Perils of the Kirk
You have to laugh. Our house in Inglewood is a 104 years old, being built in 1906 and it’s been heritage listed by the local council. I’m not unhappy about that as it shows that someone in Bayswater Council cares about old stuff, and it’s a start. Here in the Shetland Islands the landscape is dotted with literally hundreds upon hundreds of stone houses, many that could be a thousand years old, but are derelict and are turning into nothing more than piles of picturesque lichen-covered rocks that no one cares about at all. It‘s almost beyond comprehension thinking of the generations after generation who may lived in these dark, grey stone houses, scratching a living from what cannot really be called soil.
Black, ominous peat bogs cover much of the countryside and it is still cut, collected and dried for heating. You see piles of plastic bags full of the stuff along many roads. In the museum there’re photographs of the 1800s showing whole families carrying huge baskets full of peat on their backs, including tiny wee children. Between the weather, peat collecting, farming, fishing and whaling, the Shetlanders had a tough time of it, and then to really bugger their lives up, along came the pinch-faced, self-rightous Protestants who wanted to control every aspect of their existence, and soon bloody well did. It had taken Shetlands a longer time that the rest of the country to adopt Christianity from paganism and it wasn’t until the Vikings overran the place and then the Danish King Olaf turned Christian did they change.
Many generations later and Scotland became officially Church of Scotland, or Kirk, after James I, or VI, depending where you’re from, and many refused to give up the Catholic religion and said mass in secret late at night in the ruins of the Catholic churches, a hanging offence. You’d have thought they’d had enough to worry about, just surviving, without being bothered by the men of the Kirk, but within a few years the Kirk managed to take over and governed all aspects of people lives, as well as being responsible for burning witches, and punishing fornicators. The fornicators weren’t burnt, but they sure had to repent. And I need to turn off my imagination at this point, as do you. One punishment for something of less importance that fornication was to have your ear nailed to a tree or your tongue nailed to a table. I thinkth thatth may hath hurth a bith. As for the fornicators …