Duff House Mausoleum in Autumnal Aberdeenshire

steps of Duff House Mausoleum

I wandered through the woods to the 18th century Duff House Mausoleum.

It’s about a mile away from the majestic Duff House, now an art gallery, and about two miles from the Bridge of Alvah. When I was a child the house was in quite a rough state but still open to the public. A lot of the furniture was covered in sheets, paint peeled off the walls and spooky music floated up from the lower levels.

I loved it.

I still do.

Duff House

The front of Duff House Mausoleum:

Duff House mausoleum

And round the back…

knight at Duff House Mausoleum

To an effigy of a knight. Sadly it is not Robert the Bruce as once purported by the Earl who built the mausoleum. The skulls, crossbones and wheat are quite common on older graves in Aberdeenshire.

Below: the interior of the mausoleum taken through the metal door.

inside Duff House Mausoleum

During autumn in Scotland the days seem to be either golden or grey, sunny or dreich. It didn’t get properly light at all on this day, but autumn added its gold regardless.

The River Deveron:

River Deveron

I came upon an old dog grave in the lower parts of Wrack Wood. The dogs had lovely Dickensian sounding names.

dog grave

Grey and golden, the colours of the day:

grey and golden leaf

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Sometimes books like to dress up and have their photo taken. Sometimes writers have to work very hard to resist a wafting scent of chocolate (medical condition/special diet. 8 months in people, 8 months).

Paperbacks and Kindle: http://author.to/mermaid

Scottish author Ailish Sinclair's historical  novels

And a wee quote from Mermaid:

excerpt from THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by Ailish Sinclair

Walking the Witchy Ways of Aberdeen

cobbles, or cassies, as they are called in Aberdeen
Galllus Quines. Wonderful street art in Aberdeen honouring those persecuted for witchcraft.
Gallus Quines

I ran through St Nicholas Kirkyard, and down and round Correction Wynd, an old medieval lane in Aberdeen, to see this recent street art. I was due to meet people for breakfast, but determined to see the ‘Quine Shrine’ first. The reason being? That first part, on the left, honours those who were persecuted for witchcraft in Aberdeen, and one tile names a few of them, including the three women I chose to write about in The Mermaid and the Bear.

Tile naming some of those accused of being witches in Aberdeen, Scotland

The spellings are different, because spellings weren’t set back then, not like they are today. I chose to go with the way the names are recorded in the Survey Of Scottish Witchcraft from Edinburgh University. It was there that I learned, contrary to popular belief, that only a tiny proportion of those accused were midwives or folk healers; a mere 9 of the 3837 ‘witches’ in Scotland were midwives, and only 141 had some mention of healing in their cases (see the background page of the database).

In my fictional account of these women’s lives, one of them is a midwife and healer, but this is not the reason for the accusations brought against the three quines.

Continue reading “Walking the Witchy Ways of Aberdeen”

Witchcraft, Kidnapping, and the Cobbles Between

cobbles of Correction Wynd in Aberdeen

I do seem to have a habit of running up and down the medieval cobbles of Aberdeen in the name of research. Here I am again, travelling down Correction Wynd, site of the 17th century House of Correction. But it’s not the old poorhouse/jail that I’m investigating. Not today anyway…

I pass St Nicholas Kirk, where people accused of witchcraft were held in the 16th century.

sT nICHOLAS kIRK, aBERDEEN

It’s time to move on from that now.

On from THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR.

Researching and writing those times have led me to another.

Over the cobbles towards The Green, in Aberdeen

Over the cobbles I go, glancing up at the modern city above.

Archway in Correction Wynd, Aberdeen

Through the beam of light and into the, also rather modern seeming, Green.

The Green, Aberdeen

The kidnapped children of Aberdeen were held here in the 1740s. In a barn.

Cobbles of The Green in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Passers by sometimes heard music coming from the place, as the kidnappers tried to keep the children entertained.

The Green is mentioned in Fireflies and Chocolate (out today!):

“Another barn,” notes Peter, when we are ushered into a large ramshackle wooden building. Again we find a space to sit together, among the others. Again, we are on the floor, this time an earthen one. No chairs are provided for the likes of us anywhere now it seems. “I was kept in a barn in Aberdeen,” he tells me. “Down at The Green.”

I ken The Green. I used to think it was a nice place to walk through, a space between buildings, like a city version of a forest glade.

The children were also kept in the Tolbooth at times. There are tales of desperate parents trying to break down the door to get to them. Peter Williamson, who appears in the above quote, would be held there again in later life as punishment for his book, in which he accused the town magistrates of involvement in the kidnappings. You can read a large print version in the Tolbooth museum today beside a life size cut out of Peter!

He’s not the main character in Fireflies and Chocolate though. That’s Elizabeth Manteith, who is entirely fictional. But I love her. In their press release about the book the publisher describes her like this:

Fiery and forthright, Elizabeth isn’t someone to be argued with. She knows her own mind, and isn’t afraid to speak it. Through her experiences, the reader sees her grow from a girl, into a woman with a powerful voice… a woman of her time, but very much of ours too.

The cobbles of Correction Wynd in Aberdeen, dark Kirk behind.

Those dark cobbles do take me places!

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, inspired by the 600 children and young people who were kidnapped from Aberdeen during the 1740s and sold into indentured servitude in the American Colonies, is out today. The story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith from the castle and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s proper derring-dos on the high seas… And there’s chocolate!

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out 2021

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The Cumberland Stone near Culloden Moor

Cumberland Stone, by Culloden in the Scottish Highlands

The huge Cumberland Stone sits in woodland very close to Culloden Moor. It is said that the Duke of Cumberland (the king’s son and leader of the government troops) ate his lunch, or in some accounts his breakfast, sitting atop the stone on the day of battle in 1746. It’s also said that he watched the battle from there.

Continue reading “The Cumberland Stone near Culloden Moor”

Historical Hot Chocolate and 75 Words

Historical Hot Chocolate... not quite.

That’s not historical hot chocolate there; it’s totally modern and topped with ice cream, and was rather delightful on a snowy day.

To see the historical version being made we have to go to one of the YouTube channels I used during the research and immersion phase of writing FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE.

Elizabeth, the main character, uses a slightly simpler method, back in the 18th century, in this quote from the book:

“I shave slivers of chocolate from the block and stir them into hot water over the fire. I add sugar and mix until it is all well blended. Then I pour it all into the pot with the warm milk and whisk and whisk until it’s frothy and perfect.”

Whatever century you’re in… yum!

The first 75 words of the novel are up on Paragraph Planet today. They’ll be gone at midnight so I took a wee screen shot:

Openeing of FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE by Ailish Sinclair

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, inspired by the kidnapped children of Aberdeen, is out now, just in time for Easter weekend, in paperback and on kindle.

Amazon: kindle or paperback 

Waterstones 

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Goodreads

Fireflies and Chocolate teaser
The Mermaid and the Bear cover

And not to be forgotten, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR: it blends the Scottish witchcraft accusations with a love story, and is out now:

Amazon

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Goodreads

Scottish Historical Fiction from Aberdeenshire

Scottish Historical Fiction

I write Scottish historical fiction, often set in the area of Scotland where I live, Aberdeenshire. I also take a LOT of photos, as is evidenced throughout the blog.

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The Mermaid and the Bear

The Mermaid and the Bear cover

My debut novel was published by GWL Publishing in October 2019, and is available in paperback and on Kindle.

Amazon

Waterstones

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Goodreads

Aspects of the book:

  • It’s mainly set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire.
  • It incorporates the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic.
  • There’s a stone circle.
  • There’s 6 chapters of medieval Christmas.
  • And there’s a love story.

See The Mermaid and the Bear page for full details including blurb and quotes and links to reviews.

Fireflies and Chocolate

Fireflies and Chocolate, out April 2021

My second novel, also published by GWL Publishing, was released on April 1st 2021 and is available in paperback and on Kindle.

Amazon 

Waterstones

Barnes and Noble

Goodreads

Aspects of the book:

  • Set in both Aberdeenshire and Colonial Pennsylvania.
  • It includes the Aberdeen child kidnappings of the 1740s.
  • There’s derring-dos on the high seas.
  • There’s chocolate!
  • And there’s love.

See the Fireflies and Chocolate page for full details including blurb and quotes and links to reviews.

Further insight into my writing and research:

Scottish Historical Fiction by Ailish Sinclair

Some Eighteenth Century Letter Seals

Eighteenth Century Letter Seals

Those are the letter seals of Lord Pitsligo, a man I have written about before:

letter seals

His forward thinking ways inspired aspects of the Laird in THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR and a similar set of letter seals feature in FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE.

Excerpt from FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE featuring letter seals.

The seals were shown to me by a direct descendant of Lord Pitsligo. I got to hold them and turn them on their hinges, which was wonderfully informative (and exciting!).

Label on Lord Pitsligo's letter seals

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE will be out now!

Amazon: kindle or paperback 

Waterstones 

Barnes and Noble

Goodreads

Blurb:

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair, out April 2021

Elizabeth craves adventure… excitement… love…

For now though, she has to settle for a trip from her family’s castle, to the port in Aberdeen, where her father has promised she’ll be permitted to buy a horse… all of her own.

Little does she suspect this simple journey will change her life, forever. And as she dreams of riding her new mount through the forests and glens of the Manteith estate, she can have no idea that she might never see them again.

For what lies ahead is danger, unimagined… and the fearful realities of kidnap and slavery.

But even when everything seems lost, most especially the chance of ever getting home again, Elizabeth finds friendship, comfort… and that much prized love, just where she least expected it.

Set in the mid eighteenth century, Fireflies and Chocolate is a story of strength, courage and tolerance, in a time filled with far too many prejudices.


It’s all getting a bit too exciting for me again… I need a nice calming walk in the woods below the witch’s brooms (growth abnormalities caused by a fungus in the trees)!

woodland walk

Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, features an often overlooked event in history, the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, and a love story.

Amazon

Waterstones

Barnes and Noble

GoodReads

The Mermaid and the Bear

Keep up with all my news by signing up to the mailing list. It’s occasional and always contains some exclusive photos.

A Tree, Fox Tracks, and Proofreading

tree and fox tracks

Just a small post. It’s been snowing. Quite a lot. Above are fox tracks in the woods. Below, an oak leaf.

oak leaf in the snow

I’ve been proofreading Fireflies and Chocolate (out April 1st 2021! Amazon – and Waterstones), desperately seeking any errors, making tiny tweaks. Last chance to change anything. Last chance to get it right before it goes back to the publisher. It’s a little bit scary, this final stage of writing a novel.

So, I hold my face up to the sun, follow the fox tracks and hope all will be well.

sunshine through the trees

Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, features an often overlooked event in history, the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, and a love story.

Amazon

Waterstones

Barnes and Noble

GoodReads

The Mermaid and the Bear

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Keep up with all my news by signing up to the mailing list. It’s occasional and always contains some exclusive photos.