Daft Friday — The Start of Yule in Scotland

Today is Daft Friday, two Fridays before Christmas Day, and traditionally the start of Yuletide celebrations in Scotland, stretching through to Hogmanay and the all-important seeing-in of the New Year.

Daft Friday 1743 has been a day that has stretched for me. In fact, I am worn out after living through Daft Friday 1743, over and over again, like Groundhog Day or 12:01. That’s what comes of racketing around Edinburgh with Captain Robert Catto of the Town Guard and Kirsty Rankeillor, lady apothecary and Jacobite, the main protagonists of my novel, Gathering Storm. That pair keep getting themselves into trouble. I understand that, I really do, but does it have to be snowing so heavily, just to complicate things even further? (Of course it does. Ed.)

Daft Friday and the Daft Days were a time to turn normal behaviour on its head. The records are full of people getting into trouble, chiefly from the Kirk, for doing just that. Another classic source of information is F Marian McNeill’s 4-volume work on Scottish folklore and calendar customs, The Silver Bough. 

Here’s how I describe Daft Friday in Gathering Storm:

Daft Friday: when the world went mad. Boys put on their sisters’ dresses, girls pulled on their brothers’ breeches. Drunken revellers danced through the graveyard, cocking a snook at death itself. Ne’er-do-wells and the lowest of  people spoke back to their betters and, on this one day and night of the year, expected to get away with it. On Daft Friday everything turned tapsil-teery. The normal conventions did not reply.

Robert Fergusson, the Scottish poet who died tragically young at 24 but who is now immortalised as a young man in a hurry outside the Canongate Kirk on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, wrote a poem called The Daft Days

fergusson-robert-by-david-annand

Sculpture by David Annand, image courtesy of Scottish Poetry Library.

Here’s one verse. You can read the whole poem on the website of the Scottish Poetry Library.

 

Let mirth abound: let social cheer

Invest the dawnin’ o’ the year;

Let blithesome innocence appear

To crown our joy;

Nor envy wi’ sarcastic sneer

Our bliss destroy.

 

In the same poem he takes a swipe at those killjoys, the City or Town Guard, calling them ‘that black banditti.’  Never very popular, the Town Guard. Not that Robert Catto loses any sleep over that. Other things, maybe.

So to celebrate the start of Yule in traditional Scottish style, we should eat, drink and be merry, dress up in the clothes of the opposite sex, dance through the graveyard and be cheeky to (those who think they are) our betters. Sounds good to me.

Have a cool Yule!

christmasgarland2017

If you would like to sign up for my quarterly newsletter, next one in January 2017, please click here, scroll down a wee bit on the right and fill in your name and email address.

 

 

 

One Sweet Moment by Maggie Craig

This month, November, I’m showcasing my novel One Sweet Moment. It’s a love story, if not one for the faint-hearted. Life for a poor girl in 1820s Edinburgh could be difficult and dangerous and I wrote the book with the realities of life back then in mind. I call it romance noir.

OneSweetMoment-web

One Sweet Moment is also a coming-of-age tale and a love letter to Old Edinburgh. Richard and Kate’s touching and poignant romance plays out against the colour and pageantry of King George IV’s pivotal visit to Edinburgh in 1822 and the heart-stopping drama of the Great Fire of Edinburgh of 1824.

The book has had great reviews and is available as a paperback, ebook and as an audio download. You can buy One Sweet Moment from High Street and independent bookshops, Amazon UK and Amazon US. Overseas readers who would like to buy the paperback rather than the ebook might like to know that The Book Depository dispatches books worldwide with free delivery.

If you’d like to keep up to date with my writing news, please sign up for my quarterly newsletter using the form to the right of this post.

 

The Daft Days: Robert Catto’s Christmas

I’m delighted today to publish a long short story, filling in the gap between Gathering Storm and Dance to the Storm. Dance to the Storm will be published in Summer 2016.

DaftDays-WEB

The Daft Days: Robert Catto’s Christmas carries the action forward to Christmas or Yule Day 1743.

The long short story/mini novella will be free to download from Amazon UK and US this weekend before Christmas and the weekend after Christmas.

Merry Christmas from me!

Deep Within Edinburgh’s Underground Vaults

Edinburgh, 1822: Richard is a wealthy young medical student who lives in the opulent New Town. Kate works in a dingy oyster cellar below the South Bridge in Edinburgh’s Old Town, her only joy her young brother Andrew. In this extract from One Sweet Moment, she is reluctantly showing Richard around the gloomy vaults. She’s attracted to him but very wary. Life has made her that way. His interest is in her but he’s appalled at the poverty he’s seeing and has promised to help Alan Gunn, a widower with a young family and a victim of the Highland Clearances. 

OneSweetMoment-web

‘Aargh!’ He recoiled as something leapt at him from the overhanging beam. It coalesced into a ginger and white cat. The rat swinging from its jaws had to be dead. Using his shoulder as a stepping stone, the cat reached the floor and scampered off, the rat still clamped between its jaws.

‘Jack!’ yelled Andrew. ‘Clever boy!’ He set off in uneven pursuit of the cat, his lantern bobbing about like a fishing boat in a stormy sea.

Richard laughed as he watched them go. ‘Jack being the bridge’s resident mouser, I presume. Andrew’s right to congratulate him. Rats carry all manner of diseases.’

‘I know.’

Once more blue eyes met green. I know better than you do. Because I live with all of this. Because I may have no education but I’m not stupid either. Richard wondered if that was what she really wanted to say. Kate crossed her legs and he caught a glimpse of striped stocking. Red and white, spilling over the top of sturdy, if rather battered, laced ankle books. They looked dainty on her feet.

He wanted to walk over there, hoist himself up beside her and talk to her for hours. He wanted to find out everything about her. What had happened to her and Andrew’s parents? Was she happy to live here? She couldn’t be. He wanted to know what her hopes and fears and dreams were.

He stepped forward, and saw wariness slide across her face. How many times a week did she have to defend herself against unwanted male attention? Small wonder if she was sometimes prickly. He resumed his casual stance.

Kate’s stern expression didn’t waver. ‘You just gave me your word. About Mr Gunn.’

‘You don’t believe I really will do anything to help him though, do you?’

‘No. I dinna.’

‘You think I’m a bored young gentleman who’ll have forgotten all about the South Bridge and everyone in it by this time tomorrow?’

‘That’s about it,’ she agreed.

‘Well, Miss Catriona Dunbar,’ Richard said, ‘I’m clearly going to have to prove you wrong, am I not?’

One Sweet Moment by Maggie Craig is available at High Street and independent bookshops and online as a paperback and ebook from Amazon UK.

It is also available as an ebook from Amazon US.