Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

History- Leap o’the cask and the Dun Bonnet June 30, 2014

I discovered this article about regional history around Loch Ness that includes the actual recorded story of ‘Leap o the Cask’ and the ‘Dun Bonnet’ as it shows up in Diana Gabaldon’s books.  The story IS about a James Fraser.  This is the kind of historical coincidence that tends to give one goose bumps.

I found the reference here:

http://www.caithness.org/caithnessfieldclub/bulletins/2004/historyoffoyers.htm

James Fraser, 9th of Foyers, was on very friendly terms with Simon, 13th Lord Lovat, later to be executed for his part in the 1745 Rising, and on that account, Foyers joined Lovat in supporting Prince Charles during his short reign in Edinburgh as King James VIII. After the disastrous battle of Culloden in 1746 the ill-fated Prince Charles fled westwards and took refuge in Gorthleck farmhouse on the Foyers estate but was soon alarmed by a party of Red Coats and effected his escape by jumping out of a window. Foyers also escaped from the battlefield and his efforts to elude capture were every bit as romantic as those of Prince Charles.

Foyers was excluded from the Act of Parliament pardoning treasonable offences committed in the rebellion, and was forced to live in hiding for seven years after the rebellion. One of his favourite haunts was a cave, a mile to the west of the Falls of Foyers. One day, on looking out of the cave, the laird saw a Red Coat secretly following a girl bringing food for him and, as to avoid capture was a matter of life and death to him, the laird shot the soldier who was buried where he fell. So Foyers’s whereabouts could be kept secret, the inhabitants used to speak of him by the nickname “Bonaid Odhair” (Dun Coloured Bonnet).

After the Battle of Culloden, the Duke of Cumberland’s troops brought much misery and brutality to the district. The estates were plundered and burnt on a scale never before known on account of the proximity of Foyers to Fort Augustus, where Cumberland and his troops were garrisoned. Many people starved to death and many outrages were committed on their persons. At a change-house, An Ire Mhor (a large piece of arable land), on the road to Inverness near Foyers, a group of soldiers, including an officer, raped a young girl living there with her grandmother and, when the old woman tried to defend her grandchild, she was strangled to death. At a funeral, taking place in Foyers cemetery, one of the starving mourners grabbed a loaf of bread off a passing provisions cart heading for Fort Augustus – uproar followed. The offender was arrested and the troops fired indiscriminately into the funeral party, killing at least one and wounding many others. The bullet holes in the grave stone of Donald Fraser of Erchit, buried in 1730, can still be seen to this day. Another outrage was committed on a boy taking a cask of beer to Foyers in his hiding place – when the boy refused to tell of his master’s hiding place, the soldiers cut off his hands.

I’m particularly bemused that one of the bibliographic sources is History of the Frasers by Alex MacKenzie. It makes you wonder if it was printed by A. Malcolm, doesn’t it? 🙂

Here’s a link to some photos of the actual Dun Bonnet cave:

http://alastaircunningham07.blogspot.ca/2007/10/dun-bonnet-cave-from-inside.html

 

The Inverness Outlander group were able to go explore the cave.  Here’s a link to their blog post and photos of the day:  https://invernessoutlanders.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/trip-to-the-dun-bonnets-cave  Diana said she wouldn’t have gone on this trip because she is too claustrophobic.  🙂

 

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vocabulary lessons with Diana Gabaldon June 3, 2012

I am an avid reader and an English teacher, so I have a pretty good vocabulary.  However, reading Diana Gabaldon has introduced me to many new words.  This is an ongoing effort to identify words I discovered through her books.  I am noting them as I re-read or as Diana posts Daily Lines of the latest book in progress.  Feel free to add your own additions in the comments!

OUBLIETTE. (Voyager, used metaphorically) a top loading dungeon (a.k.a. a thieves’ hole).  I find it amusing that this word wasn’t used while Claire was actually inside the thieves’ hole in Cranesmuir which is arguably a real oubliette.  Jamie uses the word to refer to being below deck on a ship.  It shows up again in Drums of Autumn, and this time young William is in an ‘oubliette.’  In that instance, it’s particularly funny, because William has, in fact, fallen into the privy.  Note the French root : Oublier (to forget).  As in, they’ll toss you in the dungeon and forget about you…  Luckily, no one forgets William in the privy hole.

 AVUNCULAR. (Drums of Autumn, the postman winks avuncularly) uncle-like. Ian uses the noun form Avunculus when writing to Jamie in Latin. Something like,  “Ian salutas Avunculus Jacobus.”  (I’ll correct that when I come across it during the re-read). s Avunculus Jacobus meaning Uncle James, of course.

ALACRITY (throughout the series).  Claire (and others) frequently do things eagerly or in cheerful readiness, i.e.  ‘with alacrity.’  I suspect this one of DG’s favourite words, actually.  Whenever Davina Porter says it in my audio books, I always grin and repeat solemnly, “with alacrity!” 🙂  When we hosted Diana here at our writers’ conference I gave her a dish towel I’d hand embroidered with “Do it with alacrity!” as a joke.  🙂

SMOOR is always used in Outlander  in the sense of  ‘to smoor the fire.’  It means ‘to smother’ in Scots.  One smothers the fire so it continues to burn slowly throughout the night.   There’s an interesting article about historical usage on the Scots Language Centre website.  Click to listen to it said, the ‘oooo’ is long and the /r/ rolls.  A lovely word spoken!  Smoor can be used to mean killing a person by depriving them of air or to mean snow covering something.  My favorite use is from that link, quoting Robert Louis Stevenson, (Merry Men 1887)  “a mune smoored wi’ mist.”  Isn’t that a romantic image for a moon being smothered by fog!

FRESHET (from Drums of Autumn).  Claire sees  freshets when she gets stranded between the Muellers and Frasers’ Ridge.  It’s a sudden overflowing of a stream due to heavy rains or rapid melting.

BATHYSPHERE.  I kid you not.  This one comes from a daily lines posting (Jun 6, 2012) of book 8 in the series  called Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (aka MOBY).  A bathysphere is a spherical chamber for deep diving.  Claire leaves a tense situation “breathing as if I’d just escaped from a bathysphere.”  This might just be my favourite Gabaldon word yet.

EXCRESCENCE- Claire uses it to describe the mob cap she’s been given by Granny Bacon in The Fiery Cross.  An excrescence is an outgrowth that’s the result of disease or abnormality, or an unattractive or superfluous addition.   I confess, this is a much milder definition than the one I had presumed.

DISQUISITION- This one came from a Facebook posting from Diana, but it’s also a humorous  article on her blog about “Butt-cooties.”  Disquisition is just a long word for ‘essay.’  As an English teacher, I will definitely be able to stick this one into my every day vocabulary!

INIMICAL- From Echo in the Bone.  It means tending to harm.  There was a strange sense of… “something waiting among the trees, not inimical, but not welcoming either.”

Click here to read a blog about CAMSTAIRY COCCYGODYNIANS.  Those are two of my favourite Gabaldon vocabulary words.  They’re from Drums of Autumn.

ABSQUATULATE- 29-01-13 Diana posted a Daily Line from MOBY (aka Written in My Own Heart’s Blood) with the following hashtag: #absquatulatemeansjustwhatyouthinkitdoes  The context is “He and Fraser had absquatulated onto the roof and down a drain-pipe, leaving William, clearly reeling with the shock of revelation, alone in the upstairs hallway.”  This word makes me laugh and shake my head.  It means to leave quickly.  To be honest, I was imagining from the context that it meant climb or clamber.  So, Diana, you were wrong.  It doesn’t mean just what I thought it did!

OLEAGINOUS- 04-04-2014 Diana posted a daily line from MOBY that said the surface of the butter was oleaginous.  i.e. greasy.  I like that this word can also mean obsequious.  I would have thought that was a satisfying enough option, but oleaginous is just so much better.  The butter was literally oleaginous, unlike pandering underlings.  Someday I’m using this word in a story. 🙂

SOUGH 14-07-2016 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE): “Together they stood listening, trying to still their pounding hearts and gasping breaths long enough to hear anything above the sough of the forest.”  Sough means moaning, rustling, or murmuring sound.  It rhymes with ‘cough.’

BEDIZENED 08-06-2017 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE):“For Angelina, unable or unwilling to bend her bedizened head enough to look down, was about to collide with the little platform on which the sitter’s chair was perched.”  Bedizened means dressed up or decorated gaudily.  Sounds like a lot of grad hair do’s we see this time of year.

FROWARD 2018-07-23 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE): “He’s Scottish,” I amended, with a sigh. “Which means stubborn. Also unreasonable, intolerant, contumelious, froward, pig-headed and a few other objectionable things.”  Dictionary says this is someone who is contrary and difficult to deal with.

CONTUMELIOUS 2018-07-23 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE): “He’s Scottish,” I amended, with a sigh. “Which means stubborn. Also unreasonable, intolerant, contumelious, froward, pig-headed and a few other objectionable things.”  Dictionary says this refers to someone’s behaviour as being insulting and objectionable.

AMBSACE 2018-07-23 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE): 

“Men don’t like to share a woman. Unless it’s an ambsace.”
“An ambsace?” I was beginning to wonder how I might extricate myself from this conversation with any sort of dignity. I was also beginning to feel rather alarmed.
“That’s just what Madge called it. When two men want to do things to a girl at the same time. It costs more than it would to have two girls, because they often damage her. Mostly just bruises,” she added fairly. “But still.”

By definition, ambsace is the ‘lowest roll in a game of dice: 2 ones’.  See above for the vernacular meaning in the 1700s!

 

 

Echoes November 24, 2011

In my on-going delight over having discovered and devoured Diana Gabaldon last month, I have read the last book in the Outlander series twice this month (I read through most of the series twice since I discovered them. Just because.

I had a bunch of ponderings about Echo in the Bone, and was hoping to spend some quality time on the Outlander Book Club forum. Unfortunately, having Americans involved, they have closed the forum for the Thanksgiving holiday (imagine! shutting down the internet for a holiday!) NOT being an American, I’m not very impressed. I did a search for other discussions and came across this amusing review.  I thought you might be entertained by it as much as I was.

Having shared that, and not being able to play on the forum, I shall have to listen to Voyager and cut out that linen tunic, I guess.

 

cannibal art October 14, 2011

Filed under: OUTLANDERishness,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 1:30 pm
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In Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager, Jamie observes,

“It was not Monsieur Arouet, but a colleague of his—a lady novelist—who remarked to me once that writing novels was a cannibal’s art, in which one often mixed small portions of one’s friends and one’s enemies together, seasoned them with imagination, and allowed the whole to stew together into a savory concoction.”     (p. 148)  

This seems like a fairly accurate picture of my own experience.  How about you?  If you are a writer, is this how characters and plots develop for you?

 

the reader October 4, 2011

Lost wanderer,
head in clouds,
still travelling fictional roads
though the covers are closed.
Slowly moving through today,
heart heavy
from a world spun from words.
Fiction being truth,
when living between pages
for several days,
rousing reality
proves difficult.

.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

.
Do you ever find yourself feeling something akin to culture shock when you emerge from several days of reading- reading book after book from a single series until the fictional world in your head is more real than the world your body habitates?

As you try to pull your head back from where it is still lost between pages, does your heart ache to be back in that place?  Even while you’re full of knowing that the place exists only in your imagination, crafted from the imagination of another, do you feel it is yours as much as the creators, because you’ve journeyed together?

I have the same feeling coming home after a time abroad.  Finding myself takes time.  Good thing there is a waiting list for the next book in Diana Gabaldon‘s Outlander series.  After reading 2 books (1800 pages) over the last 4 days, I’m quite emotionally exhausted.

 

V-GER heads off December 18, 2010

Filed under: Commentary — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:32 am
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Do you remember Star Trek: the Motion Picture? (aka Star Trick: The Motionless Picture according to some SAIT nerds 20 years ago). V-Ger was a giant, living machine tracing through the universe trying to learn all that was learnable and return the information to its creator. Who? 20th Century humans from NASA, of course. V-Ger was actually a Voyager space probe, which had been travelling for 300 years collecting data.

This week, the real Voyager hits the edge of our galaxy and heads off into the universe. 30 years ago when they made the movie they were imagining this day.  I remember it seeming impossibly distant, and yet, here it is.  Science fiction being made real. I remember worrying about whether we really want to draw attention to ourselves…  In 300 years will Voyager return having discovered  or become a lifeform?  or will some life forms have come to see what Earth is all about for better or worse?

What an amazing time we live in.  Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner have been a strange part of it, as the visionary inventions of the tv show and movies are now part of our lives- from automatic doors to flip phones.  Now V-Ger is off to places no human has been. 

Bon Voyage…r

 

 
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