I have just posted a short piece about landscape change in the Ballengeich area, beside Stirling Castle, on the Research and Reports page of this website. It covers geological, historical and biological change over many millennia each with concrete and visible examples. Take a look here.
I have previously highlighted the award of the Birlinn Prize for my paper on The Drifty Days.
The paper has now also been recognised by an award by the British Association for Local History, presented at a virtual event on 12 June.
It is, of course, very gratifying to be recognised in this way - but the key thing is to keep finding new topics and to continue to produce lively and interesting work.
Some weeks ago I recorded the publication of my paper on The Drifty Days of 1674 in the journal Scottish Local History.
I have been a member for many years and, from time to time, have published other papers in the journal.
It was a pleasant surprise to hear that the paper had been chosen as joint winner of the Birlinn Prize for the best paper published this year in the journal - and the other winner is one I am happy to be compared with!
The details are John G Harrison, 2020. The Drifty Days; A Climate Crisis of 1673-4, Scottish Local History issue 107, p. 11-16.
The article can be downloaded at https://www.slhf.org/annual-prize where further details of the prize, funded by Birlinn, well-known as major publishers of Scottish historical material, can be found.
Volume 43 of the Forth Naturalist and Historian has now been published and brings yet another publication, the fourth of the year counting the web-based 'Last Wolf in Scotland'.
This one is the culmination of years of work on the Western Ochils entitled The Western Ochils c. 1450-2000. It is a drawing together of the threads of several different projects and endeavours an overview - even commenting on some contemporary changes.
You can get copies of the Journal (12) at the Smith, currently open for restricted hours Thursday to Sunday. Or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The journal, as ever, includes many other items of interest including the annual weather and bird reports and several other historical papers -for which see Flyer attached.
A good many years ago, whilst researching the landscapes of Liddesdale, I came across evidence for a severe climatic 'hit' in early 1674, with massive losses of stock for local farms. The 'Drifty Days', as it came to be known, entered into folk memory in the Borders - but, with even the date uncertain.
How could one take it further? What about the rest of Scotland? How did people respond to the crisis and how enduring was the impact?
Further work on the locality (particularly using the extensive Buccleuch estate papers in National Records of Scotland) was the first step. Two 'diaries' of the time provide some comment on the appalling weather. And kirk session and presbytery minutes, which survive from the Borders to Orkney, show meetings disrupted, complaints of 'storm', of extreme cold and of the increasing distress of the poor.
Together, the sources show that the crisis was national, particularly with severe snow and cold in early 1674. But the Borders suffered more than other areas because local specialisation in sheep farming made them uniquely susceptible to just these conditions. It took almost a decade for the area to recover.
The findings have now been published as John G. Harrison, 2020. ‘The Drifty Days’: A Climate Crisis of 1673-4,, Scottish Local History, Issue 107, p. 11-16. The paper was chosen as joint winner of the Birlinn Prize for the best paper in Scottish Local History in 2020. Download this publication as a PDF here.
Despite many claims online, there is no evidence that wolves survived in Scotland so late as 1743. Nor is there any 'record' of Sir Ewan Cameron (or anyone else) killing the last wolf about 1680. These claims are myths. There are regular records of wolf hunting till about 1630. But, thereafter, there are no records and they must certainly have been extinct by 1650.
The stories are amongst the many myths about Scots history. These are not without their own interest but they are very different from evidence-based history. They are also persistent - often because they are 'good stories' - the sort of thing people like to believe.
I thought I had provided enough evidence, several years ago, to destroy the 1743 myth. But it survives in full vigour - indeed, the web has ensured that it has bred and multiplied and produced infants of its own.
Nothing daunted, I have now posted yet more (and more conclusive) evidence that the last wolves in Scotland vanished some time after 1630, surely by 1650. You can read it here or on the Research and Reports page of this website. It is free. But I do ask, if you find new evidence, of real wolves or wolf hunting, do please let me know.
The Pleasaunce is the Journal of Scotland's Garden and Landscape Heritage. I was pleased to be asked, some months ago, to submit a paper about Stirling's Back Walk and it has now appeared, in the February 2020 edition.
The paper outlines the history of the walk but also comments on its modern state.
Locals were rightly proud of this innovative Prospect Walk in the eighteenth century and visitors praised it in the nineteenth. It remains a vital asset but it is now under-appreciated and neglected - whilst the views, once a key attraction, are being obscured by overgrown trees or blotted by modern developments.
I will place a copy of the paper in Stirling Central Library for ease of access or you can get your own or find more about The Pleasaunce at www.sglh.org
John G Harrison, 2020. The Back Walk, Stirling, 29-36, The Pleasaunce, February 2020.
The comparison between the publication of papers and the traditional description of the bus service (none for ages then three come along at once) has probably been made before - but 'Here we go again', with three in a row.
I have been a member of the Scottish Vernacular Buildings Working Group for many years, have published several papers in the Journal (Vernacular Builiding) and am now Honorary President. Last year's conference was on the theme of The Urban Vernacular and that gave the opportunity to update my thinking on the evolution of houses in Early Modern Stirling and elsewhere (a theme I also covered in my recent presentation at Stirling Local History Society).
So, this morning, Volume 42 of Vernacular Building (2019) plopped onto the porch floor with the paper 'Archival Evidence and Urban Vernacular Houses' on pages 7-18 over my name.
With its theme of the Urban Vernacular, there are several other related papers, including one by the inimitable Geoffrey Stell on Early Flatting.
Anyone with an interest in Stirling's past will have come across the Proceedings of the Stirling Field and Archaeological Society, covering the years 1878-1939. After dithering over it for many years, I have finally put together an outline history, looking at the membership, activities, aims and achievements of the society, using the Proceedings themselves but also the manuscript minutes and some more general sources. The paper has now been published in Forth Naturalist and Historian, volume 42, page 100-117 [note that due to an error in putting the journal together, the references are paginated 'out of sequence' as pages 117/1 - to 117/4].
I think the article gives a fair overview and raises quite a few interesting points about the group as well as highlighting some of the people involved (some very distinquished people) and the overall significance of what was published.
The paper joins the Contents and Index of the Proceedings, which have been available online on the Forth Naturalist and Historian website at www.fnh.stir.ac.uk/ for some time.
Also relevant is the Recollections of Dr Galbraith, an active member and contributor to the Proceedings, which can be found on the Stirling Local History Society website.
John G Harrison is a historian, working on a wide range of topics related to Scottish history, from architecture to wildlife. Take a scroll through the site to find out more. And feel free to contact John or to comment via the blog.