That Which We Have Heard & Known

Occasional thoughts of an Anglican Episcopal priest

Category: Scotland (page 2 of 4)

Medicine for Society’s Ills: Sermon for the 8th Annual Medina County Red Mass

I’d like to share with you two vignettes from the life of Eric Funston and, I promise you, I will tie these in with the readings from Scripture that we have just heard, readings which the Common of Saints bids us read when we celebrate the life and ministry of St. Luke the Physician. The first vignette is the most recent.

The River Sligachan, Isle of Skye, Scotland

The River Sligachan, Isle of Skye, Scotland

A few weeks ago, my wife Evelyn and I had the opportunity to spend time together touring Scotland and, as part of that trip, we spent time in the Inner Hebrides, particularly visiting the Holy Island of Iona and the Isle of Skye. Our trip to Iona started in the port town of Oban, where we caught the ferry to the island of Mull. The Oban ferry takes you to the town of Craignure where you disembark and then drive (if you are daring) or take a bus for the hour-and-half, 37 miles to the village of Fionnphort where you board another ferry for the short voyage to the Holy Island. We opted to take the bus and so we were both able to enjoy scenery along the road, which (by the way) is a single-track two-way highway with wide places every few miles to permit traffic to pass in each direction. For much of the length of this highway one follows the River Lussa, which is a wide and, when we were there, very active and swift-flowing river. The River Lussa flows through the Lussa Glen (“glen” is the Scots word for a valley) on either side of which are very high, very steep hills; as someone who comes originally from the intermountain west I would call them mountains, but they are certainly bigger than any hill or mountain I’ve seen in Ohio! The source of the River Lussa, and all the rivers on the Isle of Mull, is the dew that collects and the rain that falls on these hills.

The same is true on the Isle of Skye which we visited a few days later. We stayed there in the town of Portree, the unofficial capital of Skye, and drove to visit other parts of the island, including a drive to the village of Talisker, home of the whisky of the same name. On the way we drove along the River Sligachan, which for nearly its entire length that day was white water, a rushing torrent of foam! As on Mull, the source of the river is merely the dew and rain falling on the high hills around it.

What was most fascinating for us was watching the water come down the hillsides to feed these rivers. You could see, through the mist and rain, its beginnings in small streams high on the hillsides, streams which then joined with others, and then others until they formed beautiful, dazzling waterfalls. We’ve been places in the world where they have made tourist attractions of the local waterfall … there are dozens, if not hundreds, of waterfalls feeding the rivers of Mull and Skye that would be many of those tourist-attraction waterfalls to shame. To be honest, after the first twenty minutes or so of the drive from Craignure to Fionnphort, or the drive from Portree to Talisker, I was sort of suffering waterfall fatigue: “Oh, yeah, another waterfall … great…” And all these waterfalls feeding these rushing, gushing, foaming, frothing rivers making their way to the sea.

Second vignette … about twenty-five years ago I was a litigator specializing in medical malpractice and medical product liability defense. I was also one of the five managing shareholders of the largest law firm in the state of Nevada: twenty-two shareholders, twenty-eight associates, and a whole slew of support staff. We owned our own 60,000-square-foot, four-story office building, on the third floor of which was our law library, the largest private law library in the state. Adjacent to the law library we had a large conference room which we called “The War Room”. When someone was in trial, it became our command headquarters; it was where we began our day before heading to the courthouse and it was where we ended our day debriefing what had happened in the trial. It was also where we kept the office liquor cabinet.

Often, when I was in a trial, after the client would leave, after the associates and the paralegals would go home, I would pour myself a drink, go into the library, and just sit there and look around at all those law books – this was in the days before Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw and computer-assisted legal research, when you had to know the key-number system and the index to ALR – I’d sit there and just feel the presence of all that law! … the Pacific Reporters, the Federal Reporters, the USCA, the Nevada Statutes, the Restatement of the Law, Corpus Juris and ALR, those odd tax publications by CCH and BNA, the specialty law journals to which we subscribed … all that massive flood of legal wisdom. Just sit there in amazement at the accumulated wisdom of the American legal system. Maybe some of it would soak into me by osmosis….

So who is this Luke we are commemorating this evening and why are we doing so at a service whose avowed purpose is to seek God’s guidance for those who sit on the Bench and those who appear at the Bar?

Well, to answer the second question first, St. Luke’s feast day was yesterday so it just seemed appropriate to recognize that and use the lessons assigned his feast today. Who he was is the only Gentile writer whose words appear in the New Testament, a Greco-Syrian physician from the city of Antioch who accompanied St. Paul in his later travels, perhaps was even with him in his imprisonment and at the time of Paul’s martyrdom (as our odd little reading from Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy suggests – “Only Luke is [still] with me”). Luke is generally acknowledged to be the author of both the Gospel which bears his name and the Book of Acts. Because he was a physician, the Common of Saints bids us read the portion of the Book of Ecclesiasticus, also called Sirach or Ben Sira, that we heard this evening, and it is to that Scripture that I would like to turn now.

The author of this text, Yeshua ben Sira, sings the praises of physicians, as we heard, and then goes on to praise others who contribute to society, the farmers and the artisans, the smith and the potter, but he does so with this interesting introduction: “The wisdom of the scribe depends on the opportunity of leisure; only the one who has little business can become wise.” Acknowledging that society depends on these tradesmen and craftspeople, he nonetheless says, “They do not sit in the judge’s seat, nor do they understand the decisions of the courts.” Although “they maintain the fabric of the world, and their concern is for the exercise of their trade,” the need to set hand to plow or to potter’s wheel, to spend their hours “on business” makes it impossible for them to “become wise”. “How different, says Ben Sira, “the one who devotes himself to the study of the law….”

That famous Ohioan William Howard Taft, Secretary of War, President, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, once said, “I love judges, and I love courts. They are my ideals, that typify on earth what we shall meet hereafter under a just God.”

Ben Sira seems to have been of a similar mind. He believe that God would direct the counsel and decision-making of judges: “If the great Lord is willing, he will be filled with the spirit of understanding; he will pour forth words of wisdom …. He will show the wisdom of what he has learned …. Many will praise his understanding …. Nations will speak of his wisdom, and the congregation will proclaim his praise.”

So Ben Sira begins praising those who study and practice medicine and ends praising those who study and practice the law; as physicians and surgeons are to the individual, so lawyers and judges are to the community. As the former heal the ills of the body, the latter deal with the ills of society. Perhaps this is why Luke the Physician, who in his Gospel relates several individual healing miracles of Jesus, tells of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry not in terms of medical or physical healing, but in terms of social healing. Jesus, he writes, took the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah, and proclaimed in the synagogue that he had been anointed to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and freedom to the oppressed, to right the social wrongs usually addressed by the law and by the courts.

Ben Sira wrote that physicians and pharmacists extract medicines out of the earth, and that from God in this way health spreads over all the earth. I want to suggest to you that societal health promoted by the rule of law is much the same. Remember the dew and the rain falling on the high hills of the Scottish highlands and islands, coming down into a thousand thousand little streams and rivulets, joining into larger streams and cataracts, combining into great waterfalls, and eventually great rushing wild rivers. The law is formed in the same way, from a thousand thousand sources … from agreements between friends, from contracts among businesses, from proverbs and maxims by which we govern our lives, from the words of rulers, the founders of nations, legislative bodies, legal scholars, and yes, even judges in the courts. From a thousand thousand sources, the rules of society combining and interacting and joining together to form that great wild rushing river of law!

That is what I would marvel at on those late nights sitting along surrounded by the statute books, the case reports, the legal encyclopedias and law journals. Our library was like a great reservoir in which all of that wisdom, all of that great rushing river of law was gathered and stored, waiting someone to extract from it just the right rule, just the right canon, the right decision to solve this particular issue. Ben Sira wrote that the physician and the pharmacist extract medicine out of the earth, and that is what lawyers and judges do, extract from that great flood of law the solutions to many of society’s problems, the legal medicines to cure society’s ills.

The humorist Ambrose Bierce defined a lawsuit as “a machine which you go into as a pig and come out as a sausage.” I prefer to think of the work of our judges and courts in a different way – using a different metaphor.

Not all of the water that runs down the hills of Scotland flows into those rivers and out to the sea. A good deal of it soaks into the earth, filters down through the soil and then through lime stone and eventually forms aquifers that accumulate on the top of the granite which is the bedrock of Scotland; it flows in underground streams to emerge in various places as beautifully clear spring water. And then the Scots do this wondrous thing … they mix it with malted barley in the process of extraction, fermentation, and distillation that produces whisky. (Whisky gets its name, by the way, from the Gaelic uisce beatha, the “water of life”.)

It seems to me that rather than Bierce’s sausage grander, this is a better metaphor for what our courts do. It’s the lawyers’ job to bring before the judge, from that great reservoir of all that law from all its sources, the particular canons, statutes, maxims, and rules that he or she thinks best apply to the facts of the case. Lawyers do this by bringing motions, settling proposed jury instructions, filing briefs in the trial court or on appeal, and making oral arguments before the courts. Judges then have the task to take what the lawyers present and, if you will, mix it around with the facts of the case, sort of let it ferment and then distill out of all that the resolution, the answer that best provides justice and equity, that treats this particular wound on the body of society.

I know its fashionable for some politicians to decry and criticize “activist judges”, and to suggest that judges should only apply the law not make it, but that betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of our courts. If that were all judges were supposed to do, we could program computers to take care of our lawsuits and criminal prosecutions – and dystopian fiction and B-grade science-fiction movies are filled with stories predicting (accurately, I think) what the horrible result of that would be – a sausage grinder, indeed! We do well to remember the words of the great jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: “The law embodies the story of a nation’s development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics.” The work of the court is like “painting a picture, not doing a sum.”

No! Judges are supposed to be activists! Courts and judges have always made law; in fact, courts and judges were making laws before there were legislatures to do so! And even now, because practically every case brought to court is unique unto itself, as the rules and maxims, the statutes and precedents are presented and applied to it, each case creates a little bit of new law, sometimes in unanticipated ways.

Just as the water that flows down the Scottish hillsides, even if it happens by some accident to mix with a some grain, doesn’t become whisky, the “water of life”, unless a master distiller sets his or her hand to it, his or her skill and knowledge and wisdom, so all those rules and maxims and statutes in all the law books don’t solve society’s problems, don’t treat society’s ills, unless a learned judge applies his or her skill and knowledge and wisdom.

Let us pray that, in the words of Ben Sira, that the great Lord will fill the judges of our courts with the spirit of understanding; that they will pour forth words of wisdom. Let us pray that the Lord will direct their counsel and knowledge, that they will have the leisure to become wise, and they will show the wisdom of what they have learned, so that the poor in our community will receive good news, the captives will be released, and all shall be freed from oppression.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

Last Full Day in Scotland (29 September 2011)

Today was our last full day in Scotland and also my birthday. Evie and I spent it enjoying a bus tour of a small section of the Scottish Borders. We went first to Scott’s View, a place where Sir Walter Scott is said to have spent a lot of time in contemplation seeking inspiration for this novels. We then traveled on to Melrose Abbey (which I had visited once before), making an unscheduled stop along the way in the village of Stow where we saw the “bridge to heaven”. After Melrose Abbey we went to a “garden center” called Dobbie’s for lunch – I know that sounds weird, but I’ll have more to write about that (and a lot of other things) later on. After lunch we went to Rosslyn Chapel which was made famous (or infamous) by Dan Browne in The DaVinci Code. And then it was back to Edinburgh. It was a Grey Line Tour and our bus driver and guide was Allen Fee (not sure about the spelling of his names) – if you have a chance to take the tour with Allen, he’s great!

It’s been a good day. I’ll have photos and a lot of comments about our Scottish adventure in future blog entries.

When next I write, it will be from the States!

Scotland: Loch Ness to Aberdeen – photolinks

This morning (27 September 2011) we are on our way from Aberdeen to Edinburgh through Stirling where we will spend the afternoon.

No time to write any commentary, but I have uploaded all photos to date and here are the links to the albums not yet shared here:

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness

City of Inverness

Culloden Moor Battlefield

Highland Cows at Culloden

St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Inverness

Cardhu Distillery

King’s College, Old Aberdeen

St. Machar’s Cathedral, Old Aberdeen

City Centre, Aberdeen (including Provost Skene’s House)

Ballater, Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire

…. More later!

Scotland: Fort William, Kyle of Lochalsh, and the Isle of Skye (21 September 2011)

After our all too brief time in Oban and on Mull and Iona, we traveled north to the Isle of Skye. A lunch stop along the way was at Fort William where we visited the local Scottish Episcopal Church (St. Andrew’s).

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Fort William, Scotland

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Fort William, Scotland

We were fascinated by the church’s baptistry and the tiles around the altar, which depicted various biblical tales. Our photos of the church are here.

Along the A87 roadway from Fort William to the Isle of Skye, we encountered this lay-by where many people have built small stone cairns. We have tried to find out what this is all about … but alas, no luck.

Small Cairns along side A87 Highway in Scotland

Small Cairns along side A87 Highway in Scotland

In any event, these small piles of stacked stones are fascinating. Here are the pictures.

Just before crossing over to the Isle of Skye (on a bridge, which some argue renders Skye no longer an island but now a headland), one passes through Kyle of Lochalsh where Eilean Donan Castle is located. We stopped and toured the castle – unfortunately, one cannot take photographs inside the castle. (This is true of many Scottish castles.)

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

Our photos of the outside (and some parts of the interior were photos are allowed) are here.

Arriving at our B&B, we checked in and then wandered down into the village of Portree to have an excellent dinner at a local pub called “The Isles”. The next morning our B&B host (Bob) asked what our plans were, and we asked his advice. He recommended that we go north to Uig and, on the way, visit what he called “the Faerie Glen” – an area of miniature trees, miniature hills, and a small loch. It is unsigned, so he gave us directions – one takes a single-track road through someone’s farm yard, around a bend with “crash barricades” and then (said Bob) “You’ll know when you’re there.” And, indeed, we did.

The Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye

The Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye

It is a very lovely, very strange little place … and apparently it is unique; so far as Bob knows, there is no other place like it on the whole of Skye. Here are our photographs of the Glen.

After visiting the Glen we drove into the village and visited the Uig Brewery and the Uig Pottery. Unfortunately, the brewery offers neither tours nor samples… but the pottery is wide open to public view and makes exquisite hand-thrown, hand-painted porcelains. We bought a fruit bowl!

Castle Dunvegan, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Castle Dunvegan, Isle of Skye, Scotland

And then we drove back south turning west before reaching Portree and visited Dunvegan Castle and Gardens. Again, interior photos were not allowed. Here are our photos of the exterior and the grounds. I’m sure these gardens are exquisite in the spring!

Next on our route around the Isle of Skye was our first visit to a whisky distillery – Talisker. This was a real take-you-through-the-plant tour – not an “experience” such as Jemison’s in Midleton, Co. Cork, Ireland. Our guide, Pat, was really good and explained the process of whisky making very well. And, of course, we got a taste and Evie discovered she likes smokey Scotch whisky (she’d already discovered – back in Glasgow – that she likes Drambuie, a sweet liquor made from Scotch). Here are the photos of Talisker. Unfortunately, none of them are of the interior of the distillery. Pat explained that digital photography and cell phones are not allowed in the distillery because such devices can set off explosions in the alcohol-drenched atmosphere of the plant! So no photos and cell phones have to be turned off. (The same thing was required at another distillery we later toured.)

Talisker Distillery, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Talisker Distillery, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Once we were done at Talisker, it was time to go on back to Portree. The landscape of Skye is dramatic and it was a very picturesque drive. Unfortunately, my camera just doesn’t do landscapes very well (or maybe its the photographer), so we have no photos of the Skye countryside. We wandered around Portree for a while, visiting souvenir shops (but not buying anything) and eventually having dinner at the Bistro in the Bosville Hotel. Then it was back to the B&B and to bed.

The next day we left for Inverness – and that will be in another blog entry.

Scotland: Glasgow, Loch Lomond, Mull & Iona – More Photos and a Few Comments

Glasgow, 18 September 2011 … so far this was our least favorite place in Scotland, but we had our best church experience here and found the best restaurant so far, go figure. We took a City Sightseeing Bus Tour of the city – but didn’t see anything we wanted to photograph! The city is old, tired, and dirty. I’m sure Glaswegians are proud of their city – the people at St. Mary’s Cathedral certainly seemed to be (and they were very friendly and chatty – and we met old friend AKMA [theologian AKM Adam] who is now teaching at Glasgow) – but the city doesn’t show it.

Our B&B was passable, not great. But great indeed was having lunch with our friend Elizabeth’s brother Stephen, his wife Ruth, and their two sons. Also very good was that restaurant called “The Landesdown” on Landesdown Crescent.

We went to two church services at St. Mary’s Cathedral – a Choral Eucharist on Sunday morning and Choral Evensong that evening. Both were wonderful services and at both we were made to feel very welcome!

Cathedral Church of St. Mary the Virgina, Glasgow, Scotland

Cathedral Church of St. Mary the Virgina, Glasgow, Scotland

We did take some pictures of the cathedral and of one storefront. See our Glasgow pictures here.

Leaving Glasgow, we drove to Loch Lomond going first to Balloch and Loch Lomond Shores, where the Loch Lomond Aquarium is located. We didn’t visit the aquarium, but did take a couple of photos of the Maid of the Loch paddle steamer at Balloch Pier. We drove up the west side of the loch to the village of Luss where we took a cruise of the loch islands to Balmaha and back. It was a very overcast, rainy, and windy day – as the photos reflect. After the cruise we visited the village church (a parish of the Kirk).

A Tree in the Misty Rain of Loch Lomond

A Tree in the Misty Rain of Loch Lomond

You can see our Loch Lomond and Luss photos here.

Then it was on to Oban. We hadn’t originally planned to stay in Oban; we had planned to stay on the Holy Island of Iona … but we had to change those plans and in a hurry find a B&B in Oban. We were very fortunate to find a good B&B within walking distance of Oban’s town center and the pier. Leaving the car at the B&B we walked to the town and booked the Three Isles Tour which would have given us time on Mull, Staffa, and Iona. However, the next morning at the ferry terminal it was announced that the tour was cancelled due to weather.

We were devastated! Our opportunity to visit Iona lost! So we went back to the tour booking company (two blocks away) for a refund. Fortunately, we learned there that it was only the Staffa part which was cancelled and we could still go to Mull and Iona. So we rebooked, ran back to the ferry and made our way to the Holy Island.

As we rode the bus the 30 miles or so across Mull from the ferry terminal from Oban to the ferry to Iona, we became more convinced that our decision not to stay on Iona was the correct one – without having seen Mull and its single-track road I would not have wanted to drive it. I would drive it now, but would have been very concerned driving it sight-unseen.

An advantage of taking the bus instead of driving myself was that I could actually see the scenery! We were blown away by the waterfalls that abound on Mull (and also on the Isle of Skye where we went later). These are all fed solely by precipitation – rain and condensation from cloud mist. There is no snow (or very little and none that remains) on these islands, so there’s not a snow-melt source for the streams and waterfalls (as there is in the American Rockies), and yet there are these rushing streams and fabulous waterfalls. In addition, both Mull and Skye have these huge rugged mountains! Nothing like I had imagined them at all.

A Waterfall on Mull

A Waterfall on Mull

Our photos of the trips to, from and across Mull (taken on board ferries and from the bus) can be seen here.

Finally, the Holy Island … although I’m not unhappy about our not spending two nights on the island, someday I would like to spend more time there. It is a sacred place – you can feel the Spirit as you stand on its wind-swept ground. Our visit was all too brief! Our photos of the Abbey, the nunnery ruins, and a few other locations on Iona can be seen here.

Iona Abbey, Holy Island of Iona, Scotland

Iona Abbey, Holy Island of Iona, Scotland

After our stay in Oban, we moved on to the Isle of Skye … and that will take us to another blog entry.

Aberdeen – Nice Town!

We have spent a day walking Aberdeen, nice town – but disappointing in that today is a local holiday and some things are closed (and the Anglican cathedral where Bishop Seabury was consecrated is one of them – bummer!) We are now on our way to Royal Deeside (village of Ballater) for a look-around and probably dinner, then we will return to our Aberdeen digs for the night. Tomorrow, on to Edinburgh for three days and then home.

Running Behind!

I am running behind with blogging about this trip – one of the things we’ve discovered about the west of Scotland (out in the Islands and the Highlands) is “iffy” internet … either the B&B doesn’t even provide it (or some do at an unreasonable cost) or the connection is sporadic. So it has meant not much opportunity to upload photos and blog postings.

Here’s what we’ve done:

We stayed in Oban and visited the Isle of Mull and the Holy Island of Iona. We went from there through Fort William to Portree on the Isle of Skye, with a stop at Eilean Donan Castle. On Skye we visited the Faerie Glen, the village of Uig and a pottery there, then Dunvegan Castle, and finally the Talisker Whisky Distillery.

From Skye we drove to Inverness along the shore of Loch Ness with a stop at Urquhart Castle. We have really enjoyed Inverness. We took a quite bus tour of this small city, then visited Inverness Castle (only the outside because it is a functioning government building closed on Saturdays), St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral (where we will go to church this morning), and the House of Fraser Kilt Makers (Evie won’t let me buy a kilt), where we learned how kilts are made. We also walked along the River Ness and crossed it on “the bouncy bridge”. In the afternoon, we drove to Culloden Moor where the Jacobite Rebellion ended in the last battle fought on British soil and to Cawdor Castle where some sort of food festival was in progress so we didn’t stop and go in.

Today, after church, we will drive through the Cairngorms, visit a couple of castles along the way as well as the Glenfiddich distillery making our way to Aberdeen where we will be for two nights.

There is a lot to write about … but just as when I was driving around Ireland with Caitlin & Jeff and Patrick & Michael, I’m finding very little opportunity to sit down and do the work of writing (to say nothing of the tasks of reviewing, editing and up-loading photographs). So bear with me … the travelog may get written after we return to Ohio, but it will get written.

Scotland: Sweetheart Abbey, New Abbey Corn Mill & Castle Kennedy

On 17 September, Evie and I arose and enjoyed breakfast in our B&B, the Torbay Lodge Guest House in Dumfries, Scotland.

Torbay Lodge Guest House, Dumfries, Scotland

Torbay Lodge Guest House, Dumfries, Scotland

We walked across the street and visited St. John’s Scottish Episcopal Church – a lovely old building (with a brand new pipe organ).

St. John's Scottish Episcopal Church, Dumfries

St. John's Scottish Episcopal Church, Dumfries

We then hit the road and went to the village of New Abbey, about six miles south of Dumfries. It is the location of Sweetheart Abbey.

Sweetheart Abbey, New Abbey, Scotland

Sweetheart Abbey, New Abbey, Scotland

Sweetheart Abbey is a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1275 by Lady Dervorguilla Balliol of Galloway in memory of her husband John de Balliol. Dervorguilla and John founded Balliol College, Oxford. When John died, Devorguilla had his embalmed heart placed in an ivory shrine. This shrine was placed before her at meals, and she would give it’s share of every dish to the poor. She died in Buittle Castle on January 28, 1290, and was buried in front of the altar in the Abbey church with the casket containing John’s heart in her arms. The monks at the Abbey then renamed the Abbey in tribute to her devotion to her husband. Their son, also John, became King of Scotland but his reign was brief and tragic. The Master and Fellows of Balliol College some years ago had a special grave marker installed at the place believed to be her grave.

Marker at Devorguilla Balliol's Grave, Sweetheart Abbey

Marker at Devorguilla Balliol's Grave, Sweetheart Abbey

Here are a couple other photos of the abbey ruins:

Sweetheart Abbey, New Abbey, Scotland

Sweetheart Abbey, New Abbey, Scotland

Sweetheart Abbey, New Abbey, Scotland

Sweetheart Abbey, New Abbey, Scotland

After the abbey, we walked through the small and very charming town of New Abbey to the Corn Mill, the last functioning medieval grain mill in Scotland.

Main Street of New Abbey, Scotland

Main Street of New Abbey, Scotland

The New Abbey Corn Mill

The New Abbey Corn Mill

Next, after deciding that (unfortunately) we didn’t have time to visit Whithorn, the site of the earliest Christian mission in Scotland. It was there that St. Ninian founded his settlement called “Candida Casa” or White House. Instead, we stayed on the main road toward Glasgow and stopped at Castle Kennedy Gardens.

The Ruins of Castle Kennedy

The Ruins of Castle Kennedy

The Ruins of Castle Kennedy

The Ruins of Castle Kennedy

Castle Kennedy Gardens

Castle Kennedy Gardens

Castle Kennedy Gardens

Castle Kennedy Gardens

Castle Kennedy Gardens

Castle Kennedy Gardens

My Facebook albums of photographs taken in these locations can be found here:

Dumfries

Sweetheart Abbey

New Abbey Corn Mill

Castle Kennedy Gardens

We then drove on to Glasgow where we spent two nights; that will be the subject of another blog post.

Beginning a Tour of Scotland

Yesterday, I flew from Dublin, Ireland, to Edinburgh, Scotland, and spent the night at an airport hotel. This morning, Evie flew in from the States and we began our tour of Scotland by first having a “full Scottish breakfast” (pretty much like a full Irish or a full English) at the hotel and then hitting the road for Dumfries by way of Lanark. We went to Lanark because it is a place with which a parishioner, Sue, has a connection. It’s a very nice town – we visited the tourist information office, had a cup of coffe, walked the High Street, passed by a couple of churches, took a couple of photos, and then went a short way out of the downtown area to visit “New Lanark”, historic cotton mill.

High Street, Lanark, Scotland (St. Nicholas Parish Church at the "bottom")

High Street, Lanark, Scotland (St. Nicholas Parish Church at the "bottom")

The cream-colored structure in the above photograph is St. Nicholas Parish Church of the Church of Scotland. According to the website Sacred Scotland, it was built by John Reid of Nemphlar in 1774, and described as a “large two-storey classical box with a square tower and steeple.” Prominent on the facade is an 8-foot statue of William Wallace sculpted by Robert Forrest. The church exterior was restored 2008-09. Unfortunately, other than on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings it is open by appointment only.

Statue of William Wallace on St. Nicholas Parish Church, Lanark, Scotland

Statue of William Wallace on St. Nicholas Parish Church, Lanark, Scotland

William Wallace, by the way, is the fellow whose life and military campaign was fictionalized by Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart.

Other churches we passed were Greyfriars Church, apparently also a parish of the Church of Scotland like St. Nicholas, and Christ Church, a parish of the Scottish Episcopal Church. We liked the signage and the planting of the front walk of Christ Church. This signage is much more informative and inviting than what one sees on parishes of the Church of Ireland, which is one of the problems the Church of Ireland has, in my opinion. (The Church of Ireland needs to do a LOT of work in the area of evangelism, invitation, welcoming and incorporation … not unlike the American Episcopal Church.) Unfortunately, Christ Church like St. Nicholas was locked up, so we couldn’t get a look inside.

Sign, Christ Church, Lanark

Sign, Christ Church, Lanark

Evie at the Doorway of Christ Church, Scottish Episcopal Church, Lanark

Evie at the Doorway of Christ Church, Scottish Episcopal Church, Lanark

In addition to the parish’s own sign, there is a sign we saw elsewhere as we drove to Lanark: “The Scottish Episcopal Church Welcomes You”

The Scottish Episcopal Church Welcomes You

The Scottish Episcopal Church Welcomes You

After our brief walk through the center of Lanark, we drove about a mile out of the town to the New Lanark World Heritage Site. This is a nicely restored 18th century cotton mill village established in 1785 and nestled in beautiful valley along the River Clyde. New Lanark was a Utopian experiment set up by social reformer Robert Owen who, with partners, purchased the mill in 1810 and began to run it and take care of the workers in accordance with his social principles. (I didn’t know much about Robert Owen before visiting the site, but plan to learn more about him as time allows.)

Part of the tour of the site involves a pretty glitzy ride through “The Annie McLeod Experience”, which reminded us of a low-key Disney-theme-park sort of ride. I don’t think their presentation of cotton milling is as good as I saw at Quarry Bank Mill in Wilmslow (see my blog entry on 17 July 2011), but the restoration is very impressive. The walk-through showing what life was like in the workers’ “apartments” is very interesting, and a there is a roof-top garden with several sculptures of animals. Below are a few pictures of the sculptures and the buildings:

Owl Sculpture, Rooftop Garden, New Lanark, Scotland

Owl Sculpture, Rooftop Garden, New Lanark, Scotland

Ducks Sculpture, Rooftop Garden, New Lanark, Scotland

Ducks Sculpture, Rooftop Garden, New Lanark, Scotland

Raven Sculpture, Rooftop Garden, New Lanark, Scotland

Raven Sculpture, Rooftop Garden, New Lanark, Scotland

Frog Sculpture, Rooftop Garden, New Lanark, Scotland

Frog Sculpture, Rooftop Garden, New Lanark, Scotland

Otter Sculpture, Rooftop Garden, New Lanark, Scotland

Otter Sculpture, Rooftop Garden, New Lanark, Scotland

Some Buildings of New Lanark World Heritage Site

Some Buildings of New Lanark World Heritage Site

For more information about New Lanark, visit its website here.

A Local Wishing Tree (Clonfert, Ireland)

The Gate to the Holy Tree in Clonfert, Ireland

The Gate to the Holy Tree in Clonfert, Ireland

At lunch after church in Banagher, Ireland, this past Sunday I was told that I’d missed something when I went to see St. Brendan’s Cathedral in Clonfert … evidence (as my informant put it) that “paganism is alive and well in Ireland.” What I had missed is called a “votive tree” or a “wishing tree”. I decided that before I left Ireland I would go back and see this thing.

Then, perusing the morning’s papers online, I came across a story in England’s The Daily Mail entitled Who says money doesn’t grow on trees? Coins mysteriously appear in trunks up and down the country about similar trees in Great Britain.

Apparently this is not a phenomenon limited to Ireland and England; Scotland and Wales have such trees, too. And there are others in such places as Hong Kong, Argentina, and Belgium. (Wikipedia has an article about wishing trees here.)

While some trees (like the ones described in the Daily Mail article) are “coin-only” trees, the tree in Clonfert is not. It is festooned with neckties, dolls, Roman Catholic holy cards, pictures of babies, toys, brassieres, hats, rosaries, cigarette packages … in incredible variety of things.

St. Brendan's "Wishing Tree", Clonfert, Co. Galway, Ireland

St. Brendan's "Wishing Tree", Clonfert, Co. Galway, Ireland

I’m not surprised to find a “holy tree” in Ireland; finds plenty of “holy wells” in this country, why not a holy tree? After all, although partially disputed by some modern Celtic scholars (for example, Peter Berresford Ellis author of The Celts: A History and Celtic Myths and Legends), the Roman authors Lucan and Pomponius Mela, claimed that the Celts of Gaul worshiped trees and met for religious rites in sacred groves, a practice which Tacitus and Dio Cassius claimed to have found among the Celts in Britain. The names of certain Celtic tribes in Gaul reflect the veneration of trees, such as the Euburones (the Yew tribe), and the Lemovices (the people of the elm).

St. Brendan's "Wishing Tree", Clonfert, Co. Galway, Ireland

St. Brendan's "Wishing Tree", Clonfert, Co. Galway, Ireland

In fact, “holy trees” are often found next to holy wells. Although it is the well not the tree that is considered the source of blessing or healing, one often finds votive objects tied to a nearby tree with strips or rags of cloth in the belief that, while the object remains, the prayers will still be effective. These trees are are often called “cloutie trees” (“cloutie” [Irish] or “clootie” [Scots] is a slang word for “rag”, perhaps from the Gaeilge clúidín for “small covering [or] napkin”).

St. Brendan's "Wishing Tree", Clonfert, Co. Galway, Ireland

St. Brendan's "Wishing Tree", Clonfert, Co. Galway, Ireland

There is no well next to St. Brendan’s Tree, although there is a path called “the Nun’s Walk.” I’m told that this path originally led to the Bishop’s residence and, apparently, there was a convent associated with the cathedral; a first portion of the road one takes from the Clonfert cathedral back to Banagher is called “Nunsacre Road”.

St. Brendan's "Wishing Tree", Clonfert, Co. Galway, Ireland

St. Brendan's "Wishing Tree", Clonfert, Co. Galway, Ireland

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