JOURNAL., Various Contributors (Jul., 1895), pp.402-404.

“STIRLING has been getting a new post office, and the occasion has produced a pleasant little memorial, in the shape of a handy reprint for private circulation, of a History of Stirling Post Office from the earliest times, which recently appeared in the Stirling Sentinel. Beginning with an interesting sketch of the early postal system – if system it could be called – prevalent until the 17th century was far advanced, the booklet traces from the records of the burgh, subsequent to the Restoration, the formal institution of the “common post,” whose main duty at first was the conveyance of the news letters from Edinburgh; narrates incidents and extracts passages descriptive of the improvements introduced in 1708, and of their development within a few years into a regular post office; and gives brief biographical notices of the succession of postmasters who, often “characters” in their way, have done duty down to the present time. The local story was worth telling, and is succinctly presented. Woodcuts of the post offices – the old ones and the new – record pictorially the same lesson of progress as the text.”

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“ONLY once in a while does the Nineteenth Century indulge itself in Scots antiquities. Recently Mr. J. J. Jusserand, whose facile pen has done justice to so many picturesque aspects of mediaeval life, described from an unpublished MS. In the National Library at Paris an ambassador’s journey to this country and sojourn there in 1435 and 1436. Maître Regnault Girard, Knight, was (albeit unwillingly) the ambassador in question. He would fain have found a substitute, but King Charles VII. would not allow him to perform his duties by deputy. The journey was not without adventurous incident, and the article is good reading. Still the side-lights are minor. Rolling stones gather no moss, and hasty tourists and unwilling ambassadors, whether in the fifteenth century or the nineteenth, are neither of them likely, from their conditions, to pick up a large body of authentic, historical information. Withal, however, the French ambassador is most agreeable company.”

*     *     *     *     *

“SOME time ago, Dr. Macdonald was kind enough to write to us as follows:

The excavations at Birrens referred to in last issue have been vigorously carried on, but are not yet finished. Trenches have been driven through the ditches and intervening ramparts on the north and the great rampart that still surrounds the fort, on its north, east, and west sides. The construction of these defences, which is somewhat peculiar, has been ascertained. Though mostly composed of clay, the output, in part at least, of the trenches, the ramparts, especially those on the east and west side, are also partly covered with lines of stonework. In addition, a wide trench has been dug through the interior from north to south and the gateways have been opened up. Without plans and sections it is impossible to give within a short space an intelligible account of the operations. It must suffice to state in a word that ruins or foundations of numerous structures of some kind or other have been met with. Except at one place, to be noted immediately, the stones are for the most part undressed though many of them have been quarried in the neighbourhood, advantage having been taken of the natural cleavage of the rock. Some, on the other hand, are round stones or boulders of various sizes. Drains at different depths, some running out from, and others in front of, the ramparts, have been discovered; and layers of charcoal at different levels also occur. Towards the south the foundations of an important building have just been exposed. It ran from east to west. The wall is well built in courses of dressed rubble duly bonded, with a regular footing at each side and buttresses at regular intervals. As yet only one wall has been met with. Not far from where the roads, which must be supposed to have run from north to south and from east to west, crossed each other, large square stones have been met with, carefully laid and forming what may have been a paved court-yard. These are being carefully followed. Among the “finds” is a great quantity of broken pottery of ancient date and of various kinds and sizes. There are numerous fragments of Samian ware; large pieces of amphorae, made of the usual coarse whitish clay, and pieces of pottery has been met with in greatest abundance inside and at the foot of the north rampart, but it occurs in the other ramparts, as well as sparingly in the interior. There are also querns, tiles, broken glass of a bluish-green colour, the lower part of a freestone slab on which had been carved in relief the figure of Victory, the socket of a gate-post, and a number of other stones and articles that will be taken care of. All, or most of these, along with the pottery, belong to the Roman or Romano-British period. The Fort, for such it was and not a Camp, has evidently been often and much disturbed, and the appearances it now presents are difficult to account for. Various questions are suggested by the excavations, on of them being, Has there been only one or has there been more than one occupation of Birrens? In other words, Are its ruined buildings, its ramparts and its ditches, the work of one people – the Romans of course – or of different peoples? If of the latter, what share have the Romans had in their construction? Those anxious to obtain information on the subject will await with some interest the report on the excavations which is, no doubt, to be laid in due time before the Society that is bearing the cost.

[Since Dr. Macdonald wrote he has had the satisfaction of helping materially towards the answer of his own questions by unearthing still more important facts than those above chronicled – facts which will go to make the excavations at Birrens take foremost rank among the documents for the history of Romano-British Scotland. The report cannot fail to be of the highest value and interest.]”

*     *     *     *     *

“A CONTRIBUTOR of ours who in varied folklore wanderings had invaded fairyland to good purpose, and has made the subject of the little people’s homes and haunts in a great measure his own, has sent us a reprint of an article on the Origin of the Irish Superstitions regarding Banshees and Fairies, communicated to the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. It is from the pen of the late Mr. Herbert Hore, whose papers have come into the possession of Mr. David MacRitchie, the contributor referred to, who edits and annotates it. It appears to have been written not later than 1844, and manifests a strong liking for the view that the first fairies were a Pictish people, “the auld Pechts that held the country lang syne.” Mr. Hore had thus in some measure forestalled Mr. MacRitchie, whose analogous opinion is a well-known and attractive hypothesis. Speaking of Mr. Hore, Mr. MacRitchie says, “His view of the origin of the fairies will be seen to correspond very closely with the opinions to which I have myself given expression; and I may be permitted to point out as an interesting, and it may be a significant, fact that, while the train of thought followed by Mr. Hore and by myself is almost identical, his collection of notes ante-dates my own by fully thirty years, and neither theorist knew of the existence of the other.” ”

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