This week in Scottish history

01 May 1455

Battle of Arkinholm, near Langholm, Dumfriesshire: The Laird of Johnstone led a royal to victory over the rebellious Douglases. Johnstone sent the severed head of Archibald Douglas, Earl of Moray as a trophy to the king.

01 May 1690

Battle of Haughs of Cromdale; Colonel Sir Thomas Livingstone, King William’s General, defeated the Jacobite army commanded by General Buchan. The Jacobites were mainly Macleans, Macdonalds, Camerons, Macphersons and Grants of Glenmoriston.

01 May 1707

Formation of UK parliament.

 01 May 1873

David Livingstone, explorer and missionary, died in Africa


02 May 1568

Queen Mary escaped from Lochleven Castle

02 May 1933
The story of the Loch Ness Monster first appeared in the press, starting off a long-running debate on whether or not some unknown animal or fish inhabits the murky depths of the loch.
03 May 1557

John Knox began the Reformation in Scotland

04 May 1328

English ratify Treaty of Edinburgh at Northampton, formally conceding defeat to Scotland in the First War of Independence

05 May 1758

James Taylor born – he developed the steamboat engine

06 May  1941

Luftwaffe’s last major bombing attack on Clyde: 280 killed in Greenock

07 May 17467

Glasgow Fire Brigade began when the Fire Insurance Society suggested a regular fire brigade of 24 able men under Robert Gray. They had strong leather caps with the Glasgow coat of arms on them, trained four days a year and were paid 5/- annually, plus money for each fire.

08 May 1701 

Scottish-born pirate Captain William Kidd tried for piracy at London’s Old Bailey. He was hanged on 23 May.

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Our land of Palestine

This is a very short blog to announce that theKindle version of my latest Creativia book, Our Land of Palestine is on sale price of 99 pence or 99 cents for the next few days.


It’s the year 1915, and the British and Ottoman Empires are locked in a deadly struggle in the Middle East.

Commander of a unit of irregular horse, Major Andrew Selkirk lands on the coast of Palestine to retrieve a spy named Abraham. With the enigmatic Rachel as his translator, Selkirk discovers that the Turks have captured Abraham and finds himself involved in a power struggle, as both the Germans and Ottomans hope to bring Afghanistan and Persia to war against Great Britain.

Fighting a personal feud with a vengeful German, Selkirk leads his men across strife-torn Palestine, a land that everybody seems to claim as their own.

The link is:



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Old King Cole and the Catholic Church

Are children still taught the old nursery rhymes? I know we were: Mary Mary, quite contrary, which was a sixteenth century political commentary on Mary, Queen of Scots, perhaps, Ring a ring of roses, which harked back to the days of the plague, and Old King Cole being his merry old soul.

Now Old King Cole was an interesting one that shows just how far back in time these old childhood rhymes stretch. It is unknown exactly who this cheery old monarch was, but as the nursery rhyme first surfaced in print in 1708, the words suit that period. There has been speculation that the original was a cloth merchant from Reading named Cole-brook, or  a Celtic prince who created Colchester. Sir Walter Scott, inveterate collector of historical facts, lore and oddities, thought Cole may have been the father of  Finn MacCool, a giant figure in pre-Christian Gaelic folklore.

Naturally documentary evidence is lacking. That is not surprising for in 1708 much of the population was illiterate, even in Scotland and more so in England, where the first written version appeared.Oral history, however has a knack of surviving the centuries, passed down in the form of stories and verse: such as Old King Cole.

There was a King Coel who was known as Coel Hen – Coel the Old – who was a British or Welsh king at a time the Romans were recoiling from Britannia and the island was facing waves of Saxon invaders. There are various versions of the tale, but one states that Cole was the progenitor of several dynasties in the old Welsh North. Now, as Welsh is the Old English term for a foreigner, meaning a British  or non- English speaking person (remembering that the Saxons and Angles were Germanic/English speaking invaders from the continent), then the old Welsh north would be the northern British kingdoms: Rheged, Gododdin or Strathclyde. Rheged was situated around the Solway Firth, Gododdin based on Edinburgh and Lothian and Strathclyde approximately in the Glasgow and Ayrshire area.

If we take this to be true, then Coel Hen, old King Cole, would have ruled in what is now South West Scotland. A tenuous but interesting legend has the Ayrshire area of Kyle named after him.

After the defeat of a British army at Catraeth, possibly Catterick in Yorkshire around 600 AD, the victorious Anglo-Saxons, progenitors of the English, occupied what is now south-eastern Scotland and pressed westward. To escape these warlike pagans, there are legends of a British move southward to what is now Wales, with the Britons taking their culture with them. To add to the interest, a poem about the Battle of Catraeth includes a mention of Arthur, who may have been a captain of these Northern Britons fighting the Germanic hordes.

All well and good, but is any of this relevant to modern life, apart from explaining some of the folk movement within Britain and having a vague relevance to an old nursery rhyme. Well, there is a persistent Welsh-language legend that speaks openly of Coel Hen, Coel the Old, who was the ancestor of another Coel, the father of St Helena and therefore the grandfather of the Roman Emperor Constantine who Christianised the Roman Empire and therefore could be deemed the father of the Roman Catholic Church.  That would give the birth of the Roman Catholic church a strong Scottish-British connection. We do know that the father of Constantine lived in York  and campaigned north of Hadrian’s Wall. What was to stop him picking up a local wife? Many soldiers did. After all, Pontius Pilate’s mother was said to have come from Perthshire, (I used that legend in my novel, Powerstone) so why not Constantine’s mum as well?

So there we have it. A very fragile legend that links a nursery rhyme to Scotland and the birth of the Roman Catholic Church. As Michael never said: ‘not many people know that’.
















Posted in Celtic History, Christianity, Edinburgh, England, folklore, Glasgow,, history, humanity, literature, Middle East, Military history, mythology,, Palestine, religion, Roman Empire, royalty, Scotland, Uncategorized, Walter Scott | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palestine: the forgotten campaign

When we think of the First World War, various images come to mind, and various names haunt the fringes of our collective memory. We may see the hellish mud of Passchendaele, or the gas clouds of Second Ypres, or remember the Somme, with 30,000 British casualties in the first hour of a battle that lasted five months. We may think of the 150,000 Scottish dead, or the Glasgow women protesting against the landlords who put up their rent while their men were dying in their thousands. Yet it is unlikely that many of us think of the other campaigns that were fought, where fewer soldiers fought but the results were perhaps more long-lasting and have major repercussions in the world we live in today.

As well as fighting the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, Great Britain was battling the Ottoman Empire. Although the part played by the Anzacs in Gallipoli has been commemorated in  film and story, the British were also there, in larger numbers, and that was only one campaign in the effort to remove the Ottomans – the Turks – from the war. On the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, the British, Australia and Imperial forces survived an early Ottoman thrust at the Suez Canal to counter attack and eventually push the Ottomans out of the entire area.

It was a campaign that lasted years and saw a mixture of modern and ancient military techniques. There were cavalry charges and aircraft; machine guns, artillery and sabres; Arabs on camel back and the Royal Navy, international intrigue and spies. It was during this war that the Jewish secret service was born, and Scottish regiments crossed the Jordan.

NO 2 Pictures from Israel 315

It was here that Lawrence of Arabia was instrumental in raising an army of Arabs who waged a guerilla war with the Ottoman Turks in return for a promise of a land of their own. It was here that various British and French government officials promised similar lands to the Jews, whose agents helped the British with information in 1916.

This war deserves to be better remembered, so I wrote my own book based here. It s a work of fiction based in 1915 and touches on the international dimensions of a war that seems to have been pushed to the fringes of memory, although it may well have been the most important campaign of the First World War.






Posted in 1915, Arabs, Australia, Black Watch, First World War, freedom, history, Hope, Israel, Jerusalem, League of Nations, Middle East, military, Military history, Palestine, publishing, Scotland, Syria, Uncategorized, War, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Today: Stevie Turner

I am honoured to have Stevie Turner as a guest on my blog today. As you may already know, Stevie is a much acclaimed writer who has won a string of awards. You may not know that an excerpt from her latest book ‘Repent at Leisure’ has been shortlisted for the Escalator Writing Competition, with the winner to be announced on the 20th of April. Good luck with that, Stevie.


  1. You have written since an early age. Do you know why?


Not really, it was just something I wanted to do.  I kept diaries from about the age of 6 or 7 in which I wrote little stories, and when I won an inter-schools’ writing competition at age 11 it spurred me on further.  Mum always encouraged me to read and write, and I inherited her love of words and books.


  1. Does your environment influence what you write?


I live in lovely countryside where I can disappear down footpaths with not another soul about.  I often think up plots while I’m walking, so I can say that Suffolk scenery is good for the soul and excellent for thinking!


  1. Please tell us about the type of books you write?


Although I’m a daydreamer, I’m also a realist.  My plots must be based on reality, because unfortunately fantasy doesn’t interest me at all.  I like to make my characters and plots believable, and then add in a bit of psychology and humour.


  1. Does your reading influence your writing?


Yes, because the kind of books I like to read are women’s fiction, chick-lit, and especially books about relationships with alternating POV’s.  I also like psychological thrillers and suspense novels. Books I’ve enjoyed recently are ‘Girl on a Train’ by Paula Harding, ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn, ‘The Magpies’ by Mark Edwards, and ‘A Mersey Killing’ by Creativia’s Brian L. Porter.


  1. It is possible that some people reading this may not have read your work. Could you describe your latest book, please?

‘Repent at Leisure’ is written in alternating POV’s, and has just been published.  Paul McAdam’s drink was spiked at a nightclub, and he wakes up to find a strange woman in his bed, Cat Taylor, who gradually worms her way into his life.  However, Paul then meets the woman he wants to marry, Anita Fairfax, and he tells Cat that their relationship is over.  When Cat is found dead Paul is suspected of the murder, but there is no evidence at all to suggest he was the killer.  Anita falls in love with Paul and they marry, but finds that she cannot stop thinking about Cat…..


  1. And what spurred you to write this?


Nothing in particular.  The plot just formed in my head, probably while I was climbing over a stile.


  1. 7. Many of your books focus on the darker side of relationships. Is there anything from your own life that influences this interest?

I married a lovely man, but we both had no idea that he was born with an addictive personality.  This unfortunate trait came to light some years ago and we had a terrible time as he came to terms with this fact and admitted he had problems which were ruining our marriage.  Happily now our lives are back on an even keel.

  1. Is there are particular branch of relationships that you would avoid writing about?


Ha ha, I think I’ve covered it all in my books – child abuse, mid-life crises, mother-in-law problems, addictions, controlling partners.  It’s all there written as tastefully as I could make it, but tempered with a little bit of humour here and there and my own insight into these conditions.


  1. Do you think that dynamics of relationships have altered in your lifetime?


Just a little bit!!  I have the epitome of a Fifties’ housewife in my mind, tied to the kitchen sink, with one or two babies tugging at her apron, and dependent on her husband’s wages, little more than a servant.  Then came along the contraceptive pill in the Sixties.  Women suddenly had freedom from unwanted pregnancies, they could go out to work, and could act like men.  The ladette culture grew to the point it is today.  This may be good for the woman, but it’s not good for family life.  However, each woman now has the freedom to choose to be a Fifties’ housewife, a ladette, or hopefully something in between, and that ’s good.


  1. Do any of your family feature in your books, either openly or covertly?


Some of the troubles I went through with my husband are featured in The Porn Detective, but quite a lot of it is made up. Readers would have to work out truth from fiction for themselves!  Also I’ve suffered from the daughter-in-law syndrome for years, which gives one good ammunition for a story and an abiding urge never to inflict said syndrome on my own two daughters-in-law.


  1. You have written an impressive number of books and have won a number of awards: do you think that such rewards encourage writers in general?


Yes, I think it’s a good idea to enter competitions.  Any award won can be added to your book cover, and this means potentially more sales.  It certainly happened to me as far as ‘A House Without Windows’ is concerned.


  1. What type of research do you do before you write? Or do you research as the book progresses?


I research as I go along, if there’s something I’m not sure about.  A lot of my work is based on personal experience or stories I’ve heard from others, and so for some books I didn’t need to do any research at all.


  1. 13. How do you find inspiration for your writing?

As I said before, some of it I’ve lived through.  However, for my book ‘A House Without Windows’ I found inspiration through a news item on TV.  Walks in the countryside are good for thinking up plots.

  1. What are your thoughts on literary agents?


Ha ha!  That’s a good one!  They have this ‘list’ which nobody’s book ever seems to fit.  However, funnily enough they do seem to make exceptions for celebrities.  When I first started out writing I thought it was absolutely imperative to acquire an agent.  I don’t think that way anymore.


  1. You write for Creativia publishing: why did you choose to go with that company?


Sahara Foley recommended them to me.  I looked them up on Google and was impressed by their marketing Street Team.  Also Miika always answers emails very quickly, which is good, and books don’t take months and months to be published.


  1. Do you have plans to alter your style or the type of writing? Or are you fixed in what you do?


I think I may write another suspense story, as ‘A House Without Windows’ turned out to be my best seller.  I also like writing humorous, light-hearted fiction


  1. Tell me about your article writing? [that is a sneaky one!]


Ooh, you naughty boy (wags a finger)!  I don’t write many articles, but one I did write for a national newspaper was considered too controversial to print.  It was written back in the 1990’s and was based on two disturbing facts: (a) some of the questions my son was asked in his GCSE Science exam, and (b) some exam questions for 16 – 19 year olds that I read with my own eyes when I worked as an exams clerk in a college.  One particular question still shocks me today.


  1. Did motherhood change your outlook to writing?


Yes, it stopped me writing altogether.  I only took it up again when the boys had flown the nest.  What with working and looking after them, my life was full enough.


  1. Marketing is the bane of a writer’s life: how do you market your work?


I set up automatic tweets on Tweet Jukebox, enter my writing into competitions, promote my books and writing on WordPress: , on my own website: , and on Facebook:   , and for the first time am attending a signing event in Manchester this year.  Read about the event on my Amazon author page and see if you want to come along:


  1. What are you writing at the moment?

I’ve just finished a book of 17 short stories ‘Life’, which deals with significant life events.  Now it’s time to read through them and find any glaring errors


To see more about Stevie, have a look at this site:


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Hi Folks:

I have never had a guest blogger before, so I thought I would start with a good one!

For those of you who have not yet discovered her, Sally Laughlin is from the USA. Her last book Fly Toward Death is a fact-based novel about the female fighter pilots who fought for the USSR against the Nazis. Brilliant stuff!

The Beginning of a Being a Writer


Sally Ann Laughlin

What makes a person want to write, to tell a story, whether it be fact or fiction?  For every writer there is a different reason why they write, but we all have one thing in common we are storytellers.

My journey into writing was a very difficult one.  Let me take you back to my early-childhood memories.  I loved reading and would walk a mile to the public library, in all kinds of weather, to take out books.  Worlds of adventure and awe awaited every page I turned.  Filling my world with books made life a lot easier for me.

I was the middle child, two older sisters and a younger brother and sister.  The two older sisters didn’t want me tagging along and the same with the two younger siblings.  So, basically, I was a loner.

Back in the 1950’s we lived in a Catholic, all-white neighborhood.  So here I am, a Protestant, skinny, big-eyed girl in a predominately Catholic neighborhood.   The Catholic children were told not to play with me. It baffled me, because I didn’t care what religion someone was – it was my first experience into the sad world of the prejudice. Hmm, anyway, I’m still a loner.

Okay, back to my elementary years.  This was my second experience into the awful world of prejudice. I was ostracized by my classmates when a young, black girl, Shirley, came into our school.  I befriended her, and immediately I was an outcast. She left after a short time, but I was never accepted by my classmates again.   During those lonely years, I befriend the different, the troubled (had no idea at that age just how troubled some of them really were), but mostly I was alone.

Across the street from our house, in the inner city of Cleveland, was a small, wooded area down a little hill.  At the bottom of the hill was a polluted pond nestled in against the over grown weeds, bushes, and trees.  It was my haven, my retreat from the world above. It was a world where I had true friends, imaginary as they were, they were mine.

A large, square, rusted bucket sat on the edge of the pond. I found a large stick and used it to push my “ship” across the oil slicked water. It is there where I felt the most alive as I pushed my ship through the dank waters.  It became my world where no one could change or alter it – except me.  It is there where I envisioned elves, pirates, Robin Hood and all kinds of wonderful adventures.

We moved when I was sixteen from that house, and my forest.   I was thrust into a school with kids who wanted nothing to do with a newcomer.  Again, a loner – nothing new – but I had no oasis to escape from it this time.  A few months later, I skipped school and took a bus back to the old neighborhood to walk through my forest again.  My heart was racing, because now I knew how to get back to my pond, and I could come back anytime I wanted.

I hurried down the hill.  Strange, I thought. I don’t remember this path having all of these briars poking and pulling at my coat.  I finally reached my beloved pond.  I saw the old rusty bucket and raced toward it. Now I can glide across my “lake” once again.  Did my friends the Elves, pirates and Robin Hood miss me?  I sorely missed them.

The bucket was pulled from the water and sitting on the shore.  When I looked inside I was startled, someone poked a large hole in the bottom of the bucket.   I looked at the colorful oil slick that covered the polluted pond and the rusty bucket as if seeing it for the first time.  I sat on the shore, at the edge of the water, and cried.  I never went back again.

The Cleveland public schools were not the best education a child could get.  A couple of teachers stumbled into the classroom intoxicated, others just didn’t seem to care to teach.  There may have been some great teachers, but I was one of the unfortunate children who never had a good teacher.

When we moved to the suburbs of Cleveland, my luck didn’t change.  Teachers would use my writing papers as an example of what not to do.  One particular teacher would read my paper out loud and then tear it verbally to shreds.  However, after class a couple of kids would tell me they loved my story – because it wasn’t boring like the rest.

It wasn’t until years and years later that the stories in my head were almost screaming at me to get out and be heard.

So, in my later years I began writing.  My first four books were fantasy books – yep – my elves and pirates finally were freed.  And, being the true friends who they are – they forgave me for not telling their stories sooner.



Posted in Books, family, family life, humanity, inspiration, life experience, Memories, military, Military history, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Windrush book

Hi everybody

Well, that was a bit of a surprise. As of today, the first book in my proposed Jack Windrush series is out in Kindle format, with the hard copy coming in  a few weeks. I have planned this series for many years so actually having the first book out is quite amazing.

Set in the Burmese War of 1852, the book introduces Jack Windrush, a martial young man who had hoped to join the famous Royal Malverns but instead entered the 113th Foot, the so called Baby Butchers. Within a few months Jack is in Burma, facing a very difficult enemy as he tries to kick-start his career and restore his name.


Posted in Books, Burma, Burmese War, class, England, family, history, military, Military history, Queen Victoria's Wars, Uncategorized, War | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment