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February 1, 2008 06:35 - Mary Livingston

(Even though it's the 1st of February, there are no Highland Games listed for this month)

Mary Livingston, the fourth of Queen Mary's lady-in-waiting, was a very robust and athletic girl. So much so, the others called her 'Lust'.

Her father was Alexander Livingston, 5th Lord Livingston. He was her official guardian and sailed with her, and his daughter, to France.

The small Highland clan of Livingston came from the Isle of Lismore and Western Argyll. They were connected to the Stewarts of Appin.

Alexander and his daughter, Mary, might have worn the Livingstone tartan ~

Livingstone tartan WR895

For her wedding, Mary may have worn the Livingstone Dress tartan ~

Livingston Dress tartan WR650

Mary Livingston married John Sempill of Bruntschiells in 1565. He may have pinned a piece of the Sempill tartan on Mary on their wedding day. Afterward, she may have worn his tartan.

Sempill Family tartan WR2420

That's the Four Marys, but what about Mary Queen of Scots?

February 4, 2008 08:44 - The Name Mary

With so many Marys floating around, some explanation for the popularity of the name 'Mary' is in order.

Mary is probably from the Hebrew word rama which means 'high' or 'longed for child'. The Old Testament equivalent is Miriam. Mary was, of course, the mother of Jesus in the New Testament.

Down through the Christian times, Mary has been the most popular girl's name into the 1900's. In 1950 it was till in the Top Ten. By 2000, Mary wasn't even in the Top 100 girl's names.

The Gaelic form is Mhàiri or Mairi, with the most popular bearer being mary, Queen of Scots. Other popular forms in Scotland are Molly, Maidie, and Marie.

A Scottish ballad, Mairi's Wedding, can be heard
Perhaps the most famous bearer of the name in Scotland was Mary Queen of Scots. is the Gaelic form of the name - there is a well loved folk song Mhàiri's Wedding. Other forms include Molly and Maidie while the French form Marie has become increasingly popular in Scotland.

Scottish naming patterns will be discussed on February 7th, while Mary Queen of Scots will be discussed the next two days…

February 5, 2008 19:05 - Mary Queen of Scots ~ Part I

History has made Mary a beloved queen, circumstances made her a victim of her times. Her story is considered a great tragedy.

To save her life and preserve the throne for Mary, her mother, Mary de Guise, sent Mary and an entourage to France. Mary grew up in the French court, steeped in the Catholic faith, betrothed to the future king of France.

While in France, mary adopted the French spelling of Stewart, becoming Stuart. From her time forward, Stuart became the official spelling for the Royal Family.

By the age of 19 she was back in Scotland, a widow, a queen in a country foreign to her, the last Catholic monarch in a proudly Protestant land.

Her every move was suspect by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth of England. At the age of 45 she was executed by Elizabeth.

More historical details are available at Scottish Wedding Dreams
History page.

The Luckenbooth Brooch which has become a Scottish wedding tradition was styled after Mary's royal monogram.

Tomorrow, Mary Queen of Scots ~ Part II…

February 6, 2008 11:54 - Mary Queen of Scots ~ Part II

Mary married Lord Darnley on a Sunday in May. Both Sunday and May are since considered ill omens for a marriage in the Days of the Week and Months of Marriage

Mary and her father were the first monarchs to add a crown with the Saltire flag on their coins, making the Saltire a royal badge. Read more about the Saltire at Scottish Wedding Symbols.

Mary most likely wore Stuart tartans, such as this artifact found at Culloden.

Stuart Plaid Artifact tartan WR1706

This tartan was designed to commemorate the opening of the Scottish Parliament by Queen Elizabeth in 1999. The colors reflect Elizabeth's outfit worn that day. (Did the English win in the end?)

Mary Queen of Scots tartan WR2627

Two other tartans that could be combined with the two above for a Scottish wedding color theme ~

Unidentified tartan WR1992

Unnamed tartan WR1024

Tomorrow, learn more about Scottish naming patterns…

February 7, 2008 14:48 - Scottish Naming Patterns

Yes, Biblical names were popular throughout the Christian world. There were Biblical names, Catholic saint names, and martyrs names. But as people drifted away from their Christian roots, the names remained popular. Why?

Most cultures developed a naming pattern, by which ancestors were honored with the naming of their descendants. Scotland was no different.

The Scottish usually named their children as follows ~
1st Son named after Father's Father
2nd Son named after Mother's Father
3rd Son named after Father
4th Son named after Father's oldest brother
5th Son named after Father's 2nd oldest brother or mother's oldest brother

1st Daughter named after Mother's Mother
2nd Daughter named after Father's Mother
3rd Daughter named after Mother
4th Daughter named after Mother's oldest sister
5th Daughter named after mother's 2nd oldest sister or Fathers oldest sister

So it was not unusual for Mary Queen of Scots to be named Mary, as her mother was Mary de Guise. The maternal grandmother of Marie de Guise was Marie de Luxembourg.

As another example, Mary Seaton's mother was Marie Pieris.

February 8, 2008 10:01 - The Title 'Queen of Scots'

As an aside, the title Queen of Scots descends from Kenneth of Alpin, the First King of Scotland. He was, Kenneth, King of Scots.

The original chiefs decided who would be their kings, following the genealogical lines from Kenneth I, with some sideways turns.

The king or queen ruled the people, not the land. The royalty of Scotland did not inherit the land. The land belonged to the clan chiefs and the lairds, or lords, of the land. The land was theirs, but the king could take it away and give it to another. Or a rival chieftain could win it away in battle.

So Mary was not Queen of Scotland, she was Queen of the Scots, as all her ancestors before her had been the King of Scots or the Queen of Scots. The other female example is Margaret Maid of Norway, queen from 1286 to 1290. Though never officially crowned, she is known as Margaret, Queen of Scots.

February 11, 2008 09:43 - Knit Straw Crown for a Summer Wedding

Yesterday, I wandered into the Constance Willems Designs site and stumbled across her wedding crown. Wouldn't it work well with tartan in a Scottish theme wedding? She's promoting the straw crown for a summer wedding, but it's also available in silver or gold. In any one of the three materials, the current cost is $151 including worldwide shipping. (Please note this can change daily with currency exchange rates and/or inflation)

The best I can figure is that she's located in Australia, but ships worldwide. Shops are selling her designs in the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy.

For more information go to Knit Hats.

Other of her hat designs are available in a variety of colors. You might be able to buy the Wedding Crown in a color to go with your tartan. It doesn't hurt to ask.

Beginning tomorrow, famous Scottish ladies ~ their deeds and their tartans. Annie Laurie ~ the song and the lady ~ will be first on Tuesday…

February 12, 2008 11:10 - Famous Scottish Ladies

Famous Scottish Ladies

I question if I've stuck myself in a rut, what with all the blogs on Scottish women. But there are so many of them and some of their exploits are phenominal. Each has a story to tell, if we can only find it.

Beyond that, each has a lovely tartan. They might have worn something similar or the tartan may have come into being since they lived.

Tartan will be a highlight of your wedding. Whether you want it to or not, people are drawn to the tartans, and they will likely take first place at your wedding, even over you as the bride.

Each time I open a book on Scottish history I find more and more women, both from Scotland and Scottish-Americans, who warrant some space.

Margaret, the Maid of Norway, was mentioned in passing last Friday, February 8th. Her mother was the daughter of the Scottish king, Alexander III, who married the King of Norway. Margaret, the daughter, was the only surviving relative of King Alexander. The Scottish guardians declared her the rightful ruler of Scotland and awaited her arrival from Norway. While crossing the seas, she died.

The Scottish Wars of Independence started as people vied for the void left upon her death. The throne of Scotland was kind of up for grabs.

By the way, both she and the king were Stuarts, wearing some of the innumerable family and clan tartans.

There's lots of other ladies, their stories, and their tartans…

February 13, 2008 15:04 - Annie Laurie ~ Part I

An old ballad has kept the story of Annie Laurie alive. Anna, known as Annie, was the youngest daughter of Sir Robert Laurie, Baron of Maxwelton, in Dumfriesshire, Scotland.

Though there is no known Laurie tartan, this one has since been registered.

Lauire Tartan 2921

Annie is reported to have been slender and graceful. Her beauty was classic, with large blue eyes and brown hair that she did not powder, as was the fashion. She had small hands and feet. The ballad refers to her 'fairy feet'

History tells us that Annie met and fell in love with William Douglas of Fingland. They met at a ball in Edinburgh, trysted often in the woods of Dumfriesshire, and secretly betrothed themselves.

William committed himself to the Jacobite cause and Annie's family was loyal to the crown. The romance ended and William married a Lanarkshire heiress. Due to his political views, he was forced to flee Scotland, becoming a mercenary soldier, and selling the family estate. Eventually he was pardoned.

Anna married Alexander Fergusson, Laird of Craigdarroch. She oversaw the building of the present mansion of Draigdarroch and the formal Georgian gardens behind the house still reflect her good taste.

The Fergusson's have many tartans. With what I've read of Annie and her good taste, I can just see her in this lovely dress tartan. Possibly for her wedding…

Ferguson Clan Dress Tartan WR92

William Douglas supposedly wrote the initial ballad, but Lady Jane Scott added the air and more verses. This and other ballads were published by Lady Jane in the 1850's, for the benefit of widows and orphans of soldiers killed in the Crimean War. The song remained popular through World War I and was a favorite of Jenny Lind.

Lady Jane Scott is also known as Alicia of Spottiswoode, which she inherited upon her father's death.

Tomorrow, for Valentine's Day, read and hear the 300 year old Scottish love song…

February 14, 2008 07:22 - Bonnie Annie Laurie ~ Part II

I can remember singing Annie Laurie as a child. Half the words I didn't understand and probably slaughtered their pronunciation. But I was drawn to the haunting melody.

It seems appropriate as a Valentine's love song.

Here's a guitar rendition of the melody on YouTube.

Annie Laurie
Maxwellton braes are bonnie,
Where early fa's the dew,
And 'twas there that Annie Laurie
Gave me her promise true.
Gave me her promise true,
Which ne'er forgot will be,
And for bonnie Annie Laurie,
I lay me doon and dee.
Her brow is like the snowdrift,
Her throat is like a swan,
Her face it is the fairest
That e'er the sun shone on.
That e'er the sun shone on,
And dark blue is her ee,
And for bonnie Annie Laurie
I lay me doon and dee.
Like dew on th' gowan lying,
Is the fa' o' her fairy feet,
And like winds in summer sighing
Her voice is low and sweet.
Her voice is low and sweet,
And she's a' the world to me,
And for bonnie Annie Laurie,
I lay me doon and dee.

You might not know some of the words ~

  • braes ~ a sloping bank of a river or sea-shore; a hill-slope
  • bonnie ~ pretty
  • fa's ~ falls
  • gi'ed ~ gave or gived
  • dee ~ die
  • snaw ~ snow
  • e'e ~ eyes
  • gowans ~ daisies
  • o ~ of (as in of-the-clock becoming o'clock)
  • simmer ~ summer
  • a ~ all

The 1998 movie The Bird People in China features the melody as a plot builder.

Tomorrow, read about Ada Byron Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron…

February 15, 2008 14:41 - Ada Byron Lovelace

Titled most of her adult life as The Right Honourable Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace. Known as the daughter of the poet, Lord George Byron. Lord Byron's mother was a Gordon.

There are several Gordon tartans. The best known is the Gordon Family tartan.

Gordon Family Tartan WR223

Ada is better known as the world's first computer programmer, with her notes describing the computer and software.

The computer language 'Ada', was created by the U.S. Department of Defense. The reference manual was approved on her birthday December 10th, and the Military Standard for the language was given the number 'MIL-STD-1815' commemorating the year of Ada's birth.

Ada's image can be seen on the Microsoft hologram authenticity stickers.

Ada's primary work was the translation from Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea. She added a set of notes with the algorithm for calculating Bernoulli numbers - the first computer program.

Because of Lord Byron's insanity, Ada's mother taught her mathematics at a very young age. Ada was tutored at home by leading scientists and mathematicians, including her future husband, William King, 1st Earl of Lovelace.

Her daughter, Lady Anne Blunt, became famous as a breeder of Arabian horses. She and her husband imported the first Arabians into Great Britain.

February 18, 2008 09:14 - Castle Dunbar and It's Intriguing Inhabitants

Sitting on the eastern shore of Scotland, near the city of Dunbar, Castle Dunbar holds a long and tempestuous history. Near the border of England, it was a key into Scotland. Today, Dunbar is legally part of England.

A modern day radio announcer dubbed Dunbar 'Sunny Dunny', a name which has stuck with the locals. Due to its geographical location, Dunbar receives less rain and more hours of direct sunshine per year than anywhere else in Scotland.

John Muir was born in Dunbar. His parents immigrated to America, where he became a naturalist, founded the Sierra Club, and saved Yosemite Valley. His preservation trust currently owns Castle Dunbar.

Muir is quoted as saying, "When I was a boy in Scotland I was fond of everything that was wild ... I loved to wander in the fields to hear the birds sing, and along the shore to gaze and wonder at the shells and the seaweeds, eels and crabs in the pools when the tide was low; and best of all to watch the waves in awful storms thundering on the black headlands and craggy ruins of old Dunbar Castle."

Awarded to Gospatric in the 1100's, the lands and titles passed down through the family. In 1457, George, Earl of March, dismantled the castle sot he English coundn't occupy it. King James IV restored Castle Dunbar. The Earl of Shrewsbury burnt it in the mid 1500's.

In the midst of all the pillaging, arose 'Black Agnes', the Savior of Castle Dunbar…

February 19, 2008 17:37 - Black Agnes - Part I

Some people just seem bigger and better than life. Lady Agnes Randolph, also known as 4th Countess of Moray, is one such person. She is revered as 'Black Agnes', the lady who defeated the English.

'Black Agnes' was said to have been dark haired with a dark olive complexion.

I find it interesting she is said to have not been of noble birth, yet her father was Lord Randolph, right-hand man to King Robert the Bruce. He was also a nephew of King Robert.

A plaque is on a wall of Edinburgh Castle, dedicated to Lord Randolph.

Thomas Randolph Plaque
Edinburgh Castle
courtesy Wikipedia

It reads

To commemorate Thomas Randolph,
Earl of Moray,
a distinguished soldier and diplomatist
who recovered this castle in 1313
after it had been for 20 years
in the hands of the English.

Her mother was Isabel Stewart, a cousin of Walter, the High Steward of Scotland.

When she came of age in 1320, Agnes married Patrick Dunbar, 9th Earl of Dunbar and March.

As part of the Scottish wars of independence, her husband was away with his troops leaving only servants and a few guards. There are other historic cases where women were left in command. There are even some examples of heraldry for women commanding in battle. But none is as well remembered as Black Agnes.

When her husband and his troops departed, Agnes is quoted to have said,

"Of Scotland's King I haud my house, He pays me meat and fee,
And I will keep my gude auld house, while my house will keep me."

Tomorrow, the siege and the retaliation of Agnes begins…

February 20, 2008 17:38 - Black Agnes - Part II

As stated Monday, Castle Dunbar was a key in the Scottish wars. Patrick, Agnes' husband, had leveled the castle to the ground in 1333. He had tired of defending it against the English. King Edward III forced Patrick to rebuild the castle, at his own expense. English troops were garrisoned until the castle was restored to Patrick around 1337.

As another round of the Scottish wars began, William Montague, 1st Earl of Salisbury and a very able commander, was told to take the castle. Knowing Lord Patrick to be away at war, in January of 1338, under orders of King Edward of England, a siege of the castle began.

Though built on rocks projecting out into the sea and thought to be impregnable…only Lady Agnes and a few servants held the castle. The castle looked like easy pickings, ~ but they didn't know Agnes, much to the despair of Montague. Within six months, he marched away in defeat, taunted by 'Black Agnes', the Keeper of the Castle.

Montague first used catapults to bombard the castle. Between attacks, Agnes and her ladies dressed in their best clothes, mounted the outer walls in clear view of the English, and with their handkerchiefs they dusted away the battle damage and debris.

I can imagine them dressed out in their best arasaids, possibly in the Dunbar Artifact Tartan, as white backgrounds were common for ladies' arasaids..

Dunbar Atrifact Tartan WR1248

Tomorrow, her taunting defiance continues…

February 21, 2008 12:56 - Black Agnes - Part III

Next Montague used a battering ram, or sow. From the castle walls, Agnes and her forces dropped a huge boulder kept from an earlier English attack. It smashed through the roof of the battering ram, smashing it, and scattering the English troops.

Getting desperate, Montague tried intrigue. Attempting to bribe the guard who watched the main gate, he offered a small fortune for the gate to be left unlocked. Pretending to accept the bribe, the guard told all to Lady Agnes.

Expecting to enter the castle with no complication, Montague and a small force approached the open gate. Copeland, an English soldier, walked in first. Being mistaken for Montague, the portcullis slammed shut, trapping Copeland within the castle.

As Montague went back to his camp, Black Agnes watched from the ramparts. Agnes called out, "Fare thee well, Montague, I meant that you should have supped with us, and support us in upholding the castle from the English!"

Tomorrow, Montague's siege and the tenacity of Agnes continue…

February 22, 2008 15:01 - Black Agnes - Part IV

Another day while riding near the castle walls with his second-in-command, Agnes saw them and order one of her archers to kill both men. Montague escaped his arrow. His second took the arrow in his chest, through three layers of mail and a thick leather jacket. He died and Montague sarcastically said, "Black Agnes' love-shafts go straight to the heart!"

Starvation was his next ploy. He didn't include the loyalty of the townspeople to Agnes and their hated of the English. Via the sea, in spots blind to the English forces, they smuggled in supplies, relieving the famine.

The next morning, Agnes sent a fresh backed loaf or bread and fine wine to Montague, having the gifts loudly proclaimed to all.

John Randolph, brother of Agnes and 3rd Earl of Moray, had been captured earlier by the English. In his next attempt to subdue Agnes, Montague had John paraded in front of the castle. A rope was placed around his neck. Threatening to hang him if Agnes didn't surrender the castle, she replied that would cause her to inherit the Earldom of Moray.

Thinking Agnes to be hard-hearted and greedy, Montague returned her brother to prison. Nine years later, when John died, Agnes did inherit the estate of her childless brother.

This is the Moray tartan, which Agnes possibly wore on her wedding day.

Moray Clan Artifact Tartan WR991

Coming Monday, Montague finally gives up…

February 25, 2008 07:31 - Black Agnes - Part V

Mocked and blocked at every turn, the final straw arrived. Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie, was roaming the Scottish countryside with a band of followers and heard about the plight and pluck of Black Agnes. With two boats, supplies, and 40 men he used the sea to get into the castle. He led an attack out through the main gate. The English, totally unprepared and expecting surrender, scattered.

Montague marched away in total defeat, while his troops sang a ballad supposedly wirtten by Montague ~

"She kept a stir in tower and trench,
That brawling, boisterous Scottish wench,
Came I early, came I late,
I found Agnes at the gate."

Lady Agnes died 31 years later, followed by her husband within a few months. She is buried in the vault near Mordington House, her childhood home.

Agnes Randolph family home & burial site
courtesy Wikipedia

Some sources say they had no children and their three nephews inherited the estate.

Other sources list two sons. The children were named as George, 10th Earl of Dunbar and March, John, Earl of Moray, and Sir Patrick of Beil. Beil was a holding of the Morays and is the next parish south of Dunbar.

If they were nephews, they were the children of Patrick's bother, John, who married Agnes' sister, Isobel. The boys, in turn, died childless and the estate passed into other hands.

Tomorrow, the fame of Black Agnes spreads, family tartans and the clan crest…

February 26, 2008 11:57 - Black Agnes - Part VI

Of course, the fame of Black Agnes spread. Sir Walter Scott, known for Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, and The Lady of the Lake, must have written about Agnes. In the 18th century, Sir Walter Scott said, 'From the record of Scottish heroes, none can presume to erase her.'

Black Agnes has also been voted into the Top 100 Women of the Millennium.

Agnes Randolph Beil House courtesy Wikipedia

This is a photograph taken c. 1900. Begun in the 14th century, this, with many additions, is what the third son inherited as Sir Patrick of Beil.

Dunbar Artifact Tartan WR2045

Dunbar Family Tartan WR1472

Dunbar Family Tartan WR1236

Berwick District Tartan WR2011

This district tartan was the winner in a local school contest,
entered by a 15 year old.

Dunbar Family Crest courtesy Dunbar Clan

Thus ends the tale of Black Agnus, tomorrow the tragedy of Helen Gunn begins…

February 27, 2008 10:34 - The Beautiful Helen Gunn ~ Part I

This sad, sad tale of love, deceit, and death began way, way back between the Gunns and the Keiths. Both were warlike clans and their enmity went back to the 1200's when a Gunn slew a Keith of Jarl on the Orkney Islands.

Both clans were of Viking heritage and warlike. The Gunns had descended from Vikings through the Orkney Isles to Caithness and Sutherland. The Keiths were later arrivals, but had more men and were a threat to the Gunns.

There are two Gunn tartans and one Keith tartan ~

Gunn Clan Tartan WR708

Gunn Clan Tartan WR795

Keith Clan Tartan WR253

Around 1425 the hatred escalated, with tragedy unfolding at Braemore, home of Lachlan Gunn.

His only daughter, Helen, was known as the Flower of Braemore. Not only beautiful but charming as well, Helen was bethrothed to her cousin, Alexander Gunn.

Dugald Keith of Ackergill glimpsed Helen and was smitten by her charms. Helen rebuffed Dugald's advances.

Some reports say the evening before her wedding, others on her wedding night…Dugald and some Keiths surrounded Braemore, slew many of the Gunns, including Alexander. Taking Helen prisoner, they carried her to Castle Ackergill…but a poem tells the tragedy far better…

January 2008 «  » March 2008


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