I know I’m a little late to the game, but I really wanted to think about how to write this post, make a decent attempt at writing something about this sensitive topic. But I also couldn’t sit on my arse any longer and not say something.
I have seen a few actors, singers, comedians, and many others who are in the public eye getting slated for either not saying something, or when they do say something, saying it ‘too late’. I don’t consider myself famous, but I am in the public eye at least a little bit, so I feel I need to say my bit and show support.
This too might be late, but I, like many others, have tried to find the best way to talk about it. I probably could write this much better too, but I feel like it needs to be said.
I am writing this for my black friends. My black friend’s friends and family. The black friends I will make in the future. The black kids who will grow up and deserve a life without oppression and discrimination. To the black community as a whole all over the world that I may never have the privilege to meet.
I am with you, my black brothers and sisters. Black lives matter!
In this post, I am going to talk about why it’s important to stand up for black lives, why these protests are important, why right now we cannot say ‘All lives matter’, my thoughts on George Floyd, police in both the United States and the United Kingdom, the vandalism, the tearing down of statues and how to help.
Why do we need ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests?
I know I am not the best person to speak; I am a white woman living in the United Kingdom. I am not black, I am not even in the United States where the majority of the discimination is happening. Although, I have heard there is still discrimination/racism here in the UK.
But the fact I am white should, hopefully, speak more, because more white people DO need to speak up, that’s half the problem in the first place, white people aren’t speaking up for the injustice.
We also need to stop the discrimination, the oppression, the hate, the racism towards my black brothers and sisters. They deserve to live the way they want to live. They deserve to live without judgement, without hate, without being oppressed.
Why not ‘All Lives Matter’?
I saw a post on Facebook that summed this up really well, a young girl was holding a sign at a protest that said:
We said –> Black Lives Matter Never Said –> Only Black Lives Matter We Know –> All Lives Matter We just need your help with #BlackLivesMatter For black lives are in danger!
So, yes, of course, all lives matter. All lives DO matter. White, black, Asian, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, LGBT+, non-religious, etc. They all matter. I get annoyed when I hear racism towards my Muslim brothers and sisters. I get annoyed when I hear racism towards my Chinese/Asian brothers and sisters. I get annoyed when I hear women are still being treated differently. I get annoyed when my brothers and sisters from the LGBT+ community are being oppressed, hated, even killed!
But that’s not the POINT. The point with #BlackLivesMatter, just like where the feminist movement came from, something needs to be done to stop the racism direct and indirect discimination towards our black brothers and sisters.
There are separate movements, issues and support for the other communities. #BlackLivesMatter is specifically to help the black community.
The ‘All Lives Matter’ tags, speeches and movements are seen as another form of oppression to the black community. Let’s share #BlackLivesMatter to start a discourse, to stop the discimination in the black community so that we can finally say All Lives Matter. But until then, we cannot.
And yes, let’s also stand up for our Asian, Muslim, LGBT+ brothers and sisters too! These are also issues, and we need to stand up just as much for them as we do our black brothers and sisters!
But George Floyd was a criminal!
I’m not going to agree or disagree, I don’t know George Floyd, nor do I know whether he is/was a criminal. I have heard he was, and I also heard he was on drugs. I have also heard that he was accused of buying cigarettes with counterfeit money.
Does that mean he should have been killed? Does that mean the police officer’s actions are justified? No. Of course not.
Never mind that his past criminal actions shouldn’t define him, certainly if he’s been through the system and has paid his dues. If he was arrested due to new criminal activity, or due to his drug issue, then he should have a right to be put on trial. Of course, I don’t know the US legal system, but I’m pretty sure death by a knee on the neck isn’t part of it.
And if he was handled in such a way for suspected counterfeit money? Is that fair? Or excessive use of force? Was he really in possession of counterfeit money? Or was the shop owner racist and assumed he was?
Okay, George Floyd may not have been completely innocent, he may not exactly be a saint, but he certainly didn’t deserve to die because of it.
Plus, we cannot assume things based on hearsay. Look at the facts. He died in police custody. He died from the knee on the neck. If Joe Bloggs down the road heard someone say that George Floyd was a criminal, and told you, who’s to say that it is true? How much is true? I’m sorry, but if I was to put that in a research article and reference Joe Bloggs, I’d probably get a huge fail for it.
What about the white men killed by cops?
Yes, absolutely, there clearly is a problem with the policing system in the United States. Too many people are being shot or dying in police custody needlessly. I completely agree! Something needs to be done about the policing system in the United States!
But that is a separate issue. Hopefully, from these protests something will be done. Better training, perhaps.
From what I can gather, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I see the black community seeing this death as the last straw. They have got to the point that they are tired of their voices not being heard, from being oppressed, disciminated, and so on, and George Floyd’s death was the last straw.
Plus, I have heard that there are more black deaths in the hands of the police, than there are white people in the United States.
And yes, okay, there are some criticisms of the actual references I gave; they’re not peer reviewed research articles, although the first one is paraphrasing from a real research article, but it at least shows you there may be an issue and something needs to be done!
Is it right to be loot and vandalize in protests?
Looting, I would say no. That is just exploiting a situation for your own gain.
But vandalism, I can see why people do. Of course, I dislike vandalism, I dislike the idea of trying to fight hate with hate, or causing unneeded destruction, especially to properties or businesses that had nothing to do with the oppression, causing more fear and hate.
But, I understand it. Imagine you were in a work place and you were being disciminated against because you had a different eye colour. Snide remarks, jokes that you don’t find funny, being left out of meetings or social gatherings, being given the shitty jobs to do, missing out on a promotion, and you hate it. You go to complain, but there is no system and no one listens to you. Days, weeks, months, years pass and you try each time to voice your concerns, to get people to stop, to show them you’re no different to they are, that you have the same likes they do, same interests, are just as capable as they are. Then the years of discimination gets the better of you and you lash out.
That’s what I think is happening right now. And this is why we need to speak up for our black brothers and sisters to help.
I don’t agree with the vandalism, but if all other options have failed, then yes, this is probably their last resort.
Was this right? Should they have been allowed to do this?
Again, it depends.
The statue was of Edward Colston, he was a 17th-century slave trader. Between 1672 and 1689, his Royal African Company shipped 100,000 enslaved people from West Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean. Over 20,000 people died of disease and dehydration, their bodies thrown into the ocean. Colson’s statue was engraved with ‘…one of the most virtuous and wise sons’. People have been petitioning to have the statue removed for ages (I’m not sure how long, but my money is on before the protests). So, yeah, I think they were right to pull this down. And apt to have it thrown into the harbour too.
So, in answer to that question, first look at; was the statue of a person who was a slave trader? Did the person get his fame for the slave trade? Was he a horrible person? Then, yes, probably best to take down the statue.
But, was the statue of a man who faught in a war for his country? Died for his country? But might have had some ties to the slave trade in a small way? Then no, probably shouldn’t be taken down.
Of course, this is just a very basic idea. It’s not going to be straight forward as that.
A lot of the United States and United Kingdom (and other countries), history is based around the slave trade. It’s an unfortunate part of our history. I don’t think every statue or memorial should be taken down just because of links to the slave trade. I believe statues that commemorate only actions in the slave business should.
Statues of people mean that we worship or look up to them. It’s a show of power. A person who built his/her power based upon the slave trade or other forms of suffering, shouldn’t be looked up to. Thus, taking down the statue is a good idea. But maybe replacing it with something else to commemorate why the statue was taken down, explain the history of that person and why we no longer accept it.
But statues of people we commemorate that only have small links to the slave trade, that represent other aspects of the person, like his service in a war for example, I don’t believe should be taken down.
We need to remember our history, remember the good and the bad. So that we learn from our mistakes. I don’t believe we should forget what happened, but I also don’t believe the statues of slave traders should be worshipped either.
What can I do to help?
The first and foremost you can do, is stand up and show your support. If you can’t actively attend a protest, then show your support in other ways. Post it on social media, tell your black friends, and be there to listen and learn.
Learn is the most valuable thing you can do. Even if you think you’re not racist, you still need to educate yourselves. There is such a thing as indirect racism and uncouscious bias.
I am still learning. You should too.
Here are a few links that I just found (I know, I need to do some more research myself) that you might useful:
If you have any more charities, or links to where you can help, please do let me know and I will update this section.
I’m not sure how else to end this blog post, there are still a lot of things I feel I want to say. It’s a complicated topic, but I hope I at least voiced my thoughts on a few of the more relevant ones.
I will end this, however, with this small plea: please stand up for #BlackLivesMatter.
And please, do not fight hate with hate.
(and yes, also stand up for other lives! Let’s stop the hate, discrimination, oppression of all!)
I am sorry if I have said anything that is offensive, anything that isn’t politically correct, or incorrect, I am still learning.
Also, please note, any rasist, violent or unneeded negative comments will be deleted. I am happy for a discource into the subject, that’s what the world needs, a discourse to find a way to end the issue and to educate, but anything that is just unnecessary hate will not be tolerated. Thank you.
I wanted to write a new blog post, this one I wanted to discuss one of the days I dislike… Feburary the 14th.
This blog is in two parts; the first part I want to explore with you guys the history behind Valentine’s Day, who is St. Valentine? When did it start? And, of course, exploring the dark side of it (because I do love a bit of darkness every now and then). The second part, is the concept of Valentine’s Day, and why I dislike it.
What is Valentine’s Day and where did it come from?
Most of us, at least those in the Western World, will know about Valentine’s Day. The day of love. Valentine’s Day cards, chocolates in heart-shaped boxes. Buying wilting sevice station roses in cheap red glass vases in a mad rush to get something for a loved-one because you forgot all about it… Ahem…
But the real origins of Valentine’s Day is actually a little hazy, even Historians are a little unsure. There isn’t one ‘definitive’ answer, instead there are a number of theories. This blog post will explore these a bit more.
Is Valentine’s Day originally Catholic/Christian?
One of the issues with understanding where Valentine’s Day comes from, is that there are numerous martyrs called ‘Valentine’, and there are many sources that appear to mix them up. (So, bare in with me if I get something wrong!)
Valentinus comes from the Latin “Valens” which means ‘to be in good health’, and was unfortunately a common name in ancient Roman times .
However, one source suggests that two holy martyrs of the same name was recorded on the 14th of February .
But, the problem is, when I dig into these names I found, there are many different versions. I guess this is the problem with having a popular name, and the power of the internet; facts get mixed up. And to avoid being part of the expanding problem; giving false/mixed facts, I’ll instead just mention the names and the different versions and let you make up your own mind. I think this topic is something historians and archaeologists spend decades researching and a simple novice and her blog simply cannot delve into in a day or two!
Aside from this, however, most sources talk about at least two Valentines.
One story is about Valentine of Terni, it suggests he performed marriages for young lovers in secret . He did this because the Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriages for young men, suggesting single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families. Claudius found out, of course, and ordered Valentine to be put to death. The source suggests that that many hagiographers (a writer of the lives of the saints, and yes, I had to look up that word!) agree that this was the ‘real’ Saint Valentine.
Another story, which again is mentioned in the same source , but I found mentions in other sources [2, 3], talks about a ‘Valentino falling in love with the daughter of the prison guard (Asterius) when he was imprisoned in Rome’. It talks about a note which has ‘Your Valentine’ or ‘From your Valentino’ (you have to remember the issues of translating languages), which was left before his death. One source even suggests that he performed a miracle of restoring her sight ! Valentino was apparently beheaded on the 14th of February 273 . The issue is, within the first source  it is unclear whether the author actually talks of two different Valentines.
Another issue is that source  not only talks the Valentine that married soldiers when marriage was outlawed, but the source then continues to talk about another Saint Valentine… of Terni, as if this Valentine was seperate from the marriage Valentine. The line “he, too, was beheaded…” suggests this Saint Valentine of Terni was a seperate Valentine to the second. However, it doesn’t really seem to suggest this other Valentine was the imprisoned one from the previous paragraph (You can begin see my confusion with researching for this blog post!)
To backup source , Saint Valentine of Terni being a seperate Valentine to the Valentine that married soldier’s, another source talks about Valentine or Terni ‘debating a potential convert’ and he too ‘was beheaded’. But unfortunately not much else is given in this source for this version of Valentine of Terni.
One line I found from source  suggests the two Valentines decapitated were in fact different versions of just one saint, which appeared in both Rome and Terni. This would offer an explaination as to why sources appear to confuse the two. Source  also offers this as a suggestion too.
Wikipedia  also talks about two seperate Valentines; Saint Valentine’s of Rome and Saint Valentine’s of Terni. Which could be another name(s) for the two most common Valentines. However, I always take what I read on Wikipedia with a very large pinch of salt, anyone is able to make changes to pages on Wikipedia, and I have always been told in my past university professors to not use wikipedia as a reference in essays and other university work.
Just to confuse things even more, some sources talk about other ‘Valentines’. Source  also explains (which the author admits doesn’t ‘buy’) that Valentine ‘offered roses to a fighting couple and told them to love each other as if they had only one heart’. I would have to agree, this story seems a bit too far-fetched and not strong enough to be ‘written’ and thus become a legend.
Source  also talks about another ‘Valentinus’, apparently the earliests of Valentines, who died in Africa along with 24 soldiers, but the source says there isn’t much more information about him, other than birth and death dates, which also makes me consider isn’t enough to turn into a Valentine’s Day.
It is also worth noting that February the 14th became an official holiday associate with romantic love around the 14th and 15th centuries [5, 6]. One source talks about the oldest mention of ‘valentine’ from the 15th century, Charles d’ Orléans, who was held in the Tower of London after his defeat at the Battle of Agincourt (1415). He addressed his wife with “I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine” . However, another source explains it was the poet Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century who linked love with St. Valentine for the first time in his works “The Parlement of Foules” and “The Complaint of Mars”, the source then suggests Chaucer invented Valentine’s Day as we know it today .
Another note here is that, if St. Valentine’s Day originated from one two martyrs, these would have been many centuries before these first mentions of the ‘Valentine’s Day’ above.
Or… was it actually originally Pagan?
But (get ready for the darkness), the  source previously also talks about February 14 also being considered the first day of spring in Britain or more generically, has it’s roots in paganism.
A few sources talk about the feast of Lupercalia [7, 8]. From February the 13th to the 15th, men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals, beliving this would make them fertile.
Although, again, sources make these references in history a little fuzzy. One source explains it was the Romans who celebrated this feast , whereas another explains it’s a pagan ritual (I’m sure the Roman’s were Christians, not pagans…)
Source  also talks about another tradition at this time, where men selected women’s names at random to ‘couple’ with them for either the duration of the festival or longer, if the match was right.
Source  goes on that it was Pope Gelasius I who combined St Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia to expel the pagan ritual, so like a previous post I have written (Samhain), it was the Christian’s way of ridding of paganism but combining pagan festivals with Christian ones.
And lastly, Source  mentions the Norman’s celebration of Galatin’s Day. Galatin meant “lover of women”, and it could be possible that the two days were confused.
To conclude, therefore, it isn’t definitive as to where Valentine’s Day originated. It could be that it was from one of the martyred Valentines (or it could be that this was indeed one man), it could be a pagan festival whether it was murged or not by the Church, or it could have come from the Norman’s Galatin’s Day. Or, it could have come from the other lesser known stories of Valentine’s I mentioned, or something else entirely.
Why don’t I like Valentine’s Day?
No, it’s not because the last five years I have spent Valentine’s Day alone. I’m not that cynical. I’m actually very happy being single! And trust me, I feel the same when I am in a relationship.
One reason is that, like many holiday’s celebrated in the United Kingdom; Easter, Christmas, Halloween, it’s heavily commercialised. Of course, if it was just commercialised and it didn’t affect my everyday life, I probably wouldn’t care. It’s up to those who want to celebrate it. But, it does affect my everyday life.
It restricts my ability to go out for a meal, not only is it difficult to just go and find a table anywhere, but some restaurants deliberately put the prices up knowing they’ll have people willing to pay it. It can also make things busier, not just restaurants but take-away deliveries too.
Another issue is if you went out with a friend of the opposite sex (of which I have many friends from the opposite sex), it’s immediately assumed they are your partner. Of course this tends to happen to me frequently regardless of whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not, but it’s more prevalent on Valentine’s Day.
Another issue is that shops, such as supermarkets, move items on their shelves to fit in the Valentine’s Day gifts and cards. Sometimes this can mean stock isn’t available, given me less options, and I already have a dislike for supermarkets in this country (that’s a rant for another day!) I will admit, this is more of an issue at Christmas time rather than Valentine’s Day, as there are usually rows and rows at Christmas, yet Valentine’s Day isn’t as commercialised as Christmas, but this still pays a small factor into it.
And, of course, the commercialism from companies that promote Valentine’s Day, not only profiting from it and giving more rise to consumerism (given more power to companies) but making it more of a thing, giving it more social construct and thus giving rise to the guilt people can feel when they don’t conform to the holiday. This is one of the reasons why I didn’t use the day to promote my romance books, as I’d be a hypocrite if I did!
I also dislike the way it makes single people, those who have recently lost love ones, those who generally feel low/depression/isolated and those who are in violent relationships, feel worse. The day is thrown in these’s people’s faces.
And of course, lastly, the one that I constantly tell everyone… why do we even have Valentine’s Day? One day of the year that is devoted to love? Those who are in relationships shouldn’t be using the one day of the year to confess their love!
Rather than celebrating love on one day of the year, let’s remember the reason why we even have Valentine’s Day…
…The Gunpowder Treason and Plot, I know of no reason, Why the Gunpowder Treason Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent To blow up the King and Parli’ment. Three-score barrels of powder below, Poor old England to overthrow; By God’s providence he was catch’d With a dark lantern and burning match. Holla boys, Holla boys, let the bells ring. Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King! And what should we do with him? Burn him!
I’ll keep this blog post short, so in order to get it published on the actual day (5th of November), so unfortunately I won’t be delving too deeply into this one. The majority of this, most people will know, at least those from the UK.
In 1605, Guy Fawkes, a member of the English Roman Catholics, and a group of others, conspired to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
The reason for this ‘plot’ was because a few years ago, Queen Elizabeth I, who had recently died, wasn’t very tolerant of the Catholic religion. And it was hoped the new King; King James I, would be.
So, Guy Fawkes and 12 others, proposed the ‘Gunpowder Plot’.
The plan started with renting lodging close to the Houses of Paliament, in the hope to tunnel through to the buildings. But due to the thick walls (because, of course, the River Thames was so close) this wasn’t possible.
But the men were somehow able to acquire a cellar within the Houses of Parliament and they smuggled, over time, 36 barrels of gunpowder.
The gunpowder was to be ignited by a long fuse, which would be lit by Guy Fawkes.
The plot was discovered by an anonymous letter sent to Lord Montague, a House of Lords at the time. This letter was only meant to save the Lord himself.
However, on the 5th of November, Guy Fawkes was found in the cellar, along with the 36 barrels of gunpowder and equipment to light them and arrested.
Unforutnately for Mr Fawkes, he was tortured and hanged a few years later.
Over 400 years later this little piece of history is still remembered. Many people in the UK, residents and large event organisers let off fireworks to celebrate this day.
On one of my previous travel blogs, I talk about the best sites in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. One of them, I talk about the hidden gem that is the village of Douglas. I feel that this needs it’s own blog post as I have a fair bit to say about it and that short insert wasn’t enough.
Read on to learn about Douglas, with ties to the Douglas Clan, including Black Douglas, their links with Robert the Bruce, the Cameronian Regiment, PM Alec Douglas-Home, Sir Walter Scott, the Polish Army, even a little gem of a man James Gavin a local tailor.
Plus, it’s a hidden gem that I feel needs to be recognised more. But I also will be telling you both the positives and the negatives of the place.
Douglas, South Lanarkshire
Remains of the 17th Century Tower, Douglas Castle, South Lanarkshire. (c) Penny Hooper.
Douglas is situated just off the M74, 40 minutes South East of Glasgow with a population of approximately 1600. It’s a small village many people drive through on their way to Ayrshire, usually without a second glance. A thorn you pass on Ayr Road, but without realising that thorn belongs to a rose (well, in some respects). Douglas has it’s name for a reason, which, if you keep reading, you’ll find out why.
Douglas is one of those villages where you will be greeted with a mix of emotions. If you’re driving through in the summer, before you get into the heart of Douglas, Ayr road will give you a view of the Douglas Estate ‘Ponds’ to your right (if you’ve just come off junction 12 on the motorway). A little further you will be greeted with outstretched branches of trees as if high-fiving you into the village. But when you get into Douglas, you will be greeted with old dark buildings on your left, stepping back into an industrial era, with an old crumbling hotel that has been left derelict for years on your right.
You’ll be partly right, at one point in it’s life, Douglas was a mining town. But we’ll get to that.
If you turn off Ayr road on the right onto Main Street, before the petrol garage, following the brown signs that signal tourist destinations, you’ll be swallowed by more industrial buildings.
However, catch Douglas at the wrong time of year, and it can be cold, dark, wet and miserable. And, unfortunately, due to where Douglas is situated, in-land and not far from the Borders, this can be a majority of the year. But, we’re not here for the weather, are we?
First stop, on the Main Street, just opposite the local shop there is a round monument dedicated to James Gavin. Gavin wasn’t a very well known person, at least not outside of Douglas. He was a local tailor, but when he refused to renounce his presbytarian religion he had his ears cut off with his own tailoring scissors before suffering a life of slavery in the West Indies.
Gavin was finally able to return back to Douglas and the monument was erected on the spot where the ruins of his house stood until 1968. The monument holds an engraved lintel with a pair of tailor’s scissors. It’s said the monument stands where Gavin’s backgarden would have been.
But if you keep going up Main Street there’s a little hidden secret waiting to be found, a little secret that upon first glance looks like an average site in Scotland, but this little secret has more than you think.
After finally escaping the burden of the old buildings, the road opens up. The buildings in front of you, a large Georgian stone building with a painted house one end and a smaller house with large windows is hiding a little church. This little church is St Bride’s Church.
St Bride’s Church
Remains of St. Bride’s Church, Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper.
This little hidden gem doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should. St Bride’s Church is one of the oldest, probably arguably the oldest building in the village, having been built in the late 1300s.
But the interesting thing about this church is that it is the mausoleum for the Black Douglases or Clan Douglas, who were friends with Robert the Bruce, Sir James Douglas in particular.
That’s because Douglas Village was the home of the Douglas Clan!
Most people would have heard of Robert the Bruce, even if you’re not a Scottish History buff. He was King of Scotland from 1306 until his death in 1329, a month shy of his 55th birthday, and led Scotland during the First War of Scottish Independence against England.
Sir James Douglas was one of the chief commanders during the Wars of Scottish Independence, and a friend to Robert the Bruce, so much so that on Robert the Bruce’s death bed he asked James Douglas to carry his heart to the Holy Land in Jerusalem to be presented before God. However, James Douglas was called to fight against the Moors and the heart went with him.
Robert the Bruce’s heart was eventually laid to rest in Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders, his bones in Dunfermline Abbey in Fife, and his internal organs buried where he died in Cardross, Dumbarton (which, I believe, was the practice after a death in battle).
Sir James Douglas and his company joined King Alfonso XI of Castile to siege the Kingdom of Granada, which was where James Douglas died. His heart was brought back to the mausoleum for the Black Douglases; St Bride’s Church.
Today, the grounds of the church are open and free to roam, nestled in between houses which were built around it over the years. But to gain access to see Sir James Douglas’s heart and inside the chancel, you will need to ask for a key. Unfortunately this rests on whether the keyholder is available when you are in the village.
It’s also rumoured that the clock face on the tower was a gift from Mary, Queen of Scots and is the oldest working clock in Scotland. Supposedly to chime three minutes before the hour, a reference to the Clan Douglas motto “never behind”. It still chimes every hour, although quieter than it used to, so as to not upset the locals, and it’s not always three minutes before the hour as the clock has to be continuious wound. It also still rings on Sundays to call the locals in the village to church, although service isn’t held in the old St. Bride’s anymore, but instead in the newer church up on Colonels Entry.
Continuing our historic journey through Douglas, right next to the church, on Bell’s Wynd is another hidden gem, an old Chapel; St Sophia’s Chapel, which is now a museum.
St Sophia’s Chapel / Douglas Heritage Museum
Douglas Heritage Museum, Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper.
Originally, this building was the Dower House of the Douglas Estate (a large house available for the widow of the previous owner of the estate, who is called the “dowager”, she usually moves to the Dower House after the heir of the estate marries).
The building has had many uses over the years, in 1706 it was a Parish School, a century later it was used as a poor house for vagrants (beggers/homeless people), then it was reverted to being a house until 1961 when it was an Episcopal Church to replace the chaple in Douglas Castle. Now, since 1993, it has been converted into a museum which displays various aspects of village life, the Douglas family and Castle, and the Cameronian Regiment (more on that later). Exhibitions are said to change annually.
It’s located on Bell’s Wynd, with the front door opposite St Bride’s Graveyard. However, it is only open from 1st Saturday of April and closes the last Sunday of September between 2pm and 5pm. Weekends only. Or by special arrangement, much like St Bride’s Church.
There is an inscription above the entrace of the building, which was from when the building was converted as a school. It is in Latin, but translated reads; “This building is restored for the foster children of the muses under the auspices of the high and noble Duke of Douglas for the perpetual use of the School and Schoolmaster 1706”.
If you continue past the Museum, further up Bell’s Wynd, you will be greeted with a beautiful view; a view of a football field, the Douglas Water river and the woods up on the hill. To the left there is an interesting statue pointing up over the panaroma.
James Douglas, Earl of Angus Statue and Cameronian Regiment memorial
James, Earl of Angus Memorial in Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper
For any history buffs, you may have heard of the Cameronian Regiment. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the Cameronian regiment so I can’t give you much background (and probably not enough scope for this blog to delve too much into it anyway), but from what I have found with researching this, the Cameronian Regiment was founded in 1688-1689 by the Earl of Angus, James Douglas, originally called the Cameronian Guard or The Earl of Angus’s Regiment, which, of course, was raised near Douglas Village.
It’s worth pointing out here that James Douglas, Earl of Angus shouldn’t be confused with James Douglas the Black Douglas as these were two very different people. (I hate to admit it, but it confused me at first! Clearly James was a popular name!) James the Black Douglas was born 1286 and died 1330, not quite an Earl of Douglas as the title was created for William Douglas (the 1st Earl, of course) in 1358. James Douglas The Earl of Angus was born 1671 and died 1692, he was from the Stewart family line (the Red Douglases) who inherited Douglas Estate after the fall of The Earls of Douglas. Ironically the 1st Earl of Angus was George Douglas (c. 1380-1403) who’s father was William Douglas, he had an affair with Margaret Stewart, Countess of Mar and Angus (he was married to the sister of her husband).
The name ‘Cameronian’ was originally given to the faction of Scottish Covenanters (Presbyterian movement) who followed Richard Cameron (leader of the Covenanters). Richard Cameron was killed in the Battle of Aird’s Moss, Ayrshire, in 1680.
The begining of the regiment actually began in 1688 when William of Orange landed in England to seize the throne from his father-in-law, King James II. James Douglas gave his support to William of Orange. Ten companies were raised from the supporters of Richard Cameron to form the ‘Cameronian Guard’. The Cameronian Guard, however, disbanded in March 1689.
But in May of the same year, it was re-formed under James, Earl of Angus, in Douglas. It was thus known as The Earl of Angus’s Regiment or the Lord Angus Regiment.
Around 1749, the Regiment was described as ‘The 26th Cameronians’. But in 1786, the titled was officially changed to ‘The 26th (or Cameronian) Regiment of Foot’.
In 1881 under the Childers Reform (reoganisation of the infantry regiments) the regiment was amalgamated with the 90th Regiment of Foot (Perthshire Volunteers) to form the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).
In 1968, it was disbanded due to Government defence cuts.
The statue of James Douglas, or the Earl of Angus, in Douglas is to commemorate the raising of the regiment in 1689. It was build in 1892 to mark the regiment’s two-hundred anniversary.
A little further down the road, on the grounds of the estate there is also a memorial to commemorate the disbandment of the regiment.
Cameronian Regiment memorial (Disbandment memorial)
If you travel out of the Douglas Village and towards the lakes (or Ponds, known by the locals), just past Stable Lake (which used to see curling many years ago, a few curling stones can be seen in the village if you’re looking for them) towards the Castle remains there is a little memorial sat up on the hill with a view of the river cutting through the land – the river that has a permanent cold wind following it!
This memorial compliments the previous memorial, with one commemorating the founding and this one commemorating the disbandment. The reason for it’s location is because the Cameronians was disbanded at Douglas Castle on the 14th May 1968 by the 14th Duke of Hamilton, and the then Earl of Angus, Douglas Douglas-Hamilton.
On the 13-14th of May 2018 (50 years to the date), the village held a 50th Anniversary for the disbandment of the Cameronian regiment, with an afternoon parade, buffet and more.
For more information on the Cameronian regiment and links to the Anniversary Parades (including YouTube videos), click here: www.cameronians.org
Cameronian Regiment Memorial (for the disbandment of), Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper.
Douglas Castle, you may have already figured out, was owned by the Douglas family. Again, my history isn’t great, so again this is information I have researched myself. Also, this will be limited to the Castle’s history, rather than the Douglas family line.
The first Castle was erected in the 13th century and may have been wooden or stone. But it was destroyed and rebuilt many times over the years.
During the Wars of Scottish Independence the castle was captured by the English, and given to Lord Clifford. However, Sir James Douglas recaptured it on Palm Sunday, while the garrison were at chapel attending mass. The surviving English were dragged back to the Castle’s cellar and beheaded, put atop a heap of broken wine casks and food stores and set alight. Douglas then had the wells salted and poisoned with the bodies of dead horses and the Castle burned. The massacre became to be known at ‘The Douglas Larder’.
By the 15th century, the Steward monarchy was threatened by the ‘Black’ Douglases and the Battle of Arkinholm began in 1455. Douglas’s forces were defeated, Douglas himself fled to England the Douglas Castle went to the ‘Red’ Douglases (The ‘Red’ Douglases of Angus and Fife). The Black Douglases had ended. It is believed the castle was rebuilt soon after 1455.
In 1703/1707, when Archibald Douglas was created Duke of Douglas, the Castle was rebuilt again as a tower house and encloused courtyard with a corner tower. In 1745 the Castle saw damage after a rebellion led by Charles Edward Stuart (‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’) and the Highlanders in Charles’ army, after spending two ‘wild days’ around Christmas. The Castle was later destroyed by a fire in 1755, with the exception of the corner tower (which can still be seen today).
In 1757 the castle was again scheduled to be rebuilt by the great architect Robert Adam into a grand palace, which would have been the largest in Scotland. However, Douglas died before it was completed. The Castle would have been a five story building with round towers to the front and square towers to the rear, standing in an extensive park that would have spanned the valley of the Douglas Water.
The estate was eventually passed to his nephew Archibald Douglas the 1st Baron Douglas after the ‘Douglas Cause’ (a legal dispute between the 1st Baron and the Duke of Hamilton).
In the 1930s, Charles Douglas-Home, the 13th Earl of Home, (the family line of the Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home) allowed mining of coal in the park, adjacent to the Castle, to help with the local unemployment. But this unfortunately lead to the castle’s demolishment in 1938 due to dangerous subsidence.
Today, what remains of the Castle is the 17th century corner tower, remains of a cellar block underneath and raised earth that could potentially be from the old road into the castle. A little further out, right next to the Cairn Lodge Services is the remains of the Douglas Estate Gatehouse.
In 1831/2, Sir Walter Scott published the 4th in his series “Tales of My Landlord” called “Castle Dangerous”, the last of his novels. This novel was inspired by Douglas Castle. The Castle sometimes is now refered to as “Castle Dangerous”.
Here are some old photos I managed to find of the old Douglas Castle:
Collection of photos sourced from multiple web sources, including Douglasdale Real Group Facebook Page.
It’s also worth noting that the reason why the first lake is called “Stable Lake” is because this used to be where the Douglas’s Stable used to be, which can be seen on one of the photos above. Unfortunately the Stable was also demolished, I wasn’t able to find any information on when or how, but I imagine they were either destroyed at the same time the castle was in the 1930s, or years before during the many rise and falls of the castle.
Polish Memorial Garden
On the 11th June 1940, the Polish Government signed an agreement with the British Government to form a Polish Army and Polish Air Force in the United Kingdom. Douglas was one site in which the Polish soldiers (around 17,000) were housed temporarily in camps along with Crawford and Biggar (nearby villages) before being more permanently based in Fife, Angus and Perthshire.
Three memorials were erected to commemorate the Polish Army, one square memorial pillar was presented to Douglas by General Stanislaw Maczek, Commander of all Polish forces in the UK.
In 2002 the other two monuments were moved to Douglas to create a Polish Army Memorial Garden.
Polish War Memorial Garden, Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper.
If you’re an avid walker/hiker like I am, there are many walks around Douglas, from the obvious walks around the Lakes (Ponds) and the river Douglas Water, to longer wooded walks up on the hills either side of Douglas. Of course, bring your decent walking shoes and a warm waterproof coat, Douglas can unfortunately be rather wet, windy and cold almost all year round. If you’re going for a walk up in the woods, you might even want to bring your wellies!
For any dog walkers, please be careful around the Douglas Estate, it is now managed by the Douglas and Angus Estate and there are many farm animals around. Sometimes the farm animals escape! On certain times of the year, Royals have been known to go shooting in the grounds too and there is a house up past the red bridge. There are a few signs up near Stable lake that ask you to keep your dog on the lead. If you walk up on the wooded walks either side of Douglas, which can be a lot quieter, dogs are welcome off-lead, but be weary of farm animals in farm land near and the occasional horse rider and motorbike/push bike. Also be aware that these woodlands are usually logging sites.
Of course, you can’t avoid at least a small walk around the lakes if you’re visiting Douglas, it’s where some of the historical sites are! Up past the Main Street and towards the grounds of the Douglas Estate, you will go past the Polish Memorial Garden on your right and over a cattle grid. Stable Lake will be on your left, and if you continue up towards the end of the lake there is a small and rather muddy car park (if you can call it that). Follow the tarmac path around the hill and you will see both the Cameronian Regiment memorial of when it was disbanded and the remains of Douglas Castle.
When you get to Douglas Castle you can either go left towards the red bridge or right following the path around. You can follow the latter path towards the lake behind Castle Douglas which will mostly lead to farm land or double back towards Stable Lake.
The path left at Castle Douglas, over the red bridge, will lead to a house, but if you continue past it you will get to two gates. The gate straight ahead will lead you through farm land, which you are welcome to walk through just be weary of the farm animals and the gate on the left (which is usually quite muddy) will lead up through the woods. The walk up through the woods, if you follow the path at the top to the right, can eventually circle back round (past the M74 motorway), but the path to the left will follow along the hill at the top which you can follow all the way to Douglas West.
Somewhere up on the walk through the woods there is a small circular stone monument of sorts, it looks like an old sundial or henge, but I wasn’t able to find any information on it.
Not far from Douglas West is the old Railway tracks that used to be for the coal mining in the 1900s, the tracks are no longer there, but you can see where the line used to be, with the odd old bridge across it. This line appears to follow Douglas Water and past Glespin where it curves off.
Up round this way, there is a large windmill farm too, which I’ve heard is open to the public to walk around and has some spectacular views over Douglas and the surrounding areas.
On the other side of Douglas, crossing Ayr road, there is also another wooded hill which is suitable for general walkers/hikers, dog walkers and bikes. Known by the locals as Paigie Hill.
Paigie Hill is famous with the locals, as it’s a Douglas tradition to walk up the hill on the 2nd of January, usually just the men (although the women have their own walk, free of the men). It started 30 years ago when just a few men from the village decided to ‘blow away the New Year celebrations cobwebs’. But in 2013 68 men took part.
You can get there by walking down Springhill Road, which leads up a track past a farm as loose stones guide you up. When you get to the tree line, you have a choice of continuing on or turning right.
The path up will lead you past the treeline and up on the hill. As Scotland has a law called “Right to Roam” you are welcome to wander on this barren hill, which has a few views around the landscape where you can see for miles.
The path on the right will follow the hill through the trees, the majority of this is usually fairly clear of mud until you decide to wander off the track. Along the way there are little tracks that you can explore which I believe are for push bikes, but can be explored on foot, some are labled with yellow painted carvings in the trees or beer cans that have been cut and stapled to the trees. The path does eventually lead down the hill towards the A70, if you follow the path a little way past the tree line you can follow it to the right towards a farm house, and down towards the local cemetary, the road right will lead past the local School and back into Douglas.
It is also possible to turn off left when you get to the top of Springhill Road, one grassy/muddy path will eventually lead to an area which has a large tent made up and a very basic swing seat that looks over the view of the hill, but be careful if you have a dog, last time I was there there there was a little bit of broken glass.
There is also word that Mainshill near Douglas will also be redeveloped, it’s an old coal site and will eventually have a woodland including paths for pedestrians and cyclists and a carpark.
Collection of photographs of walks around Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper.
As well as the usual farm animal (mostly sheep, but some beef cows and of course the Highland cow just outside the village!) and horses that lives in the village, there have been many wildlife spotted in the area, from the common birds like Jackdaws, Dunnocks, Blackbirds, Robins, to the more uncommon such as Oyster Catchers, Spotted Flycatchers, Sandmartins and Whooper Swans. I also have heard a Tawny owl calling one evening.
Buzzards are also pretty common in Douglas, as they are in most parts of Scotland, having been dubbed the ‘Scottish Pidgeon’ for a reason. Even Sparrowhawks have been sited, in areas around Douglas Red Kites and Peregrine Falcon’s have been residents. It was also even rumoured that the very rare Osprey has been spotted in the area.
Other animals, as well as birds have been spotted, such as mice, badgers, foxes, deer and even weasles. I also wouldn’t be surprised if pine martins also live in the area and maybe even wildcats since they were introduced to Scotland.
A collection of animals photos, (c) Penny Hooper. (c) Adrian Hooper.
Douglas is a film set!
Only a few years ago, in the Summer of 2017, a film crew decended upon Douglas which was received with mixed emotions from the locals.
This film crew, Mammoth Screen, closed off roads, mainly the Main Street, to film part of the Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence three-part drama, aired, eventually, in April 2018.
Ordeal by Innocence had a cast of Bill Nighy, Catherine Keener, Matthew Goode, Eleanor Tomlinson, Anthony Boyle, Ed Westwick (although due to sexual assault accusations, his character Mickey Argyll was replaced by Christian Cooke), Luke Treadaway, Morven Christie, Crystal Clarke, Ella Purnell and Alice Eve.
The filming saw a small facelift to the Main Street of Douglas, with the Cross Key’s Pub been given a new lick of paint, two flats being turned into temporary shops complete with boxes of vegetables and homeware tools outside and a number of old vintage cars parked along the road. Of course, the temporary shops were dismantled and the cars disappeared, but the paint on the old pub remained (with a few minor tweeks for the landlord).
Not all the cast of the three-part series was seen in Douglas, unfortunately Bill Nighy wasn’t spotted, however, Luke Treadaway and Crystal Clarke were prominent stars on the Main Street.
The mixed reception with the locals was split between those in favour of Douglas gaining popularity (especially the local busineses such as The Cross Keys who got a new face-lift and The Scrib Tree), and those who had to endure the filming going on into the early hours of the morning – luckily it was on a weekend!
The three-part series was originally scheduled to air at Christmas, but due to the sexual assault accusations surrounding Ed Westwick at the time, the release date was pushed back and eventually aired at Easter in April 2018 with Ed Westwick’s scenes redone. Due to insufficient evidence, the case against Westwick was dropped.
Recently, another film crew decended upon Douglas once more, filming a few shorts in the St. Bride’s Graveyard and a small alleyway on Main Street leading to garages. Luckily the film crew had packed up just after night fall, but clearly the area is picking up popularity between the film industry! However, not much was said of this film crew, it’s unsure what the filming was for.
Collection of Photos from the Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence filming. (c) Penny Hooper.
Where to eat and drink?
Douglas has a few places to drink, from the two pubs on the Main Street, The Cross Keys Inn and The Countryside Inn and a cafe which has just been granted a licence to sell wines and spirits; The Scrib Tree up on the Ayr Road.
On Ayr Road, there is also a recently opened Bakery where the old Post Office used to be, up by the entrance to Main Street is a local Indian takeaway and behind the Crossburn Services there is another little cafe; Crossburn Kitchen Cafe & Take-away. There are also a few other shops, including a local newsagents, which sells everything from your newspaper, milk, to cool drinks in the fridges.
Unfortunately the old Douglas Arms Hotel has been closed for many years now, after having been driven to dispare. There had been rumours that it had been bought in the last few years, but so far it has been left untouched. Which is a huge shame, as if this hotel could be brought back up to scratch and with the right marketing, the area could have a huge boost in tourism.
The Cross Keys Inn (known as ‘The Keys’ by the locals) is an old pub on the Main Street. It sells many drinks, from beers, ales, wines and spirits, and has a few TVs which air Sky Sports, At The Races and BT Sports, all can be watched by the old crackling open fire or a round of pool on the pool table near the back.
They occasionally have live music (TheWORDS, Billy Crawford, Midtown Riot, Hooch Hounds, Bracken and Losferwords), which can be very busy with the locals of Douglas and the nearby villages.
Unfortuantely, however, the pub doesn’t sell hot food as there is no kitchen available, but it does offer the odd crisps or pork scratchings!
The Countryside Inn is the other pub in Douglas, having been taken over by new management in the last few years, which not only is a place to drink, but also has a restaurant which can seat up to 50 people. The Inn also has a large function room for parties and weddings.
The Scrib Tree is another nice little place, selling mostly coffees, cakes and small things for breakfast and lunch. However, there have been a number of great reviews for their food. With freshly made soups and speciality sausage rolls and scotch eggs!
I was also able to find one property on lastminute-cottages.com, but it doesn’t seem to be available to book at the moment.
Otherwise, I would recommend staying somewhere outside of Douglas, such as the New Lanark Mill Hotel (another great area to visit in South Lanarkshire) or possibly somewhere in the Borders, such as Biggar.
Douglas is one of those areas that is ideal if you drive. If you don’t drive, and you’re relying on public transport, be prepared for very limited means of travel around the area, especially getting to Douglas!
Unforutnately there is only two bus services that goes to Douglas. There is a Whitelaws bus that goes to Douglas from Lanark, the number 259 (to Glespin) which goes through Rigside, Sandilands (occasionally) and Kirkfieldbank (occasionally), which can be caught from Lanark Bus Station. It takes approximately 40 minutes, depending on what route it takes (whether it goes through Sandilands and Kirkfieldbank or not).
There is aslo a number 9 bus (Stuarts Coaches) which does the same route but runs on weekends and week day evenings when Whitelaws doesn’t run.
Here are a few useful references to websites for more information:
I’ve had the lovely experience living in South Lanarkshire for a while, also recently having to move back to the area, and I figured I’d write about what the best places are in the area.
New Lanark is definately one of my favourites. A UNESCO World Heritage Site because of it’s 18th-century village built up around an old cotton mill and next to the River Clyde. Definitely a lovely place to go if you’re a keen photographer.
If you’re a history buff too, or just generally like a day out, it’s not a bad site, not only can you walk around the area and soak up the buildings and the working old mill, but there is also a number of attractions to see, from the roof garden, Robert Owen’s School for children, Millworker’s House and Robert Owen’s House to name a few.
There is also a cafe and shop on site, the New Lanark Mill Shop. Although the cafe isn’t exactly the most comfortable, as it looks more functional than anything, it still does some half-decent hot foods, cold foods and drinks. During the summer months, they also have New Lanark Ice Cream in the usual flavours, but some not to usual, such as Irn Bru (I’d recommend!)
The shop is also large and has a variety of items being sold, of course there is a huge section dedicated to Wool and Textiles, but they also sell clothes, books, jewelry, home wear and foods!
New Lanark also has it’s own Hotel, the New Lanark Mill Hotel, if you’d like to stay in the area, which also has it’s own bar and restaurant. I’ve had the pleasure of both eating and drinking there, it has a beautiful bar area, although it can get busy during the summer months as it doesn’t have a lot of seating. And I can’t comment on the dining, as I went there for Christmas dinner one year, and unfortunately wasn’t that impressed, hopefully a typical evening meal would be more enjoyable.
But aside from the odd negatives, I still enjoy going back frequently.
(c) Photographs by Penny Hooper. No sharing/copying without permission.
Falls of Clyde
If you visit New Lanark, I’d also recommend the walk along the river to see the Falls of Clyde. Autumn is my favourite time of year to go, as the leaves on the trees are turning all types of beautiful colours and if you go just after a decent rain fall, the falls will be spectacular! Remember to charge up your camera!
It’s a bit of a walk, so it’s not ideal for those who aren’t very able-bodied, and there are a few steps. It can also get a little muddy in places, so I’d take some shoes you don’t mind getting a little dirty and take a decent coat with you just in case the weather turns. It is roughly about an hour and a half to Corra Linn and back.
There are four Linns in total. Corra Linn (Linn is Scottish Gaelic for Waterfall) is the tallest, and I’d recommend seeing this one at least. But you also have Bonnington Linn, Dundaff Linn (closest to New Lanark) and Stonebyres Linn (lower falls).
If you’re adventurous enough, like I am, I’d recommend walking all the way to the bridge/Weir (Bonnington Weir) and walk across the other side and along to the right, following the river. Here you can see Bonnington Linn. You can even walk as far as Corra Castle, although it’s not a huge castle, it is hidden away in the undergrowth (apparently home to some rare bats!)
Alongside the Falls, if you’re an animal and/or nature fan, the Falls of Clyde have a Wildlife Reserve. They have regular evening badger watches, wildlife themed events and even interactive toys and games for children. For more information check out the Scottish Wildlife Trust website: https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/reserve/falls-of-clyde/ They claim to have a Peregrine watch site a third of the way up, but I have a feeling there are no Peregrine Falcons nesting in the area anymore.
(c) Photographs by Penny Hooper. No sharing/copying without permission.
Going the other way, towards the Scottish Borders, is a little town called Biggar (ironically). It’s a medival town built in 1451 and has a wealth of attractions for such a small town. The only downside I can personally comment, is unlike it’s cousins towns and villages in the Scottish Borders, it doesn’t have the beautiful backdrop of hills and mountains around it.
However, there are lots of things to do. From the world famous Victorian puppet theatre, Biggar & Upper Clydesdale Museum and Biggar Gasworks Museum (the only preserved gas works in Scotland).
Biggar is also home to a number of festivals and events, with the famous Biggar Little Festival which is held in October each year, which celebrates arts, dance, crafts, drama and literature. If you stay around until New Year, you may also catch the Hogmanay bonfire and torch-lit procession through the town. It also hosts argricultural shows and vintage car rallies.
Chatelherault Country Park
Going away from The Scottish Borders and past Lanark and New Lanark, closer to Glasgow is a town called Hamilton and just on the outskirts is Chaterherault Country Park.
A 18th century hunting lodge with 500 acres of countryside and woodland. In the summer it’s a great place to go with children, with picnic facilities and a large adventure play ground. Also a great place to go for dog walkers and adventurers alike.
The house and grounds are all free admission, which makes a great cheap day out, with a few of the rooms being open to the public to see, and a small museum inside of what life used to be like there. There is a Cafe inside and a Gift Shop and it is even a great place to hold a Wedding or Private Event.
The grounds offer many trails, the main reason why I go there, as the trails take you through a varity of walks, through woods, across/under bridges (i.e. The Duke’s Bridge) and along a river (River Avon). There is even a small castle ruins called Cadzow Castle (although the last time I saw it, the small castle was trapped within a maze of scaffolding!) and keep your eyes out for the Cadzow Cattle or White Park Cattle a rare breed of ancient horned cattle that live in a field right next to the lodge.
(c) Photographs by Penny Hooper. No sharing/copying without permission.
On the other side of Hamilton, if Cadzow Castle wasn’t enough castle for you, there is 13th Century Bothwell Castle. Another cheap day out, at £3.00 each for an adult, £2.40 concession, £1.80 child (free for Children until 5) or if you’re a Young Scot Card Holder, it’s only £1.00!
There is a fair amount of Bothwell Castle still standing, but what is striking about the Castle is it’s reddish colour and the large tower (or donjon).
The land originally was owned by Walter of Moray who began the construction of the castle in the mid 1200s. But by the late 1200s, was the start of the Wars of Scottish Independence, and Bothwell was unfortunately in the line of fire.
There is a lot of history around Bothwell, more than a simple Blog post can explain, and which I will leave you guys to find out. But one last thing I will note is that Bothwell passed to the Black Douglases, which pops up again later in this blog post, so keep your eye out!
(c) Photographs by Penny Hooper. No sharing/copying without permission.
Heading away from Glasgow and Hamilton, back past New Lanark, but the other side of the motorway from Biggar, is a little village called Douglas.
This is a little village hidden away, not many people know of, mainly because there aren’t many attractions here, yet it is steeped in history!
Douglas is where the Douglas family took their name, originally where the stronghold; Douglas Castle was built, as early as the 13th century. The original castle was destroyed and replaced a number of times, until the last building to stand on the site was a large 18th century mansion. Unfortunately this too was demolished in 1938 due to mining in the area, but a single 17th century corner tower still remains.
Douglas and Douglas Castle was also in the line of fire from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the early 1300s, having been captured by Lord Clifford, but Sir James Douglas, Robert the Bruce’s friend, recaptured his family seat. It was because of this, and the loyalty of the Douglases, Robert the Bruce rewarded the Douglases by creating the title Earl of Douglas.
For any literacy fans, like myself, the Castle itself was also where Walter Scott got his inspiration for his novel “Castle Dangerous”.
Although the remaining Castle tower is 17th century, this isn’t the oldest building in the village. St. Bride’s Church is 14th century and became the mausoleum of the Douglases. The church yard and a part of the old church is free to wander, to gain access inside you need prior arrangement.
There is a long story about Robert the Bruce, his heart and James Douglas, one that will require a seperate blog post, but a long story short, Robert the Bruce wished to go on a crusade, but Robert was unfortunately dying. He entrusted James Douglas to take his heart on a crusade. Douglas died in battle, his bones taken back to St. Bride’s Church and Bruce’s heart was eventually buried at Melrose Abbey (his body was buried in Dunfermline Abbey close to his wife’s).
There is a small museum (The Douglas Heritage Museum) which originally was St Sophia’s Chapel, located next to the church yard, but only opens at the weekends between 14:00 and 17:00 (although I am sure it’s usually during the summer months) or by special arrangement.
Douglas has a small claim to fame in recent years too, having been a site for filming of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence. If you’re a fan of Agatha Christie, or have seen the series, you might recognise “The Cross Keys”, located on the High Street.
There are also lots of hidden places to walk around Douglas, up in the wooded hills around the area.
(c) Photographs by Penny Hooper. No sharing/copying without permission.
A few of you may already know about my history (and why I call myself The Girl Who Whispered), and I won’t bore you with the details now. But the jist is, I was a very shy girl growing up and as a result I was so shy at school that I became very quiet. I was bulled because I was an easy target and to communicate with friends, I would whisper quietly to them to avoid being heard by the bullies. This progressed into secondary school and I became The Girl Who Whispered.
Well, that shy girl has changed so much since then, she’s no longer shy and she certainly doesn’t whisper anymore. In fact, I am now more confident and willing to speak up for myself. I do so by proving to myself that I am not stupid, like my bullies told me, and I use my writing as a way to express myself and important topics.
Yesterday was my very last day as an Open University BSc Psychology student, I handed in my very last assignment (I actually handed it in on the 30th, as I was worried about the internet going down in this isolated village! But technicalities!). I eagerly and a little impatiently await my results.
I hope to gain a 2:1 grade overall, because if I do. I will be heading to my next chapter of my educational path… a Master’s Degree!
I also am progressing with my writing, I have had a few people comment on my published book (It’s My Mistake) saying that they really enjoyed reading it (I’ll add a link to the bottom of the post if you’d like a copy), I have also had comments about my first draft of ‘I fell in Love with a Psychopath’ which is up on WattPad (also at the bottom) and I am currently in the process of sorting a cover letter and 3,000 word synopsis to send my ‘Rose Garden Sanatorium’ series to a literary agent. I have one already picked out and plan to do more research to find others.
Someone said to me today, my luck is turning around.
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without prior permission in writing from the author.
Penny Hooper has asserted her right under Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This book is a work of fiction and, except in the case of historical fact, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
A large swarm of pigeons suddenly flew up in a panic, disturbing the long since settled dust. Their wings echoed as they clapped in the vastness, as if they were applauding the perpetrator that spooked them. Most vanished out through the large hole in the roof, a few others nestled atop of an old door or the other side of the room bobbing along the floor in fear.
They were originally hiding safely in a derelict building. A building that many years ago once held many people; doctors once walked around in white coats, holding patient records while stethoscopes hung from their necks, looking important. Nurses would have rushed around with bed pans and other equally rudimentary items, wearing aprons with large red crosses on them and with their hair pinned back into tight buns. Patients would be seen in straitjackets screaming at the top of their lungs when they were due for more sedatives.
The building now, however, was eerily silent—yet if you listened close enough you would swear you could hear a distance ghostly scream. There were scattered red bricks from the broken walls, broken windows boarded up from the outside and graffiti clinging helplessly to the peeling walls. It was obvious the building was no longer in use.
The pigeons made the boy jump as he walked into the open hall. He had accidentally spooked them while he side stepped past a weed, a bit of nature that had decided to reclaim the building, his foot knocked a loose brick which had caused a loud noise to echo. He stopped to regain his breath and slow his beating heart.
The boy was young, his round slightly tanned Asian face still had a hint of baby fat lingering in his cheeks and his short dark hair complimented his dark brown eyes. He stood holding the zipper on his jacket, close to where his beating heart sat pounding in his chest. His jacket was slightly dirty from months of use and not seeing the inside of a washing machine. It was his favourite and deemed lucky jacket. It was dark red with black trim around the collar and cuffs, contrasting with the blue in his jeans. His jeans were slightly too long for his legs, evident from the fraying at the bottom, where his brand-new Nike trainers would catch them when he walked.
It’s just an old building, he thought to himself, hoping to calm his painfully beating heart as he looked nervously around himself. There are no monsters! he added, sighing deeply.
He remembered what his mother would say to him every night when she would tuck him into bed. That was when he was younger, of course, he was far too big now to be tucked in at night. He was twelve and a half, thank you very much. But his mother’s sweet voice automatically filled his head; ‘Monsters aren’t real, beta,’ she would say. ‘Beta’ being the Hindi word for ‘son’. She would do that occasionally, adding in Hindi words into sentences, she didn’t want him to lose his Indian roots.
After composing himself a little, feeling a little more confident no monsters were going to jump out and eat him, he decided to continue moving onwards and through the vastness of the open hall.
The quicker I get it, the quicker I can get out, he thought to himself as he climbed over a fallen wall, the broken red bricks threatening to pierce the skin on his legs.
He walked as quietly and quickly as possible to the other side of the hall to another corridor, the smell of urine potent in this part of the building, making him a little queasy. As he neared a door separating the hall from the corridor ahead, he also noticed another smell lingering in the air, yet he didn’t think much of it; he had a job to do.
The door, mould threatening to consume it from the bottom upwards, was leaning awkwardly against the corridor wall, only one hinge still attached. He was sure his friend told him he’d have to open a door at the other end of the hall. Maybe it just fell since his friend had been there?
The boy looked down the corridor to another door at the far end. The street light that was originally illuminating his way wasn’t reaching this far, but he could see the last door he needed to go through… he was nearly there. He walked slowly, side-stepping past an old chair left discarded and lonely in the corridor, while feeling proud of himself for getting this far.
But something made him stop. He could hear someone muttering, and it was coming from that room beyond the door. He realised that strange smell was stronger here too. He certainly wasn’t imagining it. He couldn’t place what the smell was, but it reminded him of his Aunt Mysha.
He stood still for a few seconds, in panic. He knew if he ran away now, he’d have his friend telling him he was a wimp for not getting the item he was supposed to get; that damn brick. But if he stayed where he was, and whoever was on the other side of the door was a murderer or something, he’d be dead.
The muttering started to get louder as he stood there, the person was talking louder now, and the boy realised it was a woman’s voice. His panic subsided slightly and was instead replaced with curiosity, he couldn’t help but walk towards the door slowly and quietly. Maybe, if he got close enough, he could hear what she was saying.
The closer he got, the louder the voice got, but not just because he was getting nearer, she was getting louder. Now able to hear her, he started to realise that she was repeating something. Although he could not work out what she was saying, as she was speaking a foreign language. The only word he picked up was ‘mammon’.
What is she doing? he thought. And what language is that?
He crept closer, his curiosity getting the better of him. He was now right by the door, if he just peaked through the gap, he’d be able to see into the room. He could already see shadows dancing across the walls and floor. There was some kind of light and a waft of that strange incense smell too.
The boy shifted his weight slightly on one leg, so that he could peer around the corner of the door, and the room slowly came into focus. There was indeed a woman; she was dressed in all black, she had one hand up in the air waving something burning. She was now shouting, which the boy was grateful for as he was worried she would have heard him by now.
He saw a brick laying in the middle of the room on the floor, it had a very delicate carving of a strange symbol on its side. It was the brick he was tasked to get. It was right next to a strange criss-cross of white lines and circle markings on the floor, directly in front of the woman. He knew there was no chance he was going to be able to go in the room and get it without being noticed. But before he could turn around and leave the building empty-handed, a strange cloud like object started to form before the woman.
Transfixed on the sight, he watched as it swirled and swirled, getting bigger and bigger, until suddenly it somehow imploded and vanished. But it didn’t vanish into thin air, it vanished into a crack, a crack that had formed in thin air. The woman stopped shouting now and the room fell eerily silent. The boy found himself going rigid, not just out of terror, but worried about making a sound.
Suddenly, the crack started to open, ripping like fabric, it was as if something was trying to come through. But he could see the other side, where the room was beyond it, there was no one or nothing there. The crack started to get wider and wider before suddenly a terrifying clawed red hand reached through. The boy’s eyes went wide. He held his breath instinctively as he watched a red hand tear the crack open in one swift movement. He watched in horror as a whole red body attached to the hand climbed through, horns, tail and black leathery wings included.
The boy accidentally let out a squeak of terror and covered his mouth with his hand. But it was too late, the monster and the woman turned around, both staring right at the boy, both with the same horrifying pitch-black eyes. Monsters were real.
I found out this morning that people in the village have been talking about me (I’m not surprised, it’s what they do best; gossip). But what made me laugh was that someone mentioned I’m writing a book. I am. But I am doing so much more than that. And I don’t mean my university studies either. I mean my scheming. I have ideas. Ideas that I want to turn into plans. I am using my time to not only write (and finish my studies) but to come up with a plan for the future. The future isn’t exactly set in stone. But I have an outline of what I want it to look like.
In the past I have spoken out about my ideas, my dreams, some haven’t worked out (most of them actually), either because I changed my mind or because other things have got in the way (like my studies getting in the way of my plan to travel the world for charity), and I’ve had people ridicule me (including family) and try to push me down, but I haven’t let it deter me. It just makes me stronger. I don’t care what people think of me, think of me what you like, but I know who I am and I’m going to keep pushing to be the best version of me as possible.
Do you think Marie Curie would be in history books if she gave up when she was refused entry to Krakow University because she was a woman? She was later given two nobel prizes. She was the first woman to recieve one. The first person and only woman to win twice. The only person to win in two different science fields.
Do you think Galileo Galilei would be in history books if gave up when the church tried to thwart his ideas that Earth wasn’t the centre of the universe and revolves around a sun?
Do you think Thomas Edison would be in history books now if he gave up when he tried thousands of failed attempts to create the first lightbulb?
I’m not saying I will be in history books, or find the cure to cancer or even do anything worthy at all, that’s a bit pompus, but I am saying that people doubt people who may one day be brilliant all the time. That’s what keeps me going, when it feels like everyone is against me. I’m not interested in getting into a history book, I’m not even interested in being formally recognised for my efforts or possible future accomplishments. But I am interested in proving a point. Proving that people shouldn’t look down upon others, don’t push them down because you think it’s funny, to fit into a crowd, or because you think they’re just ‘talk and no action’, those people, with the dreams and the ones we should be supporting.
I am also interested in pushing people to follow their dreams, no matter how silly they feel they are (unless they’re morally wrong, then I have a problem!) and being the best version of themselves.
Yes, I am writing a book. I would love nothing more for it to inspire people. But I’m not building my hopes up that it will. I’ll push really hard for it, but I’m not setting myself up for a fall just in case. I am also studying psychology, and want to push hard to get a PhD one day, contribute in some way in the world of knowledge.
I also still want to do things for charity, it might not be that round the world trip, I did a charity abseil (found my weakness is in lack of support though thus not much fundraising happened, so am finding other avenues to help instead) but I also have the idea to set up a business, a social enterprise to bring people, companies, charities and the community together to make the world a better place.
Feel free to think “She’s all talk and no action”. I might not accomplish everything, but I’m going to still damn well try to do my best! But I don’t care what you say or think about me. I care about helping others. DONT push other people down to make yourself feel better, THEY might be the next Marie Curie or Thomas Edison!