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Busy, Busy....

Finavon Castle, Scotland

The weather outside is dreadful. Most unlike autumn on the Gold Coast, in fact more like winter in Scotland other than the fact that temperatures are holding around the 20°C level (in the 70s Fahrenheit). The skies are overcast, steely grey, it's wet and windy. At least we are not experiencing any flooding unlike some other poor souls in Queensland at the moment. And the forecast is for this to continue a few more days yet. I mustn't complain however, for when I look at pictures of the atrocities being committed in Ukraine by Russia, it puts things into perspective as well as making my blood boil.

It's certainly been a busy month. I've finished and shipped a couple of dolls, I started work on a Queen Victoria doll, I finished my Louis XIV doll and am busy on Anne of Cleves. Although Anne is not the first wife most people think of when they think of Henry VIII, she probably has the most complicated costume of all of the wives and, as a result, there is a lot of arduous, intricate work necessary to bring her to life.

Anne of Cleves headdress

The most difficult part is probably the headdress. I've spent more than a few days getting it right but, thankfully, that is finished and I'm now working on beading for the dress. This is a task that requires attention to detail for there are hundreds of beads and each has to be individually sewn!

I can't complain though. I have my two Sheltie dogs at my feet keeping me company and my studio is warm with everything to hand. I occasionally look down at the pair of them. The eldest, Freddie, is five years old and Robbie has just turned one. Robbie's mother was half the size of Freddie but Robbie is already one or two inches taller than Freddie! He is an unusual Sheltie. Normally they have ears that fold at the tips and smooth hair. Robbie, however looks like he has a bit of Afghan hound in him at times with ears that refuse to stand up, curly hair and long legs and nose. We sometimes joke that he is a new breed – a curly haired Shelgan! He is, however totally lovable and the pair of them often sit at my feet as I sew diligently.

I was asked the other day about Finavon castle which appears in some of my marketing materials. My husband is the Baron of Finavon and the castle is the original home, now sadly a ruin. The barony was created in the 13th century in Scotland and was first held by the Comyn Earls of Buchan. It was forfeited during the Wars of Independence when an ally of the hero king, Robert the Bruce was awarded the barony for a feat of arms in capturing Forfar castle. The castle was built by the then baron, a famous knight, Sir David Lindsay, in the 14th century who was created the Earl of Crawford. The most famous, or rather notorious, of the barons was the 'Tiger Earl' or "Earl Beardie". He took part with the Douglases in their rebellion against the Crown in 1452 and was defeated at the Battle of Brechin forcing him to yield the castle to the victorious troops of King James II.

James II arrived at Finavon some months later, to receive Earl Beardie's submission and be sumptuously entertained by the former rebel. Having previously vowed the destruction of the castle by swearing 'to make the highest stone of Finavon the lowest', the King went up to the castle's parapet and kept his word by casting down a loose stone from the topmost battlements to the ground. This stone was long preserved, hanging on a chain.

Cairns of Finavon Arms

The barony and the castle was later forfeited to the Crown and passed to other worthies until today, where it is held by David Cairns of Finavon, my husband.

But back to Earl Beardie. He was a man with a very black character. There are several stories about him and one of them is about a Covin tree in the grounds supposedly sprung from a chestnut dropped by a Roman soldier. The Earl is reputed to have hanged Jock Barefoot, a running ghillie of his, because he cut a walking stick from the tree. Legend has it that this was not the first time the ghillie fell foul of the Earl. He is supposed to have also cut out his tongue for some minor offence and the poor man's ghost is still to be seen running between Finavon and Careston castles trying to deliver his message. Another story tells of the time the Earl was visiting nearby Glamis castle and was playing cards with Lord Glamis. As no-one would play with them – it being the Sabbath – Earl Beardie called up the devil and it is said that they play there still in a sealed secret chamber!

The castle also was the subject of a rhyme by a famous Scottish Seer, Thomas the Rhymer, who prophesied:

"When Finavon castle rins to sand

The end of the world is near at hand"

So you can see we have an important duty to preserve what we have!

Och well. Time to get back to work. As always, if you have any ideas about historic dolls you'd like to see, please let me know. In the meantime let me wish you all the best.

Stay safe, keep well.


Lady Finavon


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