Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Fairfield Shipyard Museum

After my tour around Govan Old Parish Church and seeing the Govan Stones, I wandered a bit further down Govan Road to what was once the offices of the Fairfield Shipping Company. The offices have had a major refurbishment and are now a museum in honour of the shipyard that once proudly stood there.

Fairfield was the first to combine the works of the ship builders and the engine fitters into the same shipyard. It is built on land that was once a farm, named Fairfield. It was the largest shipyard on the Clyde and built more ships than any of the others. 

While Fairfield did some work for Cunard, they were likely best known for their Empress line - Empress of Britain, Empress of Scotland, and the ill-fated Empress of Ireland. 

Fairfield also partnered with the Canadian Pacific Railway and their ships were the links to the west for many immigrants. Included in these immigrants were British Home Children.

During both world wars, Fairfield build naval ships and submarines as well as air craft carriers in more recent years. 

I was fascinated with the opportunity to see and hold a "riveter", having an ancestor who worked as a riveter. The weight of it was astounding and one can barely imagine standing holding it for hours and hours on end, not to mention the kick-back one would experience every time it "fired" No ergonomics in those days and repetitive strain injuries were a way of life 

A fascinating glimpse into a once illustrious industry, the Fairfield Shipping Museum is open daily from 2 pm - 5 pm. It is a short walk from the Govan subway station. 

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Govan Old Parish Church and the Govan Stones

After watching the Time Team episode on Govan and the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde, I decided that a visit to Govan Old Parish Church to see the Govan Stones was in order. 

I ventured out on April 26th in the chucking rain and was not disappointed. What an amazing history this church has. 

During an excavation, a number of ancient stones, dating back to between the 9th and 11th centuries, were uncovered in the church yard. It is thought that these stones are so large and elaborate because they originally were carved to commemorate the lives of some of the more powerful kings and families in the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde. 

The church has done an amazing job of showcasing the 31 stones, which are displayed throughout the church, with storyboards explaining the carvings and thoughts behind their meaning. 

Perhaps the most impressive part of the collection are the 5 Hogback stones. These date from the 11th century and are relics from the time when Viking lords were settling in the area. The stones are thought to be in the same shape as the Viking longhouses. The stones are referred to as Hogbacks because the curved carvings look similar to a pig's back. 

This historic display of old gravestones, including the very rare Hogbacks is open to the public every day from 1:00 - 4:00 and only a couple of blocks from the Govan subway station. The display is free to view, although a donation is a terrific idea. The guides are very knowledgeable and eager to share the rare display with others. 

If you have an interest in: grave slabs, old stones, graveyards, ancient history, vikings, archaeology, Scotland, Glasgow or old churches, I highly, highly recommend a visit. 

Tombstone Tuesday: St Cuthberts Cemetery Edinburgh

One of my favourite things to do when I visit Edinburgh each year is to wander around the old cemeteries. I try to pick ones I have not yet wandered through so that the history of the cemetery is new to me each time. Although I must admit, a trip to Edinburgh wouldn't feel complete without a wander through Greyfriars. It has become an annual pilgrimage. And my preference now it to take the guided tour offered by Historic Edinburgh Tours where I can learn the stories behind the people interred. 

One cemetery I have wanted to wander through for some years now is St Cuthberts. My initial fascination with St Cuthberts was my first sighting of the guard tower, watching over the burial sites and protecting them from the notorious grave robbers and body snatchers. 

St Cuthberts is on Princes Street at the far end of the West Gardens. It takes in an amazing expanse of land and while situated on the very busy Princes St, it is surprisingly tranquil. 

Like most of the old cemeteries in Edinburgh, St Cuthberts is the final resting place of some of the elite in Scotland's history. 

I am always in awe, as I wander amongst the headstones, of the wealth of genealogical information that can be gleaned from the old headstones. In the days when paying tribute was the most important part of a headstone and estates and families weren't charged per letter or per word:

Meandering Around Linlithgow with Mary's Meanders

On April 26th, I had the pleasure of meandering around historic Linlithgow with Anne and Emma from Mary's Meanders. Anne is a wealth of tidbits of information that really bring the history of Linlithgow to light. 

The tour is a guided walking tour that takes in the outside of the Palace, the churchyard,

 the newly unveiled statue of Mary, Queen of Scots 

and the gloriously serene Linlithgow Loch. 

The history of the Royal Stewarts and their use of the Palace as a leisure home is rich and lengthy, dating back to the 14th century. 

Both James V and his daughter, Mary were born here at the Palace. James in 1512 and Mary in 1542. One can easily imagine the palace and peel (park) in its heyday bustling with men fishing in the loch or hunting in the adjacent woods. Ladies chattering in the parlour. 

Sadly, the palace was burned by the Duke of Cumberland and his men in 1746 following the defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden. 

In addition to the Palace, Linlithgow has a deep history of its own as a royal burgh. 

Nearby Blackness served as the burgh's port and was once a busy hub for merchants trading across the Atlantic in such commodities as tobacco and leather. The port was later moved to Bo'ness and then even further afield to Glasgow. Sadly, the trade went with the port and the towns suffered as a result. 

Linlithgow is also ideally situated on the Union canal. With the opening of the canals following the building of the Falkirk Wheel, this is once again used for leisure by locals and passersby alike. 

Whenever I visit a new place, I am always interested in learning more about the place, the people and the history. Mary's Meanders is a terrific way to learn about this once bustling city while leisurely enjoying the sights of history and the pace of life as it is today. 

If a leisurely historic walk doesn't fit your fancy, Mary's Meanders also offers Outlander tours, ghost walks an Outlander dinner and show event. To book the tour of your choice:

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Calling All OUTLANDER Fans!

Mary's Meanders, a guided tour group in Linlithgow, Scotland, are hosting a special Outlander Day on May 21st. This is a full day event which will take you to several of the locations around Linlithgow where the show was filmed. These include:

As well as touring the filming locations, you will be entertained by a ceilidh and perhaps a wee dram to keep you going!

Booking information is available on the Mary's Meanders website at:

Glasgow Cathedral

Having made several trips now to Glasgow, and wandering all over the east end, drinking in the history, I finally made the jaunt up the hill to see Glasgow Cathedral. The current Cathedral has been around since 1197. The Cathedral has been a place of Christian worship for over 800 years. 

Of particular interest are the lower chapels 

Children's Chapel

Nurse's Chapel

the tomb of St Mungo, Patron Saint of Glasgow, who died in 603. 

and St Mungo's Well, a sacred place of pilgrimage to early Christians

Strathclyde Sarcophagus - Old Parish Church Govan

This Sarcophagus in Govan's Old Parish Church, is thought to have once held the remains of St Constantine, son of Pictish King Kenneth MacAlpin, who died in 876.

The Sarcophagus was discovered on 7 December 1855 by the sexton of the church. As he was digging a new grave in the Kirk yard, he found the sarcophagus laying just a couple of feet below the surface.

Given the size and ornate detailing, Professor Driscoll, professor of historical archaeology at Glasgow University, felt that it was created as a public monument to be displayed and viewed. "I think this sarcophagus is to house Constantine's relics as part of making this church into an important place," Prof Driscoll says.

Strathclyde was a powerful ancient kingdom of the Britons from the 5th to 8th centuries. The Kingdom was initially centred in Dumbarton and spread all along the Clyde river. The Kindgom stretched all the way to Cumbria in the south and then west over to Wales. 

Following the capture of Dumbarton in 871, the powerhouse of the Kingdom moved to Govan, with the church of St Constantine being in the centre. Govan Old Parish Church now stands on the site where the church of St Constantine once stood. 

For those who had ancestors in Govan, a major shipbuilding hub, the Old Parish Church holds their own archives  for Baptism, Marriages and Burials. The archives can be viewed by appointment. If you are unable to get to the church, you can seek the services of a local genealogist to act on your behalf. 

Here is the link to the church: http://www.thegovanstones.org.uk/