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Monday, 27 December 2010

Great Scots!

Due to an unfortunate editorial error, the list of famous Scottish Americans that appears at the end of Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave was somewhat truncated. So, for your education and edification, here is the full list, as it should have appeared in the book.

Ben Affleck – actor
Jennifer Aniston – actress
Billie Joe Armstrong – singer and guitarist with the band Green Day
Lance Armstrong – seven-times winner of the Tour de France
Lucille Ball – actress
Kristin Bell – actress
Linda Blair – actor most famous for her role in 1973’s seminal horror film The Exorcist
Jack Black – actor, singer and comedian
Jim Bowie – frontiersman and a defender of the Alamo
Walter Houser Brattain – inventor of the transistor
David Dunbar Buick – founder of the Buick Motor Company
Joseph A Campbell – founder of Campbell soups, a major manufacturer of canned soups
William Wallace Campbell – astronomer
Drew Carey – comedy actor and game show host
Andrew Carnegie – industrialist and philanthropist, who donated millions of dollars to libraries and arts and education institutions in the US and Great Britain
Johnny Cash – singer
Alice Cooper – rock star
James Fenimore Cooper – author, best known for writing The Last of the Mohicans
Samuel W Crawford – US Army surgeon and Union general in the American Civil War
Michael Crichton – author, most famous for Jurassic Park
Davy Crockett – frontiersman, US Congressman and one of the defenders of the Alamo
Miley Cyrus – actor and singer, also known as Hannah Montana
Matt Damon – actor
Jasper Newton ‘Jack’ Daniel – founder of Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey distillery
James Dean – actor
Donald Wills Douglas, Sr – launched the world's first commercial passenger plane, the DC-3, in 1935
Robert Downey, Jr – actor, most recently seen playing the roles of Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, the creation of Scottish writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
David Duchovny – actor
Hilary Duff – actress and singer
Clint Eastwood – actor and director
William Faulkner – won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949
Stacy ‘Fergie’ Ferguson – singer with The Black Eyed Peas
Brandon Flowers – singer and keyboardist of The Killers
B C Forbes – journalist and founder of Forbes Magazine
Alexander Garden – botanist, physician and zoologist, who gave his name to the Gardenia flower
Bill Gates – co-founder of the software giant Microsoft and, until only recently, the richest man in the world, being a billionaire more than fifty times over
Mel Gibson – actor and director, most notably of Braveheart, of the Clan Buchanan
Jay Gould – railroad developer
Larry Hagman – actor, best known for J R Ewing in Dallas
Oscar Hammerstein II – writer of musicals
Oliver Hardy – comedy actor, best known for being part of the double-act Laurel and Hardy
Jennifer Love Hewitt – actress, producer and singer
Tommy Hilfiger – fashion designer
Grace Murray Hopper – a rear admiral and computer scientist (she was co-inventor of the computer language Cobol), she was the oldest officer and highest-ranking woman in the US armed forces when she retired in 1986, aged 80.
Sam Houston – founding father of Texas
Robert E Howard – author of the Conan fantasy series
Washington Irving – historian, biographer and author, famous for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Samuel L Jackson – actor
James Johnston – along with Thomas J. Watson, developed an early tabulating machine which led to the foundation IBM in 1917
Indiana Jones – fictional archaeologist, college professor and adventurer
John Paul Jones – Father of the American Navy
Kim Kardashian – socialite and television personality
Michael Keaton – actor, real name Michael Douglas
W K Kellogg – breakfast cereal pioneer
Alicia Keys – singer
Jay Leno – host of The Tonight Show
Heather Locklear – actress
Douglas MacArthur – general and field marshal
John James ‘Jimmy’ MacDonald – the voice of Mickey Mouse
Shaun McDonald – American football player
Seth MacFarlane – writer of Family Guy
Archibald MacLeish – modernist poet, Pulitzer Prize winner and Librarian of Congress
Nate McClouthbaseballer, currently playing for the Atlanta Braves
Steve McQueen – actor
Tobey McGuire – actor, known for playing Spider-Man in particular
Marshall Mathers – better known as rapper Eminem
Herman Melville – author, whose best known work is Moby Dick
Marilyn Monroe – actress
Jim Morrison – singer with The Doors
Arnold Palmer – golfer
Allan Pinkerton – detective and director of a security agency
Edgar Allan Poe – short story writer, poet and critic
Jackson Pollock – artist
Colin Powell – former Chief of Staff
Elvis Presley – singer
Ginger Rogers – actress, dancer and singer, born Virginia Katherine McMath
Axl Rose – lead singer with Guns and Roses
J D Salinger – writer of Catcher in the Rye
Alicia Silverstone – actress
Gwen Stefani – singer
James Stewart – actor
Jeb Stuart – Confederate war hero
Donald Sutherland – actor
Keifer Sutherland – actor
Donald Trump – business magnate and television personality
Mark Twain – author
Rube Waddell – Hall of Fame pitcher
Christopher Walken – actor
John Wayne – actor
Sigourney Weaver – actress, famous for playing Ripley in the Alien films
Jack White – musician, guitarist with The White Stripes, real name John Anthony Gillis
Bruce Willis – actor
Alexander Winton – built one of the first American automobiles in 1896, broke the world speed record in 1900, and in 1903 became the first man to drive across the United States
Reece Witherspoon – actress, her Scottish ancestor John D Witherspoon signed the Declaration of Independence
Malcolm X – militant and religious leader

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Lunar Eclipse to be visible from Scotland

If you're up and about already in the UK (like me) then keep an eye on the skies (if you can see anything through the snow clouds) because there's going to be a total lunar eclipse this morning, when the Earth casts a shadow onto the Moon.

On the day of the winter solstice, December 21, the full Moon will start to pass through the cone of Earth's shadow at 6.32am. The partial eclipse begins when the Moon first enters the dark inner, umbral part of the Earth's shadow, and will become a total eclipse at 7.40am. It will reach its maximum at 8.17am, and end at 8.53am.

And what's even better is that from locations in Scotland and Northern Ireland, totality will be visible in its entirety, although the Moon will be low down after the time of greatest eclipse.

John Mason, from the British Astronomical Association, said: "Observers should go out at about 6.30am when, if the sky is clear, the Moon will be visible in the western sky, and they will be able to watch as more and more of the southern part of the Moon becomes immersed in the Earth's shadow. They can continue watching until the eclipse becomes total at 7.40am, and hopefully for a little while after this time, if they have an unobstructed western horizon."

Dr Mason added: "For observers in the British Isles, the very low elevation of the Moon during the total phase means that it is not possible to predict just how dark the Moon will be when it is eclipsed, or what colour it will appear. One will just have to go out and have a look."

So, there you go. Good luck!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Ten things you (maybe) didn't know about whisky

1. Whisky is Scottish, but ‘Scotch’ is whisky. Whiskey with an ‘e’ is Irish while Bourbon is American whisky.

2. There is a dispute between the Irish and the Scots, as to who were the first to make whisky. However, whisky was actually first made in ancient China.

3. Whisky's dark colour comes from the wooden barrels in which it is aged.

4. The island of Jura (whose name is Norse for ‘island of the deer’) is home to a whisky distillery that can trace its roots back as far as the seventeenth century. The whisky it produces reveals traces of seaside saltiness after the initially savoured sweetness.

5. The word ‘whisky’ comes from the Gaelic uisge beatha – which was itself the Irish translation of the Latin aqua vitae, meaning ‘water of life’ – and which was shortened to usqua or usky.

6. There are more than 5000 types of Single Malt Whisky and around 90 percent of Single Malt Whisky comes from Scotland.

7. A closed bottle of whisky can be kept for more than 100 years and it will still be good to drink. And after opening, a half-full bottle of whisky will still remain good for another five years.

8. The first tax on whisky was imposed by the Scots Parliament of 1644. As a result, illicit stills became more and more common, particularly in the Highlands, and were not brought under control until the nineteenth century.

9. Some Scots would describe whisky as smashin’ which is thought to have originated from the Gaelic expression ‘S math sin meaning ‘that’s good’.

10. The market for whisky was created when the phylloxera epidemic hit European vineyards hard, resulting in a decrease in the production of not only wines but brandy as well.

You can find out more about Scotland's national drink, as well as other traditional aspects of Scottish life in Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave, available now - and possibly even in time for Christmas*!

* Snowmageddon permitting!

Scottish Miscellany reviewed at

Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave has been reviewed by Kerry Dexter over at

To read the review, click here. To buy the book, click here.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Christmas shopping sorted

If you're still finalising Christmas presents, remember it's not too late to buy your loved ones (or yourself!) something from my book store.

If it's steampunk action and adventure that they're into, try my Pax Britannia books.

If they love gamebooks and fantasy adventures, try my Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.

If it's Doctor Who or Star Wars, try these, and remember that you can have a Clone Wars story, written by me, personalised.

If it's non-fiction they enjoy, try Match Wits with the Kids, or one of my Miscellanies.

And if its the grim darkness of the far future where there is only war, or the grim darkness of a quasi-Medieval world that gets them buzzing, then try one of my Black Library novels.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Let's make Ebenezer's Carol No.1 this Christmas!

The plan:

To get Ebenezer's Carol, by The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, to No. 1 in time for Christmas. A proper steampunk Christmas song for Christmas No. 1!

What we need to do to achieve this:

1) For Ebenezer's Carol to chart it needs to sell roughly 8,000 copies. The single needs be downloaded as a single, and not as part of the A Very Steampunk Christmas EP. It's available now from iTunes, eMusic and Amazon.

2) So, forward this message to all your friends (be they steampunks or otherwise) but remind them that they must buy the song by itself for it to get into the singles chart.

3) Blog about this, post a link on your Facebook page, Tweet about it, but most importantly - buy the single Ebenezer's Carol!

4) Arrange events themed around this, call the local press, use your contacts - whatever you've got - and we could really make this happen!

This is a chance for steampunk fans to really make themselves heard and make a difference for the future of Christmas. The fate of Ebenezer's Carol and Christmas music itself is in your hands! Let's make Christmas 2010 a Very Merry Steampunk Christmas!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Avalanche warning - in Scotland's capital city!

Walkers and skiers in the Pentland Hills and on Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh are being warned of the risk of avalanches.

Edinburgh City Council said walkers should avoid slopes which are most heavily loaded with snow, since the added weight could trigger avalanches.

It follows days of snow and freezing temperatures in the capital.

Read more about this story here.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Scottish Miscellany in the Sunday Post

Last Sunday, my new book Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave was featured in the Scottish Sunday newspaper the Sunday Post. I like the approach the reporter took to the piece (even though it wasn't what I had originally intended), I just hope the Scottish book-buying public take it with the same good humour.

Happy Saint Andrew's Day!

You may be surprised to learn that when it comes to the day dedicated to Scotland’s own patron saint, more of a fuss is made of it by Scots living abroad than by those living in Scotland itself. It isn’t even a public holiday in Scotland.

Although Andrew is now regarded as a good Scottish name, it originated along with the patron saint, in the Holy Land. Saint Andrew (who died circa AD 60) started out in life as a fisherman. His home was at Capernaum, a settlement on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and he was the brother of Simon Peter.

Andrew was actually a disciple of John the Baptist before he became a follower of Christ but nonetheless, in all four of the Gospels he is listed as being among the first four of Jesus’ apostles. He gets a special mention in the Bible for the part he played in the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:15-21) and also in the matter of the Greeks who wished to meet with Jesus (John 12:20-2).

Despite being such an important figure in the New Testament, scholars are not sure where he preached the Gospel (both Scythia and Epirus in Greece claimed him as their apostle), where he died or even where he was buried. However, the manner of his death is very well-documented.
According to tradition Patras in Achaia (in modern-day Greece) is said to be the place where Andrew was put to death as a martyr. He was reputedly crucified on an X-shaped cross, preaching to the people there for two days before he finally succumbed and died.

From the sixth century, his feast day of 30 November was universally recognised and celebrated. Churches were dedicated to him from early times in Italy, France and Anglo-Saxon England, where the earliest of which was in Rochester, in the county of Kent, the Garden of England.

Like most saints, a number of legends that have grown up about his life and holy work. One of these, regarding a journey to Ethiopia, is told in the Old English poem Andreas. But none of this explains how he came to be the patron saint of Scotland.

He was actually adopted as patron by a Pictish king called Angus, who was supposed to have seen a vision, when an image of the cross appeared in the heavens during a decisive battle. The saint’s relics were brought from Patras all the way to Fife by Saint Regulus, where he stopped at the place that now bears the saint’s name, the church at Kilrymont becoming the cathedral of St Andrews.

You can learn more about Saint Andrew and the Scottish city of St Andrews (along with its world famous university) in Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave.

And did you know that when Prince William asked Kate Middleton to marry him, he joined a notable cohort of alumni from Scotland's oldest university. St Andrews prides itself on being "Britain's top match-making university". Prince William and Kate's romance really was "a match made in St Andrews", as Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond, another graduate of the university, declared.

Wills and Kate met in September 2001 when they studied art history together, although the prince later switched to geography. At the prince and Kate's graduation ceremony in 2005 their university principal Brian Lang gave a speech saying one in 10 students could expect to go on to marry a fellow student.

On this day in Scottish History

30 November

1292 - John Balliol was crowned King of Scotland.

Balliol was the King to be crowned on the Stone of Destiny. Known as 'Toom Tabard', meaning empty coat, Balliol was seen as a puppet of Edward I of England. Edward had been chosen as an independent judge to select the new Scots king after the death of Alexander III. However, he chose Balliol in the belief that he would be most pliable in his attempts at gaining overlordship of Scotland.

1872 - The world's first international football match took place between Scotland and England.

It was played at West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Glasgow. Four England v Scotland matches had already been played at the Oval, Kennington. However, they had been played by Scots resident in London, and as such were not regarded as official. The final score was 0-0.

Monday, 29 November 2010

On this day in Scottish History

29 November

1489 - Margaret Tudor, English princess and Queen of James IV was born.

The daughter of Henry VII of England, she became the wife of James in a political marriage known as the "Union of the Thistle and the Rose". It was through her bloodline that King James VI of Scotland was able to base his claim to the English crown on the death of his cousin, Elizabeth I.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

On this day in Scottish History

28 November

1666 - The King's army defeated Covenanting forces at the Battle of Rullion Green in the Pentlands. This battle was the conclusion of the Pentland rising which began in Galloway and led to a march on Edinburgh, which reached as far as Colinton before news of stiff defences in the city led to a withdrawal.

Friday, 26 November 2010

On this day in Scottish History

26 November

1836 - John McAdam, the inventor of the "tar macadam" road surface, died.

Although born in Ayrshire, McAdam had been a colonist in America, but returned after the American War of Independence, having supported the Crown. As a Deputy-Lieutenant in Ayrshire, he despaired at the condition of the roads, and began experimenting with different methods of road surfacing. He finally settled on a technique of using layers of crushed stone, getting smaller towards the top, which compacted under the weight of vehicles, creating a solid durable road surface.

1917 - Elsie Inglis, the Scottish nursing pioneer and suffragette, died. Inglis is perhaps best remembered for her role in the First World War, where, convinced that women could play an active role in the conflict, she led volunteer medical units of women who served in France and in Serbia, where Inglis herself was taken prisoner. Winston Churchill wrote that Inglis and her nurses "would shine in history".

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Scottish Miscellany reaches British shores at last

They've been a long time coming, but then it is a long way across the North Atlantic from New York to Ealing. Nonetheless I'm delighted to have my new hardback in my hands at last.

Happy Thanksgiving!

On this day in Scottish History

25 November

1835 - the steel magnate and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, was born in Dunfermline.

Carnegie's family emigrated to America when he was still a child, and after a succession of jobs working on the burgeoning raliways there, he became convinced that steel would be where his fortune was to be made. Deeply affected by the deaths of striking workers at one of his steel mills, Carnegie became convinced that he should use his wealth for the benefit of others. By the time of his death in 1919 he had given away over 350 million dollars.

1897 - Helen Duncan, the noted Scottish medium, was born in Callander.

In 1944, she became last person in the UK to be tried, convicted and imprisoned under the 1735 Witchcraft Act. While in prison she was visited by Winston Churchill, who repealed this law on his return to power in 1951.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

On this day in Scottish History

24 November

1996 - Sorley MacLean, the noted Scottish poet widely regarded as the greatest Gaelic poet of the Twentieth Century, died.

MacLean is credited with giving a new literary standing to a language which at times seemed close to extinction. Famous works of his include Dain do Eimhir agus Dain Eile (Poems to Eimhir and Other Poems), a selection of mainly love poems written after MacLean returned from service in North Africa in 1943.

1572 - John Knox, the leading light of the Scottish Reformation, died. Knox had been taught by Calvin in Switzerland and was a fierce champion of Presbyterianism. It was Knox's sermon at St John's Kirk in Perth that set the fire of the Reformation ablaze in Scotland, and also led to the iconoclasm that destroyed much of the nation's artistic heritage.

1542 - The Scots army was defeated at the Rout of Solway Moss. King James V had sent a huge force of 10,000 men into England which was defeated by an English force under the command of Sir Thomas Wharton. James died shortly afterward, and was succeeded to the throne by his baby daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

On this day in Scottish History

23 November

On this day in 1909 the historical novelist, Nigel Tranter, was born in Glasgow.

Tranter is known as the most prolific Scottish writer of all time, leaving five books written but not yet published at his death. His novels were all based around Scottish history, and many Scots felt that their first introduction to their own history came through these books.

You can read more about Nigel Tranter and
his work here.

On this day in 1844 Thomas Henderson, the famous Scottish astronomer, died. Henderson was the first person to measure the parallax, or distance, of a star (alpha centauri), from the Earth, and from the Sun. Henderson went on to become the first Astronomer Royal of Scotland.

Did you know that The 1830s version of the "space race" was to be the first person to measure the distance to a star using parallax?

Monday, 22 November 2010

A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle

22 November 1926
On this day in Scottish history, the poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle by Hugh MacDiarmid (Scotland's Greatest Twentieth Century poet) was published. MacDiarmid was the principal character in the forming of the Scottish Renaissance of the inter-war years and a founder member of the National Party of Scotland.

There's plenty more about the thistle and its connection to Scotland in Scottish Miscellany, available now from Skyhorse Publishing.

For example, did you know that the Scots or Scotch thistle is more commonly known as the cotton thistle, or, to give it its Latin name, Asteraceae Onopordum. However, there are other contenders for the title of Scots thistle. Among them are the spear thistle, the musk thistle, the melancholy thistle, the stemless thistle and Our Lady’s thistle.

Monday, 15 November 2010

On this day in Scottish history

15 November 1996 - The Stone of Destiny was finally returned to Scotland.

Legend has it that the stone is a relic from the Holy Land and once belonged to the biblical Jacob. Whether this is true is doubtful to say the least, but from an early date the kings of Scotland were inaugurated sitting on a royal chair with the stone in its base. In 1296 Edward I removed the stone and installed it at Westminster Abbey. It remained there until it was kidnapped by Scottish nationalist students in 1951. They managed to hide the stone in Scotland for four months until it was found and returned to Westminster. It was moved from there to Edinburgh Castle in 1996 amid much celebration.

You can read more about the legendary Stone of Scone in Scottish Miscellany, by Jonathan Green, available now from Skyhorse Publishing.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

On this day in Scottish history

14 November 1797 - Sir Charles Lyell, the important Scottish geologist, was born. In his seminal work, Principles of Geology, he challenged the dominant thinking of the time which was based on the biblical viewpoint.

Building on the ideas of James Hutton, by careful observation he concluded that the Earth's physical features and its inhabitants were the result of continuous physical and chemical processes occurring gradually over long periods of geological time. Lyell's theory was revolutionary and infuriated the devout majority.

He later supported Charles Darwin's ideas about evolution.

You can find out more about famous Scots in Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave, by Jonathan Green.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

On this day in Scottish history

13 November 1850 - Robert Louis Stevenson, author and poet, is born in Edinburgh's New Town.

He is perhaps best loved for creating the lastingly popular adventure stories Kidnapped and Treasure Island, though he also wrote the darkly complex novel Jekyll and Hyde - the archetypal tale of conflicting alter egos was inspired by the well-known story of Edinburgh figure Deacon Brodie, who was a respectable citizen by day and a thief and murderer at night.

My latest writing project - the Pax Britannia novel Anno Frankenstein - features one of Stevenson's most memorable creations, along with one of Mary Shelley's. But to find out precisely which ones and why, you'll have to pick up Anno Frankenstein when it comes out next year.

In the mean time, there's more about Edinburgh as well as famous Scots men and women in Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

On this day in Scottish history

Today is Martinmas, otherwise known as Scottish Quarter Day. The feast of St Martin of Tours was traditionally the day for slaughtering livestock and salting it for preservation through the winter.

11 November 1918 - Armistice Day, marking the end of hostilities in World War I.

The guns were finally silenced on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Though Scots made up only 10% of the UK population at the time, a total of 147,609 Scottish people were killed during the war, a fifth of Britain's total dead.

You can find out more about traditional winter practices in Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas, while there's plenty more Scottish history in Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave. Both are available now from Skyhorse Publishing.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

On this day in Scottish history

10 November 1871 - The journalist Henry M Stanley found the missing Scottish missionary David Livingstone.

Rumours were circulating that the explorer had been murdered. The New York Herald sent Stanley to find the truth, and indeed he did, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, where he uttered the immortal line, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Livingstone's tales of his adventures in Africa were a revelation to 19th century Western society which knew very little about the continent at the time.

You can find out more about famous Scots men and women in Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave, by Jonathan Green.

Drop me a line

You can now email me direct with any queries or comments about my books or my blogs at

I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

As long time followers of this blog (and my many others) will already know, I currently juggle about eight blogs, updating people on various aspects of my writing, and - to be honest - it was all getting a bit much, especially when there are effectively two blogs for the same book, only one of them for the American market and one for the UK.
So, I've decided to merge the two blogs for Christmas Miscellany and What is Myrrh Anyway? in one, easy to manage, dot com, called...

Click this link and check it out for yourself. In fact, why not bookmark the site and add it to your favourites today?

It's still a work in progress at the moment, but over the coming weeks I'll be adding more features and content all the time. And you can already email me all your Christmas questions direct at

I look forward to seeing you there.

Monday, 8 November 2010

On this day in Scottish history

8 November 1736 - The poet and playwright Allan Ramsay opened Scotland's first public theatre in Carrubber's Close, Edinburgh.

Unfortunately the strict Presbyterian Kirk's disapproval was swiftly felt as magistrates declared Ramsay's theatre illegal soon after it opened, forcing its closure. The theatre was not reopened until 1767 when David Ross, a London actor, managed to fulfil Ramsay's dream. As well as theatre, Ramsay had a passion for books, and indeed was responsible for providing Edinburgh residents with the world's first lending library from his bookshop on the Royal Mile.

You can find out more about the history of Edinburgh in Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave, by Jonathan Green.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

On this day in Scottish History

6 November 1887 - Celtic Football Club was formally constituted in Calton.

The club was the brainchild of an energetic Irish priest known as Brother Walfrid who devoted his life to helping the poor. Following the success of Edinburgh's Hibernian club, it was decided that the poor inhabitants of Glasgow's East End would benefit from a similar Irish team, and the first Celtic Park was established on a vacant lot next to St Mary's church.

You can find out more about the history of sport in Scotland in Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave, by Jonathan Green.

Friday, 5 November 2010

James Bond in the buff!

A nude painting of Sean Connery has been unearthed in Scotland. Before launching his acting career, Connery acted as a nude model for art students. The newly-discovered work was created in 1951, 11 years before his debut as 007.

The painting was discovered among a pile of works by artist Rab Webster, who lived in Selkirk, Scotland until his death last month. “He said Connery treated it just as a job and that he didn’t say very much,” explains Nick Bihel, a relative of Webster. “I have no idea how much the painting of Sean Connery would be worth. At the moment we are just taking stock of the situation but we would like to put them on display in Selkirk in the near future.”

Should you care to see what Connery once looked like in the nude, the painting will soon be part of an exhibition in the UK.

Bonfire Night and the Scottish Connection

Today is 5th of November, which in the UK is Bonfire Night. Bonfire Night commemorates The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when a group of provincial English Catholics led by Sir Robert Catesby failed to assassinate King James I of England by blowing him up at the State Opening of Parliament.

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

But what does this have to a blog about a book about Scotland? Well, quite simply, James I of England was also James VI of Scotland and many people in England resented being ruled by a Scotsman!

You can find out more about James VI in Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave, available now from Skyhorse Publishing.

Monday, 1 November 2010

All Hallow's Eve

Did ye ken...?

The origins of Halloween come from the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, as well as the festival of the dead called Parentalia, and (of course) the Celtic festival of Samhain. The name is derived from Old Irish and means roughly "summer's end". A similar festival was held by the ancient Britons and is known as Calan Gaeaf (pronounced Kálan Gái av).

The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family's ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm.

In Scotland the spirits were impersonated by young men dressed in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces. Samhain was also a time to take stock of food supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. All other fires were doused and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames. Sometimes two bonfires would be built side-by-side, and people and their livestock would walk between them as a cleansing ritual.

So there you go!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Happy Halloween!

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Traditional Scottish saying

M is for Monster - featuring I is for Incubus, by yours truly - is available now from Amazon, in both a traditional processed tree carcass format and a creepy Kindle edition.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Scottish Miscellany - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave

The brand new Scottish Miscellany is now available from Skyhorse Publishing. Order your copy via the link on this page today!

Scottish Miscellany - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave

Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave, is now available from Skyhorse Publishing, written by me - Jonathan Green.

Last year Skyhorse published another of my books, called Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas. It has it's own blog here.

As you have probably worked out for yourself by now the book answers all those questions you've ever had about Scottish culture, Scotland and the Scots themselves.

What do Scotsmen wear under their kilts? What is a haggis, really? Why is Robert Burns so celebrated by Scots around the world? Is there really a monster in Loch Ness? And how does Sean Connery get away with using the same Scottish accent no matter what role he's playing?

All these questions - and more! - will be answered in the book (except maybe the one about Sean Connery) which will also include recipes, poems and interesting snippets of factual information from time to time.

You can order yours via the link on this page now!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Did ke yen...?

1823Charles Macintosh sells his first raincoat.

You can find out more about the achievements of Charles Macintosh and other famous Scots in Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave - out this month!

Friday, 24 September 2010

I have a new website! Well, it's actually my other author's blog, but you can now access it by entering the much more straightforward:

So, set it as one of your favourites, along with the new which is the new official way to reach the PB blog.

See you round!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Normal service will resume shortly

I always swore I'd never do this, but I find myself having to apologise for the general lack of posts, Facebook updates and Tweets of late. The thing is, this summer the Green family moved house while I was busy trying to write my twelfth novel.

Well, the good news is that the novel - Pax Britannia: Dark Side - is now finished (I'm just waiting on my editor's comments on the short story that's accompanying it). Plenty more tasks lie ahead and Phase 2 of the Big Move awaits, but you can expect a flurry of updates over the next few days, specifically regarding the Pax Britannia books and a couple of short story anthologies I'm appearing in.

So, until next time...