THISTLESTOP TOUR OF BONNIE SCOTLAND (9)

Melissa was waiting for us at the bar with her partner, Andrew. He was tall and dark with kind eyes; it was the first time we’d met. I liked him at once. I  introduced the Tour Group and left them to celebrate the final evening.

In a little French Restaurant at Stirling we enjoyed a delicious  dinner of chicken breasts with orange tarragon sauce, creamed potatoes and beans .  There was much excitement when the young couple told their news: they had become engaged. Hugs and kisses all around and a celebration  bottle of excellent chilled French wine made a perfect evening.

My daughter had come to Scotland for a year on a teacher exchange, and met Andrew in London. It was a case of coup de foudre – love at first sight. She began teaching at prestigious Dollar Academy, originally founded as a school for poor children – now the students  seem to be among the most privileged.

Melissa and Andrew had  rented a cosy little two-story place in the main street of Dollar, or dolour as it was dubbed by an unhappy princess, once imprisoned in Glooms Castle, as it was once known, owned by the Campbell clan. This  imposing ruin, said to be the finest Tower Castle in England, still dominates the small town. Dubbed ‘ A Lowland stronghold for a Highland Chief,’ it dates to the 15th century and once included Banqueting and reception areas, vaulted storerooms and huge kitchens. The castle’s reign as a noble residence ended when it was torched and the 8th earl executed.

Interestingly, St Columba himself may have come to Dollar on horseback to preach. The sculptured hills and pleasant gardens give no hint of the secret wilderness close to the center of town. Two streams – the Burn of Sorrow and the Burn of Care – leap and roar down narrow gorges on either side of the castle , past moss-covered rocks, in a pretty wooded valley or glen, a delight of bluebells with the aroma of wild garlic heavy on the cool air.

As an Australian Melissa found it quite a change to teach at Dollar. She told me that during the winter it was dark at 9AM when she left for school, and dark when she arrived home at 4PM each afternoon. The hierarchy at Dollar spied a photo of the painting she’d done for Wenona, her previous school, and they commissioned one,too.

She painted a triptych showing various aspects of the College education, hints of Australia’s cultural heritage, bits of Scottish culture (including, of course, Robbie Burns). The central picture shows the view between the tall columns of the school, looking towards the future. The Academy were very excited by the work and, after I’d gone, gave her a lovely send-off, replete with speeches and congratulations, in addition to a generous gratuity.

The Burrell Collection was one of the exciting exhibitions  we visited in Glasgow.It is housed in a wonderful building specially designed to display everything to best advantage. It’s sited  close to the perimeter of Pollock Country Park,  and huge areas of glass give the impression that the chestnut trees and bluebells are a part of the interior.Between the skylights are strong beams constructed from layers of light colored ply.

I loved the way an Elizabethan gate and antique window have been incorporated into the very fabric of the structure. In one room was a marvelous carved oak ceiling with a design of acorns and oak leaves, depicting perfectly the beauty of both the living tree and the fine timber from which it’s constructed. There are also examples of beautiful carved oak chairs and linen-fold oak paneling, similar to some we saw in one of the castles.

Sir William’s bequest required that certain of his rooms be reconstructed within the museum. I particularly liked the dining room, which featured a huge, solid oak table and chairs upholstered with splendid tapestries.

Gifted to the city by Sir William Burrell in 1944, the collection contains a variety of works from late Medieval to early Renaissance. There are also examples of Chinese and Islamic art. French artists include Rodin, Degas and Cezanne. It’s regarded as one of the greatest collections gathered by one man .

With Melissa working, I set off alone to visit Stirling Castle. Particularly liked the Elizabethan Kitchen which are presented in a living format with figures, vegetables, game, and leaping flames in the fireplace.

Then I caught a bus to see the Wallace memorial, set atop a hill a few miles from Stirling. William Wallace, a Scottish hero and patriot, lived from 1270 -1305. When Edward 1 from England  imposed himself as leader, Scots were outraged. Soon their unrest turned to rebellion and William Wallace famously defeated a much larger English force at Stirling Bridge. Dioramas on every level honor some aspect of his life, and he was the hero of the film Braveheart, which starred Mel Gibson. Ultimately, Wallace was betrayed and executed for treason by the English, but he will never be forgotten by his countrymen.

My time in Scotland had come to an end. There are many stories and legends about the following little poem from Glasgow. I leave you to explore them yourself.

Here is the story of the fish that never swam   

The bell that never rang

The bird that never flew

and the tree that never grew

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About wraxdec

I've reached the age of flamboyance and bling.I love Classical FM, Jazz, French chansons, French movies, SBS Documentaries and Wednesdays with my Women Writers Critique Group at the NSW Writers Centre.I've published short stories and the occasional article. My novel/'faction on nursing in the 20th Century,' BLACK STOCKINGS WHITE VEIL - A TALE OF ADVERSITY, TRIUMPH AND ROMANCE AT ROYAL PRINCE ALFRED HOSPITAL'- was a Finalist in the 2009 Indie Book Awards. I've critiqued a second fictional family memoir, 'SONGS FROM HEAVEN', and am working through a third, 'GOING HOME'.
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