Contact

If you have anything to say about anything on this site, you can contact me by email - see bottom-right of every page. I’m not into Facebook, Twitter and all that; I’ve been put off by all the people that have got themselves into trouble for mouthing off without thinking about it first. It’s all too easy to jump in with both feet nowadays. So, as I am prone to doing just that, I think it’s best to limit my opportunities. You can see a typical example of what happens when I get a ‘bee in my bonnet’ about something by clicking here.
© Walter Jardine 2018

The Awakening

I have to thank Neil Oliver for opening my eyes to a fact that I had never fully appreciated. In the introduction to his book A History of Scotland, Neil described the impact on him of seeing the evidence of the precise position of a flint knapper’s knees and toes as he knelt by a loch, creating his stone tools. Neil described how he was moved by the experience of being able to occupy exactly the same space as that flint knapper, even though they lived thousands of years apart. Reading that, caused me to reflect on my own experiences. During the holiday in Scotland when I did some family research, I found the actual farm cottage, modernised now, in which my mother was born in 1907, and the building where she first went to school in 1912. I remember a feeling of great satisfaction but put it down to the success of the research rather than what those places might mean to me. After reading Neil’s piece, I remembered looking at the row of cottages and thinking, ‘my mum was born here’. It was similar to the feeling I got another time, visiting the house where my father grew up; a welling up of a feeling of attachment and fondness. Now, because I was looking for it, I found the emotional content of those experiences. It had been there all along, just under the surface, but I had never let it out before. The cumulative effect of recognising the importance of these associations to me has been that I feel for the first time that I am not half- English and half-Scottish. I am English, and I am Scottish. But there are some situations in which I have to make a choice, and when I do, it’s being English that wins. Like me, Somerled had options; but when he had to make a choice, being a Scot (Gael) was what he felt him- self to be. Of course I have known of my Scottish ancestry all my life, but only at the level of knowing as I write this, that ‘today is Wednesday’; a fact, but for the most part, not a significant one. This awakening to the emotional content of history, explains a lot. Like, why I cared about events that happened 800 years before I was born, in a place some 500 miles from where I have lived for most of my life and cared enough to research the events and to learn enough about the impact on the people of the time, to write my version of what happened and why. I continue to read Scottish history. I believe more of it should be taught in English schools. Thanks to Neil, I have found the hidden Scot, and the hidden motivation in me.

Why Me?

When I discovered Somerled, I was on holiday in Scotland with my wife and, part of the time, researching my ancestry. My mother was Scottish, my father English, but was stationed in Edinburgh having returned to the UK after six years’ duty in India. My brother was born in Edinburgh. Ten years later, my father left the Army and the family went south to Eastbourne, where he had grown up. I was born soon after (nearly a Scot!). I have always felt English but my brother was very definitely Scottish. Scotland-England football matches were fun in our house. The important point here was that I realised that you are what you feel. Somerled was born into and grew up in a Gaelic society and therefore felt Gaelic. Whatever modern scientists and historians may say about Somerled’s origins, he was a Scot - because he declared it so. But why I felt the need to write my version of Somerled’s story has puzzled me… until today.
Somerled mac Gillebhride is a much maligned clan leader of the 12th century, often referred to as a ‘warlord’ who made trouble for the kings of Scotland. He has also been disparagingly referred to by some as ‘Somerled the Viking’. ‘Warlord’ is a term that could be applied to just about any and every leader in pre-feudal Britain. Being a warlord was an acceptable part of the political system of the time. ‘Viking’ is justified by some because he had a Norse name, a Norse mother and Norse DNA. The fact that his father and grandfather had Gaelic names, was brought up in a Gaelic society and he fought against the Norse for Gaelic territory, values and traditions seems to have been largely ignored. Walter fitz Alain was the third son of a Breton knight who had been brought to England by Henry I to help defend England’s border with Wales. He fought against the tradition of lower ranking sons becoming priests, to seek his fortune as a knight. His travels eventually took him to Scotland where the opportunities seemed boundless.
From an early age, two boys, one born in Scotland, the other in England, are each driven by a hunger to succeed. Somerled fights to regain his clan’s ancient home from the Vikings. Walter becomes a knight for hire, seeking his fortune. Their success brings them into conflict with each other. Only one can survive. This is the largely true story of two little-known, but in my view, historically important men whose struggles in Scotland left their mark that can still be seen in the Britain of today.
Proverb

“A hungry youth has a wolf in his belly.”

© Walter Jardine 2018

Contact

If you have anything to say about anything on this site, you can contact me by email - see bottom-right of every page. I’m not into Facebook, Twitter and all that; I’ve been put off by all the people that have got themselves into trouble for mouthing off without thinking about it first. It’s all too easy to jump in with both feet nowadays. So, as I am prone to doing just that, I think it’s best to limit my opportunities. You can see a typical example of what happens when I get a ‘bee in my bonnet’ about something by clicking here.

The Awakening

I have to thank Neil Oliver for opening my eyes to a fact that I had never fully appreciated. In the introduction to his book A History of Scotland, Neil described the impact on him of seeing the evidence of the precise position of a flint knapper’s knees and toes as he knelt by a loch, creating his stone tools. Neil described how he was moved by the experience of being able to occupy exactly the same space as that flint knapper, even though they lived thousands of years apart. Reading that, caused me to reflect on my own experiences. During the holiday in Scotland when I did some family research, I found the actual farm cottage, modernised now, in which my mother was born in 1907, and the building where she first went to school in 1912; albeit almost hidden behind a modern ‘terrapin’ to provide for the increased population over the years. I remember a feeling of great satisfaction but put it down to the success of the research rather than what those places might mean to me. After reading Neil’s piece, I remembered looking at the row of cottages and thinking, ‘my mum was born here’. It was similar to the feeling I got another time, visiting the house in Eastbourne where my father grew up; a welling up of a feeling of attachment and fondness. Now, because I was looking for it, I found the emotional content of those experiences. It had been there all along, just under the surface, but I had never let it out before. The cumulative effect of recognising the importance of these associations to me has been that I feel for the first time that I am not half-English and half-Scottish. I am English, and I am Scottish. But there are some situations in which I have to make a choice, and when I do, it’s being English that wins. Like me, Somerled had options; but when he had to make a choice, being a Scot (Gael) was what he felt himself to be. Of course I have known of my Scottish ancestry all my life, but only at the level of knowing as I write this, that ‘today is Wednesday’; a fact, but for the most part, not a significant one. This awakening to the emotional content of history, explains a lot. Like, why I cared about events that happened 800 years before I was born, in a place some 500 miles from where I have lived for most of my life and cared enough to research the events and to learn enough about the impact on the people of the time, to write my version of what happened and why. I continue to read Scottish history. I believe more of it should be taught in English schools. Thanks to Neil, I have found the hidden Scot, and the hidden motivation in me.

Why Me?

When I discovered Somerled, I was on holiday in Scotland with my wife and, part of the time, researching my ancestry. My mother was Scottish, my father English, but was stationed in Edinburgh having returned to the UK after six years’ duty in India. My brother was born in Edinburgh. Ten years later, my father left the Army and the family went south to Eastbourne, where he had grown up. I was born soon after (nearly a Scot!). I have always felt English but my brother was very definitely Scottish. Scotland-England football matches were fun in our house. The important point here was that I realised that you are what you feel. Somerled was born into and grew up in a Gaelic society and therefore felt Gaelic. Whatever modern scientists and historians may say about Somerled’s origins, he was a Scot - because he declared it so. But why I felt the need to write my version of Somerled’s story has puzzled me… until today.
Somerled mac Gillebhride is a much maligned clan leader of the 12th century, often referred to as a ‘warlord’ who made trouble for the kings of Scotland. He has also been disparagingly referred to by some as ‘Somerled the Viking’. ‘Warlord’ is a term that could be applied to just about any and every leader in pre-feudal Britain. Being a warlord was an acceptable part of the political system of the time. ‘Viking’ is justified by some because he had a Norse name, a Norse mother and Norse DNA. The fact that his father and grandfather had Gaelic names, was brought up in a Gaelic society and he fought against the Norse for Gaelic territory, values and traditions seems to have been largely ignored. Walter fitz Alain was the third son of a Breton knight who had been brought to England by Henry I. He fought against the tradition of lower ranking sons becoming priests, to seek his fortune as a knight. His travels eventually took him to Scotland where the opportunities seemed boundless.

“A hungry youth has a wolf in his belly.”

From an early age, two boys, one born in Scotland, the other in England, are each driven by a hunger to succeed. Somerled fights to regain his clan’s ancient home from the Vikings. Walter becomes a knight for hire, seeking his fortune. Their success brings them into conflict with each other. Only one can survive. This is the largely true story of two little-known, but in my view, historically important men whose struggles in Scotland left their mark that can still be seen in the Britain of today.
Proverb

Walter Jardine

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Walter Jardine

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