Monday, 24 September 2012

Mercat Cross Run

Mike organised the Mercat Cross Run. (Not the Meerkat Cross Run!)

Old Scottish burghs that were entitled to have Markets (Mercats in the old Scots tongue) traditionally had a wooden or stone pillar topped by a crucifix to mark the market square. After the destruction of religious images following the Reformation in the late 16th century, these crosses were replaced by secular items, such as sundials, or royal symbols, such as the unicorn of Scotland. Despite this, the vertical pillars continued to be known as Crosses.

Mike had planned a run which was not to be known as the Meerkat Cross Run, although he anticipated that we would all end up looking like meerkats as we stared up and about us while we stood beneath the various Mercat Crosses he had found. He promised us a trip to nine Mercat Crosses plus lunch. Unfortunately Taylor’s MGB was leaking more oil than normal so he travelled with Joe. Six of us left in three cars (TF, MGB and TD).

Our first stop was in the picturesque village of Doune where the Cross stands in the centre of the village at the intersection of three roads. Doune was once famous for the manufacture of pistols.


Two MGs and a carved stone lion

The next Cross was in Stirling. The jougs which were attached to it are in the Smith Institute. These were a Scottish version of stocks and were used to punish gossips and evildoers (fornicators and the like) by chaining them to the Mercat Cross. The last pre-Reformation Archbishop of St Andrews was hanged here in 1571.

 The unicorn figure on top is known as ‘the puggy’

While I was taking this photograph, the other members were waiting for the local black cat to jump down onto my head.
 We’re more dog people, sorry

Mike had found a hidden Cross in the town of Airth. This appears to be a run-down ex mining village but there is a lovely old street hidden behind the sixties housing. A local resident was very interested in our project. Apparently, the village is an ancient Royal Burgh and once supported a royal dockyard which was created by James IV at the pool of Airth on the River Forth.

Erected in 1697 to replace an older Cross now near Airth Castle

Our route took us past the giant oil refinery at Grangemouth. As we headed east we passed a steam train from the Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway.

Linlithgow, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, was our next stop. Mike described this as ‘the largest and most ornate of the Mercat Crosses’ we would see. The Cross Well monument combines medieval sculpture with a water-supply.

Several images are rather grotesque

 Glasgow for bells, Lithgow for wells

Joe didn’t join us on the pedestrians-only area at the Cross. He felt it was more law-abiding to park on the double yellow lines nearby.

 Good afternoon Constable

We stopped for a few photos of the Forth Bridges outside the small village of Newton. The busy lay-by erupted into action as we paused for a few seconds.

Driver and Navigator leave TD just as two cars decide to leave

 It’s THE Forth Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge

Across the Bridge to the small town of Inverkeithing. This has several family stories for me. I shared one over lunch. My mother met a lifelong friend in the bar of the Queens Hotel during the war when she thought that he was winking at her. In truth he had developed a twitch after his service in the trenches with the Royal Scots.

Inverkeithing has a long and bloody history, from witch-burning to wars. In the Battle of Inverkeithing (20 July 1651) Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army crushed the Scots supporters of Charles II. The local stream ran red for days.

In the 20th century, Inverkeithing was a centre for ship-breaking. The famous HMS Dreadnought ended her life there in 1923. And I think that I can remember seeing the monitor, HMS Roberts being broken-up in the sixties.

Joe spots the Cross

Heralic evidence indicates that this Cross was erected c1400 around the time of the marriage of David, Duke of Rothsay, son of King Robert III and Queen Annabella Drummond to Marjorie, Daughter of the Earl of Douglas.

The Unicorn finial was carved in 1688

On to Culross for an excellent lunch in The Red Lion. Somehow we managed to leave a £12 tip for a £60 meal.
Only room for two

Culross is like a time-capsule. Once a prosperous medieval trading port, it was bypassed by improvements in rail and road transport. Now many of its houses are owned by the NTS or Historic Scotland, from the Abbey and Palace to small town houses.
The Mercat Cross is up a cobbled street and we decided to walk up the hill to see it.

Meerkat Moment

Culross Unicorn

The town of Kincardine is rather more salubrious than the photograph of this Mercat Cross suggests. The run-down main street features the Deadstar Tattoo Studio and Gazza the barber.

We didn’t stay long

Our next stop was the county-town of Clackmannan, the smallest county in Scotland. The Cross stands next to the rock of Mannan which perches on a stone pillar in a rather phallic display for such a small place.

Go Mannan, go

Mike had found another hidden Cross in Alloa. It has a very interesting carving of a chain cross at the top.

Finally, we all assembled for Sandy to photograph us in action:

MG Meerkats

A very enjoyable run on a sunny day. 
Well done Mike for finding so many Mercat Crosses in obscure places.

Monday, 3 September 2012

September Run comes early

We have decided to bring the September run forward by a week to Sunday the 23rd.
Several members had important commitments on the 30th.

Looking forward to the run on the 23rd.
And celebrating our anniversary on the 30th.