[MR] A brief brush with history

Elspeth Payne via Atlantia atlantia at seahorse.atlantia.sca.org
Wed Apr 8 06:52:34 PDT 2015

Lord Mungo's mention yesterday of the Lord Lyon of Arms reminded me of my brief brush with history in the late 90's. 
I lived in Denver and danced for the Denver Pipes and Drums. The drum major is worthy of stories in his own right - he was a craftsman and an artist in several media. You know how Dewar's has a Scottish Pipe Major on their label? He's that Pipe Major. He led their pipe band for something like 15 years, and the current illustration is of him. But back to our regularly scheduled...
At that time, the Lord Lyon's chain of office had been missing for more than three hundred years. There are portraits including it, so we have a fair idea of what it used to look like, and you can track when the Lord Lyon started wearing borrowed chains for ceremonial occasions.
So there was a movement...St. Andrew's Societies all over the world contributed certain sums to buy the gold, and our Pipe Major crafted a new chain, as close to the original as possible. The square links (about 2.5-3" square if I recall) alternated, two different patterns, and on the back of each was the name of the St. Andrew's chapter that had donated the money for that link. On the end was a set of enameled medallions, ending in an oval one (4" long?) that I remember as having a monk on it. The Pipe Major made those, too. The total was a loop a bit more than six feet long (that's not laid out straight, that's looped) of solid gold with enamel medallions on one end. He brought a couple of the links and the finished final medallion to practice one night - that's all of it I ever saw in person.
Our Pipe Major put the finished product in a locking briefcase and sat through an overnight flight to London with it on his lap (he said no handcuffing it on though). Customs wanted to see what was in the case, and he immediately demanded a private room (this was before a lot of people even knew there were private rooms). He said he turned the case toward the Customs guard and opened it, and watched the man's eyes bug out and jaw drop. Of course, he landed very early in the morning, and went directly do-not-stop-do-not-collect-$200 to the Scottish Embassy in London.  The nice young man holding down the front desk tried to tell him the ambassador would be in later, he could meet with him then, so he gave the young man the same presentation that he did on the Customs guard. He had the ambassador very quickly, who took the case from him right away and gave him a receipt.
The case was sent via diplomatic courier to Edinburgh. My friend took a more leisurely route. He was allowed to attend the "investment" of the chain - I remember looking at the pictures and being amazed at how many velvet and ermine-trimmed cloaks could be in one ceremony, and how far the chain hangs down the  back - I had no idea those things were as long in the back as in the front.  
And just think, when the Lord Lyon's portrait is painted three hundred years from now, he could be wearing that very chain. Isn't that cool?
Thanks for letting me ramble on sharing this. If there are any errors in the story, they are entirely due to my own faulty memory after so many years (and not being a principal in this story). Sorcha Crowe

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