The Unsinkable Mary Patten

One hundred and seventy-five years ago a pregnant teenager took command of her husband’s ship, sailed around Cape Horn and made history.

Nineteen-year-old Mary Patten did it all for 56 days whilst fighting off a mutiny, nursing her seriously ill husband and battling stormy seas.

She, her crew and her husband made it back to San Francisco with no lives lost and the cargo and ship complete.

Mary Patten.

Find out more about this remarkable young woman on Medium: The Unsinkable Mary Patten. One hundred and seventy-five years ago… | by Dawn Nelson | May, 2021 | Medium

There’s also my article on a short history of the British seaside:A short history of the British seaside | by Dawn Nelson | Medium

If you like what you read, please give me a clap – click the icon at the bottom of the article. Thank you.


What we did on our holidays…part 3.

Dunadd Hill Fort.

This is just a little post to say how much we enjoyed our holiday. Although the weather was not great until the Saturday morning when we were leaving, we still had a good time.

I forgot to tell you that we also managed to climb Dunadd Hill Fort on the Thursday afternoon. It dates from the iron age and was believed to have been the capital of Dal Riata. Here’s some pics…

This is where the kings were crowned by placing their foot in this carved out footprint. They must have had size 6/6.5 feet because my feet are size 6 and they fitted perfectly.
The view halfway up.
Going back down.

After the kids had been horse riding on Friday, and we had lunch, we had a quiet afternoon and evening back at the house. It was a bit drizzly outside, but I took the time to take some pics of the garden:

The little private chapel.
The bridge over the burn leading to the little woodland.

Yes, it was a good holiday. I am so glad we stayed here. It was remote, but lovely. Would recommend it.

Anyway, I shall finish this final post for this week here and wish you adieu until next time.

Dawn xxx

What we did on our holidays…part 2.

Carnassarie Castle.

Carnassarie Castle is only about three or four miles from where we were staying and is just outside Kilmartin. So, wishing to explore it, I offered to take the kids there. Being about ten in the morning and wishing to stay in their jammies a while longer (lazy sods), they declined, so I went myself with the dogs.

At first, we had the castle to ourselves, but as I was climbing up to it, I turned around to see a tourist bus draw into the car park below. Sigh. So, I hurried the dogs up and we explored it in peace for about ten minutes. The tourists turned out to be German and were most taken with my mutts. We couldn’t stay long because Millie (aka Mrs Barky Pants) lived up to her name. She is a fabulous wee dog, but sounds ferocious when she barks. She’s not.

Anyway, here are some pics:

There’s nothing I like more than exploring a castle, any castle, including those in ruins. You can climb right to the top of the castle to see a magnificent view. However, we – me and the three dogs – only managed to the second top level as the pug (who is a bit elderly) was struggling on the stairs. It was great.

Later that same day, me and the kids drove down to Inveraray to meet up with my youngest sister and her kids for lunch. They were coming to say overnight in the house with us, along with my parents and their dogs (although the latter stayed for two nights). We had a really nice lunch at the George Hotel, I’d recommend it. Anyway, our parents caught up with us there and me, my sister and all the kids did a tour around Inveraray Jail, which was fun. Then we all went up to Auchinellan where we had dinner – beautifully made by my mum who is a great cook (home-made steak pie, heaven!) – and wine.

The following day, we drove up to Tayvallich for a cuppa. It’s a gorgeous wee coastal village. We popped over the hill to a beach which had a stunning view of Jura. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t too great, but the kids still had fun hunting for dead crabs on the beach. My boy found a dead bird, so the kids had a short ceremony and burial for it.

We then drove down to Lochgilphead for lunch. At first we couldn’t find a café or restaurant that was big enough to take us all (there were seven of us – the girl had declined to come with us. Teenagers!), but we eventually found The Smiddy bistro, which was able to accommodate us. Can I just say that The Smiddy makes the best Cullen Skink I have ever tasted. It was so good, that me and the kids went back there the following day.

Anyway, we said farewell to my sister and her kids later that afternoon. It was such a shame they had to go home for we were all having a great time. However, my parents were still there and we had a nice meal in the house with some wine.

On the Thursday, me, the boy and my parents drove up to Crinan with the dogs and took them a walk. There’s a really nice cycle path there and the scenery is just gorgeous. We had a cuppa in the local café and then parted ways. My parents went home and we popped into Lochgilphead for supplies. We then went back to the house, fetched the girl and returned to Lochgilphead for lunch at The Smiddy again.

Friday, and the kids went pony trekking. Me and the girl had already done this on the Monday and she loved it so much, I agreed she could do it again. The boy, who had not wanted to do it on the Monday, now wanted to do it, so I booked them both into the Lunga Riding Stables.

This place is on the Lunga Estate on the Craignish Peninsula and surely has the best scenery for horse riding in Scotland. It’s gorgeous. On the Monday, my horse was Winnie and, thankfully (for I was a bit nervous), she was a gentle soul. The girl had Paddy, who was a bit mischievous. She got him again on the Friday and the boy was on Ralph. They both really enjoyed it and while they were away, I took the dogs down to the beach for a bit of adventure. I basically love exploring and that is what we did. We had a wander about the estate and then went back to where the car was parked. We literally sat in the car for about 15 minutes before the kids showed up on their horses. They were both red faced and smiling. They’d loved it.

We went back to the house for a final dinner and to pack (although I had already basically packed).

I’ll fill you in on our last few hours in Auchinellan House in the next post. Til then.

Dawn xxx

We went to the Hillhouse today

Okay, so still being in the holiday mood, I decided we would spend a bit of time going to see the recently re-opened Hillhouse in Helensburgh. Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and built between 1902 and 1904, the house interiors and furniture were also designed by Mackintosh along with his wife, Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh. It was created following a commission by Glasgow publisher Walter Blackie and is a stunning example of Art Nouveau and Symbolism. It’s one of my favourite places, I am a big fan of this couple’s work, particularly Margaret’s panels and soft furnishings.

Anyway, the boy came with me and we had a lovely time returning to the house. You see, it’s been closed for some time now while the National Trust for Scotland, who look after the property, began their restoration work. They started by covering the entire house with a large steel frame covered with chainmail. The idea of this is to protect the house from the elements, If you have ever been in Helensburgh during the winter, you’ll know just how exposed to the bitter winds and rain the town is. Anyway, the walls have become saturated with water and the frame is protecting it from further damage. The frame, although covering the entire house which is a shame, also features a brand new entranceway, shop and café. It also has a steel walkway inside which takes you alongside and above the house so you can see it from all sorts of perspectives from the outside. Me and the boy climbed it and the views from up there of the town and the River Clyde were impressive.

Anyway, I will finish up here and let you enjoy the house for yourself. Here are a few snaps I took. I didn’t manage to take pics of all the rooms (the living room alone is wonderful) because of the amount of people in it, but this gives you a flavour of some of the things you can see:

You can see the steel roof above the structure and the walkway.
Looking down from the walkway.
The entrance way to the house.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this whistle-stop tour of the house. If you are ever in Helensburgh, I’d recommend you visit. It’s well worth it.

Dawn xxx

Birthdays, lunches, reading, making…but no tinsel

I am not doing it. Not yet. No sir. There will be no baubles, tinsel or elves on this blog this week. They might appear next week, but this week is strictly Christmas free. It’s not that I am being bah humbug about this, but I like to leave Christmas decorating until nearer the big day. So you’ll not be finding Christmas decs up at my house just now…that’s a job for this weekend or maybe next week.

So how are you? Hope you’ve had a good week. I’ve been really busy over the last couple of weeks with social events galore. I have barely been in. Last month, there were five family birthdays and four practically family (but not blood or marriage related) birthdays (ie close friends) to celebrate, including my own and the boy’s. Most recently me and the kids were at an 18th party at my friend’s house. Her daughter, who is just lovely and I wish I could adopt her, turned 18 and there was a big family bash. It was a great night. I thoroughly enjoyed it although I partook of too much wine and suffered for it the next day. Happy birthday E…have a great party weekend with your friends this weekend.

I’ve also been lunching and that’s thrown my diet right out of the window so have decided to ditch it until after Christmas when, I hope, my new kitchen may be usable. Talking of that, the extension has been going on good guns: the roof is on, the windows in and they are doing the insulation as I write. Am so excited. It’s already looking amazing.

Other big news and DarkIsle is now available in a special 10th anniversary edition. So go and buy it now. If you know me personally I will be happy to sign it for you.

Also want to give a wee mention to my Uncle Ian who sadly died this month. He was a lovely man, an ex Glasgow policeman who was full of good humour and a brilliant mimic. He will be missed.

What else have I been up to? I’ve been knitting away for my new Etsy shop called CosyCosy Studio (link is here: I’ve only got a few things on there just now, but will be adding to it. Would appreciate genuine and helpful feedback on my products if you have the time.  At the moment, there are some hand knitted lap blankets and hand-made cards, but I have some scarves to add this weekend. Am just about to add the lining to them and then they will be ready. The first is a hand knitted yellow Alpaca lap blanket, the second a hand knitted green basket weave pattern blanket and the hand stamped and hand painted Three Kings Christmas card.

Books I have been reading over the last couple of weeks include Ruth Goodman’s How to Be a Tudor (am right into the Tudor era at  the moment) and Alexander Langland’s Craeft. Both of them you may know from the Tudor Farm, Wartime Farm etc programmes (which I love). Ruth, in particular, is a lively and interesting writing and I’ve read books of hers before. This is the first time I’ve read anything of Alex’s and I’m enjoying it too. Hers is about – surprise surprise – ordinary folk in the Tudor era and his is about lost crafts. Loving reading both.

If you are wondering about the photos used in this blog today, they were taken before 9am on various mornings over the past week except for the last one, which was an afternoon pick a few weeks ago. I love the autumn colours and the blue skies. If you look carefully at the pics you’ll see three wee dogs running around having fun. The pics were taken on our daily walks around the River Clyde area where we live. They love it, I love it. Even when it’s freezing cold, it’s great to get out into the fresh air and enjoy the views of the river.

Right I am going to finish up here and wish you adieu until next time!

Dawn xxx

My favourite pic from the last couple of weeks:



This month – the deaths of Duncan and Macbeth

You know how I love history? Well I love literature too! So I’ve combined my interest in both in the following article. Did you know Macbeth and his cousin died in the same month, albeit several years apart? There’s also a lot of other interesting facts about the two. Read on…



What he hath lost noble Macbeth hath won

It’s hard to imagine that when you look around the rolling farmland and lush fields of Pitgaveny that this was once the scene of one of history’s most notorious killings.

But 975 years ago, on August 14, 1040, the infamous Macbeth took on his cousin Duncan and the rest as they say is history.

Pitgaveny near Elgin is as rural as you can get with the local Estate Farm providing a lovely setting for the annual family Spring open day. There you can ride tractors, take part in archery or buy produce from local businesses, including from Macbeth Butchers.

With the only danger being the persistent Highland midge, it’s hard to believe that this was the scene of a death that centuries later was immortalised by Shakespeare.

It was late summer when the then King of Scotland, Duncan, rode north to sort out his erstwhile cousin Macbeth, Mormaer of Moray, for some wrongdoing that has since been lost to history. Confident in his own abilities, he was going to teach Macbeth a lesson he would never forget.

Unfortunately for Duncan, the opposite turned out to be true.

Their armies met at Pitgaveny – then known as Bothnagowan – and a bloody battle ensured. For all Duncan’s confidence, it was not going to be his day. Slain in battle, probably by Macbeth himself, he not only lost his life but his crown too…instead of it going to his son, the title of King of Scotland was snatched by Macbeth for himself.

But who were Duncan and Macbeth and what are their real stories?

Laurence Olivier as Macbeth.

Laurence Olivier as Macbeth.

Well, Shakespeare would have it that Macbeth kills Duncan in his sleep at Birnam Hill in Perthshire in 1040 and later dies himself at Dunsinane. Written nearly 600 years after the true events, Shakespeare took a bit of liberty with the accuracy of the story.

In fact, Duncan’s story begins around 1001 when he was born to Crinan, Abbot of Dunkeld and Bethoc, daughter of Malcolm II.

Born into a tumultuous time in Scottish history, Duncan would have grown up during a period of great violence and unrest in the country. The clans had been fighting each other for centuries and the country was under almost constant attack from Viking raids.

There were four kingdoms in Scotland at that time: Moray in the north, Strathclyde in the west, the Norse-Gael kingdom of the western coasts and Hebrides, and south-east Scotland which was ruled by the Earls of Bernicia (formerly south-eastern Scotland and north-eastern England) and Northumbria.

To strengthen his own position, Malcolm II – who didn’t have any sons – married off his three daughters to important dynasties across Scotland. Bethoc (mother of Duncan) married Crinan, Thane of the Isles, head of the House of Atholl and Abbot of Dunkeld. Donada (mother of Macbeth) married Finlay, Earl of Moray, Thane of Ross and Cromarty. His youngest Olith married Sigurth, the Earl of Orkney.

With the north secured and with the help of King Owen (Owen the Bald) of Strathclyde, in 1018 Malcolm rode south-east and took on the Earls of Bernicia at the battle of Carham near the river Tweed. He won, securing the area for himself making him the most powerful man in Scotland.

Later that same year, King Owen died without issue and Duncan was named rightful heir because of his marriage to Sybil (also known as Sibylla, Sibyl or Suthen) who is thought to have been related to the Strathclyde royal family. The couple went on to have three sons, including the future Malcolm III and Donald III.

Duncan’s life seems to have been relatively uneventful until 1034, at the age of 33 when he ascended the throne of Scotland following the death of his grandfather, Malcolm II.

There appears to have been no opposition to his claim and everything went smoothly at first. Problems only developed later when he proved himself not to be the effective king everyone hoped he would be.

Nicknamed An t-Ilgarach, “the Diseased” or “the Sick”, he seems to have ruled peacefully until 1038 when he led a disastrous campaign into Northumbria where he besieged Durham. However, the English army was too much for him and he was forced to retreat home to Scotland with his tail between his legs.

Unlike Shakespeare’s depiction of Duncan as a good and wise king, the real king was useless as a leader and two years later he was forced to ride north to Moray – stronghold of Macbeth – on that fateful and deadly expedition to punish his cousin.

No-one knows the reason for the falling out, but Duncan lost and was later buried on the Isle of Iona.

O valiant cousin! worthy gentleman!

Macbeth was four years younger than Duncan and related to him through his mother, Donada who was the sister of Duncan’s mother, Bethoc. They shared a maternal grandfather, Malcolm II.

Although Shakespeare claimed Macbeth had no legitimate entitlement to the throne of Scotland, in reality he had a strong claim. Not only was he the grandson of Malcolm II, but he was also directly descended from the great king Kenneth MacAlpin.

Now Macbeth’s rise to power is an interesting, if bloody, one. In 1020, his father Finlay MacRory was murdered by his nephews Malcolm and Gillecomgan. The reasons are lost in the mists of time, but it was probably to get control of the Moray area.

Malcolm then ruled as Mormaer of Moray – effectively a king or earl – from 1020 to 1029 when he died. He was succeeded by his brother Gillecomgan who died three years later, horrifically burned to death with 50 of his men. It is not known who carried out this atrocity, but Macbeth is certainly in the running along with his grandfather Malcolm II.

Lady Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth.

On Gillecomgan’s untimely death, Macbeth then took on the position of Mormaer of Moray. He married Gillecomgan’s widow, Gruoch, two years later, naming her son by Gillecomgan, Lulach, as his successor. They had no children of their own.

Eight years later, following Duncan’s death, Macbeth was crowned King of Scotland and reigned successfully for 17 years from his fortified castle at Dunsinane near Perth.

But all was not all was peaceful. Macbeth had to fight hard to retain his crown. In 1045, Crinan, Duncan’s father, rose up against him and was killed in battle at Dunkeld. The Earl of Northumbria also led an invasion in 1054.

Macbeth finally met his end in August, 1057 when he fought the future Malcolm III (Duncan’s son) and his army at Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire. It is believed he was fatally wounded and is thought to have died at Scone, some 60 miles away, a few days later.

Malcolm was finally crowned King of Scotland in 1058.


William Shakespeare.

William Shakespeare.


The play

Macbeth – or the Scottish play – is thought to have been written by William Shakespeare between 1599 and 1606. Most likely he wrote it after 1603 when James VI of Scotland became James I of Scotland and England. James was a patron of Shakespeare’s acting company and this could have been a way of the playwright currying favour with his king.

In the theatre, the play is believed to be cursed and is only referred to as ‘the Scottish play’. The story goes that Shakespeare is thought to have used real spells during the three witches’ scene angering local witches who cursed future productions. To say its name in a theatre is said to doom the production to failure and put the cast in danger.

It is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy and the first actor thought to have played Macbeth may have been Richard Burbage, the star of Shakespeare’s company, The King’s Men.



In case you don’t already live in this wonderful country, here are some links to find out more about Duncan and Macbeth’s Scotland@

See Dunkeld:

See Elgin:

And Dunsinane:

Find out more about historical Moray (pronounced Murray):

Visit the holy isle of Iona:

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth is named Thane of Cawdor. On August 30, Cawdor Castle is the venue of The Chamberlain’s Men version of the bard’s Twelfth Night. For more information go to: