Am Fear Liath Mòr, a Yeti-Like Creature in Scotland

The second highest mountain range in the UK is a mountain range in the eastern Highlands of Scotland. In modern terms, these mountains are known as the “Cairngorms.”  The Cairngorms include the highest, coldest, and snowiest plateaux in the United Kingdom. Five of the six highest mountains in Scotland come from this mountain range: Ben Macdhui (1309 m); Braeriach (1296 m); Cairn Toul (1293 m); Sgor an Lochaine Uaine (1258 m); and Cairn Gorm (1245 m). 

But our tale today is not one speaking of each of these mountains beings Munros, but the mystery surrounding Ben Macdui, for upon Ben Macdui’s summit, one might encounter the gaelic creature known as Am Fear Liath Mòr (meaning “Big Gray Man”). The tale goes that Am Fear Liath Mòr takes great umbrage with climbers who attempt to scale the mountain. 

Professor Norman Collie. Image Credit: UCL Chemistry Collections – CC BY 3.0 ~

Professor Norman Collie. Image Credit: UCL Chemistry Collections – CC BY 3.0 ~

The tales came before Professor Norman Collie chronicled his experience on the mountain, but the good professor’s story brought the situation to light. Collie was respected scientist and Professor of Organic Chemistry at University College London. He was the first man to use a medical X-ray photograph. Collie was also a Fellow of the Royal Society. 

Collie was also a well respected climber. He pioneered many climbs on the Isle of Skye, as well as in the Alps. “In 1895, he was part of the first ever attempt on the 8000 meters peak in the Himalayas, Nanga Parbat. He later went on to make 21 first ascents in the Canadian Rockies. He is remembered in the names of Mount Collie in Canada and Sgurr Thormaid (“Norman’s Peak”) on Skye.” (Undiscovered Scotland

Ben Macdui Seen from Cairn Gorm http://www.undiscovered outdoors/greyman.html

Ben Macdui Seen from Cairn Gorm http://www.undiscovered

“So when, in late 1925, the still eminent and active Professor Collie stood up to give a speech to the 27th Annual General Meeting of the Cairngorm Club in Aberdeen, he was a man whose words carried a great deal of weight with his audience. Which added all the more to the impact of part of what he had to say, about an experience he had while alone on the summit of Ben Macdui (as the name is now spelled) in the Cairngorms, 34 years earlier in 1891:

‘I was returning from the cairn on the summit in a mist when I began to think I heard something else than merely the noise of my own footsteps. For every few steps I took I heard a crunch, and then another crunch as if someone was walking after me but taking steps three or four times the length of my own. I said to myself, “This is all nonsense”. I listened and heard it again, but could see nothing in the mist. As I walked on and the eerie crunch, crunch, sounded behind me, I was seized with terror and took to my heels, staggering blindly among the boulders for four or five miles nearly down to Rothiemurchus Forest. Whatever you make of it, I do not know, but there is something very queer about the top of Ben MacDhui and I will not go back there again by myself I know.'” (Undiscovered Scotland)

Collie’s story had others scrambling to tell their tales. One of the more “sinister” reports came from a man called Alexander Twenion. In 1943, Twenion claimed he wounded a creature he encountered on Ben Macdui. According to the man, a gray “shadowy” beast trailed Twenion’s descent along the Coire Etchachan path. The creature stalked him, and Twenion fired three shots before fleeing in the direction of Glen Derry. (Historic Mysteries)

Descriptions of the creature vary somewhat, but it is generally is thought to be a man of some ten feet in height, who walks erect. He possesses broad shoulders. long, ape-like arms, which he gesticulates wildly. He is covered in short, brown fur/hair and holds an olive complexion. Those who see (or more likely feel) the creature’s presence do so just below the skyline near what the locals call Lairg Ghru Pass. “Witnesses report feelings of dread or stark terror and can become so intense and overwhelming that the urge to jump off the cliff at Lurcher’s Crag is seriously considered as an option. Some people are of the opinion that this is precisely what the Grey Man is attempting to do.” (Historic Mysteries)

“Alastair Borthwick’s superb 1939 book about climbing in Scotland, “Always a Little Further” relates the accounts of two climbers he knew who had experienced what by then was becoming known as Am Fear Lithe Mòr, or Ferlas Mor, or the Big Grey Man of Ben Macdui, because of its appearance when briefly glimpsed by a few of those who encountered it.

‘The first was alone, heading over MacDhui for Corrour on a night when the snow had a hard, crisp crust through which his boots broke at every step. He reached the summit and it was while he was descending the slopes which fall towards the Larig that he heard footsteps behind him, footsteps not in the rhythm of his own, but occurring only once for every three steps he took.

‘I felt a queer crinkly feeling in the back of my neck,” he told me, “but I said to myself, ‘This is silly, there must be a reason for it.’ So I stopped, and the footsteps stopped, and I sat down and tried to reason it out. I could see nothing. There was a moon about somewhere, but the mist was fairly thick. The only thing I could make of it was that when my boots broke through the snow-crust they made some sort of echo. But then every step should have echoed, and not just this regular one-in-three. I was scared stiff. I got up, and walked on, trying hard not to look behind me. I got down all right – the footsteps stopped a thousand feet above the Larig – and I didn’t run. But if anything had so much as said ‘Boo!’ behind me, I’d have been down to Corrour like a streak of lightning!”

‘The second man’s experience was roughly similar. He was on MacDhui, and alone. He heard footsteps. He was climbing in daylight, in summer; but so dense was the mist that he was working by compass, and visibility was almost as poor as it would have been at night. The footsteps he heard were made by something or someone trudging up the fine screes which decorate the upper parts of the mountain, a thing not extraordinary in itself, though the steps were only a few yards behind him, but exceedingly odd when the mist suddenly cleared and he could see no living thing on the mountain, at that point devoid of cover of any kind.

‘Did the steps follow yours exactly?’ I asked him.

‘No,’ he said. ‘That was the funny thing. They didn’t. They were regular all right; but the queer thing was that they seemed to come once for every two and a half steps I took.’

He thought it queerer still when I told him the other man’s story. You see, he was long-legged’ and six feet tall, and the first man was only five-feet-seven.

‘Once I was out with a search-party on MacDhui; and on the way down after an unsuccessful day I asked some of the gamekeepers and stalkers who were with us what they though of it all. They worked on MacDhui, so they should know. Had they seen Ferlas Mor? Did he exist, or was it just a silly story? They looked at me for a few seconds, and then one said: ‘We do not talk about that.'” (Undiscovered Scotland)

Is there a reasonable doubt to these tales? “Witnesses that report something happening on the mountainside are often reluctant to return to the scene of their encounter. Professor Collie went on record with that sentiment. Researchers into these sightings do offer something in the realm of a possible explanation as to what exactly is going on at Ben Macdui. The phenomenon known as a Brocken Spectre is a possible culprit. Sometimes referred to as the Brocken Bow or Mountain Spectre, it is a trick of light played on the eye which makes you believe an enormous shadow creature is facing an observer. This effect is caused by a projection of the observer’s own shadow cast onto a mountain side or cloud bank at an altitude that is either manipulated or magnified by the terrain. First identified by Johann Silberschlag in 1780 in the German Harz mountain range, it can even be seen from inside airborne aircraft.” (Historic Mysteries)

Posted in British history, Great Britain, real life tales, Scotland, Victorian era | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating the Feast of St Lewina

St. Lewina, Virgin-Martyr, of England | Antiochian Orthodox ...

St. Lewina, Virgin-Martyr, of England | Antiochian Orthodox …

Mysterious Britain and Ireland explains the source of the St Lewina celebration as, “St Lewina was a young British virgin who was martyred by Saxons on 24 July 687 A.D. (whilst Theodore was 7th Archbishop of Canterbury). Following her death she was buried at Seaford, near Lewes in East Sussex.

“In 1058, in order to preserve her relics from invading Danes, Bishop Edilin moved them [from Seaford in Sussex, England] to Saint Winnoc’s Abbey Church in Bergues in Flanders [Belgium]. (The relics of St Oswald and St Idaberga were also taken along with those of St Lewina to safety).”

Her feast day in 24 July. The invading Saxons in the fifth century killed her for her Christian faith. Her relics have been venerated, and her relics have produced numerous miracles. A history of these miracles was written by Drogo, an eyewitness to several of them.

Pilgrim: Early Western Saints provides us with this summary and the appropriate prayers: “Today (24 July) we commemorate the Virgin-martyr Lewina of Seaford (5th C). 

“St. Lewine or LEVINNA, July 22, 24. V. M. A British maiden, said to be of royal birth, supposed to have suffered martyrdom from some pagan Saxon in the 7th century. Her body was kept in a monastery at Seaford, near Lewes in Sussex, and translated in 1058 to Berg St. Winoc in Flanders, where her feast is observed, July 24. The abbey was burnt and her body in it, 1558. The history of the translation and of the miracles then wrought was written by Drogo, a contemporary historian. These miracles are recorded also by the Calvinist century writers of Magdeburg.

“Ton 5 Tropaire à sainte Lewine, martyre
Jeune fille originaire de la Bretagne,*
Modèle de pureté et de dévotion,*
Vierge consacrée au Christ, ton époux céleste,*
Tu vivais selon la loi du Saint Evangile*
Quand tu fus mise à mort par les païens saxons.*
Sainte Lewine, prie le Seigneur pour nos âmes!

from Acathistes et Offices Orthodoxes
Young woman from Brittany,
Model of purity and piety,
Virgin consecrated to Christ, your heavenly Bridegroom,
You lived according to the law of the Holy Gospel
When you were put to death by the pagan Saxons.
Holy Lewinna, pray to the Lord for our souls!
Holy St Lewine, pray to God for us.

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Writing Historical Fiction? Should You Use That Particular Word?

High Resolution Perspective Graphic Of The Word Choices

High Resolution Perspective Graphic Of The Word Choices

I admit it: I am a bit of a word geek. I am fascinated with how words came into the English language. Some words make sense in their derivation, and others not so much so. Below are some of the more interesting ones I found of late. (The source of the derivations is  the Oxford English Dictionary, unless so noted.) Many times when I am writing, I must stop to look up a word that “feels” too modern for the Regency Era. Here are some of my most recent searches. 

Jam is an early 18th Century word meaning to “squeeze or pack.” The jam used as a condiment (a thick fruit conserve) was first recorded in the mid 18th Century. A “jam session” was first used in the 1920s. 

One meaning of Buffer comes to us from the mid 18th Century. The buffer in old buffer is an elderly man who is thought to be out of fashion or not in touch with present day trends. It likely comes from buff (which is obsolete). It could also come from the dialect verb buff, which came to mean to stutter or to stammer. It late Middle English a buffer was one who stammered. 

Jape is a Middle English word for a practical joke. It likely combines the Old French word japer, which means “to yelp or yap,” with the Old French word gaber, meaning “to mock.”

Prodigy was originally meant to mean “an omen.” It is a late 15th Century word associated with “something extraordinary.” It comes to us from the Latin word prodigium, meaning “portent.” In the mid 17th Century it came to be associated with a person possessing amazing qualities.

Scenario is a late 19th Century word, coming to us from the Latin word scene, meaning “scene.” [This is one I misused until recently.]

Dint is an Old English word, coming to us from dint, meaning “a stroke with a weapon.” There is a related Old Norse word dyntr. The meaning associated with dint or dent is an impression left upon a surface. The idea date to the late 16th century where the word came to mean “effect produced.”

 Word Origin - Wordpandit

Word Origin – Wordpandit

Penny is an Old English word (penig, penning). It is Germanic in origin. The penny was originally made of silver. Later, copper was used, and after 1860, bronze came into place. Before 15 February 1971, it was abbreviated as d. from denarius, the Latin word for a silver Roman coin. [What I searched for was the phrase penny plain.] Penny plain comes from the mid 19th Century [not a Regency word] to mean “plain and simple.” It refers to prints of characters used for toy theaters. They were sold for one penny if it were a black-and-white print and two pennies for a coloured one. 

Inculcate is a mid 16th Century word, coming to us from the Latin word inculcate, which is the past participle stem of inculcate, meaning to “press in.” The word is made up on in for “into” and calcare for “to tread.” Calx and calc meant “heel.” Inculcate means to “instill, especially an attitude.”

Decry is an early 17th Century word, which originally meant a “decrease in the value of coins by royal proclamation.” It transformed to mean “publicly denounce.”

Acquit comes to us from Middle English. It first was used in the sense of “paying a debt or discharging a liability.” It originates from the Old French word acquirer, from medieval Latin acquitare. Until the 16th Century the word was pronounced with a long “i” sound, similar to requite.

Eaves comes to us from the Old English efes. The word is Germanic in origin. It is related to the word Obsen in German, which became over. We know the meaning to the “overhanging edge of a roof.” Conversely, the word eavesdrop/eavesdropper is an early 17th Century word arriving in English from the Middle English period. It quite literally meant “someone hiding under the eaves to listen to another’s conversation.” The noun eavesdrop once meant the ground upon which water dropped from the eaves.  

Strut is an Old English word derived from strūtian, coming from the German to mean to “protrude stiffly.” Chaucer used the word in his Miller’s Tale to refer to hair sticking up. The use of the word to mean to “walk with a swagger” dates to the late 16th Century.  

Umbrage is a late Middle English word, deriving from the Old French and from the Latin word umbra, meaning “shadow.” Earlier on, it meant a “shadowy outline,” which transformed into something that “gives rise to suspicion.” This led to the current meaning of “offense.” 

Percolate comes from the early 17th Century. It is derived from the Latin word percolate, meaning to “strain through.” Using the word percolator as a synonym for a coffee maker dates from the mid 19th Century. 

Constipation is a word from the late Middle English period. It is from the late Latin word constipatio, which is made up of con for “together” and stipare for “to press or cram.”

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Anatomy of a “Janeite” ~ Do You Fit the Profile?

643193fdba507e1f9a82859d703b1f32Anatomy of a JaneiteDo You Fit the Profile?

In 2008, JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) put together a survey of the “typical” Janeite. I was wondering how many items match with my viewers/readers. So, read on…

Part 1: Participant Demographics. The first half of the survey focused on the survey participant. What portrait emerges from these responses?

519kZTKl6ML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Gender: 96% Female; 4 % Male
Age: 33% age 1-29; 35% age 30-49; 32% age 50+ (with a median age of 40) There were 335 teenagers and 215 respondents aged 70 or over.
Nationality: 90% from English-speaking countries
• 67% U.S.; 6% Canada; 16% U.K, Australia, New Zealand & Ireland (combined)
Occupation: 75% of Janeites are working women/men. The top ten career fields are education, business administration (manager/HR/secretary, etc.), business services/worker/retail, library/archivist, finance, science/engineering, writing/publishing, medical, arts, law and IT. (More than one-third are teachers or librarians.)
Education: 81% over the age of 20 have a 4-year (or higher) college degree; almost half  achieved a master’s (33%) or a doctorate (12%). Surprisingly, 71% did not major in English/Literature.
Religious: 41% said they were religious; 38% not religious.
Politics: Janeites are more likely to view themselves as liberal (55%) than conservative (25%), and on the topic of feminism, to have a favorable (67%) rather than unfavorable (11%) opinion.
Hobbies: More than 50% involved in reading (98%); watching movies (80%); listening to music (72%); attending theater/concerts (61%); walking/yoga/other exercise (60%); visiting museums (60%); and traveling (56% to other countries; 54% within own country).
Traveling: 47% of all respondents have visited Austen sites in England, including 40% of U.S. respondents and 53% of Canadians. More than half the respondents visited Western Europe (69%), England/Wales/Scotland (68%) or traveled extensively in the U.S. (65%) and Canada (52%). Many also traveled to Mexico and the Caribbean. The least-visited area from the survey list was India (4%), followed by Russia (7%), and China (8%).
Favorite Afternoon Drink: 63% tea; 46 % coffee
Pets: tabbies rule – 58% of respondents have pets, with cats at 36% and dogs at 30%
Reading: 86% read at least 2 books per month; 33% read five or more per month
Preferred Genre (non-Austen, of course): 29% mystery; 15% historical fiction
Favorite Authors (not Jane Austen): Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell, J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, William Shakespeare, Anthony Trollope, Georgette Heyer, and Agatha Christie.
Tech Savvy: 57% described themselves as tech smart; 1% as clueless

Part 2: Janeite Land. The second half of the survey looked into the participant’s relationship to Jane Austen and her work.

Age When You Discovered Jane Austen: over 50% before age 17; 13% younger than age 12
How Often Do You Read Austen Novels? 33% read 3+ per year; 11% read all six every year
Favorite Austen Book: 53% Pride and Prejudice; 28 % Persuasion; 7% Emma; 5% Sense and Sensibility; 4% Mansfield Park; 4% Northanger Abbey.
Favorite Heroine: 58% Elizabeth Bennet; 24% Anne Elliot; 7% Elinor Dashwood; 5% Emma Woodhouse; 3% Fanny Price; 2% Catherine Moreland; 1% Marianne Dashwood
Favorite Hero: 51% Fitzwilliam Darcy; 17% Frederick Wentworth; 14% Mr. Knightley; 10% Henry Tilney; 5% Colonel Brandon; 1% Edward Ferrars; 1% Edmund Bertram [Interestingly, males are a good bit less likely to choose Darcy as their favorite hero. The least-liked hero by some measure is Edmund Bertram (40%).]
Favorite Bad Boy: 33% Wickham; 28% Willoughby; 16% Henry Crawford; 10% Frank Churchill; 7% William Elliot; 6% General Tilney
Worst Parents: 54% Sir Walter Elliot; 16% Mr. & Mrs. Price; 15% Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram
Four Comic Characters Who Delight Us: 74% Mrs. Bennet; 70% Mr. Collins; 56% Admiral Croft; 50% Mrs. Bates

For the complete results and analysis, please go to JASNA Persuasion On-Line sources.

Posted in Austen Authors, British history, Great Britain, Jane Austen, JASNA, Living in the Regency, real life tales | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Anglo-Norman Literature: Part I ~ Introduction to Medieval Verse Romances

Early “romances” were stories written in verse in one of the Roman language. Essentially, a romance incorporated the elements of adventure, passion, the extraordinary, and an exaggeration of the virtues and vices of human nature. Originating from the French, the early English romances developed from the epic. Before Chaucer’s time, there were four cycles of French romance popular in England: tales of King Arthur and the Round Table; Alexander the Great; the heroes from the siege of Troy; and the time of Charlemagne.

The medieval verse romance developed from the epic narratives known as “Chansons de geste” celebrating the victories of Charlemagne and others over the Saracens. In the 12th Century, French minstrels regarded love as the motive for the chivalrous actions of knights. The epic transformed into the romance. It came to the English as part of the literature of the royal court. The verse romance was meant to be read aloud in groups of lords and ladies. 

Needless to say, for the English, the most appealing of the four cycles of romance  were the tales of King Arthur and his Knights. The French and the Anglo-Norman poets created a large romantic structure in harmony with the ideals of chivalry. 

Le Morte d'Arthur - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Le Morte d’Arthur – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The legend of King Arthur comes to the English via the Anglo-Saxon period. It was the “Historie Regum Britanniae (1136),” written by Geoffrey of Monmouth in Latin, which first enthralled the English populace. Wace translated Geoffrey of Monmouth’s work into French in 1155. This translation eventually came to Layamon, a priest living in Worcestershire. Layamon added additional verses before “translating” the romanticized poem into the Southern English dialect. Wace’s Brut was 15,300 lines in length. Layamon’s Brut was 32,250 lines in length. Thus, Layamon was the first to render the poem into English. Chretien de Troyes (1140-1190) added French versions to the story of the Grail. 

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Winner of an Audiobook of “Code of the Heart” from Jacki Delecki

61iIdTbBX0L._SL300_Congratulations go out to Juanita Dacuir, who won an audiobook of “Code of the Heart” from Jacki Delecki. winner-is-badge

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Jude Knight: “I Blame the Plot Elves” + a Giveaway of “A Baron for Becky”

Today, I would like to welcome a dear friend, Jude Knight to the blog. After a career in commercial writing, editing, and publishing, Jude returned to her first love: fiction. She claims to love capable, determined heroines, and heroes who appreciate them. Her first novel was Farewell to Kindness, number one in The Golden Redepennings series,  with a publication date of 1 April 2015. Several novels are in the works, and she has plot outlines for 40+, all set in the early 19th century. Welcome, Jude…

Jude Knight
Dear Readers, anyone who knows me knows that I possess a jackdaw mind: one that collects odd facts, interesting stories, concepts, faces, and snippets of plot ideas. They drop into the depths of my memory, and surface in unexpected configurations. I know from where some of A Baron for Becky comes, but I’m blaming the rest on plot elves.
The Marquis of Aldridge first appeared in my mind because I required a hero who was a complete contrast to my crusading social zealot Lady Charlotte Winderfield. Lady Charlotte’s story will be the third book in a series I have yet to start, but once I’d begun to think about Aldridge, he would not be quiet, and he soon inserted himself in my work-in-progress, Encouraging Prudence, where he is the hero’s half-brother.

Aldridge is a rake; a redeemable rake, one with charm and humour, but nonetheless full of the self-centredness of the tribe.

When the Bluestocking Belles formed a group of eight Regency writers, we found ourselves using our launch event page for a three-week long marathon of interactive story telling. We invented a magical inn that allowed our fictional worlds to collide, and brought along our characters for an impromptu party.

I contributed Aldridge to the fun, and it was fun! Poor Aldridge. He had a frustrating time, with his advances to one lady after another being rejected, sometimes violently.

Then along came Mrs A. Mrs Angel is the invention of Catherine Curzon, and she is a wonderful character, mistress to princes, owner of brothels, and a rollicking good-time girl. Aldridge’s pursuit of Mrs A. jumped from thread to thread and took days, with one accident after another keeping him from his goal.

Becky is no Mrs A. Initially, Catherine and I thought about writing the Aldridge/Mrs A. story, though how we would solve the time issue, I do not know. Aldridge was newly born when Mrs Angel was in her prime. In any case, I realised that Aldridge required quite a different experience at this point in his life. Becky began to take shape in my mind – a broken bird, rescued by Aldridge but carrying scars from her past experiences.

Hugh is the baron of the title. Aldridge’s friend, he possesses scars of his own. And when Hugh entered the picture, an amalgam of all the best men I have known, A Baron for Becky stopped being a story about Aldridge and became a story about marriage.

So in the end, my inspiration for this book is my experience of the healing power of love. And the plot elves.


BfB cover final smallA Baron for Becky 

She was a fallen woman when she met them. How can they help her fall on her feet?

Becky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde – the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.

Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?

The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.

When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.




Jude Knight at Amazon Author Central , Facebook, Twitter


Posted in British history, giveaway, Great Britain, Guest Post, Living in the Regency, Regency era, Regency romance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments