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!

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What’s in a Name? Gaelic vs Gàidhlig in the Outlander World

So as we roll into summer, we’re only 47 days away from the premiere episode of Outlander. (Unless you’re lucky enough to win one of the coveted invitations to the July 25 Gala premiere or July 30 Time Warner Cable preview. Anybody need a +1?) As existing Outlander fans though, we need to be prepared for the multitude of questions that will come our way as the rest of the world falls for Outlander.

One question I’ve had, and that I’ve heard others ask as well, is ‘what is the difference between the pronunciation of Gaelic and Gàidhlig?’

Well, what better source for a definitive answer than Outlander’s own Gàidhlig expert and tutor, Àdhamh Ó Broin? Here is what Àdhamh has to say on the subject:

What is the correct pronunciation of “Gaelic”? “The correct pronunciation is actually exactly as it looks. In the language itself, the word most commonly encountered is Gàidhlig /GAAHLeek/ (although in parts of Argyll, it is more like /GELLeek/ ‘e’ as in “get”) and this has meant that many people now say /Gahlick/ in Eng. But in truth this is more like a nickname for the language than a proper name. Scottish, Irish and Manx (the Isle of Man) are in fact all Gaelic -like “gay” & “lick” stuck together. This a language family, of Gaelic or Goidelic languages, not one particular language. The correct historical terms in English for the three sister tongues within this are exactly as above: Scottish, Irish and Manx. In fact, out of the six Celtic languages, only Scottish has ceased to be referred to by its historical national title, which is a matter of some regret, as it is the only language prior to the arrival of English ever to have been spoken throughout the country and its culture gave us most everything -from kilts, to pipes, to black pudding- we now associate with Scottishness. Another point to address would be the myth that has been floating about that Irish is /GAELik/ & Scottish is /GAHLik/ but if this were true, then the Scots who speak the language would be referred to as Gahls rather than Gaels which we know is not the case.

So which one to use? In Outlander, we have stuck with /GAHLik/ because this is the preferred term of the majority of Scottish speakers. There is no point in confusing matters for the sake of it. But were you to ask me my preferred pronunciation? That would be just as it looks and how it is pronounced in Nova Scotia to this day, /GAELik/!”

So there we have it. Originally there was probably no difference in the pronunciation of the two terms but for most of today’s Scots, and in Outlander, /GAHLik/ is the preferred pronunciation.

So as an added bonus, here is a picture that Àdhamh posted on his Facebook page this weekend.

CLACH NA CAILLICHE
The Witch’s Stone
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This stone was a boundary marker between Gleann Dà Ruadhail (glen of two red streams) and Srath Lachainn (Lachlan’s valley) parishes in my home district of Cowal, Argyll

The “cailleach” associated with this stone was believed to be able to change shape to become a cow and return to human form.
An excavation has just been completed on the other side of the modern road that now intersects the area and they found an old inn where the drovers would drink their fill and sleep over for the night.
The glen is almost devoid of human activity now, save for the whoosh of the odd passing car moving between the two parishes…

 

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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.

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From Savory Meat Pies to Starz in My Eyes – Outlander Retreat Main Event Part 2

OK. I’ve only had 3 hours of sleep but I’m back up and totally jazzed about finishing this blog post. Why does this never happen when I get 3 hours of sleep on a work night? But, yet again, I digress.  Where did I leave off?

A moment in the sun (of Diana’s presence)

Oh, yes! Lunch! But wait, there was this other little thing that happened before lunch. As a part of signing group D, I waited my turn to get Diana to personalize my brand new copy of MOBY! Happily, the line moved pretty quickly as attendees were limited to having their copies of MOBY personalized with just their name. Being the lovely gracious woman that she is, Diana signed my copy for me in the Acknowledgements section where my name appeared. I was thrilled to have another few moments to have her sign the book, thank me for my help, and have my picture taken.

Still basking in the glow of my moment with DG, I headed up to grab some lunch. Some of us who have blogs and fan sites had deliberately maneuvered our way into the same signing group so that we could have lunch together and plot strategies for getting new subscribers for Starz. This is important: New subscribers will be one of several key drivers for the success of the Outlander TV series and determine whether it is renewed for subsequent seasons.

Entering the Armory food court, I found it to be a hub of activity. Apparently, in addition to our own event, there was also some kind of Filipino cultural celebration being held. Skirting the resultant crowds, I scoped out my options and settled on Pies! I figured a savory meat pie would be the closest meal I could come to one that Jamie and Claire likely will eat in MOBY. The Cheeseburger Meat Pie was delicious. (I really wanted the English Meat Pie, but there weren’t any ready when I ordered and besides, I was afraid that would brand me a Sassenach forever.)

Cheeseburger pie

Cheeseburger pie

After our strategy session wrapped up and lunch was devoured, we headed back down to the Fisher Pavilion for the continuation of the afternoon events.

Highland Fling

First up on the roster of afternoon activities was a demonstration of Scottish dancing. Seattle’s Royal Scottish Dance Society delighted attendees with their performance of Scottish country dances in both soft and hard shoe. I was also delighted to hear several tunes that I recognized as staples in the Cape Breton, Nova Scotia musical repertoire. Cutest of all were the littlest costumed members of the group. I caught some lovely pictures and a few short videos to give you a taste.

After the dancing, I spent the next hour pleasantly conversing with many Outlanders I heretofore had only known through social media while valiantly ignoring the siren call of MOBY from the depths of my Random House tote bag. Next up was the hour for which we had all been waiting. It has to be something good if a sign like this shows up, right?

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Reason to Believe

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Thar She Blows – A day full of MOBY – Outlander Retreat Main Event Part 1

The Big Day

So the day I have so eagerly anticipated has finally arrived. Thanks to a body conveniently still running on Eastern Daylight Time combined with an early Seattle sunrise, I was awake bright and early this Saturday morn. After completing my morning Social Media routine — the only morning exercise routine in which I am generally willing to engage, I headed down to the hotel restaurant for a quick breakfast. That essential task completed, it was time for my roomie and I to jump in a cab to head to the Seattle Center for our special day.

A funny thing happened in that brief ride. My heart began to beat just a bit faster and my anticipation kept building higher and higher. I had such expectations for this event, would the actual day live up to all the anticipation? Let me set your minds at ease and tell you: ‘Yes, it absolutely did!’ But, I digress. After a brief cab ride, we arrived at the Seattle Center and made the short walk to the Fisher Pavilion. I must confess I was a bit worried when I first spotted our destination.

Fisher Pavilion ADA Entrance

Fisher Pavilion ADA Entrance

The event was billed as an intimate gathering, but this building seemed to promise a closeness I’m not quite sure I was willing to accept. Luckily, this turned out to be the elevator entrance for the Pavilion which was down a flight of stairs. Whew, first crisis averted. Upon descending the stairs, we were quickly checked in by the ultra efficient Random House staff and entered another world.

The Clan Gathers

Once inside, we were transported into the world of Outlander. I quickly found my way through the maze of fans to claim my bag-o-swag — including the long-awaited copy of MOBY. (Which, to be honest, is currently sitting on the end of my bed in the hotel room right now, calling my name. The blog comes first, however!) Next, I headed into the room where the festivities would begin and Diana’s Keynote and Q&A would be held. To pass the time, I cracked open my copy of MOBY to take a peek at the Acknowledgements.

So why look at the Acknowledgements you may ask? Well, first, I didn’t trust myself to be able to STOP reading if I started reading the actual story; not even for Diana. Secondly, I played a very small part in helping to gather information and proofread the family tree that many of you will find in the end papers of the hardback copy of MOBY. In exchange for these efforts, Diana had graciously promised to include me and my nitpicking compatriots in the MOBY acknowledgements, and, sure enough, we were there! I have to tell you; It was very thrilling to see my name there in print.

Let the Celebrations Begin

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