Thursday, July 23, 2009

Book Review - "My Heart's in the Lowlands"

By Liz Curtis Higgs

This is a delightful travel book - ten days in bonny Scotland. I picked it up while purchasing one of her fiction novels. I don't know why, but I started reading this one first. Perhaps it's because I have a dream of visiting Scotland some day, the homeland of my ancestors. And it's about Galloway, a place I'd planned to do some research since my gg-grandmother was Elizabeth Galloway who married a Hudson (my maiden name).

Liz writes as if you're traveling with her and she includes descriptions of the atmosphere, not just places and things. As you're reading, you get a sense of what it would have felt like to be there with her. Although, I must admit, her writing makes one's desire to visit Scotland even greater. She layers in many historical details, a bit of poetry from Robert Burns, and takes the time to explain some of the vocabulary differences between the U.K. and the U.S.

Even though Liz does an excellent job of describing things, the sketches that are included throughout the book give even more details. For instance, she described some of the Scottish cows, but when I saw it in the sketch, it was like "now I get it." After reading that chapter we took a trip to the Carolina coast, and there were some cows in a pasture. My husband and in-laws were commenting that they had never seen cows like that before. I remembered the images from this book and was able to explain that they were Scottish cows.

One thing I didn't discover until I had almost finished the book was the Scottish glossary in the back. I've created a Scottish glossary for writing purposes, but it's wonderful to have this resource as well. It includes several words I didn't include in mine.

Liz's fun personality glows in her writing and you get a glimpse of her faith. I'd love to meet her one day at a writing conference. Maybe I'll get that chance through ACFW, where we are both members of American Christian Fiction Writers.

It's a wonderful book. If you enjoy learning about Scotland, even if you aren't considering a trip there anytime soon, I would still recommend reading it. My Heart's in the Lowlands is a great experience!

To learn more about Liz Curtis Higgs and where to purchase this book, click here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kinnaird Head Lighthouse Castle

Kinnaird lighthouse was built inside the remains of Kinnaird Castle in Fraserburgh of Aberdeenshire in 1787 by Thomas Smith, an engineer who was a member of the Northern Lighthouse Board. The small town of Fraserburgh was developed from a fishing haven by Sir Alexander Fraser of Philorth with the approval of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1545. It was known as a haven of refuge for ships that were overtaken by storms. Kinnaird Lighthouse is the first documented lighthouse built in Scotland. It is also the site of the first radio beacon in Scotland in 1929.

It has a stone Wine Tower on the edge of the cliff where a tale of tragedy has passed down from generation to generation. According to legend, A daughter of the house fell in love with a piper who was imprisoned by her father in a cave beneath the tower. He drowned by high tide. Grieved and heartbroken, the lass jumped to her death.

The links below will take you off this blog to other photos. Be sure to view the arial photos. It will give you a real feel of the place and it's location to the rocky shores of Scotland.

  • Kinnaird Head Lighthouse Castle
  • Aerial views of Kinnaird Lighthouse
  • Thursday, July 16, 2009

    Frazier Family of North Carolina

    Our Frazier line comes from Clan Fraser. My 6th great-grandfather was George Thomas Fraizer born about 1725 in Inverness, Scotland. He died about 1790 in Guilford County, NC.

    You won't find our Fraizer family listed in Douglas Kelly's "Carolina Scots" because they didn't come by way of the Cape Fear River t
    o the Carolina coast. Nor are they recorded in the historical books of the Presbyterian churches, the predominant faith of most Scots at this time.

    George Thomas Fraizer arrived in Pennsylvania. Some records indicate around York County. Since Pennsylvania was the foundation of the Quaker religion in
    America, George might have converted to Quakerism at this time. The Quakers kept excellent records that have survived the last couple of centuries, and it is by these records we have been able to trace George Thomas Frazier and his descendants.

    They cam
    e down "The Great Wagon Road" to North Carolina settling in Orange County, which later became Guilford County. The Quakers first established New Garden Friends Meeting, which became the cornerstone of all the other Quaker churches in the south. Later they established Centre Friends Meeting about 1752 in southeast Guilford County near the Randolph County border. My Frazier ancestors helped with the early establishment of this church. The first photo of this post is of a monument with a sketched inscription of what the original church looked like. The second photo is a memorial to the James Fraizer family who is recorded in the records as being buried here, but no tombstone has survived. This is also the case with my 3rd great-grandmother, Nancy Frazier Saferight.

    The Frasers of Scotland are descended from three brothers who arrived in 1066, according to Master James Fraser, 17th century minister of Wardlaw-Kirkhill on the south shore of Beauly Firth. Two main Fraser lines evolved in northern Scotland. One was through Sir Alexander Fraser who married Bruce's sister. This family line held Cairnburg Castle, Aberdeenshire. The other family line is from Sir Simon Fraser, brother of Alexander, who founded the House of Lovat in Inverness-shire.

    The lands of Fraser Castle (shown in the photo on the left) was given by James II in exchange for land near Stirling in 1454. Today's castle was built by Lord Fraser in 1633. Cluny Castle nearby was also a Fraser landmark. Fraser Castle is now owned and operated by The National Trust of Scotland. The castle is open for visitation.

    There are so many insightful details to Clan Fraser and their contribution to Scotland that I'll be cov
    ering them in various upcoming posts. In the meantime, if you are interested in joining Clan Frasier, visit their website for more information.

    Clan Fraser of North America
    Clan Fraser of Scotland and the United Kingdom

    Thursday, July 9, 2009

    Threave Castle - Scotland

    Threave Castle is a four-story tower located on Threave Island nestled on the broad side of the River Dee in Kirkcudbrightshire near the town of Castle Douglas in the lowlands of Scotland. While these ancient lands once belonged to the rulers of Galloway, this 14th century tower was built by Archibald the Grim, one of the Black Douglas Earls of Nithsdale. The outer wall actually dates to the 15th century, indicating a later restoration or addition. Even today, one must cross the river by boat in order to reach Threave Castle. It's location is perfect as an offensive and defensive stronghold, since it lies on the main invasion route from the south, and served as a gathering point for plundering raids into England.

    The Douglas family was loyal to Robert the Bruce, and as a result, received an earldom from Bruce's son. Black Douglas became the third Earl of Douglas, Lord of Galloway and Warden of the West March. The Douglas family continued to thrive and gain prominence. When Archibald Douglas, the 5th Earl of Douglas died, two men fought for his place. Sir Alexander Livingstone and Sir William Crichton invited the young 16-year-old Douglas heir to dine in Edinburgh Castle. All three were murdered.

    King James invited William Douglas, the 8th Earl of Douglas to Sterling where he was stabbed and killed. It was said that King James resented the power of the Douglas family. He began a campaign to dismantle the Douglas strongholds and waged a two-month siege against Threave Castle. In spite of the heavy bombardment, the castle held out and the Douglas family did not surrender until King James promised various payments and safe conduct. The crown then took control of Threave Castle and surrounding grounds.

    Sources Include:
  • "Castles of England, Scotland and Wales" by Paul Johnson.
  • "Threave Castle: The Stewartry of Dumfries and Galloway of Southern Scotland" on the website About Scotland.
  • Tuesday, July 7, 2009

    The Glencoe Heritage Trust

    As an amateur genealogist and a lover of history, I believe we need to preserve as much of our history and heritage as possible. That's why when I read about The Glencoe Heritage Trust organization in the Henderson Clan newsletter, An canach, I knew I wanted to blog about it in hopes of raising more awareness to the effort of saving and preserving the ancient lands of the MacDonald Clan.

    Clan Donald has been associated with the Glencoe lands since the 14th century when Angus Og MacDonald of Islay bestowed the lands to his son, Iain Abrach. By the 17th century the land passed to control of the Campbells of Argyll when the MacDonald chief had to forfeit his lands for supporting King James. A couple of years later he was murdered at what became known as the Massacre of Glencoe. The MacDonalds gained a portion of the lands back until 1894 when the lands were put up for sale.

    The lands contain a house that was build by Lord Strathcona, which now serves as a hospital. Along the River Coe, the historic Eilean Munde lies as the traditional burial ground of the MacDonalds. Other historic significance includes the Old Mill of Glencoe, the Crofters Common Grazings, the last remaining Ancient Woodlands of Glencoe, fishing rights on Loch Triachtan and eight miles of salmon netting rights on Loch Leven.

    Alistair MacDonald raised private funds ($105,000 pounds) to save this land in unsecured loans and established The Glencoe Heritage Trust, which now owns the land. A sum of $49,000 has been raised to repay the debt, but the rest must be secured to ensure that these lands are never sold again and the ancient history of Glencoe is preserved.

    If you'd like to help, email: for more information.