Heading Out

Seeking the winds that help to sail on Shakespeare's tide.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Sidetracked on a Sunday

On the one side of the family we had been coal miners as far back as history would be tracked, which, in this case, was to a fellow born in the 1690's. He was employed at a small village called Tarry, which sits up on a hill overlooking the small village of Eglingham midway between Alnwick and Wooler. Since another branch is rooted in Wooler a pleasant day could be spent driving first up through Alnwick to Tarry, and then on to Wooler to tape Humbleton Hill (where once there was a battle).

But pulling into Alnwick there was a note that the Castle was open. Aha! This is the first time I have had a chance to get there, and while I was vaguely interested in the Castle since I could get good textures for the Castle behind Mousetrap Farm that I am trying to recreate, that wasn't why I wanted to go.

The Castle houses the Museum of the Northumberland Fusiliers, and if you go up to the top floor of the museum there is, on an alcove window, a painting of the 1st Battalion marching through Flanders in the fall of 1914. There are two rows of drummers, a couple of rows of fife players, two mounted officers and then the file of troops. The interest ? Well about 7 months later the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Battalions marched to the same Flemish town (Ypres) and my Grandfather was the drummer on the front corner of the 7th. The story is much more complicated than you likely want to know, but in essence this first Brigade of the Territorials was thrown straight into the 5-mile breach the Germans had just created by the first use of gas in war. Two thousand men did not come back from that afternoon, and as a bandsman my Granda had to go drag back the ones he could rescue.

Any way I wanted to see what was in the museum and was quite surprised to learn more in the Ducal apartments. First there was an explanation as to why our earliest known ancestor had married a girl from Shipley (in Yorkshire). It seems it was due to the arrival of the wife of the first Duke, who brought her husband up from Yorkshire, and between them they got the mines organized. And since they presumably brought a household and servants, and Tarry is but 8 miles from the Duke's Castle . . . .

The other enlightenment was the Fenwick name in the family, through my Great Grandmother. It turns out that this was a noble and military leader of these parts back when, and the way the name can be traced, at one time one of them must have married one of us.

The day was spent, therefore, wandering around the Castle, and the new Gardens which the current Duchess is installing for someone said around $30 million. The Percy family have been around since 1066 when the family arrived with Willie the Conk and took their share of the spoils. They are obviously not hurting for the occasional crust.

But after tea and wandering about the Treehouse they have just built that could have easily come out of the first Myst, and from which I stole more textures and shapes for my castle, it was time to go on to Tarry. The road is a one-way street that runs up the hill to a copse that I had assumed was where Tarry used to be, since there is still a bouse there. But when I got up there the house was relatively modern, and since the road was single track I drove on to the edge of the moors higher up the hill looking for a place to turn.

Parking looked over the dry stone wall and there was this band of green going up the hill, and what looked suspiciously like an old pit heap. So I wandered around in the bitter wind finding grass and gorse covered outlines of what I suppose were the old houses and mine offices, the likely yard area and the tip (which had the characteristic red inside). It almost looked as though someone had been doing a little archeological work in the way some of the edges can been cut to expose the sub-surface. But the most critical finds were looking at the debris thrown out from the rabbit warren than now covers the site. Old bits of glass, plates, and other small items, and bits of coal and ash.

At peace and happy I wandered gently back to the hotel and after dinner started gently blogging, and discovered that we had achieved a certain exposure for the Oil Drum. I was somewhat surprised and mentioned this when, in practice for today, the Advocate called to check on the arrangements for today. So now he knows whereof I blog. (Which makes 3).


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