REPRESENTATION

BOOKS & PUBLISHERS
 

Scottish Series & Legacy of the Lynx/Urbane Publications

Anatomist’s Dream/Myrmidon Books
Stroop Series/Headline Publishers
Short Stories /Two Raven’s Press

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EXTRAS

Nechtansmere & the Fighting Cocks


In 1985 a commemorative plaque was put up beside Loch Forfar in Angus. It is rather handsome, having a slate grey background with white Celtic-type decorations, and a brief outline of why it is there, which is to mark the 1,300th anniversary of the Battle of Nechtansmere.
The battle of whosit? What’s that? I hear you ask, and with good reason, for hardly anyone has heard of it, despite it being described by experts as the most decisive battle in Scottish historyand the start of Scotland’s evolution as a single nation.
It’s verging on the criminal that Nechtansmere is not a byword in every Scottish hall and home for the definitive moment when Scotland became Scotland, because this was the time, in 685, when the Picts cut to pieces the opposing Northumbrians, Northumbria then extending all the way north to the Forth of Firth.
The armies were led respectively by the wonderfully named Bridei mac Bili and King Ecgfrith (allied kinsmen in their earlier lives), the Northumbrians ganging their way (quite literally) up from the Lowlands to Edinburgh, very likely crossing the Forth at Stirling. As the Venerable Bede tells us:

King Ecgfrith…rashly led an army to ravage the province of the Picts. The enemy pretended to retreat, and so lured the King into narrow mountain passes, where he was killed along with the greater part of his men on the 20th of May in the 15th year of his reign.

Even more extraordinarily, the famous Pictish stone of Aberlemno is thought by some to depict this actual battle, and may even have been carved to mark the death of Ecgfrith himself.
Either way, this hugely important historic event has been ignored for far too long, and 1985 was the year that finally brought it out of the shadows. So well done Forfar, for erecting that memorial, and for fighting to have the battle site that made Scotland Scotland recognised.

In other news, 1985 was a bad year for literature, seeing the deaths of Italo Calvino, Robert Graves, Christopher Isherwood and Philip Larkin; and far worse news for football fans, for on May 11th fire spread through Bradford City Football Ground with such speed that 52 people were killed, mostly in the crush to get out, and many hundreds more suffered awful burns; and barely two weeks later, on May 29th, in the Heysel Satdium in Belgium, sixty thousand Liverpool supporters caused a riot as they poured towards their rival Juventas supporters, leading directly to the deaths of 39 Italian & Belgium fans, as well as the blanket-ban on English football clubs attending European games for five long years.

On a cheerier note, and back on home ground, the famous RAF 43 Squadron was awarded the Freedom of Stirling. Originally formed in Stirling in April 1916, as part of the Royal Flying Corps, they were called up only one month after formation to fight on the Western Front in their Sopwith Strutters, and later in their Camels – the Sopwith kind, that is, not the quadrupeds or the cigarettes.
By 1955 they had become the RAF’s official aerobatic team, earning themselves the soubriquet The Fighting Cocks. And who would not be proud of being in any team, let alone one as honoured and decorated as the 43, with a name like that…

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