The Italian highlanders who may have Scottish roots

Mamma mia, laddie!

High up in the mountains of northern Italy, just a few kilometres from the Swiss border, the people of the tiny village of Gurro speak a strange dialect, incomprehensible even to the other villages in the same valley.

They have peculiar surnames, and the women’s traditional costume features a patterned underskirt that looks suspiciously like tartan.

One possible explanation is that their forefathers include a unit of Scottish soldiers – the Garde Ecossaise – who served the French King, Francis I, and were defeated with him at the Battle of Pavia, near Milan, in February 1525.

The story goes that while trying to make their way home the Scots stopped in Gurro, where they got snowed in for the winter. Many locals believe they never left.


Scottish penguin promoted to Brigadier in Norwegian Army

Of course.

An inhabitant of Edinburgh Zoo has received an honour from the King of Norway’s Guard.

King penguin Nils Olav has been awarded the status of Brigadier and began his new post by inspecting the regiment who are in Edinburgh for the Tattoo.

This is not the first time the battalion’s mascot has been honoured.

Sir Nils was awarded a knighthood by King Harald V in 2008.

Video at the story shows the Brigadier inspecting his troops.

James Bond…Presbyterian?

Ardent Presbyterian

Ok, so this is a question no one has ever asked about James Bond:  his religious upbringing and heritage.  It is a subject raised in the latest Bond film now in theaters everywhere, when Bond returns to his ancestral home.

”Skyfall” is in fact the name of the family estate in Scotland.  It’s a dark and gloomy pile of stone, one that looks to be abandoned, but is in fact still being looked after by Kincaid, the family groundskeeper.

I have to admit, my heart skipped a beat. I had never thought of Bond as having a family, a boyhood, religious convictions of any sort.  Until now…

Of course, Bond has many Presbyterian qualities:  he’s stubborn, independent, undeterred by the enemy and he looks great in a suit.

Barricaded in the house, with the enemy closing in (I’m not really spoiling anything) there is a need for an escape route…

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Victorian Strangeness: The cyclist chased by a lion


lioncycleGreat story.

There were upsides and downsides to the day Mr DC Robertson decided to go for a spin on his bike in the countryside.

Let’s start with the plus points. He had a good run out. He got plenty of fresh air. He saw a splendid sunset. And he had an invigorating cardiovascular workout too, although that brings us neatly to the main minus – that he was chased relentlessly for two miles by a ravenous lion.

It was an August afternoon in 1898 when the Scotsman took a ride through the Malawian bush from the town of Blantyre back to his coffee plantation.

As the sun slipped down below the horizon, he turned from the main road, and joined the lane to the estate. The track had just been laid, he later recounted, and was still soft and rather lumpy, as well as being punishingly steep. These things, it would soon turn out, would become problematic.