Wow..this is such a great and exciting initiative! Without shadow of a doubt, it will ensure that Canada’s shared history with Scotland lay path to building a network of interdisciplinary studies, researchs, conferences, lectures alongside cultural and artistic events & activities reinforcing the strong bond that exists between Canadians and Scottish people.
No matter from which side of Canadian history you glance at; literature, business, education, politics, exploration to name just these few, you encounter Scots and their descendants that played leading roles in shaping the Canadian country.
FUND RAISING EVENTS
Whisky Fête fundraiser for McGill Scottish Chair
Montreal is getting a little peaty, smokey and maybe even a little sweet!
This Friday, the St.Andrew’s Society of Montreal presents its first Whisky Fête. The whisky tasting event is a fundraiser for a new Chair in Canadian-Scottish Studies at McGill University.
More than 50 rare and special Scotches single-malts will be featured at the event.
Peter McAuslan, founder, president and CEO of McAuslan Brewing is a spokesperson for the event. He’s a past president of the St Andrew’s Society of Montreal and is on the board for the Chair in Canadian-Scottish studies.
Brian McQueenie is co-director of Ouidram, the group that organized this tasting of fine whiskeys. They join Sonali Karnick in studio.
You’ll enjoy watching this video especially if you’re a whisky fan!
A LOOK BACK INTO HISTORY
The majority of Canadian universities share a Scottish heritage. For example, in Nova Scotia, the Scottish Earl of Dalhousie, George Ramsay, founded the Dalhousie University in 1818 while in service as lieutenant governor of the province.
The Queen’s College in Kingston, Ontario was established by the Church of Scotland in 1841, modelled after the University of Edinburgh for its traditions of academic freedom, authority and moral responsibility. Be it said that while evolving into a university, Queen’s became ‘the first degree-granting institution in the United Province of Canada, and the first west of the Maritimes to admit women.’
I could name many more, but let’s come back to McGill University which owes its existence to philanthropist James McGill, a native of Glasgow in 1744, from a family which origins are from the Ayrshire region. Can you imagine… he was already studying at Glasgow University when only 12 of age!
Search results from the web and books in my library mentions that it is more likely that he arrived in Canada in the early 1760′s, as part of a surge of Scottish settlement that followed the Conquest. In 1776, at 33 of age, James McGill became a justice of the peace and by 1779 was one of the largest shareholders in the Northwest Company. While continuying the import-export business, he acquired large real estate in Lower Canada.
James McGill (1744-1813)
Fluently bilingual, James McGill was elected a member of the new Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada and served for 8 years. He suddenly died, in 1813, of a stroke or an heart attack. Two years earlier, he had wrote his will and in his legacy provided land and money to establish a college or university.
Established in 1821, McGill College opened its doors in 1829 to classes in what had once been McGill’s country house. First degree was awarded in 1833. Subsequently, works were underway to construct an Arts building and
‘in 1855, principal John William Dawson, a Nova Scotia Scot who had completed his education in Edinburgh, turned the college into a university with the financial aid of those who lived in the Golden Square Mile around McGill. Mostly Scots, these donors left their names on various university buildings: the Redpath Museum, the MacDonald Physics Building, the Strathcona Medical Building, and so on. Mc Gill became a university in 1885.
McGill University stands up tall to its reputation of leading university with 21 faculties and schools providing more than 300 programs to 30,000 + students from all over the world.
McGill’s dedication to public service distinguished him from many of his fur-trading contemporaries. A volunteer Colonel with the Montreal militia, he led the defence of Montreal during the War of 1812. He served as a city magistrate for many years, making him part of a council that was the de facto government of Montreal at the time. He was also a member of a committee that reported on the need for a Legislative Assembly for the colony of Lower Canada, to which he would be elected three times.
James McGill Statue
Always a visionary, McGill was determined to create a rigorous system of education for Lower Canada. During his time as a legislator, he participated in the debates that would lead to the establishment of the Royal Institute for the Advancement of Learning (RIAL), a body designed to establish a formal educational system in the colony.
McGill took great care of the welfare of others, including his step-children and the orphan daughter of a friend.
This ecumenical and generous spirit manifested itself in his final will, which, after his death in 1813, revealed a bequest to the RIAL for the founding of a college.
Spurred on by the gift, the RIAL became the governing body for McGill College, which was officially established in 1821.
A View of Tantallon Castle – circa 1816 – Alexander Nasmyth – Wikimedia
Tantallon screams defense. From a distance, its walls soar out of the rocky headland like a monster fortification. A single line of huge wall was all that was necessary to defend this promontory from the land. Sea cliffs fall away precipitously from all sides except the front. Behind the castle, picturesque Bass Rock juts out of the Firth of Forth.
So nice is the weather that we would have liked to stay all day long in the magnificent Arts & Crafts and Victorian Gardens at Dirleton Castle but as we want to visit Tantallon Castle and John Muir’s native place in Dunbar we’d better hurry up.
Moreover we begin to be hungry. So off we go to North Berwick. There, we’ll try to find a good place to eat a ‘wee’ something before visiting the impressive fortress of Tantallon looking out over the breathtaking island of Bass Rock.
Last time, when we came to North Berwick, we arrived too late to visit Tantallon castle and I still remember how much disappointed we were not only to miss this famous historical place but also its spectacular viewpoint over Bass Rock.
‘Often described as a sentinel guarding the Firth of Forth the Bass Rock or “auld crag” has served as a retreat, a fortress and a beacon (…)
A lighthouse was built on the rock in the 19th century and remains an important beacon for shipping on the Forth.
Today the island is uninhabited by people but remains the oldest known gannetry in the world. The birds are studied and protected now, but in the past they were the staple diet of the people on the Rock and at Tantallon. You can learn more about them at the Scottish Seabirds Centre at North Berwick.’
North Berwick is a nice and very pleasant seaside resort with picturesque old houses and colourful shops. Our first idea was to find a table at the Buttercup Cafe but it was full. We finally push the door of the Deli & Cafe Bunney’s and don’t regret our choice for, after a cheerful welcome, we are served delicious food in a very cosy atmosphere.
North Berwick is one of our favourite places in East Lothian and we’ll certainly come back again. A couple of hours is far from enough time to visit the area and enjoy it. Robert Louis Stevenson, as a child, used to spend his holidays there and the influence of the place on his writings is not negligible. His little autobiographical book, The Lantern Bearersis one of my favourites. I’ve read it some time ago, in French (Les Porteurs de lanternes – Traduction de Marie Picard – Edition Sillage 2009).
North Berwick beach with Law Hill in the background – Source Wikimedia
These boys congregated every autumn about a certain easterly fisher-village, where they tasted in a high degree the glory of existence. The place was created seemingly on purpose for the diversion of young gentlemen. A street or two of houses, mostly red and many of them tiled; a number of fine trees clustered about the manse and the kirkyard, and turning the chief street into a shady alley; many little gardens more than usually bright with flowers; nets a-drying, and fisher-wives scolding in the backward parts; a smell of fish, a genial smell of seaweed; whiffs of blowing sand at the street-corners; shops with golf-balls and bottled lollipops; another shop with penny pickwicks (that remarkable cigar) and the London Journal, dear to me for its startling pictures, and a few novels, dear for their suggestive names: such, as well as memory serves me, were the ingredients of the town. These, you are to conceive posted on a spit between two sandy bays, and sparsely flanked with villas—enough for the boys to lodge in with their subsidiary parents, not enough (not yet enough) to cocknify the scene: a haven in the rocks in front: in front of that, a file of grey islets: to the left, endless links and sand wreaths, a wilderness of hiding-holes, alive with popping rabbits and soaring gulls: to the right, a range of seaward crags, one rugged brow beyond another; the ruins of a mighty and ancient fortress on the brink of one; coves between—now charmed into sunshine quiet, now whistling with wind and clamorous1 with bursting surges; the dens and sheltered hollows redolent of thyme and southernwood, the air at the cliff’s edge brisk and clean and pungent of the sea—in front of all, the Bass Rock, tilted seaward like a doubtful bather, the surf ringing it with white, the solan-geese hanging round its summit like a great and glittering smoke. This choice piece of seaboard was sacred, besides, to the wrecker; and the Bass, in the eye of fancy, still flew the colours of King James; and in the ear of fancy the arches of Tantallon still rang with horse-shoe iron, and echoed to the commands of Bell-the-Cat. (Robert Louis Stevenson – The Lantern Bearers – first published in Scribner’s Magazinein 1888 and then in Across the Plains in 1892))
After enjoying our light meal at the Deli & Cafe Bunney’s, we head for the impressive ruined fortress of Tantallon Castle, eager to see the breathtaking views on Bass Rock.
We always wait with much anticipation for the visit of a new castle but as I’ve already mentioned we’re no experts in the matter and we need tools to help us before and after such visit. In Scotland most places of interest have inside and outside panels, very well documented and illustrated. You can also get a brochure, free or not and of course search Internet. I’m a daily user of Wikipedia, this fantastic online encyclopaedia, an immense source of knowledge, open, lively, evolutive. Each time I’m looking for information about one or other subject, the first thing I do, even before browsing the crowded shelves of my library, is to search Wikipedia. This time, while trying to complete my knowledge of Tantallon Castle, I was very happy to discover a project which immediately appealed to me, the ‘Scottish Castles Project’.
Tantallon Castle Plan by Jonathan Oldenbuck – Wikipedia
I discovered this WikiProject while looking for information about Jonathan Oldenbuck, the author of the above Tantallon Castle plan. That must be the work of an expert, I said to myself, and here’s what I’ve found on Wikipedia:
If this funny and puzzling table has triggered your curiosity you’ll find answers on this other page of Wikipedia.
logo WikiProject Scottish Castles
Welcome to WikiProject Scottish Castles on the English Wikipedia! We are a group dedicated to improving Wikipedia’s coverage of Scotland’s numerous castles.
The focus of this WikiProject is relatively narrow: it aims to improve and expand Wikipedia’s coverage of castles in Scotland, with the ultimate goal of giving a full and detailed description of every notable castle in Scotland, accompanied with (where possible):
Photographs (external and internal)
The definition of ‘castle’ is a broad one, but the main focus of this project is on defensive structures of the 12th to 17th centuries, together with later “revival” castles.
Now, we’ll know where to look for when investigating about a Scottish castle.
Each castle has its own history to tell and a number of secrets to share with people who love it. We like to be given clues to understand the language of the old stones
Reconstruction of Tantallon castle with Douglas horsemen – Andrew Spratt
I won’t forget Andrew Spratt either. To him we owe wonderful reconstruction images of the Scottish castles. I’ve introduced him in my last post devoted to Dirleton Castle
Tantallon was built in the mid 14th century by William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas. It was passed to his illegitimate son, George Douglas, later created Earl of Angus, and despite several sieges, it remained the property of his descendants for much of its history. It was besieged by King James IV in 1491, and again by his successor James V in 1528, when extensive damage was done.
Tantallon saw action in the First Bishops’ War in 1639, and again during Oliver Cromwell’s invasion of Scotland in 1651, when it was once more severely damaged. It was sold by the Marquis of Douglas in 1699 to Hew Dalrymple, Lord North Berwick and the ruin is today in the care of Historic Scotland.
We didn’t realize that the castle was just a single huge wall until we walked through the central tower and into the close, the open grassy area leading to the cliffs. This is why the wall is called a curtain wall, as though a curtain (of stone) bisects the neck of the promontory.
On the above panel we can see the coat of arms of William, first earl of Douglas, the builder of the castle and the Family Tree of the ‘Red’ Douglas, earls of Angus.
(Clan Douglas – The coat of arms of William, first earl of Douglas – Source Wikipedia)
Blazon: Argent a heart Gules on a chief Azure three mullets of the first.
The panel reads: ‘The Douglasses, modest landowners before the Wars of Independence with England in the fourteenth century, emerged as a significant force thereafter through their close association with Robert the Bruce. Tantallon was built to demonstrate to all who passed their new-found wealth and prestige. ‘
Tantallon Castle engraving William Miller after Alexander Nasmyth Waverley Novels
I said, Tantallon’s dizzy steep Hung o’er the margin of the deep. Many a rude tower and rampart there Repelled the insult of the air, Which, when the tempest vexed the sky, Half breeze, half spray, came whistling by. Above the rest, a turret square Did o’er its Gothic entrance bear, Of sculpture rude, a stony shield; The Bloody Heart was in the Field, And in the chief three mullets stood, The cognizance of Douglas blood. The turret held a narrow stair, Which, mounted, gave you access where A parapet’s embattled row Did seaward round the castle go. Sometimes in dizzy steps descending, Sometimes in narrow circuit bending, Sometimes in platform broad extending, Its varying circle did combine Bulwark, and bartisan, and line, And bastion, tower, and vantage-coign: Above the booming ocean leant The far-projecting battlement; The billows burst, in ceaseless flow, Upon the precipice below. Where’er Tantallon faced the land, Gate-works and walls were strongly manned; No need upon the sea-girt side; The steepy rock and frantic tide Approach of human step denied; And thus these lines and ramparts rude Were left in deepest solitude.
“In March 2009, psychology professor Richard Wiseman released a photograph taken at Tantallon, which appeared to show a figure standing behind railings in a wall opening. The image, taken in May 2008 and sent to Wiseman as part of a research project, was described in The Times as showing a “courtly figure dressed in a ruff”. Wiseman stated that no costumed guides were present at Tantallon, and that three photographic experts have confirmed that the image had not been manipulated. A second photo, taken 30 years earlier, and showing a different figure in a similar location, was printed in The Scotsman a few days later.”
12:00 we leave Mortonhall campsite. The place is rather empty at this hour of the day except for our little friends, the rabbits, which play around and hide below our wigwam. They must be eager to be left alone in their realm…