One For the Road

Travelling Along Back Country Roads is the theme of this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge #158. Thank you to Beth for her post. You can visit her site here

Now here’s a story for you –

One cloudy Sunday afternoon I followed this single track road to get closer to Loch Tay (Tay in the Gaelic means “House”). Further down the road. I could see ruins down in the trees along the shore. Surely this had to be the old village of Lawers I’d heard about.

It was a fair slope down to the water. In the fields beside the track, there were a few cattle and on the other more sheep … who ran off as I approached … all except one. The dry-stane dyke has been waiting a while to be restored.

The loch is beautiful in a lovely part of Perthshire. Once part of the Breadalbane estates – the family that once held the largest landholdings in all of Scotland.

When I reached the shore, there was not a soul around. I soaked up the views, the cool air on my face and the stony earth at my feet. I couldn’t see any sign of a jetty. I’d been told steamships used to do day trips along the loch in the 1800s. Further east along the bank, I explored the ruins of the 1000-year-old village of Lawers.

Few walls stood amidst the hummocks of fallen stones and tangle of trees. The gable-end of a home still stood out. After the village church roof collapsed two hundred years ago, services were held within its walls. It’s said about a thousand people from the area would attend communion, many rowing across the loch.

It was so still, here. No birds sang. There was not a breath of wind. An occasional bleat from sheep reassured me a bit.

Just the day before, I’d heard that the village is haunted by a certain Lady of Lawers.

She lived in the late 17th century, was said to be gifted with Second Sight and when she died was buried under an Ash tree beside the kirk.

Soothsayer, Mary Campbell married and lived here in the late 17th Century, in this township on her husband’s farm. She became known as the ‘Lady of Lawyers,’ because of her wise sayings. Many of her predictions came true in time. Some caught my attention!

The feather of the goose will drive the memory from man.

Storytelling gatherings in people’s homes kept the community together. People knew their family history and the tales of their ancestors. Learning to read and write (education) meant that people lost the need to sit telling stories to others. They no longer felt that strong sense of belonging.

The mouth of the sheep will strip the land pf its people.

During the Highland Clearances of 1750 to 1860 many poor families here were evicted from their homes and the thatch roof burnt so they could not return.

The last person left this village in 1939. The land has been for sale since 2016. A real estate agent commented that they’ve had a lot of interest lately, especially from other European countries, perhaps because of CoVid…

Oh No! This reminds me of another of her prophecies!

Spend as you get, get as you spend. Save and for whom? Remember death!

Lady of Lawers

As the clouds began to darken, I had one last look at the loch. Saw the remnants of the pier for steamships in the distance and left … vowing to learn more of Mary Campbell’s times and story.

Sources

CAMPSIE, Alison in The Scotsman, September 7, 2020. The Village that stood for 1000 years and slowly slipped away.  

The Lady of Lawers. Wikipedia. accessed 27 July 2021

(PS. If interested further, search for a program with Tom Weir called ‘The Lady of Lawers’)

All text (except quotes) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

2020 Favourites

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge#129. Thanks to Tina & Co. for your commitment and inspiration this year.

Looking back, 2020 was the year I started appreciating life going on quietly around me. Nature always takes me out of myself.

The angle of the early morning sun was just right .Had to return the next morning to try and capture it with my old Fuji camera.
Visited our Gallery of Modern Art February 1st. Silenced by Cai Guo-Quang’s blue waterhole.
Learned more about butterflies in March. This is an Autumn Brown that prefers to flutter about at dusk.
Turned a corner and came across a surprise! Local kids must have spent a lot of time daydreaming as they created this artwork on the footpath behind our library. Cheered me up!
Spent a lot of time looking up in May. Always fascinated by clouds. Is that a cockatoo?
Testing my new phone. Visited Mt Cootha Botanic Gardens to learn more about “Native plants for Brisbane Gardens.” This is a glorious Grevillea.
Just a reflection of a crystal on a wall.
A new kitten explores the jungle that is our herb patch. (Thinks) They can’t see me!
So little rain in September… Rainbow Lorikeets were really thirsty and made the most of blossoms.
A Spring day at the beach with fresh, clear air blowing the ozone our way.
In a tree in the garden, orchids put on a show in November. Those blooms last for months.
Taken on the last day of the year. We’d had early morning rain. Ain’t Nature grand!

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.

Some of What Caught My Eye in 2019

On Auld Year’s Day it’s good to look back on the year. What strikes me is that I spend a lot of time looking up!

I’ve been told this is a classic Queensland sky.

Yes, someone out there in Oz still does Topiary. Kangaroo and Emu (2 of Australia’s national symbols) chat at the front gate.

A lovely walk in the Pukekura Park.

WOMAD Pigtails.

Spot the Cloud Rider!

Wrought iron work (Scottish) in Dundee’s heritage-listed Malmaison Hotel, formerly Mathers Hotel, built 1860, refurbished and re-opened in 2014.

Two entwine. Great wedding.

 The high dome in Mount Stuart’s private chapel, Island of Bute.

Snow above Loch Tay, with loch-side ruins of the  original Ben Lawers village.

Thank you, dear reader. May 2020 bring you and I more adventures and stories to tell.

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This post is part of the LENS-ARTISTS photo challenge #77

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp, Copyright © under Australian Law.

Tobermory: Lens Artists Challenge #65 – Pick a Place and Catch its Spirit

The British Fisheries Society established Tobermory as a fishing port on the island of Mull, Scotland in 1788. The cliffs around its natural harbour were scoured back to make room for a road and houses along to a deep water pier.

High tide October 2016 ©MegPhilp

Tobermory comes from the Gaelic “Tobar Mhoire” meaning ‘Mary’s Well.’ One dedicated to St Mary is located at the top end of the cliff. When I got there in 2016 the well had been long capped. The tap didn’t work so I couldn’t try the waters’ healing power.

No matter what, water rushes down from the cliff tops towards the sea. Everywhere you walk you can hear, and find, running, clear water. They make whisky in Tobermory.

When the nearby Strathearn Waterworks were completed in 1883, this Cherub Fountain was presented to the Burgh of Tobermory by Robert Strathearn. It no longer spouts water but there’s still a basin at the foot for thirsty canines.

The An Tobar Art Centre, once a primary school, is now a collective, community-run gallery (since 1998). This statue high up on the cafe wall caught my eye. I’d hazard a guess that this is St Mungo, Patron Saint and Founder of the city of Glasgow. There’s the bell from the legend, though the bird on his shoulder is too big to be the robin.

Addendum – This statue depicts St Columba, who founded the first Christian monastery on the nearby island of Iona in 563AD . The piece was made in 2007 by sculptor/mechanic Eduard Bersudsky of the Sharmanka Theatre group, who are based in Glasgow. Made of oak from the island, it’s an automated sculpture, with the small shoulder-perched bird ringing the bell on cue. [Thanks to Ester Morrison (Front of House Manager) who answered my emailed query.]

Is this St Mungo?©2016MegPhilp

And you can’t go past a local hero – The Tobermory Cat. A picture book about him by Debi Gliori was published in 2012. Here’s a second generation cat who carries on the tradition and patrols the main street and houses in town.

We came upon this little West Highland Terrier in a corner one of the craft shops. The woman behind the counter said she was keeping an watchful eye on him. Her neighbour had recently passed away and this had been his dog.

What kind folk there are in the world!

There’s only a few fishing boats in the harbour these days but its still a peaceful haven for locals, visitors and furry friends.

OOOOOOOOOOO

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

Linked to Tina’s Lens Artists Challenge #65

More Sources at

Balamory children’s TV program. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Balamory. Downloaded 5 October 2019.

St Columba. https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofScotland/St-Columba-the-Isle-of-Iona/. Downloaded 21 October 2019.

The Tobermory Cat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8gLztkXwbc. Downloaded 5 October 2019

Less is More: Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #43

This post is a response to Amy’s Lens-Artist challenge. Trees are one of my favourite things and I’ve been wondering about this one.

Trees catch my eye. Not sure what type of eucalyptus this is or how tall is is. Searched online and found out there are over 800 different species. Stopped there.

We had it bone-dry over last summer. This tree trunk had a smooth, pearlised sheen then. It felt shiny.  Curious about the bark … I decided to focus on the same patch over time to see what happens.

Are those dark spots the beginning of new bark?

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A shower of rain makes all the difference. It seems to me that all the colours the tree needs for leaves, blossoms and fruits are here in the trunk, ready.

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I did find out that the best way to identify a Eucalyptus is by its bark!

A friend In NZ told me of a novel* he’d read about a man who had many different types of gum trees on his property. When any young man came courting his daughter and asked his permission to marry her … the man would reply “When you can identify every Eucalyptus on the place, you may marry my daughter. “

Well, why not? If Psyche in the Greek myth had to go through all those trials to be united with Eros … sounds fair enough. I wonder if one succeeded in identifying each tree?

The trunk began to feel more uneven. Is it due to lack of water?

Weather is still very dry.

Now the weather’s a bit cooler and we have had above average rain in March, the texture and colour are changing again.

Here’s what the foot of the tree looked like.

Focusing on just one patch of trunk has been fascinating. But what I’ve learned doing this challenge is to not let myself be overwhelmed by the top or crown … just to remember to to start at the foot!

I’ve confirmed this is a Sydney Blue Gum. I’ve listed two sources. The fact that the bark sheds in strips, yet has ‘its stocking of dark persistent bark at the base’ clinched it.

All text except quote and photos by Meg.

PS. That novel about identifying Eucalypts*. A friend who read this post is lending me her copy of Eucalyptus by Murray Bail (1998) Winner of the Miles Franklin Award 1999.

Sources

Australian National Botanic Garden, Growing Native Plants, 2012. Isabel Zeil-Rolfe. Eucalyptus Saligna: Sydney Blue Gum. 2016, Australian Government, Canberra. Viewed 30 April, 2019. https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/trainees-2016/eucalyptus-saligna.html

YOUNG, P.A.R. (1991) Rainforest Guide. Brisbane, Brisbane Forest Park Administration Authority, p38.

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.

Curvy Companions

On Christmas Day 2018,  I was invited to lunch at my friends Jo & Chris’ place. Their home is in a gully surrounded by tall trees, a cool haven on a hot day.

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Besides, our crowd of about 12 of us, the 3 dogs and 2 chooks, some local birds dropped in. You could hear the Rainbow Lorikeets squawking before you saw them. They’re raucous clowns.

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Then, a rarer King Parrot got braver.

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 … gorgeous in its scarlet and green in the heat of the day.

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The household chooks paid no mind, just got down to business. What a cloak of feathers!

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It was the sudden appearance of his mate that made me go out and stare at her. She made not a sound. I had to get closer … get a photo. What a gift! I love wild birds.

They say King Parrots are not good talkers. They say that as pets they can live 25 years. They say Rainbow Lorikeets can be better talkers and can live 20 years. I hate to see them in cages.

I once had a hairdresser who expected his two South American  parrots to outlive him and had instructions in his Will to cover this eventuality.

Now I recall a ballad I came upon about King George V (Queen Elizabeth 11’s grandfather). Here, in Australia, he’s remembered as the then Duke of Cornwall and heir to the British throne who formally opened the inaugural session of our Australian Parliament in May 1901. The area in front of Brisbane City Hall is named after him – King George Square, site of civic celebrations and festivities.

The story goes that George had a pet parrot. When he was 12 he and his older brother were sent to do a stint in the Royal Navy. As a 17 year old Midshipman on HMS Bucchante, he bought himself an African Grey on shore leave in Port Said.

‘Charlotte’ became a very good talker and the King’s longtime friend. She would call out phrases like “Where’s the Captain?” and “God Save the King!”  Here’s an extract from that ballad composed by one of my favourite English poets, Charles Causley – When George the Fifth Was a Midshipman  –

When the King was ill and ailing

And very nearly died

They shut her out of the bedroom;

Left her in the passage outside.

Bless my buttons! said Charlotte.

 

But when his illness was ended

She was first at His Majesty’s bed;

Danced for joy on the pillow

And over his anointed head.

God saved the King! said Charlotte.

Of course there are more stories about parrots. You must know one! The old favourite about the cat and the parrot. Can you recall the first parrot you ever met? … I’ll tell a Nasruddin Hodja story about ‘Why a turkey is more valuable than a parrot’ at our next Storytelling Unplugged session on Hodja tales in February. OK?

NB “Curves” Lens_artists #28 photo challenge made me think of parrots’ beaks for some reason! We’ll see how it goes …

Sources

Australian King Parrot. Accessed 12 January 2019 https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Australian_king_parrot

CAUSLEY, Charles Jack and the Treacle Eater. Illustrations by Charles Keeping. London, Macmillan, 1987.pp 29-31.

George V- Wikiwand. Accessed 12 January 2019. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/George_V

Lorikeets the Clowns .Accessed 12 January 2019 http://www.betterpetsandgardens.com.au/pet-care/birds-and-poultry/keeping-lorikeets/

All text (except quote) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.

Honeysuckle Days

Summer is here in earnest. We’ve had a little rain and the honeysuckle on the west side of my home smells sublime.

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Early morning and the perfume is strongest in the cool air. In this variety it’s the yellow flowers seem to release the headiest scent, the white hardly not so much.

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This plant has been documented since the middle of the 14th century and the word is in fact a misnomer – as listed in my copy of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1996:705). It was thought bees sucked honey from these flowers.  They can’t reach the nectar, of course, but hummingbirds do. We do have nectar-eating birds in Australia, but no hummingbirds.

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Originating predominantly in China, about 40 species of honeysuckle grow in Europe and North America … not sure what mine is. I planted it not long after I moved in.

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Did you know Woodbine is another name for Honeysuckle? When I was a child I knew that word as a cigarette brand. When I sang in choir that Robert Burns’ song “Ye Banks and Braes ” I imagined spirals of smoke around the roses. 

Oft hae I been by bonnie Doon
To see the rose and woodbine twine.

I wonder where I smelt and saw honeysuckle for the first time? They say honeysuckle symbolises happiness.

A filbert-hedge with wild-briar overtwined,
And clumps of woodbine taking the soft wind
Upon their summer thrones.John KeatsI Stood Tiptoe Upon a Little HillPoems (1817).

Isn’t Keats’ image of honeysuckle flowers as thrones just right? He must have studied the flowers close up and from every angle, like a child.For the dreamy amongst us, Woodbine appears in wedding ceremonies to represent the love that clings without harming anyone. Among the French, giving honeysuckle to a partner represents generous love, and in China dreaming of honeysuckle means passion. 

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Honeysuckle Hero Susan Weeks was Inspector Foyle’s driver in the British TV series “Foyle’s War” … seems she was born when the honeysuckle was in full bloom. 

Oops. I forgot to mention Honeysuckle Creek our famous Space tracking station. It’s 50 years since it sent out the first images of the Apollo landing to the world.

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PS. This is my post for “Something Smelly” for Jenn Mishra’s Inspirational Photo Theme for Dec 16. #witsendtravel

All text (except quotes) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law. 

Windows: Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #14

Taking a good photo is a challenge. Sometimes I see things that aren’t there.

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Image taken Balmerino Abbey ruins, one grey day.

This abbey has been in ruins since the Reformation in the 16th Century.  First it was the English who attacked the monastery, then it was the Scottish Protestants.

 I heard  Judy Small sing her ‘Walls and Windows” in Brisbane years ago.  She wrote great songs but gave up folksinging and is now a judge in the Family Law Court.

Here’s the last verse from that song-

Oh may we live to see the day when walls of words and fear
No longer stand between the truth and dreams
When walls of windows rise into the darkness and we dare
To look into the mirror and see peace.
   from Judy Small's song "Walls and Windows"

All text (except quote) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.