View of Centre Hallway House

I climbed a hill and lost 200 years but where is Jamie?

Mea culpa…

Hmm. Maybe I should have thought twice about committing to writing blog posts while I was on vacation.  I seem to be getting a bit lax about deadlines as the vacation progresses. I guess it’s a good thing no one enforces the deadlines but me. :-)

Anyway, when last we met I was looking forward to visiting The Highland Village Museum (An Clachan Gàidhealach) at Iona in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I am happy to report that I had a spectacular visit on a beautiful sunny day last week. The Village is spread across a hill overlooking the great Bras d’Or inland sea but the views before you even enter the village proper are just spectacular. I was also presented with immediate opportunities to test my Gàidhlig comprehension (I give myself a B+).

A Journey Begins…

Once I paid for my admission ticket, I began my journey through the history of Cape Breton settlement. There weren’t any stones but I still managed to lose over 200 years as I climbed the tree-shaded path up the hill. I wonder if I will find Jamie?

The first habitation on my tour is a Black House—or An Taigh Dubh in Gàidhlig. This is the type of dwelling that many Scottish emigrants left in Scotland when they moved across the Atlantic to Nova Scotia. As I stepped into the hazy darkness of the single room lit only by a peat fire, I was greeted by it’s resident—a shepherd who tended his lordship’s flocks. He apologized for the clutter, as he was in the final stages of preparing to move across the Great Sea to join his wife and children who had already left. He was very interested to hear if I had any first-hand information about the new land of Nova Scotia. I tried to channel my best inner Claire (a character in Outlander for the uninitiated) and make a few comments without prophesying like Cassandra. ;-)

A trifle gratefully, I made my escape from the Black House and move further up the hill toward the first habitations of the Scots in the new world of Cape Breton.

An alien land…

Continuing up the hill, I paused to speak to some other new residents—Heiland Coos!

Once passed the coos, I entered the realm of the first Scots in Nova Scotia. The first thing the Scots had to do when they arrived was clear the great forests that covered their new home. As those of you who are familiar with the Scottish Highlands may realize, this was quite a change from the deforested landscape most of them had left. In fact, many of them had only carried a single axe head on their voyage and had to craft a handle for that before it could even be used.

However, once they did manage to get some trees felled, they were able to build dwellings for themselves and their animals. Entering the log cabin, I was greeted by a frontierswoman—in Gaelic!  I answered her ‘Ciamar a tha sibh?’ with ‘Glè mhath.’ I fancy she was a bit surprised but I don’t think even I could butcher the pronunciation of that too badly. Pleasantries exchanged, she was happy to show me around her humble home.

Prosperity beckons…

Exiting the Log Cabin (Taigh-logaichean), I made my way forward in time to the house of a slightly more prosperous farmer who owned a center-chimney house. This dwelling was a vast improvement over the log cabin. It had painted walls, a hardwood floor and actual partitioned rooms—all clustered around a central fireplace that provided not only for cooking but also the heat for the entire house. Also, many of the rooms served more than one function. You will note in one of the pictures below that the living room is set up for a milling frolic where they waulk the wool to make the cloth softer and more durable. An interesting note about waulking wool—in Scotland waulking was done exclusively by women but in Nova Scotia it was done by women and men. Personally, I think the men just didn’t want to be left out of the singing and gossiping that were part of any Cape Breton function. For all you Outlander fans, I have heard that there may be a waulking scene in Outlander!

After leaving the previous house, I ventured into the church that has served the community for hundreds of years. One of the things I have noticed since I first began coming to Cape Breton almost 15 years ago, is that every community seems to have set aside the piece of land with the best view for their church, and this was no exception.

Leaving the church situated on the high ground, I descended into a Cape Breton village of roughly the 19th century time period. I stopped to peek into a Centre Hallway house from about 1865 and admired the brand new cook-stove. Such a time-saver for the farmer’s wife.

Tentative steps…

After the 1865 house, I walked past the Village School and then stepped into a turn-of-the-century General Store. This is where I got very brave. Not only did I answer the Storekeeper’s ‘Ciamar a tha sibh’ query with ‘Glè mhath,’ but I even ventured a further comment on the weather—’Tha e glè briagh an-diugh!’  Smugly I thought to myself—Àdham would be so proud—unfortunately, however, the storekeeper took this to mean I spoke Gaelic fluently and unleashed a torrent of Gaelic at me. Luckily, she quickly interpreted my panicked deer-in-the-headlights look correctly and switched back to English. We did have a lovely conversation though about how I came to speak even a little Gaelic and I took the opportunity to tell her about a new upcoming television series called Outlander. ;-)

I finally found Jamie…

Next up on my path through the village was the Blacksmith’s Shop. And guess what!! I finally found Jamie. Ok, so maybe he’s not a six-foot four-inch Highland Scot with red hair, but he does speak Gaelic and has a useful skill! I took a few pictures and a quick video of him at work making nails. (And just maybe had a brief flashback to a certain scene in MOBY).

The last stop on my tour of the Highland Village Museum was a turn of the 20th century house. These are the types of houses still much in evidence in many places on Cape Breton. In this house, modern appliances such as stoves, washing machines and ice cream churns are starting to be seen. As I concluded my tour, I stopped to read the signboard about the 21st century Gaels in Cape Breton and also to make a purchase in the gift shop. I’ve never yet experienced anything easy about Gaelic but I’m hopeful this little book will live up to its cover.

I hope you’ve enjoyed taking this tour through the Cape Breton Highland Village museum with me. If you are ever in Cape Breton—and I sincerely hope you will visit—be sure to stop by. You can find all the details about planning a visit at their website: Highland Village Museum

Final note…

I also wanted to take a moment to congratulate Linda Schultz (@lsdragonfly1) on winning the first ever GreatScot! giveaway. I know that the signed first edition copy of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood and the Outlander poster will have a wonderful home—just as soon as I’m home long enough to mail it!

Stay tuned for the next post all about my visit to the Gaelic College (Colaisde na Gàidhlig) where I see a man about a kilt, observe a waulking demonstration and listen to some fine fiddling from a former Premier of Nova Scotia!

Creignish

Traces of Old World Culture in New Scotland – Jigs and Reels

One of the best things about visiting Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia is experiencing cultural traditions that were transferred from Scotland to the new world with the emigrant wave of the 18th and 19th centuries. This is especially true since some of these same things have all but died out in Scotland itself.   Although I’ve been coming to the island every summer for the last 15 years, I have enjoyed experiencing these now familiar activities through the lens of the GreatScot! blog.

Among my favorite traditions are the almost daily Celtic Square Dances that are held in Parish Halls and Recreation Centers around the island. Almost any night of the week you can find a dance somewhere—Mondays are Brook Village, Thursdays are Glencoe Mills and West Mabou on Saturday nights. There are groups of people ‘from away’—as Cape Bretoners call tourists— and locals as well, who spend the week going from dance to dance to enjoy the fiddle music and take to the floor for a set or two. This year, a new community has joined the weekly line-up as Creignish has added a dance on Tuesday nights.  No one on the island seems to know quite how these dances migrated from Scotland, but they are common all around Cape Breton and even on mainland Nova Scotia.

Cape Breton Square Dances usually start fairly late by modern standards—generally after 9:30 pm. This is because in the days of farm laborers and fishermen, no one had time for a dance until after a full days work was finished. The dances also follow a fairly regular pattern, although the origins are somewhat shrouded by time. First the fiddler and the piano accompanist take the stage for a bit of a warm-up, then they launch into the first jig and couples take to the floor. Often fiddlers will trade-off playing as one tires and another takes over. Towards the end of the evening, when the dancers are tired as well, often the floor will clear and individuals will take the floor one at a time for a spot of step dancing. This is the chance for the good dancers in the crowd to kick up their heels and show off for a bit.

In the area of Cape Breton where I spend the most time (the western or Sunset side of the island), the dances consist of 3 figures danced to the tunes of two jigs and a reel and are known as Inverness County Square Sets. Couples form squares (which are often really more round) to perform the figures. Jigs are tunes that are faster paced and in addition to being used for the 1st and 2nd figures of the square dancing, are also often used for solo or small group step dancing.

I took some pictures and some short videos from the Creignish dance to give you a taste of what a traditional Cape Breton Square Dance is like. The musicians for this evening are Wendy MacIsaac on the fiddle and Mac Morin on piano. Notice that all ages and skill levels take part and that native Cape Bretoners are really good about helping people from away join in and learn what to do.

First Figure – Jig

1. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
2. Turn to your corner and dance
3. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
4. Turn to your corner and dance
5. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
6. Turn to your corner and dance
7. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
8. Turn to your corner and dance
9. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
That’ll be it–That’ll be all!

Second Figure – Jig

1. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
2. Dance with your partner
3. Promenade around to the right
4. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
5. Dance with your partner
6. Promenade around to the left
7. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
8. Dance with your partner
9. Promenade around to the right
10. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
11. Dance with your partner
12. Promenade around to the left
13. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
That’ll be it–That’ll be all!

Third Figure – Reel

1. Right hand to your partner, half grand chain
2. Swing your partner
3. Left hand to your corner partner, half grand chain back to home
4. Promenade to the right
5. One couple takes the lead and promenades to face the music
6. This couple turns toward each other (lady on the left, gent on the
right, with gent’s left hand on the small of the lady’s back and his
right hand holding his lady’s right hand) then they turn to face the
lineup and split the couples down the middle.
7. When the head couple has split the couples, they cast off and
return to the music with the men following the men and the women
following the women.
8. Gents on one side and ladies on the other side, forward and back
a few times and show your steps.
9. Join with your partner and do a simple two step or show your
footwork. Everyone dances back to their home place & makes a
circle.
10. Right hand to your partner, half grand chain, swing your partner
11. Left hand to your corner partner, half grand chain back to home
12. Promenade to the right
13. Another couple OR the same couple as before promenades to
face the back of the hall.
14. Repeat number 6.
15. Repeat number 7 returning to the back of the hall.
16. Repeat numbers 8 & 9
17. Repeat steps 1 through 16
18. Right hand to your partner and do a grand chain (passing your
partner by and going all the way to home.
19. All join hands and show your steps!
That’ll be it and that’ll be all

Stay tuned…

Coming soon is a post about my visit to the Cape Breton Highland Village Museum—where I met a blacksmith named Jamie—as well as one on my upcoming visit to The Gaelic College for a Great Kilt demonstration and the opportunity to partake in a milling frolic.

 

 

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All Mixed Up and Sitting on Top of the World – Outlander Retreat Main Event Part 3

When last we met, Retreat attendees were giving the new Outlander Behind the Scenes feature a rousing standing ovation. Alas, that was the end of the official presentations of the Outlander Retreat weekend. Last up in the official events schedule was the Afternoon Mixer.

Nibbles and Natterings

Exiting the main hall to the skirl of  bagpipes and still on a tremendous adrenaline high from all the fantastic tidbits and visuals of the last hour, I found myself facing a banquet worthy of Castle Leoch and Mrs. Fitz herself.

 


For the next two hours, Outlanders mixed and mingled with each other as well as with Diana and many of the Random House and Starz reps. It was a beautiful affair and Diana was beautiful and gracious as she moved from group to group. I think just about everyone had a chance to chat with her if they were patient. I had one very important question I had been wanting to ask and this was finally my chance. I knew that Diana had been listing the annual DragonCon event as tentative on her appearance schedule for a while, but I was finally able to confirm that she won’t be able to attend the event this year because of commitments in the UK.  While disappointed for myself, hopefully you readers in the UK will be able to experience the DG phenomenon in person for yourself.

As for the food, there was definitely some noshing going on. I had several bites that were delightful. My favorite was probably the smoked salmon on oatcake, but the shepherd’s pie bite was very good too.  I also tried the lavender fudge, and while it was good, I just seem to have a problem with lavender. I can’t imagine why. ;-)

Soon, though, all the food was eaten and slowly but surely everyone began to hug and bid each other farewell. I found I really had to drag myself away. Well in all honesty @LallybrochLaura had to drag me away, otherwise I might still be there. I just didn’t want the magic of the weekend to end. My last sight as I climbed the steps and stepped away from my magical weekend was this one of Kristin Matherly.

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I think she may have had the best idea of all. How much better can it get than a nice sunny spot and a great book to read?

A Meal with a View

Luckily for me, there was one last event on my unofficial Outlander Retreat agenda. A few friends and I planned a post-Retreat dinner in the revolving Sky City restaurant at the top of the Seattle Space Needle. As we were just a bit early for our reservation, Laura and I took the opportunity to visit the Space Needle Observation Deck on what had to be one of the most beautiful days in Seattle that I have ever seen.  Hardly a cloud in the sky and you felt you could see forever.

At dinner, the food was superb but the company even more so. It was a wonderful chance to sit down and really discuss all our feelings about the day and share with each other our favorite memories. You could actually feel friendships clicking and solidifying as we enjoyed our food, conversation, and revolving view. All too soon though, it was time for even that last remnant of the memory-filled day to be over. We all headed back to our hotels for the night and then back to our respective home cities and daily lives.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, like the Outlander Retreat weekend, it is time to wrap up my official Outlander Retreat blog posts. As I reflect on all the happenings of the last days, I find that it already seems to be fading into mythical status in my mind.

Did I really meet Diana Gabaldon?

Were all the online friends I met in person for the first time this weekend really as awesome as I had hoped they would be?

Do I really have in my hands the book that I have been waiting almost five years to read?

The answers to all these questions is yes. But even now, as I sit here composing this blog post, I find that I don’t want to let the weekend go.  For lack of any better words of my own, I’ve decided to include here one of my favorite songs by Scottish singer/songwriter Dougie MacLean titled ‘Caledonia’. For those who may not know, Caledonia is the Latin name given to Scotland by the Romans, and in this song MacLean is singing about being homesick for Scotland after a weekend with friends. I find this song fits my feelings perfectly because, after this magical wonderful weekend, I find myself homesick for Outlander. And just as soon as I hit publish on this blog, I will be diving right into that magical world once more.  Don’t be worried if you don’t hear from me for a bit, I’ll be in my favorite fictional world.

Courtsey @OutlanderTours

Àdhamh Ó Broin Surprises and Delights with Gàidhlig Story and Song at the UK Outlander Gathering

So I hope everyone is having a wonderful Monday. If you’re not, Àdhamh has kindly provided the Gàidhlig to express yourself!

 

Àdhamh had quite the busy weekend as he dropped in on the UK Outlander Gathering as a featured speaker and entertainer. From the flying tweets and Facebook posts, he was quite the hit, which doesn’t surprise me in the least.  I have never met anyone more willing and eager to share the culture he loves so much! Starz and Tall Ship Productions have done a great favor to Outlanders everywhere in bringing Àdhamh on board. Not only does he work long and hard to keep the Gàidhlig aspects of Outlander authentic, but he goes well above and beyond to interact with fans and help those of us who appreciate the culture and are trying to learn more.

Some shots from the Gathering:

However, by far the highlight of the afternoon, or so I hear, was Àdhamh’s vocal performance. Luckily Outlanders far and wide are able to appreciate a part of the performance thanks to this recording by Karin Anderson.

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Updated 5/3/14 Bear McCreary hints at what we might hear in Starz’s Outlander Score

Unless you were under a rock today, you are probably are aware of the fact that Starz released a new longer trailer for Outlander today. This was after making loyal Outlanders jump through a few hoops though. (I’m pretty sure I’m going to be having nightmares about #WhereisClaire tonight)

If you were under a rock, congratulations on avoiding the carpal tunnel that most of the rest of us will likely suffer. You can enjoy the fruits of our labor. (viewable in the US only)

 

Of course, the excitement generated by the new longer trailer prompted some questions about the music that would be used in the show.  Luckily, Bear McCreary responded with some hints about what will be used in the show. I, for one, can’t wait to hear the results. It sounds like it is going to be fabulous and will include Gaelic chants!

Bear also tweeted the following:

Surely this has to be for Outlander! Here’s hoping for a new Gàidhlig music revival in the offing!

Is it summer yet?

Update:

Here’s a few more tweets from Bear today about the Outlander music.

And if that wasn’t enough, Chris Parnell just had to tease us too!