Monday, December 26, 2011

Soup from The Mancave; Scottish Green Split Pea and Ham Soup

A healthy choice, certainly, but no foo-foo; just a great recipe.

1 good thick (1/4 inch or thicker) slice of ham, 1lb frozen peas, 1/2 lb Rutabaga (turnip/neeps), 1lb potatoes, 4oz GREEN split peas, 1 Onion, 4 ham stock cubes

Bring to boil 3 pints of water with the stock cubes. Chop ham, rutabaga, and onion; add to the boiling stock, cover, and boil sharply for an hour. Turn down the heat, add diced Potatoes and GREEN split peas, boil very gently for an hour, stirring frequently.
(Be gentle here, the tendency is for the peas to sink to the bottom and get ‘burnt’ if you cook this part too vigorously)
Now the tricky bit; either take HALF the soup and blend it a bit, or hit the pan hard with one of those hand liquidisers. BUT; we still want some whole peas, and some biggish bits of ham.
The spoon should be able to stand up in the pan at this point.

With a touch of cream, and a sprig of something green and foo-foo.

Hint here; your soup should be really mid GREEN at this point. (PARENTS NOTE; Trying hard not to mention baby’s nappies (diapers) here, but obviously not succeeding.)
(Mothers or good Dads will nod their heads in understanding at this point.)

A spot or six of Worcestershire sauce, HP sauce, or A1 steak sauce of you want a wee ‘nip’ in the taste buds.
Spoonful of curry powder if you want a bit more than a 'nip'.
(Both, if you want the soup to have a PUNCH!)

And whatever you do, DON'T listen to the idiots that think you can make this with any old split peas.... I'm a Hibernian Supporter.... THEY HAVE TO BE GREEN for the soup to work aesthetically!!!

(Those dirty crappy BROWN split peas make the soup look like crap......... literally!)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Roman Scotland; Agricola's Nightmare.

When Julius Agricola got the ill-fated task of the conquest of Scotland, he probably didn't really know what he was getting into.
In most of the other Roman conquests, the poor barbarians had escape routes, places to hide out for a few years.

In Scotland, Agricola was just pushing a people against a wall, and we hit back.

The emperors back in Rome didn't quite have a strict time limit, but even Agricola knew that he only had a few years, no more.

When he couldn't subdue the picts in five years of campaigning, he was dragged back home, and given a nice consulship, somewhere out of the way.

So, the Scots beat Agricola, outwitted Rome, then forced the two legions in the north of England to build Hardian's Wall.

Not bad for a bunch of unorganized barbarians.

Caledonii: Birth of a Nation; Available at and for the measly sum of $2.99.

Parts 2 and 3 now available. Part 4 January 2012.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

21st Century Schizoid.

Our latest short story; 21st Century Schizoid.

I love the cover, done by my collaborator's son. Well done.

Loretta finds herself being put in a jail cell with three other women. The strange thing is; she cannot remember how she came to be there.
She has dreams of a blue ocean, and a mysterious island.
When one of the women in the cell is attacked and killed, Loretta has blood on her hands,literally.
She must find some grip on reality, something to hold onto, or she will found guilty for the murder.
Why does she continually go back to the island, and who is the mysterious old man there; Hugo?

Great wee story. 4,500 words.

21st Century Schizoid ; Available at and for the measly sum of $0.99.

YES, just 99 cents!

Friday, December 9, 2011

How To Write a Novel, and Go Straight onto Kindle/Nook.

Why You Should Write e-Books, e-Novels, e-Shorts. (Electronic Publishing versus Traditional Publishing)
This is my latest Kindle Short.
It investigates the Traditional Book Publishing process, versus the Electronic means.
Looking at writing constraints, years of hair-tearing, versus the instant gratification of the e-Book.
4,500 words long, it is not meant to take you through the whole process, rather makes the fledgeling writer re-think some of the realities of the billion dollar writing busuness.
With Kindle, Nook, Sony, Apple, Kobo, and many more fighting for their section of the market, there's a lot to be said for joining the growing ranks of the digitally paid.
When you look at the difference in commissions in both publishing ventures, isn't it about time you considered your future in the writing business.
If you have one.
Why You Should Write e-Books, e-Novels, e-Shorts. (Electronic Publishing versus Traditional Publishing) ; Available at and for the measly sum of $0.99.

YES, just 99 cents!

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Collaboration: Our Science Fiction Adventure

My first collaboration; with Lachelle Miller.
We decided on a slightly Sci-fi subject but it soon got frenetically out of hand; here's how.
Firstly, it's a kind of X-Files -esq story; guy agent, girl agent. So we each took one of the agents (Drew Morrow and Katie Walkinshaw) and wrote purely from their perspective. We passed the story back and forward, and ended with a fast-paced FBI thriller.
Storyline; As alien bodies begin to materialize in walls, trees, roads, sleepy Kansas wakes up to a new series of seemingly unexplainable homicides. As the two FBI agents investigate, they find their home base compromised, and go 'off-grid' to unveil the biggest conspiracy on Earth.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Launch of

Welcome to the friendly launch of Ian Hall Author DOT COM.

I had to do it.

I was originally just writing the sequel to Jamie, but got kinda distracted by Kindle, Nook and other eBook formats for my short stories and other novels.

Yes, I know it's short term gratification, but who cares.

Anyway, I thought I'd better get a site for all of my works, rather than just dump it all over poor Jamie.

So, here it is....

Full of books, nice formatted covers, lots of clicky links, and probably easier to navigate round than the Caribbean.


Friday, November 25, 2011


I did my first interview yesterday, with fellow writer Biola Ephesus.
The whole interview can be found at;

Go check her out, she's awesome.

And I was nervous.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Murder of Tom Bombadil; now on Kindle, Nook etc.

Hi guys. At last my old (and some say 'best') short is now on Kindle and Nook.

"The Murder of Tom Bombadil" is a murder mystery with a twist;

When Tom takes one too many jibes from his wife of forty years, he strikes back with a passion; murder most foul.

Immediately remorseful, he sits with the body for days, then decides to turn himself in to the local police.

This seemingly simple act does not go as he plans....

This is a murder story with a twist or two.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hallanish, Callanish, Standing Stones and Publishing Houses.

This is the new logo that will appear in my self-published Kindle/Nook books. It was inspired by the Callanish stone circle on Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland.

I've visited these stones, walked the ancient walkway, touched the cold stone Lewisian Gneiss and marveled. The dedication of these ancient peoples to build such huge structures was awe inspiring, as was the desolation of the site itself. There's just nothing there but moorland, and more moorland.

On one visit, I dragged three of my colleagues with me. It was a very cold morning, and we were four hung-over salesmen, two of whom had just come along for the ride, but we all stood amazed at this place.

The circle, the desolation, and the memory that will never fade.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Zombie Apocalypse: How to Write Your Own Novel.

I tried to start my own Zombie novel three or four times, but kept getting caught in traps of the genre.

It's not easy, and I started to write my own primer, to allow me to get the novel under way. Before I knew it, I had the start of my own "How To" book.
It deals with all the pitfalls of the Zombie genre.

Considerations like; Where in the timeline of Zombie-ism do you start? Pre-mid-post apocalypse?

Where is your novel set? It matters.

How bad do you take the gore?

Choice of Weapons (and how to get them)

Driving after the apocalypse.

And many more.

Why not give it a try, you might be the next "Walking Dead".

Instantly on Kindle at and for the measly sum of $2.99.

Friday, November 4, 2011

What have the Romans done for us? Scotland's Story.

What have the Roman's done for us?
We all know the Monty Python sketch, done so well in the "Life of Brian.".
But what did the Romans actually do for Scotland?
Well, in their preparation for invasion, they made the main roads north/south that we still use today.
(Dere Street)
They names us 'Picts'; the pictured or tattood people. (before that we were just known as the "nuisances up north")
Grampian Hills; from a bad translation of Mons Graupius (the battle they say they won.)
Pentland Hills; Pictaland Hills.
And CALEDONIA itsself, is a latin-ised original. It may be derived from the P-Celtic word 'CALED' meaning 'hard'. So either Caledonia means hard land, or hard men.

So, what did the Romans ever do for us?

They gave us our identity.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Best Review Ever!

I don't normally blow my own trumpet, but today I'm going to. A very nice email landed in my in-box yesterday; a review of my novel; "Opportunities: Jamie leith in Darien".
Here's what the very nice lady said;

"Your book was excellent!
I bought and had it autographed by you at the K.C. Renaissance Festival! You told me to tell you what I thought about it and here it is. I really had to think to find something to improve upon.
Throughout the book the worst think that happens to Jaime is at the beginning when Hannah nurses him back to health. The main character, Jaime,watches other peoples' misfortune, but doesn't really have anything bad happen to him. If he to had gotten yellow fever, and barely survived and eventually got back to full health, it would be even better. But that's just an example.
Just so you know, that's one of the best books I've ever read, it definitely ranks in my top 10! I can't wait to read more!
May you never get writers block, P. Norris"

Needless to say, this review made my day.
Thank you ma'am!
Ian Hall

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Roman invasion of Scotland grows.
Part One: The Great Gathering, is on Kindle now.
Part Two: The Druid's Plan will be up on the great 'Kindle in the Sky' shortly.
Calach, the chief's son of the largest clan, the Caledonii, struggles with his fathers intransigence.
Determined not to let his country fall like the others in the south, he forms alliances with the other chief's sons, behind his father's back.
The druids, however, are a force to be reckoned with. They carry no weapons, fight no wars, but control the clans totally.
But do they control Calach?
And if they did, how long will it be before he finds out?
(Loud dramatic music here, please.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gorebridge Memories; a Childhood Remembered.

"He met the world as a Dalkeith boy, raised from a shaft in Monktonhall, in a well-oiled cage that locked away his dreams." (Fish,(Derek W Dick); Lucky.)
Well, I am a Gorebridge boy. And I was raised out of Bilston Glen's shaft many times.
Wherever I roam, the streets of Arniston and Gorebridge and the surrounding countryside will be in my bones.
My father worked down the Lady Victoria, and his father before him at the Gore Mine.

I grew up on the miner's "Tattie Raw", went to the 'Pictures' at Dundas Hall (the Fleapit), bought sweets at Minnie Pinkmans.

I went on adventures up the 'Roman camp' and down the 'Glen'. I made slides in the snow, and built bonfires.

At school we worked hard, and did some really dumb things in the chemistry class.

This is a collection of stories from my childhood, old times with friends, now scattered all over the world.

Memories; Some funny, some quirky. All true, all mine.

Click the link below to take you to Amazon to have a wee look, or to buy.

Childhood Memories of Gorebridge; Available at and for the measly sum of $2.99.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Edinburgh Memories. On Kindle now.

I was born in Edinburgh in 1959, and for the first twenty-one years, lived in the small village of Gorebridge, ten miles south. Fifty yards from my house was the best view in the world; looking down on Edinburgh Castle, and Arthur's seat, then across the Forth to the hills of Fife.

I took some of the memories, and wrote them here; making slides in the snow, the herculean efforts to build bonfires, the first days at school, and more.

My recollections of the 1968 Hurricane. Memories of Grandparents, and their quirky ways. And some crazy stories of our adventures in and out of the Chemistry Lab at Greenhall. (Thank goodness the Statute of Limitations has long past.)

Some funny, some quirky. All true, all mine.

Click the link below to take you to Amazon to have a wee look, or to buy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Roman Invasion of Scotland: A Scottish Rant on Ancient Roman Political Spin

Learn the real story of the Roman invasion of Scotland

In 80AD, the legions of Rome invaded Scotland for the first time. Julius Agricola made quick advances in the lowlands, fighting, bribing and pacifying each local tribe. 
When he entered the higher ground, however, he found himself faced with a coalition, a union of the tribes. For three years the two armies campaigned against each other, culminating with the Battle of Mons Graupius.

In this book, the author postulates that, since no battlefield has been found, perhaps the details regarding it (Written by Tacitus, Agricola's son-in-law, many years later) Agricola was just giving the Emperor back home the news he needed to hear.

The book is drawn from the authors prize-winning website, and has been researched extensively.
With many photographs, the book brings the reader back in time, to 'see' the data for himself. 
A great read for student, historian, or anyone interested in the truth.

The above ‘alternative history’ is available in a great new Historical Fiction series on Kindle;
Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation (Part One: The Great Gather)
Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation (Part Two: The Druids Plan)

(Update; parts 3,4,5 are now available too, on eBooks everywhere)

A new FREE download is also available, a prequel to the Caledonii series; Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation. Druid and Iceni.
Available on eBooks everywhere

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First Wee 'Short' on Kindle

The Great Kansas Word War
My first short story on Kindle. I'm kinda chuffed with the cover too (painted it myself).

An American Tale; a Midwest family gets more than it bargained for when Grandpa starts venting at poor grandson Alex. (I know this has nothing to do with Jamie Leith, but go along with me on this one!)

I intend to up-publish quite a few shorts on Kindle over the next few weeks, while taking a wee sabbatical from Jamie(2) and seeing what other genres exist in my poor tortured head.

Monday, August 8, 2011

FOREWORD: I Was Asked to Write One and This Slipped Out

The foreward for my soon to be published book Opportunities; Jamie Leith in Darien from IFWG Publishing:
This is a story that should have been told centuries ago.It should have been trumpeted from the battlements of Edinburgh Castle, and proudly broadcast to the world. But it was not. Perhaps due to the nature of its end, the Scottish Darien story has languished at the periphery of history, covered in a nation's disgrace, and wrapped in the blankets of shame, purposely hidden.

The Darien Scheme was a world-changing event that few people today even know existed. The Scots raised half the actual capital in Scotland for the scheme, confident that they would dominate world trade. It was as large a leap of faith as to set a colony on Mars today.

I am not spoiling the ending when I tell you that the Darien venture did not turn out as the Scots had envisaged. The loss of such an amount of Scots revenue forced the 'union of the crowns', and Scotland was swallowed by its neighbor, England. Directly because of the Darien Scheme, Great Britain was born. A country that would assert itself across the globe until it had grown into the biggest Empire in the world.

The Darien Scheme actually happened, and most of the events portrayed in my book are researched historical fact. Ship names and their sailings, captains and council members, events, battles, and major storyline are as accurate as I could manage.

Opportunities, however, is a work of fiction, and although I have told the Darien story as close to history as I could, it should be read as a work of fiction.

Essentially, my book is a compromise; the events and characters portrayed herein are either researched or imaginary and I will leave it to you to work out which.

I would rather, of course, have you caught up in my story, and forget everything else.

The book is seen through Jamie's eyes, and I hope as you read, you will find in him, the spirit of my nation; the guile, the grit and determination, the pride and the strength of character that I feel in myself today.

I am Scottish and proud of it.

Ian Hall
Update: Opportunities is now available on Amazon~ Click here to purchase or preview  
Cover art for Opportunities: Jamie Leith in Darien by R. L. Carter

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Edinburgh; Closes and Vennels.

Leith 1698-ish; As you can see, there's an alleyway between the back of the old houses, out to the road. To the rest of the world, it's an 'arched alleyway'

To Scots, it's a 'close' or 'vennel'.

I can still hear the cries of "Where will I put ma' bike?"

"Aye, stick it in the vennel."

We even played football, one player each side, with the close as our entire football pitch. If the ball was kicked past us, out into the open, it was a goal.

We took it real serious.

It caused real vibration in the houses to either side, mind you. I remember getting chased up to the 'back field' to play many times.

Anyway.... closes and vennels.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Quotes from the book (2 of 3)

Leith 1698.

In contrast to the quiet streets of the town, the dock was even more crowded than usual. Dockers and some ship's crew milled around on the quayside like partners in some disorganised dance. The difference today was the crowd of passengers, mostly men, who were standing in orderly queues, waiting to be boarded. In comparison to the dock officials, the passengers were a pathetic sight, soaked to the skin from the recent rain. The men who had donned hats for the heavy shower, had removed them, but the women's bonnets drooped dejectedly. Their baggage lay waterlogged in puddles at their feet.

"Looks like the expedition ships are finally gettin' ready tae sail!" Jamie ambled closer.

"It's about time." Gordon nibbled at the hard apple core. "They've been loading the ships for weeks."

Activity increased as they neared the quayside, harbour officials strutted and postured. Orders from both the docks and on board ship were barked across the morning.

"They'll leave on tonight's tide, maybe tomorrow's." Jamie threw his apple core high into the air, landing into the brown chocolate suspension that was Leith harbour.

(Excerpt from "Opportunities; Jamie Leith in Darien, published by IFWG Publishing this month.)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Leith 1698; Quotes from the book......

Leith, 1698.
The wet narrow cobbled streets were deserted, the pessimists lingered inside, expecting more rain. The sandstone walls on either side seemed to lean inwards, their irregular tan and grey shapes sometimes peeping out from behind cracked plaster. A door opened to his left, and an old woman peered out, holding her shawl tight across her chest.

"Brr." Jamie shivered, always on the lookout for more sympathy. "Mornin; Mrs Dewar!"

"Ah 'mind it warm in July." she groused, and walked back inside.

"Chilly." Jamie answered to the closing door. "Downright bloody chilly."

(Except from Opportunities; Jamie Leith in Darien, by Ian Hall, published this month by IFWG Publishing.)

I found this old picture, and couldn't help it; it's EXACTLY as I envisaged Leith in 1698. It was like I was looking through Jamie's eyes. I got huge goosebumps!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Brest; The shelter for the First Jacobite Rebellion, 1708.

Brest, France, around the year 1708, prepares for the first Jacobite Rebellion.

Thirty ships with 6000+ French, Irish and some Scottish soldiers gather under the protective cover of the ramparts of Chateaux de Brest.

The ships were mostly privateers, but they were led by the french Admiral Gace in his flagship, the 78 gun, Mars.

King James VIII was on board the flagship, and on March 6th, 1708, the fleet sailed to land an invasion fleet at Burntisland, Fife.

The plan had been prepared by many spies for years, and it only took one young man (King James VIII) to set one foot on Scottish soil, and the Brittish crown was his.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The next Robert Louis Stevenson... never, but hold on a sec.....

I was described by one of my peers as "The next Robert Louis Stevenson", and I dismissed the whole idea as "bunkum"! R.L.S. was one of a kind, and even to be compared to him was an honour.

BUT.... as I am writing Jamie 2, I am getting strange coincidences happening....... (Let me set the scene...)

I like to delve into history for the smallest of details... E.G.; When Jamie, (back in 1707), spends the night at an inn, I like it to have actually BEEN there in 1707; just my wee quirk.

But the inn I decided apon was the "Seven Stars" in Bristol (actually there in 1707) and the owner at the time was a JOHN HAWKINS! ..... (Jack Hawkins was the main character in RLS's Treasure Island)

So I write on, and one of the REAL jacobites in 1707/8 is a "Squire Trewlawney", from Redruth, in Cornwall..... (Damn, Squire Trewlawney is a RLS character, and so is seaman "Redruth".)

I continue; one of the real jacobites in 1707/8 is an Irishman called "Colonel Hooke"..... (Too close to J.M. Barrie's "Captain Hook" for comfort.)

And if (In an effort to be historically correct) I kept all this actually "IN" my Jamie 2, I'd be slagged off for stealing from RLS etc.

Maybe I should just be like some historical novellists; make everything up, and not give a crap about actual history!

(And we all know those movies, don't we.......)

(Pic, BTW, is Robert Newton, Long John Silver in Disney's Treasure Island in 1950)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Glorious Revolution of 1688

The Glorious Revolution has always bored me, until I eventually found out what it actually entailed.

Here it is in spectacular simplicity....
King James VII was crowned King of Great Britain in 1685, taking over from his childless brother, Charles II.

He was a catholic, and therefore went against the majority of the actual populace, who were 80% protestant.

He made few friends in his 3 years in power, but rode roughshod over the government, parliament and army/navy, by appointing catholics over protestants in all high posts.

In 1688, he committed the ultimate blunder; by having a son (catholic, of course) in dubious circumstances. The protestants got so pissed off about the whole thing, they "invited" an invasion force from Holland, which contained James', sister's husband; William of Orange.

Having already pissed off the armies and navy, they were allowed to pass "un-bloodied".

Hence; "Glorious Revolution".

James was Britain's last Catholic monarch, and spent his days in exile in the court of King Louis of France, dreaming of ways to get back on the throne.

(Not a bad job, but someone had to do it)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Reasearch; Edinburgh Castle, and why I love both.

Many people ask me about the kind of research I do for my books, then sigh, and insert words like; tedious, back-breaking, and such. Now, I love research... here's how one such outing into wikipedia changed Jamie2.

I was looking for a Jacobite family in Fife around 1708, to base an overnight stay for Jamie. (Even for small details like this, I try to stay true to history) I tried a few of the bigger families, but none really fit the story, then I found that Tarvit House had been re-designed by Sir William Bruce. I liked the name and dug deeper.

Turns out Sir William had been openly Jacobite, and a Stuart man all his life, and his eldest son was in London, actually sitting in his father's seat in the English (sorry, British) parliament. (So a family in deep schism there... I liked this.) One more bit of digging put Sir William in a cell in Edinburgh Castle in 1708.

Since Jamie was in Scotland to deliver letters, it only took a wee bit of backstory to put Jamie into a treacherous invasion of the castle. The research had changed the book. And for the better.

NOW... the story doesn't stop there. A look at the history of Edinburgh Castle shows that a new part was under construction in 1708; the Queen Anne Building. That gave Jamie a chance to sneak in as part of the work team. I mean, the story was writing itself!

Research. Love it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Novel is finished.

"Whew", I say in a large voice, wheezing and shaking the sweat from my brow.
Editing done, line-by-line done three times. Maps finished.
All I have to do now is wait......
And wait.
After all this time (three years of writing and tweaking) you'd think I had the patience of a saint, but that ain't the case.
I'm like a wee kid again, quivering with excitement, waiting on the first actual paperback to fall into my battered mail box.
Something physical to show for my hard work, and the support of those who told me 'never to give up'.
Thanks to you all.
It's taken a while to get here.
Nook and Kindle versions will be first, of course.... that's the way of the world these days.
All the best.

Monday, May 2, 2011

HMS Leith. Grimsby class Sloop.

HMS Leith. As far as I can find, two ships have been named HMS Leith. The first, in service in 1782, was a 20 gun sloop. (unconfirmed).

The second HMS Leith, (seen, left), launched in 1933, was a Grimsby class sloop, and after peaceful service in the New Zealand station, served extensively in many theatres of the second world war.
She was afterwards sold to Denmark in 1949, where she was re-named the Galathea, and eventually scrapped in 1955.

Pre-war, she served with the New Zealand station, in Australia, and China and once took the Queen of Tonga on tour. The outbreak of war in 1939 brought HMS Leith back from Singapore to home shores. She protected local convoys between Londonderry, Northern Ireland, Liverpool, England, and Gibraltar, off Southern Spain.

During the war, HMS Leith served in the North Sea, and on convoy duty to North America, where she survived one convoy where 15 ships out of 34 were sunk.
Hundreds of merchant sailors were rescued from the cold, cold sea by HMS Leith during her convoy years.
She served in the Mediterranean, and on convoy duty to South Africa, and was repeatedly attacked by U-boat and Junkers bombers.
After one such bomber attack, where the bombers missed their target, and one Heinkel 111 was shot down by HMS Leith, the local newspapers said; "Captain Mueller missed, HMS Leith didn't!"
She served in the 1943 American/Allied/French landings in North Africa; "Operation Torch", and finished her war service in minesweeping duties with the Dutch Navy in the busy English Channel.

(HMS Edinburgh, a heavy cruiser, was sunk in 1942 after a vicious war career. She was involved with the Bismark, Sharnhorst, Geneisenau, and capturing the enigma machine.)

After her purchase by the Danish Navy in 1949, she was re-named Galathea, and was involved in deepwater surveys, and circumnavigated the world in 1952/3. She was involved in geographic expeditions with the Danish Navy until her eventual scrapping in 1955.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rose's Lime Juice... again Leith leads the world!

Rose's of Leith. A maker of lime juice.


Lets get the record straight, scurvy is a disease caused by a deficiency of Vitamin C.

Scurvy caused more losses in the early navies of the world than any wars.

Magellan lost 80% of his crew to scurvy.

Most of the elixirs involved alcohol, which mixed with sailors, usually impaired performance.

Lachlan Rose was the first to patent a concentrate of lime juice, not involving alcohol.

Lachlan Rose, Rose's Lime Juice, Commercial Street, Leith, Scotland.

On wikipedia, it is estimated that between the years 1500 and 1800, TWO MILLION sailors died of scurvy.

Again, like golf, Leith is the centre of the world.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Opportunities; the final version of the COVER!

Ok. This is a big step for me. Looks like this will be the cover of the book; using an original artwork by Roan Carter. (USA based, but Scots-Irish inside.) I love his style. The van Gogh influence. The Scottish flag in the dark, angry clouds. Now, I know that we'll need room on the back for a synopsis, a pic of me looking poignant, ISBN number, price etc, but I'm still excited. Wait... did I say "me looking poignant"? I'll leave my wife, Karla, to pick that one (it may take some time!). Original artwork by Roan Carter. ( )

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Leith; the home of Golf, and the centre of the world..

A very stylised look at Leith harbour, circa 18th century. There's a huge crane, front and centre, loading large barrels. The flags are "British", so make it after 1707. The circular sea wall can be seen, and the tall three/four storey houses, right down by the docks. To the right, about half a mile away, is Leith Links, a large grassy area, supposedly used in the defense of the town. The first mention of golf anywhere in the world refer to 'Leith Links'. James II, in 1457, banned 'gouf' and 'fitba' as they detracted from archery practise. Leith's claim to be the home of golf, is bolstered by the fact that St Andrews adopted Leith's rules, back in 1744. Leith; the centre of the world.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Scottish Lentil Soup; (CURRIED) just like mum made it.

A healthy choice, but no foo-foo, just a great recipe for traditional Scottish Lentil Soup.
(I came out of Dillons tonight, the snow was falling, and I went back inside to get a turnip (neep), saying "Ach, I hate this cold weather, I'm having soup!")

Ingredients; 1lb carrots, 1 lb Rutabaga (turnip/neeps), 1lb potatoes, 4oz RED lentils, 1 Onion, 4 chicken stock cubes (buy Pollo mexican, they're cheaper.... see, told you I was Scottish)
(For Tomato and Lentil soup, just add two tins chopped tomatoes at the start, and reduce water by 1 pint)

Method; Bring to boil 3 pints of water with the stock cubes. Chop Carrots, Rutabaga, and onion; add to the boiling stock, cover, and boil sharply for an hour. Turn down the heat, add chopped Potatoes and RED lentils, boil gently for an hour, stirring frequently.

That's the soup ready..... for wimps!
(Or traditionalists; The soup is actually ready to eat at this point, and totally traditional Scottish fare.)

Now for the 'special' ingredients;

You can add....... 2 tablespoons curry powder..... for Curried Lentil Soup.
You can add....... 5 tablespoons curry powder..... for REALLY Curried Lentil Soup
You can add....... a huge dollop of A1 sauce, Worcester sauce, (or any other stuff you might think appeals).
Parmesan cheese is good, ginger spice, turmeric, saffron, absinthe, ground mammoth tusks, whatever warms the cockles of your heart.

And whatever you do, DON'T listen to the idiots that think you can make this with any old lentils.... I'm a Manchester United Supporter.... THEY HAVE TO BE RED LENTILS!!!
(Please trust me on this... I don't have shares in the "Red Lentil Co.")

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Darien Chest.

Yup, now you've seen it; the Darien Chest.
The complex locking system repaired recently, now sitting in Edinburgh, where it originally sailed from.
If it sailed with gold, I would have understood the locks, but as far as I can see, the ships sailed with seeds, trade goods, and totally stupid cargo.
Mirrors, and trinkets for the Mosquito Indians.
Turnip and leek seed for the farmers... (they were obviously going to ignore the copious indigenous fruits and veg, and going for a 'kale' mixture)
Hundreds of pounds of wigs.... YES, you heard me; WIGS.
A gold smelter..... to melt all that traded or stolen Spanish gold.
And a coin maker.... oh boy.... if only they knew then what we know now....

They would have taken..... more Doctors, more nurses, more dysentry tablets, MUCH more laudnum and opiate derivatives.
They would have taken more guns, pistols, knives, bayonets, and all other killing devices.
OR, the best thing of all, someone could have took the keys to the ships..... it would have saved 3000 lives, and a linking-at-the-hip with England.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gorebridge; A Famous Historical Landmark.

Gorebridge; a sleepy village 10 miles south of Edinburgh?

NO! It was the epicenter of the Scottish Gunpowder industry at the turn of the nineteenth century.

At the actual Gore Bridge, in the dip between Gorebridge village and Birkenside, stood the only Scottish Gunpowder mill.
(Ever wondered why the hill was called Powdermill Brae?)

In 1794, a pair of investors, William Hitchener and John Hunter, leased the land from the Buccleuch Estates, and worked under the bridge (diverting the water through sluces and watermills) to produce the best quality gunpowder.

Initially, in a time of peace, the mill advertised as a sporting company. But soon, Britain was involved in a struggle against Napoleon Bonaparte, and many cartloads of their black powder product were sent north to Leith docks, (where the first Darien ships sailed from) then by sea to Grangemouth, then by canal to Greenock (where the second and last Darien ships sailed from), then to Liverpool, to be shipped to the army in Europe.

For the Gorebridge historians, the street name "Powdermill Brae" is a sure clue to this history. The houses (now long gone) under the bridge were called the "Black Raw". Basic, I know. But I once lived in "Tattie Raw", not far from the Gorebridge site.

It's in my blood.

It's wee bits like this that bring the history home. "Tattie Raw" (Victoria Street)... just ask the Wrights, the Halls, the Merchants, the Olivers and many, many more.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mike Oldfield; Music to write a novel by.

Almost every time I write, I play some album by Mike Oldfield. Best known for his "Tubular Bells" music score from the film "The Exorcist", he has consistantly came thru with superb musical albums over the last thirty years.
I select the particular album that suits my mood, or the musical style that fits the passage of the book. I close my eyes. And I'm there.
There's one particular theme, called "Lake Constance" that fits one scene.
The ships have arrived at Darien. They have found Golden Island, and are ready to sail into Caledonia Bay, the site of the new colony.
"Lake Constance" is a slow, flowing, almost waltz-like theme, that takes me into the bay at the head of the ships.
As the orchestral strings play the theme, the ships sail past the rocky sides, past the huge mangrove roots, into a bay "that could hold a hundred ships".
The Scots had arrived.
If Jamie ever appears on film. Mike, my friend, will be writing the music.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Five Ships sunk, Three thousand Scots dead.

Three Company ships sailed from Leith, and they picked up two more in Kirkcaldy. They sailed north, and round Scotland to avoid alerting English shipping in the English Channel. It took them three weeks to sail round Scotland.
You could have walked from Leith to Ayr in less time, and had better food on the way.
Just a small taste of the downright silly things the Scots did during that horrendous two years.
From ten ships involved, one returned to Scotland, the rest were sunk.
Of the 3000+ people who participated, less than 100 were ever to see their homeland again.
Some were shipwrecked, some turned to piracy, some abandoned in New York.
And those were the lucky ones.
Scots were sold into slavery in Jamaica.
Scots died in Spanish jails in Carthagena.
Before the voyage was two months old, cholera broke out on the ships, and at the worst point in the whole settlement, Scots were dying at the rate of more than TEN per day. There were no able bodied men to bury such a number, so some were just slipped over the side of the anchored ships.
And you try telling this to the kids today.....

Thursday, February 10, 2011

St. Ninian's Wharf; the Birthplace of Jamie Leith

St Ninian's Wharf, Leith, Edinburgh, 1850.

I know, it's not quite the 1698 images you'd like, but it does show the 17th century tower on the Leith Parish Church.
The town was separated from Edinburgh in those days. A tree lined "walk" led from the edge of Leith, all the way up to the gates of Edinburgh.
The Capital City has grown, swallowing the 'minnow' of Leith, but the wide connecting street is still commonly known as "The Walk", and proudly 'Leith Walk' on the street signs.
The wharfs are long gone, the new developers capturing every parchment of real estate, but the history will never die.
You can't change the cobbled streets (law) and new buildings must "maintain the integrity and period" of the area.
Leith will always be a harbour town. As long as Giovani's is by the the river (Water of Leith), it will always have Edinburgh's best Pizza, and the cobbled streets will continue to twist the ankles of the tourists.
And it will always be the birthplace of James Ross Leith.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Leith in My Bones

Back in 1998, my business partner and I parted company, and I was forced to look for new premises in Edinburgh. Leith at that time was just beginning a new phase and I got a look at a cheap set of offices.

Now, remember I'm a keen historian-here's how the estate agent described it to me:
"It's a bit run down, the steps are worn, but you know, it is 16th century. There's metal posts throughout the three offices, they're the remains of a stable from that time period. It's also near the water, maybe 50 yards from the old harbour." (photo above shows the view across the Water of Leith, just round the corner from my office)

Man.... how could I resist. For the next two years I walked those old Leith cobbles, worn from five hundred years of use. I heard the music coming from the pubs across the water, saw the sad remnants of the heyday of the world's oldest profession still plying their trade on the corner at night..and somewhere in my head, Jamie leith was born.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Captain Kidd Linked to Darien Venture

Captain Kidd was returning from his Madagascar trip, and considered 'looking in' on the Scottish colonists. Only his fear of his crew mutinying on him sent him home to New York.

Maybe he should have stopped at Darien for a while.

Captain Kidd was never free again. He was arrested in New York, taken to Boston jail, then transported to London for trial and execution.

He was not executed for piracy, but for murder; killing a 'lazy' sailor by hitting him on the head with a bucket.

Monday, January 31, 2011

A 1695 Travel Guide

In 1695, welshman Lionel Wafer published "A New Voyage and Description of the Isthmus of America". It was translated into five languages, and an instant best-seller and would have been required reading for Jamie, and all others who set sail for Panama. Wafer was in Panama for eight months, mostly in the rainy season.

Question~ Why would Scots travel 6000 miles for MORE rain?
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