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What Local History Are You Missing Out On?……… A Medieval Castle Perhaps?

How often do you drive or walk past the history on your own doorstep without so much as a second glance?

I’ll confess …. maybe not quite daily but it’s a regular occurrence and it transpires I’m not the only one in the house who does so.

Less than 10 miles from our house there’s a 15th Century castle. A national tourist attraction. Do you know how many times I’ve visited it? Until today, once! (Hangs her head in shame.)

So, on a dreich Sunday afternoon, Girl Child, the Big Green Gummi Bear and I decided the time had come to visit the castle. (About 15 years ago I had taken both Boy Child and Girl Child there but neither of them remembers it!)

Newark Castle sits on the banks of the River Clyde near Port Glasgow.

It was built circa 1480 by George Maxwell and is one of the finest late-medieval buildings in Scotland. Both the Gatehouse and Towerhouse date back to that era as does the Doocot in the grounds. The rest of the castle was remodelled in 1590 by Patrick Maxwell, transforming the cramped medieval castle into an elegant Renaissance mansion. Both the north wing and east wing were remodelled and the grounds transformed.

Today, the castle stands pretty much as it did back then.

Newark Castle

 

Newark Castle is a veritable labyrinth spread over three levels. It also boasts one of only three surviving anti-clockwise staircases to be found in Scotland’s castles.   You enter via the 15th century Gatehouse which leads through to the cellars, kitchen, bakehouse and the Towerhouse cellar. There are numerous staircases giving access to the upper floors. From the Towerhouse cellar you can climb up to the roof lookout point. It’s quite a twisty climb! From the wine cellar, there is a staircase leading straight up to the great hall. A further staircase leads from the kitchen to the great hall.

The upper level has a long gallery running the length of the north wing and this is where the laird’s private chambers and, including the rooms in the east wing, the family bed chambers and guest rooms would have been. One bedroom features original wood panelling and a rare example of a wall bed.

The windows in the east wing afford a view over the grounds and the Doocot (dovecot) whish has survived from the 1480’s. Doocots were popular in the 15th century as the pigeons (doos/doves) provided a source of fresh meat during the long winter months.

Newark Castle floor plan

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The building is well worth a visit.

Equally intriguing is the history of the owners through the ages.

The land that the castle stands  on belonged originally to the Denniston family but became part of the Maxwell estate in 1402 when Elizabeth Denniston married Sir Robert Maxwell of Calderwood.

At that time, Newark was part of the barony of Finlaystone, an estate some five miles to the east. ( http://www.finlaystone.co.uk/ ) If the Denniston family had a castle it is highly likely that it formed part of the Finlaystone estate.

In 1478 George Maxwell inherited the barony of Finlaystone and within a few years was being styled as “George Maxwell of Newark and Finlaystone”. This all ties in nicely with the construction dates for the original castle buildings. It is also documented that in 1495 James IV visited Newark Castle whilst on a mission to quash disturbances in the Western Isles. (It’s likely that the laird would have had to surrender his sumptuous bed chamber in the Towerhouse to the king during his stay.)

Over time the Maxwell family became a powerful and influential family in the area. Historically, the most notable member of the family was Sir Patrick Maxwell, who was the laird of Newark Castle circa 1580. Initially, he was held up as a pillar of society, well-educated and a justice of the peace as well as being the architect behind the extensive remodelling of Newark Castle in 1590. He enjoyed the patronage of James VI. However, there were two sides to Sir Patrick. He was a wife beater, a child abuser and a murderer. He reportedly murdered two members of the Montgomerie family from Skelmorlie some twelve miles to the west of the castle. Sir Patrick also quarrelled with his son, Patrick, and was implicated in his untimely death. Undoubtedly his wife, Lady Margaret Crawford, suffered worst at his hand. She was married to him for 44 years and bore him 16 children! After years of abuse and ill-treatment she finally escaped from his clutches in 1632 and fled across the River Clyde to Dumbarton. Sir Patrick never answered to the charges raised against him as by that time he was too ill to travel to Edinburgh to face trial and it’s assumed he died shortly thereafter.

New-port Glasgow (modern day Port Glasgow) became a bustling trading post during the 1600’s. The castle’s laird, George Maxwell soon became involved in this merchant trade.

When the last Maxwell laird died in 1694, Newark Castle and its grounds were sold to another influential businessman, William Cochrane of Kilmarnock.

The 1700’s saw trade in the area continue to flourish but sadly the castle began to decline and it changed hands several times. The Cochrane’s sold it to the Hamilton family who in turn sold it in the 1820’s to a London banker, Robert Farquar. In 1825, Robert Farquar’s daughter married Sir Michael Shaw-Stewart, another well known local family from Ardgowan estate in Inverkip some eight miles west ( http://www.ardgowan.co.uk/ ) Newark Castle remained under the care of the Shaw-Stewart family until 1909 when it was entrusted to the State. Today it is curated by Historic Scotland.

During the 18th and 19th centuries the castle was leased to various tenants. The grounds too were leased out to local market gardeners. One tenant was John Orr, a ropemaker with a rather unusual side-line business. He traded in wild animals (panthers, leopards, bears etc) purchased from passing ships that arrived into the port. It is presumed that until he found a buyer for the creatures that they were kept in the castle’s cellars, giving rise to rumours that the castle was haunted as the locals reported strange howling during the night.

Newark Castle is a historical gem that in more recent times has been hidden, literally, by the Clyde’s shipbuilding industry. For much of the 20th Century it was surrounded to the west, east and south by Ferguson’s and Lamont’s Shipbuilders. As the shipbuilding industry fell into decline in the 1980’s Lamont’s closed its doors and was subsequently demolished, revealing the castle’s southern and eastern exposures to the world once more.

Today, but for how much longer, Ferguson’s still remains to the west of Newark Castle, a modern-day industrial neighbour to this discrete medieval gem.

castle and yard

 

 

If you want to discover more about Newark Castle check out the site below:

https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/newark-castle/

(some images sourced via Google – credits to the owners)

 

 

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Silently Watching One Week After The Buck Moon

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One week later the air was heavy and muggy, a thunderstorm gathering overhead. As he jogged up the hill towards the graveyard, it matched his own mood. The first drops of rain fell as he climbed the steps into the cemetery. As he approached the tree, a bright flash of lightning lit up the dark sky, revealing the dark angel herself who was standing in the shadows.

“Well met, Son of Perran,” she greeted him formally as she stepped forward.

“Hey,” he replied forcing a smile. “Looks like we’re about to get wet.”

“Not at all,” she said stepping forward. “We’re leaving.”

Before he could protest, she swept her wings around him. The world went black and everything felt still.

When the world cam back into focus, he wasn’t surprised to find himself in the dark angel’s mausoleum home.

“Is this the way I’m going to have to exist?” he asked as he sat up and looked round. “This place feels different. Smells different.”

“It’s the oils,” replied the angel calmly.

“Oils?”

“Lavender and geranium,” replied the angel lifting a large box from a previously unnoticed niche by the door. “Take your shirt off.”

“Pardon?”

“Remove your shirt,” she said slowly and deliberately.

Without argument, he removed his running top, tossing it onto the stone bench. As he stood in the middle of the tomb, stripped to the waist, he was acutely aware of the angel’s gaze on his lean toned body.

“Enjoying the view?” he teased as she walked behind him.

Her green eyes dark and intense, she stared at him, the gaze boring into his soul. She moved round to stand directly behind him. She studied his back for a few moments then ran her cool hand over his shoulder blades. Tiny sparks of electricity pulsed through him as her cold fingers caressed his warm skin. He felt her pause and run her thumbs over the tips of his shoulder blades.

 

Taking a step back, the angel studied his smooth skin, tanned from the summer sun. At first, she couldn’t be sure and she thought for a moment that his luck had held then she noticed a slight circular discolouration. There were two patches of skin about two centimetres across that were a darker shade than the rest of the runner’s bronzed back.

“The buds are there,” she said quietly as moved round to face him.

“Buds?” He looked at her with a face filled with confusion.

“Your wing buds are forming.”

“Ah!”

“I have worked out a way to slow their development but you’re going to have to work out a way to administer the treatment on your own,” she explained, her tone serious. “How are you with pain?”

“I’m tough. I can take it,” he replied, sounding calmer than he felt.

“Each of the phials in that box contains an oil that you are going to have to use once a month. I can only stall the development for so long. This treatment had to be prepared in a single batch. I cannot make any more. There are three hundred phials in the box for you. Do not break any. Do not drop any. These are the only ones in existence.”

Glancing into the cardboard box, he saw that it was filled with slender phials containing a dark liquid.

“I’ll administer the first dose,” the dark angel explained pointing to a larger phial that lay on a black velvet cloth on the bench alongside her ornate knife. “I need to ensure that I treat the centre of the buds. I’ll make the first cuts. You will then use the same holes each month.”

“Holes?”

The angel nodded, the white streak of her hair almost shimmering in the candlelight.

“Wait a minute,” he stalled sounding anxious. “What’s the plan here?”

“The phials contain an infusion of horse chestnut bark, lavender oil, geranium oil and thyme plus a few other items. The oil needs to be poured into the centre of each bud once a month and the wounds covered with the moss that’s at the bottom of the box. The moss has been treated with the infusion. You’ll only use a couple of strands at a time.”

“And how a I going to explain two holes covered in moss on my back to my wife?” he demanded sharply.

“You like to decorate your body. You’ll get another tattoo across your upper back. The holes will be lost in the design,” explained the angel calmly.

“Oh, will I?” he retorted. “And I assume you’ve picked the design for me too?”

“I’ve designed it for you,” she replied calmly. “The design is part of the enchantment. It needs to be identical to the drawing inside the box.”

Before he could protest further, the angel reached into the box and pulled out a single sheet of paper with a Celtic design expertly drawn on it. Looking at the detail in it, he wasn’t averse to having it inked across his back. There were two points in the design where there was an obvious cross over and he deduced that those would mark the spots that matched the holes.

“Fine,” he said. “I’ll get it done. I’ll get someone at work to recommend a place. That won’t be cheap to get that inked.”

“There’s money in the box to cover the cost.”

“Thought of everything, haven’t you?”

Lifting the knife, the angel said, “I hope so.”

With the knife poised over his smooth skin, the angel asked, “Are you ready?”

“Go for it.”

“This is going to hurt.”

“Just do it.”

As the sharp tip of the blade bit into his skin, he flinched but never utters a sound. When she pierced the second hole, he was ready for it.

“This will burn,” she said as she picked up the large phial. “Really burn.”

“How am I meant to get tattooed if the skin is burnt?” he asked.

“The skin won’t be burnt. This will burn inside you. It will feel like fire.”

He gritted his teeth and clenched his fists as the angel poured the liquid into the two open wounds on his back. Pain ricocheted through him as the liquid worked its way around the nubs of his wings.

“Christ!” he yelled as the heat intensified.

“Almost finished,” promised the angel rubbing some strands of the pale green moss into the wounds. Instantly the pain stopped spreading and began to ease. “Done.”

“Whew!” he said rolling his shoulders stiffly.

“Well done. You handled that well,” she praised with a smile. “Guard that box with your life. One phial is enough for both buds. One phial once a month. When the phials run out then we have to last nature take its course.”

Pulling his running vest back on, he nodded.

“These should last you about twenty-five years if you don’t smash any.”

“I’ll be an old man by then,” he joked lifting the box.

“No, you won’t, Son of Perran,” she countered. “You’ll look exactly the same as you do just now. You’ve not aged one day since your transformation. Time will be kind to you.”

“Ok so how do I pour that stuff in on my own?”

“You’ll find a way. Pierce the holes open first then pour in the infusion.”

“Not quite the DIY I had planned but I’ll figure something out,” he muttered. “And I’ll get that ink done.”

“Get it done this weekend. It should then be healed before the next full moon if you can.”

“Fine,” he agreed bluntly. “Any more orders?”

The angel smiled and shook her head. “You can find your own way home from here.”

She pushed open the door of the mausoleum to reveal the dark stormy night outside. “Follow the path to the right.”

“Till next time,” he said as he headed for the door.

“Soon, Son of Perran. Soon.”

 

Over the years the box had sat on the second top shelf at the back of the garage. Its contents steadily dwindling as the months and years passed. In the box, wrapped in an old t-shirt, was apiece of wood with two nails driven straight through it, their tips sticking out proudly. Those tips had been filed until they were needle sharp and had been sterilised until they now shone silvery in the light of the garage.

Carefully he hung the piece of wood on the nail on the garage wall, making sure it was level. He unbuttoned his short and laid it on the bonnet of his car then lifted the last glass phial out of the box.

With well-practiced ease, he stepped back and leaned his full weight against the piece of wood, feeling the nails piercing their target for the final time.

 

(Image sourced via Google- credits to the owner)

 

 

 

Book Baby 5…. want a little sneaky peek?

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In reality, Book Baby 5 looks like this…..

But, it also looks a  bit like this too……

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For those who missed the big title reveal back in May, it also has a name….

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It also has a front cover but I’m keeping that under wraps for just a little bit longer 😉

(Current thinking is to reveal it when I’ve set the publication date….but don’t tell anyone just yet!)

So where does this next instalment of the Silver Lake series take us?…..

Want a little taste of words yet to come?…..

Shh….don’t tell anyone….this is just between you and me 😉

Golden rays of dawn shimmered in the ripples of the still ocean. They danced a slow waltz as the gentle waves glided towards the beach. Gradually the pale golds turned to orange then to red as the sun rose over the horizon. Apart from the soft sounds of the waves lapping against the shore, the world was silent. Not even the tiny seabirds who usually danced with the waves were to be seen or heard.

Running his hand through his long blonde hair, Jake sighed. It felt good to taste salt in the air. It felt good to feel sand under his feet. It felt good to be home. His fingers tangled in the strands of his hair, knotted after a sleepless night on the band’s delayed flight out of LAX. Looking down, he realised that his hair was almost to his waist. Another indication that he’d been away from home too long. Mentally, he made a note to take a trip into town later to get his mane trimmed.

With his arms wrapped around his knees, Jake sat watching the sun make its way over the horizon, basking in its golden light. He was bone tired and couldn’t remember when he had last slept for more than a couple of hours at a time. The band’s flight had been scheduled to reach Philadelphia at ten o’clock the night before but a four-hour delay meant they hadn’t landed until almost two o’clock in the morning. There had been the usual carnage in the baggage hall but, by some miracle, all of their suitcases and guitar cases had made it safely across the country. Tired and grumpy, the sleep deprived musicians had piled into the waiting SUVs for the hundred mile drive down the Coastal Highway. After so long in each other’s company, each of them was keen to get back to JJL to collect their cars and trucks and say their “good nights”. With little more than a grunt of farewell, Jake had loaded his gear into the back of his truck. Praying that it would start at the first time of asking, he had hauled himself into the cab for the final leg of the journey home.

He’d pulled into the driveway at the beach house just after five, reached to retrieve his house keys from his battered leather book bag and found them missing. Leaving his gear in the truck, he’d crept round to the back of the house to try the back door, hoping that Lori had left it unlocked. No luck. Both the screen door and the back door were locked. Knowing it was too early to waken his sleeping family, he’d headed across the sun deck to try the patio doors. They too were locked.

Muttering to himself, he’d hauled off his ripped Converse hi-tops and socks, leaving them scattered on the deck and wandered down to the beach to watch the sun rise.

As the sky lit up before him, Jake reflected on the last few months. When he’d left Rehoboth in January, the beach had been covered in eight inches of snow. Now, in the third week in June, it looked as though it was going to be a beautiful summer’s day. This was the longest period of time that he’d spent away from home and, for the past ten weeks of the tour, his heart had been yearning for the sights and sounds of the ocean and the beach house.

Life over the past five years had become more and more demanding as Silver Lake had gone from strength to strength and Weigh Station had enjoyed a successful revival. Juggling musical commitments, recording sessions and tours for two of the planet’s biggest bands had been a logistical nightmare. He’d long since lost count of the number of shows he’d played, finding it harder and harder to remember where he was and who he was with. If it wasn’t for the journal he kept, Jake would have lost track of time and place entirely.

On the flight home, he’d been sitting between Grey and Jethro, having lost the coin toss to see who would take the middle seat. As Grey had slept soundly at the window, Jake had confided in the band’s manager that he didn’t want to even think about music until at least the fall. Understanding completely, the older man had nodded his silent agreement, noting how raw and hoarse Silver Lake’s vocalist’s voice was sounding.

Now, as he sat watching the sun rise, Jake was wondering if he would be able to sing again by fall even if he wanted to. Ghosts of a past duet with Tori from Molton were tormenting him. The last three shows had really put a strain on him and, by the end of Flyin’ High in Los Angeles, his voice was gone. A sign to take a much-needed rest perhaps he thought.

Lost in his thoughts, he sat enjoying the view and the tranquillity of the beach.

 

The familiar screech of the patio door to the sun room opening startled him back to the present. He listened closely wondering who was about to approach him.

“Daddy!”

To be continued…….

 

If you’ve missed the start of the Silver Lake series, there’s plenty of time to catch up. All three books are available worldwide, Here’s the links:

Amazon.com links –

Stronger Within – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VXDSC1M

Impossible Depths – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01C0GS30K

Bonded Souls – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XSQHG71

 

Amazon.co.uk links –

Stronger Within – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00VXDSC1M

Impossible Depths – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01C0GS30K

Bonded Souls – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XSQHG71

 

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My Autobiography vol 1 circa 1982….

Asking a twelve year old to write their autobiography in hindsight seems a slightly bizarre project for an English class.

Stumbling across said autobiography some thirty-seven years later was equally bizarre!

Boy Child was tidying up the large walk-in cupboard in his room recently and found some of my old schoolwork. No idea how it got in there but can only presume my mother has evicted it from her house at some point and sent it home with me.

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As I re-read those handwritten pages (my handwriting was SO much neater in 1982!) I do actually recall writing some of it.

My English teacher during my first year in high school was a gentleman named Richard Coton. He was in fact the teacher who gave me the best piece of creative writing advice I’ve ever had and it’s stuck with me for all these years. He advised me to write about places I loved and knew well and topics that I was passionate about.

His words came back to me when I started writing the story that evolved into the Silver Lake series of books.

So, how much have I changed since my twelve year old self wrote the first volume of my autobiography?

(Don’t panic – I’ll spare you all of the details!)

There were ten parts to this autobiographical assignment.

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Let’s explore a few……

Babyhood – ok, please don’t laugh too much at the photo – and having read that section, one thing hasn’t improved over the years. I still don’t sleep great at night!

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Playing Cafes – I still clearly remember the game that inspired that section. In reality there were more “meals” served to my long-suffering cousin that night. To this day I’ve no idea how we avoided actually poisoning the poor boy! Happy memories of the summer of 1977…EEK!

The Kind Of Person I Am – well, I’ve grown a whole three inches since I wrote that! Ha Ha. I’m still an avid reader. The model horse collection still lives in the same old shoe box as it did in 1982 only now it resides on a shelf in my parents’ attic. One quote from this “chapter” stuck out.

So far you might have got the impression I’m out spoken. Well, in a way I am but at the same time I am a very nervous person. My mum says I worry about trivial things.”

Absolutely nothing has changed about that facet of my character. I over think my over thinking! (Blame the INFJ personality type)

The professional ambitions changed slightly. I remember wanting to say that the dream was to become an author but, as a class, we were advised to keep the piece factual/real. The two options I listed were lawyer or physiotherapist. Six years after I wrote that chapter, I went to college to start my physiotherapy degree but it wasn’t to be. Anatomy and Physiology and I have a very poor working relationship and I failed my first year. Maybe I should have written about chasing the dream – I have managed to achieve that!

There’s a map in the autobiography of where I lived at the time. That “slightly” inaccurate road map made me smile.

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In Years To Come – the final part of the assignment was to forecast the future. So how accurate were my predictions? In fact there are a few profound observations in there. One of them being

“One thing I’m certain of is that I will not be very far away from home.”

Currently, I live about 100m away from where home was in that map from 1982. In fact, the land my current home is built on was the field I played in as a little girl. Roughly on the red dot

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I ended the last section by saying

“Well, I plan on a busy life. On the whole, I don’t think I will change too much over the next five or six years.”

Life is busy and I don’t think I’ve really changed that much over the past thirty-seven years.

So, how did I do on this homework assignment?

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Maybe some day I’ll write a second volume ………

 

 

Poetry or Art or a Bit of Both……

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What goes around comes around…… a proverb that you are more than likely familiar with.

Sometimes poetry also goes around. I’ve experimented with “mandala” poems on and off for a number of years.

“Mandala” is the Sanskrit word for circle. It can be defined in two ways:

Externally, it can be a visual representation of the world or universe.

Internally, it can act as a meditation guide.

Mandalas, often extremely ornate mandalas, are objects of devotion in Tantric Hindu and in Tantric Buddhism. They remain popular in countries like Nepal and Tibet.

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(ignore the ghostly hand in the photo- that mandala may be beautiful but it is  a nightmare to try to photograph!)

Carl Jung, the renowned Swiss analytical psychologist re-introduced mandalas to the West from a different perspective:

“I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing…which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time…only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is….. the Self, the wholeness of personality which if all goes well is harmonious.”                                Carl Jung, Memories Dreams Reflections

Jung recognised that the desire to create mandalas  occurs during moments of personal growth or reflection.

Creating mandalas is also a fun,  highly visual way to introduce poetry to both younger and older children.

Sometimes, even as an adult, you need to channel that inner poetic child.

 

 

I Wonder When

I dug into my poetry archives for this week’s blog. Been a while since I shared any…..

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I Wonder When

 

When did he last hold me

And really feel me?

 

When did he last kiss me

And really taste me?

 

When did he last say “I love you”

And truly mean it?

 

When did he last make love to me

And relish in me?

 

When did he last listen to me

And even hear me?

 

I wonder when it was……..

 

 

 

Written 5th February 2010

(Image sourced via Google – credits to the owner)

And the bee comes…..

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The variety of wildflowers that I admire on my meanderings never ceases to amaze me.

and eventually the bee does come 😉

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