Saturday, March 1, 2014

KEEP OUT. Really? YES.

I've been poking about in old ruins again. However, let's start from the beginning.

Today being 1st March, I went over to Innerpeffray to visit the Library, which was opening again after its winter closure. I am thrilled to say that I was the first visitor of the season! Of course they do let people in during the winter but it is mostly groups and by special arrangement. So those don't count. I made sure to sign the visitors' book to prove I had been there!

Last year saw the opening of a new and gorgeous reading room on the ground floor (pictured left). So I had a look in there and admired some of the Bannockburn-related exhibits, which include songs about that mighty battle. Then I went upstairs to the older reading room. I wasn't planning to transcribe anything today because my time was limited, but I wanted to see what was new in the displays and just get a lovely whiff of that delicious library smell that librarian Lara Haggerty prosaically described as "dust" but that I am convinced is the scent of thousands of books thinking. 

Today Lara showed me a charming little volume by Sir Thomas Overbury, entitled "His Wife" and containing a series of descriptions of character types. These included "A Maquerela, in plaine English, a Bawde", who, we are informed, "is an old Char-cole, that hath beene burnt her selfe, and therefore is able to kindle a whole greene Coppice."

I think this book should have been named "The Little Book of Innuendo", as there is very much more in this vein!

It is possible to "adopt" a book from the Innerpeffray Collection, and fund the repairs they sometimes need; "His Wife" is one of those who could do with a patron just now, as we discovered a badly torn page. If you are interested in sponsoring this or any other book, £20 pays for minor repairs such as mending the tears in "His Wife", and a really major bit of emergency surgery involving rebinding etc costs £50.

And speaking of supporting the Library, I am pleased to say that the set of ghost stories that I wrote last Hallowe'en during my day as Writer in Residence at Innerpeffray will soon be available from the Library as a chapbook. I think I have already mentioned on my blog that a single story from the set can be heard in free audio format on SoundCloud, here: Lilith's Story. I will post details of how to order the chapbook as soon as they are confirmed - usually with Innerpeffray Library publications this is done by emailing the Library.

Anyway, once I had finished in the Library I decided to take a look at Innerpeffray Castle, which is a treat I had been saving up for myself. The castle is quite close to the Library - only a few hundred metres away in fact - in a field close to the River Earn. Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that I love poking about in old buildings - often churches, but I like old castles too! This one is ruined and I had heard various accounts of its state and accessibility so I was keen to take a look for myself. March is a good time to go because there are no crops standing - I would not want to damage anything. It was however very muddy!

This is what I found:

I also found this:

One of the things that impresses me very much about my explorations in Perthshire is that because of the remote locations of many ruins, they have not been fenced off or boarded up for safety reasons, so you can go in and poke around to your heart's content. This one was an exception, and I could see why - the exterior is fairly whole but most of the internal structure has collapsed, leaving heaps of rubble, blocking the doorways, and leaving the external walls unsupported. One false step in there and you could look forward to a grand burial under several tonnes of seventeenth century masonry. 

All was not lost, however: the fence that surrounds the castle is close enough that you can get a very good look at practically every part of the building. Built in around 1610 by James Drummond, 1st Lord Maddertie, it is described by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland as "a good example of a plain Scottish house of the beginning of the seventeenth century." Many architectural features are still plainly visible, such as this staircase:

I was also able to take a single photograph through one of the lower windows into the interior:

This is a frustratingly intriguing glimpse into what appears to be a fairly entire lower level with a number of different rooms! I wonder what interesting things might be found if one could dig up that floor? I imagine anything that was actually lying about in plain view would have been removed long ago, when the building was still accessible. The Library has, amongst their other treasures, a small cannonball that was found at the castle, although nobody knows why, as it was never the scene of any known battle. It may perhaps have been a souvenir brought home from elsewhere by one of the Drummonds. 

The castle has been on my mind all day since I visited it. The lonely location and the relatively scant amount of information available about its history cannot help but pique the interest. Imagination may perhaps go where the physical body may not... 

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