Archive for the 'Scotland' Category

It’s officially Halloween season and chances are you’ve already seen a considerable amount of Jack-o’-Lanterns. Perhaps you’ve even carved one yourself, taking part in a centuries old tradition. But where does this old Celtic custom come from? Today we explore the origins of Jack-o-Lanterns, discuss the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, and meet Stingy Jack, the cheeky character who just may be behind the origin of the term ‘Jack-o-Lantern’ itself. Wrap up and grab some cider, today’s history is served up with an extra side of spooky.

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If you strolled through an English garden in the 1700s, you might have stumbled across someone employed in what just may be history’s weirdest job. Because, in Georgian Britain, it was all the rage to hire your very own ornamental garden hermit.

These hired hermits would live in solitude for years, never speaking, never washing, never leaving the grounds. They never cut their hair, their fingernails, or toenails, and would be clad in the outfit of an ancient Druid (or what everyone thought an ancient Druid would have looked like), all for the amusement of the rich elite and their guests.

In this episode we explore the particulars of this strange job and all the ways in which wealthy land owners would try to acquire hermits, as well as the lengths they would go to if they couldn’t find one.

We’ll also be meeting one of the last hermits around today, a man in a long line of recluses who have inhabited a cliffside in Saalfelden, Austria for the last 350 years.

While we’re at it, we pop into ancient Rome, take a stroll along Hadrian’s Wall, say hello to the Caledonians, and find out what a small hermitage in Tivoli, Italy has to do with 18th century garden hermits.
Join me as we explore what just may be history’s weirdest job.

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Joe Carstairs is remembered for being the fastest woman on water in the 1920s. She raced power boats, won trophies, and loved adventure and speed. But her life was so much more than races and fast machines. Born in 1900, Joe was a British eccentric, an heiress, openly a lesbian, and shed many gender conformities of her day.

She served with the American Red Cross in France during WW1, established the X Garage, a chauffeuring business employing a staff of all female drivers and mechanics who had learned their skills while serving during the war, and after receiving some notoriety from racing, Joe bought Whale Cay, an Island in the Bahamas, which she ran almost as if it were her own country.

Her life was so full and colorful it became clear early on that this would have to be a two-part series. This is part one of a deep dive into the relentlessly fascinating life of Joe Carstairs, the fastest woman on water.

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It’s a stone with many names--the Stone of Destiny, the Stone of Scone, the Coronation Stone, Lia Fáil-- and there are numerous legends and myths about its origins. For centuries it was used in the coronations of Scottish kings, that is, until it was taken to England by Edward 1st in 1296. From then on it was used in the coronations of English and subsequent British monarchs, symbolizing their rule over Scotland and its incorporation into the United Kingdom. For 700 years after it was taken by the English king, it remained in Westminster Abby under the Coronation Chair, until Christmas day, 1950, when four students from the University of Glasgow--Kay Matheson, Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, and Alan Stuart--decided it was time for Scotland to take it back. This is the true story of one of the most famous and unlikely heists in history. The most remarkable part of this incredible true story isn't that these four students planned on breaking into Westminster Abby to steal back a symbol of Scottish nationalism…it's that they were going to get away with it.

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Poet, adventurer, bard of the Yukon, and British cowboy (that's a thing) Robert W. Service (1874-1958) is showcased in this week's history byte, followed by a retelling of his spookiest of poems, The Cremation of Sam McGee

This is the first of THREE EXTRA episodes premiering this month just for your Halloween season enjoyment, so pumpkin up that coffee, put in those ear buds, dust off that Necronomicon, and go nuts. 

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