Sunday 29 June 2008

Edinburgh , irritating ancestors and Old St Paul

Edinburgh ; " the Athens of the North" as the publicity leaflets put it . I wonder if cities suffer from insecurity complexes? Why would you want to define yourself against some other European city? It's like those northern cities that describe themselves as " the Venice of the North " because they have a few mangy canals. Edinburgh needs no comparison . It is a marvellous City ; vibrant , cultured , feisty and a very joy to behold .

Having spent a day at the RBS international HQ its good to be able to have a weekend relaxing and soaking up the Scottish air ( and drizzle ) . The RBS HQ is a joy . Set in acre after acre of glorious Scottish countryside . The lawns are manicured to perfection . So much so that when I saw 3 errant leaves I felt sorry for them . In our 21 st century it is only the Dukes of Commerce that can afford this level of luxury when the real Scottish Aristocracy are opening up their attics to flog off the last remaining dusty heirlooms. Not that I am complaining as I size up the conference venue for a forthcoming acevo international conference.

I am staying at the New Club in Edinburgh ; a veritable institution to the crusty old Scottish Establishment .It's position on Princes St is unrivalled. My room has a glorious vista of the Castle. And the swimming pool enables me to swim off the excess of a good claret. I had intended to devote Saturday to the glorious artistic heritage of this wonderful city , but I discovered the June sales in full swing .I was distracted into Harvey Nicks in St Andrews Sq . Half price D+G and Paul Smith . In the end I find myself tempted by a beautiful Italian summer suit . A bargain . Now I realise shopping in Harvey Nicks is probably incompatible with a passion for social justice ( Mr Prog Manager where are you - no comments for a week ; come on now ) but I'm enjoying myself.

And then it is back to culture. I go to visit HMY Britannia .What a splendid sight . But moored next to Debenhams it somehow feels it has lost some of the magic. I last saw Britannia when I was in Hong Kong for the Handover . My banker cousin and family were leaving their brilliant house atop Victoria Peak and coming home in advance of the Chinese .Ii wanted to be there to see the historic end . So I watched Britannia sail away with the last Governor and Prince Charles .The previous day I had been at the last Communion service in the chapel in the Prince of Wales Barracks and went with the Priest to take the communion plate to a Chinese Anglican parish . But I digress.

The evening was at the Opera. The Scotish Opera were preforming Falstaff , Verdi's last Opera . It was great , though I could not help feeling envious of Stuart Etherington at Don Carlo at the ROH. I did not bother to text him to say I was at Falstaff , even in Edinburgh ! From the Opera I meet up with my Deputy ,Dr Kyle and partner and we go off in search of entertainment . Which we find Photo evidence will shortly appear .

Sunday is the feast day of Ss Peter and Paul and I go to Mass at the lovely church of Old St Paul's just off the Royal Mile. It was founded when the Bishop of Edinburgh, Alexander Rose was thrown out of his Cathedral of St Giles by the wretched John Knox and the dour pressbies in 1689. The Episcopalians remained loyal to their Sovereign Stewart Kings and the congregation of St Paul's played heroic roles in the risings against the Hanoverian.

In 1692 the Presbyterian religion took over and there was great persecution of the Episcopal Church . In that year my Great Grandfather x 6 , The Rev William Somerville was ejected from his living in the Scottish town of Carnforth in Galloway .William was the great grandson of the 6th Baron Somerville , one of the ancient Scottish families who fought for their Stewart kinsmen . He refused to abjure his oath to his Sovereign and was forced from the country .He took his wife and 2 sons and daughter to Ireland where he continued his Ministry . His son Thomas Somerville , my Great Grandfather x 5 was to become the Vicar of Union Hall where many years later my mother was born and baptised in the lovely Church of Ireland Parish Church there.

So I feel at home in Old St Paul's . The Mass for their title day is High Pomp .
Procession in streets , clouds of incense, choral Mass to setting by Herbert Howells and a sermon by the former Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus , Richard Holloway .It's a splendid sermon . He talks of St Paul as a , " driven and deeply irritating man " . I think now that's a leadership model to which I aspire. I suspect my ancestor William was like that . Refusing to kow tow to the Presbyterians and suffering for his principles. But he was probably driven and deeply irritating. Perhaps you inherit the irritating gene? I wonder what my staff think ? So I pray for my Somerville forebears who must have heard of the setting up of Old St Paul's back in 1689 .

Then as it is a Feast Day it is only right and proper to celebrate with a glass of champagne in the unusual Scottish sun sitting along George St before heading for the plane. Somehow I know the Presbyterians would not approve.

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