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Don’t Play with Fire (in Scotland)! November 29, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
Don't Play with Fire (in Scotland)!

In prehistoric times early humans – or, depending on which chronologies you follow, man’s ancestors – were not able to create fire but harvested it from natural conflagrations. Even in more recent times – ask any scout who has ever had to start a fire without matches on a camping trip – the creation of […]

Haunted Chessmen November 25, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Haunted Chessmen

  Invisible writes in with the news that the Lewis Chessmen are about to go on exhibition in New York. And Beach took this as a prompt for one of his favourite archaeological stories. The unnamed Lewis farmer in the following account was one Malcolm ‘Sprot’ Macleod In 1831 a high tide on the coast […]

More Caithness Mermaids October 23, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

Mermaid posts. It has been a while… This one should be read together with another nineteenth-century Caithness sighting. It cannot be a coincidence that two letters were sent at the same time relating to the same village. Presumably the publicity given to Miss Mackay in late May for her sighting, encouraged or emboldened William Munro, […]

Royal Claimants October 11, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Royal Claimants

A brief post today as visits from Beachcombing’s parents and his girls’s grandparents are proving a distraction. There is just time though to share with his readers a couple of fabulous photographs that he has dug up. At the head of this page you will find Sigismund Otto Maria Josef Gottfried Henrich Erik Leopold Ferdinand […]

Maggie Walls and Witch Cobblers October 10, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Maggie Walls and Witch Cobblers

A historian is someone who spoils a good story with the truth. Bear this in mind as you read of the final extinction of the celebrated witch Maggie Walls, whose monument stands at Dunning in Perthshire. Maggie, legend tells, was burnt at the stake on this spot in 1657, though there is much doubt as […]

Fairy Gifts October 2, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Fairy Gifts

***This post is dedicated to Invisible*** Beachcombing has sometimes lamented in this place the passing of the fairy faith be that in Essex, the Isle of Man or Yorkshire. How refreshing then to learn that in one corner of Europe the locals still walk in terror of the little folk. Beachcombing refers, of course, to […]

Funny Fairy Stories August 23, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Funny Fairy Stories

Beachcombing wants to start this post with an apology. He has been writing madly on fairies the last few days, hoping to get some ‘real’ work done before term begins and while Mrs B and the kids are away at the sea. The result is that he has not had time to deal with emails […]

The Famous Benbecula Burial of a Mermaid August 18, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Famous Benbecula Burial of a Mermaid

Beach hopes this summer and autumn to offer several obscure mermaid texts from the North Atlantic. However, he could hardly do other than include with the most famous of them all: the Benbecula sighting of c. 1830. He also hopes to shed some more light on this sighting with an obscure second source in September. […]

Mermaid Sighting in Caithness July 30, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Mermaid Sighting in Caithness

Beachcombing is not, to his regret, a mermaid expert: despite occasional forays into Triton’s territory in previous posts. But he suspects that the following is not a particularly well-known mermaid source. It dates to 1809 and was sent by one Ms Mackay, the daughter of a minister no less, and was sent to the Countess […]

The Kingdom of Yetholm July 13, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Kingdom of Yetholm

Gypsy history provides a rich field for bizarrists: after all, here is a people from the Indian subcontinent who hiked half way across Eurasia for reasons that are completely mysterious to modern historians causing confusion and marvel wherever they went. Nevertheless, even in such a rich field Beachcombing has an easy favourite: the Gypsy Kingdom […]

St Andrew and Scythia June 13, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
St Andrew and Scythia

Patron saints have a strange habit of not coming from the countries that they are supposed to represent. England’s Saint George was Syrian, St Patrick was born not in Ireland but in Britain, Portugal’s patron saint lived all his life in northern Italy… Usually there is a logical enough explanation. St George, for instance, was […]

Scotland’s Sandy Pompeii May 16, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Scotland's Sandy Pompeii

The Barony of Culbin was, in the early modern period, one of the richest agricultural lands in north-western Scotland. Up to sixteen farms worked this coastal territory of between three and four thousand acres under the rule of the Kinnairds. In the late seventeenth century, the rental of the estate was 2,720 Scots pounds – […]

An Early Sighting of the Loch Ness Monster? April 27, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
An Early Sighting of the Loch Ness Monster?

Medieval saints were famous for their encounters with dangerous animals. In their Lives we read of confrontations with wolves, bears, stags and snakes; but also of meetings with more exotic creatures. Beachcombing thinks of St George facing down a dragon or St Brendan and his monks celebrating communion on the back of an enormous sea […]

Cellini’s Canon April 20, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Cellini's Canon

Beachcombing has been thinking in the last hour about objects that are far travelled – for example the Indian buddhas that made it to Viking Scandinavia or, say, the Viking coin that (allegedly) ended up in pre-Columbian Maine. And it was while musing on these far-flung things that Cellini’s canon came to mind. Now admittedly […]

Surviving Hanging June 20, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Surviving Hanging

                  Beachcombing has a file on ‘failed executions’: men and women who were sent to meet their maker but whom, thanks to chance, and, more often than not, the stupidity of their executioners, lived to die another day. Of course, survival rates were always small but the […]

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