The countryside in the border country between Scotland and England is particularly spectacular. Apart from eating the local Selkirk Bannocks (a delicious fruit bread with a distinctive flavor) we explored the area, taking time to wander around and enjoyed the local gardens and especially enjoyed our visit to Melrose Abbey which was built in the thirteenth century by the monks.
We had a family Sunday lunch at my cousins in South Queensferry. She has magnificent views over the three bridges spanning the river Forth. The newest bridge is still under construction and is nearly complete. I remember walking over the last “new” bridge when it was completed in the mid 1960s.
We took a leisurely drive, stopping frequently, from South Queensferry to North Queensferry, Inverkeithing, Dalgety, Aberdour, Burntisland , Kinghorn and finally my old home town of Kirkcaldy.
The towns all looked very similar to how I remember them and the river is much cleaner now that all of the coal mines have shut down. Years ago it was common in Kirkcaldy to see people gathering sea coal from the beach to burn for heat. Those days have luckily long gone.
Visiting Glasgow is always a lot of laughs. The Glaswegian sense of humour is renowned. We visited the People’s Palace where we saw Billy Connelly’s original Banana Welly Boots he used in his routines as well viewing some great old comedy favourites such as Francy and Josey, Stanley Baxter and Rab C Nesbit, all famous Scottish comedians.
We visited my cousin’s allotment down by the river Clyde. The ingenuious uses that were made of old pallets, baths, showers, sinks and fridges was amazing and I returned with fresh home grown vegetables which was a bonus too.
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum was magnificent with splendor, Glasgow really has transformed from the old industrial city to one of much more culture but never forgetting its sense of humour which was epitomized to me in the blue door plaque on one of the city centre buildings.
Time for our second home exchange of this trip. Down to the lovely Trinity area of Edinburgh
near the waters of Leith. I can see my old home town of Kirkcaldy from the shore, across the Firth of Forth. Another very comfortable 19th century house, we certainly are lucky in the houses we exchange with and the friendly hosts who show us round and give us tips of what to do locally.
Two of our favourite eateries in Edinburgh this week were:
Fine French cuisine, including fresh snails in garlic (yum) at L’escargot Blanc in the West End www.lescargotblanc.co.uk which has a wine bar downstairs and a busy restaurant upstairs with a terrific, reasonably priced and varied menu of locally sourced fresh ingredients. Highly recommended.
By contrast, yet also highly recommended, we enjoyed excellent simple Scottish food at Mrs Forsyth’s Tearoom which has no web site or wifi or indeed anything at all modern. It is like a walk back in time and sneakily hidden away in Chalmers Close opposite the Museum of Childhood in the Royal Mile. Not only was the home made pea and mint soup delicious, but the ambience and service is what makes this place. The mound of home made tea cosies and other wares for sale, the crocheted sugar covers and the charming and chatty old lady with grey/purple hair and amazing personality.
What a great week we have had living (home exchange) in the West End of Edinburgh in an apartment that used to be The Atholl Hotel which retailed at 1000 pounds sterling per night! Felt like Upstairs Downstairs. Looked like it too.Here are photos of the exterior and interior of the house.
Our location meant that we could walk to everywhere in central Edinburgh and there is so very much to see including Princes Street, The Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace, The New Scottish Parliament, Sir Walter Scott Monument, Jenners department store, Waverley station and hotel, and many more.
We have been so lucky that the weather has allowed us to wander around most days without a coat or umbrella.
The start of the Festival Season in Edinburgh was this weekend. There are so many festivals in Edinburgh at this time of year. The main Festival, Jazz and Blues, Film, Fringe including Comedy and others. There is a great buzz around the city. These are some of the many colourful photographs I took at the first parade along the main street of Princes Street.
Leaving Brisbane via Sydney, we flew Business with Qatar Airways www.qatarairways.com to Edinburgh with a quick stop in Doha. Last year we flew to the UK First class with British Airways and we found Business Class with Qatar superior to First Class with BA.
Service and comfort were excellent and the lounge in Doha was among the best in the world. We slept most of the way which meant we arrived feeling fresh and ready to enjoy our holiday from day one. We plan to be away for seven weeks on this trip, exploring Scotland in some depth.
We have a number of home exchanges lined up for this trip which is exciting. Our first house swap hosts greeted us at Edinburgh airport and took us to their lovely comfortable apartment in the centre of Edinburgh. It is an easy walk to the main street, Princes Street. And there are local shops for everything we need.
The house itself is very comfortable and rather plush with many appliances including not only the normal fridge and freezer, but also two wine fridges, one for white and one for red and a special cheese fridge.
We spent our first day walking around exploring the local area and shopping for essentials. Edinburgh is a city on a number of levels and an old and new town. We are in the new town which is Georgian and most buildings were built in the 1800s. The old town has buildings dating back to much earlier periods.
We are lucky in that we have arrived in time for the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues festival www.edinburghjazzfestival.com . We spent Saturday afternoon in the Grassmarket area of the old town listening to lots of free Jazz and enjoying the ambience, the joy of the crowd, and the company of old friends.
This was election weekend in Australia, so we voted early and decided to get away from it all! We just spent a wonderful weekend in Northern New South Wales. Only an hour or two from Brisbane, the area is one of the prettiest in Australia, with coastal views to die for and amazing inland rain forests and rich green hinterlands.
We began by having a lunch of freshly caught and cooked fish at the Fisherman’s Co-op at Brunswick Heads www.brunswickheads.org.au. Sitting on the benches outside the Co-op shop on this beautiful sunny winter’s day, watching a boy fishing in the ocean was a relaxing pastime.
We then drove the short distance to Lennox Heads, a lesser known part of this coastline. Many people visit the well known nearby Byron Bay, yet Lennox Heads by the ocean is truly beautiful. On arrival we walked up to the lookout and saw a number of humpback whales and dolphins frolicking in the ocean. There are regular sightseeing tours available locally yet the whales are readily visible from the shore.
We dined in the evening at the Lennox Hotel Beef and Beach Restaurant where the staff were amazing and the food mouth watering. www.thelennox.com.au We were certainly not disappointed. In the morning I set out looking for some local geocaches www.geocaching.com and found a couple of tricky ones in the area. At the same time I enjoyed more whale watching as well as watching the local Surfers and Stand Up Paddlers.
We then had a lazy Sunday drive back to Brisbane, taking the inland road, stopping in Bangalow, a sleepy little nearby village, for a hearty breakfast, and later in Kyogle, for coffee. On the way we visited the Open Air Cathedral at Bexhill boac.org.au/ before winding home across many little bridges.
Today we spent an amazing day in this National Park, which is a half hour sail from Brisbane. I can highly recommend visiting it. We are in Queensland winter, the day was delightfully sunny and 28 degrees C., as you can see from the photos I took today.
Thankyou to Cat O Nine Tails Cruises for such a great day. If you want to buy a voucher for a similar day, you can do so at https://sthelenaisland.rezdy.com/2224/gift-voucher-prison-life-experience
The island was named after St Helena where Napoleon was imprisoned in the Atlantic. There is a very long, interesting and amusing story of how an aboriginal man, known as Napoleon, who “borrowed” an axe, was sent to the island, then known as Green Island 2, in isolation. They sent him, ironically with an axe, and he escaped to the mainland in three days as he made himself a canoe! All the local names are named after Napoleonic names such as the local Wellington Point.
St Helena is located in Moreton Bay 5 km from the mouth of the Brisbane River and about 8km north-east of Manly. The Island has a fascinating history. Its most significant period was when it functioned as a high-security colonial prison from 1867.
The overcrowding in Brisbanes gaols resulted in the conversion of the buildings, originally intended for a quarantine station, into accommodation for prisoners. Prison labour was used for all activities on the island, from the construction of buildings and roadways to growing, processing and cooking of food.
The first few years were devoted to construction of the two cell blocks, kitchen, bakehouse, hospital, underground tanks, stables, boathouse, storehouse, jetty and Superintendents home. This formed the base of a building program which continued until the prisons last years.
In 1869, the lime kiln and sugar mill were added. Sugar cane growing and processing kept the prisoners busy until the workshops were well enough established to take over as the main source of work on the Island. These trades included bootmaking, sail-making, tailoring, saddle making, tinsmithing, candle making, book-binding and carpentry. The long termers were occupied in these workshops inside the prison stockade and the trustees engaged in animal husbandry and agriculture.
Some of the buildings were made from beachrock quarried on the island, or from bricks made on site from clay found at the northern end of the island. Others were constructed of timber imported from the mainland. Tradesmen employed as prison warders supervised this work, maintaining a high standard of workmanship and productivity. While the prison layout and organisation was based essentially on the English penal system, the prison architecture was largely a reflection of the late 19th Century trend to a colonial style of architecture.
The limited area of St Helena Island (166 hectares) and the increasing needs of the settlement, resulted in extensive clearing of the natural vegetation for agricultural and other development. The native vegetation was regarded as having little or no financial value as timber, or aesthetic value as shade or garden trees.
The Superintendent of the prison had extensive gardens surrounding his house and, for many years these gardens were considered the best in Queensland, but they consisted almost entirely of plants introduced into Australia. Crocus and White Allysum continue to thrive on the Island to this day. The Superintendent and the warders ran the prison in a highly efficient manner. For most of the prison’s 65 years; self-sufficiency was a necessity and profit was the product of that efficiency.
The St Helena Island Penal Establishment, at one stage of its operation, was considered to be the best prison of its kind in the world. The St Helena island Penal Establishment had prize Ayreshire dairy cattle that constantly won awards at the RNA show and the island’s olive groves yielded prize-winning oil at shows in Italy, the country of their origin. The entire establishment had been kept with an eye for perfection.
The life of the island rotated around the supervision of prisoners – as seen in the constant patrols, barred windows and leg irons. This constant regulation of work, behaviour and movement was the essence of 19th Century prison life. Although few people ‘swam’ in those days and shark feeding was instigated as a deterrent, escape was a constant reality. Magistrates recognised the right of each prisoner to attempt escape and the responsibility of each warder to frustrate it. Sentries were posted, windows barred and warders were constantly on the alert.
The St. Helena tramway is considered to have been a most significant component of the prison establishment; it operated between 1885 and 1932 and provided the first passenger tramcar service in Queensland. Remaining evidence includes the tramway embankments, the distinguishable rights of way, the docking bay in the Stores building, the ‘Kangaroo’ car and the trolley wheels.
Administrative problems, the new social conscience, prison reform, the potential for a major fire in the aging timber buildings and the lonely isolation of warders from friends and family led to the prison’s closure in 1932. It had operated very successfully for 65 years.
Historical significance was not recognised and so, in 1925, demolition of the buildings began. This work was also done by prisoners and most re-usable materials were taken to the mainland for distribution to other Government institutions. The suggestion that St. Helena Island be made a national park was mooted as early as 1910 by the then Mayor of Brisbane. The island was the first historic site to be managed by the Department of Environment and Conservation for its historic values.
Today, approximately 7% only of the original structures remain and these are mostly the ones that were built from beachrock or brick. Restoration costs would be prohibitive so preservation of the remaining structures is the order of the day.
This information and much more can be found at
HISTORIC DETAIL – TIMELINE
St Helena Island – Aboriginal name: Noogoon
- 720BC to 1840 (Approx) Used by Aboriginal tribe, the Nooghies
- 1799 Island described as one of the ‘Green Isles’ by Matthew Flinders
- 1826 Named St Helena after Aboriginal exiled on Island
- 1850s Fledgling dugong industry
- 1866 Quarantine Station built
- 1867 (14th May) Declared Penal Establishment
- 1875 Construction started on stone causeway
- 1879 Electric telegraph installed (from Lytton Hill Signal Station)
- 1885 Tramway commences operation (first passenger tramcar in Qld)
- 1890 Warder’s families removed from Island
- 1891 Leaders of Great Shearer’s Strike imprisoned on Island
- 1905 Sisal Hemp growing started
- 1907 Lash last used
- 1921 Announcement of intended prison closure
- 1921 (to 1932) Became prison farm for low security prisoners
- 1922 Dismantling of buildings commenced (cont’d to 1932)
- 1925 Electric light installed
1932 (Dec) Official Prison closure