Viking Treasure


Viking treasure haul unearthed in Scotland


In total, more than 100 items were recovered, including armbands, a cross and brooches

A haul of Viking treasure has been unearthed from a field in south west Scotland by an amateur using a metal detector.

Derek McLennan, a retired businessman from Ayrshire, made the find in Dumfriesshire in September.

In total, more than 100 items were recovered, including armbands, a cross and brooches.

Experts have said the discovery is one of the most important Viking hoards ever found in Scotland.

The items are believed to be worth a six-figure sum.

Mr McLennan last year uncovered Scotland’s biggest haul of medieval silver coins.

Among the objects within the hoard is an early Christian cross thought to date from the 9th or 10th Century.

The solid silver cross has enamelled decorations which experts consider to be highly unusual.

The haul also includes possibly the largest silver Carolingian pot ever discovered, with its lid still in place.

The pot is likely to have been around 100 years old when the hoard was buried in the mid 9th or 10th Centuries.

Source: BBCNews Read and see more

Sex ’emerged in ancient Scottish lake’


Artist’s impression: The researchers believe the fish had to be side-by-side to copulate

Scientists believe they have discovered the origin of copulation.

An international team of researchers says a fish called Microbrachius dicki is the first-known animal to stop reproducing by spawning and instead mate by having sex.

The primitive bony fish, which was about 8cm long, lived in ancient lakes about 385 million years ago in what is now Scotland.

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Royally Photobombed

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Image: BBCNews

The Caribbean colony that brought down Scotland

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As Scotland prepares for an independence referendum I decided to look back at the late 1690s when an independent Scotland launched an ambitious but ultimately doomed plan to create a colony in what is now Panama.

We landed near the border with Colombia, close to where the Isthmus of Panama is at its narrowest, on a little airstrip wedged between the blue sparkle of the Caribbean and the green intensity of an impenetrable forest, and boarded a little fibreglass boat with a single outboard motor.

We made our way west, parallel to the coast, bouncing roughly in the surging surf, until we came to the island that is still called Caledonia.

“In the time of our forefathers,” a village elder told us, “white people came here – Scottish and Spanish people. We liked the Scottish more than the Spanish, for the Spanish attacked us and drove us inland away from the coast and the Scots did not. But there were battles and many ships were sunk”.

The story of the ill-fated Scots colony at Darien survives in the oral history of the Kuna Indians, who are the only people who have ever settled successfully in this inhospitable place.

In 1698, a fleet of five ships sailed from Leith docks near Edinburgh carrying 1,200 settlers to found a colony in Panama.

It was a place where the poet John Keats would later locate “stout Cortez” gazing at the Pacific for the first time, “and all his men looked at each other with a wild surmise, silent upon a peak in Darien”.

The Scots found a large sheltered harbour with a supply of fresh water. They went ashore and built a fort they called Fort St Andrew.

Three centuries on, we hacked our way through the forest and found a trench they had dug to provide the fort with a defensive moat.

It is a wide gash, filled with sea water, cut through solid coral rock by 17th Century hands – the first canal in Panama, possibly, built by Scotsmen under a punishing tropical sky. It is pretty much all that is left of the colony they named Caledonia, and the town they called New Edinburgh.

For even before they made landfall, the colonists had begun to die.

Tropical diseases – malaria, yellow fever, something they called the bloody flux – cut them down even faster on land.

Somewhere beneath the tangle we hacked through, there is a Scottish cemetery with hundreds of graves. No-one has ever found it.

The forest is too dense. Within nine months of setting sail from Leith, on a wave of national euphoria, most of the colonists were dead. A second fleet sailed in 1699, not knowing that the colony had already been attacked and burned to the ground by the Spanish, and abandoned by its few survivors.

Allan Little: “Scotland is rethinking the lessons of the Darien disaster”

The disaster helped end Scotland’s independence. For the colony had been funded by public subscription – an early example of a financial mania.

Public bodies, town corporations, members of parliament, landed gentry, and thousands of private citizens – sea captains and surgeons, apothecaries and ironmongers – sank their life savings into the scheme.

Between a quarter and a half of the available wealth of Scotland was spent, and lost.

A record of all the investors was kept

And it was the role of England that was most bitterly resented.

Scotland, though an independent country, shared its head of state with England.

King William was monarch of both kingdoms. English merchants and the English parliament saw the Scottish venture as a threat to the trading monopolies they enjoyed.

King William issued a decree to all the English colonies from Canada to the Caribbean: there was to be no trade with the errant Scots and no assistance – not so much as a barrel of clean water was to be offered to them.

Few of the 3,000 Scots who went made it home. Those who did found an impoverished country which, within a decade, accepted union with England.

The Treaty of Union of 1707 included a clause in which the English government agreed to pay a sum of money to the Scots, to compensate the Darien investors for what they had lost.

The sum of money England paid to the Scots was known in the treaty as the Equivalent, or the Price of Scotland.

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UK in the Limelight

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Northern Lights illuminate the UK

The Aurora Borealis – better known as the Northern Lights – has been giving rare and spectacular displays over parts of the UK, from the north of Scotland to as far south as Essex and Gloucestershire.

The lights have also been clearly visible in places such as Orkney, Norfolk and south Wales.

The display, which is caused by electrically charged particles from the Sun entering the Earth’s atmosphere, led to scenes such as this one at the Stonehaven war memorial, Aberdeenshire.

Mark Thompson, presenter of the BBC’s Stargazing Live, said he had not been expecting a display as spectacular as it was in places such as Wick, in Caithness.

More brilliant photos

More brilliant photos

A Vexing Problem for Lologists


What would the union jack look like if the Scottish bit was removed?


Scotland’s referendum on independence is now just over 10 months away, but the question of what might happen to the union jack has been largely overlooked. An association of flag experts, or vexillologists, has created a set of designs it hopes will encourage a discussion.

Some 400 years ago when the crowns of England and Scotland were united, an argument raged about how the blue field and white saltire of St Andrew could be combined with the red cross of St George.

The Scots were eager that their flag should be laid on top of the English flag, but of course the English thought it should be the other way around. It took a Royal proclamation to determine that the English flag should take precedence.

Now, the prospect of Scotland leaving the United Kingdom throws open the question again. It’s already been suggested by the College of Arms that with the Queen still head of state of an independent Scotland there would be no need for a redesign. But there is still the possibility of renewed debate.

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Royal baby: The American mistake


Not a St George’s Cross in sight

Some US television networks proclaimed the royal baby news by welcoming the arrival of the “future king of England”, forgetting about the rest of the UK.

Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish… you may want to look away now. Some of the biggest names in American broadcasting have overlooked your existence amid the hysteria surrounding the newborn Windsor. Star presenters on CBS News and ABC News were among the culprits who referred to the baby as “the future king of England”. American talk show host Ellen DeGeneres tweeted: “It’s a boy! So happy for my cousin Kate and the future King of England”.

But there hasn’t been a King of England since William III in the early 18th Century – and there won’t be again, unless (or until) the United Kingdom splinters completely.

“The political state of the Queen’s home nation is the ‘United Kingdom’, not England which is just one region within the country along with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland,” says Robert Blackburn, a professor of constitutional law at King’s College London. “The ‘United Kingdom’ is shorthand for the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’.”

It’s a common misunderstanding in the US. The New York Times angered many Scots when it marked Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph with a tweet that said: “After 77 years, Murray and England rule”

But before Brits get too sniffy about this equation between Britain and England, we should acknowledge it’s a pretty complicated business and the English are sometimes guilty of the same mistake. A common error is for the British themselves to forget about Northern Ireland by referring to “Great Britain”, which is an island, when really they mean the United Kingdom. (The Northern Irish are “British” without being part of Great Britain.)

And remember that the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are British, but not part of the UK.

Head hurting yet?

America is a desire, says the OED

This is a two-way street, and getting to grips with the correct terminology stateside is also a tricky business. The United States of America is often referred to as “America” by British people, but consult the Oxford English Dictionary and you’ll see that America is a desire, a place you yearn for. Of course, Simon and Garfunkel fans knew that already.

The distinction between America and the US is important, because there is another America, Latin America. Not to mention Central America, and the rest of North America (including Mexico and Canada).

So can we legitimately use “American” as an adjective referring to something from the US? If so, you’re back in the Britain/British quagmire again. Perhaps the answer is for everyone to be tolerant, to embrace a bit of “constructive ambiguity”… and just toast the health of the future king.


Big Trees from Little Acorns Grow

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A while back I posted about Martha Payne and her blog NeverSeconds which became a worldwide phenomenon.

Here is an update…

NeverSeconds school dinners blogger Martha Payne in Malawi

Martha took pictures of her meal on the flight to Malawi

School dinners blogger Martha Payne has arrived in Malawi to see how the money she raised for charity is being spent.

The nine-year-old became an internet sensation after Argyll and Bute Council banned her from posting photos of her school meals on her NeverSeconds blog.

The ban was later overturned after a storm of protest.

Martha then asked for contributions to the charity Mary’s Meals and has raised £114,000. Some of the money is funding a school kitchen in Malawi.

The Lochgilphead Primary School pupil began publishing photographs of her lunches on her website earlier this year.

She gives each meal a ‘food-o-meter’ and health rating, and counts the number of mouthfuls it takes her to eat it.

Donations on her website soared when the controversial ban on her photographing her lunches was imposed by the council then quickly lifted after a worldwide response to the story.

After she raised more than £100,000 for Mary’s Meals, the charity announced it would build a school kitchen in Malawi in her honour.

Mary’s Meal is a Scottish charity which runs school feeding projects providing meals to children in Malawi and many other countries.

Martha has travelled to Malawi with her family to see how the money she raised is being spent

Lirangwe Primary School in Blantyre has received £21,000 towards the Friends of NeverSeconds kitchen which will provide almost 2,000 children with nutritious meals every day for a year.

Martha, and her family, have travelled to the country to see for themselves how her blog has changed the lives of others.

Writing on her blog before heading off, she said: “I have been talking to lots of people about going to Malawi. I’m talking a lot about it because I am excited about it.

“I can’t wait to meet all the children. I have packed some footballs and wind up torches.”

And the nine-year-old is still reviewing her lunches. She took photographs of her food on the flight to Blantyre and said she would be posting them to her blog.

More links to past articles

I have listed her blog on Blogger’s Cafe

Scotland is famous for…

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Reminiscent of a cow’s udder and producing peculiar wailing the Great Highland Bagpipes are surely one of the most unusual recognised musical instruments of the world.

“Though popular belief sets varying dates for the introduction of bagpipes to Scotland, concrete evidence is limited until approximately the 15th century. The Clan Menzies still owns a remnant of a set of bagpipes said to have been carried at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, though the veracity of this claim is debated.” – Wikipedia


“The kilt first appeared as the great kilt, the breacan or belted plaid, is most likely Norse in origin and not Celtic as many assume. The Irish, known as Scotti, who migrated to Scotland and gave the region of north Britain its name, never wore kilts prior to their arrival in northern Britain, nor did their kinsmen, the Brythonic speaking tribes of Britain, nor their Goidelic speaking kinsmen in Ireland. It has been documented in historical accounts Celtic tribes wore trousers, which the Romans called bracae, as did many other neighboring peoples to the Romans. The great kilt was a full-length garment whose upper half could be worn as a cloak draped over the shoulder, or brought up over the head.” – Wikipedia


“The haggis is a traditional Scottish dish, considered the national dish of Scotland as a result of Robert Burns’ poem Address to a Haggis of 1787. Haggis is traditionally served with “neeps and tatties” (Scots: turnip and potato), boiled and mashed separately and a dram (a glass of Scotch whisky), especially as the main course of a Burns supper.

Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours.” – Wikipedia

But here’s a surprise…

Scotland was also the home of the Woolly Rhinoceros

Remains of woolly rhinoceros have been found in Scotland


If the Scottish Wildcat is wiped out, it will join a catalogue of creatures that were once native to Scotland.

Among the most unusual must be the woolly rhinoceros of Bishopbriggs.

The remains are thought to date to about 25,000BC. Scientists believe that the animals lived in the region when it was ice-free and before what is known as the Last Glacial Maximum, or LGM.

A milk tooth from another woolly rhinoceros was found in January 1931 at Cadder Quarry, near Glasgow, before further remains were found the following year.

Evidence of beasts that once roamed Scotland have also been discovered in the Bone Caves at Inchnadamph in Sutherland.

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British Scientists Believe They’ve Found A Landmass Wiped Out By Melting Ice Caps

The University of Saint Andrews believe they have found an underwater world that was engulfed by the North Sea between 18000 BC and 5500 BC — and they’re calling it “Doggerland.”

The once dry landmass stretching from Scotland to Denmark was discovered after 15 years of research, and it’s been big news in the UK press, where it is being called “Britain’s Atlantis”.

Here’s a map of the land believed to have once made up Doggerland:

The data was found using seismic scans and geophysical modeling courtesy of oil and gas companies. Researchers were also able to use evidence from fossils obtained through dives to paint a picture of a land marked by hills and valleys, lakes and swamps, and rivers dividing a long and extensive coastline.

By recreating the landscape and the plant life, scientists were also able to estimate the “carrying capacity” of the island. They believe tens of thousands of humans once called Doggerland home, living alongside mammoths and reindeer.

Source: Business Insider Read more

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