Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Stirling: a Day Out at the Bridge of Allan Fireworks

Welcome to my wee photoblog on Glasgow, where we feature the  joys and unjoys of walking and cycling through a fascinating, beautiful and often badly run city. For the blog's origin and a  list of all posts see the  'Introduction' post  -


Today is the fifth of November, 2011 and we are turning our backs on Glasgow for a change and are off out on the Stirling train to see the fireworks display at Bridge of Allan.

Late winter sun

Croy station catching the sun

Outside of Stirling station we find the Scottish Connection. Can't say I have many fond memories of Stirling. Last time I was here, about five years ago,  the 'Scottish Connection' was made memorable by groups of Hibs fans here for a 'friendly' with Stirling Albion.  Hard to know which was sadder: the 30-year-old  casuals leering at young mothers or the drunk woman sitting in the street singing an obscene song about Wallace Mercer.

What do you buy a Scotsman with a ladder in his tights?

The fine Forthside Bridge. See http://www.gifford.uk.com/sectors-and-projects/bridges/project/forthside-pedestrian-footbridge-stirling/
NB: Mr Mel Gibson, if you are reading this and want to digitally put a bridge into your Braveheart version of the Battle of Stirling  Bridge, please note this bridge has nothing to do with the battle.

Looking back at the station

The Wee Photo Shop

Looking up

Looking down

We've gone into Corn Exchange Rd; looking back at Spittal St

The fine library

We are heading up under the ancient town wall . .

. . .walking up the Back Walk. See


From the Stirling site: 'The Back Walk runs along the 16th century Town Walls with glimpses into Old Town gardens and views over King’s Park to the distant mountains. Look out for the purple plaques telling the story of individual buildings. The walk meanders through the delightful wooded slopes at the back of the Castle Rock to end at the Esplanade.'

We're going to leave the Back Walk and cut off to the right. . .

. . . to get to St John St. . .

. . . and walk up past the Old Town Jail

We're heading for the Old Town Cemetery.  See http://www.oldtowncemetery.co.uk

According to the website, the cemetery is 'a didactic landscape which celebrates the establishment of Presbyterianism in Scotland. This is a unique landscape with no other cemetery in Britain laid out to convey this message. The site is of outstanding Cultural, Scenic, Historical and Architectural value as well as containing outstanding examples of Works of Art.'

The Martyrs Monument, a delicate sculpture commemorating a barbaric incident. See http://www.oldtowncemetery.co.uk/history/martyrs.html

'From the website: 'The three figures represent an angel keeping watch over two young girls, one of whom is reading the Bible to the other. The reader is Margaret Wilson, the listener is her younger sister Agnes. Such is the logic of legend that they are known locally as the ‘Mary Martyrs’. The two girls belonged to Wigtonshire, the daughters of Gilbert Wilson, a committed Episcopalian. Despite this, the sisters were followers of the Covenanters, an extreme Presbyterian group strongly opposed to the Anglican reforms of Charles II. Margaret and Agnes, aged 18 and 13 respectively, were arrested for their beliefs and along with Margaret McLauchlan, an elderly neighbour, tried for and found guilty of high treason. All three were sentenced to death by drowning. Agnes’s father was able to buy her freedom but despite a temporary reprieve the others were led to a point below high water mark on the treacherous Solway Firth, tied to stakes, and left to drown in the incoming tide. Margaret McLauchlan, by then in her late 60s, had no resistance to the powerful current and soon succumbed to its force. Margaret Wilson was offered her freedom, but refused to relinquish her convictions and died for her faith on May 11th 1685.'

. . . those days became known as 'The Killing Time' -



a period c. 1680-88 during which the Episcopalians persecuted the Presbyterians.  Scotland had been riven since the 'Wars of the The Three Kingdoms'; see


c. 1639-51, a period of much bloodshed in Scotland and of many now forgotten atrocities. There is no monument - for example - in Linlithgow just 16 miles away,   to the 80 or so Irish women and children thrown into the river Avon after Philliphaugh in 1645.

The Massacre of Glencoe happened in  1692 just seven years after the Wigtown atrocity - some of those who mourned the Wigtown martyrs likely celebrated the Glencoe Massacre

The graves below hold many forgotten tales

Stirling Castle ahead

The Forth Valley Plain - a landscape traversed by many invaders since before Roman times. Stirling has been described as the 'buckle' of Scotland

We wonder if the chap down there has seen the 'Blink' episode of Dr Who. . .

Time to head back

The atmosphere here is more M R James than Nigel Tranter

For the Holy Rude church see


From the website: 'Begun in the early 15th century and still with its original oak roof beams, this is one of Scotland's finest medieval parish churches. The Reformation was far more extreme in Scotland, the destruction of medieval buildings more thorough. The Calvinists not only rejected ornaments in places of worship, but the churches themselves. The Holy Rude is one of the few medieval parish churches to escaped destruction, losing its ornamentation, but the basic fabric of the church survived intact.'

The magnificent Holy Rude front

Portal on left for the adventurous

We'll cut back over to the Back Way

The Albert Halls

Heading back over to the library

I like the idea of making a point about the photocopier only being black and white - this is Calvin country

Chairs for Rent?

It's a hairdressers - i think the point is that other hairdressers can use the seats for a fee. I think.

Out on the main drag waiting for a Bridge of Allan bus

When the bus comes it is packed with students and jocund locals, one or two of the latter off their heads on something

And 20 or so minutes later, here we are at the fireworks display

A warning against sparklers. The fireworks display is organised by Stirling Round Table. see


And they organise it very well. Much of Scotland at the local level - from Bute to the Mearns, from Melrose to Inverness, from Larkhall to Peterhead- is run by such small groups of men - often rotarians, masons, in some parts maybe Knights of St Columba, or Orangemen - men who may join  different political parties but will meet at the same golf clubs,  the same charity events - they  make up interlocking circles  of (almost exclusively male) self interest that like to keep the wheels turning in the right direction for themselves.  As with elsewhere in the world, small Scottish towns can have very fat cats.

There is a myth in Scotland that we are a more democratic and open society than 'elitist' England. I don't buy it.We are not necessarily more - shall we say 'self-serving' rather than corrupt -  at the local or national level than any other country. But we certainly don't like talking about it.

Looks like a map of Scotland with Orkney and Shetland falling off (thanks Fiona)

Looks more like a hooded man now - Gandalf the Ablaze

Or a fire demon -

Nature persuades there are pure Dæmons;

The burgeons, even of ill matter, are profitable and good,

But these things I revolve in the recluse Temples of my mind,

Extending the like fire sparklingly into the spacious Air

Or fire unfigured, a voice issuing forth.

Or fire abundant, whizzing and winding about the Earth,
But also to see a Horse more glittering than Light.

Or a Boy on [thy] shoulders riding on a Horse,

Fiery or adorned with Gold, or devested,

Or shooting and standing on [thy] shoulders.

If thou speak often to me, thou shalt see absolutely that which is spoken:

For then neither appears the Coelestial concave Bulk,

Nor do the Stars shine; the Light of the Moon is cover'd,

The Earth stands not still, but all things appear Thunder.

- From THE ORACLES Of ZOROASTER Collected by Franciscus Patricius.

All things appear Thunder

Back at Stirling station

Queen St on time - great

Feel free to drop me an email with suggestions, offers of £20 notes etc. The address is damnyouebay@gmail.com

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Reviews of Scotland: 1000 Things You Need to Know


'I love it - I'm giving this copy to a friend and buying another for myself' - Darren Adam, Presenter, Radio Forth, 17 November 2008

‘It’s a great wee book’ – Stephen Jardine, introducing Edwin Moore on Scottish Television’s Five-Thirty Show

'A fantastic book' - Scott Wilson , talk 107 Breakfast Show host

'A great read' - Dougie Jackson, Drivetime host, Smooth Radio 105.2


'Despite its apparently humorous format, this is a serious and extensive dictionary on all things Scottish; from Jean Redpath to Lorne sausage, from Flodden to the Corries. Is particularly good on history and minutiae. There's a useful chapter on famous Scottish legal cases and another on literature. Excellent' - Royal Scottish Legion, Feb 2009

'This is the ultimate Scottish reference book' - Waterstones Christmas catalogue, 2008

'This is a fascinating look at the history of Scotland: its languages, politics and great achievements, from its origins in the ancient landmass of Laurentia 400 million years ago, to devolution and Billy Connolly. Edwin Moore has collected a thousand important facts about this beautiful country, covering Scottish history and culture, correcting misconceptions, and examining the mysteries of haggis and bagpipes with insight, warmth and impressive attention to detail' - The Good Book Guide, November 2008

'This is a recipe for revealing how horribly ill informed you are about your country. Although, if you are skillful, you can nod sagely as you read some new fact and mutter 'Ah, yes!' as if recalling the information from your excellent schooling. Where else will you find a real recipe for making haggis from scratch side by side with a potted biography of David Hume; a section of the Declaration of Arbroath and the curiously touching fact that Lulu was only 15 when she had a hit with 'Shout'? The whole thing is of course, silly - but oh so addictive.' - Matthew Perren, i-on Glasgow, December 2008

'. . . well crafted and witty' - Bill Howatson, Aberdeen Press and Journal, 18 October 2008

‘While most of Edwin’s entries are entertaining and scholarly – he writes like a Scottish Bill Bryson – it is when he takes an interest in the backwaters of history, the details lost down the back of the sofa, that he is at his best’ – Jack McKeown, The Courier, 27 October 2008

'History, it is said, is written by the victors. Trivia, meanwhile, is written by the guys with the smeared spectacles and the breathable rainwear. The first discipline is linear and causal; to quote from Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys, history is “just one f****** thing after another”. Things look different, though, when viewed through the prism of trivia. The past is reduced to one big coleslaw of fascinating facts that in their randomness tell a more mixed-up tale entirely.
The first approach leads to big, frowning books by the likes of Tom Devine and Michael Fry. The latter results in small, cheerful books such as Scotland: 1,000 Things You Need to Know, Edwin Moore’s valiant attempt to navigate the more trivial contours of enlightenment and clearances, crown and parliament, dirt and deity.
Moore proceeds from a sincere and controversial first principle: Scotland is really a rather pleasant and interesting place. . .As a work of popular scholarship, though, it’s in a different league to the Scottish novelty titles that get stocked next to the bookstore tills as potential impulse purchases, those little handbooks of parliamo Caledonia and regional braggadocio, such as Weegies vs Edinbuggers.' - Allan Brown The Sunday Times, 21 September 2008

'In his book, Scotland: 1000 Things You Need to Know, Edwin celebrates all that sets us Scots as a race apart - our language, law, flora, food, and of course, our people. From our poets, architects and inventors, to our artists, entertainers and fighters. But he doesn't shy away from the more unpleasant aspects of our history. . .' - Robert Wight, Sunday Post, 14 September 2008

‘We think we know all about William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and the Union of the Crowms. However, according to Edwin Moore, author of , Scotland: 1000 Things You Need to Know, we’re still in the dark about many aspects of our history and culture. . . The Big Issue looks at 20 of the most astonishing examples of secret Scotland.’ – The Big Issue, 18-24 September 2008

'What's the connection between Homer Simpson and Larbert, and why are generations of lawyers grateful to a Paisley snail? Need to know more? Author Edwin Moore has gathered 1000 facts like these about Scotland in a quirky new book. Brian Swanson selects a few favourites. . .' - Scottish Daily Express, 13 September 2008

'The palm for Christmas-stocking books seems to have passed recently to popular science, with best selling titles every year such as Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze? This year there has been a gallant attempt at a historical fight back. Scotland: 1,000 Things You Need to Know(Atlantic Books, £12.99) asks (and answers) such post-turkey questions as ‘How many kings of Scotland died in their beds?’, ‘Who on earth decided that the Declaration of Arbroath was the cornerstone of modern democracy?’ or ‘Why is iron brew spelled Irn-Bru?’ Mark Mazower,History Today; The Best of History in 2008, December 2008

'A real treat for the serendipitous Scotophile' - Reginald Hill


www.Booksfromscotland.com (on the new paperback edition)
Book of the Month, May 2010
'Whether it's Scottish lochs or Enlightenment philosophers, the facts of the devolution referendums or the mysteries of Irn-Bru, myths will be debunked and truths revealed in this light-hearted but rigorous overview of Scottish history and culture.'

Also available for download on Amazon's e-book store is my 100 Brief Encounters (only £3.06!)


Here are some reviews of the print edition (published by  Chambers in 2007) -

Edwin Moore's quirky collection of a hundred encounters between (mostly) important historical figures is a gem of a book. Where else could you get concise enlightening accounts of Henry VIII wrestling with Francis I, Geronimo surrendering to General Miles, Ernest Hemingway presenting Fidle Castro with a fishing trophy or (as seen on the books cover) a baby faced Bill Clinton shaking hands with John F Kennedy. A marvelous 'little window on human history. ' - Dominic Kennerk, Waterstone's Product Planning and Promotions Co-ordinator (From the Waterstone's 'We Recommend' list for 2008)

Witty, light and packed with information -- The Sunday Herald

In 1936, in the wake of winning a clutch of gold medals at the Berlin Olympics, the great athlete Jesse Owens was snubbed by an imperious leader, on racial grounds. Popular belief would have it that the leader was Hitler, who is said to have stormed off, furious to see a black man beating European athletes. In fact the man in question was President Roosevelt, who worried that paying attention to Owens' triumphs might be a vote loser. Although Owens and the German Chancellor never talked, Owens claimed that Hitler greeted him with an enthusiastic wave. Such near-misses, shakings of hands and ships-in-the-night meetings are the subject of Brief Encounters – Meetings between mostly remarkable people, a likeable new book by Edwin Moore (Chambers £7.99). Flicking through the index, you will find some expected encounters (Dante stares at Beatrice, Corday stabs Marat, The Beatles strum along to a Charlie Rich record round at Elvis's house), and the book's intriguing and memorable cover shows a baby-faced Bill Clinton manfully gripping the hand of JFK. But Moore has navigated past some of the more obvious collisions, collusions and confrontations of history (there is no Dr Livingstone, I presume) and much of the book's pleasure derives from lesser known incidents.

Inevitably, some of the accounts of earlier meetings are somewhat sketchy but Moore offers some piquant speculation, laced with humour (the book is tagged Reference / Humour, rather than History and this feels right, but the book, though wry and opinionated, never stoops to wackiness). I was intrigued to discover that, though Attila the Hun did die on his wedding night, it was not in drunken and lecherous debauchery, as his enemies maintained, but supposedly because he was generally a simple and clean-living man who had a few too many which brought on a particularly bad nosebleed.

Moore's book is full of such tales – it would be wrong of me to steal the tastiest morsels of his research and pepper this article with them, but look out for a subsidiary reason for the Gunpowder Plot (too many dour and powerful Scots in Parliament); a great meeting of great beards, as Castro wins the Hemingway prize for sea-fishing; Dali bringing a skeptical Freud round to the art of the surrealists; Buffalo Bill's wife claiming an aged Queen Victoria had propositioned him; Oscar Wilde getting a kiss from Walt Whitman, while Walter Scott was more taken with Burns's charismatic eyes. This is an enjoyable and vigorous rattle through some f


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