Monday, April 25, 2016

Holy cow!

During my last full day in Glasgow, one of the family members took me outside of the city for a long drive into the Scottish countryside to see a very little known historic relic called St Mary's Chapel that I really wanted to see, and then on to Rosslyn Chapel.

It was a beautiful and sunny day, and as we were driving, we spotted some Highland cows along the road. If you know me well, you know I'm highly scared of animals, but I just had to get out and take a look. I started calling to the little brown cow in my sweetest voice, and it succumbed to the sounds of the Siren and came walking right up to me. The magnificent creature just stood there so calmly, and let me pet him. I was so excited that I actually dared to do it in the first place, and flattered myself into thinking he liked me, but maybe he just thought I had some food. On my way to St Mary's chapel, I could not stop talking about that cow, as my childlike excitement had been ignited.

St Mary's chapel is in the middle of nowhere and was once used as a cow byre. In 1636, a painted ceiling on a timber barrel vault using natural pigments and depicting the final judgement was installed by Sir William Stewart. From the outside, you would never know that there was a hidden chapel dedicated to Mary Magdalene. It's astounding to me that this hidden gem is still intact after all these years, and it was a beautiful and sacred place.

The final stop was Rosslyn Chapel, and it exceeded my expectations. In 1446, the building of the chapel had begun for the family to privately worship in. It was never fully finished, and fell partially into ruin after the death of William Sinclair, 3rd Prince of Orkney. There were several attempts made to secure the funds in order to restore this precious relic, but nothing came to fruition. When Dan Brown wrote his novel, Da Vinci Code, it became a top ten best seller and brought 176,000 visitors after the first year of its release which made it possible to restore the chapel. The underground vaults are said to hold something of great significance, but have yet to be opened. I stood on the center stone in the chapel which runs along the ley lines of the Earth. It's said that you can feel the energy from these powerful points, and I swear that I did! I just felt that considering the ties to the Mason's, who helped me to find my family, Rosslyn was a sacred space I felt drawn to see it and to complete my Scottish Spring.

As I sit here on a train to Inverness to head out to the Highlands where my family derives from, I am in deep thought and am feeling a bit of sadness about those I had to leave behind in Glasgow.  However, I look forward to connecting with the land that my ancestors walked. I hope that moving forward, I can make my family and friends proud of the person I am becoming, every day of my life.

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Where did she 'Gogh'?

I know that I've been missing for a few days and that I had every intention of updating my loved ones daily. Let's just say, the beginning of my journey started off a bit rocky, and that I've been busy ever since. As everyone knows me is aware, I can be a very clumsy girl. When I got to Scotland, I was so sick from transferring planes several times, that I could barely gather myself together. In fact, I got sick, tried to brush my teeth (but accidentally used soap) put my coat in the sink while doing so (and the water turned on) and then sprawled myself out on the grass in the middle of nowhere like a dying animal. Thank heavens the rest of the trip, so far, has not only been smooth sailing, but undeniably perfect.

I gathered with the clan on the night of arrival after gathering myself together. We all met for dinner at Fanny Trollopes, and it was so comfortable from the very start. It also felt surreal to meet all of the lovely people that I've been in contact with for the last six years. I value nothing in this world more than my family, both here and gone, and they have all helped to give me the spark of bravery that I needed in order to execute this sojourn.

While in Glasgow for three days, I had a bucket list of items that I wanted to complete, and did. One of the items on that list was the Kelvingrove Museum. I had read about the display of the hanging heads of human expression, and wanted to stare up at them until my neck couldn't take it anymore. I had read a book once about Vincent Van Gogh, and really have felt an affinity for him ever since, and was elated to see his paintings for the first time in my life. To be able to be up close and personal with his work was truly a joy for me, and for the first time in a long time, I felt like I could truly marvel at something. In fact, my entire stay in the city of Glasgow has been full of marvels.

Here is a brief synopsis of what I was up to while in Glasgow: I attended the underground concert of a talented Scottish band called Dropkick, and had an amazing time. I ate blood pudding, haggis, fish & chips, ran all around the city, soaked up the architecture, and met such really wonderful people and formed bonds and friendships that will remain in my heart and memories forever.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

The Origin of a Journey

Six years ago, I joined to start some genealogical work for my grandma Campbell.
One common story she and others told was so interesting and tragic that I just had to find out what happened. Peter Campbell was my great-grandfather's big brother. During WWI, he was taken to a Scottish prison camp as a conscientious objector, where he later perished. I searched and searched to no avail for the name of the prison camp he was confined to.
Knowing several of my family members had Masonic ties, I wrote to the Grand Lodge of Scotland, looking for leads. One kind lodge member wrote back and referred me to the Lodge of St. Kilda, which was closer to the Isle of Skye where my family came from. A second gentleman even located a few of my existing Campbell relatives, some of whom still live in the ancestral homes of my family. 
Finally, the day after I booked my trip to Scotland, I found the names of two prisons Peter was confined to, along with so much more of the story. A relative there had done some family genealogy and knew, along with the prison names, the dates he was at each, ACTUAL LETTERS written by Peter to his dear sister, and the location of his final resting place. 
The timing was uncanny and providential—a simple message telling me I am going to the right place at the right time.
Uncovering the people of my past has revealed many ways in which their life events, whether big or small, epic or insignificant, have shaped my own life and identity. Had Peter not objected to war, he may or may not have enjoyed a longer life. But more importantly, the impact his consequent imprisonment and death had on his family was so profound that it became the single most life changing event of those who remained. If not for Peter’s sacrifice, my family wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t be on my way to Scotland this week.
I’m excited to visit new relatives who have "gathered the clan,” and welcomed me in the warmest, friendliest manner; and I’m humbled to say goodbye to past relatives who worked hard and survived a great deal, so that I, and others in my family could enjoy the good lives we have.
What began as my small foray into family history is about to be “Summer’s Spring in Scotland,” reconnecting to distant Campbell family ties, and the stories they left behind.