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  • Whipping Boy: Origins of a Royal Institution July 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Uncategorized
    Whipping Boy: Origins of a Royal Institution

    The whipping boy needs little introduction. He was the child, brought up with a prince or with a young king, and punished on his behalf, when the prince or king was naughty: crucially the royal and his proxy were friends so any pain was vicariously felt. And why not just hit the royal in question? […]

    The Violent Deaths of Scottish Kings February 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Violent Deaths of Scottish Kings

    Readers may remember that Beach has recently been messing about with royal statistics. The exercise is a simple one. If you happen to be born into a royal dynasty between the year 1000 and 1700 and have the great misfortune to become king or queen what are the chances that you will die by violence? […]

    Two Hebridean Losers Harrow Hell c. 1600 February 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Two Hebridean Losers Harrow Hell c. 1600

    Trip away today so a brief post about a rather unusual denouement to a life, Scottish Highland style. Allan was a villainous magician. In fact, we have come across him in the past roasting cats. When Allan was dying on his home island of Mull (in the 1600s though we are in a legendary past […]

    Last of the British? September 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Last of the British?

    There are sixty million Britons, yet if you go house to house through England, Wales, Scotland and the six counties you will find that relatively few people actually define themselves in this way. If a family from Glasgow, Cardiff or Sheffield turn up in a French hotel they will probably write (under nationality) respectively: ‘Scottish’, […]

    Highland Cat Killing and Cat Demons September 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Highland Cat Killing and Cat Demons

    There is a long tradition of cats being either pampered by humans or being killed in various ghastly ways. As noted before on this blog – the cat throwing of the Lowlands, for example – cat cruelty was, in the early modern period, institutionalized. Here is one horrific example from the Hebrides. Cat lovers might want […]

    Watch Out for the Fairies Among Us! August 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Watch Out for the Fairies Among Us!

    In the long struggle to get a handle on fairies there have been claims that ‘the good people’ were simply a human race, kept apart from the rest of us, in the bogs and the mountains of the west and north of Europe: Buchan, Jenner, MacRitchie and many, many others made this argument and it […]

    Last Zombie Burial in Western Europe? July 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Last Zombie Burial in Western Europe?

    At least twice a year there are news stories about zombie-proof burials. Archaeologists dig up a body that has been given special treatment by gravediggers: we have enjoyed some of these stories at StrangeHistory in the past including a particularly haunting one from Ireland. Sometimes corpses are decapitated and the head placed between the legs; sometimes […]

    Were Ancient or Modern Soldiers More Likely to Die? June 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Were Ancient or Modern Soldiers More Likely to Die?

    Soldier, forget principle, forget country, forget pride, forget hate: your one aim is to survive, with or without your legs. Now ask yourself this: given that you want, at all costs, to live would you prefer to fight in WW2 battle or a battle in the Punic wars in antiquity? Perhaps the first thing to […]

    A Pre-Christian Custom in Eighteenth-Century Scotland? April 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Pre-Christian Custom in Eighteenth-Century Scotland?

    A recent article on Chris’  Haunted Ohio Books quoted an eighteenth-century source for an unusual form of Scottish divination: the whole passage (from Martin Martin, obit 1718) is well worth reading, as is Chris’ thoughts on the same. But one bit particularly stood out: it relates to the Hebrides. The second way of consulting the […]

    Nessie as Biker and the Exorcism of the Loch April 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Nessie as Biker and the Exorcism of the Loch

    Ted Holiday was a Fortean researcher who died in 1979 and who was particularly associated with research into Nessie. His intellectual development (or regression from some perspectives) saw him change from: a believer in a physical Nessie (albeit with the mystery creature starring as a large slug rather than a dinosaur); to believing, instead, in […]

    Migrating Birds and the Edge of the World April 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Prehistoric
    Migrating Birds and the Edge of the World

    Year in year out birds follow migratory routes from north to south and from south to north. These travelling birds have long intrigued humans who have looked amazed as waves upon waves of birds fly to destinations unknown. These birds have entered human legend: the storks going to Africa to fight the pygmies, the wild […]

    Magic Bathing in the Far North February 9, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Magic Bathing in the Far North

    This was a story that came up in the search for nineteenth-century superstitions relating to Loch Ness. We are c. 1870. The lake in question is apparently Loch mo Naire (which might be the Serpent’s Lake or the Lake of Shame) aka Lochmanur just on the northern tip of Scotland. Dipping in the loch for […]

    Did You Hear the One About Nessie, the Sceptic and the Water Horse? February 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Did You Hear the One About Nessie, the Sceptic and the Water Horse?

    Two of the most interesting Christmas books this year were Roland Watson’s The Water Horses of Loch Ness and Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero’s Abominable Science! Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids. As is evident from the titles these books take opposite sides of the crypto argument: in fact, the authors […]

    The Dragon of Dornoch? January 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Dragon of Dornoch?

    Dragons… It has been so long. The last dragon story of kinds was the serpent crown in the summer of 2012 and the last proper dragon tale was back in spring of 2012, a seventeenth-century Essex wyrm. Here, instead, is a fascinating but potentially dodgy source for a twelfth- or thirteenth-century dragon: a letter sent […]

    A Scottish Earthquake Remembered? December 29, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Scottish Earthquake Remembered?

    David Murray Rose was a late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century historian and, a far nicer word, an antiquarian. This comes from a letter he wrote in 1930 to the Inverness Courier and relates to an obsession of this blog: the degree to which information can be transmitted orally through time. First, the legend. Many years […]

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