It’s no secret that I love stone circles and other old stony places. I visit them. A lot. I hug them. Quite a bit. And I write about them. Aikey Brae, above, is probably my absolute favourite. The circle in my books is loosely based on this one. I’ve blogged about it here in the snow and here after the trees were felled.
Today I’m sharing some older photos of ancient sites that I’ve not used before, so they may not be too perfect, but I hope they capture the spirit of these special places.
First, I’m going back in time, deep into the family photo archives, and journeying out of Scotland to Wiltshire in England.
It’s still cold here in in Scotland. But it must be summer. Because look at the bluebells! Vibrant patches of purple abound in the forest. The scent is rich and heady, luxurious. It calls to mind the fairy folklore of bluebell woods, but I was not spirited off to fairyland, not this time.
It’s quite floral in the garden too; cherry blossom falls like pink snow and gathers everywhere creating a carpet of petals.
I walk the pink carpet to the pink bench…
Then I run into the bluebell woods to wait for the fairies again.
Terry Tyler has written a wonderful review of FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE: “A ghastly accident of circumstance leads to her being imprisoned on an Aberdeen slave ship, taking children and young people to the tobacco plantations of North America. A round of applause to Ms Sinclair for using fiction to highlight little-known history – I knew nothing about this.“
The white horse on Mormond Hill in Aberdeenshire can be seen for miles around. Constructed of white quartz, the horse is said to have been built by a Captain Fraser in the 1790s after the Flanders campaign. His own horse was shot from under him in battle and his sergeant offered his mount as replacement and was shot in the process. The white horse is a memorial to Sergeant Henderson.
I have visited the horse a few times, by car a long time ago, and also by walking. It’s quite a long walk! From the village of Strichen you head up Hospital Road and keep going. The road becomes a track which leads to fields. You cross a stile at one point. Then there’s a wee path and it all gets rather steep.
At first I thought there was only a single line of daffodils in the snow. I stopped to take photos. Like I would do on any other day out. A day out just for fun. Not that there have been many of those lately.
I walked along the path and headed down the steps where I was met with this stunning bank of yellow.
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.
Researching and writing those times have led me to another.
Over the cobbles I go, glancing up at the modern city above.
Through the beam of light and into the, also rather modern seeming, Green.
The kidnapped children of Aberdeen were held here in the 1740s. In a barn.
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.
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!
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.
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)!
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.
Last time I had a cover reveal we journeyed down a rabbit hole to find it… but I haven’t been anywhere exciting like that lately, so we’ll have to stick closer to home, starting on the snowy track into the woods.
Reaching the end of the track, we nip up this narrow path:
Here we are on the loch-side walk now, sunshine to our left.
Wait! What’s that? Something’s moving in the woods, running and leaping through the trees…
No, that’s not it. That’s the first book (out now!) and some foot prints left by a deer. We need to retrace our steps, I think…
And yes – finally we come to it – the cover reveal for FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, out April 1st 2021!
The cup featured on the cover is an actual chocolate cup from the 1740s when the book is set. Inspired by the 600 children and young people who were kidnapped from Aberdeen and sold into indentured servitude in the American Colonies, the story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s proper derring-dos on the high seas (as opposed to my previous metaphorical ones)! And there’s chocolate…
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