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Scarborough: 31 July


Main ImageIf the fantasy writer George RR Martin follows this blog—and let’s face it, he’d be a mug not to—this week’s entry contains just the sort of blood-drenched tale of treachery, revenge and legal quibbling that is so dear to his heart. (It also holds the answer to that age-old question, how long can a Highlander hold a grudge?)

The Battle of Champions took place in 1478 or so, and was supposed to settle a long-running feud between two Caithness clans, the Keiths and the Gunns. The idea was that there would be a battle between a few hand-picked champions from each side, or as the legend has it, “twelve horses and their riders”, at the Chapel of St Tears just north of Wick. The twelve Keiths got there first and, while they waited, went into the chapel to pray.

Then the Gunns arrived; only the cunning devils had brought 24 men, i.e., two men riding on each horse. They dismounted and raced into the chapel and promptly massacred the outnumbered Keiths, though only after a savage hand to hand struggle. (The lord of the Gunns afterwards declared it was no breach of trust as they had but twelve horses as agreed—I like to think of him spreading his gore-drenched hands and saying innocently to waiting reporters, “What?”)

Sheep Watch

Lookout sheep on Holborn Head, Thurso Bay

Now, it sounds like the Gunns had a first-rate legal department, like Amazon, who pored over all their contracts looking for loopholes. But surely they missed a trick by not turning up like those motorcycle stunt riders who balance a human pyramid on their backs; or in pantomime horse costumes, which they could unzip at the crucial moment and shout “Surprise!” before leaping into action?4W160725-1-2

Meanwhile in gansey news I have duly started my next project, a classic Scarborough pattern in Frangipani bottle green. It’s to fit a 45-46 inch chest, so I cast on 332 stitches, knit 4 inches of ribbing, then increased to 368 stitches for the body, which I plan to knit for 12 inches before starting the gussets and yoke pattern.

The colour is a deep and vivid green, the sort of colour Robin Hood might have worn if he’d decided to take up herring fishing instead of robbery (I was sorely tempted to knit a Robin Hood’s Bay pattern as a sort of in-joke). Like so many gansey colours it has a metallic sheen in sunlight, in this case like the iridescent hue of a green tiger beetle.

4W160725-1In parish news, the indefatigable Judit has completed another splendid gansey, also in green. (Apologies but you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks till Margaret’s back—she’s away just now—to see the finished product, but meanwhile here Judit’s gallery here is a picture of it under construction.)

Oh, and as for the matter of how long Highlanders can hold a grudge? After the Battle of Champions the Gunns and the Keiths went on killing each other pretty much until punk rock had come and gone: the two clans finally signed a bond and covenant of friendship on 28 July 1978—just the small matter of 500 years, then…





9 comments to Scarborough: 31 July

  • Jane

    Gosh Gordon, this one has appeared half knitted as if by magic! How spectacular! It is a lovely colour, and I can see the sheen, very, very nice. It will make a change too, all good stuff. Take care!

    • Gordon

      Hello Jane, well to be fair I do cheat a bit by secretly starting the new ones in the week or two after the old one is blocked and appears in the blog (and I did the ribbing while i was on holiday in Northants). If only it was half-knitted!

  • Lois

    And what do you do in your spare time, Gordon?

    • Gordon

      Well, Lois, at the moment my free hours are equally divided between (a) nursing a grievance, (b) harbouring a grudge and (c) falling asleep in front of the tv. (I look at it as a rehearsal for my retirement!)

  • Chris Hann

    Proud to be descended from the treacherous Gunn clan. You have been getting some attention over at Hidden Northumberland. My fault. Sorry. They love your work.

    • Gordon

      Hi Chris, to be honest I have my reservations about the story as it’s told, great story though it is. (For example, the whole thing rather breaks down if the Gunns get there first, so the Keiths can see what they’re up to from a distance; it also seems to depend on all the Keiths going into the chapel and kneeling and closing their eyes, as if they were playing a game of hide-and-seek, which, again, seems improbable.) So I don’t take it at face value! (The abduction of Fair Helen of Braemore on her wedding night, though, that’s another matter!)

      I am unaware of Hidden Northumberland—though I do rather like the idea of a county with a cloaking device…

      • Chris Hann

        Hidden Northumberland is a Facebook page for posting images of the less well known parts of the county. Someone posted a picture of a Craster gansey their mother made for them. One of the responses was Seahouses gansey. I pointed them to your site as an authority on the art and science of ganseys. I guess the page is private, I’ll get the pictures forwarded.

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