Back to the work bench now after a two week tour of the British Isles. We started out in London, Sue and I, with our sons Donald and Stephen, daughter Maggie and her husband Eric. We had a lovely dinner with a medieval Celtic metalwork expert friend who invited us all to her home.
The Walker family from left to right: Sue, Maggie, Eric, Stephen, Steve, and Donald.
The boys spent Saturday at the Chelsea/Everton football match. A great Premier League game that ended in a draw. I spent the weekend at a conference on the Celtic Revival held at the British Museum while the ladies had a leisurely weekend on the town.
The conference was in conjunction with a feature exhibit at the British Museum called “Celts; art and identity," which was well attended by top scholars and researchers. It was a thrill to me that two of the speakers told me that they had read my book, “The Modern History of Celtic Jewellery”. On Monday we went to the British Museum as a family and saw the exhibit and spent most of the day seeing the many incredible displays that are there.
Steve and Sue Walker at The British Museum.
Later in the week we took the train North to Scotland. There had been some snow earlier in the week, so the Borders were especially picturesque. Getting into Glasgow we stayed with our friends the Caldwells. Russell Caldwell is a fine Celtic jeweler, whose work was being sold at the British Museum during the Celts exhibit mentioned above.
Sue Walker with Russel Caldwell.
Thursday we all headed to Edinburgh for the day. I had an appointment with the curator at the national Museum of Scotland to examine an electrotype impression of an 8th century Pictish brooch. This brooch was copied by the museum in 1888, but somehow the private owner managed to lose the original! The plan is to make a copy using the original technique of carving a mold in plaster and casting it in silver. This would serve as a demonstration of how these early Celtic smiths worked. The brooch is known as the Banchory Brooch, after the location it was found in the 19th century. My great-grandfather George Watt was born in Banchory, which is in Aberdeenshire.
Steve Walker examining the Banchory Brooch.
While in Scotland we went to an excellent concert at the Celtic Connections festival. The concert was students and faculty of the Gaelic College on North Uist, Outer Hebrides, singing, playing pipes, fiddles and other instruments.
Maggie and the boys all headed back to the US on the weekend, but not until after we all went to another football match. We saw the Celtics play St. Johnston at Parkhead. (Celtics 3 – Saints 1). Sue and I stayed on for business. We went to a giftware show at the Glasgow SECC and placed a few orders for the shop.
Steve, Sue, Stephen, and Donald Walker at a Celtics game.
The Caldwell’s served us a supper of haggis, neeps and tatties in honor of Rabbie Burns Day, which is an iconic occasion to be in Scotland. But business called and we had to take leave of their fine hospitality and head to Dublin for another trade show and museum visit.
Steve Walker examining the Cross of Cong.
With only three days and two nights in Dublin we managed to shop for more interesting stock for the shop as well as give the 12th century Cross of Cong a good look over, with a tentative plan to do some experimental reproduction work to discover how the openwork interlace panels might have been crafted. We were very pleased to meet some new craftsmen at the trade fair and also to catch up with old friends. We had a delightful dinner at Captain America with silversmith Aidan Breen and plotted a revival of the Modern History of Celtic Jewelry exhibit for Andover this coming March.
Aidan Breen and Sue Walker eating dinner at Captain America.
It was yet another exciting vacation for the family, as well as a successful trip for our business and scholarly pursuits. It's always so nice to meet up with other Celtic scholars and craftsmen, and the whole family thanks the folks of the British Isles for the warm hospitality extended to us at every stop. We're looking forward to our next trip abroad, but for now we're happy to be home and back to routine.
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August 1st marks Lughnasadh. This festival signifies the ending of summer and the beginning of fall, a the start of the harvest season. And just as Lughnasadh has been celebrated for centuries, the symbols used in our handcrafted Celtic jewelry here at Walker Metalsmiths have also been part of Celtic history since ancient times.