Monday, September 23, 2013

First Week of School

My first week of school in Edinburgh is complete! Class went smoothly and was relatively interesting for being introductory and syllabus oriented. 

                                                                (First day of school)


In the coming week tutorials will begin and add a discussion based element to my courses. I've attempted to immerse myself in the culture with my studies: Modern Scottish History, Celtic Civilisation (yes, they spell it with an S here), and Comparing Scottish Devolution. I lucked out with all of my course lectures being within a twelve-minute walk of my accommodation; still it's no North Quad to Kravis. It seems walking takes up a good portion of my day, whether I’m going to class, the grocery store, or anywhere else in the city. I've yet to brave the bus system as I haven't had the need. Plus, I enjoy a good walk.

While walking back from an IFSA-Butler (study abroad program) reunion dinner my friends and I decided to stop in on the Edinburgh University Hillwalking Club info session. The Hillwalking Club organizes day and weekend hiking trips to the beautiful and rugged Highlands of Scotland, providing transportation, knowledge of the area and some gear to students. In doing so they enable students to affordably visit and recreate in areas that would otherwise be difficult to access. There was a trip planned for the weekend so my friends and I decided to do it. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up!

On Saturday morning at 6:00 A.M. I walked to the meeting point for the club charter bus.... Within a couple of hours, after passing by the famed Loch Lomond, cue

 Loch Lomond- John McDermott (Includes interpretative information and thoughts about the Loch),

those of us who chose the more adventurous day hike were dropped off at a separate location near the village of Arrochar to begin our hillwalking!

And there I stood walking through a cloud on top of a Munro (a Scottish mountain) in the Highlands!

And then we went back down.

And then back up through the clouds!

 To the top of our next Munro! ( After this break of course)

And some more walking.

Where we reached the top of our second Munro!

And then we headed to meet up with the rest of the club at the pub in Arrochar.

It was a great day full of good fun and lots of walking! We bagged 2 Munros, went 19 km, and ascended 4,500 feet.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's Morning in America

It’s morning in America.

Here I am, thousands of miles away at University in Scotland and I think of how blessed I am to be an American. Don’t get me wrong-- I’ve been enjoying every minute of Edinburgh’s Fresher Welcome Week for new students. Exploring the sites, going to traditional Ceilidh Scottish dances, seeing comedians and British bands, and tinkering with my course schedule have kept me busy, but today is for reflection and prayer. September 11, 2001, is a day that altered the course of all Americans’ lives.

Today, on September 11, 2013, I walk the streets of Edinburgh among people of all nationalities. Many of whom do not understand the meaning of this somber day to America. The United Kingdom comprised of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, lacks a strong sense of UK pride, excluding events like the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Rarely, will a U—K chant erupt out of the blue to echo down a corridor as will a resounding U-S-A in the States. A comedian chided the other night that Americans’ are known for cheering. And indeed we have reason to cheer. We come from the greatest country in the world, regardless of what some think. Where with hard work, diligence, and ingenuity one can make something of their life. In America the government is meant to serve the people, as it is the people who hold the real power. It is not meant to go the other way.

On the streets of many UK cities it is common to see signs stating that CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) is in use, and is always watching you. The British have made a deal with their government: privacy for security. As American’s we are guaranteed our Bill of Rights to prevent an obtrusive government from making the people into servile citizens; this is something we must never forget nor allow to be infringed upon. Our Bill of Rights is aimed at preserving our way of life, but today we live in a world where even these bastions of freedom appear not to be foolproof.

We founded our government due to a failing in our mother country’s governance. Our Founding Fathers instilled political and community activism into the essence of our being. We are not a people to give in to the evil of the world. We are unlike any other nation in the world.

Today, we remember the loss of Americans that occurred twelve years ago. And the bravery, self-sacrifice, and spirit that occurred in its’ wake.

 We are a marked people. People in the UK say they can recognize an American by the smile they wear on their countenance. I say this is a badge of honor. We are optimists. We are a unique people from a special place; we are a treasure of the world.

Wherever you are, take a moment to honor those lost on that day of terror. And do not forget.

God Bless

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ridley: A Good Northern Name

"Ridley: A good northern name,"Mr. Henderson warmly said as my family showed him our English Heritage card we had bought to see the numerous historical sights across England on our way to Scotland. Mr. Henderson, the man who worked at the visitor checkpoint continued, "sheep stealers, bandits, and raiders--the lot; Reivers." "Poets, presidents, prime ministers and the first man on the moon," he added. "I'm one too; a Henderson," he stated, as he proceeded to shake each one of our hands with a wide grin and hearty laugh. "Pleased to meet you and welcome to Housesteads Roman Fort-- Hadrian's Wall!"

It was fitting that, we of Border Reiver descent, met along Hadrian’s Wall in the heart of the Borderlands. A place steeped in a rich and exciting history. The Wall once marked the extent of the Roman Empire and was erected to keep the warring Picts at bay. Later it was a no-man’s land of sorts between the competing Kingdoms of Scotland and England.

One can thank the Border Reivers for the English words 'blackmail' and 'bereaved'. The Reivers were a people who inhabited the areas now known as Northumberland and Cumbria in England and the Scottish borderlands. Living in a politically volatile geographical location between the warring nations of Scotland and England, warring armies who took what they could get to provision their regiments often passed through the borderlands. A poor location for farming, especially when provisions could be taken in a moments notice by invading armies, the Reivers took to ranching. This enabled them to more readily relocate and hide their source of livelihood when a gluttonous army approached. An industrious people, always looking to maximize the worth of their land, Reivers more famously took to 'reiving'. 'Reive' is an early English word for 'to rob'. This lawlessness enabled Reivers to subsidize their incomes and make up for what could be lost to the next march of plundering troops. Unfortunately, it also led to a decline in tourism. The Reivers continued this style of life from the late 13th to 17th century, sometimes receiving the favor of the seemingly ever at war nations while at other times their draconian anger. The families and clans that made up the Border Reivers became renowned for their strong family ties and individualistic nature; Reivers acted in the name of their kin, not for their distant and abstract nation.

The Border Reivers legacy of ‘reiving’ came to an end in 1603 when James VI of Scotland became James I of England and united the warring kingdoms thereby stabilizing the borderlands. Sir Walter Scott immortalized the bloody times of the Border Reiver history in his “Border Ballads”.

The spirit of the Border Reivers as an individualistic, canny, and resilient people has lived on.

Today, I, a descendant of the Reivers, will explore the city of Edinburgh in Scotland 400 years after inhabitants may have known the threat of an agile Border Reiver horsemen. It is within this storied city, complete with a castle and the remains of a fortified city wall, that I will study for a time at the University of Edinburgh. 

Maybe they should have left the old city wall standing?

At the front gate and guard house to Ridley Hall

A Different Perspective of Hardian's Wall

A Feat of Engineering

Family and Clan Names in the Borderlands