Amanda Edmiston Storyteller, Artist and Writer

Botanica Fabula



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Storytelling becomes pictures

Posted on 26 June, 2017 at 5:30 Comments comments (0)

The 12 Months

The creation of pictures re-telling the stories from A KIST IN THYME with Primary 6 pupils from Doune Primary School, all photos (c) Jane Sumner 2017

All the beautiful work created, the stories and photographs taken during the project will be on exhibition at The Scottish Storytelling Centre from 7th September 2017 , with an accompanying Potions Workshop telling the stories and creating some of the Plant potions and magic told as part of the project for families on Saturday the 16th of September.

For details of the exhibition and to book the workshop see :


Posted on 16 May, 2017 at 10:25 Comments comments (0)


As you walk through the Black Devon reserve towards the River Forth at Alloa in April you can’t miss the rushes. The snow-soft down, drifts nonchalantly across the footpath, vital foodstuff for the birds and once a valuable resource fit for a princess.

If you turn to your left you might spot a castle away on the green hill, maybe you passed another on your way towards this watery landscape. Swans watch you avoid nettles from behind the screen. This is a place where stories line up to be told, their characters watch you from beneath stones and from within muddy puddles, choosing just one or two to share is a trickiest part of the adventure.

My day of stories for the opening of the RSPB reserve in April this year (2017) became an exchange. I shared a story or 3 and children went off in search of the creatures and plants that had inhabited them. Older people told me stories in response to mine, tales of babies born to the farming family who’d once managed the land, living on the island in the river. How the local factory had promised the father who’d stayed to look after his animals that they would sound the factory horn ‘once for a boy, twice for a girl,’ when his wife was taken into the hospital in Alloa, but bemused him when they’d got ‘carried away’ and sounded it three times! How the wildlife had been more diverse when the land was managed and how pleased local folk were to see the RSPB take over, hoping this would herald the wildlife’s return.

Children returned having found frogs to defeat mud monsters and seen princes under enchantments, cake was eaten and newts discovered...and I promised I’d share my version of one particular old Scottish tale that could have grown from this land online, for those who didn’t hear it or who wanted to read it again.

So here is my version of Rashiecoats the princess who came from a land of towers near a marshland a little like this one, a long, long time ago...

Now in those days the lives of royal children was very much in the hands of their parents and princesses and princes seldom got to marry anyone they chose for themselves, so it didn’t come as such a surprise when the princess in our story, young Morag, was summoned by her father and told she was to be married.

The problem only arose when she realised who her betrothed was to be...

‘Oh no’ thought the lass...’Oh no not him, anyone but him...’ the grumpy faced misery from the castle in the nearby glen, he was sullen and rude, he didn’t make her laugh and he was also so, no, no he wouldn’t do at all.

Her father insisted the marriage would be in everyone’s best interests and begged her, implored her, threatened to ignore her wishes and went off in a huff and Morag pondered what she could do, trying to think of a plan to avoid marrying the miserable prince from the glen.

The next day she decided to go and seek the advice of the hen-wife, the wise woman who kept chickens, doled out herbs and potions, broths and oaths to those that sought solutions in the local village.

There she was told to return to her father and tell him she would consider the marriage only if he made her a coat of the finest gold, which the princess immediately went and did.

The king being a king found this task quite simple, he went to his coffers and took two bags of gold, one for the goldsmiths to turn to cloth and one to repay them for their trouble. Then taking the cloth, beaten, sheer and lustrous, he took it to the finest tailors who fashioned the princess a beautiful coat of pure gold.

When Morag saw the coat catch the light she marveled at it’s beauty, but a lump caught in her throat, how was she to avoid marrying the grumpy prince from the glen now she pondered.

Parcelling up her garments, she returned to the hen-wife the very next day and asked her again how she might avoid wedding the miserable prince from the glen.

This time the hen-wife told her to return to her father and ask him to give her a cloak and shoes made form feathers, freely given, one from each of the birds of the air.

When Morag returned her father scratched his head and paused, but then being a king got the finest seed from the royal kitchen and asked children to go to the garden and quietly offer a beakful of seed to any bird who would gift just one feather and he soon found he had a basket of the most beautiful feathers each fallen from a breast or a wing, which he took to his seamstresses and bade them fashion the princess a cloak and shoes of feathers.

The next morning the princess heavy hearted still refused to marry the grumpy prince from the steep glen and went back to the hen-wife with her tale of worries for a life yet to come and the hen-wife told her to go back to her father and ask for a coat, cap and shoes of rushes.

The king was tired now of hearing excuses, but indulged her one last time, because he loved her and sent the softest handed of marsh folk down to the waters edge and there he bade them collect basket upon basket of the down soft rush seeds. Then he had cloth woven and billowing, cloud-soft coat, cap and matching shoes made, surely now his wilful daughter would agree to the wedding.

But Morag would not, she took her coat and ran to the hen-wife, sobbing and pleading for a way to avoid marriage to the grumpy prince from the steep glen.

Unfortunately the hen-wife had no more answers to give and so Morag packed up her three coats and precious shoes and made her way out of the castle and away, into the land of towers hoping to find a new fate.

She travelled for a week or two and then found herself facing a long dark night of cold driving rain, so she decided to seek shelter at another tower castle a valley or three away from her home, one were she was a stranger and would not be recognised. Telling them her name was ‘Rashiecoats’ she was offered a bed and food if she would help in the kitchen.

She stayed one night, then two, then more and she decided to stay a while longer as she liked the work and the castle folk made her laugh. Then she stayed another month as it began to feel like home, then she stayed a bit longer as the son of the king in this castle was handsome and funny and kind and well...she taken a bit of a shine to him.

But in those days princes didn’t get to choose their own brides and the king had made up his mind to wed his son to a grumpy faced princess with bad manners from the next tower along the trail and even though his son begged and cajoled his father to change his mind the king would hear none of it.

The first Sunday that came along the banns were to be read in the nearby church and Morag, now Rashiecoats, sat by the kitchen fire with lunch to make and dishes to clean, wondering what she could do to change this prince’s father’s heart.

Now if you’re a smart girl, you can’t help but pick up an insight or two when you visit a just start to remember useful, interesting stuff and Rashiecoats was a very smart girl.

She sat and pondered and came up with a plan. Taking a handful of seeds from the cooking jar she went out into the castle grounds and called out to the birds of the air to help her. the birds flew down, wise old owls, handsome harriers, charms of goldfinch, a flush of ducks and parliament of crows and each taking a seed, they told Rashiecoats to put on her coat and shoes of gold and go to the church whilst they took care of the kitchen.

Off she went, in her shimmering coat, whilst the birds washed with a wing and cooked with a claw, away to the church where she caught the princes eye and impressed his father, then ran back returning to the kitchen before the royal party returned for lunch.

But much as he’d admired this golden clad girl in the church the king still insisted that his son marry the grumpy princess in the tower in the neighbouring village and the following Sunday the banns were to read a second time.

Once again Rashiecoats took a handful of seeds from the cooking jar and went into the castle grounds calling to a summer cloud of swallows, a bellowing of bullfinches, a skein of geese and a siege of bitterns to help her. each took a seed and bid Rashiecoats put on her coat of feather and make her way to the church. Which Rashiecoats did, whilst the birds cleaned and cooked much as they had before.

Once again the royal party much admired the beautiful girl in her magical cloak of feathers and fine down-formed shoes, but the king still insisted his son marry the grumpy faced princess from the tower in the neighbouring village and the party returned just behind Rashiecoats then argued over their lunch.

The following week church plans were made a third time and things proceeded as they had yet again. When Rashiecoats made her way to church this time she wore her coat and shoes of Rushes and she seemed to the prince to be a magical being born in by a cloud and when she vanished after the service he begged his father to let him at least find this girl and discover who she was before he married the grumpy princess.

Well his father agreed and the prince ran out of the church behind Rashiecoats hoping to catch her before she vanished forever, but he was just a little too late and the only trace he could find was a seed quilted slipper on the church gate stone, dropped by it’s owner as she ran back to the kitchen.

And here I think you know how the story goes, a familiar tale of a love-lorn prince clutching a slipper asking girls around the kingdom whom it might fit...finding his prospective mother-in-law, the grumpy princesses own mother insisting it was her own daughters foot, determined the arranged marriage go ahead.

Clipping a bit off her daughters heel, trimming her toes, forcing an already miserable princesses foot into the rush slipper. The prince accepting his fate and seating the princess on the back of his horse and returning home tired and confused.

But then in this tale the birds are a force to be reckoned with and the wise creatures of the air, hover and call: ‘look down and you will see this wedding is not meant to be, your true beloved is at your home, Rashiecoats working in the kitchen by your own hearthstone’.

And the prince looks round and realises what has happened and sending the foot-sore grumpy princess away, goes back to his castle home and finds Rashiecoats, crying into the soup and the two go and seek permission of their fathers, who seeing a royal wedding that might suit everyone in the offing wisely agree to this new arrangement and being a story I imagine that the miserable prince from the steep glen that Rashiecoats now Morag once more was meant to marry in the first place but had previously abandoned and the grumpy ill mannered princess from the tower in the village met and were wed and lived ...well.. grumpily ever after, bickering and shouting at each other for a very long time...but then some people are just like that.

What I do know is that Rashecoats never forgot the kindness of the birds and the magic of the rushes and made sure that the birds always had a safe home, full of plants with a cloud of seeds and that that land, bordered by castle towers was meant to be kept that way for the rest of its days.

Or at least that’s how I tell it...

And maybe if you get a chance you’ll walk down from the tower in Alloa and across the marsh and see a charm of goldfinch flit among the rushes and share a story or two in a landscape where stories of birds, frogs, plants and islands line up to be told.

Story Sharing in Rutherglen

Posted on 4 May, 2017 at 4:15 Comments comments (0)


Memories of WWII cropped up a lot in many of our intergenerational story sharing groups, one gentleman told us how the first time his sister saw a banana after rationing ended and food began to be imported more she screamed and thought it was a gun! People remembered that children were evacuated from Rutherglen although very few had been themselves, due to it’s industry and proximity to Clydebank and the Glasgow shipyards.

The changes to the lives of children, over the last 70 years stood out in all the sessions. But some things everyone had in common, sweet treats at picnics and playing in the park, games like football, skipping, days out ‘Doon the Watter’ to the nearest seaside.

These are some of the stories collected by the children from nine Rutherglen Primary Schools from their older family members, teachers, friends, neighbours and the residents in two local care homes.

-Peter told me how he would play football and they would run for six or seven miles. He was in the Royal Airforce. he was one of the people who won the war. He lived just outside Rutherglen. When he was a boy he loved playing cowboys, football and cycling. He became an RAF cross country champion.

-We spoke to a man who told us his dad was in the RAF and his brother was in charge of ammunition. Life changed for everyone when antibiotics were made. They saved his life.

-He loved football, there are lots of footballers from Rutherglen, there were 6 or 7 football pitches that he played at. His mum and dad met at an aircraft, but then his dad went off to Africa as a spy and he didn’t see him ‘til after the end of the war.

-My Grandma Rose was sent to the countryside in Wales during the second world war. It was a scary time.

-My Granny worked for Churchill and one day Churchill told my granny to type rubbish to the Germans. For 30 years she couldn’t say a word about it.

-During WWII my teacher’s Gran looked after some soldiers in her house in Burnside. One evening a soldier named James brought a chicken with him for everyone to enjoy. He was a farmer’s son from Dumfries. Sadly James was killed but my teacher’s Gran never ever forgot James or his chicken.

Food often evoked memories too

-When my teacher was a pupil at Burnside Primary she was the milk monitor and one of her jobs was to put one straw into every little milk bottle which arrived each day in a large crate. Unfortunately by the time she got to drink the milk it was quite warm and not really very nice.

-When my Gran was a wee girl she had 8 sisters and 2 brothers. They didn’t have a lot of money so every year at Easter instead of Easter eggs my Gran’s mum would boil eggs and give one to my Gran and her siblings. They would then paint patterns and different colours on them. After that they would go up a really tall hill and roll the eggs down it and wait for them to break.

I spoke to a lady about her favourite foods, her family and the games she played, she told me how Dumpling was her favourite cake and her favourite food was steak pie. She also told me about playing hide and seek with her sister, the lady sat next to her said she preferred tea bread, but also told us about how they used to play ‘chap the doors’ , I don’t think anyone would let you play that now.

Changes in recycling and food production was a common theme in many of the sessions, people remembered pigs being kept in the back yard, allotments next to the park, paying to go to the cinema with old jars (for the value in the days when you could return ‘ginger’ bottles to the shop and be paid a few pennies for your trouble).

Many people remembered being paid to go ‘tattie howking’ during the October holidays. School milk was either a high point in the school morning or was ruined by teachers keeping it next to the radiator.

One gentleman shared a marvelous story of passing four bakeries on his way to school and in the post war days of rationing being thrilled by the scent of freshly baked bread...he could have been the lad from the story ‘The Stolen Smells’ which can be found here:" target="_blank">

Our map shows three of the bakeries marked in red:

With thanks to the pupils from: Burgh, Bankhead, St Columbkills, Cathkin, Calderwood, Burnside, Spittal and St Marks Primary Schools in Rutherglen and the residents of David Walker Gardens and Rodgerpark care homes, for their stories and fantastic contribution to this project.

Games, Stories and making Paper Boats

Posted on 3 May, 2017 at 9:50 Comments comments (0)

Games, Stories and making Paper Boats

I've mentioned that paper was a theme at the Grow 73 Rutherglen intergenerational project before

We started the session with the story of the Rutherglen ship yard.

We also had a grand chat about the games at children's birthday parties and what everyone liked to play in the park

I demonstrated the tried and tested pre internet entertainment option of making a 'newspaper tree'...

...and then inspired by Rutherglen's iconic Clutha ferries we made paper boats...

These are the instructions I learnt from when I was 6, taken from Eleanor Graham Vance and Trina S. Hyman's 'A Treasury of Things to make and do' that my Nana Mabel gave me for Christmas in 1975. But if you want to have a go yourself there are plenty of short demo films on You Tube if you find that method of instruction easier...

The children then chatted to the residents of David Walker Gardens care home about the games they'd liked to play. Adding notes to their boats.

Drawing on the pavement with white chalk, hopsctotch, 'two ropes' and whip and peerie had all been favourites (a peerie for those who don't know is a spinning top usually made from wood which can be kept going with a whip).

Pea shooters were also favourites, just a rolled up paper tube...Oh and dried peas gone to seed 'borrowed' from the allotment that used to flourish with fruit,veg and flowers next to Overtoun Park.

The children talked about monkey bars and favourite chutes (slides to those of you out of Scotland!), and games of football.

Everyone regardless of age loved climbing trees.

David remembered climbing his Grannies fruit trees and eating the fresh juicy apples during war time rationing and the pigs she'd kept.

Bobby during a session at the BUPA care home on Rogers Drive had got us all chatting about Bogies (not the nasal variety!), home-made go carts and racing them down hills in parks. About how they'd gone round the houses as children asking if anyone had an old pram or trolley they could have the wheels from, gathering up unwanted timber and rope and building carties to race.

I could see some of the children fancying reviving this game...

So what would you love to play in the park? What would make you want to explore and go back time and again?

What would encourage you to take younger family members and friends along and start you reminiscing about hot summer days and amazing games, or what can you imagine would lead you back there in ten years time to share your memories with friends and children?

We'd love it if you read the stories in the Rutherglen blogs and thought about some of the shared memories and stories from the children, maybe made a paper boat or a paper book and went to Overtoun Park and thought about games and adventures of your own that link to the area.

Games  that cross generations and how they might become a sculpture you could play on or tell a story of their own then you could send us your ideas. We'd love to hear from you, either in the comments below or via social media.

The stories of the session with the paper boats can be found here:" target="_blank">

Stories from the Schools in Rutherglen

Posted on 28 April, 2017 at 16:15 Comments comments (0)


We had some fantastic contributions from the children from Rutherglen schools as part of the intergenerational Grow 73 nature trail project.

Each child was sent home from the first introductory session with an unusual piece of paper, folded into a 'book' as a gesture towards the old Clyde paper mill at Rutherglen

The children ranged in age from primary 3 to primary 7 from 9 schools across Rutherglen.

The stories they brought back reflected the community in  Rutherglen beautifully.

There were short lovely thoughts that also cast a light on the reason for Rutherglen's history of successful football players...

There were stories that inspired the student who heard it from her father and wrote it (after talking to the local heritage group) to go off and find a picture of the ornamental wrought iron lamp-posts that once graced Overton Park.

I'm going to let some of the stories speak for themselves for the next couple of blogs. After all the hope for this nature trail is that they connect the people who use it most to the park, allow them to re-story Rutherglen, love their local park and enjoy here is the first stories from the children.

More to come over the next week or so....

if you'd like to say how you would see these stories translate into sculptures and nature trails in Overton Park we'd love to hear from you.

Rugs, Ropes and Royalty

Posted on 19 April, 2017 at 16:45 Comments comments (0)

Rugs, Ropes and Royalty

So you already know all about Rutherglen’s brush with ‘The Bruce’ during Scotland’s wars of independence but the Royal Burgh has other more recent regal connections too.

Templetons the carpet company, known throughout the area for their glorious factory front on Glasgow Green provided tied cottages in Limeside and Beechwood Avenues in Rutherglen, though privately owned today they were the homes of the managers and foremen of the carpet factory.

One lady on a social media forum dedicated to the history of and reminiscence about Rutherglen shared a brilliant story and she said I could share it with you

We best keep identities secret for reasons that will soon become evident...

Lets call her Agnes.

Agnes said I could tell you all this story as long as you promised not to tell anyone...

It’s all a bit hush hush ; D

Templetons received some amazing commissions for their beautiful carpets over the years. They made carpets for the Titanic, Westminster and the White House and most famously they made the carpet for the Queen's Coronation in 1953.

Agnes worked beside a woman, lets call her Sylvia, from Burnside, for many years and the two became friends. I imagine there was a certain mixture of hesitancy, pride and trepidation involved when Sylvia brought new friends round for tea, but eventually Agnes got the invite. She was asked to leave her shoes at the door and ushered into the hallway. Sensing an air of conspiracy she glanced around the hallway.

It was hard not to be impressed by the beautiful chenille carpet, soft, luxurious and quite unlike any other she’d seen, it took a moment for her to collect her thoughts and stop staring at the floor.

Nobody said a word, but there was something strange about how good the hallway carpet was in comparison to the fine, but far more modest carpets throughout the rest of the house.

Out of earshot of her parents Sylvia later disclosed that her Dad was a Boss in Templeton's and took home the spare off cuts of the Queen's Carpet.

But sshhh don't tell anybody.

Now a little bird told me that this wasn’t quite as unusual as it may sound...there was even meant to be a pigeon loft in one back close in Rutherglen carpeted with an off cut from Mrs Abraham Lincoln’s carpet...but that’s another story.

What I will say is if you’re planning getting rid of that once fine now ancient threadbare bit of off-cut rug in Ruglen, just check its just might be from Templetons and the rest of it may have graced somewhere else altogether more fancy...your toes may well be in touch with a bit of history!

I shared the story at today’s intergenerational storytelling session for the Grow 73 Overtoun Park nature trail project, at the Rodgers Drive care home, with residents and pupils from Calderwood Primary. It followed on from a getting to know each other session and fitted really well from Gordon’s lovely story about how he’d had the same next door neighbour for 90 years.

The children then started to work on designs for their own carpet, fantastic creatures and elegant blooms started to flourish along our walkway, they chatted to the older folk and incorporated their ideas.

Bobby got guitars along his stretch,

Catherine admired the Cleopatra-esque face

and Margaret had a border of daisies to illustrate her name, Joan and Matty loved watching the children draw.

We finished by working in groups to chat about who we would invite to walk on our carpet, there were some heartwarming moments and choices that were just lovely and really touching.

The whole carpet got pride of place on the care home meeting room wall and hopefully will go on to inspire the sculptor who will be incorporating some of the stories into the nature trail later this year. I’ll come back and let you know later in the year!

I’ll finish with another lovely memory I heard was about a girl who worked for Templetons. In 1901 at the age of 19, she had emigrated to America, but a young tenter who regularly travelled up from Preston to work at Templetons had fallen for her...on finding she’d left, he embarked on the long journey to find her. I’m happy to say he did and the pair eventually married.

Now I’m wondering how many feet have graced the carpet I’m stood on right now, what brought them here, where are they going, what story they might have to tell, maybe you can help me fill in the soles/souls so to speak, where would you like this carpet to lead?

Oh the ropes...I forgot to mention the rope...they tie in honestly (teehee), I've run out of space...I'll extend and cover the ropewalk in another blog if you come back soon...


Fantastic link to The Templetonian magazine, with pictures and reports on the coronation carpet:" target="_blank">

Apparently the course of the coronation carpet did not run smoothly!:

Lost Castles of Ruglen

Posted on 17 April, 2017 at 5:35 Comments comments (0)

The Lost Castles of Ruglen

Another interesting read a couple of weeks ago from ‘Rambles around Rutherglen’ led me to develop a session for one of the schools joining Grow 73 and myself for the Nature Trail project, based on the two castles that once dominated the landscape of Rutherglen: Rutherglen Castle itself and neighbouring Farme Castle which stood until the 1960's.

This passage drew my attention first as schools love a local connection to Robert the Bruce (it ties in with the popular primary topic and helps groups relate ancient bit of history to spots they recognise). But I’m also fascinated because we often forget in central Scotland where industry has dominated the landscape for so long, that we share our history with the more romantically perceived Borders and Highlands.

We too have depth of history hewn out of stone, stories interwoven with warlike passions, our manufacture grew on meadows, our ships were built where mermaids once murmured, we share sidh, knights and rowan trees with the rest of the country, they’re just hidden beneath layers of chemicals and brick built yards.

Communities have always been here, reinvented year after year as the livelihood changes and the money shifts hands...but finding our stories, holding onto them, re-growing them maintains the threads that bind us to our land (maybe ropes would be more fitting for Rutherglen), knit our communities together, reweave our connection. Finding and keeping those stories calcified into stones is important, it is a way to know the land we stand on and if you know a place you start to care for it, respect it and keep it.

So more of that in a later blog, this is what Hugh MacDonald starts off saying about Rutherglen Castle:

“The Castle of Rutherglen seems to have been at one time a place of considerable strength and importance. This structure, which was said to have been erected by Reuther, a king whose name is associated with the origin of the town, was indeed ranked among the fortresses of the country. During the troubles which broke out in consequence of the contested claims of Bruce and Baliol, the usurper, Edward of England, took possession of this and other castles of Scotland. Robert the Bruce, when he raised the standard of his country’s independence, determined to wrest this important place of strength from the English. He accordingly laid siege to it in the year 1309. On hearing of this, Edward sent his nephew, the young Earl of Gloucester, to relieve the garrison. What the immediate result was is somewhat doubtful. Some historians assert that Bruce overcame the garrison, while others are of opinion that he was forced to retire without accomplishing his purpose. In 1313, however, the Scottish king took possession of Rutherglen Castle, having driven the English from the country, and made a descent upon England, carrying fire and sword into several of the northern counties.”

The castle it would seem was handed for a short while during this tumultuous period into the hands of the Anglified French/Wales based Baron: Aymer de Valance, who for a while owned nearby Bothwell castle and many of the surrounding lands.

The only real remaining South Lanarkshire tower house of the time (as far as I can think tonight) close to Rutherglen is Crookston Castle

Back in 2008 storytellers Gerry Durkin and Alan Steele worked an a brilliant residency at Crookston castle, my mum Jean Edmiston delivered a few sessions there too... a bell rang, I dug out the book Alan wrote to accompany the residency: ‘The Secrets of Crookston Castle’.

In the book Alan shares a humorous tale of how Aymer de Valance during his stay at Rutherglen castle, with a cunning plan and a mighty force of highly trained men and expensive horse to boot lost to a handful of Scot’s soldiers led by an eighteen year old boy on his first command at Gleniffer Braes.

The castle then fell into the hands of the Hamilton family whom ‘Rambles...’ describes as meeting their ruin via ‘ an immediate judgement from heaven, drawn down upon them by their persecuting spirit’, very much it would seem the evil laird of the manor.

So I told a story to the group of a laird whose plans to sell his castle and displace his tenants with the aim of increasing his personal wealth and stealing the wife of his steward. The wife and her husband manage to fox the laird and escape but the castle is lost, dismantled stone by stone...

It leads to a lost saying

“Whilst there stands a castle within a boundary wall,

Ruglen’s fortunes will never fall”.

Stories are weaving together with castle in Rutherglen was broken up by wars and re-used as masonry, the other was sold and became industrial units...(the boundary stones...well that’s in the next blog....)

I’ll weave the threads together soon, but meanwhile

Maybe we should rebuild one...

Pictures above

Farme Castle from

The former site of Farme castle taken March 2017

Crookston Castle

Rebuilding castles with memories and pebbles with Bankhead Primary School pupils, March 2017.


Rutherglen Castle on Canmore:" target="_blank">

Rambles Around Rutherglen:" target="_blank">

Storytellers in Residence at Crookston Castle: " target="_blank">

‘Secrets of Crookston Castle’ " target="_blank">

Storytellers Alan Steel, Gerard Durkin, Jean Edmiston can all be found on the Scottish Storytelling Centre Directory here:




Clutha ferries of Rutherglen

Posted on 13 April, 2017 at 0:00 Comments comments (1)


The next tide of stories and memories of Rutherglen for the intergenerational nature trail project with Grow 73, (" target="_blank"> ) led me to the Clutha ferries.

Although the ferries and their shipyard are nearly passing out of living memory, they are an iconic image associated with the area...proud, sturdy little boats solidly making their way up and down the Clyde before the weir was built at Glasgow Green.

There’s a fascinating historic account of the Clutha’s here:

I love the cross section diagrams...of Clutha number five, they remind me of a secret den, in a play park I half remember from childhood...I want to turn one into a magical bookshelf full of things to discover...a little like the places they once travelled to. The ferries offered Ruglonians a day out ‘doon the watter’, a mini adventure, a day trip somewhere else. In the late 19th century when the ferries started their travels to Rothesay, a rare day trip to Largs would have been a thing of excitement and wonder after the months spent in a Victorian industrial town.

A day out ‘doon the watter’ is still a much loved thing hereabouts...we love our parks

and local seaside towns,

the escape they offer when the sun finally does put in an appearance and summer holidays before foreign travel became the norm became a grand topic following on from the story at one session with a local primary school and residents at David Walker Gardens. The children were fascinated by one gentleman’s accounts of his teenage cycling holidays with friends, he’d cycled the whole way round Scotland’s coast one summer!

Whilst TB Seaths shipyard had gone from Rutherglen by the early 20th century, he had still been a legendary figure during many of the older resident’s youth, one retired primary school teacher remembered mentioning him to classes at school as an exemplary local historic figure.

Thomas Seath does indeed seem to have had the kind of character traits that could have seen him grace the pages of a post war Boys Own type annual, you can imagine an issue of ‘The Eagle’ featuring the story of Seath’s early childhood as a incentive to young minds to try their best and never give up in order to succeed!

Thomas Seath age four is said to have been playing a competitive game of jumping down the stairs in his tenement close with an older boy and so the story goes, insisted on jumping down five steps to best the older lad’s four. The example is used as ‘how the child maketh the man’ as despite suffering a back injury that caused him problems for the rest of his life as a result, he never was prepared to give up and always went out of his way to win. More details of Seath’s life and shipyard can be found here:

I wove facts about Seath’s life into a traditional story about a young boy who dreamed of going to sea, dreaming of adventures even though his teacher told him he was a silly boy. A lad who understood the tides and winds, who loved ships, and got himself a job as a cabin boy, even though the other sailors laughed and told him he was too small, too young, to be any help. A young man who looked after the creatures who lived in the sea he loved and was determined to pursue his dreams and was rewarded after he survived a storm. Then went on to use his reward to build ships that would allow everyone in his home town to go on adventures, a lad who knew all adventures had to start small, but that they could grow to be inspiring and that they gave people the chance to follow a dream.

Thomas Seath’s life was a perfect fit and the group loved the quote from his encounter with an English shipbuilder who said upon meeting him ‘Why, Thomas Seath you’re so small I could fit you into my pocket” to which Seath replied “If you did you’d have mair in your pocket than you do in your heid”.

We ended the session with making our own paper ships, (paper has been woven through this project as a link to the Rutherglen paper mill and we’d had a giggle sharing old fashioned party game paper folding techniques in other sessions), then the children got chatting to the older folk sharing their stories to add to the paper ships as we build of tales for the nature trail.


I had huge amounts of fun and watching the children chat to the care home residents was really heartwarming, living history and interest being shared and creating something together became a really important and special process and hopefully everyone will get a chance to share this project as we work on it further.

More Magical Beasts in Rutherglen

Posted on 28 March, 2017 at 0:00 Comments comments (0)

More Magical Beasts in Rutherglen!

In his Rambles around Glasgow, Hugh MacDonald mentions the treasures found in the tumuli which may have been natural mounds or maybe burial chambers on Cathkin Braes, a site famous for allowing Mary Queen of Scots a view of the Battle of Langside, sited just behind one of the primary schools who have joined us for the Grow 73 Nature Trail Project.

With button and loop fasteners and a bridle and bit found at Queen Mary’s Cairn on Cathkin Braes and Roman coins being found in a stretch which was once an ancient coach road, potentially dating back to Roman times, from Glasgow to Strathaven.

It sounds in my storyteller’s head a little like there has been a huge magpie nesting on the braes, stealing treasures across the centuries and stashing them there.

A huge magpie or maybe another creature prone to hoarding gold and jewels, maybe a Griffin, now where have I seen one of those around Rutherglen...hmmmm....

Its worth remembering that Griffins, once a symbol of strength and watchfulness were said to accumulate hoards of gold and treasures and build nests of hem, then guard them carefully, symbolically they have often been used as decorative guards for other more vital, life giving, essential treasures and in Victorian times food and clean water were often less available than they are now.

Griffins in legends can be ferocious to those who seek to harm them but will befriend and protect those who are kind and brave. So where is that Griffin now, maybe still hoarding a hidden nest of treasures, maybe protecting a new treasure in Rutherglen.

Whilst we’re looking for legends, stories and memories in our visit to Overtoun Park, maybe we need to add a Griffin to our list along with blue skinned Pechs and mysterious tunnels. Maybe a Griffin that’s known for travelling along roads...maybe a Griffin or two who has not only travelled along Roman roads and through Mary Queen of Scots troubled times, but has also travelled more recently...a Victorian Griffin...look and I’m sure you’ll find you know where he’s travelled from?

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The Pechs of Rutherglen

Posted on 26 March, 2017 at 18:00 Comments comments (0)


History books state that Glasgow was once the small less significant neighbour of the more important royal burgh of Rutherglen, once the site of not one but two castles.

‘Ruglen’ folk were said to be hardworking, ingenious and highly skilled builders.

So when a group of architects were commissioned to build a new magnificent cathedral dedicated to St Kentigern, they chose to stay in Rutherglen whilst the work was taking place.

Every night the architects laid the plans out on the table of their tavern room.

Every day they watched the work take place, far too slowly for the forthcoming weather, far too slowly for the team to receive their commission.

The whole project was at the point of failing, existing walls destroyed by the weather before they could grow to protect themselves.

If the building stopped then the beautiful cathedral would not be built, but more than that: hard working men would not be paid, the builders families would not be fed, hundreds of people from Rutherglen were looking to this project for a livelihood the homes, work, security and care that the cathedral would bring.

Then something strange started to happen.

Every morning as the architects arrived on site they were met by new walls, astonishingly well crafted, robust and built in such a way that they could withstand the weather.

The craftsmen on site, the builders, masons and carpenters were baffled, this work was not theirs but complimented it perfectly. Rumours started to travel around Glasgow and Rutherglen: it began to be claimed that there was magic at work.

A young lad just ten years old was paid to keep watch, night after night he sat with a bowl of porridge, grew sleepy, snoozed a bit, but did his best to watch but every morning said he had nothing to report. Then one evening his mother replaced his evening bowl of oats with a cup of nettle soup flavoured with homegrown kale, leeks and a herb or two, the next morning after a night-time spent alert and observant, the boy gave an incredible account of small blue men, trooping out of tunnels, carrying stones bigger than could be dragged by a team of horses.

Small blue men who built quickly he said, with an uncommon skill, who as the first sliver of sunrise appeared, vanished back into the tunnels they’d come from.

When the young lad told what he’d seen everyone laughed, until he told his tale to the oldest of the architects, an elderly gentleman who now sat alongside his colleagues just listening and advising, his experience highly valued.

Turning to the laughing group he told them to wait and watch for themselves, the lad he said had described the pechs perfectly. The pechs were he claimed an ancient race, part people of ancient times, part fairy folk, but they were said to have the strength of twenty men and be skilled craftsmen.

Later that day the minister of the church in Rutherglen, added credibility to the story, saying that the pechs were fond of god as well as green spaces and even had one of their many tunnels leading from his own church going deep below the Clyde to the sight of the burgeoning cathedral in order to help build it.

Stories grew as stories do, giving folks something different to talk about, a chance to speculate and add details of their own.

Eventually the cathedral was built and the stories settled, resting, as stories do.

Tunnel mouths were found in Rutherglen, mostly in quiet green spaces and some of the older folk said they might be the homes of the pechs, but these were dismissed as grandparent’s stories to amuse the children, the tunnel mouths were mine workings, reasoned the lovers of logic.

But then a small tunnel no more then 5 feet high was found not far from the site of Glasgow cathedral and some people started to wonder if the old stories may have a grain of truth, maybe the mysterious builders of the cathedral could be found.

A piper volunteered to go down and play the pipes as he went.

Soon he couldn’t be heard from the Glasgow end, a burst of the pipes was said to be heard in Dalmarnock, a moan of ‘I’m no gonna get oot a this place’ from below the river, a plaintiff wail drifted from below the ground but no-one could say for certain where the man had gone.

Some say he was never seen again, some say his dog reappeared a few days later, shaking and hungry, but the story I like best says he was already sat in the tavern in Rutherglen by the time the party who’d sent him down in Glasgow got back home...conclusive proof of the ancient tale of pechs or maybe picts of Rutherglen building Glasgow’s very own cathedral!

Now I’ve been told there were tunnel mouths near Overtoun park, mine workings they say, (never go down one, either way they’re just not safe...) but mine workings or pechs or maybe mining folk have a bit of the hard working pech or Pictish blood in their veins and as such aren’t scared of a tunnel, who knows...

What I do know is that in every story theres always a little bit of truth...and it’s up to you to decide which bit is which.

this version Amanda Edmiston 2017

taken from ‘Rambles Round Glasgow: Descriptive, Historical, and Traditional’

By Hugh MacDonald


‘The History of Rutherglen and East-Kilbride: Published with a View to ...’

By David Ure

Interesting References:

Scottish Mining Website: mines in Rutherglen parish 1910

Glasgow cathedral page on Undiscovered Scotland is interesting, especially with regards to this story that it dates back to 550 AD when the Pictish kings still ruled much of Scotland, Pech although often used to refer to fairy folk is also often thought to be taken from the word Pict.