BUT FIRST, THE STORY OF SEAN AND THE SHEEP-KNAPPERS
|Sean the Sheep
There was just something about that goofy little face. The instant I adopted Sean the Sheep in Wales, he became the rock star of our tour group—loved, admired and even coveted by a sinister few….
“Did Sean sleep well last night?” I was frequently asked as we boarded the bus each day.
“What did Sean think of York (or the Abbey, or the Museum, or Yorkshire pudding)?” asks others anxious for his opinion.
Then there was Chuck who was more interested in Sean’s private life, “Well, have you fixed Sean up with any ewes yet?”
It must have been his pure animal magnetism that infected 22 mature adults with a sort of sheep mania. They each became doggedly determined to find a “Sean” of their own. Every gift shop between Wales and York was fallen upon by our frenzied group searching for Sean look a-likes, but there were none to be had. Did I buy the only googly-eyed doorstop in England? In resignation, Paula finally decided on a stuffed lamb while Brenda, the least maniacal of the group, bought a sheep shaped cookie and promptly ate it.
|Brenda--she's only a carnivore with cookies!
And then Sean began to disappear. If Larry couldn’t have a Sean of his own, mine, it seems, was fair game. He recruited his older brother Steve to join him in a highly organized sheep snatching syndicate. They became the diabolical duo: Larry would do the snatching while Steve would slip ransom notes into my purse when I wasn’t looking, demanding….what, I wasn’t really sure.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN(S)
(Son of) SEAN THE SHEEP IS BEING HELD. DO NOT BE ALARMED. HE IS HAPPY BEING GIVEN GRASS & BEER TO KEEP HIM HAPPY. SINCE IT WOULD BE VERY UPSETTING TO SEAN, THIS NOTE IS BEING SENT TO YOU TO EFFECT HIS RELEASE! THIS IS NOT A JOKE. WE WILL CONTACT YOU LATER
HAVE A GOOD DAY
THE SHEEP KIDNAPPERS
But, it was the second note that was particularly alarming:
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
DEAR MS. CONCERN
WE THE KIDNAPPERS OF SEAN THE SHEEP R GETTING TIRED & IMPATIENT OF WAITING FOR THE REPLY TO OUR OFFER TO RELEASE (him). IF WE DO NOT HEAR FROM YOU BEFORE MIDNIGHT-A FORTNITE-HE WILL BECOME X-MAS BABY LAMB CHOPS FOR PURIM DINNER-TO BE EATEN UP WITH HAGGIS-THE TRADITIONAL PURIM DINNER. PLEASE DO NOT ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN.
YOUR FRIENDLY SHEEPNAPPERS
Thankfully Sean was never served up with haggis (a traditional Scottish dish made with organ meat--not very tasty or Jewish for that matter)! He was always returned by these loveable brothers shortly after being “knapped” and no worse for wear except for the wet, sloppy kisses planted on his nose by Larry. But, Sean didn’t seem to mind.
|The loveable Sheep Knappers, Steve (L) and Larry (R) with Sean the First. (Sean's in the middle.)
Thanks, Guys for the wonderful memories!
I was a little sad when we drove out of Shap and the Lake District early the next morning knowing that we were on the last leg of our grand gallop around England. We would be on the road most of the day headed for Edinburgh, our final destination, but we would make a few stops prior to that along the way. The first was the ruins of the Lanercost Priory in Cumbria. The Priory, or religious residence, was built in 1169 as an Augustine monastery and is an English Heritage Site. We only stayed long enough at the Priory to take some pictures and then drove on down the road a few miles to see the big attraction of the day, Hadrian’s Wall.
|One of the doors in Lanercost Priory.
I really shouldn’t have been surprised because after all, the Romans ruled the country for 400 years. There would have naturally been a lot of pots, pans and columns left behind. But, it was Hadrian’s Wall that captured the full legacy of Roman rule over Britain for me. Once I touched the weathered stone wall and saw how it snaked across the miles of fields, I finally understood the scope of Roman dominance.
How and why had the massive wall been built? The Romans had claimed land as far up as Aberdeen, Scotland but had to fight constant battles for it with the ferocious Picts that lived there. They were an ancient people who had called that land their home for thousands of years and they weren’t going to give it up easily. When Emperor Hadrian came to the throne in 117AD he decided that the empire needed securing not expanding and ordered an 80 mile fortified wall built across what we know now as northern England.
The wall measured 10’ wide and 15’ tall was 80 miles long with a rampart along the top. At every mile marker, a small fort was built consisting of a kitchen and barracks and between the forts, were two observation towers. Along with the smaller forts, 17 larger ones were also incorporated into the wall equipped with gates. For 400 years it stood as a formidable barrier between the warring Picts from the north and disgruntled Britons from the south. Much of the stonework has been pillaged over the centuries but enough is left for us easily impressed tourists to take a picture in front of so we were happy!
|Some of what's left of the 80 miles of Hadrian's Wall.
|Sean sitting on Hadrian's Wall looking nostalgically over the valley below.
Gretna Green is the Las Vegas of Scotland. It lies right on the border between England and Scotland and is the place to go for a “quickie” marriage, no questions asked. 5,000 people are married there every year including one out of six Scottish couples. And, it’s all because in 1754 a law was passed in England and Wales stating that if a parent objected to a child under 18 getting married, they could prevent it. However, the law did not affect Scotland. Back then, boys 14 and girls 12 could get married with or without consent. Not only that, Scottish law allowed that practically anybody had the authority to conduct the ceremony! All the couple had to do was declare their intention of marrying before two witnesses, then grab the first person that came along to do the deed, and voila! Here comes the bride! There were a couple of famous blacksmith shops doubling as wedding chapels that did bang up business for centuries.
We stopped just long enough to take some pictures of Sean with a very obliging Scottish bag piper and buy some souvenirs. Then it was back on the road to our final destination, Edinburgh.
Next time: Edinburgh