Everyone enjoyed Morag’s introduction to the history of this ancient land. We learnt of the mixture of races – Picts, Celts,Romans,English, Irish, Vikings…Possibly the original inhabitants were the Pictish tribes, called Painted Warriors by the Romans, due to the blue color they used to decorate their faces. The Latin Word Picti goes back to AD 297 and means painted or tattooed people. The Picts left no written records but remains of a Pictish monastery discovered at Portmahomack, Northern Scotland, indicates they were far more advanced than previously believed. Their lovely art and symbols carved into stone remain to be interpreted. Their priests were Druid .Many of the rhymes children still recite today such as Eeny Meeny Miney Mo and Hush A Bye Baby In The Tree Top, came down to us from Pictish folk.
With help from the Romans, Oswald, King of Northumbria defeated the Pictish Kings who were then converted to Christianity; a cross was said to have been seen in the sky at Atholstone. We owe our original knowledge of Oswald to the Venerable Bede, a monk who recorded the King’s generosity to the poor and to strangers. Oswald lived from c604 to 5 Aug 642,and was killed in the battle of Maserfield.
I was surprised to learn that the name Scotland comes from the Queen of the Scotti tribe from Northern Ireland, who sailed to the West coast of the country, assisted by the Romans. One of the Scotti Kings defeated the Pictish Kings at Inverness. Pict and Scotti then combined to become Scotland. The name Ireland, it seems, means our land.
The majority of our group were Canadians with a sprinkling of Aussies and one from the USA. Tom, the Canadian leader,was kind enough to include Marjorie and me in all the Birthday/Anniversary celebrations which occurred on the trip.
Morag played music from her splendid collection of Folk Songs. It was fascinating to hear the background to places we were about to visit, such as The Road To The Isles . ‘Gosh,’ said Marjorie, ‘Knew and loved so many of these old songs as a child. Didn’t realize that many were as much Scottish as Irish.’
When Morag played, You Take The High Road and I’ll be in Scotland before ye…Though me and my true love, will never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond,’ I thought: Nor anywhere else.’ It was all I could do to contain my tears, thinking of my husband, Gordon, gone into the Great Silence.
Marjorie soon had me laughing again. She hailed from the Blue Mountains, a couple of hours drive by freeway from Sydney. It was her first trip overseas so she was very excited. I felt pleased to find we shared a twin room at our hotel.
The Tour Director’s welcome drink provided the opportunity to chat and mingle with strangers who soon melded into family. Jack was a lively gentleman of a certain age with a love of photography and a twinkle in his eye for Marjorie.Vince, tall and attractive, had brought his recently widowed mother, Anna, on holiday. We found her to be a lovely, gentle woman,quiet by nature, but clearly with great depth of character having survived serious family accidents and traumas.
At dinner we shared a table with a wonderful, ageless octogenarian called Lois and her daughter Lorette.They were full of fun and we found ourselves roaring with laughter at the foibles of the weaker sex: Men! Anna joined us and declared she would be happy to see Vince settled with someone else. ‘Doesn’t seem likely at the moment.’ Adding, ‘His first wife was so short. It looks silly to see a tall man with a short woman.’ The stories flowed well into the evening.
In the following days Vince proved friendly, yet with a need to keep his distance.Divorced for a decade, he still seemed wounded by the loss, with nostalgic memories of his first love. Marjorie felt amused the way he avowed his celibacy, and yet flirted with every female in sight. ‘He’s a double for a guy I once knew. Typical of the Push-Me-Pull-Me games Michel played.’
I enjoyed moments when Vince discussed the architecture of a particular building or the quality of woodwork, his passion. But he appeared to feel threatened by my knowledge of French, and teased me about doing a course on Scotland prior to my visit . My remark that I loved cumulus clouds, made him reel off a list of other types, as if to prove his superiority.
He made barbed little comments about my Aussie accent, but never said a word about Marjorie’s, which was more pronounced. A larger-than-life individual,he reminded me of my late husband, Gordon. Once when I managed a witty riposte to one of his remarks, his mother said gleefully, ‘I knew you’d get back at him.’
We had a very cheery male guide on the Edinburgh tour with a splendid kilt. He made to sit down for a moment on the spare seat beside me. In removing my bag, I accidentally lifted the hem of his skirt. ‘Careful there,’ he said in his rich brogue.
‘Sorry,’ I giggled. ‘I wasn’t trying to see what you had under your kilt.’
‘That’s OK. I’d show you only it would make all the other men feel inadequate.’
The whole bus exploded with mirth.