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.
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