It is hard to toss a caber (Scottish games – a tapered wooden pole 20 feet long weighing 175 pounds) and not hit someone who does not claim at least some Scottish or Irish heritage. While my mother’s grandfather left Scotland in the late 1800s, I cannot help but feel excited about walking the terrain and learning the history of a people and culture who left their homeland to cross 3,200 miles of ocean to start a fresh life in a new and unknown land.
Our tour starts in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and takes us north into Inverness, over to Oban and the Island of Iona where Christianity entered into Scotland and finally back to Edinburgh. We will spend a couple days in Edinburgh before and after the tour. This will give us a chance to visit the Queen’s Yacht Britannia (maybe high tea?) and a day in Glasgow about 40 miles west of Edinburgh before leaving for Dublin.
With prehistoric settlements dating back 12,000, years there is too much history for anyone to fully comprehend. Most of my knowledge begins with Julius Caesar’s attempt to tame England in the 1st Century BCE and Hadrian’s Wall in the mid 1st Century CE. This is when Rome gave up on conquest and built a wall to keep the barbarians out (actually it was to control commerce and collect taxes but defense sounds so much better).
My next grain of knowledge comes with the Religious Reformation in the 1500s and John Knox’s adaptation of Calvin’s Reformed Theology. It was Knox who led the movement to make Presbyterianism the national religion of Scotland. Knox’s insistence that all people be able to read the bible paved the way for an education system, which led to the enlightenment and the movement toward revolutionary secular thinking in Scotland. The enlightenment’s counter-reformation against the Catholic Church, and development of Protestantism sparked a philosophical approach away from the monarchy and toward democracy creating a new middle and professional class of people.
The result of the Scottish enlightenment was an explosion in education creating a scientific and engineering revolution. Voltaire wrote, “today it is from Scotland that we get rules of taste in all the arts from epic poetry to gardening” and, “it is to Scotland that we must look for our ideas of civilization. “
With an education system comes educated people and the educated people of Scotland contributed to the economic explosion awakening in England, Ireland, Europe and eventually in the Americas.
This new class of professionals, with their Puritan work ethic, took the view that it is acceptable within Reformed Theology to work hard, take risks and become financially successful. With the knowledge that wealth properly applied did not separate the soul from God it was suddenly time to fire up the steam engines, turn on the water wheels and start producing goods for sale.
Scotland was producing new thinkers and creators on all levels:
· Authors such as Robert Lewis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott (plus Sir Author Conan Doyle, J.K. Rollins and Robert Burns)
· Inventors such as James Watt and his steam engine which was versatile enough to run factories, locomotives, and tractors. Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone revolutionized the way we communicate with each other today
· Economists such a Adam Smith and his book The Wealth of Nations is still regarded as the touchstone for understanding macro economics
· Geologist James Hutton, who identified the basis for the formation of the earth’s crust
· Scientist James Clerk Maxwell and his work on electromagnetic radiation
· Agricultural inventors Patrick Bell (reaping machine) and James Smith (sub-soil drainage and plowing)
It was this newly enlightened atmosphere, combined with an educated workforce, which was eventually exported around the world to run the factories and support systems, which drove the western world into the 20th Century.
We are really excited about the tour. So much to see, experience and learn about in one little country. We expect June to be cold and wet but we are not going to let the weather dampen our enthusiasm. Our first blog should be our landing in Scotland’s Capital, Edinburgh.
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