For the benefit of Mr Kite

Prepare to be surprised by the discoveries you make during Previously…Scotland’s History Festival.
Family tree research in Edinburgh

Genealogical research can lead one in so many different directions, and is a hobby which has been growing over the years with programmes such as “Who do you Think You Are” demonstrating the incredible stories which make a family history.  I’ve dabbled with collecting stories from my own family history over the years: having conversations with relatives and snatching time every so often to work on a particularly stubborn bit of the story where I get stuck and can’t get further. There’s one particular ancestor who had 12 children and who lived from 1870 – 1945 whose story pulls me back every time I pick up the threads to continue my research.

It was a tale about this member of my family which led me to book  for one of the events at Warriston Cemetery during the 2013 Scotland’s History Festival led by Caroline Gerard, one of the Friends of Warriston Cemetery.  There’s a Facebook Group you can join too.

On arrival at the event, we were offered the opportunity to contribute an additional £2 over our ticket price (of £4) for the tour to become a Friend of Warriston.  As I’d already seen some of the work the group are doing, I was happy to make this small donation.  The tour on the 16th November 2013 was the first of two being offered.  The next is on 30th November 2013.

One of the surprises about the tour of a graveyard was that it wasn’t at all gloomy! Caroline has such enthusiasm for her subject, and told stories of astronomers and Celtic crosses, solicitors and architects, flora and fauna, musicians and anesthetists – as well as giving some quick sketches of the great and the good of Edinburgh’s bygone days.

The connection to the Beatles song from which I’ve taken the title for this post is the stuff of urban legend.  One of the graves which has been recently uncovered by the work undertaken by the Friends of Warriston Cemetery in cutting back ivy from memorials which had disappeared has the following inscription:

“Sacred to the Memory of
William Batty Patrick Darby
son of
William and Elizabeth Darby
Professionally known as Pablo Fanque
who died 1st February 1852, Aged 13 Months
Also of 
Elizabeth, their Daughter
who died at Tuam Ireland 30th Oct. 1852,
Aged 3 years and 4 months”

It’s the PABLO FANQUE name which takes this headstone from a memorial of family tragedy to the connection to John Lennon and the Beatles… for Mr Fanque was a Circus Proprietor for 30 years in the golden age of the circus, and is quoted in the song from Sgt Pepper, “For the benefit of Mr Kite” for which John Lennon took inspiration from  a poster advertising one of Pablo Fanque’s Circus Performances. The lyrics include the lines:

For the benefit of Mr. Kite
There will be a show tonight on trampoline
The Hendersons will all be there
Late of Pablo Fanque’s Fair, what a scene

An inspiring tour from Caroline Gerard whose stories brought the walk to life.  Her enthusiasm for the subjects shone through, for the human and social history; the biodiversity of the area; and the craft of the sculptors on display in the graveyard.  Thanks Caroline!  I’ll be returning to other aspects of this tour in future blogs.

If you’re inspired to come to Edinburgh to find out more about your own family history, consider coming during November when Previously…Scotland’s History Festival takes place – experts like Caroline are a joy to meet and learn from and could help you take further steps in your own research.

We do hope that you’ll get in touch in your search for accommodation – Craigwell Cottage is very conveniently situated for researching at Scotland’s People Centre (under 15 minutes walk) as well as being next door to New Calton burial ground – a subject for another day.

 

Robert Louis Stevenson Day – 13 November 2013

Since the first “Previously…Scotland’s History Festival”, the number and range of events being staged to market Robert Louis Stevenson Day has been growing, and this year the events take many forms – from a morning walk to Swanston, to readings of his poetry for children, to afternoon tea and an hour of lively discussion.  My personal choice of events would be to go on the walk at 10:30; followed by a visit to the Writers’ Museum at 2 pm; then a quick sprint downhill to 17 Heriot Row for Afternoon Tea and a Talk; with the day being rounded off by the discussion at the Royal College of Physicians at 7 pm.

This is of course, just the beginning of an extravaganza of exploration into Scotland’s History – what events will you be going along to?

former home of Robert Louis Stevenson

The door to 17 Heriot Row, Edinburgh

Read more: Events for Robert Louis Stevenson Day

Scotland’s History Festival: Previously…

We’d love to welcome you to Craigwell Cottage if you’d like to spend a short break in Edinburgh during November – an ideal time to come as the city gets ready to celebrate the festive season, with Light Night being on 24 November this year.

Nigel Planer and Ian Rankin at the 2011 History Festival

Nigel Planer and Ian Rankin at the 2011 History Festival

Searching for your Scottish Ancestors – a personal journey

Searching for ancestors at Warriston Cemetery

Researching your Scottish Ancestors

Edinburgh in November – a great time for visitors who are looking to research their Scottish Ancestry.  The city is a little quieter before we gear up for the Christmas and New Year celebrations, making it an ideal time for visitors who are looking to do some research into their Family Tree.

On Twitter recently, we were having a chat (#EdinHour) about spooky things to do in October, and a thread of conversation popped up about The Red Lady of Warriston Cemetery.  This triggered a memory of an aunt of mine talking about going to visit her granny’s grave, and having to pass the grave of the Red Lady.  A quick search on Google, and I was able to see some images of the grave which had been a magnificent memorial in its day, but had now sadly been vandalised beyond recognition.

Of course, it’s not the Red Lady who is my relative, but just that the Red Lady is a grave which my aunt passed by – but, given that I thought that the relative in question was buried in a different cemetery, it’s another clue in my journey to discover more about one particular person who fascinates me in my own family.

I was delighted to find out that the Friends of Warriston Cemetery are running two events during Scotland’s History Festival in November – see the programme for details. The events run on the 16th and 30th November and are led by local genealogist Caroline Gerard.

I’m hoping go on one of the tours to gather some more clues about how to find out more about my own family tree.  If you’re hoping to travel to Edinburgh to do some research into your own family tree, then we’d be very happy to welcome you to Craigwell Cottage – your home-from-home in Edinburgh’s city centre.

Read more: http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/life-style/warriston-cemetery-s-hidden-treasures-revealed-1-3015022

Download: Previously…Scotland’s History Festival programme

 

The great indoors – #ScotlandHour November 2013

Wild winds in Edinburgh

Autumn breezes in Edinburgh

This month’s #ScotlandHourTwitter chat is about the Great Indoors: Visitor Attractions & Museums – and of course, a Hallowe’en special.

As the weather turned wild and windy on Sunday during our weekend walk through Inverleith Park after a trip to the Royal Botanic Gardens, we thought “The Great Indoors” was indeed a good theme!

Ideas for the great indoors if you’re heading for a short break in Edinburgh:

  1. Within a mile of Craigwell Cottage, there are so many visitor attractions you can walk to.  In our research for #ScotlandHour, we took a look at the ASVA Website which has a list of Scottish Visitor Attractions which you can search by location.  There were more than 20 within a mile of EH8 8DR  (our postcode).
  2. As the seasons change, there are fabulous opportunities to take advantage of sunny spells in the weather for walks around the city.  The Royal Botanic Gardens has several cafés on-site, which means you can pop indoors, or steam gently in the giant glasshouses while sheltering from the elements.
  3. Find a pub with a cosy fire and enjoy being indoors after your bracing walk.  We found at warm fire and a warm welcome at the Blue Goose Country Pub (opposite the Water of Leith Visitor Centre).  We’re on the lookout for more to recommend.
  4. Sample some real hot chocolate at The Cocoa Tree in Bruntsfield.
  5. Spend a day exploring the National Galleries on the mound and have refreshments at The Scottish Café – a whole day and no need to go outdoors as you walk between the Scottish National Gallery and The Royal Scottish Academy via the Hawthornden Link.

What are your favourite recommendations for visitors to spend time indoors in Edinburgh?

 

 

The second 100 pages – Magnus Magnusson’s Scotland, The Story of a Nation

Well, certainly failing in the target for reading, but things like the Moonwalk and other pleasures have been getting in the way.

I’ve brought the weighty tome along with me on holiday and have been undertaking to get back on track with my reading. You may have gathered by now that I’m no great shakes on this history lark. Just couldn’t summon any great enthusiasm, preferring fictionalised accounts rather than lists of facts.

Must say that my reading of Chapters 9 onwards have felt like torture – book falling on my nose as I drop off after ploughing through a few paragraphs and so on.

But, having slogged up to the Battle of Bannockburn over my muesli the other morning (yes, I’m such fun on holiday!), I’m finding a little more of the story resonating. As soon as we got to James I and the building of Linlithgow Palace I began to get interested. Reading is of course a personal journey, and I think that I’ll have difficulty in recalling many facts of battles won and lost and parts of the countryside traversed. But I can relate to a king who wanted to build a palace and decorate it in the grandest style of the times. And I liked the tale of how he fell in love with a lady and wrote poetry.

It also seemed that the history as portrayed in this book is a timeline moving from one ruler to the next, one battle to the next in a weary procession. Surely this isn’t the way to interest a non-historian like me? I’d thought at the beginning of the book that I’d be hooked by the sense of place which was being conveyed, and now I find that all these endless battles just don’t do it for me. No idea of how the ‘common people’ lived from day to day – how was it to be a citizen of this emerging nation?

Am I hopelessly lost in my need for domestic details rather than the ‘hanging, drawing and quartering’ of the would-be leaders of men?