HOLYROOD IS SUCH a pleasant spot, despite the recent intrusion of an ostentatiously ugly government building designed by a Spanish architect. The other day, while visiting Edinburgh, I heeded the recommendation of the Prettiest Schoolteacher in Clackmannanshire to sample the burger at the Holyrood 9a. It was quite delicious, though not perfect, and was splendidly washed with a pint of Kozel (most un-Caledonian, I concede, but you can get Deuchars in London, you know).
Afterwards, our little party decided to have a little wander down Holyrood Road towards the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the epicentre of the Scottish monarchy.
Nestled between Calton Hill and Salisbury Crags, the Palace sits at the end of the Royal Mile that runs between it and Edinburgh Castle. With the Old Town to its west, the expanse of Holyrood Park flows off to the south and east of it. (more…)
I cannot condemn this in more stringent terms. The Tories at the University of St Andrews have apparently burnt Barack Obama in effigy and then backtracked with all manner of pussyfooting around and the standard issue of apologies. Burning in effigy is a perfectly legitimate form of political expression and has been verified by centuries of tradition.
What’s more, I suspect there’s a bit of the old racism behind the apologies: would anyone have bat an eyelid if Mr Obama’s predecessor had been burnt in effigy by students? I, for one, would have happily joined in both effigy-burnings. The more effigies burnt the merrier. Chesterton remarked “It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged”, and I would suggest effigy-burning is a potentially more wholesome if less efficacious alternative.
If you’re going to burn an effigy, burn an effigy and then stick with it. But the weak-kneed, shilly-shally Tories always want to engage in a bit of old-school fun before hoisting up the white flag and issue an “unreserved public apology”. Rank hypocrisy of the highest order! Ye cannae have yer cake an’ eat it, too!
Well, I was going to direct you over to Seraphic’s blog for an at least partial account of my Edinburgh weekend but she’s done gone and taken the dagnabbed thing down. It’s just as well, as when she described the assembled guests at a long Sunday lunch by the sea in Portobello she finished her description with “and Andrew Cusack wearing something rumpled from Ralph Lauren”. In fact, it was Massimo Dutti, but there you have it. (more…)
Yesterday, I was very saddened to hear of Fra Freddy’s death. Fra Freddy was a legendary character whom I was introduced to in my first year at St Andrews. He was invited to speak to the Catholic students most years on some subject or another — an introduction to prayer or a lenten meditation. I was quite pleased when he was so taken with a poster I designed to advertise one of his talks that on his way back to Edinburgh he nipped out of the car at the last minute and grabbed a large copy. Fra Freddy was an old-fashioned stick-in-the-mud with a good sense of humour, but he also had the capability to surprise with a kind word when you least expected it.
Fra Fredrik John Patrick Crichton-Stuart was born September 6, 1940 to Lord Rhidian Crichton-Stuart (son of the 4th Marquess of Bute) and his wife Selina van Wijk (daughter of the Ambassador of the Queen of the Netherlands to the French Republic). He was raised in Scotland and North Africa (where his father was British Delegate to the International Legislative Assembly of Tangier) and was educated first at Carlekemp in North Berwick and then at Ampleforth. He joined the Order of Malta in 1962, later being named the Delegate for Scotland & the Northern Marches. In 1993 he was appointed Chancellor of the resurrected Grand Priory of England. Fra Freddy became Grand Prior himself when his cousin, Fra Andrew Bertie, died in 2008 and was succeeded by the then-Grand Prior of England, Fra Matthew Festing.
Fra Freddy was a devoted follower and promoter of the traditional form of the Roman rite. He joined Una Voce Scotland in 1996 and became secretary in 2000. Two years later he was named councillor and senior vice-president of FIUV, the International Federation ‘Una Voce’, and briefly served as its president in 2005.
Over the past year or so Fra Freddy had been varying ill but seemed to recover. I am told he was found dead yesterday morning, still clasping his breviary. He was well-known in Edinburgh and beyond, and he will be missed by his many friends as well as those who worked and volunteered with him or interacted with him in his charitable activities.
6 September 1940 – 14 June 2011
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.
Scotland has been enveloped in snowfall, and the BBC has put a photo gallery up of reader-submitted images of the recent precipitation. The In Pictures feature of BBC News Online’s Scottish section has for years been one of my favourite parts of the website, offering a new series of photographs every week varying from the startling to the quotidian. Above is Michael Rennie’s view of a rather peaceful-looking Loch Ness. (more…)
HERE IS A lordly demesne! In East Lothian, thirty-one miles from the centre of Edinburgh and three from the Royal Burgh of Dunbar, sits the Spott House and estate, now on the market from Knight Frank. The property is a whopping 2,463 acres in total, including 1,779 acres of arable land, 214 of pasture, and 356 acres of woodland. The estate has more than quadrupled in size in the past decade, under the ownership of the Danish-born Lars Foghsgaard, who bought just 600 acres in the year 2000.
As The Times wrote of Mr. Foghsgaard, “Clad in tweed jacket, plus fours and Hunter wellingtons, with several brace of partridge in his hand and his labrador at his side, he looks the very image of the country gentleman as he strides though his East Lothian estate.”
“The previous owner was very involved in the land,” Mr. Foghsgaard told the Times. “I am not a farmer, so I employed a farm manager: it’s crucial to have the necessary skills and connections in the area to do the job well, and as a foreigner I did not have those.” But the Dane does enjoy seeing the workings of the farm. “When I walk the dog, I always pass through the cowshed, where we have lambs being born each day — it’s such a joy to see.” (more…)
AS IF, WITH THE recent announcement that a certain St Andrean couple are getting engaged, there wasn’t enough for us to expend our idle chatter about, the University of St Andrews is thrust into the fore on an entirely separate matter. Damian Thompson, the provocative and informative Catholic Herald editor and indispensable Daily Telegraph blogger wrote a blog entry — Catholic students at St Andrews ‘can’t have the Latin Mass’ — relaying the claims of a student that he and a stable group of students have asked to have a monthly Mass in the Extraordinary Form, found a priest willing to say it, and have been denied. Fr. Z, the world’s most famous clerical blogger, soon picked up the story as well and made a few comments of his own.
The reality of the situation, it appears, is far removed from the one student’s claims. (more…)
The University of St Andrews is commencing the celebrations of its 600th anniversary, as the institution was founded in stages between 1410, when teaching started, and 1413, when a bull was issued recognising it as a university by Pedro de Luna, an antipope who styled himself Benedict XIII. Yesterday I attended a fascinating lecture by Dr. John Rao — From the Triple Papacy to the Council of Constance — as part of the 2010–2011 lecture series organised by the Roman Forum.
Boy was Benedict a baddie! Even the council he called passed resolutions condemning him and the cardinals he appointed turned against him. He ended his days maintaining his schismatic claim, holed in island fortress of Peñiscola. The day before he died, he appointed four cardinals, who elected de Luna’s friend Gil Sanchez Muñoz y Carbón as Clement VIII. Or rather, three of the cardinals did while the fourth — Jean Carrier, the archdeacon of Rodez — wasn’t present, so he went and single-handedly elected his sacristan Bernard Garnier as pope, who took the name Benedict XIV.
Garnier was permanently in hiding, and his location was only ever known to Carrier. B-14 did manage to choose four cardinals of his own, and on the antipope’s death they elected Carrier pope, who was inconveniently captured and imprisoned by his rival antipope, Clement VIII. Oddly, having just succeeded the supposed Benedict XIV, Carrier chose to use the name and style Benedict XIV also. A novel by Jean Raspail (L’Anneau du pêcheur) depicts a line of anti-papal successors to the two Benedict XIVs.
As a lecturer, Dr. Rao is both informative and entertaining, and I’d encourage anyone interested to attend the remaining lectures in this year’s series. There’s always wine on offers and little things to nibble on, with a box for generous donations to be made towards the cost of the program. The next lecture is Martin V and the Troubled Return to Rome — this week is the 593rd anniversary of that pope’s election, as it happens.
Also, Dr. David Allen White, retired Professor of World Literature at the United States Naval Academy, returns to New York in December for the Syllabus of Errors Weekend, on the subject of Charles Dickens and the Evils of Modernity. I went to last year’s Syllabus of Errors weekend, and Professor White is entrancingly engaging, a veritable font of knowledge.
IT IS COMMONLY said of St Andrews that it is a place of beauty. This is often a compliment to its natural setting, with open skies arcing over the reaches of the bay, and ancient rock and cliff yielding to the changing rhythms of the waves. At the same time visitors are generally struck by the pleasing combination of natural and built environments: the ruined grandeur of the Cathedral and Priory standing bare to the elements; crowstep-gabled cottages gathered in against the wind; the broad thoroughfares interlinked with narrow cobbled lanes; and the church towers etched against the sky. There is also the scholarly dignity of Deans Court, the quizzical posture of the Roundel, the charm of the courtyards to the south of South Street, the sad ruination of Blackfriars juxtaposed with the aspiring frontage of Madras College, and other evocative sights besides.
Here and there within the midst of all of this stands, physically, historically, and socially, the University. Its contributions to the architectural distinction of the old town are obvious enough. They are, principally, the harmonious South Street complex of St Mary’s College (1593-41) to the west, Parliament Hall (1612-43) to the north, and the Library extension (1889-1959) – now the Psychology wing – to the east; and the North Street set of the Collegiate Church of St Salvator, Gate Tower and tenement (1450-60), and beyond it the west block (1683-90) containing the Hebdomadar’s Room, and to the east and north the College buildings (1829-31 and 1845-6, respectively). There are other smaller and oft-reworked jewels associated within the University: St John’s House in South Street (15th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries), St Leonard’s Chapel (remodelled c. 1512), and the ‘Admirable Crichton’s House’ (16th century), but the principal architectural benefactions of the University to the town are the North and South Street college complexes. I have not mentioned the Younger Graduation Hall (1923-9) and the Student Union (1972) and prefer to leave it for readers to determine what might be said of these.
It could hardly have passed unnoticed that the list of contributions dates mostly from the late middle-ages to the nineteenth century, and this fact raises two questions: first, whether in the second half of the twentieth century the University was sufficiently attentive to its role as principal architectural patron; and second, how it might now hope to enhance the built environment of St Andrews. (more…)
Among the most well-known works of modern Scottish design, besides the ‘Clootie Dumpling’ of the Scottish National Party, there is the logo of the Royal Bank of Scotland: the Daisy Wheel. Now one of the most well-known financial brands in the world, the Royal Bank of Scotland was founded in Edinburgh in 1727, thirty-two years after its rival, the Bank of Scotland. (The Bank of Scotland, as it happens, was founded by an Englishman, John Holland — just as the Bank of England was founded by a Scot, Sir William Paterson).
The Scottish Parliament had declared in 1689 that King James VII had, by his absence, forfeited the throne, and handed the Crown to his Dutch rival William of Orange, who had already seized the throne in England. The House of Hanover succeeded to the throne of the new United Kingdom which had been created in 1707, but the Bank of Scotland was suspected of harbouring Jacobite sympathies. The London government was keen to help out Scottish merchants loyal to the Hanoverians and so, in 1727, King George granted a royal charter to the new Royal Bank of Scotland. (more…)
THE EAST NEUK of Fife is one of my favourite little corners of the globe, in what is definitely my favourite country in the world. Here are a set of almost unspoilt little fishing villages with a quite localised architectural style that makes them instantly recognisable. The name of this little regionlet signifies its location as the east ‘nook’ of the Kingdom of Fife, that juts out into the North Sea.
Those concerned for this part of the world might be interested in signing up for the East Neuk of Fife Preservation Society, which has completed admirable work all over the East Neuk, and is currently considering the restoration of the gatehouse of Pittenweem Priory.
In accordance with tradition, knights are appointed to the Order of the Thistle on the feast of Scotland’s patron saint, the Apostle Andrew, but they are not formally installed until the following summer when the Queen is in residence at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. And so this past July, the ‘Thistle Service’ took place at St. Giles’, the High Kirk of Edinburgh, and two new knights were inducted into Scotland’s highest honour and most exalted order of chivalry.
The knights, dames, and officers, dressed in their flowing velvet mantles of green along with their hats and collars, gather across Parliament Square in the Library of the Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet (Scotland’s professional body of solicitors), part of the Parliament House complex that long ago housed the kingdom’s legislature, and is now home to her courts. In Parliament Square itself, the Royal Company of Archers (the Queen’s Body Guard for Scotland) forms a guard of honour and is accompanied by the band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. (more…)
Since the decision by ICANN, the mysterious council of elders whose nomenclatory dominion spans, it seems, the entirety of the “world wide web”, to designate .cat as the “sponsored Top-Level Domain” of the Catalonian linguistic and cultural community, much speculation has arisen in various sub-statal lands throughout the world about future TLDs. In our favoured realm of Scotland, a campaign has arisen for .scot to be designated the TLD for Scotland. While I wholeheartedly support the campaign for a Scottish TLD, I have already expressed my reservations about the increasing size (not number) of TLDs. The traditional country-code TLDs are all two-letter combinations, and any new TLDs representing geographic entities ought to stick to this restraint.
But then what would Scotland’s top-level domain be? .sl is taken by Sierra Leone, while .sc belongs to the Seychelles, and .st to São Tomé. We might hark back to the Gaelic with .al for Alba, except that it’s already occupied by Albania. Ah! Caledonia! How about .cd? Nope, that belongs to the Congo. Blast. It might be necessary to go to three letters then, which brings us either to .sco or .sct. Neither look all that attractive, though .sco has the advantage of being pronounceable. Actually, .sco is quite imaginable, when spoken: parliament.gov.sco, fifeherald.sco, glenfiddich.sco. It just doesn’t look right. .scot looks better, but the rhyming nature of “dot scot” is irritating to say aloud.
I do wish they’d make .gb available again. I’d much rather be a “gee-bee” than a “yoo-kay”. Great Britain is a natural entity, after all, whereas the United Kingdom is a government construct. Perhaps if the Union is re-negotiated, we might move from .uk to .gb, just as .yu was changed to .cs when Yugoslavia was renamed Serbia & Montenegro. (The two split not long afterwards, and went for .rs and .me).
With four letters, at least .scot is not the longest proposed top-level domain. Some ninny thinks there should be a .quebec — how cumbersome! .qu would be much better, and one can just imagine the Québécois pronouncing it. Other British proposals include .eng for England and .cym for Wales. “Norn Iron” loses out, as .ni belongs to Nicaragua, but .ul or .uls are conceivable for Ulster. Perhaps the Vatican could dole out .sre — Sancta Romana Ecclesia — for ecclesiastical domains.
Among the surprisingly large pool of under-appreciated Scottish architects is Arthur George Sydney Mitchell. His Edinbornian works include Well Court in Dean Village, Ramsay Gardens in the Old Town, and his restoration of the Mercat Cross on the Royal Mile. Sydney Mitchell also did a number of branch commissions for the Commercial Bank of Scotland (which in 1959 merged with the National Bank to form the National Commercial Bank, which in turn merged into the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1979). (more…)
By SUSAN MANSFIELD
The Scotsman | 22 November 2008
ALEXANDER STODDART welcomes me into his studio, and into the 19th century. “It hasn’t gone away, you see,” he says, brightly. “The 19th century is not a period in time, it’s a state of mind.”
Indeed, if one could visit the workshop of one of the great monumentalists of a century ago, it might look a lot like this: plaster casts in various stages of assembly; imperious figures missing limbs or, occasionally, a head; bags of clay which until recently were a working model of physicist James Clerk Maxwell.
Stoddart is Scotland’s premier neo-classical sculptor, the man who made the figures of Adam Smith and David Hume for Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, Robert Burns for Kilmarnock, the beautiful Robert Louis Stevenson memorial on the capital’s Corstorphine Road. He’s 49, but looks boyish, with his sandy hair and dusty lab coat cut off at the elbows. He is a man of swift, enthusiastic intelligence, rarely still, and almost never silent.
Despite once being dismissed by the Scottish Arts Council as “backward-looking, historicist and not reflecting contemporary trends”, Stoddart is busy. Around us are the plastercasts of past commissions: immense allegorical figures for the £6 million Millennium Arch in Atlanta, Georgia; religious commissions for a mysterious private client who has her own chapel “somewhere in North Britain”; parts of 70ft frieze for Buckingham Palace. A bust of Pope John Paul II for a Chicago seminary.
Soon they will be joined by James Clerk Maxwell, whose statue, commissioned by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, will be unveiled on Tuesday at the East End of Edinburgh’s George Street. Stoddart is thrilled to be sharing a street with 19th-century sculptural greats like John Steel’s Thomas Chalmers. “It’s the greatest honour to be anywhere near the company of Steel.”
And he is ready and waiting for the next question, the one about relevance. (more…)
PRINCES STREET IS the thoroughfare of the nation, and its sad decline during the second half of the twentieth century and only partial comeback since then are reflective of Scotland itself. The architects of Edinburgh’s New Town had no idea that Princes Street would evolve into a commercial avenue, and the street was originally laid out as a handsome row of Georgian townhouses, built between 1765 and 1800, facing Princes Street Gardens and the Old Town above behind them.
Almost immediately the mercantile and social nature of the street began to assert itself, with shops and traders setting themselves up in the converted basements and ground floors of townhouses. The New Club showed up at No. 86 Princes Street in 1837, coming from previous premises in St. Andrew’s Square and before that Shakespeare Square (where the former G.P.O. now stands).
As the Victorian era progressed, more and more of the Georgian townhouses were demolished and replaced with new buildings in the varying styles of age. It was just two years after Victoria’s death that an old company built a new headquarters in a brimming Edwardian baroque: the North British and Mercantile Insurance Company. (more…)
Keith Patrick O’Brien, the Primate of Scotland and Cardinal Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh, this weekend preached at the first mass offered by the recently ordained Fr. Simon Harkins of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. The mass was offered in the Cardinal’s own Cathedral of St. Mary in Edinburgh, Fr. Harkins’s own home town. The Very Rev. Fr Josef Bisig FSSP and the Very Rev. Fr. Franz-Karl Banauch FSSP assisted, and monks from the Transalpine Redemptorists of Papa Stronsay (who provided these photos) were also present, in addition to a number of diocesan priests.
I’ve spent the past eight years of my life divided between three (arch-) dioceses and I have to admit that Cardinal O’Brien is still the one I feel the greatest affection for. He’s an affable, uncomplicated fellow, and can be relied upon to defend what’s right in the media — unquestionably one of the best prelates in Britain today.
“I find him a much more approachable figure than other Scots prelates,” writes Damian Thompson, “less inclined to stand on his dignity despite (or perhaps because of) his red hat. I met him once at a party to relaunch the Scottish Catholic Observer, to whom he’s been a good friend; he didn’t sweep in surrounded by flunkeys, but hung around chatting in ordinary priest’s dress, reminding me a bit of Basil Hume in that respect.”
As it happens, I’m head of Cardinal O’Brien’s fan club on Facebook, which I encourage any Facebook users out there to join.
God bless our cardinal, and many congratulations to Fr. Hawkins! (more…)
While the Westminster Parliament has a Speaker, the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh has a “Presiding Officer” — a rather dull title if you ask me. The auld Estaits of Parliament abolished in 1707 were headed by the Lord Chancellor of Scotland, an office which fell into abeyance shortly after the Act of Union.
When the “Scottish Parliament” was refounded in 1997, the first man to hold the new job of Presiding Officer was Sir David Steel (the Rt. Hon. the Lord Steel of Aikwood), the despicable creature who as an MP introduced legal abortion to the United Kingdom in 1967, and who has inexplicably and disgracefully been created a Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, the highest honour in the land (the Scottish equivalent of England’s Garter).
Anyhow, the St Andrews Fund for Scots Heraldry decided to commemorate the hosting of the Heraldic & Genealogical Congress in Scotland by commissioning a ceremonial gown for the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, who lacked one at the time. This rather handsome creation was presented to George Reid, the holder of the office at that time, during 27th International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences held at St Andrews in 2006. Unfortunately I can find no evidence that this well-executed gown has ever been used. (more…)