Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On ancient walls and lunatics...

Arbroath Abbey - a "marker" from another time.
Lest anyone thinks that this posting's title is meant to reflect the venue and the visitors (us)...well, I'll leave that to you. :)

It is admitted that sometimes we both get overly caught up chasing after the potential "adventures" that await in the world outdoors, and need to be reminded of the nearby evidence of the incredible depth of history that exists in the heart and soul of Scotland.

Having said that, when hill walking in the lonely landscapes, it's easy to be stirred by images of the rough and ready life, countless generations ago in the glens and hills - and my Scottish blood is quite happy to be associated with those "great stalwart men, shaggy, unkempt and wild with a liking for strong drink".
Donnchadh*, a modern day descendent of the
"shaggy, unkempt, and wild"...
exiting the chamber for declared lunatics.
(A giant of a man, note how he "towers" in the doorway)

In reality though, I'm a relatively short guy with a close-trimmed beard, an unwarrior-like personality (most of the time), and an aversion to whiskey. But - the day will come. The "shaggy, unkempt and wild" will be back!

Arbroath Abbey is just down the road from where we are in Forfar, Scotland. As the sun set, casting its warm rays on these ancient walls, we felt deeply moved at its immensity and grandeur in an earlier time. The abbey was founded by King William the Lion in 1178 and it was dedicated in honour of St Thomas of Canterbury. In 1320, the Scottish Declaration of Independence was signed and addressed to the Pope with these, among other words:

"For, so long as a hundred remain alive, we will never in any degree be subject to the dominion of the English. Since not for glory, riches or honours do we fight, but for freedom alone, which no man loses but with his life."

Yes, indeed, those words have stirred strong feelings over many centuries - and to this day!

Peeking into a cold, stone-walled "cell", once reserved for those thought to be "mad", I shuddered at the thought of being incarcerated there. I'm sure that the rather unfortunate term, "lunatic", was a more subjective than clinical designation! It is impossible to imagine what life must have been like. You'd have to be more than tough to survive.

And next door to the ancient abbey,
21st Century "warriors" ponder

 more relaxed battle strategies.
When you ponder the hopes and the dreams, the plans and the passions, the lives and the "stories" that have accumulated over a thousand years in this is humbling. It also puts into perspective the things that we tend to natter, whine, complain, and "drip" about (the weather, pot holes, partisan politics) if such things, over the vast expanse of time, were ever of any real consequence.

Clearly, we have only so much time here on this fragile planet. It could well be that one day, a thousand years from now, someone might reflect on the "markers" and the words that we early 21st Century inhabitants leave behind - would be wonderful, if what they find, reflects our best efforts and our most honourable aspirations.

Breathless, this time, by an ancient abbey.


*Gaelic, "brown warrior" - gotta like that. :)


  1. Pretty impressive walls there...hard to really imagine them being built back then.
    I do apologize but I can't help laughing over the fact that you have finally found a doorway that actually fits you perfectly and where it leads to. LOL

  2. Well, I "represent" that remark, Linda. And here I thought we were friends! Haha! D.

  3. Very cool! It is so fun to see the two of you having a great time. I love to see my heritage through others eyes. Never been to Scotland. Being 5th generation Canadian but still know where my roots are. Have a wonderful time and safe travels. Think of you both often! You need to write a book some day!
    Jen Gorin

  4. Many thanks for your words, Jen, and great to hear from you. Indeed, we all come from somewhere and those roots help us understand who we are. Warmest wishes from us both, and thank you again! D.

  5. "Shaggy, unkempt and wild": I'll have a hard time keeping up with you after these experiences of yours!

  6. Nice of you to say, Andy, but as for the "shaggy and wild", I'm just a wannabe - you've always had it! But my day will come (back). :)

  7. I simply adore following your travels and am so happy you were able to get back to the homeland and enjoy all that beauty. Are you telling me that those nice boys, Abercrombie, Benjamin & Christopher are the brothers of Donnchadh "brown warrior" Ha! Ha!Continue enjoying your last days. You will have so much to tell on your return. I am looking forward to it.
    Love, J.

  8. Yes ma'am - they're my "bros"! And warriors in their own right! :) D.