Sunday, 27 February 2011

Nazis Attack Greenock In Search of Holy Grail!

There is a long standing local story about a Nazi U-Boat which apparently managed to enter the Clyde in the midst of World War 2. Many believe that the submarine may have carried Nazi language specialist Otto Rahn, often associated with the Third Reich’s search for biblical artefacts (and the inspiration for the bad guy with the glasses in Raiders of the Lost Ark). 

At the time of the U-Boat’s mission, Rahn was believed to be involved in looking for the Holy Grail. It is theorised that Rahn may have been entering the Clyde in order to make his way across country to Rosslyn Chapel, a church built by the Knights Templar and frequently linked with the Grail. However, if Otto Rahn's intended destination was indeed the Templar Church at Rosslyn near Edinburgh, why come in from the opposite end of the country via the heavily defended Clyde? It is entirely possible that if Otto Rahn was on the mysterious U-Boat, he fully intended to start his investigations on the West Coast. Certainly, he need not go as far east as Rosslyn to look into the mysterious Knights Templar; the area surrounding the Clyde has more than it's fair share of Templar connections.

The Knights Templar have long been regarded by some as guardians of the Holy Grail. This  mysterious sect of warrior monks was formed in the mid 10
th century by a group of nine French Knights, and during the crusades of the middle ages, their order spread quickly throughout Europe, before finally being outlawed by the Church. Records tell us that the Knights owned a lot of the land around the Clyde, most usually towns and sites associated with the ancient Celtic church.

The Renfrewshire village of Houston takes it's name from Hu's Town, after Hugo De Padvinan, an 11th Century Templar Knight who built his castle there. One theory suggests that Hugo De Pavinan of Houston was in fact Hugh De Payens, founder and leader of the Knights Templar. Certainly, the similarities between the two names are striking, and De Payens visited Scotland around the time of Houston's foundation. It is in Houston that you can also find the remains of St Peters Well, a medieval water source thought to possess magical healing properties. There is a clear link here not only to the miraculous properties of the cup of the Holy Grail, but also to the Knights Templar, who venerate Saint Peter as their patron and protector. In Houston's old church there was an oil painting representing a Templar Knight and his lady, sadly however, the accompanying inscriptions have not survived the centuries intact. It is also worth noting that the old Houston Mansion House was originally home to an Order of Cistercian Monks. The Cistercian's were the forerunners for the Knights Templar, and many of the codes subsequently adopted by the Knights were developed by the monks. Two of the original nine templar Knights actually were Cistercian monks which leads many scholars to believe that the two groups are simply the military and monastic arms of the same religious order. In latter years, the two groups shared a kinship, linked by ties of blood and patronage. So close was this bond that any Templar who was expelled from his order was required to seek sanctuary in a  Cistercian monastery in order to rehabilitate himself.

It is said that the villages of Houston, Kilbarchan and Kilmacolm form a"Golden Triangle", an equilateral triangle with the River Gryffe at the apex. At this site by the Gryffe can be found an ancient Yew Grove over six hundred years old, thought to have once been used as a place of quiet contemplation for local noblemen. Previous to this the site was associated with pagan worship and indeed the Yew tree does have religious significance with druids, particularly in connection with prophecy. Many botanists now attribute this to the fact that in warm weather, the yew produces a very mild hallucinogen, ideal for visions. (Disclaimer - attempt this at your own risk...but do feel free to mail us with any interesting results)

This Golden Triangle is typical of the "ancient geometry" utilised by the Knights Templar and other pseudo-religious sects. It is likely that Templar noblemen, knowing the sites previous ritual significance adapted in for their own purposes. There are a number of other Templar clues scattered throughout the district.  Not far from Houston is the town of Johnstone; here can be found St John's Parish Church. St John is a hugely important saint for both Freemasons and the Knights Templar, and interestingly, the town of Johnstone lies on almost exactly the same latitude of Roslin in Edinburgh; Roslin lies at 55 51.15 and Johnstone at the sacred number 55 50. The line between these two latitudes was known as the "serpent rouge" or Roseline,  an ancient meridian once used for telling the time. Similar lines can be found running through hermetic churches across France, another country rich in Templar connections. Paisley Abbey also lies on this sacred latitude and interestingly, Hugo De Padvinan appears as a witness in the abbey's foundation charter.  Templar churches are also said to have existed at Killallan, Chapeltown and Capelrig. Just outside of nearby Bishopton can be found Rossland, another clear reference to the mystical roseline, and another indicator of the level of Templar activity within the area. But the most obvious remnants of the Knights Templar are to be found in Inchinnan

Before the reformation, Inchinnan's church belonged to the Knights Templar, tradition states that it was built around 1100. Not only does this tie in with the visit to Scotland of Templar leader De Payens, but it would also mean that the church at Inchinnan predates Rosslyn Chapel. This church, latterly All Hallows Kirk was eventually demolished during the expansion of Glasgow Airport. Subsequently, a number of Templar Knights are actually buried at the Renfrew end of Glasgow Airport runway. Entrance to this Templar Cemetery now requires the permission of airport security. A number of Templar tombstones were taken from the site and moved to St Conval's Church at Inchinnan, where they can still be seen.

Another less obvious Templar connection to the Clyde was the wartime presence of the Free French. This heroic order were set up by Charles De Gaulle, who was himself apparently a member of one of  the Knights Templar's (historically questionable) modern successors The Priory of Sion. The Free French Order of the Liberation deliberately borrowed organisational elements from medieval knights, a new chivalry serving a cause and a religious ideal; the freedom of France from the invading infidel. It is for this reason that De Gaulle adopted the Cross of Lorraine as the symbol of these new crusaders. The cross, commemorated locally upon Lyle H
ill, is also the cross of the Knights Templar.

However, the Clyde's Grail connections run far deeper than associations with the Knights Templar. Many scholars believe that Dumbarton Rock, ancient court for Rhydderch Hael, King of Strathclyde may be the inspiration for the Arthurian legends of Camelot. Certainly, like Arthur, King Rhydderch was a King to the Britons, and the Welsh histories portray him as a warrior King who welded a magical sword. 
We will be looking at the West of Scotand's Arthurian links in more detail soon...

Templar Knights, Arthurian legends, sacred sites, it certainly begins to look as if Otto Rahn may indeed have had good reason to examine the Clyde in his search for the Holy Grail. Could it be that a vital Grail clue lies hidden nearby? Is there a connection to the mystical healing properties of Saint Peters Well? What secrets are buried beneath the runway at Glasgow Airport? It seems that the Clyde is just another crucial part of this esoteric puzzle, the full meaning of which is yet to be grasped. So in the meantime, its just fun to make stuff up.

It is worth noting that Rahn is often referred to as "The real Indiana Jones"...this rather misses the point that Indiana Jones was not a nazi. Magic Torch have assisted a number of Rahn historians with their researches, however, glamorous and interesting treasure hunter or not...Rahn was certainly a card carrying member of the SS...generally not considered a mark of good character. 

Read more about Otto Rahn in Fortean Times.
Read our pulp fictional account of Rahn's adventures "Blood on The Clyde" 

These diabolical dealings also form the backdrop for our comic Rowan Tree Legion...

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Massive Sea Monster Terrorises Gourock!!

Well. Sort of.

Official records show, that in the summer of 1942, the carcass of a large unidentified creature was washed up at Cardwell Bay. Council Officer Charles Rankin was sent to observe the badly decomposed remains.

“Measuring 27-28 ft. long, it had a lengthy neck, a relatively small flattened head with sharp muzzle and prominent eyebrow ridges, large pointed teeth in each jaw, rather large laterally sited eyes, a long rectangular tail that seemed to have been vertical in life, and two pairs of “L”-shaped flippers (of which the front pair were the larger, and the back pair the broader). The head was comparatively small, of a shape rather like that of a seal but the snout was much sharper and the top of the head flatter. The jaws came together one over the other and there appeared to be bumps over the eyes - say prominent eyebrows. There were large pointed teeth in each jaw. The eys were comparitively large, rather like those of a seal but more to the side of the head. Curiously, its body did not appear to contain any bones other than its spinal column, but its smooth skin bore many 6-inch-long, bristle-like ‘hairs’ - resembling steel knitting needles in form and thickness but more flexible.”

Curiously, when Rankin cut open the beasts stomach, he found “a small piece of knitted woolen material as from a cardigan” and even more bizarre, “a small corner of what had been a woven cotton tablecloth - complete with tassels”. In Rankin’s opinion, the remains were that of a huge lizard, however wartime restrictions permitted him from taking any photographs of the creature. He rang the Royal Scottish Museum in attempt to convince them to examine the creature, but the museum were not interested. Scientific examination of the creature would have been unlikely during the war years, there was simply no time for such work. Consequently, the beasts remains were hacked into pieces and subsequently buried beneath the playing fields of St Ninian's school in Gourock, where they potentially remain to this day. However, Rankin removed one of the “knitting needle” bristles from the flipper of the creature, and he kept it for many years in his desk. It eventually shriveled to resemble a finely coiled spring.

Cryptozoologists suggest that the creature may have been a basking shark or even a puffer fish, but agree that the large pointed teeth of the beast would tend to suggest it was in fact one of the carnivorous shark species. If it was indeed a carnivorous shark, then the size estimated by Rankin would actually make it one of the largest sharks ever discovered, for even Great Whites rarely exceed twenty feet in length. Rankin himself remained unconvinced by the “shark theory”.
The mystery of “The Gourock Monster” was popularised in the late seventies when the story featured in an episode of “Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World”. The Gourock section is about 3 minutes into the video. Children of the 60s and 70s may wish to view the whole episode to terrify themselves with the theme music.

You can see Clutha, the friendly river monster in our childrens book Wee Nasties

Also, over on my other blog, I've a wee fable featuring the monster

A video of the episode was on youtube for years, but has recently disappeared, new link below - Gourock part starts at about 22 minutes (though to be honest, it's all good!)

Arthur C. Clarke Mysterious World S01 E02... by kaanozten

The legend of the Gourock monster also crops up in a childrens book I've written, The Superpower Project...

With the help of a wisecracking, steampunk robot, two accidental superheroes discover that they have inherited some amazing, if unusual, abilities. Computer whiz Megan can fly (mostly sleep-flying, but she's working on it) while her best friend Cam can (in theory) transform into any animal, but mostly ends up as a were-hamster.

Together they must protect the source of their ancestral powers from a wannabe evil mastermind and his gang of industrial transformer robots who've disguised themselves as modern art installations on their Greenock estate.

It isn't easy to balance school and epic super-battles, not to mention finding time to search for other super-talents and train with their Mr Miyagi-esque were-tiger coach.Can Megan and Cam beat the bad guy, defeat his robot transformers and become the superheroes they were born to be?

The Superpower Project is available from Floris Books / Kelpies.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Child of the Dead End

In our Grand Literary Tour post a few weeks ago, we mentioned the work of Patrick MacGill, an irishman who lived in Greenock for a time, working on the railway. While working here, MacGill sold books of his poetry door to door, eventually attracting the attention of Neil Munro, author of Para Handy who set him on the road to a literary career. His most famous and critically acclaimed work was the autobiographical Children of the Dead End.

BBC Scotland showed a "docudrama" of his life and times this weekend. The programme is currently available on BBC iplayer.

Worth a wee watch.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Mermaid

Versions and variations of this shanty exist in ports all around the UK, it is believed to date from around the 1600s. In all versions, the mermaid is a portent of doom, signifying shipwreck - bad news for all the Greenock and Port boys on board, who knowing their imminent fate, spend a few moments considering what is important to them...

This version was recorded by Shelagh McKay.

Twas a Friday morn when we set sail
And our ship not far from the land
When the Captain did spy a fair pretty maid
With a comb and a glass in her hand

Oh the ocean waves may roar 
And the stormy winds may blow
While we jolly sailors go skipping to the tops
And the landlubbers lying down below, below, below
And the landlubbers lying down below

And up spake the Captain of our gallant ship
And a well spoken man was he
I have married me a wife in Greenock town
And tonight she a widow will be
Will be, will be,
An tonight she a widow will be

Then up spake the cook or our gallant ship
And a fat old cook was he
I care much more for my kettles and my pots
Than I do for the depths of the sea, the sea, the sea
Than I do for the depths of the sea

Then up spake the boy of our gallant ship
And a well spoken laddie was he
I've a father and mother in Port Glasgow town
But tonight they childless will be, will be
But tonight they childless will be

Oh the moon shines bright and the stars
For my mammy she’ll be looking for me
She may look, she may weep, she may look to the deep
She may look to the bottom of the sea, the sea, the sea
She may look to the bottom of the sea

Then three times around went our gallant ship
And Three times around went she
Then three times around went our gallant ship
And she sank to the depths of the sea
The sea, the sea
And she sank to the depths of the sea