Archive for January, 2011

If Britain is known for one thing, it’s standing stones, and anyone who has read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series knows you need to be careful near them!  Do not bring jewels!

The standing stones featured in the sidebar this next week or two are found in the village of Killin.  Like Finlairig, the feature of the last sidebar, these were not on my itinerary.  Like Finlairig, our host at the hostel (who was too interesting not to become a character in a future book!) mentioned these standing stones.  In a phrase I will forever more associate with Scotland, he told us, like so many other people there, with a smile, that “there are no no-trespassing laws in Scotland.” These stones are actually in a field on someone’s private property, and we were asked to stop at the house to officially ask permission to visit the stones. (I wonder if this is a trial for the owners of the field, having people ask permission, or perhaps why no one answered when we knocked.) 

They were one of our first stops on a slightly (very slightly, in fact, only barely–I just like to be accurate!) misty morning that would take us on a five mile walk around Loch Tay, through forest trails, to Finlairig Castle, out to a longhouse and finally all the way up, up the side of Mount…wait, that’s Dr. Seuss…before climbing Sron a’ Chlachain high over the village and Loch Tay. 

A light stream of visitors pushed through the light mist, down a long, tree-shaded path to the stones.  A few cars parked out in the field, of people who had apparently camped near the stones for the night.  The field is a sheep pasture now, so we opened a gate and let ourselves in with the standing stones and the sheep, who kept a good distance between us and themselves.

What surprised me about the standing stones of Scotland was how many there are.  As an American, I’m familiar with Stonehenge, and I knew it wasn’t the only stone circle.  But I wasn’t aware of just how common they are, or how varied.  They seemed to be everywhere, such that we had to pass up others we found near our route, and would have liked to visit, but just couldn’t make time for it all. 

These particular ones, although it’s hard to see from the picture, stood maybe 5’8″ or a bit more for the tallest of them.  I had an interesting experience there, when I walked inside the circle, which became fodder for Book 2 of The Blue Bells Trilogy and which I think I will save to describe another time!  But that experience was unexpected and not repeated at the other set of standing stones, three sets of three, which we visited in the vicinity of the Fortingall Yew tree.  It certainly brought to the forefront all the questions about the original purpose and use of stone circles, and made me think that our modern age should not be too quick to dismiss all we don’t understand as myth, legend, or superstition.  It made it easy to believe strange things could happen there.

Perhaps, as I do further research on standing stones and cairns, while finishing up the editing of The Minstrel Boy, I will come up with more answers.

I have posted previously about the title Blue Bells of Scotland, and its roots as, first an old Scottish air, made famous by one Mrs. Jordan’s lyrics, and, later, turned into a theme and variations for trombone by the remarkable Arthur Pryor, a prodigy of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Because Blue Bells of Scotland centers on musicians, I have a Music of the Blue Bells Trilogy page at my Blue Bells Trilogy site which gives links to youtube videos for many of the pieces referenced in the book.  The first link is to a performance of the trombone solo.

However, not surprisingly for such an old piece, there are many variations of the piece, by singers and instrumentalists alike.  Nan Hawthorne, author, blogger, DJ, and songwriter, has put together a playlist of many of these versions for this week’s Same Difference program.  This is a fun feature Nan runs, in which she chooses a song each week, and at specified hours during that week, plays an entire hour of that same song.  It’s a lot of fun to hear all the variations on beloved pieces, and her versions of Blue Bells are bound to be very different from the trombone version I posted!  I’m looking forward to hearing them!

Check out Nan’s Radio de Danann if you love Celtic music!

Here is the schedule for upcoming selections:

Week of January 22:  Bluebells of Scotland
Week of February 6:  Danny Boy
Week of February 13 -  Love Week:  Gentle Maiden
Week of February 20:  Greensleeves
Week of February 27: John Barleycorn
Week of March 6: Lark in the Clear Air
Week of March 13 – Irish Week: Foggy Dew
Week of March 20:  Paarting Glass
Week of March 27: Rising of the Moon/Wearing of the Green

The Same Difference Hour happens at:

Mondays, 9 PM Eastern, 6 PM Pacific
Wednesdays, 3 PM Eastern/Noon Pacific and a reprise at 9:30 PM Pacific
Fridays (Saturdays), 7 AM Eastern, 4 AM Pacific

And a reminder that a Smashwords edition of Blue Bells of Scotland will be given away on January 31st.  Just follow the blog to enter.