Ahh, summertime! It’s the perfect time for strawberry ice cream, for peach bowle, for spending lazy days outside, and for going on vacation.
In the summer of 1839 this meant for a lot of people to go to Scotland because a young Scottish lord, the Earl of Eglinton, was hosting a medieval tournament on his estate in Ayrshire. He and a group of his friends donned medieval armor in order to joust like knights of old. The event drew several ten thousands of people to the Scottish countryside – and caused unspeakable traffic jams in the area around Eglinton Park. And because everybody was to come in costume, the coaches all over the country were piled high with boxes, parcels, and packages of all sizes.
In Edinburgh, a reporter for Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine, ready to embark upon his journey, was utterly astonished by the amount of luggage – and he was not the only one:
Arriving at the office in Prince’s Street a little before the hour at which [the coach] should have started, we were astonished at the immense pile of luggage which we saw heaped on the street in order to be packed upon the carriage. When Mr. Croal, the coach-proprietor, came up, he was so much appalled by the sight, that, apologising for the delay which he must inevitably occasion, he informed us that he must send back the coach to the yard, and get out a stronger one, that might be more certainly able to bear such a load without risk of breaking down.
When this more potent vehicle arrived, any impatience that might have been excited in us by the delay, was subdued by the interest which we could not help taking in the ingenuity which the coachman and his assistants displayed in packing and piling the various articles in and upon it; till I, and my companion, and two officers of our acquaintance, who had all of us placed ourselves comfortably on the hinder seats, could no longer see those in front, even when we stood up to try to do so. We felt some comfort in thinking that the superior construction of coaches, now-a-days, admits of this being done with more safety than was formerly the case.
Besides all the ordinary kinds of trunks, portmanteaus, band-boxes, and carpet-bags, which are usually attendant upon a coach full of passengers inside and outside, there were innumerable white deal boxes of all manner of shapes and sizes. Most of them were ingeniously suspended like sausages on strings all around the carriage; and, to crown all, on the very top perched a wicker cage, containing a great, long-legged, large-bodied, awkward-looking pair of Chittagong fowls, belonging to an Indian who had a seat in the interior. The cock not only seemed to know that he was going to the Tournament as well as other people, but to think that he was to be triumphant there; for much to the amusement of all who beheld him […] he crowed away so loudly that he brought some of the sleepy citizens of Prince’s Street, in their night-caps, from their beds to their windows, to wonder at so unwonted a summon.
My latest release THE BRIDE PRIZE is set against the backdrop of the Eglinton Tournament, and my hero and heroine are among the people travelling to Scotland in August 1839. Click below to listen to an excerpt.
And there is even more!
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