A Fortunate Alternate

Rosyth, Scotland, United Kingdom, September 6, 2017:  Rosyth is a former Royal Navy base, now a privatized port.  It’s just up the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital.  While it’s no longer a military base a huge carrier “The Prince of Wales” is being built in her yards.

I was feeling badly enough last night that we decided to not set an alarm and to pull the drapes (something we seldom do, we like being awakened by natural light) and I would sleep in for as long as I could.  Rosyth has a high dock and it was low tide so the ship unloaded on our deck.  We were awakened by the noise of disembarking cruise mates and the sound of a piper welcoming them off the ship.

We had no tour plans but had intended to go into Edinburgh to wander a bit and re-acquaint ourselves with the place.  But when I woke up I didn’t feel up to getting on a bus to take me to the train that would take me to the city.  It would be about a 50-minute trip each way and I was tired.

But I couldn’t see spending the day on the ship sleeping, and besides I needed cough syrup.  The town of Dunfermline, close by, was offering a free shuttle bus.  It would not take long and I could get back to the ship quickly if I needed to rest.  It turned out to be an excellent choice.

Helen is a local host who talked to us while we rode in on the bus.  She is a delight.  She told us about the history of the town, the capital of Scotland before Edinburgh, the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie (“We have a Carnegie library AND Carnegie Hall” and a museum, and his humble birthplace and…)  She told of how when they built the shipyard they made nice housing for the workers.  When she was first married she had a nice townhouse for £4 a month!                                                              She said the town had two theaters, with all the latest shows from London and Edinburgh at a fraction of the cost, restaurants, shopping and a great park “The Glen” which was far nicer to stroll in than the Royal Mile.  I got the feeling that she didn’t much like big cities but she loved her small town.  She is an engaging story teller and conversationalist.  It would have been worth the trip even without the cough syrup.

We were let off near the town’s high street near a pharmacy, and fine Guild Hall and Linen Exchange and a beautiful town hall.  Helen is not an outlier there are lots of friendly people here.  One woman stopped us on the high street to welcome us to her town.  She was so glad we were here and we mustn’t miss a walk through “The Glen.”  Then she looked at the skies and said “Well perhaps that’s another day.”  There were all sorts of quirky signs.  I mean, would you hire the Macbeth law firm to represent you?

But the highlight of the town is the Dunfermline Abbey, founded in 1128 on the site of an even earlier monastery.  It became a Benedictine Abby dedicated to St. Margaret of Scotland.  Over the years it collected Important relics of St. Margaret and remains of Scottish Kings, like Robert the Bruce.

From the outside, it looks larger than it does from the inside.  From the outside it looks Romanesque, on the inside it looks like early 19th Century British Gothic Revival.  A women at the information desk explained.  “During the reformation John Knox didn’t much like the Abbey so he ordered it burned, but the brothers put out the fire before it destroyed the whole abbey.  They saved the back bit.”  That was in 1560.  In 1570 the nave, the part the brothers saved, became the parish church of Dunfermline.  In the early 1800s the church outgrew the nave and the rest was rebuilt on the foundations of the old, destroyed, abbey.  The older nave served as a vestibule for the new church in which, the woman at the desk said, “The poor people could worship while the rich were closer to the altar in the new church.” Which is not my understanding of “What would Jesus do?”  I will never understand Calvinism.

Some of the important graves and relics were moved to the new section, including the grave of Robert the Bruce.  As the congregation shrunk the old section became part of the Abbey museum while the new section is the parish church.   While Robert the Bruce is in the new section, the old section has a 1970s stained glass window commemorating him.  A plaque at the back of the church lists all the head ministers since 1570.  The current minister Mary Ann R. Rennie is the first woman to hold that position.

Both sides of the Abbey are interesting in their own ways.  The old part has an odd optical illusion, the pillars are grooved in ways that make them look tapered while they really are the same circumference all the way from bottom to top.  The old part is lit in a way to show off the clearstory in a pleasing light even on such a dreary day.

After a few hours in Dunfermline I ran out of steam before walking in the Glen, visiting Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Museum and the Carnegie Birthplace.   So, we hopped onto Helen’s bus.  She decided we needed a closer look at the Forth Bridges so stopped at North Queen’s Ferry, the base of the earliest bride, the 1890 steel cantilever bridge, for a closer look, and to hear the trains rumbling above, on the way to Edinburgh.

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