Sunday, 30 December 2012

Church on Sunday...Auld Kirk Alloway

We are staying in Alloway this Sunday and crossing over the road to the 'Auld Kirk' which would have probably have remained just another anonymous old churchyard if it had not been for the 'Robert Burns connection'.The ruins date from the early 16th century but there is also evidence of an earlier 13th century building. The kirk stopped being used in 1690 when the parish was absorbed by the town of Ayr. After this, although it continued to be used as a place of worship and for a short time, a school, it fell into disrepair.(I know I'm repeating myself here but it's necessary) When Burns featured it in his poem 'Tam O'Shanter' it would gain a certain immortality  It was here Tam came upon witches dancing as he passed drunk on his horse on the way home and was chased over the nearby bridge by them.

"Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh, Where ghaists and houlets nightly cry" - Rabbie Burns

I'm sure it must be an eerie place at night time. 

Our visit thankfully was during daylight hours but even then there was still a certain feel about the place.

It didn't help spotting the 'mortsafes'- a cast iron shield temporarily placed over coffins until the body decayed enough to discourage body-snatchers, who supplied fresh corpses to anatomists.

There are many interesting gravestones within the churchyard some depicting the craft of the occupant in some detail. Other simple stones tell sad tales of families loosing not one but as many as four or five very young children to the illnesses of the times, Yet still others show of people reaching,for the times, a ripe old age.

The most interesting headstone should be that of Rabbie's mother and father who are buried here but sadly it's not the original one - that was stolen - is nothing sacred!

Here is an interesting little video of the churchyard...

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Church on Sunday...Alloway

The parish church of Alloway just outside Ayr has been somewhat overshadowed by its neighbour across the street, 'The Auld Kirk', as it is famously mentioned in the Robert Burn's poem 'Tam O'Shanter'.It is also where his father William is buried.

The Auld Kirk ruins date from the early 16th century but there is also evidence of an earlier 13th century building. The kirk stopped being used in 1690 when the parish was absorbed by the town of Ayr. After this, although it continued to be used as a place of worship and for a short time, a school, it fell into disrepair.

The people of Alloway had to wait until 1858 to again have a church of their own, with a building fund raised by local subscriptions. The entrance to the church is via a side porch which has an interesting floor... 

...letting you know which country you are in.

It also has a couple of small modern stained glass windows

There are also a couple of carved faces, one smiling and one frowning which we have come across in France but as yet haven't found an explanation for.

Sadly we couldn't view the inside as due to the times we live in it is locked up and secured when not in use for services.

We did find this view of the inside...

...shame we couldn't get to see it ourselves.


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Castle in the Ayr...

This house near Pauline's mum's house wouldn't look out of place within the Loire Valley.

Friday, 21 December 2012

More reminiscing...

While walking through the village of Alloway near Ayr the other day we passed by the village hall and a memory came back of a trip many years ago (probably 50). I (Jim) was born in Kilmarnock about 11 miles away where my mum was a 'clippie' (bus conductress) with the local bus company. Every year they would take their employees and their families on a summer trip to a nearby resort. At that time Ayr was a popular destination and although it was a short distance it was a big adventure for us! Sadly on the day the weather was abysmal (ah... Scottish summers) so a bit of quick thinking meant a visit to Burn's cottage (Robert Burn's birthplace) in Alloway.

After the visit the village allowed us to cram into the hall to take our packed lunches that should have been had on the beach under the sun! The hall had a stage and none of us had ever been on one so it was soon filled with kids. The janitor of the hall asked if we could be cleared off the stage as there was a danger of someone falling off. He then suggested that if anyone wanted to 'perform' on it then that would be ok. I think it was my elder brother Billy who organised the 'Craig brothers', 5 of us ranging from 2 to 8 years old, into a quick rehearsal and had us up there singing 'Standing in the need of prayer' - he even had us harmonising -don't know where it came from but it went down very well . Not exactly the Von Trapps but great fun - I remember loving the applause - happy days!

Here's a real choir doing it...

Thursday, 20 December 2012

"Nae man can tether time or tide"

The above quotation is from our local hero (we are in Ayr in Scotland) and much loved poet, Robert Burns.
It's from his poem 'Tam o' Shanter' (more of this later) how true it is, it does not matter your position in life or  your wealth there is no way you can halt the march of time.

As we visit old haunts here in Ayr this becomes abundantly clear...

This building on Ayr's shore-front used to be 'The Pavilion' dance hall and it's where Pauline and I met on the 16th December 1972!! where have the years gone? As we reflect back we have packed a fair bit into them, being lucky enough to have had opportunities that others don't get. There are of course things we could have done better, roads we should or should not have gone down but even though looking back it seems to have flown by we know there is still a lot we can do and experience if we have the correct attitude to what is, after all, our 'one shot'.

This is the telephone box where I proposed to Pauline (after 8 months) in a pathetic " If we could get the money together and everything was ok what would you say if I asked you to marry me?"  Why were we in a phonebox? was a privacy thing. By the way, it is located by the gents toilets...big romantic or what!!!

Footnote: We didn't spend the 8 months on the shore-front or the phonebox!!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Santa in a campervan...

Spotted these Santas (or should that be Santae) in a garden around from Pauline's mum's here in Ayr - don't know what the significance of Santa in a campervan is ...(Colin, I know you want one.)

...but it's not the first time!

Second pic, from which shows a very active Santa.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Church on Sunday...St Andrews

Well a cathedral actually...well what's left of it anyway!When we were over at St.Andrews we took a walk through the town to the site of the cathedral. The size of the cathedral can be seen from the remains and it must have been an impressive place 700 years ago.

It was in its day, the largest and most important church in Scotland 

It was built between 1160 and 1318 

You can still see good evidence of where the main altar stood...

and the bases of the main support pillars.

There had however been a church on the site since the 8th century but the current site's oldest remains are that of  'St Rule's tower' which is located in the Cathedral grounds. It served as a church to up to the early 12th century. It continued to be used during the building of its much larger successor.

 Inside the tower.

 St Rule (or Regulus) is credited with bringing the relics of St Andrew to Scotland.

The cathedral ruins are surrounded by a graveyard...

and by the most complete and imposing monastic enclosure walls in Scotland.

The ruins look out to the north sea whose winds and rain have added to the deterioration of the remaining stonework but it was the Reformation that really brought its demise.

 Where's Joan.?

She's not here obviously but there is a connection in that the town of St Andrews is twinned with the Southern Touraine town of Loches which Joan passed through on her way to Chinon.

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Saturday, 15 December 2012

No jacket required...

We spent 4 days visiting family up in Fife this week at Peat Inn and Balmullo (great names don't you think) the seat covers are in Mitchell's Cafe on Market Street  in St.Andrews which is furnished with what appears to be recycled items,like the scaffolding board floor! An interesting place which also has a great deli counter.

They take great delight in letting you know nearly all their produce is sourced locally.

You can visit their website here...

Well done to John & Penny, who holidayed with us last year, for almost instant recognition!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Only in Scotland...


Last week the fire station at North Berwick burned down with the fire engines still inside!!!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Church on Sunday...L'Ile-Bouchard

At first glance the parish church of St Gilles in the Touraine town of L'Île-Bouchard seems quite innocuous but there is more to it than first meets the eye.

From the 8th to the 14th of December 1947 at a time when the country was being affected by general strikes and even the threat of civil war, a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary and the angel Gabriel appeared to four young girls of the village and asked them to pray for peace in France. The apparent result was a cessation of hostilities and the beginning a more prosperous period for the country. You can read more here... 

There is a 'grotto' in the church depicting the 'vision'

The church which dates from the 11th century was altered in the 12th and 15th centuries before a major renovation towards the end of the 19th  century.

It has an impressive organ and fresco.

Where's Joan? She is here and indeed was here...

There is plaque on the outside wall telling us that on the 6th of March in 1429,  Joan stopped there to pray on her way to Chinon, to seek out the Dauphin Charles. Joan is said to have spent several hours in prayer  in front of the Altar of Our Lady.

So, miraculous visions and Joan - quite a church!

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Saturday, 8 December 2012

Expect the unexpected...

Among the Christmassy things going on in Edinburgh at the moment you'll find a floating Jedi Master on the Royal Mile. Though judging by the 'zip-up' it would appear even Yoda's powers can't protect him from the Scottish chill. Too cold even for you, Master, is it?