Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Ruthwell church and the Ruthwell Cross

I spent six years of my childhood living in the village of Clarencefield in the parish of Ruthwell. In that time I was never in the parish church, which is in the countryside rather than in either of the parish's villages (the other being Ruthwell). Due to almost everyone being more interested in it's famous cross, it's quite difficult to find out very much about the church itself. There was a medieval church here and one place on the net suggests that this is the oldest building in the South of Scotland which still operates as a church (I can't back this statement up I'm afraid). It would in those days have been a long thin building. In 1687 a burial aisle was added to the south making the building into a T shape. We'll come to the rounded bit you see at the back there just shortly.

Inside they've painted the walls in rather relaxing pastel shades.

The church is dominated by the Anglian cross (or Anglo-Saxon, take your pick) known as the Ruthwell cross. It dates from around 700AD when the area was under the control of the Northumbrian kingdom and would originally have stood outside and been used as a preaching cross - the priest would have used the carvings as a picture book when trying to convert the locals.

By the 1640 the cross was inside the church. It probably had been for centuries by then. It was in that year that the General Assembly of the Church decreed that there would be no more crosses or icons in their churches. The minister of the parish at that time, one Gavin Young, wasn't letting his cross be demolished and being about as far as possible away from Aberdeen, where the assembly were sitting then, managed to hold on to the cross for a further two years before he finally buried it in the church floor, then made of clay, rather than demolishing it as instructed. At the operation the cross was broken into several pieces. It can't have been very deeply buried as several trips out to the church to look at it in the floor are recorded in the 18th century.  Due to work in the church and a new floor being laid, the cross was dug up in the late 18th century and much of it seems to have been lost - probably around then.

From 1799 until 1843 the minister in Ruthwell was Dr Henry Duncan. He is most famous for starting the first savings bank in the country (perhaps the World). When I was at school in Clarencefield, we had a big celebration in 1974 to celebrate the bicentenary of his birth, but that is a tale for another day. It was Dr Duncan who gathered together all the bits of the cross that he could find - some of them had become really rather well hidden, in fact one bit turned up while digging a grave. He had a local stonemason remake the missing parts, the design came from his own mind rather than any real idea what they would have been, and had the cross erected in the grounds of the manse next door. The church were at that time still a little sore about the idea of crosses in churches. This photo remains of the cross in the manse grounds. The cross was included in The Ancient Monuments Protection Act of 1882, and the rounded apse you can see on the side of the church in the first picture of this blog was built to house it. It was moved in in 1887 but unfortunately was to tall to fit in so a pit had to be dug in the floor to accommodate it.

A couple of years ago when I visited, I purchased this postcard which explains what the carvings on the cross represent.

On the front and back faces of the cross, the carvings are surrounded by Latin inscriptions which would have been for the benefit of the priest using the cross (nobody else at that time would have been able to read it.)

The significance of the archer is unexplained.

Most of the original cross bar is missing, so what you see here is what was though up by Dr Duncan and his mason. Looks a pretty good match to me.

Similarly the sun here is part of the new crossbar but the eagle on top of it is original.

The sides of the cross are decorated with birds and other beasts eating fruit.

Around the edges of the sides are carve Anglo-Saxon runes . It seems to be a matter of debate as to whether these were carved at the same time as the rest of the cross or later, perhaps as late as the 10th century. They have been translated and found to be excerpts from one of the oldest poems in English (very old English indeed), The Dream of the Rood.

This is the only known fragment of the crossbar.

In a cabinet in the corner of the church is this small statue of Dr Duncan.

There are two carved chairs on either side of the cross. This one has one of the daftest faces you're likely to see on a chair anywhere, certainly in a church.

A rather grand chair on the other side.

The main panel has a quite delightful merhorse on it (with wings! - that beast has it all going for him)

It's got mighty scary arms though.

This memorial window is one of a number of stained glass windows in the church. You can see the rest here.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Dumfries Aviation Museum Open Day

The Bawbee folk club in Dumfries laid on a one day extravaganza with a festival day last Saturday. I turned up on Sunday! As it turned out my trip to Dumfries wasn't wasted as the Dumfries Aviation Museum was having an open day on the Sunday, so I went to that. The museum is centred around the control tower of the old World War II airfield.

Their best looking aeroplane is this English Electric Lightning F53. This one was owned by the Saudi airforce from 1968 till 1984, after this it spent a few years mounted on a plinth outside Ferranti's building at the South Gyle in Edinburgh (here it is). She has been repainted in the colours of the RAF 111 squadron.

This curious beast with one propelor in front of the other is Fairey Gannet AEW.3. It flew from 1960 til 1978 (here's a picture of the very same aircraft off the ground). It served some of it time on board the HMS Ark Royal.

This is a Hawker Hunter F4. It was used as an instuctional aircraft.

This is a Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, which was used by the US air force as a jet training aircraft.This particular one belonged to the Belgium air force.

SAAB are  known over here for making motor cars - their uncompromising approach to quality has recently led to their bankruptcy. Being the only car manufacturer also to make jet aeroplanes, they certainly took advantage of it in some of their adverts (here's one from the 80s). This one belonged to the Swedish air force (only right I suppose since SAAB are Swedish) and might be the pointiest aeroplane I've seen.

Here we are up in the control tower. In a time of national crisis these chaps have left their positions in garment display to fill some vital roles in air traffic control. Blimey it was hot up there - I was glad to get out. I should return on a cooler day to look at the displays that are in that building.

As befits any British office situation, there were plenty teacups in evidence.

This model of a biplane (I saw no information for it) was flying over a selection aeroplane engines. It reminded me of a visit to Fort Perch Rock at New Brighton a few years ago, where, amongst other exhibitions, a large amount of air crash wreckage was displayed. It was more obvious in New Brighton, but also applied to most of the engines here in Dumfries, that they are on display as a direct result of somebody being killed (usually while training for, or actually, trying to kill somebody else).

There was a good deal of military vehicles and equipment on display out side the ground. I'm afraid I found it all a bit gratuitous.

Being a mainly country area , you'll often get a display of vintage tractors at any event in Dumfries and Galloway. I don't know how old this Fordson (tractors made by Ford from 1917 till 1964) is, but the roof is similar to the sort you often see on ald traction engines and gives it some added vintage appeal.

Ferguson made tractors from 1934 till 1953. They didn't dissappear but merged with the Massey Harris company in the '50s and still exist as Massey Ferguson. These little grey Fergies seem to appear often in vintage tractor events. Somewhat more glamourously the company's founder Harry Ferguson was involved in building racing cars and his P99 was driven by Stirling Moss  who would have won the 1961 British Grand Prix in one had it not been for a rule enfringement. Here's Sir Stirling having a better day, this time in a Lotus, the same year in Monte Carlo. There is a little film of a P99 here. Maybe I'm deviating a bit here but, while look for film, I found this little bit of Stirling Moss getting his own car cleaned in 1961 - now if Tesco's carwash gave that service, I'd be round there with my E-type right away.

This rather snazzy red number is a Bristol motor car. I don't know how old this one is (one of these perhaps?) but I do know that Bristol started making cars after the war to take up the manufacturing slack in it's aeroplane company. SAAB it seems are not the only plane manufacturer to make cars (although on a slightly smaller scale - Bristol have made around 20 cars a year in recent years). Alas, SAAB are also not the only ones to have problems with bankruptcy - I believe somebody has since bought Bristol. 

 A little further back in time, 1914 to be exact this Arrol Johnston is only a mile or so away from where it was made nearly a century earlier. When Arrol Johnston opened it's car factory (now the Gates rubber factory) at Heathhall in Dumfries in 1913, it was already a fair way into it's history since their first car was made in 1895.

If you think that looks old fashioned, it had come a long way since their  1895 car. This picture was stolen from Glasgow University's site which has a pile of interesting information on Mr Johnston and the car.

 My little red motor is a bit more up to date than that, still it might benefit from a bigger engine - do you think I could get this fitted?

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Midyear misfits

During my last trip offshore I was watching the weather forecast and thinking I was missing the Summer. Evidence from the last couple of years suggests that the British Summer can easily be missed in a two week absence. But, to my relief, it was still Summer when I got back, though not spectacularly hot and even the occasional day of rain which saves my father a little time garden watering. During my current time at work it seems to be the same, everyone on the mainland is being roasted but this time I feel more confident there may be some left for me when I get back later in the week. Summer's on catch up.

Here's a pleasant and shadyish corner.

Kirkcudbright has a  Jazz Festival every June, this year was the 16th one. Can't say I'm big on Jazz and we spent the Friday night playing our usual session of folk and mixed acoustic music in the monthly session at Masonic Arms (we also have a monthly session in the Gordon House Hotel as well as other sessions and open mics - a week without tunes is a rare thing indeed). On the Sunday though, I went to see Rose Room playing in the Gordon House on some reliable recommendation. They play in the Stephane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt style and are quite stonking - here's a little that appears on Youtube. They have a Myspace channel which I can't call up offshore and may have a website that I can't find - you'll have to look it up yourself.  Interesting, to this guitarist at least, is the double bass player - he's Jimmy Moon, who's Scotland's best known guitar maker.

Somewhere between looking at the Angel of the North and dropping in on Hardraw, I visited Durham Cathedral. The current building dates back to Norman times - construction began in 1093 though with the usual alterations over the centuries. There was a church on this spot to house the Shrine of St.Cuthbert, and his remains are still here, with the head of St Oswald tucked into the same box. It has been mentioned here, many times I think, that it is Cuthbert that Kirkcudbright is named after and  he is on the town crest holding on to the hear of Oswald. I thought considering all the mentions, it was only polite to pop in and see him. For those collecting holy relics, Durham Cathedral not only has one and a bit saints at one end of the church but you can tick the Venerable Bede of the list as he is buried at the other end of the church.

The entrance to the cathedral.

This tremendous door knocker is a sanctuary ring. In the middle ages, anyone who had committed a serious crime could come to the North door of the cathedral where they would be given 37 days sanctuary, after which they had to choose between trial or voluntary exile. The original is from 1170 - 1180 AD and is in a box somewhere - this is a 1979 replica (humph!)

There's plenty to see inside but there are no photographs allowed - it's probably saving you another deluge of stained glass (it's got is fair share). They did allow photographs in the cloisters of the attached abbey.

The wooden roof over the cloisters looks ancient - the link from Google to the cathedral website page seems broken but the extract suggest it is medieval and restored in the mid 19th century.

One of the bosses in the roof.

I found my way down to the Market Place. That's St. Nicolas' church at the bottom of the picture.

This is Charles William Vane Stewart who was the 3rd marquis of Londonderry

 I hope Neptune has an eye on what he's doing with that thing - I can see the trident and toes and the impending accident just seems to leap out at me.

The gargoyles and carving on St. Nicolas' church look a good deal older than you'd expect on a church built in 1858. Perhaps they were saves from the previous church - there's been one here since the 12th century.

 A path along the River Wear at Durham. All that green is a relief after a dreary winter.

I liked this park bench along the path which has snakes at either end.

I paid a very brief visit to the museum when I was in Edinburgh last - it was nearly closing time. I thought this fellow was trying to lick my face but he turned out to be stuffed. His neighbour could do to eat a little more.

The standards of taxidermy here is very high. The exhibit label tells me that barn owls always close their eyes when sweeping down on their prey to avoid getting twigs and stems stuck in them.

A pair of blue tits, a common sight in this country, but will they sit still for a photograph?! Certainly not but the museum has solved the problem.

The Yorkshire Dales museum I visited a couple of blogs ago is situated in the town of Hawes. They had their bunting out for me.

I looks as if the local council has been cutting back rather in the sculpture budget.

What do you think, sheep? sheepdog? Babe the pig???

 The River Ure runs through the town.

This iron bird sits on a set of railway buffers outside the museum. The sculptor, Michael Kusz, has named it, between a rook and a hard place.

I spotted this piece of knitted graffiti just outside the parish church in Kirkcudbright. Is this example of the yarn bombing the first of many to hit the town? - I hope so.