OLL - You are currently a tour guide at Blackness Castle, have you been a tour guide at other historic sites in Scotland?
CG - I have also been a steward at Inchcolm Abbey, Aberdour Castle, Dunfermline Palace and Abbey and have also done shifts at Linlithgow Palace and Stanley Mills so a really varied type of sites. These were all through my employ with Historic Environment Scotland. I have also been the manager of a ghost tour company that took visitors into both the South Bridge Vaults and Greyfriars Kirkyard. The Kirkyard has a particularly special place in my heart as not only have I studied it and its inhabitants but it is also the topic of my dissertation for my masters degree. It was about the burial of a 19th century gentleman. Through this I spent a lot of time at Caprington Castle with the 4 x great grandson of the gentleman's funeral I researched (look at my videos on my page for the news report from my book launch). Celtic Heritage Connections Website
OLL - Any memorable castle visitor (human or animal) stories you can share?
CG - While on Inchcolm back in 2019 on a particularly lovely day a visitor got off the boat and I was left with a 'is it her moment'. Being quite goth and grungy in the nineties seeing Shirley Manson from the Band Garbage on your island..quite amazing! I said nothing as I tried to see if it was her. The gentleman who was with the party walked passed and I asked, 'excuse me.... That is her isn't it?' He laughed and said yes. I needed to give her a copy of my book as when I was a teen drawing skulls.... It was Garbage that was often who I was listening to on my cassette player.
She was so lovely..
At Dunfermline we were often visited by the town peacocks which was always a joy.
Last week we had a very unique visitor. It was a Historic Scotland life time membership holder by the name of Bruce Macquarie Fraser. He arrived with his companion and they went around taking photos and we discovered through my colleague that he was a true Scot, by what was under his kilt. He was a teddy bear, a teddy bear with a life membership. He also got a go in a fire engine that was there for a routine fire check of the site. Sadly I didn't get a photo of Bruce. 😂
OLL - Have you learned anything about Scottish history that you didn’t know before working at Blackness Castle?
CG - Through a bit of graffiti I learnt about 'the Inver Scotia Nomads'. The graffiti scratched into an old door simply reads THE INVERSCOTIA NOMADS 1941. Doing some research I discovered that they were a group of friends from Glasgow who would dress in WWI kilts and take a bus into the countryside and highlands to go walking and sing traditional Scottish folk songs and play music on mouth organs and pipes. Seamus MacNeill was one of the founding members. He was also the co-founder of The Scottish College of Piping. Once a year it would be up to a pair of the lads to leave clues for the others to find a secret location where much singing and drinking was had. Sadly the last of their members passed away in 2018 but through that little bit of graffiti their story has joined the rich tapestry of history in the castle.
OLL - Do you have a favorite part of Blackness Castle? If so, why?
CG - The top of the North tower is perhaps my favourite spot. That was where Jamie stealthily crept up on the red coat before abseiling down the tower. From the top of here are beautiful views up and down the forth and also down into the courtyard. The north tower also contains the pit prison where the less fortunate prisoners were housed. On high tides water would flood in and conditions would have been awful. You would think the atmosphere here would be very heavy but it's actually a peaceful atmosphere. Except when it is windy, but you have seen the experiences of that.
OLL - What is your inspiration for the current book you are writing about the graveyards in Fife?
CG - I have always had a fascination with graveyards. I find them packed with stories just waiting to be told. As a child I had a very vivid and active imagination and would make up stories from the names. Often involving pirates. I had an incorrect assumption all the skulls and crossbones were pirates.
Fife is an area of Scotland awash with superstition and some of the stories connected with certain graves reveals this such as the witch's grave. Body snatching was also a problem in Fife as the resurrectionists would row across the forth to collect freshly buried bodies for the anatomists table. That is the reason why there are a number of watch houses and mort houses in coastal burial grounds. There are also a lot of grave markers that reveal the trades people had in life which when combined with the symbols of mortality create such visual stories.
During the pandemic and with limited things to do there has been a dramatic increase of people visiting historic graveyards and I want to share a bit of my knowledge with them.
I am now the chairperson of the newly formed Friends of Greyfriars Kirkyard who are working to raise funds to preserve and document the monuments in the kirkyard. It is one of the most important burial sites in Scotland and many tourists also enjoy visiting it as it is so unique and evokes the imagination. It is said JK Rowling took a lot of inspiration from here. The Kirk is the site of the signing of the original National Covenant.
OLL - Build your perfect sandwich.
CG - My sandwich is quite boring but I love mature cheddar and corned beef on really soft white bread. If I want to push the boat out, I do like a dollop of picklelilly or a few salt and vinegar crisps. I am more of a salad person for lunch in the summer months. I enjoy baby tomatoes, feta cheese, spring onion, rocket and balsamic vinegar.
Photos approved for use by Charlotte Golledge
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