Monday, 31 December 2012

A Singular Circumstance

So, before leaving  behind the Album for the Cupar Antiquarian and Literary Society 1840 it might be worth a recap of the somewhat convoluted route my research took, and why I though it worthwhile.

The obituary for Milne’s father, Rev GG Milne, stated that he was a keen antiquarian, which lead me to the aforementioned album. Among the relatively small number of entries in the album were two which were definitely connected to Milne Snr. The second of these was a report of a public debate on the origin of archaeological finds discovered near Largoward, Fife. This in turn lead me to James Graham-Campbell’s  paper about the ‘Norrie’s Law’ dig which referenced JM Leighton’s 1840 book History of the County of Fife

 Following up on this I read Leighton’s chapter on Cupar which covered legends connected with the Milne’s family home, Carslogie House. These legends, apparently made famous by Sir Walter Scott, involved the ‘Clephane Horn’ which was sounded to rally troops affiliated to the previous occupants of Carslogie, the Clephanes. Leighton also noted that the Clephane family had, at some undetermined point, been gifted, by some undetermined monarch, a steel hand: a metal prosthetic made to compensate a member of the Clephanes who had lost such a limb in the service of the King in question.

With me so far?

As I mentioned previously, the Antiquarian’s album was by and large incomplete. In fact after flicking through several empty pages I nearly put the book down believing that there was no more to see. However, my perseverance paid off when, on the very last page, I spotted a few more cuttings- most of which concerned reports of stock shares.

No information about who had included any of these or why, but this one in particular caught my eye.

 The inclusion of such a small cutting pertaining to such an obscure story as reported, initially, in the Elgin Courant may seem a little odd but I believe the interest in this ‘Singular circumstance’ can be attributed to the Rev. Milne. I say this for two reasons; firstly Milne was, demonstrably, interested in archaeology and secondly he was born in Keith, Banffshire not far from Ballindaloch.

From these articles then we have references to tales which concern ancient and mysterious civilizations (Picts),  advanced technology (the steel hand), literary connections (via Sir Walter Scott) and, potentially, subterranean suspended animation (the unearthed toad) not to mention the aspect of wireless audio communication (the Clephane Horn). Any one of these could be viewed as fodder for an aspiring science fiction writer and I believe that Robert Duncan Milne may well have incorporated several of these aspects into what was perhaps his most famous, or indeed most infamous story, Ten Thousand Years in Ice.

First published 14 January 1889 (available to read here: Ten Thousand Years in Ice is a first-person account of “how a prehistoric man was resuscitated from a frozen state” and caused something of a sensation when it was translated for publication in Hungary, something I’ll look at in more detail in my next entry.

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