Aurora borealis and Steve

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This is a great time for the dramatic displays of the aurora borealis, though there is too much light pollution where I live to see anything. You need to go north or south of the central belt for dark skies.

There is also Steve. Steve stands for Strong Thermal Emission Velcoity Enhancement and has been around for a while, but has only been named recently.

STEVE appears as a thin purple ribbon in the sky. Scientists studying it say it gives them a better understanding how the earths magnetic fields work. That’s Steve on the left.

The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) has announced a 25-strong shortlist of buildings for its 2018 awards.

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Stirling Castle

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Stirling in another favourite place in Scottish history, being the site of the two other famous Scottish victories, against our favourite enemy,the English. That is the battles of Stirling Bridge (1297) and Bannockburn (1314).

Winter sunshine, giving fine views of the Ochill Hills.

Robert the Bruce
View of the Ochill Hills

Battle of Largs?

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Largs is famous for the Scottish victory over Haakon and the Norwegians in the battle of Largs, 1263. Historians differ on the significance of the battle, but as it certainly not a defeat, we are happy to call it a Scottish victory. We can't afford to be fussy. The Norwegians did relinquish their claims to the western isles and Haakon died not long after. A late colleague of mine was taught history at Glasgow University and when it came to 1263 the lecturer shouted 'the battle of Largs was a mere skirmish!' and flung the chalk duster at the wall as hard as he could. Effective teaching!

The sun setting behind the island of Cumbrae, where the Norse fleet sheltered in 1263.

The sun setting behind the island of Cumbrae, where the Norse fleet sheltered in 1263.
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The bridge over the Gogo Burn in Largs. The 'o' endingis suggestive of a Pictish place name, though there is little evidence of Pictish settlement on the Firth of Clyde. We do know for sure that the bridge is named after Thomas MacDougall Brisbane, of subsequent Australian fame.

MacDougall Brisbane bridge over the Gogo burn.

Extermination of the ancient Britons?

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When I was a child in school, say fifty years ago, we were taught that incoming waves of settlers to the British Isles exterminated the native settlers they found. Then it became fashionable to say that there were no invasions, but there was a ‘transfer of cultures’ just as fashion spreads in the modern world, where people pretty much stayed where they were.  Incomers peacefully transferred their cultures. This is not what generally happens in my experience of modern world history, but things could have been different in the past.

Now we are back to the extermination hypothesis with the latest genetic research by ‘Nature’ magazine.

Though there was some support for the survival theorists recently. It is an encouraging sign of the times that a right wing publication, such as The Mail, is happy to postulate black ancestry for the British race.

Recently I was in the Odessa Museum of Archaeology, and the Ukrainian ‘ямная культура’ or ‘pit culture’ is so similar to that of the Beaker people. One of the Scottish foundation myths is that the Scots came from Scythia, i.e. modern Ukraine. I have always been fascinated that Ukrainian and Pictish place names often end in ‘o’ plus there is a River Don in the Ukraine and in Scotland! Perhaps there is more truth in the myths than we thought? Also the genitive plural of cattle in Russian is ‘скот’, i.e. ‘scot’ – could that just be coincidence? That is another blog though…

Out of Doors 17/02/18

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My posts are loosely following Radio Scotland’s ‘Out of Doors’ programs. Having once had to write an essay on species introduction as part of my Blue Badge tour guide trying course I like to think that, although not exactly an authority, I do know a bit about it.

The Norwegian farmer’s comments about the lynx (17/02/18) are more hostile than research I did eight years ago into Swiss attitudes towards lynx, which suggested they ate mostly deer and lived in woodland. Obviously conditions are very different in Scotland, Switzerland and Norway. I don’t doubt that lynx may predate sheep. The reintroduction of the sea eagle has, however, had a tremendous boost to the ecotourism industry, particularly on Mull. Now farmers are deploying lasers to counteract lambs being taken by the eagles.

The number of lambs taken is hotly contested by Scottish Natural Heritage. The eagles are at least spectacular to see. Lynx, if they were to be reintroduced would be virtually invisible anyway…