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Draigons an Air Ships


Draigons an Air Ships

Crackin back throu auld fernyears, it is weel seen that oor forebears whiles seen cheils in the lift that thay didna readily ken. In ancient Egip, an amang the auld Greek an Chinee cultures, the’r accoonts o heevinly objects that deidlike men thocht maun come fae the gods. In Christian Europe fowk jaloused that ony orra object maun’a come either fae God or the deil an sae it is in thae ordnar terms that screivars descrived whit thay haed seen. But it is affen fickle tae tell whither the cheil descrived is the Rael Mackay – an unkent object in the lift – or whither it wis a natural ferlie miskent. In earlier ages whan maist fowk cuidna read or write, we maun lippen for the maist pairt on the screivings o the kirkmen o the day. Ane o the first o thir screivings sib tae things o the air, that haed onything tae dae wi Scotland, wis wrutten aboot the year 1420 bi the kirkman Andra o Wintoun in his Orygnale Cronykil of Scotland. Speakin anent the year AD 745 in Scotland, Wintoun wrate that:

Sternys in þe aire fleand

Wes sene, as flawis of fyre byrnand

The first nicht o Ianuare,

All þat nycht oure schyand cleire.

A flaw is a fireflaucht or lichtening, sae Wintoun here descrives objects like starns that flew aboot an haed flauchts o licht comin aff them. In coorse, Wintoun wis writin near on sax hunner year efter the date AD 745, sae we canna lippen on it as a pyntit description o thon time, but it daes shaw that tradeetions o orra lichts fleein aboot the lift wis naething new til educate fowk o 15t century Scotland. We wunner hoo mony ither sichtings, or sichtings fae auld fernyears, wis never passt on or wrutten doun? That thir things wis signs fae God wis taen for grantit, an thaim that haed maucht an rule took tent whan a ferlie kythed in the air. For ae instance, Bishop John Lesslie’s history tells us that in 1506 King Jeems IV grew thochtit at the sicht o a fiery besom in the lift:

Ane starn lyke ane comete the of August did appear, quhilk gaif greit lycht lyke ane sone beame, and continewit the space of XX daies; and thairfoir the King, be the counsell of sum godlye men, usit greit devosioun and prayer all that tyme.

Sae King Jeems, gauin bi the advice o his kirk men, hunkert doun an prayed aw the mair in the howp that the starn wad dwyne an no dae him, or his subjects, ony ill. A hunner year efter Wintoun, the weel-kent scholar Hector Boece wrate a Latin history o his hame kintra cryed Historia Gentis Scotorum (1527), an in 1536 John Bellenden set the wark o Boece fae Latin ower in Scots. In this wark, an speakin anent the Romans o the first century AD, Boece descrives orra cheils in the air ower Scotland. Bellenden pit it this wey:

Mony birnand speris war sene fleand in the air. Ane gret part of the wod of Calidon apperit birnand all nicht; howbeit na thing apperit thairof in the day. Ane flot of schippis was sene in the aire.

Sae objects that haed a look o burnin, or fiery licht, wis seen fleein aboot an even mair curious, ships in the air. Whit are we tae mak o this? A natural mirage o sea craft cast up on the cloods, or aiblins actual craft, or whit fowk took for ships fleein ben the cloods? For in thae days, hoo wad a body descrive a craft in the air but for a ship, the nearest thay haed tae compare wi. Follaein on fae this, an Inglis accoont o happenings in sindry kintras haed the follaein tae say o Scotland throu the winter o 1550:

a fiery Dragon was seen flying near the Earth, and vomiting out Fire both day and night, which continued a long time, and So affrighted the People, that they were fain to watch their Houses and Cornyards Continually, for fear they should have been burnt.

Aiblins a fiery stane fawin fae the heevens, but for a lang time? Whitever it wis, it wis kenspeckle. Efter, in the mid-16th century, nae less a body nor auld priest turnt reformer John Knox haed his ain reportit sichting. Scotland wis jist efter its releegious reform, an fowk like Knox wis on nettles that it micht be turnt back. Ony orra cheil wis taen noo as a sign o the disordert times or God’s anger at fowk no haudin tae the richt gait. Throu the winter o 1564 Knox, in his history o the times, recoontit that sic a sign wis seen:

In the moneth of Februare, the fiftein and eightein Days thairof, wer sein in the Firmament Battels arrayit, Speires, and uther Weapons, and as it had bene the joyning of two Armies: Thir Things wer not only observit, bot also spokin and constantly affirmit be Men of Jugement and Credite.

For John Knox God fasht at the daeings o Queen Mary’s coort. The 18ct an 19t century editors o Knox’s wark jaloused he haed seen the aurora borealis, but Knox wis a weel-lared man an wad’a kent whit the norland lichts wis like. This accoont haes an eerie sibness til anither ane fae Aprile 1561 whan a German braidsheet o the time descrived a wheen unkent objects ower the toun o Nuremberg – like spheres, crescents, ceelinders an spears – that flittit aboot, an focht ane anither in the air. We maun speir, did Knox see and read this accoont, an syne souk in its ideas, or did he, in actual fact, see the like jist three year efter, but ower Scotland? Whitever he seen, it wis something byordnar acause he referred us tae the ‘Men of Jugement and Credite’ or, as we micht say nooadays, credible witnesses.As sic things cam either fae God or the deil, it wis better for laymen no tae lat on for fear o the kirk authorities. This is whit wey the’r no mony reports fae thae times. Ae instance o a tube-shaped object seen in the air ower Scotland in 1590 wis reportit in a Frainch source. In this case the peasants, it is said, reportit whit thay hae seen tae the sheriff, aiblins a comment o whit body haed the burden in the first instance for speirin intae onything oot the ordnar. But, as time gaed by, throu the 16t and 17t centuries, mair fowk in Scotland learnt tae read an tae write letters, keep journals, an whiles even gie accoonts throu antrin braidsheets – the oreeginal o oor modren newspapers. Sae it isna muckle wunner that the nummer o references til orra cheils in the lift stertit tae grow as mair fowk haed the can tae report.

Ae screivar Dauvit Cauderwid, writin in the 1630’s, recawed that on 27 Januar 1616

About five afternoon there was a great fiery star, in the form of a dragon with a tail, running through the firmament, and in the running giving great light and spouting fire, which continued a pretty space before it vanished. Others describe it thus: that the night being fair and frosty, there arose a great fiery light in the south-west, after the setting of the sun, and ran to the north-east, having at the end thereof as it were the shape of the moon; and when it vanished out of sight, there were two great cracks heard, as if they had been thunder-claps.

Til oor modren een this micht be a shootin starn, tho it wis orra eneuch in shape an the wey it moved, tae mak this intry in Cauderwid’s wark. An the thunner claps that follaed on suggests whitever it wis fell tae the grund. Aw throu the distractit times o the Covenanter weirs o the 1640’s an 1650’s sindry lichts an ferlies wis reportit as signs fae heeven an bi the 1660’s a puckle mair screivars in Scotland stertit tae report an mak comment. In Februar o 1665 the journal screivar Jeems Nicoll descrived whit wis aiblins a natural starn. He said:

In the end of Februar 1665, and by the space of many dayis in that moneth, thair apperit in the cleir licht of the day, evin at the 12 hour, ane, and 2 of the clok, and also in the haill eftitnune, in fair day licht, ane fyrie blasin star in the firmament, to the sicht of numbers of pepill. This star continued and increst daylie and nychtlie thaireftir, by the space of many weekis, sumtymes having a great brugh about it like the moone.

A ‘great brugh’ or halo, the fact that it wis seen that clear in the mids o the day, an lastit that lang a time, gart fowk ferlie. It wis maist likely a natural object, giein affa byordnar licht, jist like the ane seen on 9 July 1676 an reportit bi Low in his Memorials:

A star was seen at twelve hours of the day by a great company of people who met for sermon on Gargunnock Hills, and that when the sun was shining.

Hooanever, the war maist definite sichtings that soond faur mair akin tae the descrption bi John Knox back in the 1560’s. Whit are we tae mak, for instance, o this object seen atween 11 an midnicht on ae nicht in Juin o 1676 ower Paisley:

...a great fire from the heavens, and after that a sword in the air over above the tolbooth, moving here and there, which did much amaze the beholders. They being examined by the minister and one of the bailies of that town, did depone opon oath that they saw it.

In aw, a man an fower weemen haed seen this object an cam forrit tae gie eveidence tae the meenister an ane o the bailies acause it wis that byordnar. Aince again, like Knox an the Nuremberg accoont, fowk reportit an object muckle like a wappon in shape, like swords or spears. Anither weel kent report fae thae times comes fae the screivings o John Nisbet. On the nicht o Sunday 1st throu Monanday 2 November 1685, a pairty o conventiclers on the run fae the authorities cuid see ower Eaglesham muir whit mony noo think wis a clessic UFO. Jeems Nisbet o Hardhill, an his son the said John Nisbet, wi twa-three ithers wis struck wi a byordnar object in the lift. Years efter, in 1717, in writin the accoont o his faither’s trauchles, he haed the follaein tae say anent thon nicht:

Suddenly the clouds clave asunder towards the east and west, above our heads, and there sprang out a light beyond that of the sun, which lasted above for the space of two minutes. They heard a noise, and were much amazed.

This first accoont abuin wis syne eikit til whan Nisbet wrate a bittie mair anent his ain life an threapit as follaes:

...behold suddenly by the clouds clove above our heads from the southwest to the north east and there sprung forth a light as bright as that of the sun at noon day, yea it was much more pleasant, tho’ much more amazing and astonishing, which light continued above the space of two minutes, we all heard a noise and were much [and] affraid surprized saying one to another what may this mean...

Whit Nisbet descrives here, in baith versions, is a strang licht, that he compares wi the sun, but ane that he cuid look at. No haein the can for aucht but caunle licht an bonfires in thae days the sun wis the nearest licht he cuid mak compare wi. But alang wi this byordnar licht, a licht that soonds awmaist like a fause, man-made ane, the war a noise. Nisbet didna say mair anent the nature o the noise, but it is weel seen that the soond wis that fremmit tae them that awbody grew feart.