Stirling Castle heads recreated and on display

Any readers with an interest in the architecture of Lymond’s time, and particularly anyone who was at the Dunnett Gathering Banquet of 2000 or the later DDRA visit to Stirling Castle will be interested in the news that the replicas of Stirling Heads are on display prior to being painted in bright Renaissance colours and put in place in the King’s Presence Chamber as part of the £12 million restoration of the Royal apartments.

The original 16th century versions were regarded as masterpieces and of great historical importance. The ceiling collapsed in the late 18th century but the some of the heads themselves, which are approximately a metre wide, were preserved and have now been recreated, a task that has taken 5 years. The heads depict members of the Scottish Royal family, other important European rulers, and mythical heros.

The display lasts until the 21st February but pictures of the heads can be seen on the BBC website and comments by the wood-carver John Donaldson can be seen on the Stirling Castle blog.

The palace restoration is due to be finished by 2011 and should be a magnificent attraction for anyone interested in the period.

11th Century Celtic Psalter goes on display

A book which has been only available to research students and is believed to be the oldest book in Scotland is to go on display for three months at Edinburgh University Library – starting on Friday 11th Dec and lasting till the 14th March 2010.

Dating from around Thorfinn’s time, the book contains psalms with vivid illustrations of Celtic and Pictish symbols and is being likened to the Irish Book of Kells. It may indeed have been produced on Iona where the monks were also involved in the Irish masterpiece.

More information on the BBC site.

Hope any Dunnett readers in Scotland can get along there – just a pity the display isn’t on for another month when the attendees at the DDRA AGM might have been able to fit in a visit.

A timeless French street scene

One of the many RSS feeds I monitor from time to time is a photography one, and I just came across a photo that is a “perfect little European medieval street … in Lyon” but since the photographer lost track of his shots there’s a “10% chance it is in Paris”. Wherever it is the first thing I thought of was Lymond and Philippa’s chase through Lyon. See if you agree . It’s certainly a fine photograph

Edinburgh in the Spring 2009 – the DDRA AGM weekend

This year has seen one of the best Springs we’ve had in Edinburgh for many years – it arrived early, stayed largely clear and bright, and the blossom has stayed on the trees for longer than I can remember for many a long year. So it was that delegates to the DDRA AGM had a warm sunny day to view the castle from the Royal Overseas League through a haze of pink blossom. (They also got a traffic noise free environment since Princes St is completely dug up for tramline laying but it kinda spoilt the view).

Numbers were down this year – partly due to the economic climate no doubt, and probably partly due to the overseas contingent being much reduced in anticipation of next year’s Le Spit gathering in Paris. However we still managed a healthy enough number.

After the AGM itself we had a talk from Prof. David Bradley, entitled “The Open Sea, with some Charts”, on the history of maritime exploration which included ship design, maps, and navigation as well as some of the personalities involved. He took particular care to mention Richard Chancellor. This was clearly a broad subject which could be studied for a lifetime and time was limited, but Prof. Bradley did extremely well to get through an illuminating session conveying a wealth of information.

After a fine lunch we had what for me was the highlight of the day – “Weaponry and Arms of the 16th Century” by Hugh Robertson, a demonstration of 16th century weapons, swordsmanship and fighting techniques. However this was far from a dry demonstration – rather it was a humorous, engaging, and sometimes knockabout session which educated while being immensely enjoyable. Would that we had had a higher ceiling so that Hugh (dressed as a gentleman) and his assistant (dressed as a soldier) had more freedom to swing their weapons without hindrance. With examples of many different swords, pikes, and pieces of armour on show – which we were able to handle while peppering the two men with questions afterwards – it was an ideal way to get a feel for the sort of warfare which our characters would have been engaged in. My thanks to them both and I do hope we’ll be able to invite them back at some stage.

With fewer delegates we were able to use the round tables for the evening dinner rather than the long lines of tables, which made for a more spacious and convivial experience. No formal speeches this time but the evening was again enlivened by Anne Buchanan’s readings of poems by William Topaz McGonagall.


After considerable thought over many months I had decided to step down from both the chairmanship and the membership administrator role that I’ve held for some years now, and I did so at the AGM. There are various reasons for this but the primary one is sheer lack of time due to increasingly complex personal, family and business developments. In hindsight I should have relinquished the membership role when I took on the chairmanship and I feel that I have not had anything like enough time to devote to steering the association’s development. Since time is likely to be in even shorter supply this year I feel that it is right to hand on to someone else. It was an emotional decision and not one taken lightly, as I never like to leave a job unfinished. However as a notorious perfectionist I also can’t face doing a job less than well.

I have also long wanted to redevelop the Dunnett website which, apart from this blog, has had little attention in the last few years. I need to take a step back from organisation for a while but I hope that after a few months break while I concentrate on business I’ll be able to devote some time to bringing the site, which I’ve always regarded as Dorothy’s as much as mine, back up to an appropriate level.

I had originally planned to step down completely but with two members retiring and only one joining I have been prevailed upon to remain on the committee for another year as a general member without specific remit other than to offer my experience and knowledge where required. Olive Millward will be taking over the membership administration as soon as we can successfully convert the database. At the short committee meeting following the AGM Simon Hedges was elected chairman and I leave matters in his capable hands. I would say that all the roles in the committee take considerable time and expertise that in most organisations would require professional input. That we have had a series of committee members of the last few years who have sacrificed large parts of their personal lives to the cause says a great deal about their integrity and commitment.