Wednesday, September 24, 2008

After Ike

Just a quick post to say, that we are all OK here in Tomball Texas, following the passage of hurricane Ike.
Ike arrived in the area in the early hours of the morning of Saturday 13th , and we were very fortunate that the only damage to our property were a couple of fences down and countless branches, some of them large blown down. Some in our area were less fortunate and had trees fall on their houses. But all of us here were far more fortunate than the people in Galveston and other areas on or near the coast.

We finally had electricity restored last night, so Juliet and I are so relieved.
I am finally back on line so thought I would post an update and let everyone know that,

“Normal service will be resumed shortly”

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Moving of Sir Thomas

When I started this topic I had no idea that there would be so much material on Sir Thomas, but for now I think this will be the final chapter, but one can never tell.........
The Rev. Bisset, in the 1845 Statistical accounts, has this to say about the legend of Sir Thomas and Barra
This derives some vraisemblance from two rather rude images of a knight in armour and his dame, which occupied a niche in the old church of Bourtie. They lie now in the church-yard, neglected like the stranded remains of Polydorus. It is hardly necessary to remark, that no such knight as Sir Thomas de Longueville is known historically to have been amongst the followers of either party.
(I believe that the Polydorus referred to was the son of Praim (King of Troy), who was murdered by Polymestor, and his body left to rot. See Wikipedia entry on the subject for more details.

Bourtie Kirk yard

Ninety years later a young Doug Smith was part of a team who moved the “stranded remains”, from the kirk yard to their present position inside the kirk.

Below is Doug’s account of the move:

"The effigies were moved from the churchyard to inside Bourtie Kirk in 1956. Tom Webster was the contractor. He also completed the Meldrum Kirk restoration in 1954. Willie Henry, foreman mason, was in charge. Kenneth Macmillan was the minister of both Bourtie & Meldrum kirks.
The effigies lay side-by-side close by the right of the path, approximately mid way between the entrance gate and the kirk doors. (I am certain they lay facing the kirk and due east)
There was significant weathering of the effigies which was the reason for moving them inside. Controversy and much debate took place about the move.
This job was far removed from the usual run -of -the mill work we did and proved challenging and interesting, not forgetting heavy.
No mechanical lifting aids were available. We used pick-axe handles to move them ( 6 of us in pairs) through the narrow doors with a tight turn into a small room, upended them and fixed them to the wall. Now they were facing west."

Doug with the figures he moved half a century ago

Doug also confirmed that they had to carry-out some repairs to the figures as well as securing them to the wall.

Further insight into the move comes from the “Random Memories”, of the late Rev Kenneth MacMillan, who was also provost of Oldmeldrum from 1956 -1957 and was the driving force behind the restoration of Meldrum Parish Church.

Rev Kenneth Macmillan wearing his Provost chain of office

In 1950/1951 Mr. Mackenzie of Bourtie House made a strong attempt to have the effigies placed in the body of the church. Mr. Mackenzie, who was a member of the firm of A. Marshall Mackenzie, well known Aberdeen Architects, drew up the plan with the effigies lying side by side on a plinth. This would have dominated the interior of the little Kirk, and found little favour with the congregation. At the meeting of the congregation held to decide whether to agree to the plan or not there was much discussion, then one of the elders (Proctor) killed the idea by saying, “We have enough sleeping members in the kirk without having more!”
The effigies remained outside until 1956 when a small section of the vestibule was turned into a museum and with the help of Tom Webster, the Old Meldrum builder, Sir Thomas and his Lady were set standing side by side on one of the walls. The church bell, which had fallen down and cracked, nearly killing the beadle as it fell, found a place in the museum. Also a pedestal font, found by workmen clearing the ditches near the church and three long handled offeratory ladles, one dated 1690 were among the treasures.
In a short time there were many less “sleeping members” and many more awake to the fact that the Bourtie Kirk was still the Parish church and that Bourtie was still a parish. It would be hard to forget names like Stronach of Selbiehill, Green of Collyhill, Manson of Smithycroft, Cooper of Shadowside, Morris of Greenford, and Miss Thompson who ran the Sunday School. They were all Bourtie folk with a sense of belonging.

Once again I have Evelyn to thank for providing a copy of the notes shown above, which are in the possession of the MBHS. A longer version of the notes also appears in Marion Youngblood’s book “Boutie Kirk - 800 Years” , which is well worth a read for anyone with a deeper interest in history of the kirk.
For those interested in the modern day church, information can be found on the following site:

Legion Update

Once again due to the hard work of Evelyn, we have some answers on the “Meldrum Sports” picture.

Past secretary of the Sports committee, Bob Forsyth, found the answers following a search of his collection of old “Sports” programmes.
The year was 1954 and the Sports that year were opened by The Marquis of Aberdeen

In 1954 the Oldmeldrum Branch of the British Legion presented an ambitious re-enactment at Meldrum Sports entitled:

'A Pageant in Four Scenes'

We now also know that Sir Thomas de Longville was played by George Meldrum, who at one time had a shop in the Square - in 1954 it was Gall and Bruce's shop.

The Pageant must have been some undertaking; the programme has pages of historical notes, too many to reproduce here. But this must have been the norm for the time because the following year they presented an equally ambitious re-enactment about the Raising of the Gordons. 12,000 attended that year & Richard Dimbleby opened the Sports.

Thanks Evelyn and Bob for all your efforts.

Ethnic Cleansing or the Fortunes of War?

Well folks this post has been a long time in coming. Due to the nature of the content it has been very difficult to create a balance post. This has been the hardest post to date.

Dan Carlin looks at aspects of this question in several of his Hardcore History podcasts.
One in particular (his first) he compares Hitler with Alexander, and it turns out that the “darling” of the classical era was a blood thirsty genocidal maniac. (We all probably secretly knew that but ignored it)
Indeed one could consider that Hitler was a “light-weight” in comparison, but our current conceptions do not, and should not allow us to view it in that way.
However the Alexander /Hitler method of dealing with things was for most of our history the norm. But by the twentieth century we had progressed, to the point where the Alexanders of this world could no longer be our heroes, and although, as countless tyrants have proved, this behavior has not been eradicated, it can no longer be trumpeted in public, and must be hidden or somehow “justified”.
Is it simply the chronological relationship which affects our judgment or is there something else?
As a member of the Bahá’í Faith, I believe that mankind is evolving spiritually, and hence behaviors which were commonplace only a generation or two ago are no longer acceptable. This is a wide generalization, and in practice varies across the globe, but the overall trend is one of improvement.

“The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens”


For us we must choose how to conduct ourselves, and not in the huge global or national matters, but in our day to day lives, so that if we are ever faced with such horrors we can act in a principled manner. A fine example of such behavior is that of Corrie Ten Boom, and her family who risked their lives to save Jews in occupied Holland, their story is recounted in her book, “The Hiding Place”.
See also:

Abdu'l-Bahá; the oldest son of Bahá’u’lláh, the prophet founder of the Bahá’í Faith, tells us this about man’s dual nature.

“When man allows the spirit, through his soul, to enlighten his understanding, then does he contain all Creation...
But on the other hand, when man does not open his mind and heart to the blessing of the spirit, but turns his soul towards the material side, towards the bodily part of his nature, then is he fallen from his high place and he becomes inferior to the inhabitants of the lower animal kingdom.... “
(Paris Talks: Addresses given by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Paris in 1911-1912 )

We are also told that:

"All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization."

Many would say we are the same people that devastated Buchan, but with a thin pretence of civilisation. We have no problem in accepting that we have advanced technologically since then, so why can we not accept that we have spiritually advanced as well? (Or if you are not comfortable with that, then consider it ethical and moral advancement).

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants"


It is clear that we can choose to turn to our spiritual or material natures, but if we take heed of the above quote, attributed to Newton, we can identify countless “spiritual shoulders to stand on”.

This is all very well but what about Robert?

Robert will always, rightly occupy a pre-eminent position in the pantheon of Scottish heroes, because, at its darkest hour, he and “The Flower of Scotland” preserved Scotland as an Independent Nation. Without their victory much of what Scotland has given to the world would not have come to pass. But ironically Scotland greatest contributions came after the “voluntary” union with the “Auld Enemy”.
So whilst recognizing and learning from his greatness we must also understand that the moral standards of his day are no longer relevant, and must be discarded as obsolete. Medieval man believed war to be the natural order, and understood that it was raw and brutal; modern man on the other hand believe it to be only necessary at times and that it can be regulated by moral codes.
But one could paraphrase von Moltke thus: No moral value survives contact with the enemy
Another of his lesser known maxims is, “War is a matter of expedients”, and expedients ultimately lead to the “dark side”.