We’re entering the second week of this year’s History Festival. What makes this event special is the way in which it blends expert knowledge with trips to the places where history was made, the way in which it takes history out of the classroom and into bookshops and tearooms, galleries and theatres.
Tomorrow for instance (Tuesday the 19th), there’s a special event to celebrates the war poets of Craiglockhart. Now part of Edinburgh Napier University. the campus started life in 1880 as a Hydropathic establishment where the wealthy could take fashionable water treatments. However, it took on a completely different role during the First World War when it was turned into a hospital for officers suffering from shell-shock (what we’d now call PTSD). And in the summer of 1917, the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen met there. The University has a small special collection of material covering the history of Craiglockhart and Catherine Walker, its curator, will host a guided visit and talk about the many interesting characters who have had links with the place over the years.
On Wednesday, you can travel back in time to experience the classrooms of the Victorian era. The Victorian Schoolroom is located in Leith Walk Primary School and when ‘pupils’ can go through an hour long lesson using Victorian-style slates and slate pencils, old fashioned pens and ink from ink wells. The events are led by experienced, volunteer role-play teachers – corporal punishment however is NOT on today’s menu!
The historian Billy Kay is leading two discussions on his favourite topics – Scottish nationalism and wine! Earlier this year, he produced and presented a series for BBC Radio Scotland on the history of Scottish nationalism. ‘The Cause’ ranged from the identity forged in the Wars of Independence, through the radicalism of the 19th century, to the dramatic transformation of the SNP from a small, marginalised “sect” to a dynamic political machine capable of winning two elections and a referendum.
Much longer ago, Billy wrote a fascinating book on what he genuinely believes should really be regarded as “Scotland’s other drink” – Claret! Though made in Bordeaux from grapes not girders, claret once linked Scotland with France, so closely that it was known as the “Bloodstream of the Auld Alliance.” Billy looks at the fascinating history of the Scots involvement with not just claret but also other great wines of the world. Both events will be held at the Adam House Theatre in Chambers Street.