Diary/Photo Journal

 Week of March 29, 2009

As I sit here preparing this page, it is difficult to believe that a month has already passed, but then, when I look at the previous pages, I wonder how we did so much in just one month.  Such it is when you have a great travelling experience. 

This week was relatively unplanned as we were hoping to ease into the reason why we came across the "pond" and get ready for Robbie and Denise's gi-normous (I love that word) day.

We said good-bye to Manchester with a visit to where my Great Grandmother (my Mother's Grandmother) had lived.  When I brought my Mother to her beloved England 11 years ago, she explained to me that there was an outhouse in the backyard and when on the privy, you would look out through the moon window and see the buildings that are in the background.  Of course, the flats now have indoor plumbing and the backyards have found a better purpose.

After our quick stop at my Great Grandmother's home, we made our way over to a much older part of Manchester, the Castlefield Urban Heritage Park.  This area was the site of the first Roman fort built in AD 79 wherein a few of the foundations remain and the walls have been restored. 

The front and back of my Great
Grandmother's flat (the second flat)

Manchester Cathedral

Roman fort from AD 79
foundations and restored walls

We spent the rest of the afternoon with my cousins, Chris and Adrian, and made ready for our departure the next day.  As we did not have to be in Lanark until the evening, we decided to stop in to York and visit my Mother's childhood friend, Sister Mary (Gemma) Burns. 

Sister Gemma (her real name is Mary; however, once ensconced with the cloistered nuns, Mary has another name chosen for her and thus, Gemma) has been a cloistered or an "enclosed" Carmelite nun since her 18th birthday or approximately 59 years.  This means that Mary has not been outside of her monastery or "home" but for the couple of moves (one from Manchester to York for example) and the very infrequent hospital or doctor visit.  Just imagine that in 59 years, your not leaving your home for more than a total of 30 days (or simply put, out of approximately 21,500 days, only about 30 were spent away from your property).

Sister Mary (Gemma) Burns
still as cheerful as ever

The York Carmelite Monastery

York Castle

Different looking sheep

York Minster building
built between 1220 and 1480
is a seven-building complex
built over ancient Roman and
Norman ruins

A little more history to visit before we headed due north.  Hadrian's Wall, built by the Romans to keep the northern barbarians (ahem, what would now be considered the Scottish peoples) away from the southern lands, was built across what is now northern England.  The zig-zagging, 73 mile wall was built around 122 AD and spanned from Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway.  What remains today are patches of the wall's broken spine that are still clearly visible in the fields and hills along its path.

Hadrian's wall is not to be confused
with the superlative Adrian's wall

Gerson making sure the northern
barbarians know which side of
the wall they are supposed to
stay on

Some views around Lanark, Scotland

Street view
Many of the tucked-away tunnels
take you onto the main street

How about this entrance to a home

The River Clyde around Lanark

One of the unexpected highlights of our trip came when Robbie secured us two tickets to the Scotland vs. Iceland 2010 World Cup qualifying game being played in Glasgow.  This game was a must-win for Scotland in order to remain in the running to play in the 2010 World Cup being held in South Africa and the excitement (and the concern) was evident everywhere.

We headed to Glasgow via train and with each stop, we were further reminded of the passion behind Scottish football as the train was becoming filled with bodies covered in national pride.  One particular gentleman sat just across from us and upon chuckling about my comment as to what women think about men in kilts (that a man in a kilt is akin to a woman in a cheerleading outfit for a man), we struck up a conversation.

As we have shown before, the world is definitely a small place and is getting smaller all the time.  Ian haled from Greenock, Scotland (if memory serves the reader, that is where my ancestors were from) and of all things, he will be heading to the United States in June to visit relatives in none other than Lake Havasu City, Arizona (where my Father used to live).  It took a while for my chills to subside and we arrived at our stop with a big 'thumbs up' from Ian.

Ian, part of the Greenock
Tartan Army (groups of
people that travel to games
all over the world)

Martin, Pete and Robbie

Martin, Karen, Andy, Jamie and

Let's play find Gerson while we
were at the pub before the game

Serious fans abound

After spending time at a local pub immersed in a sea of blue, we made the short walk to the stadium amongst kilts, flags, bagpipes and hopeful spirits.  You could hear small bunches of people breaking into traditional songs that were only muffled by individual's laughter. 

Now, I have been to football games in Argentina, Brasil and England and nothing, I mean, nothing compared to this game.  There was no animosity or anger, just deep-rooted, sincere pride in one's country and a sense that no matter what is wrong outside the stadium, all was right in the world within the stands. 

As soon as you emerged out of the stairwell up into the seats, you could hear (and feel) the singing of thousands of Scots.  Songs of their childhood, songs for their country, songs from their team and songs of the heart.  Within minutes, I was joining in with the voices and finding mine pleasantly lost in the crescendo.  I felt as though I had been singing the songs and feeling this pride for my entire life.

I don't imagine I will ever have an experience such as this again in my lifetime and that my friend, is not a bad thing.

What is a game in Scotland without
being escorted by bagpipes

The game begins

"No Standing" - yeah right!  We stood
the entire game

Hats worn with pins represent the attended
games in different countries - many of the
hats were completely covered!

A packed stadium of
40,000+ fans (realize that
Manchester United is
almost twice as big)

The wining goal

Very happy

Final score says it all

One of my favourite songs repeated throughout the evening was a song many of us are familiar with and yet, we really do not know the story behind the words.  Loch Lomond, a Jacobite folk song, has a chorus  that goes as follows:

Oh, you'll tak the high road
and I'll tak the low road,
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye
But me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

One of this song's interpretations refer to two captured Jacobite soldiers where one was allowed to go free (thus the High, living road) and one was to hang (thus the Low, spirit road).  To hear this sung by thousands of Scots, standing erect with their heads stretched upward, was a feeling of love of one's country that sometimes gets lost in all the negative political rhetoric that fills our media and saturates our minds.  When was the last time any of us really sang our National Anthems out loud?  When was the last time any of us wanted to show our national pride?

Attending this game certainly showed the importance and the specialness of having pride in one's country and appreciating (and respecting) another's pride in their country.

Okay, enough of my soap box; however, I hope I made you think about your country, even if for just a short while.  And, speaking of pride, we took another day to step back into my family's pride and headed back up to Commonhead.

I was able to get in contact with the owner of the upstairs flat and we met with Barbara and her father, Peter, to view the upstairs rooms.  Seeing as my Grandfather was born in one of the two back bedrooms and that the upstairs was reported to be as or more beautiful than the downstairs, I was excited to take the tour.

Another look at Commonhead

Original window would open
wide and greet the person
coming up the stairs

We tried to reproduce the same

This appears to be the same step
and small pathway (although the
original did not end at another

The upstairs did not disappoint as the moldings and chandelier trims were every bit as ornate and intricate as we expected.  We were even able to climb up into the attic in search of lost treasure but alas, none was to be found.  Just knowing that my Grandfather probably played some form of hide-and-seek in the attic was more than enough to make me pleased with our little expedition.

What were the two back bedrooms are now a kitchen and a bedroom.  Both have seen renovations so not much of the original features remain; however, the living room and front bedroom was like stepping back in time once again.

The two back "bedrooms"
where my Grandfather was

Exceptional detail around the

Empty attic :-(

More and more gorgeous
trims in the living room and

Another reason for our second trip is that we have come to the realization that Commonhead may not exist in another year.  With the developers circling, the owner of the downstairs flat very keen to sell as soon as possible and the owner of the upstairs unit battling cancer again, the likelihood of Commonhead being sold in its entirety is high.  Inasmuch as I would love to preserve Commonhead, we just cannot afford to buy the home nor manage it as a rental at this distance.

An encouraging thought though is that we have open communication with both owners and both owners know that we are very interested in salvaging parts of the home.  I have asked that if a developer offers to take the building "as is" and intends to just raze it completely, to let me know beforehand and I will try to arrange to have some "pieces" of Commonhead saved.  Pieces of things like parts of the moldings, the remaining mortise locksets, the upper part of the original arched window, etc. 

Original banister surrounded the stairs.  The
wall was installed when the home was turned
into two flats

Peter and Barbara
(Barbara is the upstairs owner and
Peter is her Father)

All is peaceful in the sun
beautiful draft horses

1901 census shows my Grandfather
Claude near the bottom

The Wright tomb register shows three
layers of adults and many children that died too soon

We made time to go back to the Greenock Library and to the Greenock Cemetery so I could look for more documents about my family.  What I found was the 1901 census report that shows my Grandfather as being two years old (he was born in 1899) and the names of all his siblings that emigrated to Canada.  Commonhead drops off the map after 1901 as there was no census completed between World War I and World War II and Commonhead was sold probably in the early 1920's. 

I also found the register for the Wright tomb and the list of the names of all the Wright's buried within the three "tiers".  I think I would call the grave a "tombominium".

Now, from my family and back to Robbie and Denise's family since the wedding was drawing near.  As the wedding was scheduled for Saturday, or two days hence, the church rehearsal was held that evening.  With the stunning church setting, even the rehearsal was beautiful.  And, it did not hurt that the Father graced us with the presence of his new puppy, Tara, which brought a burst of laughter into a serious moment.

Denise and her Father,
Daniel, make a practice run

Flower girls, Nicole, May
and Meg

Robbie and Denise listen

Practicing the "I Do"

Smiles all around

Denise and her Father, Daniel

Little girls and a puppy = giggles galore
Nicole and May

Best Men (loosely speaking): Rab (friend)
and Jamie (brother)
Maid of Honor, Victoria and Bridesmaid

The rehearsal went smoothly and by the looks on Robbie and Denise's faces, the anxious excitement of the wedding showed.  They were all smiles and quiet touches throughout and it was a pleasure to be part of this special event in their lives.

As Friday was the day before the wedding, we took off from Lanark and settled in at Peebles, a small enclave east of Lanark and where the reception was to be held.  We thought we would enjoy a bit of the town and also get out of the soon-to-be-newlyweds way. 

We spent the day strolling arm-in-arm around Peebles and even enjoyed a couple of pints while sunning in an outdoor beer garden.  It was one of those picturesque days wherein all seemed serene and pleasant in the world.  Very nice indeed!

In the evening, an impromptu get-together for Robbie was held in Lanark so we drove back across the "interesting" road and enjoyed a few beers with a pasel of Robbie's friends.

Neidpath Castle
14th century

Peebles views

Last night of freedom for Robbie - Ian, Jamie, Robbie, Stuart, Davie, Ian, Mark, Rickie, Dougie, Rab, Davie and Donald

Of course, the highlight of the evening for me was that Gerson had a few pints which meant I got to drive the hour back to our hotel - just love that the first time this trip that I get to drive on the "wrong" side that I get to do it with a stick shift while it's a pitch black night on wet roads with many mysterious corners.  Yikes!

Barney being Barney

April 4th, 2009, a day where no matter the weather, we were bathed in warmth wherever we were.  We arrived at St. Mary's church in Lanark a tad early so we could secure our seats and take advantage of the time for photos.  But, before I launch into the wedding proper, I will direct you to the following photos in order to answer the age old question of "Do they or Don't they"?

Do they or Don't they...

(Gerson looked so handsome in
his kilt...he even bought most of
the suit and brought it home)

(Click on the "?"
above for your answer)
A truly beautiful
setting for this
special wedding

Many of you may be curious about all the components that are involved in the proper wearing of a kilt for a special occasion.  The components are as follows: jacket, vest, tie, cuffed and collared shirt, cuff links (oftentimes with the your clan's crest), belt (optional), sporran (the little "purse" that hangs over (ahem) the 'jewels'), kilt pin (oftentimes with your clan's crest - Gerson wore my family's crest), wool kilt hose (socks), Ghillie Brogue shoes with laces, Sgian Dubh (knife that tucks into the socks), flashes (tucks under the sock lip) and a big grin.

As Gerson looked so good in his kilt, he has now become known as Gerson McSilva (credit for the name goes to my cousin Chris and I am still laughing about how well it fits).

Del, David, Steve and Gerson all look quite handsome

It was nice to get all gussied up for the wedding

Gerson with Robbie's parents Anne and Keith

Rab, Robbie and Jamie await the bride's arrival

Gerson, Robbie,
Rab and Jamie

The choir
excitedly awaits
(their voices
were superb)

Unfortunately, all the good weather leading up to the wedding lost its luster that morning and we experienced a rather chilly and blustery bridal arrival.  However, on the positive side, Denise's ecstatic presence lit up the churchyard brighter than the sun itself.  One of my favourite pictures of the entire day was of her stepping out of her Rolls Royce limousine.  What I saw in that picture was that no matter the direction life blows her and no matter what chillness life can bring, she will just hold on tight and smile through it all.  She looked stunning.

The flower girls:
Nicole, May and Meg (May and Meg are
Robbie's nieces and Nicole, the daughter of
Denise's good friend Sara Jane (see Hen Party))

Maid of Honor Victoria and Bride's Maid,
Karen - so beautiful

Best Picture Award

The bridal party: Jamie,
Rab, Robbie, Denise,
Victoria, Karen, Nicole,
May and Meg

Victoria and Karen

Denise and Robbie
kneel while the Father
speaks on their behalf

The wedding was quite an affair and although a Catholic ceremony, it fortunately was relatively short (about 45 minutes).  The entire event went rather quickly because between prepared statements ministered by the Father, there were beautiful hymns sung by an ethereal choir and of course, the actual vows. 

One thing I noticed sitting a few rows back was how Robbie and Denise would seem to turn and look at each other at the exact same time.  When they would make eye contact, the smiles swept across their face to such an extent that you did not need to see their profile to notice the breadth of the grin. 

Robbie says those two
humongous yet small words
"I DO"

Robbie, you may kiss your
bride and seal the deal

The signing of the marriage

And with Robbie's signature, it is
official - Mrs. and Mr. Denise Rafferty (just kidding)

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Allan

The vows went forward without a glitch and no one came forward to say that the wedding should not go forth.  On the contrary, we were all there to make sure the wedding went forth as I think we were all as overjoyed in seeing Robbie and Denise get married as they were (maybe a tad less, but darn close).

Portraits in happiness

I think you can recognize
everyone by now

The tall man in the first picture
is Denise's brother, Daniel

(2nd, 3rd) and 4th picture new
additions: Robbie's Mother (Anne) and Denise's Father (Daniel), Jamie's wife (Jane and son, Joe), Denise's Mother (Maureen), and Robbie's Father (Keith).

Once the photos were completed at the church, it was our turn to get to work as we had the best vehicle to transport the lovely flower arrangements.  We got the flowers securely tucked in and off we went.  However, we did not go directly to the MacDonald Cardrona Hotel where the reception was to take place but rather, we had to stop in a kilt shop as Gerson wanted to buy some of the accessories necessary for a proper kilt.  As I said before, it's Mr. McSilva to you.

We were all giddy out of sheer happiness

Denise and Robbie pose with their unusual
and funky cake(s).  (Check out the view
over the golf course - who do you think picked
this place for the reception)

(A cake was given to each couple to take
with them and it was quite good)

Gerson and Robbie's Father, Keith
are just getting warmed up

Best Man Rab (nickname for Robert) was all smiles
(Robbie was Rab's Best Man two years ago)

After McSilva's impulsive purchases, we sped over to the hotel and were just in time to watch even more photos being taken.  The photographer was quite amenable to the people lined up to get a more formal photo with the Bride and Groom and we were happy to get in on the action.  It was then off to the upstairs to join the rest of characters in this magical play and to await the formal introduction of Mr. and Mrs. Allan.

Robbie and Denise greeting the guests and look at
those genuine smiles of sheer joy

Margaret and Steve are engaged for marriage in 2010 (Steve just returned from seven years in Australia and
Margaret is Aussie)
(We already invited ourselves - any excuse
to see Gerson in a kilt again!)

The blissful couple

Denise's Father makes his
toast to his new son-in-law

The reception kicked into high gear and there was no lack of conversation and laughter throughout the sumptuously decorated room. As many of us know, wedding food has never been cause for celebration as it is usually relatively bland, rather lukewarm and somewhat unappetizing; however, I can hereby attest to the fact that the food served was not only the best we have had a wedding, but food we would have gladly ordered in any restaurant.  Just another of so many wonderful parts to the day.

One of the best parts of the evening (outside of a fabulous band) were the toasts given by Denise's Father, Rab and Robbie.  Besides being terrifically heartfelt, Rab and Robbie's speeches had us roaring with laughter.  All I can think of now is of what little they told us and how riotous it was and how much they will never tell us and how raucous that must be.  Hmmmm, sounds like we will need to loosen Robbie's tongue with some alcohol the next time we are in Scotland.

What can I say, I love a man that
knows how to wear a kilt.  It's in my
blood, literally

Martin, Robbie, Brian, Josey  and Sammy

Bridesmaid Karen's boys
aren't they absolutely adorable
in their kilts

Denise basking in her moment

The blissful couple and their
dance of happy, happy, joy, joy

Soon after the toasts, the people were cleared out of the room and the tables dismantled to make room for the band and the soon-to-be dancing guests.  The band was superb and immediately the dance floor was filled.  Even Gerson got up to dance a traditional Ceilidh (pronounced Key-lee or close to) and had his kilt swirling around as he turned with his partner, Jane (Robbie's sister-in-law). 

Robbie's Mother, Anne, and Denise's
Mother, Maureen, were kicking up their heels
(perhaps because they finally got Robbie
and Denise to the altar)

Gerson McSilva and Jane (Jamie's wife)
enjoying the Ceilidh dance

(with Kirsty probably wondering what a
Brazilian is doing in a kilt)

Look at that kilt go!

The reception remained occupied well into the night and only when the announcement that the hired bus was leaving to go back to Lanark, did the people start to file out.  All-in-all, it was one of the best weddings we have ever been to and so far, one of the best trips we have ever taken, either separately or together. 

Fortunately, it was a brief drive home and a long night's sleep.  What a memorable day for us and especially, for Robbie and Denise. 

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