Saturday, 20 September 2008

The 'Amen' Glass

Apart from the Snapper who took this photo, I am grateful to Matthew Martin, Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts & Antiquities at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia who supplied information on this fabulous wineglass. The information on the label for the glass is as follows: England. The Morton Amen glass, circa 1745. Glass (diamond-point engraved). 17.2 x 8.5 cm diameter. Presented by the William and Margaret Morgan Endowment, 1973. (Accession Number) D110-1973.

Mr Martin wrote to say this..."One of two Jacobite "Amen" glasses in the NGV's collections, so-called because they are engraved in diamond-point with verses of the Jacobite version of the Royal Anthem "God save the King", concluding with the word 'Amen". The example in your photo is the so-called "Morton" Amen glass and dates to c.1745. The engraving also includes the royal cipher JR (Jacobus Rex) and the crown." The Jacobites wanted to perpetuate the Stuart succession to the British throne. The key verse on the glass was probably this...

Grant us one favour more,
The King James VII and II to restore,
As Thou hast done before Charles II in 1660,
The Familie.

As for this glass, well here's a tale. It seems that there was once a lovely young woman called Catriona. She was tall, dark haired and dark-eyed, with a ready smile for those she loved and a stern look for those she did not. She lived a long time ago in the wilds of the Scottish Highlands with a herd of Highland cows, those shaggy long-haired beasts with long horns but mostly peaceful dispositions. After both her parents died, it is said that a Campbell tried to force her into marriage, but he disappeared and never returned. Catriona was called a witch for that, but the Highland folk knew that she was not.

"The Campbells are too young too listen to their grandams," Gordon McTavish declared in the village inn.

"What would they gain from the words of old women, McTavish?" a young gentleman asked.

He was a stranger but the folk were kind enough to him for all that. They had come to know that he meant no harm and that was enough for them. Now, in the old inn by the open fire, the logs crackling in the grate and the young gentleman a little tipsy with beer, McTavish did not take offence. Nor did anyone else for they'd all been drunk and careless in their talk.

"Well sir, if the Campbells asked their grandams or even one of us, they'd know that Catriona is protected by the fay. Indeed, as her mother was one of the fair folk, she's half fay and half human. The fay, like us, don't take kindly to folks who threaten their own."

The other villagers agreed and the young gentleman gazed into the fire wondering. He'd a mind to see the young lady for he was new to this world of such things. Magic was not something he'd seen in Edinburgh. Oh there was sleight of hand for sure, but not the wild magic of the land as there was here. He'd been told of it when he'd arrived and he'd felt its presence around him. In Edinburgh he would have laughed at such things, but not here. He was growing up fast, he told himself, the highlands was a magical place and woe to anyone fool enough not to recognise it.

"I should like to meet with her," he said softly, "I have never met anyone who had a fay for a mother."

McTavish sat up and glanced around at the other men. They shook their heads pityingly at the young gentleman.

"Perhaps in the morning, when you've had a bit of sleep, eh lad?" he said gently.

The young gentleman looked up almost detecting a patronising tone, but saw only kindness in the man's eyes.

"Ay well, it is getting late," he answered, drinking down the rest of his beer and staggering away to his room.

The following morning however, the conversation of the previous night had not left his mind. He had his breakfast and asked for McTavish's house. The landlord gave him directions and he strode off out of the village and for the highlands. The day was bright, tho' clouds drifted across the high, wide sky trailing their shadows across the landscape. The young gentleman traipsed contentedly through the long grasses and the heather with its honeyed scent and the pretty little flowers of pink and purple. Occasionally clumps of gorse, their dark leaves dotted with the bright yellow of their flowers meant he had to change his direction. But the morning was cold and crisp and he felt lively and happy.

As he walked, he sang an innocent enough ditty about love. He came upon a small valley and stood at the top of the ridge and gazed about him. The landscape was green and grey, the sky was high and intensely blue and the land rose and fell like some kind of sea whose peaks and troughs are stilled as they are. The beauty of it staggered him. He felt utterly tiny in this broad, glorious landscape. As he turned back to the valley with a smile upon his face he saw a young woman sitting upon the slope. Her hair was long, her foot was light and her eyes were somehow wild. She did not wear a tartan, unlike the highlanders he'd seen, but a long kirtle* of green and a shawl as red as holly or rowan berries. When he took a step forward to the slope, she turned her head and looked at him. He felt a sudden pang of fear for a moment as if something wild were looking at him.

"What do you here?" she asked softly.

The young gentleman stopped and bowed. He told her that he was looking for McTavish's house, for he'd a mind to see Catriona and to take her a gift. He wondered if McTavish knew what she'd like.

"Oh, and are you after a wedding the lass, sir?" the woman asked.

"I doubt she'd have me, miss," the young gentleman replied, "but I'd like to talk with her about the fay, for I'm told her mother was a fay."

"Ay, that she was and her mother before her. What's your interest in the fay, sir?" the woman asked him rising to her feet.

The young gentleman saw then that she was as slender as a willow branch and as finely beautiful as a rose, but for her wild, wild eyes that had something of the predator about them. It did not occur to him, I should tell you, that she might be fay herself. Being a young man and susceptible to female beauty as most men are, he found himself telling her how his life was dull and he had never met magic before save here in the highlands.

"D'ye not feel it miss? The whole glorious land is full of it. It's a wild, untameable magic from before the Kirk's time. D'ye not feel it?" he asked her passionately.

The woman smiled and his whole world seemed to lurch dangerously in him. She pointed along the ridge to a small house, from whose chimney, smoke arose into the air. He wondered how he had not seen it, yet it did not seem an illusion. He thanked the woman and bowed again bidding her a fair day for a fair lady.

"A little bread would be nice," she said softly.

He swung his knapsack from his back and drew a whole loaf from it.

"I'm sure McTavish will give me bread miss, have this for you and your family with my blessing," he said generously.

He did not see her flinch slightly at the mention of a blessing, but she took the loaf with a smile and he went on his way. Near McTavish's house, he heard singing and voices and thinking of the music he'd heard in the highlands, he banged on the door and called out McTavish's name. The singing stopped and suddenly the door opened.

"Well sir?" a man asked him coldly, a man who was not McTavish.

"This is Mr McTavish's house?" the young gentleman asked faltering.

"It is. What's your business?"

"Mr McTavish was telling me about the lass Catriona last night and I wanted his advice on taking her a gift," the young man said.

McTavish came to the door and clapped a hand on the man's shoulder and smiled at the young man.

"Och, it's only a good lad, Hamish, he's no harm to anyone. Come in laddie and have a dram and a song."

The young gentleman took McTavish by the hand and thanked him. He was brought in to the company and sat down. A glass of whisky was put in his hand and he cheered them. As he raised the glass to his lips, however he faltered and his blood ran cold. The glass was engraved with the words of the Jacobite anthem and the crown was on it.

"By God! Mr McTavish, if you and your company must have politics at least let me out of them!" he declared.

The men took hold of him then and might have killed him, but for McTavish's intervention. That and the strange song that drifted across the land and through the casements into the small house. It was a sad, wistful song that reached into each man's heart and spoke of the purple heather and the wild mountain thyme. Of the green valleys and the gurgling brooks and streams.

The men put down their glasses and wept. They released the young gentleman and he arose and taking a wineglass he fled from the house into the landscape. He was barely upon the ridge when he saw a flash of red. The soldiers were coming! Someone had talked. For a moment he wrestled with his conscience, then he dashed back to the house and shook the men.

"Begone! For your lives begone! The redcoats are coming!" he shouted.

His warning seemed to wake them from a deep sleep and they swept their glasses from the table into the open fire shattering them. The men left the house and fled their ways while the young gentleman took his leave also bidding McTavish be safe.

He returned along the ridge and suddenly found the path dipping down towards a small cottage by a stream. He dashed up the path to the cottage and knocked upon the door. A
tall, dark haired and dark-eyed woman opened up the door to him.

"I beg your help miss, the redcoats are coming over the hill and I'd prefer they did not find me," he said quickly.

She frowned and opened up the door pulling him in. She led him to a chair by the fire and left the cottage. When he turned in his chair he found the woman in the green kirtle watching him.

"Exciting enough for you, sir?" she asked with a slow smile.

The young gentleman nodded, "Ay miss, a little too exciting, if anything," he said.

She laughed. A low, warm laugh. The other woman returned and offered him some stew and a cup of whiskey, which he took gratefully.

"I hear you're looking for me, sir?" she said quietly.

"Are you Catriona?" he asked.

She told him she was and asked him what he wanted to know. He asked her about the fay and she smiled.

"Are ye not come to ask for my hand?" she asked.

On hearing he had not, the two women laughed and the young gentleman tried to explain himself.

"I'm not sure I should be offended. Am I not enough and more for the likes of you?" she asked him with a gentle smile.

"On the contrary miss, I don't think you'd find me good enough." he said awkwardly.

She leaned back in her chair then and began to sing. A soft, sad song
of the purple heather and the wild mountain thyme. Of the green valleys and the gurgling brooks and streams. Of things long past and of the true constant of Love.

The Amen glass was passed down through the family as a historic curiosity until through its travels it finished in the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia. It's said by some of the security staff that when there is a storm, you can hear a soft sad song
of the purple heather and wild mountain thyme. Of the green valleys and gurgling brooks and streams.

* A Kirtle is a tunic-like garment with a laced up bodice at the top with an attached skirt. Originally worn by both sexes from the latter part of the Middle Ages to the 17th century.


Barbara said...

Gorgeous glass and a nice photos Snapper.

Griffin said...

Lovely isn't it? I've seen lots of 18th century English wineglasses and they are mostly utterly gorgeous. This little darlin' is no exception.

madameshawshank said...

2 seconds at the computer..before 7 days of hecticness (or should that be hecticity)...not even time to absorb story..want to savour the to say..the joy of anticipation..of story to be read...'n G, methinks the glass is beyond tickled pink to be in cyberspace!
'utterly gorgeous' covers such glasses...imagine the designer!

will be back read and enjoy and all...

oh, by the way, as I walked into the darkened room..'n caught a glimpse of the glass..seemed to lose my breath..that oh yes..I'm supposed to breath thing that happens when breath seems to have been taken away by wonder...

The Awakened Heart said...

Wonderful story that sang my hearts longing for the glens and lochs and the beautiful pink heather of Scotland once more. It ended too soon!

Griffin said...

Glad that it er, awoke your heart!

madameshawshank said...

circa 1745! Oh how I love that such a piece can last..survive ..'n you, G, have imagined quite a story for it!

I love that feeling of magic of place..some have it quite strong..others not so much..

'n the heather 'n the wild mountain thyme..that song!

Oh, the summertime is comin',
And the trees are sweetly blooming,
Where the wild mountain thyme
Grows around the blooming heather

Will ye go, lassie, will ye go?
And we'll all go together to pick wild mountain thyme
All around the blooming heather.
Will ye go, lassie, will ye go?

Redcoats ~ Griffin :-)

Griffin said...


And I was listening to the Byrds while writing too! Thanks for the lyrics, I shall be singing along more confidently now!!