, the first place we visited after our arrival. The (possibly) original stone from Scone is now in Edinburgh Castle, but on the grass out in front is a replica of that stone. The hill is supposed to have been created by soil brought by Clan Chiefs from all over the country. Shown in the picture below is the Italian Alabaster monument erected in 1618, in memory of David Murray, 1st Viscount Stormont. It takes up much of one wall of the small Moot Hill chapel.
This memorial commemorates a great act of reconciliation. The monument depicts the 1st Viscount kneeling in prayer between the figures of his two great friends, the Marquis of Tullibardine, and the Earl Marischal, whose long and bitter feud he had helped to resolve in the early 16th century.
Condensed from the Guidebook: During its five centuries at Scone, the stone was kept in the monastic church there, and only taken out to Moot Hill for enthronements. At first it may simply have been covered with embroidered cloth for the King to sit on, but later in paintings the stone is shown under a throne seat. When John Balliol rebelled in 1296, Edward I marched north to remove, what he believed to be, the stone to Westminster. There he had it mounted in a special chair called the St. Edward’s chair (m: you are allowed to stand quite near the chair in the abbey. We could see ancient names carved into the wood).
And there the stone remained for the next 700 years, despite a brief but sensational disappearance in 1950. A group of Scottish Nationalist students broke into Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, and spirited it back to Scotland. After a couple of weeks it was returned to Westminster where it stayed until finally being brought to rest in Edinburgh Castle in 1996.
(the story of the stone's theft by Nationalist students)
(history of the stone)
(an interesting aside: other ‘bad’ things that have happened on Christmas Day)
( the myth of the stone as Jacob’s pillow is discussed)
The renowned Scottish novelist, Nigel Tranter, has an intriguing new theory which he exploits (somewhat light-heartedly) in his novel, "The Stone”. The novel is based on the theory that the Coronation Stone so zealously guarded at Westminster is in fact a 700 year old fake and that the real Scottish Stone of Destiny - the “Lia Fail”, in Gaelic is still hidden or lost somewhere in Scotland, probably not far from Perth. In the two part Hamish Macbeth series finale, the real stone is found in a cave and at the end it is left there.
Nigel Tranter has some photographs of ancient Scots Royal Seals showing that the original Stone was of seat height, while the Westminster one is only 11 inches high. Original research on this theme was carried out by, Dr J. L. Richardson, the late Inspector of Royal Monuments.
The author suggests that the Stone that Edward removed from Scone Abbey was not the Stone of Destiny, but just a block of red sandstone dug from a local quarry and left suspiciously at hand for the English invaders. Dr. Simpson, of the Historical Monuments Commission, and Mr. Tranter, quote early chroniclers saying that the Stone was in the shape of a rounded chair, richly carved, and possibly of marble, or other very hard stone.
Constant references are made to the "merbill chìar" in the various chronicles of the time, and Mr. Tranter insists that the authorities in London should allow masonry experts to examine the chiselling on their stone. This would establish whether it was done by medieval tools, “ in which case it will prove the Hammer of the Scots [...] to have been himself chiselled.”
(Tranter’s picture and book list)
(The stealing of the stone made notable dates in Scottish History! Look down to 1950)
(to be continued in the next post)