The Rankin Files— The Falls

If you are a movie buff, you will know the classic It's a Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart plays a deeply troubled man in Bedford Falls, and is regularly talking about 'the Falls'. Ian Rankin's 12th novel in the Rebus series also has this title, but it is a horse of a very different color. Sometimes truth is truly stranger than fiction. This particular novel is based a little bit on true events. Mr. Rankin became fascinated with the Burke and Hyde saga, which of course prompted the Jekyll and … [Read more...]

The Romans are Coming!

Not only is there an impressive Roman fort at Corbridge, there is also a nice small museum of things found on the archaeological site as well. This post will deal with some of the more important ones. Roman legions had a religious life. There were gods they prayed to and sacrificed to, regularly, and especially before going into battle. Sol Invictus was one of their regular favorites, but they also set up Mithraic religious sites in the region of Corbridge and Hexham as well. In addition to … [Read more...]

Something Every Pastor Needs— a Fortified Vicarage

Corbridge is one of the more interesting Roman sites in all of Britain, not least because of the museum at Corbridge (on which see the next post). But the church of St. Andrew in Corbridge is equally interesting because it has: 1) the King's ovens, built into the wall (the church being the dispenser of bread for the poor, it is in the church wall) and 2) a fortified towering vicarage! Yes you heard right. The minister had all the protection he needed from irate parishioners.Here is the … [Read more...]

The Durham Chronicles: Bamburgh Castle

When one leaves Lindisfarne, and heads south, leaving all the mead you need behind....and the St. Cuthbert Presbyterian Church on Holy Island....and St. Oswald's cross......and the beautiful fields of rape-seed (not mustard as is often thought)...The next major fortification down the coast heading south is Bamburgh Castle... a truly awesome structure.To be honest, the outside of the castle is much more impressive in most respects than the inside. … [Read more...]

The Rankin Files— Set in Darkness

Ah politicians. They seem to be the same wherever you go. Always running for office, always conniving, slick in front of a camera. Some are quite clever, but not very moral. Some are moral, but not very wise. Some got into office purely on the basis of money. Some are good persons trapped in a corrupt system. John Rebus has seen them all in his day, and 'Set in Darkness' has more to do with politics than his previous novels. Except for one thing. THE criminal of this whole series of … [Read more...]

A Pilgrimage to Holy Island and Back

Holy Island, also known as Lindsfarne, is a special place. It is one of the places where Christianity first blossomed in England, and became a center of Christian life for a long time. But Holy Island did not provide the protection that castles along the northeast coast of England did (see the last of the pictures above of Bamburgh Castle, just visible in the distance from Lindsfarne). And so when the Viking invasion came in 793, the monks at the priory (see the ruins of the Norman priory in … [Read more...]

The Wall– Hadrian’s not Pink Floyd’s

It was Claudius' initiative that put Romans in Britain, and so from about A.D. 45- 410 there was a Roman presence in Britain. Big problem---- those warring tribes to the North, later known as the Scots. So, a wall had to be built. And what a wall it was from Wallsend on the Tyne to Bowness on Solwyn on the west coast, it stretched 73 miles, punctuated with forts or gates (called milecastles) or towers every mile or so. Hadrian himself had visited Britain in 122 A.D. and set this whole process … [Read more...]

The Angel of the North

When's the last time you saw a 697 foot tall angel? And talk about a man of steel, this dude is. Standing on a hill in Gateshead, hovering over the Tyne and facing Newcastle is what appear to be the largest angel sculpture in the whole world.... and increasingly one of the most beloved and visited angels ever. Here are some pictures I took on the way back from a visit to the Roman Wall at Housesteads. See what you think... … [Read more...]

Saying for the Day

'Though my soul may set in darkness, It will rise in perfect light, I have loved the son too dearly, To be fearful of the night'---My variation of a poem by Sarah Williams 'The Old Astronomer to his Pupil' (the original having the word 'stars' instead of 'son'/sun). … [Read more...]