I’ve always been fascinated by history. Living in an old farmhouse, I was amazed by the detailed historic map we had on the wall dated 1654, which clearly dates our farm to that era. Although the farm is no longer family owned, I’ve still got the map proudly hanging in our home today.
One day in 1972, a gentleman arrived at the farm on his own historic quest. Turned out he was investigating heraldic panels set in the walls of old buildings in the area. His name was Nigel Tranter. Many of you more ‘senior’ readers might recall this famous Scottish writer whose love of castles led him to write several fictional books featuring characters and incidents in Scottish history which he tried to portray as accurately as possible. ‘The MacGregor Trilogy’ and the ‘Master of Gray Trilogy’ became firm favourites on mine … which fueled my own passion for delving into the past. I expect the series ‘Outlander’ has done the same to another generation of history fanatics!
I recall my Dad and I showing him round the external walls of the house and steadings until he found a weatherworn panel displaying the buckles of Leslie. He explained that our farm was once one of thirteen Lairdships of the Kingdom. The element of the three buckles and three boar heads that comprise the Leslie shield have remained largely unchanged as they originate with the story of the founding of Clan Leslie. I remember vividly my Dad and I trying to draw this panel later when researching the history of the farm … I think our attempt probably doesn’t do it much justice, but cameras were few and far between in those days.
This, and so much more fascinating information, is found in his book ‘The Queen’s Scotland, The North East’ – carefully researched by the author first hand. However, I expect Tranter had a more comfortable journey for his investigations than that of the 18th Century duo, Johnson and Boswell, who travelled the north of Scotland by carriage, horseback and boat over an 83-day venture to collate material for their much acclaimed ’travel narratives’.
A few weeks ago, my brother visited Inverness’ splendid Leakey’s book shop, where he found a very well-preserved copy of this book. Remembering my love of Tranter’s writing as a young teenager, he snapped it up immediately! Anyone who hasn’t yet stepped into this incredible book shop in a converted church in Inverness should take time out to do so – first glance inside will take your breath away! It’s like stepping into a different time zone with a wealth of hidden treasures on the shelves.
I’ve been lucky during my career to have been heavily involved in history research and collation of archives. Today, enjoying semi-retirement, I’m once again delving into new territory in history … I do hope you’re enjoying Gairland’s recent series of journal articles which I’m thoroughly enjoying investigating.