Blogging Scottish History

Blogging Scottish History

Over the past few weeks I have been writing about Scottish history, in particular the lives and records of Scottish emigrants to Canada and the United States and the families they left behind in Scotland’s central belt. You can find an introduction to the Gilchrist and Shearer families here. With summer now firmly upon us, I thought I would share a few links to some online blogs and social media accounts that share their perspectives of Scottish history online.

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Edinburgh Castle — Photo credit: P. Dumas

This list is an introduction to some of the research being published and the organisations and researchers who are active on social media. It’s by no means exhaustive, ranked, or critically reviewed, but rather a fun collection of blogs to check out this summer. You’ll see that I’ve attempted to seek out a range of individual, group, and institution blogs for the list. Continue reading

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Employment Opportunities in the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

Employment Opportunities in the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

Over the past several weeks I have written a series of posts that centre on a series of letters from one branch of my ancestors who lived and travelled between Scotland, Canada, and the USA. Please visit my introduction to the letters and my work on their news of births and deaths, their experiences with immigration and transatlantic travel, and agriculture and the environment in their old and new communities.

This week I want to build on the post I wrote about farming and agriculture by looking at some of the other branches of employment the authors of the letters and their friends and family were undertaking in the latter half of the eighteenth century in Scotland’s rural central belt.

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Segment of Shotts showing Hareshaw, Muirhouse, and the Kirk of Shotts, ‘Northern Part of Lanarkshire’, John Thompson’s Atlas of Scotland, 1832 [NLS]

From farming and mining to service in homes and religious institutions, the Gilchrists, Shearers, and their families and friends provide us with fascinating little details about their lives and their livelihoods. Continue reading

Farming and the Land in the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

Farming and the Land in the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

Over the past few posts I have been working through a series of letters from a Scottish branch of my ancestors and delving into some of the themes that come up. You can check out my introduction to the letters, and look at death and disease, and contemporary thoughts on emigration in my previous posts.

Today I’ll be looking at issues of agriculture and farming, another topic that comes up frequently in the letters. The Gilchrists and Shearers were not strictly farmers. Several worked in service (as servants), for example, and as such I’ll take a closer look at employment opportunities in a later post.

Farming opportunities, the land and the weather, and how the markets and trade in general were doing were of interest to the writers and recipients of these letters. These factors affected their well-being, their diet, their place of residence, and their ability to survive. Continue reading

Travel and Immigration: Insights from the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

Travel and Immigration: Insights from the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

I have been writing about some of the themes that arise out of a series of letters from the latter half of the nineteenth century that travelled across the Atlantic between Scotland, Canada, and the United States. You can read my introduction to the letters here and my first thematic post on life and death in the letters here.

I’m following the story of some of my Scottish ancestors, and today the story brings us to a discussion of travel and immigration as shown in the letters.

Travel and Immigration in the Gilchrist Shearer Letters

The central figures in today’s letters are James Shearer Sr. and James Shearer, Jr. Continue reading

Disease and Death in the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

Disease and Death in the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

I am working my way through a series of letters sent between my Scottish ancestors and their families and friends in Scotland, Canada, and the USA. You can find my introduction to the letters here. Their authors have included some fascinating morsels of information about everyday life, and the nature of their letters also tells us about channels of communication that were maintained by Scots, regardless of where they travelled.

One thing that is immediately noticeable across these letters is that the authors were focussed on the putting the most important news first: that of their health and the health and wellbeing of family members and close friends. Unfortunately, this means that a number of the letters begin with news of recent (and not so recent) deaths. Continue reading

Scots in Canada: The Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

The Scottish people have a long history of migration and as a result many Canadians have Scottish roots.

I think there’s a tendency to lump all 18th and 19th century immigrants to Canada and the United States together and think of them as poor, desperate, unskilled workers, in some cases the victims of industrialisation, crop failure, land clearances, etc., and who by leaving for a new country would be abandoning everything and everyone they once knew, never to be heard from again. Continue reading

Postcard from Glenashdale Falls, Isle of Arran

Postcard from Glenashdale Falls, Isle of Arran
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Glenashdale Falls, Isle of Arran — Photo by P. Dumas

 

The Isle of Arran holds countless points of beauty and of historic (and prehistoric) significance. Only two hours from Glasgow (approx. 1 hour by train plus 1 hour by ferry) off the West Coast of Scotland, Arran’s most noticeably spectacular feature may be Goatfell, it’s highest point, Continue reading

More Maps: John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine

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Photo Credit: Cambridge University Library; Creative Commons License

Back with more historic maps which may be useful for generating class discussion on how such sources illustrate perceptions and views of the British and Irish in the wider world.

Today we’re highlighting the first atlas to cover the British Isles as a whole, as well as the first work to make comprehensive plans of many English and Welsh towns available in print. English historian and geographer John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine was published in 1611/1612, with a print run of approximately 500 copies. Each of the English and Welsh counties and the four provinces of Ireland was separately depicted, along with a larger view of Scotland.

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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Speed used previously compiled sources to inform his Theatre, but he made the maps and other elements himself.  The maps are rich with details of local history, fashions, and features, all of which would be useful in the classroom to provide a view of life in the Tudor and Jacobean eras.

With the publication of the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, Speed was well on his way to becoming the best-known mapmaker of his era.

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Photo credit: Cambridge University Library; Creative Commons License

Cambridge University Library has a remarkable digital resource utilizing one of their five proof copies of Speed’s atlas.  It can be found here.

Additional Sources:

Annie Taylor, “A Theatre of Treasures,” Cambridge University Special Collections.

Ashley Baynton-Williams, John Speed Biography Part I, Part II, and Part III.

“Mapping the Origins of a Masterpiece,” University of Cambridge.

Up Helly Aa Round-Up

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Up Helly Aa procession, 2010 – photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Up Helly Aa, the festival celebrating Shetland’s history and Norse roots, culminated in Lerwick earlier this week with a procession, lit by 1000 torches, and burning of a galley boat.  Other local festivities will be held throughout Shetland until March.

First records date the winter festival to 1824 when a visiting minister wrote: ‘The whole town was in an uproar: from twelve o’clock last night until late this night blowing of horns, beating of drums, tinkling of old tin kettles, firing of guns, shouting, bawling, fiddling, fifeing, drinking, fighting.’

– Up Helly Aa Committee

The modern form of Up Helly Aa, with the galley burning, dates to about 130 years ago.

Description of the Events and Listing of Festivities and Recap of Lerwick’s procession

History of Up Helly Aa

Official Website

Shetland Library, Very Brief History of Up Helly Aa

Alison Campsie, “Hundreds of ‘Vikings’ gather for Up Helly Aa in Shetland,” The Scotsman

BBC News article on Up Helly Aa and Video of this year’s procession in Lerwick

Pictures from this year’s festivities (and here)

The holiday season in Edinburgh

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Edinburgh – photo credit: L. Flewelling

Thank you so much for reading Isles Abroad throughout 2016! We’ll be back in the new year with more British and Irish history, but for now, enjoy some pictures of my favorite city during the holiday season.

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Edinburgh – photo credit: L. Flewelling

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North Bridge at Hogmanay – photo credit: L. Flewelling