Monday, 13 March 2017

Onwards from Nairn to Edinburgh

What we did on September 14, 2016

I had spent a wakeful night while the codeine I had taken the day before wore off and cramps came back. I asked myself for several fitful hours, "Do I have appendicitis?"  (I didn't.) 

Early in the morning, we ate our next hearty breakfast. The oatmeal porridge was beyond sticky; however, with practice, I imagine our hosts at Cawdor House will get it to the right consistency. There was a magnificent coffee maker on the sideboard, which they had brought with them from Germany. It made equally magnificent coffee, which Greg enjoyed. I kept to tea.

Then off we went to the station to catch the train to Edinburgh.

The train station at Nairn on an overcast day.

The snack shop at the Nairn train station

The scenery cross-country to Edinburgh was not that exciting, my journal tells me. That surprised me, as I was expecting wilder highlands. There were fewer sheep, the hills were quite barren, and at one point some identical peppermint-green mobile homes were stacked all over the hill-sides, like hideously altered rectangular sheep. 

Arriving at Edinburgh, we found our way out of Waverley Station with not too much trouble, as there was good signage. We joined a cluster of people at the cab stand. A foursome of young people jumped the queue, but everyone else lined up decorously. The cab was very roomy: lots of space for our luggage and easy to get into. I was puzzled by this, as the vehicle was small. Greg pointed out this was because it had no trunk. And I thought I was the observant one.

A little cab like the one we took. Source:
Our hotel on Windsor St. looked out of the way on the map, but turned out to be conveniently located, at least for our purposes. 

Our room would have been behind one of the sets of lower windows.Source:

A very toothless but enthusiastic desk clerk explained our popout city map to us and recommended a restaurant for dinner.

My journal continues," Our room is in the basement and looks out onto the area beneath the stairs going up to the front doors of various premises. It is like a nicely furnished medieval dungeon down here, the darkest room I have ever slept in. But when the lights are on it is bright: white, orange, black, and maple - very modern, no chi-chi-stuff. It is long, narrow and clean!"

It was at the end of a long corridor of branching narrow hallways, which would have been used by the servants when the building was a residence. Our room would have been some sort of storage area, perhaps. My photo is a bit darker!

The Cairn Hotel on Windsor St was our home while we were in Edinburgh.

Once we got settled in, we went exploring: up and over Calton Hill where we saw several large monuments, but nothing else. A heavy fog obscured the magnificent view of Edinburgh; however, there was a unique atmosphere to the place, with people emerging and disappearing in the mist and the monuments looming like grey giants.

We made or way down the other side and found the New Calton Burial Ground (about half a mile from our hotel, as the crow flies). Opened in 1820, it has a watchtower to house the guards (and their families)  who watched out for grave robbers. With anatomical research on the upswing, there was a lucrative market for bodies in the early 19th century.


I was looking for the graves of the Ritchie branch of the family. My great-great-grandfather William Ritchie had been raised  by his uncle the Rev. David Ritchie, minister of St. Andrew's church and Professor of Logic at the University of Edinburgh.  The reason is that William Ritchie's own father died about 1806 when his son was only six or seven years of age. (Alas, I have no records about his mother, Mary Loudon.)

After a great deal of searching in the damp, and almost giving up, I motivated myself by saying it was not that large a cemetery. I retraced my steps and as my journal says, "I found the Ritchie plot!! It was directly diagonally opposite to the entrance and down the hill: furthest away, naturally, but there it was." 

I had narrowed my search in this area to the outside walls. Those buried earliest in Scottish Cemeteries often have their grave-markers embedded in the wall. In the photo below, the grave is in the wall just to the left of the green space at the far corner of the cemetery. Arthur's Seat is in the background. (Not my photo!)


Unfortunately I had forgotten my camera; the fuzzy image below is from the Gravestone Photographic Research site.


I copied down the information on a slip of paper, glad that the rainy/foggy atmosphere had cleared a bit and it was dry enough to write:

The William Ritchie memorialized above was the cousin of "my" William Ritchie. What caught my attention was that I was writing about his grave in my travel journal  on September 15th, the 119th anniversary of his death to the day (He died from a fever caught in Edinburgh). My William Ritchie, a Rev. Canon,  died from pneumonia at Sutton West, Ontario in his home at Dryden Bank at age 85 in 1885.

The Rev. Canon William Ritchie had a daughter, Agnes Pearson Ritchie, who is my maternal great-grandmother, named after Margaret Pearson, her great-aunt. Another mystery around an unusual second name has now been solved.

My journal notes: Then we walked back to the Taste of Italy, the Italian cafe recommended enthusiastically by the cheery tooth-challenged front desk guy at the Cairn Hotel. 

The restaurant was crowded. We got a high table at the front where my purse got tangled up somehow with my chair, much to the amusement of the people at the next table. Then a better table for two opened up and we were taken to it. I got tangled up in my Carswell jacket trying to get it off over my head, thus providing more free entertainment. Sometimes I  wonder if I have advanced in dexterity much past the age of six.

I had a tasty pizza topped with potato slices, pancetta and pesto. Greg had penne calabrese, which he enjoyed. 

We walked back to the hotel. I washed some socks and hung them over the towel rack. I also washed the insoles of my shoes as they had gotten soaked during our foggy drizzly walk. 

Once dried off, we watched DCI Banks or tried to: "The TV breaks up and the wifi won't work; it's either just slow or else there are too many cement and stone walls."

And there my journal ends for another busy day.

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