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Sir Walter Scott

20th September 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

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Sir Walter Scott by Sir Henry Raeburn 1822

Regarded as one of Scotland’s most popular writers, Sir Walter Scott produced an exemplary body of work, notably his famous Waverley novels.

Childhood

Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh on the 15th of August 1771. He was born in a house on College Wynd where the Old College building of Edinburgh University now stands. He was the 9th child of Walter Scott, writer to the Signet, and Anne Rutherford. At the age of two he contracted polio which rendered him lame for the rest of his life, often walking with a limp. To attempt to cure his illness, he was sent to live with his grandfather, Robert Scott, at Sandyknowe, near Smailholm, in the Scottish Borders. It was his time spent at Smailholm where he developed his love of the Borders. In 1778 he returned to Edinburgh. By now the Scott family were living in grander accommodation at 25 George Square.

Early career

Scott began his education in October 1779 at the High School of Edinburgh. His education was interrupted by a period of ill health and he was again sent to Sandyknowe. One year later he returned to the city and to his studies. In 1786, he was apprenticed to his father’s law firm; however he soon decided he wanted to become a lawyer and returned to Edinburgh University where he qualified as an advocate in 1792. He practiced as an Advocate in Edinburgh where he dealt with more provincial matters, his first Edinburgh case not presented until 1795.

When Scott met Burns

The only known meeting between Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns took place during the winter of 1786/87. At a house on Sciennes House Place they both attended the literary salon of Scott’s university friend Adam Ferguson. This meeting had a lasting impression on the young Walter Scott.

Family life

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Abbotsford House

Scott married French-born Charlotte Carpenter in Carlisle on the 24th of December 1797. Following the wedding, they moved into rented accommodation at 50 George Square, Edinburgh. Their first child, Sophia, was born in 1799 prompting Scott to seek more stable means of employment. He successfully petitioned Henry Dundas, controller of Crown patronage in Scotland, for the position of Sheriff-depute of Selkirkshire. Between 1801 and 1806, Charlotte gave birth to three more children; Walter, Anne and Charles. The growing in size of the family meant Scott had to find more sizable accommodation and so built 39 Castle Street in Edinburgh’s New Town. It was this house that was to become Scott’s winter residence. Scott was to also have properties in Lasswade on the banks of the River Esk and also Ashestiel near Selkirk but he eventually found a prized home in Cartley Hole Farm near Melrose, which he was to rename Abbotsford.

Scott the Writer

Since childhood, Scott had maintained a strong interest in the literary world. He wrote his own poetry as well as collecting celebrated works by Shakespeare and Fielding. At university he formed the Poetry Society and was an avid member of the Literary Society. His position as the Sheriff-depute allowed him considerable time to work on his poems and novels and also gave him ample time to collect various ballads pertaining to the Borders. Regarded as his first major piece of work, ‘The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border’ was published in 1800 though it wasn’t until the release of ‘The Lady of the Last Minstrel’ in 1805 that he was to find popular acclaim. Scott’s status as a writer was rising and demand grew for his works. ‘Marmion’ was published in 1807 selling 28,000 copies over three years. It was followed three years later by ‘The Lady of the Lake’ which broke all previous sales records and proved his popularity in Britain as well as the United States of America.

The Waverley Novels

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First edition of “Waverley”

In 1814, Walter Scott published his first novel Waverley. This was to become a series of novels, each depicting periods of Scotland’s history. Scott’s romantic view of Scottish history gave rise to the boom in tourism throughout the Victorian period as his books became popular with new audiences. The ‘Waverley’ novels, as they became known, spanned 28 books including well known titles such as ‘The Heart of Midlothian’, ‘Ivanhoe’ and ‘Rob Roy’. The last volume was published in 1831 shortly before his death. Scott published most of his works alongside his childhood friend James Ballantyne, whom he met at Sandyknowe. Scott became a silent partner in Ballatyne’s publishing company, successfully encouraging him to move his works from Kelso to Edinburgh. It was a business relationship that saw Ballantyne become his publisher and editor.

Financial Ruin

Due in part to Scott’s passion for his home at Abbotsford, which he frequently extended and renovated, he built up sizeable levels of debt. He would have lost Abbotsford had he not signed over ownership to his son. To raise vital funds he sought advancement in royalties for books not yet published. This was a risky strategy that paid off as his popularity as a writer continued into the late 1820s.

Visit of George IV

In 1822 King George IV made the first visit to Edinburgh by any monarch since the mid-17th century. As a baronet, awarded for the discovery of the ‘Honours of Scotland’ in 1818, Sir Walter Scott was instrumental in organising the royal visit, promoting the best of what Scotland had to offer. It was during this visit that the wearing of the kilt once again became popular.

Scott’s Death

In May 1826, Scott’s wife, Charlotte, died. He channelled his energies into his writing to pay off debts amounting to £140,000. This was to the detriment of his health. In the final years of his life he suffered a stroke and haemorrhaging as the strain of his personal life and his finances took hold. Sir Walter Scott died on the 21st of September 1832 and was buried next to his wife at Dryburgh Abbey. His debts were eventually paid off following posthumous sales of his novels and collections of poetry.

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Scott Monument, under construction 1844

Sir Walter Scott remembered

In the years following his death, a subscription was raised for the building of a national monument to honour Scott as one of Scotland’s greatest writers. Designed by George Meikle Kemp, the Scott Monument was opened in August 1844.

“And come he slow, or come he fast, It is but death who comes at last.” Sir Walter Scott, ‘Marmion’ (1808)

 

 

 

Image © Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Historic Environment Scotland, The City of Edinburgh Council, Special Collections-Glasgow University Library | Licensor Scran

The Battle of Flodden

6th September 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

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One of the worst military disasters in Scotland’s history

On the 9th of September 1513, an invading Scottish army under King James IV fought an English army under Catherine of Aragon, fighting on behalf of her husband King Henry VIII of England. 

The two sides met at Flodden Hill, Northumberland.  The defeat was catastrophic for Scotland’s leadership, claiming the lives of the King as well as many leading nobles.

In 1513 the relationships between England and Scotland were fractious. James IV, King of Scots, was an ambitious, determined and powerful figure in his kingdom, and keen to make Scotland a player in the European theatre of politics. Henry VIII, King of England, had been ruling his kingdom for some four years, and similarly had grand ambitions, claiming overlordship of both Scotland and large parts of France.

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James IV of Scotland

 

A chance for James IV to assert his position in Europe emerged when rivalries between city-states (including the Papal States) in Italy came to a head, spilling into a wider European conflict. England had sided with Pope Julius II in a war against France, using the pretence of loyalty to the Pope in order to expand English control in France. James IV, though technically at peace with England, had been angered by Henry VIII’s claims in Scotland. The ‘Auld Alliance’ between Scotland and France had been dormant for some years, but Henry VIII’s departure for France in April of 1513 presented the opportunity James IV desired, to revive the alliance with France and attack England.

 

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Henry VIII (1491-1547)

Setting off in mid-August, James IV brought his army of 30,000, as well as artillery including the Mons Meg cannon, to the river Tweed, which he crossed on the 24th of August. Besieging and destroying several castles in England, James IV made progress south. In keeping with the tradition of chivalry, James IV had notified Queen Catherine of his intention to invade a full month before the invasion took place. As a result, the English managed to prepare an army and supplies ahead of James’ arrival.

Meeting at Flodden

The two armies met at Branxton village in Northumberland. The Scottish army had been stationed at Flodden hill, but under threat of a flanking manoeuvre by the English, moved to another hill near the village. In this movement, the Scottish army was not able to properly set up its artillery; the English army, however, was able to begin an extensive and destructive bombardment of the Scottish infantry on the hill from their position lower down.

Unwilling to sustain any more losses, the Scottish infantry moved at pace down the hill towards the English line. Initially maintaining the compact ‘sheltron’ formation with long spears, the Scottish infantry began to lose its shape as the ground was uneven and muddy. Upon reaching the English, the infantry were unable to reform. In the face of the shorter, more flexible English weapons (the ‘bill’, a spear with hooks), the Scottish army was massacred. Among the casualties were King James IV himself, along with dozens of Scottish nobles and leading Churchmen.

The Aftermath & Legacy of the Battle

After the battle, the English army pressed north into Scotland. The state of chaos following King James’ death meant that no formal defence was organised. In this of this, towns in the Borders region of Scotland took to creating their own militia to defend themselves from the English pillagers; these groups of armed townsmen with no formal military training were called Common Riding. Though existing before the battle of Flodden, these organisations are recognised today for the role they played in the aftermath of the defeat.

Several towns in southern Scotland also hastily constructed walls around their urban settlements to allow for improved defence against English pillagers. The Flodden Wall in Edinburgh is one such example, though this fulfilled an economic as well as military function, allowing for more control over the entrances to the medieval burgh.

Image & Audio © National Museums Scotland, University of Glasgow / Francis James Child, National Galleries of Scotland, Lennoxlove House LtdLicensor Scran

Women’s Voices from the Scottish Borders

16th November 2015 by Scran | 0 comments

Remembering domestic servants, shorthand typists, cinema pianists and suffragettes: new soundbites from the Ian Landles Oral History Archive

We’re releasing some more soundbites from the Ian Landles Oral History Archive this week. This time we’re showcasing the stories of women from the Scottish Borders.

You’ll hear from Mrs Oliver (b.1901) about her experiences as a pianist working in cinemas in Hawick – ‘The Piv’ and ‘The Wee Thee’ – providing the soundtrack for silent movies. Mrs Oliver also worked as a shorthand typist and she talks about this in a second soundbite. We learn how she perfected her shorthand by sitting in the back of church during services and noting down the sermons.

Other women talk about their memories of the suffrage movement in the years leading up to the First World War. Mrs Stewart (b.1881) remembers suffragettes coming to Hawick and Mrs Thomson tells us how the activists gained a reputation amongst the locals: ‘they come to burn hooses doon’.

A number of women in the Borders worked in service in the early 20th century at the many country houses and estates across the region. Catherine McLeish (b.1902) and Meg Wilson (b.1893) share their experiences.

Follow us on Twitter and watch our Twitterfeed from tomorrow to catch these soundbites.

The Ian Landles Archive is a series of interviews and sound recordings collected by local historian Ian Landles between the 1960s and 2010. The collection, originally started in order to preserve the memories of local men who had fought in World War One, also contains testimonies from local women and material on The Hawick Common Riding, poetry, music, the railways, farming life and mill life. The original full interviews are held on audio cassette tape by Scottish Borders Council Archive Services at the Heritage Hub in Hawick. To listen to all interviews from the Ian Landles Archive currently held on Scran click here.

Images © Aberdeen City Council, Hulton Getty, Dalmellington & District Conservation Trust | Licensor Scran

#clickhear Celebrating the Borders Railway

8th September 2015 by Scran | 0 comments

Scran is marking two important events this month with a new audio Twitter campaign #clickhear.

Working with our partners, Scottish Borders Council Archive Service, we are currently uploading highlights from a newly hosted oral history collection – The Ian Landles Archive – onto our website. And to celebrate this and the historic reopening of the Borders Railway we are Tweeting out free soundbites with a railway flavour this month, offering a taster of some of the fascinating testimonies from Borders folk now available as Scran records.

Memories of working as drivers and firemen on the old Waverley Route, the sadness of seeing old engines go off for scrap, remembering the steam from the trains dirtying washing drying on the line.  These are just a few titbits from our soundbites which began on 6th September and will be Tweeted daily until 15th September.

Armistice Memories

1st September 2015 by Scran | 0 comments

‘London was fair heaving, perfectly heaving’

We’ve got a new interview from the Ian Landles Archive (© Scottish Borders Council Archive Service) uploaded and live on Scran with a full summary. And it’s an exciting one! Former railwayman, George Cairns, born in the Scottish Borders in 1899 and interviewed by Ian Landles in 1981, shares his memories of working as a porter and then a signalman on the Borders Railways. He also relates his vivid memories of the eleventh of November 1918.

soldier World War One

Before joining the railways, Mr Cairns signed up for the army. This was in the last year of the First World War and Mr Cairns was sent to train in Surrey. He never saw active service because he was struck down with ‘flu during the epidemic of 1918. As he recuperated in hospital in Lewisham in London, the Armistice was signed. To celebrate, Mr Cairns was allowed to leave hospital with his pal and travel up into London. He witnessed the crowds, got plenty of attention in his military uniform and made his way through the ‘heaving’ throng of The Strand and right up to the gates of Buckingham Palace where he read the historic proclamation declaring the Armistice which had been pinned there. He also saw King George V and Princess Mary as they paraded through the streets in their carriage.

It’s a fascinating story and well worth a listen. You can access the full interview with George Cairns here and find out more about the Ian Landles  Archive on Scran here.

And railway fans, watch out for our upcoming @scranlife Twitter campaign for The Ian Landles Archive launched to coincide with the reopening of the Borders Railway on 6th September. It’s coming soon #IanLandlesArchive #clickhear.

Image © National Library of Scotland, Cheering Soldiers, Western Front, 11 November 1918. Licensor www.scran.ac.uk