Lunan Bay and Red Castle

I missed a trip the other week to Lunan Bay, one of Scotland’s longest and most beautiful beaches about ten minutes north of Arbroath on the road to Montrose.  Today, there was a break, and it seemed like a good time to go.  The sun was out, and it was 14 degrees C.  From Arbroath, Lunan Bay is about a 15-minute drive.  A word of warning if you go.  The iPhone directions actually tell you to turn right about half a mile early.  To get to the lovely dunes and the sea, you need to drive right into the heart of this small hamlet.  You will then see the signs for the beach and its parking.  The drive takes you through farming land and cow pastures with the beautiful red Highland Cattle with their sweeping horns. Lunan Bay is one of the few remaining areas in Scotland where salmon netting takes place.  They have apparently been catching salmon here since the 15th century.  Up until the 1960s, the salmon fisherman lived in bothies, little shacks near the beach, and would only go home to their families at the weekend.

As you near Lunan, look off to your right and before you get to the actual village,  you will see Red Castle.

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Red Castle has a tragic history, and today it is mostly in ruins, ready to fall down.  It was built in the 12th century for King William of Scotland to defend against the Viking invaders who had been coming to the shores of Lunan Bay since the 10th century.  It is called the ‘Red Castle’ because it is built of red sandstone bricks.  The castle and the surrounding lands passed down to several individuals.  Ingram de Balliol married the wife of the late Walter de Berkely.  Together they rebuilt the castle, and the castle is said to have remained in their hands until their grandson, Ingram, died childless in 1305 and it was passed down to Henry de Fishburn.  It came into the hands of Robert the Bruce who gave it to the Earl of Ross in 1328.  It is awhile til the saga happens.  In 1579, Lady Elizabeth Beaton who owned the castle at the time fell in love with and married James, the son of Lord Gray.  Well, James fell in love with Lady Elizabeth’s daughter, and she throws him out.  James Gray joins with his brother Andrew of Dunninald, and for two years they try to take the castle.  They were ultimately successful by burning them out.  Since then they say the castle went into decline.  There are some images on the website Scottish Places that show the castle in the 1950s with its roof intact.  Today, as you can see it is almost entirely in ruins.  I did not know, but there is a footpath that will take you right up to the castle to see the keep.  I might try that tomorrow!

Lunan House has rooms to let.  It is close enough that you can walk down to the beach.   You might also be able to get a meal here.  On weekends before April 1, there is a cafe near to the beach parking, and I understand it is open daily once the visitors begin to come.

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I had an exciting event happen on the drive back to Arbroath.  I wanted to take photographs of the Highland Cattle, so I was driving slowly along a lane that was about 1.5 cars wide (small cars!).  The car in front of me had a pheasant leap into its windscreen.  Well, this reminded me of our old friend, Alf Waddingham from Grantham.  He told us the rule:  If you kill the pheasant you cannot take it but the next person can.  We often thought he might have scared them out of the ditches into the lanes to get hit as he always came home with 4 or 5.  Well, today, I pulled an Alf.  I don’t think the chef was that thrilled when I brought the beauty into the kitchen, but I am hopeful someone working on the estate will like it and take it home.  The colours on this bird are just amazing, and it was quite sad, actually.  That said, I have every intention of plucking those tail feathers.

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And tonight Lucy came to fetch me so I could see the ‘Worm Moon’.  It is apparently a Super Worm Moon that is occurring with the spring equinox.  It will not happen again until 2144.  This is the first time that a super worm moon has occurred since 1905.  The farmers used to say that the first full moon in March was when the soil had warmed up and the worms would wake up and come out of the ground.  Apparently, it will be brilliant at 2am!  Here it is starting to rise.

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Hospitalfield, Day 8

Inside my kiln at home is approximately three dozen perfectly formed, balanced, light in weight porcelain bottles with chattering.  There are boxes of less than optimum bottles broken up.  I couldn’t decide whether to really go for the colour which at the moment seems to be a range of greens and blues or blue-greens using stains.  For the past six months or so I have personally been put off by glaze.  Nothing seemed to capture what was in my head and that is where Hospitalfield comes in.  When I applied to be a Resident Interdisciplinary artist here, I had no idea if I would be accepted.  The ration of applicants to those accepted I have found is very low.  One in twenty individuals.  I am in great company.  My studio mates are amazing.  Lucy Barlow is shortlisted for the First Plinth public art award for Olympic Park in London.  I am really sending off the best wishes for her.  She has to finish her final presentation to the jury in a few days, so she is working on her project here and tackling that as well.  You can check out her art at lucybarlow.art      Lucy is re-entering the art world after raising her boys, and she is doing some fantastic work.  Allan Whyte also shares my studio.  He’s all over social media.  One of the things that Allan and I have learned together is that the sound recording from the iPhone is just pretty darn good.  He is working on finishing up a commission for Glasgow and is recording sounds and working with some interesting recycled materials.  Check him out, too…and of course there are five other amazing people who I will write about later including Kiki who happens to be a fantastic cook as well.

But the point I am getting at is this.  By choosing a residency that had nothing to do with ceramics I have grown immensely in these eight days.  It isn’t just stepping back in time, sitting here in this fantastic historical room with the paint and wallpaper peeling away in places that have inspired me but it is the sea.  I have never lived by the sea.  The east coast of Scotland is flat.  In fact, it is a bit of a cosmic joke because it reminds me of Manitoba!  Flat.  I did say flat, right?  Just in case you don’t believe me, those really high hills that are the only thing Scottish Tourism sends out – well, they are on the west coast of Scotland.  The work that I am producing is my first reaction to this house and to the sea and the light.  The featured bottle still has a lip that is smoothed out, and the joins of where the moulds met have been smoothed but that is now all gone.

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We had rain and blowing rain and snow when these were made and these huge clouds trying to push the sky backwards.  Today the sky was white, and the sea was blue.  It is ever-present.  When the chill is down to your bones even though you can see the daffodils blooming in the garden, it is because of the sea.  When the slip in your mould doesn’t dry like it does in Manitoba in the winter, it is the sea.  Damp.  Moss.  Cold.  And yet, I would not give up these eight days for anything.  I highly recommend anyone considering a residency to step outside their comfort zone and challenge what they have been doing.  For me, anyway, it has allowed me a time to be free, to be playful, to react to something and someplace.  Magical.

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The sea is just beyond the kitchen garden beyond the walls of the house.

For years it was the life of this village.  And today, if you meander around the harbour, you can find ‘Smokie’ stalls.  If in Manitoba you are expecting smoked sausage, you might be right, but here in Arbroath it is smoked fish.  There are five or six places.

Just a funny historical fact.  The people in Dundee used to have a tradition.  They would not eat herring, but on New Years, they would wrap red herring in little paper clothes and hang them outside to bring good luck.  It is called ‘Dressed Herring’, and it didn’t matter if the fish was smoked, salted, or dried.  You could also purchase them ready clothed at some of the market stalls in town.  They even made acceptable gifts I am told!

And with that little tidbit, I will close this blog today.  I am looking forward to the weather being balmy on Wednesday, and I am going to sneak out of the studio and take you on a trip to two of Scotland’s beautiful castles.  Keep your fingers crossed for the excellent weather arriving!

Scotland, Day 7 The McManus. Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum

Our second stop, highly recommended by my old friend, Hazel, was the McManus Museum yesterday.  For those thinking about going, entrance is free.  This is a great place to take a family, lots of things for children to do and photography is allowed in all of the galleries unless it is a special exhibition.  For those who cannot climb stairs, there is a lift and a cafe with a gift shop.  The McManus is right in the centre of Dundee.  A lovely place to visit with lots of shops about.

The building was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, and it has been the heart of the city’s culture since it opened in 1869.  Scott was a leading architect of the Gothic Revival style.  He was born in 1811 in Buckinghamshire.  At the age of sixteen, in 1827, he moved to London where he trained as an architect under James Edmeston.  Scott became enamoured with medieval Gothic and began travelling across Europe to see the buildings firsthand in the 1840s.  Gothic Revival as it was in the 19th century drew its inspiration from the architecture of medieval Europe with its pointed arches, trefoils, and naturalistic foliage decoration.  Scott was knighted in 1872 for his contributions to British architecture.   The following year he became the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects.  Scott dies five years later; he is buried in Westminster Abbey.

The McManus Museum was initially known as the Albert Institute.  It was designed by Scott with building commencing in 1865.  The structure was finished three years later in 1868.  Initially, it had a library on the ground floor and a public hall on the second.  Additions were added by David Mackenzie II (1832-1875) in 1872-74, and William Alexander (1841-1904) in 1887.

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The first floor has several galleries including Dundee and the World, The Victorian Gallery, The Long Gallery, the 20th century Gallery, a revolving exhibition entitled ‘Here and Now’ and the Creative Learning Centre.

Dundee and the World showcase the international and maritime collections centred on world trade.  Dundee was known for its business in jute and its whale hunting.  Today along the coast of the North Sea corporations drill for ‘black gold’ or oil.  The tour guides tell you that long before people had any need for this oil, they used oil from plants.  Around 1700 someone discovered that oil from whales would soften jute and leather, could be burned as a fuel and could be made into soap.  The boats carried crews of between 40 and 70 men who chased the whales in the North Sea and harpooned them.  They would be tethered to the side of the ship where strips of blubber would be cut off and rendered to extract the oil.  That was stored in barrels and sent back to Dundee.  It is believed that the very first whaling ship to leave Dundee was in 1753.  The early whalers travelled as far as the North Atlantic and the Arctic.  Overhunting meant that by the 19th century almost all of the northern whales were dead.  But the demand for oil did not stop, and Dundee whalers would travel to the South Atlantic to hunt.  In 1872 Dundee was the most crucial whaling centre in Britain with catches of about 200 whales per year.  The community prospered.  Sails had to be made, ropes were needed, men to load and unload and to work on the ships.  In fact, ships had to be made.  Whaling stopped in 1912 as the number of whales had significantly declined and made it uneconomical.  Whale oil was also being replaced by new oils including paraffin that was extracted from shale.

In its heyday, whale bones were used for lamp oil, cutlery handles, and lubricants while the baleen was used to stiffen corsets, for parasol ribs.  The spermaceti from the head of the sperm whale provided the wax used in candles, cosmetics and medicines.  The blubber or whale oil was processed for softening the jute in Dundee.

Other traditional Dundee industries included wool.  The fibres were sent to the Netherlands to be dyed.  Leather processing including processing the hides from Scottish cattle to make belts, shoes, gloves, hats, saddles, and harness.  Shipbuilding was, of course, a big industry.

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One startling exhibition was of two ‘Branks’.  Branks were used from the 1600s onwards.  They were also known as ‘Scould’s Bridles’ and were iron contraptions put on the heads of women accused of slander or sweating to prevent them from speaking.  They were then led through the town!  They were said to have originated in Germany and the Netherlands.

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There is a lovely model of the city.  Notice the church and all of the cramped quarters.  When the jute mills were working you could not see the city from across the Tay, all of the fibres mixing about.  And then there was also the pollution from the coal fires.

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The children seemed to love the area that might be classified natural history as much as I did.  There were hawks, Golden Eagles, rabbits of all sorts.

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The Victoria Gallery was staggering.  It is precisely what you imagine the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy would look like with pictures stacked one on top of the other.  It was a bit overwhelming.

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Restaurant recommendation for the day:  The Bellrock in Arbroath.  The fish (cod and haddock) are fresh every day, and if you think you have had great fish and chips, you need to try this place.  It will cost you a tenner (twice as expensive as in Canada but twice as good). And because of the amount you get could be easily shared!  On Sunday there is a buffet but the best fish is ordered off the menu.

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Hospitalfield, Day 4

It is 10 degrees C with bright sun in Arbroath this morning.  Hospitalfield House is cosy and inviting.  The light streams through the windows warming up the entire area of the building on the east side.  I had a lovely walk in the gardens this morning after breakfast.  I am so impressed with the staff at Hospitalfield and the friendliness of the Scots.  I feel completely blessed being here and while I came to do ceramics my interest has been consumed by the objects in the collection and some of the books in the library, such as The Art Journal, from the 19th century that are not available to me in Winnipeg.  In talking with one of the other residents, Allan, who had ten new creative ideas yesterday, I am not allowing my academic identities collide.  That said, having done graduate work in the history of sculpture, several of the pieces in the collection of Hospitalfield have caught my interest.  Thank goodness that pouring my moulds allows me the time to pursue both interests – history and art and that I have given myself permission to slide back into the historical.  Often students struggle with their course projects because they have a ‘fixed’ idea of what they want at the end.  Hospitalfield is a place that allows you to take a different path if you find yourself on it.  That is one of the other reasons that I am thrilled that this is not just a ceramics residency.

It is fabulous getting e-mails from some of you that read my blog.  It is difficult to know if anything is of interest to anyone, so thank you.

We are slowly moving through Hospitalfield House now that more information is becoming available about the contents and uses of the rooms.  The next room down the hall on the first floor is the anteroom.  This is where Patrick Allan-Fraser met with his clients to discuss commissions.  According to our guide, ‘it was cheaply done’.  In 1877, the walls were covered with the first commercially available wallpaper.  To make the embossed designs to try and replicate the 17th century embossed leather that we saw in the dining room, the manufacturers mixed woodflour and linseed oil and applied it to linen which was then adhered to the wall and could be painted.   The wallpaper is still made in Lancaster; it is used for renovations to the walls of these stately homes.  The arrival of cheap wall coverings completely wiped out the plaster industry in England.

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This room also had gasoliers at each side of the fireplace.  A gasolier is typically a chandelier with gas burners rather than light bulbs or candles.  In some cases in Hospitalfield, they are wall-mounted or there is one, designed like a torch, on the grand staircase.

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The anteroom also contains an unusual sculpture carved in marble by George Simmons.  The title is Cupid with a Panther.  There are pictures of Cupid Riding a Panther on 1st-century Roman walls but I have come up against a wall trying to find out about the artist, George Simmons and this particular piece.  If you know anything at all, please write and let me know.

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Behind the door in the anteroom is a picture by Francesco Francia of St Lucy with Madonna and Child.  Francia was from Bologna.   St Lucy has a very interesting legend.  She is considered to be very brave.  She grew up in Syracuse and lost her life during the early 4th century when Christians were being persecuted.  She is well known as a defender of the Christian faith.  One legend says that Lucy wanted to give her life to the service of the Church but her mother tried to arrange a marriage for her with a pagan.  Lucy learning of this devised a plan to get her mother to change her mind. She prayed at the tomb of Saint Agatha who told her that her mother was ill and that her sickness would be only cured through having faith.  Lucy was to try and persuade her mother to give her dowry money to the poor and allow her to become a nun.  Lucy’s mother was grateful but the bridegroom became very angry and reported Lucy and her strong religious convictions to the local governor, Paschasius.  He ordered Lucy to be defiled by the guards.  But the guards could not move her when they came to take her.  They even tried hitching her to a team of oxen and dragging her.  But it was to no avail.  Then they tried to burn her.  At last, they took their swords and put out her eyes.  That was how she died.  When her body was prepared for burial, everyone discovered that her eyes had been restored.  In pictures, she is shown holding a dish containing her eyes.  You can see it in this painting.

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The ‘real gems’ of the house are the two rooms in the west wing.   We will look at one of those today.

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The central feature of the largest room is a marble fireplace carved by James Christie.  The three allegorical figures, from left to right are Peace, Plenty, and Prosperity.  Other details include strawberries and parrots from the coat of arms of the two families.  The central figure, a cupid with both hands under his chin,  was a later addition.  Can you see the parrots and strawberries?  The fireplace still works today and provides warmth to a room that does not start being warmed by the sun until later in the morning.  Because of all of the wood and the tapestries in the house, in addition to all of the pictures, the blinds are generally pulled.

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There was a huge interest in fossils and stones.  A large piece of Jasper was found on the shore near the house and was turned into a table.

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Tomorrow we will talk about the woodwork above the arches, the picture commissions in the room, and then we will take a tour of the harp room with its many curiosities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hospitalfield, Day 3

Each of us, at breakfast, seemed to have settled in.  Everyone has adjusted to keeping warm and many of us threw off covers during the night.  The wind off the North Sea subsided and we woke to glorious blue skies.  Today, was an opportunity to stop thinking about being creative and to enjoy a tour of the library and the house with Alasdair Sutherland.  I learned so much that it was impossible to keep track of everything but today, I will begin writing about the ‘true’ history of Hospitalfield and not that contained in many accounts.  Alasdair gave us insight into the reasons for the carvings, the history of the pictures in the collection as they related to the Fraser family, and showed us some amazing books including the account books of the woodcarver whose work decorates the house.  To not overwhelm you, this will be done in instalments!  The house is the history of the Parrot family from Hawkesbury Hill in Coventry and the Fraser family.

The original building was called Hospitalfield but it was because it was a place to receive pilgrims arriving to go to St John the Baptist Abbey. — ‘hospitality’  A statue on the front of the house is original to the medieval era.  It was only later a place for those ill with leprosy and the plague.

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Patrick Allan’s family did not really want him to be an artist.  Not much different today, parents afraid their children wanting to be artists will be impoverished all of their lives.  His family did apprentice him with his grandfather who was a very skilled draftsman.  He then goes to art school in Edinburgh where he specialises in portraits.  From there he went to Rome where he made a very successful career selling drawings and pictures to people on the Grand Tour.  It is in Rome that he will meet some other painters and sculptors who will become his lifelong friends and will supply work for the rooms here at Hospitalfield.  In 1841, he set up a successful portrait business in London and traveled back and forth to Paris.  Patrick Allan becomes one of the founders of a group of artists, The Clique, in the late 1830s.  The group was known for their rejection of academic art and embracing genre scenes.  They also had a great disdain for the Pre-Raphalite Brotherhood, more of that later this week!

In 1842, Patrick Allan was approached by Robert Cadell, an Edinburgh publisher, who wants him to produce illustrations for Walter Scott’s Antiquity, which I mentioned the last post.  Patrick Allan did create the work but, according to our guide, not that enthusiastically.   Our guide today also said that there is no shred of evidence that Scott’s novel was based on people and places in Arbrough or that Hospitalfield was Monkbarns.  It is a myth that has been perpetuated (even by me yesterday).  While he is in Arbroath working on this series, he meets a widow, Elizabeth, whom he married in 1843.  Elizabeth will inherit all of the Hawkesbury estates in 1883.  Below are three large oil portraits painted by Patrick Allan-Fraser on the left, Elizabeth, his wife, on the right, and her mother in the middle.  The bottom picture is an image of Elizabeth holding her favourite cat painted by Patrick.

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I would like to draw your attention to the material on the wall behind the portrait of Elizabeth.  It is the most beautiful 17th-century Dutch embossed leather and was all the rage when the couple were renovating the house.  The room that these images are in was the original entrance hall of the James Fraser House.  One other curiosity about this room is the installation of gasoliers, gas lighting.  It was trendy and a status symbol, just like the imported leather wall panels.  They, however, did a lot of damage to the ceilings and objects in various rooms within the house with the fumes.  This was compounded by the soot from the candles and the coal that was used.

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The fireplace was shown at the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations of 1851 at Hyde Park, London, from 1 May to 15 October 1851.  The models of all of the various items that could be purchased could also be bought.  That is how the fireplace wound up in Hospitalfield.

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The beautiful wood carving through the original Hall and then the dining room was done by a local carver, James Hutchinson.   His work can be seen throughout the house including the framing of the triple portraits.  Below is a detail.

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The Drawing Room features two 17th century tapestries that Patrick acquired in Bruges.  The Room was decorated in 1870 when cedar was used to cover all of the walls to protect the fabrics from moths.  The room is the earliest example of the Scottish Arts and Crafts Movement.  The intent, through the subjects of the tapestries, was to link the inside of the house with the outside environment.  The ceiling has 197 different plant carvings found on the property.  It was done by a local carver, David Maver, who was paid seven pence an hour.  Hospitalfield has the complete book of his accounts.  Some of the ceiling carvings took up to one hundred hours.  Maver later moved to New York where he made a name for himself carving for the grand houses along the Eastern seaboard.

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Other images of the tapestries in the Drawing Room.  Because of their age, the light from the windows is curtained off.  The brilliance of living a room with cedar to protect artworks at that time was quite impressive. Other cabinets within the house are made of solid cedar and lined with camphorwood to safeguard the beautiful clothes of the women.

Tomorrow I will give you a tour of three more rooms in this great house.

The winds are still down, and the sun is shining brightly in Arbroath.  Any artist seriously looking for a place to do a residency should seriously consider Hospitalfield.  They have a small dedicated staff.  The costs are reasonable and if you take public transportation – and not rent a car – you will really only have to bring your supplies.  For some of the writers this March, that has meant only pens and paper!

 

Hospitalfield House, Day 2

Another introduction to this amazing ‘house’.  There are nine of us in residence at this amazing artist centre in Arbroath, Scotland.  This morning we spent some time in the study introducing ourselves and our projects to find that our interests were, as one of my colleagues noted, intertwined together.  It is going to be a very productive time.  That said, Simon, the cook has continually pulled off amazing meals.  We were happy to find out tonight that the idea of a Hospitalfield cookbook is in the works.  He has managed to juggle each of our needs into amazing meals made with local produce.  Not to say it too loud but we could all leave having gained a wee bit of weight.

Hospitalfield House has a long history.  It was built by a group of Tironesian monks in the 13th century.  At the time it was the Hospital of St. John the Baptist and was home to those persons with leprosy and the plague.  I have mentioned that before.  In 1665, the Fraser family took over the property.  Wikipedia informs us that Walter Scott stayed here in 1803 and again in 1809.  The beautiful stone buildings inspired the model for his Monkbarns in his novel The Antiquary which he finished in 1816.   In the middle of the  19th century, Hospitalfield House came into the hands of Patrick Allan-Fraser, a son of a local weaving merchant, who seems to have enlarged the property.    {He acquired the property through his marriage to Elizabeth}, He was a major patron of the arts and a painter himself had studied in Edinburgh.  He was held in high esteem and was elected to be President of the British Academy in Rome.  It is well known that he did a series of paintings to illustrate a volume of Scott’s The Antiquary.  He refurbished rooms, hired some of the best local artists and craftspeople, gave enormous commissions and acquired more objects for the collection.  A five-storey bartizan, which is a type of cantilevered turret,  and another large wing.  It is described as an Arts and Crafts House.  In the collection are objects including desks with the most exquisite inlay, ceramics, tapestries, and books.

 

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We will get a real tour of the library and the collections later on.  The priceless objects are locked away but we are allowed to access them for study.  I am really keen to see the other ceramics as the ones scattered about indicate a keen interest in Japanese work.

For now, the thing that brings us here today is the fact that he set up the Patrick Allan-Fraser of Hospitalfield Trust to support young artists.  The couple had no children and when Allan-Fraser died, he bequeathed the entire property and its contents “for the promotion of Education in the Arts” on the death of Allan-Fraser in 1890.  Here is an image of the outside of the studios and a few into the interior of the one I am sharing with my new friend, Lucy Barlow from London.

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Today, Hospitalfield is internationally renowned as a centre for the arts.  The Trust has spent its money wisely refurbishing various rooms and many of the original musical instruments in the building including the harpsichord and the harp.  There is an annual harp festival and I am told that there are Jazz musical events in the building periodically.  Indeed one is coming up next week!

Like every other arts centre, money needs to come in to support this as a place of contemporary ideas in the arts.  The staff is small but energetic and passionate.  The beautiful gardens outside my window are getting ready to be levelled.  A new garden designer has been hired and in May the place will be in full bloom.  There are also greenhouses to be refurbished and a new very modern residence with ten bedrooms and kitchenettes will be built.  At the same time, they plan to restore the Victorian walled gardens and the glass house.  They will also restore the fernery.  It is an 18th-century feature and is the only one of its kind on the east coast of Scotland.

Arrived at Arbroath and Hospitalfield House

From my window in one of the most historic bedrooms at Hospitalfield, I can see the North Sea.  To get there, one only has to walk through the garden, full of blooming daffodils and crocus.

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The photographs provided by Hospitalfield show the amazing exterior of this medieval building, but it is the interior spaces that give you that ‘wow, oh my goodness’ moment.  Built in the 13th century, the warren of rooms was home to the people who had leprosy and the plaque….hence, the name Hospitalfield.  Right now, it is both home and inspiration to the nine or ten of us who are here as interdisciplinary artists from various places including Brooklyn, London, Glasgow, Holland, and Newcastle, Great creative people.

Cicely Farrer wrote to us and told us that it is both cold outside and cold inside this old stone building,.  She is right.  It is cold to the bones which, in some way, has a connection with the SHEEP that are everywhere and the wool industry.  Did I forget my wool jumper from Ireland just so I could get a new one from here?  Did I really?!  But, for those who are thinking of travelling to Scotland, the first word that comes to mind is SHEEP.  There are more sheep in Scotland than there are people.  Did you know that?  And some of those sheep are even orange!

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This is the first residency that I have been on in more than 30 years.  It feels like a first time because everything is that much more different.  There is a fantastic chef here named Simon who cooked us pilaf, a chicken curry, slaw with Nigella seeds, and his homemade flatbread.  This was followed by a chocolate brownie with real whipped cream and a raspberry coulis.  It is nice to be taken care of and not having to think about anything – a mantra that seems to be on everyone’s mind.

So this is the four posters historic bedroom at Hospitalfield that is mine for two weeks.

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Some of you might recall that I was given a -37 degree C sleeping bag.  It will definitely come in handy tonight!  It makes me appreciate all of those big two-story frame farmhouses in Manitoba and all their small rooms and doors. Apparently to keep the warm in.

Here are some other views of the inside hallways.  The wood is beautiful.  Some of the private rooms have coffered wood ceilings and carved wooden walls.  I fear that they would crack in the dry cold of Manitoba,

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Scotland is on many of your bucket lists.  It is a gorgeous country with vast open spaces.  That is one of the single reasons that Scotland is a favoured tourist destination for the Chinese.  The tops of the Highland hills have snow on them today. March is chilly.  The great houses open in April.  You should come after April 1 if you can.

And if you do come, you need to start planning in advance and check out all of your options.  From Canada, for example, I found out that you can fly from Halifax to Glasgow.  Other places even land in Dundee, but the majority of travellers I am told begin their journey in London.  It is easy to get to Scotland from London King’s Cross; it takes about five hours, and if you book at least 5 to 6 weeks in advance with NLER you can get a much-discounted ticket.  Most everyone I know automatically thinks about renting a car.  If you absolutely need to, plan, so you only need to for a short period.  It isn’t the cost of the daily car fee that is so expensive.  It is the cost of insurance.  The price per day of full coverage with Europcar is 37 GBP.  At the moment it is 1 GBP to 2 CDN.  While the daily rental might seem insignificant, insurance can add up.  Figure it out before you travel.

If you decide to go ahead and rent a car then make the most of it!  This means not travelling on the motorways – at least as much as you can,  Wandering off to find small villages with quaint shops and local food is part of the fun.  And do check out the local fare.  To give you an idea of what fast food costs in Scotland and an excellent reason to stay away from it, I can tell you that a Burger King Jr Whopper meal is 7.14 GBP or $14.28 CDN.  Thank goodness the chef at Hospitalfield House is so amazing.