On the Island of South Ronaldsay in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland is a peculiar tomb. The site is a chambered tomb, built into the cliff’s edge around 3,500 BCE, and it wasn’t re-discovered until the 1950s. As you probably guessed from this post’s title, the tomb is the final resting place of 8 to 20 people – and 14 white sea eagles. Recent dating tells us the people were buried in it about 1,000 years before the eagles were.
It’s an amazing example of how a neolithic tomb was in use for many generations, and evolved in its meaning over time. Personally, I think its pretty cool that 1,000 years after their ancestors died, someone added eagles to accompany them.
Frog-Hopping Gravestones, Glasgow, 1948. Photographed by Bert Hardy.
The legendary female warrior of Scathach is pretty cool. First, there’s her name, which means “the shadowy one” in Gaelic. Then there’s her castle, Dun Scaith (Castle of Shadows), reportedly sat on Isle of Skye northwest of Scotland.
Getting to Dun Scaith, and Scathach, was a complicated business. First, one had to know where Scathach lived. Her location was apparently something of a commonly-known secret. Once someone knew her location, one had to travel across the Irish Sea, known for its storms and choppy seas, and travel to the remote, craggy islands of northwest Scotland. Upon arrival, one then had to get past Scathach’s warrior daughter to get an audience with Scathach herself.
Scathach is important in Irish legends for the unique place she holds as a woman warrior who trained other women, as well as men. Her training was notoriously dangerous, teaching things like pole vaulting over castle walls and underwater fighting, but everyone agreed that if you survived Scathach’s training you were a great warrior. Scathach is also famous for having trained Cu Chulainn, who went on to become the central figure in the Ulster Cycle, part of the origin stories for Ireland itself.
Glasgow, 1868. Photographed by Thomas Annan.
The Queen feeding her corgis at Balmoral, Scotland in 1976.
Cantilever bridge human model, and amazing photographs of Scotland’s Forth Bridge under construction from the 1890s.
The Royal Scot, Glasgow, Scotland, 1949.
Terrifying mask and wig of Alexander Peden, which is made of leather with real teeth and human hair.
West end of Princes Street, Edinburgh, 1961.