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  1. #1
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    Trip to Scotland 1983: Four and half months in the Highlands and Islands

    Background: My interest has been the culture of the Highlands and Islands. I don't know when or why it started other than my family name. A genealogist did trace our ancestors back to Massachusetts prior to the American Revolution, and he either came from Argyll, Edinburgh, Northern Ireland or Connecticut. Dead end. His grandson's wife, however, was descended from the Knox gentry, from around Renfrew.

    I did take up the pipes at 16, but was more interested in the culture and music than competition or band. There were at that time no competent teachers within 70 miles, which might have been the moon for me. So I was self-taught from the Green Book. I had been playing woodwinds for 8 years by then, and could read music and understood the importance of no crossing notes. I was told a a few years later by a competent piper I could go right into Grade 3, so not terrible...

    While in graduate school at what was then SUNY Binghamton I joined the Scottish Society of the Twin Tiers. There I made a couple important friends. One was a MacLeod whose father emigrated from Lewis, and who still had an uncle there. The other was Bill Nicolaisen (spelling?). He was a Professor of Rhetoric at SUNY. He was previously at the School of Scottish Studies, and had emigrated with his family. Some of you may remember the Place Name articles he wrote for the Scots Magazine back in the '70s. He gave me my first tuition in Gaelic.

    Departure: I handed in my thesis and scrambled out of town before my professor could find more changes to make. I had a backpack, suitcase and two pipe cases. I hitchhiked from Binghamton to I90, then wisely took a bus to Boston. I had a one-way ticket stand-by ticket from Boston to London. I had chosen Boston as I did my undergraduate work there and had friends I could stay with, as well my sister was a freshman there at the time. I ditched as much as I dared, including one pipe case then waited to see when I could get a flight. I happened to run into the pastor of the college church before the flight, who had just returned from pastoring in Paisley. He gave me the name of the pastor of our denomination in Edinburgh, telling me to contact him when I got there.

    First time flying! The flight was on a 747 at 8:00 pm. I had a window seat and saw a lovely sunset once we were up in the air. Things went downhill from there. We hit tremendous turbulence for several hours and were requires to be seatbelted. As I had never flown before I had nothing to compare it with. Meals were served, however, part way through that the flight attendants (stewardess's then) stopped serving and meals and strapped in. At that point I knew it was bad...

    Eventually we got past that, and I ate. As it got brighter outside we were in a cloud. That continued until we were 200 feet above the runway in London. With one exception. I blessed my window seat because for about 10 seconds we looked down a hole in the clouds to see a brilliant green with shining silver threads. It was the Shannon River. It was lovely. All up and down the plane you could hear gasps as people saw it.

    We landed in London. I got through customs. I had $1500 in my pocket. I needed a train north.
    "There is no merit in being wet and/or cold and sartorial elegance take second place to common sense." Jock Scot

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  3. #2
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    6th July 07
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    Post deleted, I misunderstood the text.
    Last edited by Jock Scot; 6th December 22 at 11:32 AM.
    " Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the adherence of idle minds and minor tyrants". Field Marshal Lord Slim.

  4. #3
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    It was the Shannon. That few seconds of opening in the clouds was all we saw out of the plane except gray cloud until we were literally just over the runway at Heathrow an hour and a half later. I never saw anything of London while on the plane.
    "There is no merit in being wet and/or cold and sartorial elegance take second place to common sense." Jock Scot

  5. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCampbell16B View Post
    It was the Shannon. That few seconds of opening in the clouds was all we saw out of the plane except gray cloud until we were literally just over the runway at Heathrow an hour and a half later. I never saw anything of London while on the plane.
    Ah ! I am sorry I did not read it correctly. Please accept my apologies.
    " Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the adherence of idle minds and minor tyrants". Field Marshal Lord Slim.

  6. #5
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    No apology needed. I am not used to this type of writing, so I need to be aware when I lack clarity.
    "There is no merit in being wet and/or cold and sartorial elegance take second place to common sense." Jock Scot

  7. #6
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    Hello DC, Looking forward to reading more about your trip. Trip of a lifetime for sure.
    stickman.

  8. #7
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    Thanks, Stickman. It was. Sending you a PM.
    "There is no merit in being wet and/or cold and sartorial elegance take second place to common sense." Jock Scot

  9. #8
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    16th March 20
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    I took the Tube from Heathrow to King's Cross Station. For part of the ride at least I saw some of London. Shrubs and trees looked similar to those in the States, although the buildings are different. So are the accents when you hear them. Saw working men pour out tea for break. The gardens were of course spectacular. I was able to catch the 11:00 Flying Scotsman train north (Intercity 125). Due in Edinburgh 3:50. At least the first part of the trip looked similar to home, at least the flatter and more rolling parts near Lake Ontario (I grew up and live in the last northern hills of the Appalachians, but have many relatives up there). (I have a note here: "Customs efficient, subway effiecient, train efficient. What's wrong with our Gov't and economy?") It is a little hard to read some of my notes sometimes, especially the first part in in pencil.

    I generally kept track of the money I spent. Some of the older UK members here might find it interesting to be reminded what prices were like in 1983. I think 1.50 Heathrow to King's Cross, 35 to Edinburgh, 54p for a sandwich, 37p for a Pepsi.

    The train had a "mechanical fault" at 11:40. I had no way of knowing where we were. Flat as a pancake though. Rolling 6 min later. Most of the people on the train were older folk (a sprinkling of high school and college age kids). It was somewhat odd to think of them as having lived through World War II and just carrying on.

    Around noon in very flat country, with drains. Strangely I don't feel out of place here, even though the country is flat. One word that describes England though is "tame".

    12:03 stop in Peterborough. There was beginning to be more Scottish accents in the car. A mother, son and daughter joined my table for four. She was Scottish, from Campbelltown, and was helpful with some advice. Durham at 2:11, Newcastle (dingy in the cloud), then Tyne (pretty big),Morpeth at 2:39, and then the North Sea, Berwick. I was told the bright yellow bushes that were fairly common were gorse. A lot of grass and sheep.

    And the border.
    "There is no merit in being wet and/or cold and sartorial elegance take second place to common sense." Jock Scot

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  11. #9
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    If you hit the flat lands between London and Peterborough you would have been in the Fens (low lying marshland around Ely and Cambridge, it's mainly farmland and originally was drained using the polder system - hence the drainage channels - locally known as dykes). I used to work in Cambs and lived out in the Fens for a short time in a place called Manea - your train would have taken you through the village - if you'd have done this journey in the winter when they flood the fields you would have travelled for some miles on an embankment with nothing but water on either side of the tracks.

  12. #10
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    Arrival: 23 June

    Green open fields, pastures, some trees, rolling hills. I noticed they plowed their fields vertically. In spite of all the green, it gives the feeling of being incredibly barren.

    The train arrived at Waverly Station at 4:00pm. I used 20p to call the pastor I had been referred to. His daughter picked up. When I asked the best thing to do for a place to stay, I was told I would stay with them. I was told to take the 26 bus to Drumbrae Drive. It was a walk from there and she would meet me.

    I missed the first bus. I didn't have the 30p for the fare. I had to go and get change and come back. And I didn't make many new friends with my backpack and suitcase...

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I wasn't all that happy dragging that suitcase (no wheels...) with that pack on my back.

    But the family was very gracious and gave me my own room. I didn't feel that bad from jetlag. I almost did fall asleep on the train, as I got no sleep on the plane thank you incredibly bad turbulence). 10pm and still light out, which is new to me. The pastor is going to show me around tomorrow.

    24 June

    The pastor drove me around Edinburgh, then up by Arthur's Seat and the 11th C Norman Church in Duddington. Then he turned me loose. I spent an hour on Princes Street. I needed to buy a daywear jacket, so stopped in several places.

    I spent 30p on the bus up to the Castle (it was several days before I found out you pay by the distance you go, not a flat 30p. Dumb tourist).

    I was several days in Edinburgh. Almost all of them spent in some sort of museum, so I won't bore you with details. Those of you in such things will have access much better to them. Because at that time I was into reenacting, I took pictures of clothing, dirks, targes, sporrans, and whatever, as well as made detailed drawings in my journal. I had written ahead to the National Portrait Gallery to request to see the portrait of John (The Bank) Campbell of Lochlane, as I was interested in the tartan he was wearing. (Peter MacDonald has since produced a woven copy of that tartan.) I was treated most kindly by Miss Helen Smails at that time, and given permission to photograph paintings as long as it was for my personal use and not for publication. Therefore, I further tales of Edinburgh will be of more general interest.
    "There is no merit in being wet and/or cold and sartorial elegance take second place to common sense." Jock Scot

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