Friday, May 13, 2011

Family links and The Bruce

10 May
Scone was the coronation place of the Kings of Scotland. At some stage, the English took the Stone to London and it became the 'seat' of coronation for English Kings. Now that the Stone of Scone has been returned to Scotland, all is well. At the moment!
The Stone of Scone has been beneath the seat of the Kings and Queens of England and Scotland for centuries. We saw the Stone ten years ago in Westminster Cathedral. We aren't sure where it is in Scotland since its return, but have no fear, we will find it!
Today, we did some more family geneology tracing, visiting the home of Janita's grandfather in Aberdeen. From No 77 John Street, Robert Gauld headed off to Australia sometime around 1905. Today, his grand-daughter stood at this fairly nondescript doorway, over a hundred years after his departure. Around the corner is the Robert Gordon school. We can only surmise that Robert attended this school because there are few family records of his life before he left Aberdeen.

There is a story here though!
Within walking distance from 77 John Street, is number 11 Summerfield Place, the home of Henrietta Baxter. Henrietta was a girlfriend of Bob's before he left for Australia. We don't know the exact circumstances of this relationship, but the fact of the matter is, he left for Australia and she became a buyer for one of the big department stores in Edinburgh. Bob married an Australian girl ,Lily Bell and they had two children, Janita's father and aunt. Sadly, Lily died young. Bob began corresponding with Henrietta again and she, brave woman that she was, came to Australia, married Bob and together they brought up the two children, not having children of their own. It must have been a huge shock to them when Janita's father and mother produced eight children.
As a postscript to this story, our home in Australia is called “Summerfield”, the street that Henrietta lived in, rather than “John” the street Robert lived in. Ask Janita's mother why it is so.
11 May
Robert The Bruce took up most of our day today. Most people would know him as Mel Gibson's sidekick in the movie “Braveheart”. The history of the relationship between Mel's character, William Wallace, and Robert The Bruce, King of Scotland, was a murky one and too complex to examine here. Suffice to say, Wallace was hung, drawn and quartered and The Bruce died in his bed. So is the way when commoners stride onto history's stage.
In real life, Robert The Bruce is Scotland's most revered hero. It was he who gave the English their most significant flogging on home turf, at the battle of Bannockburn, just outside Stirling. Vastly out numbered, the Scottish army still managed to destroy the English.
Bannockburn was a battle where the raw courage of the Scots won out over the superior numbers of the English - pikes against mounted knights. At the end of the day, the English army was slaughtered as they fell back against the river banks. Little wonder the Scots still sing the praises of Robert The Bruce.

This is a battlefield where you can really appreciate the situation on the day. The area is still mainly open fields, with the river against which the English were trapped clearly outlined by the trees that line the banks.
Elections for the Scottish Parliament were held last week. The Scottish National Party had a resounding victory. While this election wasn't fought on a separation platform, the vote says something about the feeling of the people about possible further independence from or within the United Kingdom. The deeds of Robert The Bruce may well still be in the minds of the Scots as they ponder their future as a nation.
To end the day, we visited the burial place of The Bruce in Dunfermline Abbey. It is a holy site for Scots, but it must be said that the embellishment of the tower of the (Victorian) church with the name of the king is a bit tacky!

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