Monday, July 17, 2006

Day five -- Nessie, the Tartan Mills, and Culloden

Another beautiful Scottish day started out as heavy clouds, blustery wind and a hint of rain threatening. But the rain never came, and the day cleared up to be very nice. Sunny and cool throughout the day.

We made an early start off to Loch Ness with Bill and Steph from Highland Discovery Tours. The short one hour trip brought us first to the Jacobite cruise line, from which we embarked on a one hour boatride through the loch. The views from the loch were spectacular, but the highlight of the boat tour was seeing Castle Urquhart, and we even caught a glimpse of something very Nessie-like poking up through the water. You be the judge. Eddie says it's the tip of her tail.

After Loch Ness, it was over to Inverness, where we visited Holm Woollen Mills and spoke with Jim, their head tartan expert and indeed one of Scotland's national treasures on tartan history. This man is not just here for the tourists. He lives the real Scottish life. I doubt he wears trousers more than four days a year. He looked very dashing in his kilt and full tartan regalia, and had he not been approaching 80, I think my wife might have gone for the fellow.

Bill rushed me into the Mill ahead of the crowd so I could ask him about my family tartan before the rush of people came in. I was so excited, and Bill assured me that if anybody knew, Jim would know.

Well, indeed, Jim did know my family history, but the story was not what I expected. Let me start with some history to explain further:

As we were driving up, Bill explained how Bonnie Prince Charlie, son of James (in Latin, Jacobus), henceforth known as the leader of the Jacobites, led a desperate charge against the throne, represented by England and the lowland Scots. After an amazing advance against all odds, Bonnie Prince Charlie had taken towns in England as far as Manchester and Derby, and was within striking distance of London itself. But then winter intervened, and he was forced to retreat back all the way to Inverness. A large battle was fought at Culloden, and many thousands of Scots died on both sides, but the Jacobites (aka the Highland Scots of Prince Charlie) suffered a fatal blow and the bonnie Prince was forced into exile in Rome.

What ensued could be describe in no other way than as ethnic cleansing. The English armies, led by the Duke of Cumberland, and the lowland Scots had orders to execute every man, woman and child alive. It was a brutal massacre known as the Black Watch, and the lowland Scots, who aided the English, were considered traitors and bastards by the Highlanders. From that point on, tartans, bagpipes and the Highland way would be banned by England until hundreds of years later with Queen Victoria.

Back to the present time, I'm standing in the Woollen Mills asking about my tartan. Jim, the head tartanologist, as you recall, is a dyed in the wool Scot and has no love for the English or, even more so, the traitorous lowland Scots. So I tell him I'm Harris, and he looks up in one of his many volumes against the wall. Harris, of Clan Campbell of Argyll, just as I had found on the Internet. But he tells me the story behind it.

Clan Campell's chief allied himself with the King of England, and side-by-side slew highlander Scots. The chief coveted the noble system over the egalitarian system of the clans, and wished for himself a noble's castle as his reward for his allegiance to the King. So, as Jim informed me, I am descended from a villainous line of traitors in the history of Scotland.

My face must have obviously fell, because Jim immediately said, "Well, if there's one positive thing I may say about you, it's that you're not responsible for the acts of your ancestors. And many of the Campbell common folk probably didn't align with the views of the chief."

Great, I thought, Just great. Cold comfort that is.

I bid Jim farewell. Before walking downstairs join my family for lunch, I strolled over to the kiosk to see what it had to say about Harris and Clan Campbell:
CAMPBELL: This name most probably came from the Gaelic "Cam Beul" (wry or crooked mouth). The founder of this Argyll family was Colin of Lochow who in 1292, was recognised as one of the principal Barons of Argyll, from whom came the patronymic "MacCailein Mor", borne by the Chief to this day. His son, Sir Neil, for services rendered received great grants of land from King Robert Bruce such increasing the family's possessions and sphere of influence. They were created Earls of Argyll by James II in 1457, and in 1474 they removed from Loch Awe to Inverary. Archibald, the 7th Earl, evoked a hatred of the name among many Highlanders after his brutal attacks on the MacGregors in 1603, and a similar expedition against Clan Donald in 1613, but it was not the Clan as such which perpetrated the infamous Glencoe massacre of 1692. The 8th Earl, created 1st Marquis, was an upholder of the Protestant faith and led the Covenanters against Charles I when he attempted to enforce episcopalian rule on the Scottish Church. Beheaded by Charles II in 1661, he and his son were forfeited and the latter executed in 1685 for his part in the Monmouth rebellion against the Catholic James VII. The family estates were restored to the 10th Earl, created 1st Duke of Argyll in 1701 by the Calvinist William of Orange. The House and Clan of Campbell in the main remained loyal to the Hanoverian cause in the 1715 and '45 Rebellions, and have maintained close links with the Black Watch and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The hereditary position of Lord Justice General enabled "Mac Cailean Mor" to 'rule' Argyll and much of the rest of Scotland second only to the King. Apart from the numerous cadet houses who still inhabit Argyll, the stem family were also the source of the great Houses of Breadalbane, Cawdor and Loudoun, whose fortunes are described elsewhere. The marriage of the 9th Duke to H.R.H. princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, is commemorated to this day in the 'Louise' and 'Lorne' tartans. The present Duke of Argyll, CHIEF of CLAN CAMPBELL, is also Hereditary Master of H.M. Household in Scotland, and Keeper of the Royal Castles of Dunoon, Carrick, Dunstaffnage and Tarbert.
After learning about my clan's tortuous past, I thought, Jeez. My hopes are ruined. I can't wear the Campbell tartan after all this! Everybody will know I'm a traitor!

During lunch, I had an epiphany. I can't be responsible for my ancestors. Perhaps it's up to me to restore the family Campbell name to its once glorious honor? But how? How?!

I can return, wearing my Campbell tartan proudly, join the Highland Games, toss the caber, throw the stane, the hammer and the put! I can work my way to the Highland World Cup in Aberdeen! Scotland is worried by its dwindling local interest in the games! What better way to show support than to come back to my homeland, proudly proclaiming my Scottish heritage, and with huge, bursting muscles! Yes, that's what I'll do.

After this little fantasy, it was off to shop in Inverness for a bit, and I was nudged--nay--shoved into Chisholms Highland Dress shoppe by Bill and my family. I looked around for a bit, and very foolishly decided that I would get a kilt. Yes, a real god-honest Campbell kilt. Nine yards of the finest wool, plus all the accessories: the sporran, the sgian dubh, the belt and chain. And, good God, it only set me back £500! My kilt will take eight weeks to make by hand, and it will be shipped directly to me at home. Eight weeks will give me just enough time to figure out when in the hell I will wear it!

After the woollen mills and the shopping, we visited the very somber Battlefield of Culloden, where all the great battle mentioned previously took place. There was a short video, which set the story into quick perspective, and then it was self-guided wandering of the battlefield, where I received direct confirmation (in the form of gravestones) that, indeed, Clan Campbell were a treacherous lot. But from the battlefield, I learned that they weren't so much in favor of the king, as against the Catholics, in the form of many of the Highlanders and their French allies at the time. So, being against Catholocism, that's something I can understand a little better.

All joking aside, the battlefield was a somber reminder of the evil men do upon each other. Both sides fought a battle that, beforehand, was arguably righteous in their own minds. On the one side, it was to preserve the highland way--clans and equality over the feudalistic noble system. On the other side, it was to establish the kingdom of England over the entire island. That's not were the evil lay, in my mind. The evil lay in what happened after the battle, when the battle was won, and yet every single man, woman, grandmother, grandfather, child and baby was slaughtered. A whole people were purposefully wiped out by the Duke of Cumberland. That was evil, and I'll hope my Clan Campbell eschewedd that job entirely.*

Our final stop on the tour were the Clava Cairns, ancient Pictish burial stones dating 2000 B.C. The Clava Cairns (cairn means stone or mound in gaelic) are surrounded by rich fields of barley and shaded by enormous ancient beech trees. The stones are shrouded in mystery, and no history remains to explain any of their existence except for bones found in the ruins and the astronomical alignment of the stones themselves. Scotland is apparently covered in these stones, and most tourists and Scots pay them no mind at all. It's a pity, because they are a rich, mysterious and introspective spot to gain a little peace from a hectic day.

Tomorrow, Becky and I set off on our own to hit a few local whisky distilleries and perhaps to do some nosing. (A detailed "tasting" of whisky is called nosing.) Grandpa, Grandma and the boys will be splitting off separately to do some trout fishing in Rothiemurchus. It should be a fun day for all.

*Sadly, I found confirmation later in the trip that Clan Campbell did indeed participate in the Black Watch. Let us forgive and rise above the history of our fore-fathers.


Sandi said...

I can't believe there is 9 yards of fabric in a kilt! The price doesn't surprise me!

Anonymous said...

Nessie in Italian attic mystery
Mystery drawing may have been done by master illusionist
By neil macphail

Published: 13/03/2010

ARTISTIC CONUNDRUM: The 1949 painting entitled Loch Ness Monster and Black Man without a Face
More Pictures

Our Loch Ness Monster is famed the world over, and pops up in very strange circumstances from time to time.

Now she has surfaced at the centre of an art mystery in Italy.

This centres around a charcoal drawing dating from 1949, which is described as Loch Ness Monster and Black Man without a Face, and which could possibly have been drawn by famous Dutch artist, MC Escher.

This story of the mystery painting starts in 2005 in Volturara, a small village in the Italian province of Avellino, where traffic police officer Raffaele De Feo lives.

When clearing out his family’s attic, he found what he called “the strange picture”.

Initially he did not take any notice of it, but later, in removing the frame, he sees an inscription on the back of the picture, signed by MC Escher, which reads: “With all my heart to a friendly remembrance.”

Now some Italians are urging art experts to authenticate the work as being done by Maurits Cornelis Escher, nicknamed “Mauk", and contacted the Press and Journal to spread the world that Nessie “lives” in Italy.

Escher (1898-1972) was hailed by many as one of the world's most famous graphic artists. His art is enjoyed by millions of people all over the world, as can be seen on the many web sites on the internet. And for several years he lived and travelled in Italy.

He is most famous for his so-called impossible structures, such as Ascending and Descending, Relativity, his Transformation Prints, such as Metamorphosis I, Metamorphosis II and Metamorphosis III, Sky & Water I or Reptiles.
Read more:

Anonymous said...

Bankside London SE1 9TG
Call+44(0)20 7887 8000
Fax+44(0)20 7401 5052

02 May 2007
De Feo Raffaele
Sezione Polizia Stradale de Avellino
83100 Via G.Palatucci 16

Dear DE Feo Raffaele

Thank you for the letter and information that you sent Tate Modern, which have now been
Discussed by the curatorial team at Tate Modern and have been passed to me for reply. While we
Appreciate your thoughtful proposal, exhibitions and displays are planned far in advance. Our
Calendar is now completely booked through 2009, and we are reluctant to commit to any new
Projects until we are fuether along in planning for the shows that are currently being organised by
Our own curatorial staff.

I am sorry to be the bearer of such disappointing news, but on behalf of the team here, I should
Like to wish you every success in realising your idea elsewhere.

Thank you for thinking of Tate Modern.

Yours sincerely,
Aleanor Jones
Director’s Office
Tate Modern

Anonymous said...

June 29th 2010, Rome
Great works of art
Andrea Dipré, famous art critique with Antonio Prospero, CEO of the Escher-
Nessie association.
Welcome to you all by Andrea Dipré, presenter of the program The Great Works
of art. The subject of today’s program is a drawing of exceptional and
fundamental importance due to its artistic value by the Dutch graphic artist
and engraver Maurits Cornelis Escher who, with his genius, tackled the
geometrical representation of art.
One of his works was found by chance a few years ago, stashed away for decades
in an old and forgotten garage in a small village in the southern region of
Campania. This work is of extraordinary importance.
Escher was loved by scientists, mathematicians and logicians. The work is
dedicated to the myth of the Monster of Loch Ness known as Nessie.
The picture is held together in a wooden oak frame and depicts a mysterious
figure playing a fife who seems to be enchanting the sea creature with his
Here you can see a life-size photo of the original, which is well hidden in a
secret location. On the back of the picture there is the signature of Escher
himself as confirmed by a scientific study of his calligraphy.
The work is a charcoal drawing measuring 53 cm x 42 cm. This extraordinary
piece of art was found, as said above, by chance by policeman Raffaele De Feo.
The calligraphy and signature have been officially recognized. The work is of
amazing importance also due to the sightings of the Monster of Loch Ness which
began in the 1930s.
The work was given to policeman Rafaelle De Feo’s mother and brought to Italy
a few years later to Volturara Irpina a small village in the southern province
of Avellino . Escher managed to represent the essence of Nessie. Here is the
life-size photo of the picture. You can contact the owner or Mr. Prospero for
more information, and have the chance to see the original which belongs to myth
rather than history.
The work, I remind you, is an Escher, the great Dutch artist who was born in
1898 and died in 1972. Mr. Prospero is also working hard to make the piece of
art obtain the recognition it deserves. It has already had great success by a
vast public, but my wish is for it to obtain even larger and wider popularity.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

R O M A 29.06.2010

A N D R E A D I P R E ‘

News Italy

Nessie and the Black Man without a face date 18.1.1949

Art Famous Artist Maurits Cornelis Escher 1898-1972 ( NL )

Descritption of the work of art

The moon is well visible high in the dark sky which reflects its yellowish light on a waving sea. From underneath this mass of water emerges a monstrous creature.
The famous Monster of Loch Ness emerges from the water by the music plyed by a mysterious faceless flute, or fife, player.
The faceless player shows no human features, such as nose, ear or left eye.
On the left side of the picture rises the mysterious creature known as ‘Nessie’. Its body is easily visible in the centre-left part of the composition, with its long neck coming out of the water turning its head towards the player. Nessie shows the right side of her face and large horns under the moonlight. Both figures are encircled by a mysterious halo which gives them a saint-like appearance.
The picture gives us the idea that Nessie will not emerge from its hidden waters if not called by the mysterious flute player. Such as the harp, the flute is considered an instrument played by the gods.
At the back of the picture on the upper left side we can see a dedication from the famous Dutch graphic artist and engraver , M.C. Escher 18.01.49.
On the lower right side, the signature of the artist, with the cataloging or number of registration.
The frame is in oak, 42cm x 53cm

Anonymous said...
Nessie Loch Ness Monster and the Black Man without a face date 1949-Great and Famous artist Maurits Cornelis ESCHER 1898-1972 NL Maurits Cornelis ESCHER 1898-1972 NL
ATTENZIONE : il comunicato stampa e' stato tradotto in inglese mediante il traduttore google translate pertanto potrebbero esserci degli errori.

83050 Volturara Irpina ( AV ) via A. Di Meo n.122 - ITALY
e.mail :
This was announced basis at the National Association of Nessie Mass - Media That the National and International for the Preliminary JUDGE Dr. Giovan Francesco Fiore read the request for indictment filed by the Public Prosecutor S. Dr. Cecilia Annecchini public prosecutor in criminal proceedings on 11.12.2012 N. 5843/12 R.G. GIP, sets the preliminary hearing in closed session for the day 06/04/2013 10:00 in Avellino, Palace of Justice - GUP-First floor classroom. - ACCUSED in relation to the offense p. and p. from 'art. 595 paragraph 3 C. P. VELDHUYSEN Mark, CEO of MC ESCHER B.V. Dutch, for half a
Internet offended reputation RAFFAELE DE FEO, as the current owner of a charcoal drawing of the famous Dutch painter Maurits Cornelis Escher depicting the Loch Ness Monster, defining this work to fake Because It made ​​them signed by Escher. In Addition, in His capacity as CEO of the firm MC Escher BV , Expressing Judgments about the authenticity of the work in terms of where incorrect Stated That was a matter of a scam.
As President of the National Association Nessie we are excited about this sensational news That will surely project the irpinia the national and international limelight. To our knowledge, the famous Dutch graphic artist MC ESCHER engraver (1898 - 1972) dated 1949 depicted in the work UNEDITED
Nessie the Loch Ness monster That Emerges from the water drawn from the notes of a flute played by black men without a face.
Michelangelo Marra
Enclosed: Original Photo of the work - Committal for trial.

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