This post is by Nancy Jardine.
Research and accessible libraries. I’m constantly accessing sources of historical information from various internet sites as I write my historical adventures. Often a simple question that I want answered will have me digressing for hours as I latch onto something only vaguely related to my initial inquiry, but which in its own right is engrossing.
Over the last decade, I’ve found it increasingly easier to access useful information from highly respected online sources because that information has been gradually released for public use. Just days ago, I picked up a prompt from an author colleague that more visual information had been released via The National Library of Scotland, specifically photographs of my birth city of Glasgow which were taken during the 1860s. Though the photos indicate the absolute squalor that existed in the slums of Glasgow, they’ll be very useful for one of my writing projects that I temporarily shelved some months ago in favour of my most current writing. Viewing the portfolio of photographs made me appreciate how much information they contain and which I can access free of charge.
I’ve been to many public buildings in Edinburgh but not to the National Library of Scotland, though I’ve often passed it en route to somewhere else. It’s possible to get access to reading rooms and Tourist Centre but thorough research in it is only practical if you live around our capital city. However, I have been using the online sources for years now and love how useful it can be. What I’ve never thought about before is how long the library has been functioning and who started it. Scottish history is full of positives and negatives and, in my opinion, is never dull!
Skip back with me to March 1st 1682. According to one historical events site March 1st, 1682, was the day that the library started though not called ‘National’ at that time. Sir George Mackenzie was the current Lord Advocate, a member of the Scottish Parliament. (The original one before the 1707 Union of the Parliaments of Scotland, England and Wales but the dodgy politics of that can wait for another day!) George Mackenzie was also a member of the Privy Council of Scotland which meant advising the monarch, an extremely exalted position to hold.
He was reputed to be a learned man with literal tendencies. He wrote several books and essays—legal, political and antiquarian. As Dean of the Faculty of Advocates he was the founder of The Library of the Faculty of Advocates in 1682. By 1689, the building was formally inaugurated and the collection of works grew and grew.
In 1710, the Copyright Act meant the Library had the legal right to claim a copy of every book written in Britain. The collection continued and eventually outgrew its original building. In 1925 the collection became the National Library of Scotland, formalised by an Act of the UK Parliament. Since then the collection has been housed and re-housed in different places and we are now fortunate that much of it is available to the public online.
That’s all very commendable but where does the ‘Bluidy’ Mackenzie bit come from. As well as being a man of letters, Mackenzie was also in a position of power during many of the Scottish Witch trials that I’ve mentioned before on this blog. He was also responsible for the persecution of many of the Covenanters, sending large numbers to a nasty death, their tortured bodies buried near the Covenanters’ Prison in Edinburgh. The history of the Covenanters is a long one and would need a number of blog posts to cover but at the time, the adherents of the Protestant forms of Christian worship were greatly at odds with those who were of the Roman Catholic faith.
Sir George Mackenzie is buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard which is not far from the Covenanters grave site. It’s no real surprise that thousands of tourists flock past Mackenzie’s ‘Black Mausoleum’ as they partake of a ‘Graveyard Tour of Edinburgh’. There’s a heavy chain kept in place by a stout padlock across the door which it’s said is there – not to keep the dead in, but to keep the living out! You can read the gory details here;: http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/edinburgh-s-most-haunted-mackenzie-poltergeist-1-3590047
I took that Graveyard Tour some years ago and it can be a creepy experience for many. Oh, the shivers? Well, I’m personally not normally inclined to spiritual occurrences so any frisson of feeling down my spine was probably due to the fact that it was a chilly September evening and that I was there with a bunch of ladies at a ‘Hen Do’ – during the fun-filled weekend spent with my daughter’s friends prior to her wedding in 2008.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that I have Mackenzie blood in me on my mother’s side. I probably should get back to my ancestry studies and see if there’s any connection to Bluidy Mackenzie.
Have a fun week!
Nancy Jardine’s Celtic Fervour Series of historical romantic adventures is set in first century northern Roman Britain.
Her contemporary romantic mysteries are set in fabulous world-wide cities, Topaz Eyes being a finalist in The People’s Book Prize 2014.
The Taexali Game, her Teen time-travel adventure, is set in third century Roman Scotland.
She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, The Scottish Association of Writers and The Federation of Writers, Scotland.
You can find her at these places: Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk Website: http://nancyjardineauthor.com/ Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG & http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @nansjar
Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere