Laura Vosika's Blog: The World of the Blue Bells Chronicles

June 23, 2017

Coming tomorrow: the first Books and Brews Appearance!
Michael and I will talk about our radio program, Books and Brews with Laura Vosika, I will be doing some readings from my books, and Michael will talk about being a beer cicerone (Minnesota's first!) and lead a beer tasting.
Blue Bells of Scotland starts the acclaimed Blue Bells Chronicles--a tale of time travel, mysteries and miracles, romance and redemption, ranging across modern and medieval Scotland. 
Shawn Kleiner, the notoriously self-centered, drinking, gambling, womanizing musician, has it all--fame, fortune, and all the women he wants--until the night his girlfriend has enough and abandons him in a castle tower on their tour in Scotland.  He wakes up in the wrong century.
Join us for a fun afternoon!

1228 2nd Street NE
Minneapolis, MN
June 24, 2017, 3 to 5 pm


Books and Brews is currently looking for sponsors so that we can continue airing on AM 950.
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Published on June 23, 2017 18:52

June 18, 2017

June was another fun program on Books and Brews with Laura Vosika!  Today we talked to Scott van Koughnett, owner of Eat My Words Bookstore in northeast Minneapolis--where Michael and I will be appearing next Saturday to talk about writing, do readings from The Blue Bells Chronicles, and host a beer tasting.  Yes, 
FREE BEER!FREE BEER!FREE BEER!
Michael Agnew, Books and Brews, Beer, craft beer, valkyrieLaura Vosika, Michael Agnew, Scott van Koughnettdonated by Dangerous Man Brewery across the street.  What's that, you say?  You'd love to come for the intellectual literary atmosphere and gather with writers and poets?  The address is:
1228 2nd Street NE, MinneapolisJune 24, 20173 to 5 pm
Free and open to the public.
LISTEN TO THE PROGRAM HERE.
Scott came to books largely by way of an aunt who owned a bookstore--and his fond memories of time spent there.  After earning degrees in English and history, and a detour into the world of corporate law--and with many shelves full of books in his own home--he came back to his dream of one day owning his own bookstore.
Scott van Koughnett, Eat My Words BookstoreA bit over three years after opening, Scott is moving (just half a block) to bigger facilities.  We talked a bit about the value of literature, of stories--the fact that stories have been with us throughout history; the connection between history and story, and why and how we learn from stories.
I couldn't wait to see how Michael was going to pair beer with the very broad theme of 'a bookstore.'  I was not disappointed!  He chose beers this week on a literary theme.  Oberon Ale from Bell's Brewery, Puck Petite Saison from North Coast Brewing Company, Brynhildr's Gift, a rye ale from Olvalde Farm and Brewing, and finally--what more could you want for a literary beer!--War and Peace from Fulton Beer.
Speaking of stories--Michael was ready with the story behind Brynhildr.  She was one of the (always female) Valkyrie--one of those in Norse and Germanic mythology who selects who will live and die in battle--and later bear mead to their chosen in the hall of the slain.  (So let me get this straight--first you pick them to die, then you bring them mead?  Do these guys hate the Valkyrie or love them?)
While there is a great deal more to the story, Michael stuck with the part where she displeases Odin, and for doing so, is condemned to live as a mortal woman, locked away in a castle. (Wait, that's part of living as a mortal woman?  Where do I sign up for my castle?)  There, she sleeps inside a ring of flames until a man might come along who wants to marry her.
Lo and behold, it works!  Siegfried arrives, removes her helmet and cuts off her chainmail and they fall in love.  Then Wagner wrote a great piece that includes the trombone soli from Ride of the Valkyries.


Michael says the moral of the story is, Don't mess with Odin.  My take was, Why's everyone paying for Match and E Harmony if all they have to do is go to sleep in a ring of flames and men just magically appear?  I've already started building my flame-proof castle in the backyard.  I'll work on the permits when government offices open tomorrow, but I can't really see why anyone would object.
I should have it all sorted out in plenty of time to be at the event: next Saturday, June 24, 3 to 5 pm at Eat My Words Bookstore in Minneapolis.  We hope to see you there! Books and Brews is currently looking for sponsors so that we can continue airing on AM 950.
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Published on June 18, 2017 11:00 • 1 view

June 12, 2017

Have I mentioned that historical research is both fun and frustrating?  If not, let's just make a note of it here.  It's both frustrating...and fun.  Today's questions revolve around the chapels, plural, of St. Fillan.  What was there in 1318, when Bruce made the endowment for a chapel?  What does Niall see when he visits Strathfillan?
St. Fillan's Chapel, Scottish historyPhoto from CanmoreJust How Many Churches Were There?As always, digging into a question often raises more questions.  And one issue with researching this time frame is that things seem to have multiple names--and multiple places also share names.  So in digging through numerous sites, I find these associated with Strathfillan, St. Fillan, and the Bruce:
There was an Augustinian priory at Kirkton Farm.  It was restored in Bruce's time.  Source: Wikipedia on St. Fillan'In later times, St. Fillan's Priory was built near the present Kirkton Farm on the east end of Auchtertyre.  That priory is now in ruins, many of its stones having been used to build the farm buildings.  Source: Clan MacNabBruce established St. Fillan's Priory in Strathfillan.   Undiscovered ScotlandStrathfillan is a priory founded by Bruce in thanks for divine help from Fillan.  This is said by MacPherson in Geographical Ilustrations, and by Spottiswoode in Account of Religious Houses. Source: Historical Notes of St. Fillan's Crozier and of the Devotion of King Robert Bruce to St. Fillan, John Stuart, Dec 4, 1886"There was a chapel of St. Fillan in Bruce's time in Glendochart, to which he gave the five pound land of Auchtertyre."  Source:  Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Volume 32 : One Hundred and Eighteenth Session 1897-98:The original chapel of St. Fillan himself was upriver, slightly northwest of the Augustinian priory, close to the farm of Auchtertyre near Tyndrum, and beside a pool known as St. Fillan's Pool.  Sources: Wikipedia Clan MacNab  Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Volume 32 A small church of Strath Fillan, 'a church of the Culdees,' whose abbot blessed the Bruce just before the battle at Dalrigh.  Source: Melodies Plus In various sources, we read about churches of St. Fillan in Killin, Glendochart, and Strathfillan.Google maps tells me the distance from Tyndrum to Crianlarich (or Crianlarich to Tyndrum, if you prefer) is 4.8 miles.  St. Fillan's Pool and his original chapel sit just about midway between the two.
On the map above (found at Canmore and powered by Open Street Map), the priory ruins stand where the blue dot is, right under the words Strath Fillan running along the river.
Zooming in, we get a closer look:
And still closer:

Give the scale of these maps, we can guess that despite the many names and descriptions used by different sources--Strathfillan Priory, an Augustinian priory, St. Fillan's Priory--there was probably only one priory there, apart from St. Fillan's original chapel.  And indeed, Canmore calls it Strath Fillan Priory, while listing alternate names as St. Fillan's Church, St. Fillan's Priory, and Kirkton.
The question then becomes:What existed on that site in the early months of 1318?  Wikipedia's article on St. Fillan says St. Fillan's monastery was restored by the Bruce, while its article on Strath Fillan Priory says the priory was founded by the Bruce.  Canmore, in its archaeology notes section, says: "[Strath Fillan Priory] was founded in 1317/18 although a church was already in existence at that date."
Scottish Places gives perhaps the best summation of events.  St. Fillan built a monastic settlement near Auchtertyre in the 8th century.In 1306, following the disastrous battle of Methven, Bruce received sanctuary at the old chapel there.In thanks (presumably for the sanctuary, which differs from all other accounts which specify his gift was in thanks to St. Fillan for heavenly assistance at the battle of Dalrigh), Bruce "gave land to build a new foundation, and the church at Killin, to the Augustinian monks of Inchaffray Abbey on condition they maintain the new priory," such that...We now have St. Fillan's Priory, next to Kirkton Farm, established by Bruce near the site of an older foundation.So St. Fillan himself built a settlement in the 700s.  In the late 1200s and early 1300s there was a church there--the same one Fillan himself built?  That is not clear.  Bruce took sanctuary there in 1306, received a blessing, and in 1318 gave a grant to build a new church on an old foundation.
So it seems there would have been a church there when Niall visits in 1318 to discuss Bruce's endowment.  St. Fillan's original or a newer one, yet one that Bruce still felt could use some rebuilding, restoration, or updating?  The answers are not 100% clear, but we're off to...a start!
A bit more on St. Fillan's church tomorrow.  
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Published on June 12, 2017 06:33 • 2 views

June 6, 2017

On a lighter note, let's take a break from the medieval poisons I've been researching for two days  (hey, we all know someone in the world of the Blue Bells Chronicles just has to go!) and talk about music.

Last week, about twenty-four of my students played a recital on piano, saxophone, and flute. This past Sunday, five more played in another recital on flutes, trombones, and trumpet. I've been teaching music for nearly twenty-eight years now--several of those in a school and as a band director, and for all of them teaching private lessons.  I've presided over many recitals, performances, and concerts.  Through twenty-eight years, I have many happy memories of these events, of the students themselves, of parents who come for their kids, and friends of mine who have attended for me.


I was told at one point in my life that I would not major in music--such a degree was not viewed as 'real,' or valid, or anything to be taken seriously.  Practical jobs--like medicine and law--were regarded as important. 

And it is true that over the years, there have been those who seem to think what I do isn't a 'real' job.  It's not 40 hours a week, it doesn't have benefits.  I don't even have an impressive uniform or lots of technical impressive-sounding jargon!  (One la le two la le just sounds silly, in fact, and 1 e and a 2 e and a, Pass the gull-darn butter, and tu-ku-tu-ku aren't much better.)

Over the years, too, fortunately, I have known many people in music who showed me otherwise, who have amazed me with their talent, and shown me the good and the joy that they bring to the world with their gifts.  And bringing joy to others--making someone's life better--is as real and valid as it gets.

In Russia, by contrast, music is taken very seriously, and music teachers--I was told by a fellow teacher here, who grew up in and taught in Russia, are afforded great respect.  They are viewed more as view surgeons--or professional athletes.

In The Water is Wide, Amy says to Angus, "I don't save lives."  He responds with, "You save souls."

Music is so important, Shawn says at his concert toward the end of Westering Home, that Glenn Miller died bringing it to our troops in World War II.

The longer I live, the more I have come to understand how very real and important music is.  It energizes us, comforts us, lifts our voices in praise, helps us celebrate, gets us up dancing and moving, leads men to battle, lifts morale for those in difficulty or in war zones.  It is with us at weddings, funerals, graduations, military ceremonies, at play, at work, at church, as soundtracks in movies, in our cars, on our laptops and phones, and in venues ranging from street musicians to operas.  Music tells us the stories of histories, cultures, of what a people suffered, or believed, or hoped for, of who they were.



Every culture in the world and every culture throughout history has had music.  This suggests there is something in the human mind, body, and soul, that needs music, just as we need poetry and stories.  We never get tired of music.

Plato philosophized about how various modes and rhythms impact us.

For me, music has been the most vital part of my life.  As I'm sure it does for many kids, it gave me confidence I might not have otherwise had, knowing I had something I could do, a skill and a talent, that I was contributing something, and part of something bigger than myself--something else we as people need.

While I have many, many happy memories from over 40 years in music, one that stands out is my high school band director, Mr. Kuno.  I believe he was well-loved by all his students over the years he taught.  He had a great sense of humor--although very dry and quiet.  He directed the jazz band, which at the time met every day as a regular class.  During our concerts, he often counted off (eins, zwei, wet, drei!), gave a down beat, and then simply stood back at the edge of the stage, listening to us play--and smiling.

It was a small act--but one that gave us great confidence in ourselves, in our ability to put something good in the world, to live lives that mattered.  It was an act that I believe everyone who was in the jazz band those years remembers and carries with them.

Over the years, I hope that I have been able to pass some of that on to my own students.  I have watched over the years as many of them go from six year olds who have never touched a piano--and sometimes have no interest in doing so--to teenagers who love making music.  I've had students who really struggle with piano, but come back with a band instrument and really take off.  I've had a student study with me for his six years in band and earn a music scholarship.  Recently, I had a student's mother tell me he wants to major in music and become a musician.  She wants him to become a doctor.  I am thrilled that music has meant so much to him.

And so, music continues on to the next generation and at every recital, I am grateful for the road I chose and to be a part of that.

...And now, back to boning (that was a trombone joke) up on poison.  Really, somebody in fourteenth century has really gotten on somebody else's last nerve and has to go!



COMING UP:Last Sunday in May, 10 am: Books and Brews with Lorrie Holmgren, mystery authorJune 24, 2017, 3 to 5 pm: Reading at Eat My Words Books with Michael AgnewOctober 2017: Author Talk and Book Festival in Appleton, WisconsinJanuary 9, 2018: Talk with the Edinburgh Book Club
~ ~ ~ To learn more about my books, click on the images below If you would like to follow this blog, sign up HEREIf you like an author's posts, please click like and shareIt helps us continue to do what we do

If you liked this post you might also like:
Why Music?
Scandinavian Ballads
Skye Boat Song at Dryburgh Abbey
or other posts under the MUSIC or SCOTTISH MUSIC labels
Books and Brews Programs:Listen to January's program: poetry and coffee beer with poet Michael DeanListen to February's program: Russian literature and Russian beerListen to March's program: Irish music with Tom Dahill and Ginny Johnson, Irish beerListen to April's program: Poetry with Andrew Coons

 
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Published on June 06, 2017 21:45 • 1 view

May 29, 2017

We started the story of Inchaffray Abbey, and Bruce's endowment to it in PART ONE, I talked about Bruce's decision to give an endowment for a chapel to St. Fillan and a brief history of the early, awful months of 1306.  In PART TWO, I got into the detail of the Battle of Dalrigh, which, according to one source, is likely the 1306 event for which Bruce credited Fillan's help.  I finished with:
Now comes the fun (or frustrating) part of research.  The more answers we find, the more questions arise, and all too often, those answers conflict with one another.  We'll get into some of those tomorrow, along with more on Inchaffray itself and St. Fillan.
[Yes, I just used the quote feature to quote myself.  Now that I've been quoted, does that mean I'm famous?]

The frustrations are that some things we just will likely never know for sure.  And that sources sometimes conflict.  The fun...is the same thing.  Mysteries and questions abound!

In the case of Bruce's endowment for the chapel to St. Fillan, his motivation is given in one paper ( The Kingship of Robert I, 1306-29 ) as being 'in thanks for the intercession of that saint during Bruce's flight into exile through Perthshire in 1306.'  His source: S. Taylor's 'The Cult of St Fillan in Scotland', in T.R. Liszka and L.E.M. Walker eds., The North Sea World in the Middle Ages: Studies in the Cultural History of North-Western Europe (Dublin 2001).  Not having access to that source, I don't know what their basis is for linking the endowment to Dalrigh.

Wikipedia, without citing a source for his motivation in particular, says that the gift was in thanks for the miracle at Bannockburn, while Temple of Mysteries, the website of The Stone of Destiny: In Search of the Truth, says only that Bruce's building of the 'priory' (it is called a priory, rather than a chapel here) so shortly after Bannockburn suggests repaying a favor.  He does not speak to which favor, but I would hazard he means the miracle at Bannockburn.

The remains of St. Fillan's PrioryRegarding the use of the word priory, one site says Bruce 'endowed a chapel' which was 'attached to' the Inchaffray Abbey.  Temple of Mysteries says he built a priory.  This may not be different things, although the choice of words might infer different things on first reading.  We do know that the original Inchaffray Priory was created around 1200 by Gilbert, Earl of Strathearn and his first (known) wife.  It became an abbey about 1220.

And here we come to another Fun/Frustrating aspect of research: the rabbit holes!  What is the difference between an abbey and a priory?  In short, so as not to digress, a priory is generally considered a 'lower level' or subordinate to an abbey.  If you'd like to go down that rabbit hole yourself, you can read a bit more here.

My guess is that Bruce's endowment for the chapel to St. Fillan does not need to be assigned as thanks for either his escape at Dalrigh or his miraculous victory at Bannockburn.  It may have been a more general thank you for both of these and possibly for more incidents that have not survived in recorded history.  [We sometimes seem to forget that just because our earliest sources mentioning Bruce praying to Fillan date from a hundred years after the fact, (as mentioned in Temple Mysteries) that does not mean that's the first written mention of it.  It may have been documented in multiple sources that did not survive.]

So my guess is that it was in thanks for both and possibly for more.

Bruce had long had a devotion to St. Fillan.  What becomes the interesting question to me is where this devotion started.  It's not a question I have deeply researched, but it is mentioned in Temple Mysteries that St. Fillan was said to have suffered from leprosy.  Many sites claim Bruce did, too.  So the suggestion put forth is that the leprosy connection (not to be confused with the Rainbow Connection--Muppet reference for you young 'uns.) is what led to Bruce's affinity for Fillan.

I tend to side with those who say Bruce had a skin condition that was often erroneously called leprosy at some historical point or perhaps got garbled in translation somewhere along the line--but was not the Biblical leprosy we think of.  But a man with leprosy would likely not be living among others, as Bruce clearly did.  I suspect even for a king, such a thing would not be allowed, and if he had, he did, and it was--wouldn't we hear about more noblemen around him having leprosy, too?

While I have not researched it in particular, I have also not, in my years of familiarity with St. Fillan, ever heard that he had leprosy.

I would offer that his devotion to Fillan may have begun with the blessing from the abbot at the Culdee Church and the Dalrigh escape.  Or perhaps it started earlier, which is why he credited Fillan with that escape.  Fillan was one of the great Celtic saints, and Bruce certainly had Celtic roots through his mother.

In the end, what we can safely say is that in the first three months of 1318, Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, endowed something--priory or chapel--dedicated to St. Fillan, in connection with Inchaffray Abbey, in thanks for the Saint's help at some time or times plural.

As a writer, this gives enough information to be historically accurate and enough room to work it into the story.
More on St. Fillan: Temple of Mysteries  and A Family of Saints by Dmitry Lapa (the picture above is his--it was the only picture I could find anywhere of the ruins; lots of great pictures on his page.)
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Published on May 29, 2017 18:44 • 4 views
In addition to writing The Blue Bells Chronicles, I have done a great deal of photography and poetry in the last several years.  Chris Powell and I have created Emmanuel's Light, a photographer's cooperative, which focuses on colors--comparison and contrast--in nature, and on photography that tells a story.

A great deal of our photography has been taken in Scotland, particularly in castles.  Below is Finlairig Castle:
 We are currently working on a project of putting poetry to our photography.  To see that project as it unfolds, visit us at our Emmanuel's Light Blog.


Since our inception a bit over a year ago, we have had three four to six week showings of our work: at Plymouth City Hall, Plymouth Creek Center, and Chaska Community Center.


Along with our photography, we spent time in Scotland recording Scottish and medieval music that goes along with The Blue Bells Chronicles.  Among pieces played were several cantigas.


I think one of our favorites, where we really had fun playing with the contrast of color in nature, was one of our early ones.  We use this as our business card.

In addition to Scotland, we have photography from around the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and the United States.  This one was taken in La Sal, Utah.

And this one at Minnehaha Creek, Minneapolis.

Now we jump to Panama City Beach, Florida:

Our trip of April 2015 focused on locations in southwest Scotland, the lands that were the home of Robert the Bruce.  Thus, our photography often has a historical backdrop.  Below is the shore beneath the remains of Turnberry Castle where Robert the Bruce was born.

We keep a website at www.emmanuelslight.com We hope you'll stop by and see some more of our work!





COMING UP:Sunday, June 18, 10 am: Books and Brews with Scott, owner of Eat My Words BookstoreJune 24, 2017, 3 to 5 pm: Reading at Eat My Words Books with Michael AgnewOctober 2017: Author talk, luncheon at Lawrence University and Fox Cities Book FestivalJanuary 9, 2018: Talk with the Osseo Book Club
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Published on May 29, 2017 09:50 • 2 views
So now we've laid some of the ground work, the background to Bruce's Heavenly Help.  Bruce is at perhaps the lowest point of his life, not merely personally, but in the outlook for his country in its stand against England.
Indeed, Bruce had few followers.  The country was torn apart, Comyn supporters against Bruce supporters--and news of the murder would do nothing to heal that divide.  On April 5, Edward I in England gave Aymer de Valence the dreaded power to raise the Dragon Banner, which meant No. Mercy.
On May 20, the Oath of Swans, a great feast, was held in which the 22-year-old Edward II and 250 other young men were knighted in preparation for the move against Bruce.
On June 19, at the Battle of Methven, Bruce's small army was routed by Aymer de Valence. He had little to begin with and much of it was destroyed.  
So we begin to see why Bruce might feel that he required...and received...saintly intervention.  The Battle of Dalrigh happened in the summer of 1306, after Methven, sometime between late July and early August.  The date is unknown.  [And we are a people who love dates!  The fruits, the romance, and the history!]
twenty years!  His clansmen are feuding each other instead of uniting against Edward I.  He has, in a moment of passion, killed a man on consecrated ground, further alienating those he needs to draw together, in addition to the lifelong guilt he will feel.  His followers are few--yet they're all Scotland has.  And now a great number of even those few have been killed or captured.  Added to the guilt of killing John Comyn in a moment of anger, he now carries the guilt that these men have died as a result of his decision to fight Edward I.
Dalrigh todayImagine Bruce at this moment.  His country is torn.  It has had no true king since Alexander's death in 1286--
With very little left, Bruce and his followers--those who have not been killed or captured--race west toward the Mountains of Argyll, seeking refuge, a chance to pause, regroup, decide what to do.  They travel through Glendochart, either up Earnside or Tayside, and along the way stop at a small church at Strathfillan.  This particular church was a church 'of the Culdees,' the original church of St. Fillan, with no allegiance to Rome--a good thing since Rome (which would, in three years, actually be in Avignon) had ex-communicated him.

But the abbot of this church blessed him and warned him he was in dangerous country.  This was the land of the MacNabs--a powerful clan and allies of both the MacDougalls and the Comyns.  Uh-oh--yeah, the guy Bruce just killed.

They hit the road and sure enough, Clan MacNab had already seen them and passed word on to the MacDougalls.  And so, at their weakest moment, they met Clan MacDougall (yeah, those MacDougalls!*) the powerful descendants of Somerled.  (His brothers Ottumled and Winterled didn't fare quite as well, historically speaking, and are all but forgotten.)
[* Seriously, I have nothing against the MacDougalls.  I picked the name at random back in 2005 and found out by dumb luck it fit well historically and, hey, someone had to be the bad guy.  Given that my life is a Study in Irony, I'm pretty sure I will end up marrying a MacDougall.  I mean--that would be ironic, right?  So if you're a MacDougall and want to marry me, I guess we may as well just send out the invitations right now and skip all that in between stuff.  Because...my life is a Study in Irony.  Really...someday I'll write a post about being kicked out of organ lessons.]
Ahem...back to the Bruce.  Ottumled and Winterled didn't actually exist.  Somerled and his powerful descendants did--in great numbers--and they intercepted the very distressed Bruce and his battered battalion.
At perhaps the most desperate moment of his life, physically and emotionally, already feeling guilt about killing a man on consecrated ground, already feeling guilt about his friends and followers who trusted him now dead or in captivity because of his actions, Bruce meets--at Strathfillan (or Strath Fillan if we want to be more obvious about it) a superior force of Clan MacDougall.
dalrigh, field of the king, robert the bruce, methven, time travel fictionCredit: Melodiesplus.comReports say there were a thousand of Clan MacDougall, led by Alexander's son (no, not that Alexander, and not that son--Duncan is dead.  Remember that--to begin with (at least in Book Five) Duncan was dead.)  Where were we?  Yes, a thousand MacDougalls led by Lame John, or John Bacach, or Iain Bacach (because One Moniker is Never Enough) driving in against Bruce's 500 remaining men, with Valence's army riding in fast from the east.  Bruce could not retreat.  He had no choice but to fight, outnumbered two to one--and worse if Valence arrived.

We must not forget morale.  Not only were Bruce's men badly outnumbered, they were without a doubt already demoralized from the staggering defeat at Methven, the loss of so many close friends, and one would think, growing doubt that they had any chance at all.

Except--they had two things on their side.  One was James Douglas--between seventeen and twenty-two years old at the time.  But James Douglas was the Chuck Norris of early 14th Century Scotland.  He would later go into battles more heavily outnumbered than two to one (Skaithmuir for example).

The other thing?  Faith: Prayer. The Saints. Heaven. God.

I started this series on St. Fillan and Inchaffray by saying the medieval world was one in which the physical and the supernatural lived much more closely entwined than we generally do today.  Bruce was a man of great faith.  We see this throughout his life and he would without a doubt have prayed.  Whether he already had an affinity for St. Fillan or whether that started at Dalrigh, I have not yet dug into.
So what happened?  Well, the battle, not surprisingly, did not go well for Bruce.  His surviving horses were killed.  James Douglas (yes, even the unstoppable James "the Norris" Douglas) and Gilbert Hay were both injured.  In the midst of battle, Brucefound himself fighting alone against three MacDougalls, trapped between a hill and a loch (Lochan nan Arm according to tradition) in a space so narrow he couldn't turn his horse.
[Another side note: one tradition says that Lochan nan Arm got its name because, in their rush to retreat, Bruce's men threw their weapons into the loch.  I have not at this point seen an explanation why warriors would throw away their weapons.  I know...they're heavy, they make running more difficult, and yet...it's all you got against the enemy!  I am not taking the time to research it at this exact moment in time, but if you have great links or information regarding that, please leave them in the comments.]
The fighting was so close that one of the MacDougalls managed to tear off the brooch that held Bruce's cloak.  One tradition is that that particular man was almost immediately killed, and when his body was found, he was still clutching Bruce's cloak, with the brooch.  It is still held today by the MacDougalls, and known as the Brooch of Lorn. 

[One source says the one held by them today only actually dates to the 1500s and is therefore a replica.  Again, something worth noting, but also something I'm not researching today.]
Despite all this, Bruce's army managed to escape, crossing the River Fillan at Cronachar's Ford (Ath Cronachar).
And so, having been caught at Strathfillan and retreating across the River Fillan--is this the 'help' of 1306 for which Bruce is endowing a St. Fillan chapel at Inchaffray Abbey?  Given he only had so many desperate flights across Perthshire in 1306, and given a strath and a river both named after Fillan and given his somewhat miraculous escape--it stands to reason.
So twelve years later (yeah, I know, twelve years, but hey, he was dealing with an awful lot in those twelve years) in the first three months of 1318, he endowed a chapel to St. Fillan, a chapel attached to Inchaffray Abbey.

Now comes the fun (or frustrating) part of research.  The more answers we find, the more questions arise, and all too often, those answers conflict with one another.  We'll get into some of those tomorrow, along with more on Inchaffray itself and St. Fillan.  CLICK HERE for PART THREE.
For more detail on the battle of Dalrigh, and questions of how we know what we know and our sources, see The Tree of a Son of Skye's article on the battle of Dalrigh

COMING UP:Sunday, June 18, 10 am: Books and Brews with Scott, owner of Eat My Words BookstoreJune 24, 2017, 3 to 5 pm: Reading at Eat My Words Books with Michael AgnewOctober 2017: Author Talk and luncheon at Lawrence UniversityOctober 16, 2017: speaker at Fox Cities Book Festival in Appleton, WisconsinJanuary 9, 2018: Talk with the Osseo Book Club
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Published on May 29, 2017 07:42 • 2 views

May 28, 2017

The medieval mind saw things rather differently than many people today.  It was a world, I believe, where the physical and the supernatural, or spiritual, lived in...dare I say...communion?  No pun intended.  (But never look a gift pun in the mouth!)

Other blog posts here have discussed saints and miracles.  And more will in the future.  My current research is on the early months of 1318.  Where might Niall be?  The last we saw him in Westering Home, he'd been sent on a distasteful mission by the Bruce to retrieve papers from the unfortunate Adam Newton.  We will find out in the opening pages of The Battle is O'er that the Bruce sends Niall, Hugh, Lachlan, and Owen home to Glenmirril, lest they be seen and remembered as the culprits.

But we can be sure Niall will not just sit home until The Big Event at the end of The Battle is O'er.  So what is he doing?

He can't go to Rome to see the Pope because the Pope is now in Avignon.  Is there a reason he would go to Rome?  Quite possibly.  The Popes had definitively taken England's part, and as Pope John XXII wanted the war between England and Scotland cleared up so he could get going with a crusade, there were frequent messages back and forth from Avignon to both Scotland and England.  Scotland would certainly have sent messages in return.

Inchaffray Priory, Maurice, Abbot of Inchaffray, Robert the BruceIn researching the question, I came across one detail that references St. Fillan's saintly help.  In the first three months of 1318, Bruce was likely busy with a lot of administrative work, including resettling of lands and offices, making appointments, and spending a fair amount of time in Arbroath.  In these three months, he endowed a chapel to St. Fillan, attached to Inchaffray Priory, in thanks for help he attributed to the saint during his flight through Perthshire in 1306.

St. Fillan is fairly well known for the miracle the night before battle at Bannockburn.  Maurice, the abbot of Inchaffray Priory plays a part in that act.  But what happened in Perthshire in 1306?  (And does it stay there?  No, obviously not since we're about to read it here!)

My guess is that the 'help' referred to in 1306 concerns the Battle of Dalrigh.  Dal righ means Field of the King, and comes from the battle fought there by King Robert in the summer of 1306.  It is technically accurate to say Robert the Bruce was king at that time.  However, it was in name only.  Sort of like--because he said so.

The weeks leading up to his coronation were just not the kind of weeks any of us would want.  First, there was his apparent betrayal by John Comyn to Edward and a hasty flight to escape capture.  Then he killed John Comyn at the altar at Greyfriars on February 10--I believe in moment of high tempers rather than pre-planned, but it meant a hasty flight to Scone and a shotgun coronation, so to speak, before the Pope could find out and excommunicate him, because an ex-communicated man cannot be anointed king.

There were few at his coronation, and Elizabeth, his wife, is reported to have said, "Alas, we are but king and queen of the May."  Or, according to other sources: 'It seems to me we are but a summer king and queen whom children crown in their sport.'

Due to length...let us leave off there and continue with PART TWO tomorrow!  But we are getting to Inchaffray Priory and St. Fillan...I promise!  [And in the meantime, I'm still not sure what Niall is doing in these three months!]


COMING UP:Hiking the Grand Canyon, and other adventures on the roadGuest posts: Megan Easley-Walsh and Lorrie HolmgrenSunday, June 18, 10 am: Books and Brews with Scott, owner of Eat My Words BookstoreJune 24, 2017, 3 to 5 pm: Reading at Eat My Words Books with Michael AgnewOctober 2017: Author Talk and luncheon at Lawrence UniversityOctober 16, 2017: speaker at Fox Cities Book Festival in Appleton, WisconsinJanuary 9, 2018: Talk with the Osseo Book Club
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Published on May 28, 2017 20:28 • 1 view
LISTEN to Books and Brews with Guest Lorrie Holmgren.Some post-show thoughts:From Lorrie:   I am delighted to be a guest on the Books and Brews radio program that broadcast on Sunday, May 28 on 950 AM. At a quick-moving taping session earlier this week, I talked with Laura Vosika, author of the popular Blue Bells Chronicles, and with Michael Agnew, craft beer expert about Murder on Madeline Island, an Emily Swift Travel Mystery. 
One of the many topics we discussed was the theme of loyalty.  When Laura asked me how that idea was developed in Murder on Madeline Island, I said that the idea of conflicting loyalties is interesting to me.  People may be loyal to their immediate family, their team, their employer, or the larger community and their sense of right and wrong.  
But what if these loyalties come in conflict?   How do they decide?  Where do they draw the line?  In Murder on Madeline Island, Emily realizes how loyal Chet is to his family. But she wonders if it would lead him to cover up a murder or hide the truth from himself?  
Michael came up with a fascinating way to link four delicious beers to the history of Madeline Island.   You can buy Murder on Madeline Island on Amazon as a book or Kindle or at Once Upon a Crime Bookstore in Minneapolis.
Visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lorrieholmgrenauthor Or my website at www.lorrieholmgren.comFrom Laura: What a fun show!  And what fun to meet Lorrie and talk about Madeline Island--a rather unique place set in Wisconsin's Apostle Islands, and home of La Pointe, Wisconsin, one of the earliest European settlements in the area, having started as a trading post in 1693.
I was excited to talk to Lorrie about it because I've actually been there--driving across the 'ice bridge' which becomes the road to the island in the winter.  Unfortunately, it was late, and we did little more than drive through a dusky La Pointe and return to Bayfield.  
We did discuss briefly how travel and spending part of a childhood overseas impacts writing, as Lorrie spent a year living in Milan when she was 8 and 9, and I lived in Germany until I was almost 6.
There was, of course, not enough time to really dig into everything.  The idea of loyalties and split loyalties is one that no doubt most, if not all, of us face at some point in our lives.  What happens when our loyalty to family requires us to sacrifice loyalty to our ideals?  Or loyalty to one person requires us to break faith with someone else to whom we had also given our loyalty?
Why does one person choose one path, and someone else chooses the opposite?  What is it in their lives or character that drives that choice?  Some choose based on fun or what's easiest, on which choice will cause the least upheaval in their lives.  That would be the Shawn we met in the opening pages of Blue Bells of Scotland. 
Others choose based on morality, justice, kindness, courage, and other noble qualities.  That sounds more like the man Shawn became during his two years in medieval Scotland.  The jury remains out (and let's not even ask which century they're in!) on whether he will backslide in his modern life and ultimately choose for his own good, or whether he'll remain a man who makes his choices based on the good of others, regardless of what those choices cost him.
These are the questions we ask as writers, and the questions we should ask as human beings.  Just as we should ask questions like: how does one match beer to a murder mystery?
I was dying to see how Michael did it!  And I was quite impressed!  He researched Madeline Island and matched his four beers to the four periods of occupation of the Island: the Native Americans who once lived there, the French, the English, and finally the colonists.  We drank our way chronologically through Madeline Island's history.  Fortunately, the samples were on the small side!
Given that there was no fermented beverage during the Native American period, he relayed an old tale and chose a beer based on wild rice.  We finished up with a hard apple cider that evoked Johnny Appleseeed--and learned that in fact he was planting apples for cider, not for pie!
To hear Michael's expertise, tune in to Sunday's Books and Brews with Laura Vosika...and Michael Agnew and Lorrie Holmgren.

COMING UP:Hiking the Grand Canyon, and other adventures on the roadGuest posts: Megan Easley-Walsh and Lorrie HolmgrenSunday, June 18, 10 am: Books and Brews with Scott, owner of Eat My Words BookstoreJune 24, 2017, 3 to 5 pm: Reading at Eat My Words Books with Michael AgnewOctober 2017: Author Talk and luncheon at Lawrence UniversityOctober 16, 2017: speaker at Fox Cities Book Festival in Appleton, WisconsinJanuary 9, 2018: Talk with the Osseo Book Club
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Published on May 28, 2017 13:11 • 1 view
Over nearly twelve years of studying the time of the Scottish Wars of Independence, the story of the attack on the bishops has long been familiar to me.  It is mentioned in passing in one of the volumes of The Blue Bells Chronicles.  (Westering Home, if I remember correctly.)  The short story is that churchmen were attacked in their travels and their money stolen.  Two of the Pope's legates were with them.

I've never had cause to research that particular incident further, and yet never come across more details.  I was under the impression the 'robbery' happened on the Bruce's orders.  Only now have I stumbled on more detail about that incident, while looking for other information.

For instance, the date: September 1, 1317.  To a high school student, this would be boring, unimportant information.  (I know this because I was once a high school student.)  To a historical novelist, this is utterly fascinating and imperative to how it fits in with what Niall or the Laird or Hugh is doing from August to September of 1317.  (I know this because I am a historical novelist, and history is so much more fascinating from this angle--although I wish that all history teachers made it as fascinating as it is!)

Where: On the road between Darlington and Durham, at one of three places--Rushyford, Ferryhill, or Ache--depending which report you read.

My secret source gives details on who was attacked: Lewis de Beaumont, second cousin to King Edward II and almost certainly some relation to the evil Simon Beaumont.  Lewis was on his way to be consecrated as Bishop of Durham.  (A bad place to be in those days, given the ongoing Scottish raids, but hey, I'm sure he knew what he was getting into.)  Riding with him were his brother, Henry, and two Italian cardinals they were escorting.

The cardinals were Luca Fieschi, Italian nobleman and distant relative of Edward II. (Now is that any big surprise to any student of medieval history?  Who was not related to Who in those days?) and Gaecline D'Eauze (or Deuse).  They had arrived in England in June of 1317 to try to establish peace between Bruce and Edward II.

It seems, on reading various accounts, that the real crime was attacking cardinals, moreso than attacking bishops.  The cardinals were quickly released, but the Beaumont Brothers remained as unwilling guests at Mitford Castle (which, side note, was razed not much later by James Douglas) until mid-October or December depending which source we believe.

medieval knights, medieval bishops, medieval clerics, sir gilbert middletonAnd finally, the big question: Whodunnit?  All I read had hinted it was the Bruce's doing, to acquire money and any papers they might have that might be of interest to him.  (Remembering, I have had little cause to dig deep into the incident.)  Pope John XXII blamed it on those pesky Scots, informing Ed 2.0 that Robert the Bruce had committed outrages on the cardinals (so far, I have not found the nature of those outrages) and seized and carried off the bishop.  He told the cardinals themselves that Bruce had torn up the Pope's letters to 'him,' the him presumably being the bishop and also 'laid violent hands on' the bishop of Carlisle (which is across the country from Durham.

We now know (or should I say, I now know...) it was one Sir Gilbert Middleton who did the dastardly deed.  This was news to me!  (Please...remember I've never really looked into this particular incident.  Cause like...I'm totally sure all of you knew it was totally Sir Gilbert Middleton!  Like, who didn't know that!)

Anyway, like the old mantra, the devil made me do it, for Pope John XXII, at least when it came to attacks on bishops and cardinals, the mantra was, the Scots made him do it!  But in fact, Sir Gilbert was a knight of Edward II's own household--and who was, to all appearances, on reasonably good terms with Edward at least until January of 1317, at which point one Adam Shirlock, Messenger, was carrying messages between them.

Furthermore, it seems that Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, cousin and enemy of King Edward, was an ally of Sir Gilbert.  In addition, he had promoted a different candidate for bishop--and his candidate lost to Beaumont.  An axe to grind, perhaps?  Of course, in the days we're talking about, grinding axes was much more literal than it is today.  So I need to be careful of my idioms.

It is possible Middleton himself was simply fed up with Edward.  There was growing discontent by this point over Edward's favoritism toward Hugh Audley and Roger Damory--who had taken the place in his affections of the deceased and reviled Piers Gaveston.

Scalacronica tells us Sir Gilbert was angry with Edward for the arrest of his cousin Adam Swinburn--and that arrest ties into the other growing grievance among Edward's nobles and knights.  He completely failed to protect his subjects in the north from the ongoing raids of the Scots.  Adam Swinburn, it seems, had been a little bit too blunt in his words to Edward.  (Another interesting post--just what did Adam say?)

In June of 1317--two to three months before the September 1 attack--several knights had staged a protest, at Westminster, of Edward's shows of favoritism.

In short, there were many grievances against Edward, personal and political, from many people.  It's like one of those stories where everyone wishes they'd committed the murder, the victim is so thoroughly hated by all!  It may have been Lancaster, it may have been Bruce, it may have been Middleton's own idea.

And in fact, we don't stop there.  Also accused were Sir John Eure and others who were likely Lancaster's retainers (thus slanting the blame back toward him), John Middleton (Gilbert's brother), and Marmaduke Basset along with a full 61 other men all of whom were "going to the Court of Rome [which was actually in Avignon at the time] on account of acts perpetrated in the Marches of Scotland, whereby they feel their consciences wounded."

[Marmaduke came back without Proof of Absolution and had to go a second time.  And in another interesting historical morsel, it seems Marmaduke continued to have issues with the Bishop(s) of Durham.  In a record at the National Archives, dated between 1328 and 1340 we learn:

"Marmaduke Basset requests remedy because Wessington gave the manor of Offerton to his grandfather and the heirs of his body, but after his death William Basset entered as son and heir and alienated the estate, depriving him of his inheritance. The petitioner has often sued to the bishop of Durham for a writ of formedon."

Given that Lewis Beaumont died in 1333--on the same day Dr. Seuss would die many centuries later, which ought to be of vast interest to all and highly suggests a conspiracy--we don't know if the grievance was with the same Bishop of Durham who was abducted, or his successor.  But I find it an interesting connection that a man who appears to have played a role continued to be at odds with the man or the office.]

Regardless of who put him up to it, it was Gilbert who paid the price, when he was condemned on January 26, 1318, (January 24 according to another site) to be 'hanged and drawn on the site on the site of the cardinals which he robbed.'  My secret source says the execution was likely carried out immediately.  Alas, poor Sir Gilbert (who we hardly knew)--it is you who will be drawn and hanged, not the Scots, not Lancaster, not Marmaduke or any of the 61 others.

This, to me, is the interesting question: with so many people involved in this attack, why was it only Gilbert who was executed?




COMING UP:Hiking the Grand Canyon, and other adventures on the roadGuest posts: Megan Easley-Walsh and Lorrie HolmgrenLast Sunday in May, 10 am: Books and Brews with Lorrie Holmgren, mystery authorJune 24, 2017, 3 to 5 pm: Reading at Eat My Words Books with Michael AgnewOctober 2017: Author Talk and Book Festival in Appleton, WisconsinJanuary 9, 2018: Talk with the Edinburgh Book Club
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Published on May 28, 2017 06:14 • 2 views

The World of the Blue Bells Chronicles

Laura Vosika
Stop by my blog to discover a wealth of articles on The History Behind the Story--the history, Scottish settings, music, and ideas about time travel that form the fabric of the story--along with inter ...more
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