Monday, March 05, 2012

Some photos from our most recent Edinburgh visit

Hey folks, we're back from a short research trip to Edinburgh. Here are a few photos, together with some notes about how the images tie in to my Taskill Witches books (the first is out now, and all three are coming in mass market paperback in 2013 on the HQN line.)

One of the main places I wanted to revisit was the Tollbooth on Cannongate. This is a jail that was built in the late 1500's and part of it now serves as a pub while the bulk of the building houses the People's Story Museum. This collection focuses on the everyday folk of Edinburgh over the centuries. Whilst small in comparison to the main museums in Edinburgh, it's a terrific collection and gives a real sense of life over the centuries.
Cannongate Tollbooth from the outside.

An inner spiral staircase. (Thankfully they have regular stairs and disabled access as well as the pretties. ;)

Part of an old cell is maintained just as it was in the 1770s. The first time I saw this, it inspired me to include a cell scene in one my Taskill witch stories. That became chapter two of THE HARLOT, which is set in Dundee Tollbooth earlier in the 1700s. Check these piccies out!

Objects from law and order in the 1700s are shown below, including shackles, a neck brace, and the rather disturbing thing that looks like a pitch fork with a closure was used to capture criminals on the run, presumably around the neck from behind. Eeek.

Here we have an official notice enforcing the law against throwing stones at the executioner and prisoners during an execution.
This raises all sorts of questions. Were the stone throwers in favour of the criminal, or aiding the deliverance of justice by showing their anger at the wrongdoer, or did they enjoy it as empowering entertainment? A mixture of all of the above, I suspect! In my reading on the Scottish witch trials I discovered that in one instance the villagers stoned an accused woman then trampled her body to death beneath a wooden door, such was the fear and persecution surrounding "evil" witchcraft. I used these images in part to describe the death of the Taskill's mother, which was also the moment when the three siblings (Jessie, Lennox, and Maisie,) were torn apart.

In the upper galleries at the People's Story there are many flags and banners that show how important the workmen's guilds were. In order to gain a voice and rights, different tradesman gathered together. Here is a flag from the brush makers of Edinburgh, for example. In THE LIBERTINE, one of the sub plots follows the hero, Lennox Taskill, trying to establish his men as the official cart and carriage makers of Saint Andrews. Many of the local townsmen are against his application because of the rumours that Lennox and his people practice witchcraft.

Here I am caught studying a display of a Cooper's workshop - coopers are the barrel makers. A very important part of Scotland's heritage, having barrels to put the whisky in. ;)

This whisky shop is opposite the tollbooth and the little black terrier stands up and greets anyone who looks in. So cute!

So much of Edinburgh's past is visible to the casual visitor, it's an incredible city. So many doorways caught my eye. This is the doorway of the Museum of Edinburgh, also on Cannongate. The museum is an old and authentic building, giving you a direct feeling of life in the 16th to 18th centuries, with lots of great stuff to see. Of particular interest was a display relating to fire in the city, and the incredible bustling population there. In the 1770's it was one of the most crowded cities in Europe, and the threat of fire was devastating. Given the witch burnings, it makes you think! I've got a scene involving fire and the fear it evoked in crowded Edinburgh streets towards the end of THE LIBERTINE.

Culture is everywhere in Edinburgh. This is the statue of poet, Robert Ferguson, and a photo of me hoping his talent will rub off if I walk in his footsteps. Well, you have to, don't you. :) Go here to read more about Ferguson.

This signpost is outside the Writer's Museum, a museum I hadn't visited before. It's an amazing manor house just off the Royal Mile and exhibits items from three Scottish writers, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. The Stevenson collection was particularly extensive and fascinating. It was also lovely to see a lock of "Chloris's" white blonde hair in the Burns' collection. Chloris was the poetic name for Jean Lorimer, (she of the "lintwhite locks" in many of the songs he wrote) and it is the name I used for my heroine in THE LIBERTINE. It was a popular 18th century name and I fell in love with it so my gentle, blonde haired heroine had to be Chloris.

We also made time to taxi over to visit the National Portrait Museum, which houses another terrific collection. It's been extensively refurbished since my last visit and really is a masterpiece museum. I always find looking at costume and setting from art done during the period I'm writing about resonates with me much more than a written account of a historian.

Lots of good places to eat in the city, but I had to share this one which we visit every time we go. Pancho Villas serves gorgeous Mexican food. Here's the shared veggie starter and a main course of Albondigas en Chipotle (spiced meatball with mexican rice and salad) for me. Highly recommended!

This view of the rooftops going up the Royal Mile was snapped from our hotel base.

If you want to check out more of my research photos you can find them here on my Scotland gallery on my website. This latest batch will be added there soon.

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