Monday, July 16, 2018

Battle for Killiecrankie 2018

Outlander Homepage originals by Nancy McGehee Fontenot 

"Where is the coward that would not dare to fight for such a land as Scotland?" 
Sir Walter Scott.

An interview with, Loretta McLaughlan 

Several weeks ago, Outlander Homepage brought attention to the current plight of the tiny Scottish community, Killiecrankie, as a group of local residents protest Transport Scotland's highway expansion through a centuries old battlefield. Killiecrankie battlefield is not only the site of the first Jacobite battle of the first rebellion, but very recently, local spots were the scenes for filming season four of OUTLANDER.  When the issue of expanding Scotland's A9 highway within the border of this historically inventoried battle site was first brought to our attention, I interviewed local resident, Loretta McLaughlan on the subject.  Loretta helped start the grassroots movement to protect the battlefield, KilliecrAnkie1689, and knows a great deal about the area, and it's amazing history.

OH: What impact does the historical value of Killiecrankie have on the local tourism, commerce?

LM: Killiecrankie village only comprises a cluster of houses, a village hall, and a first-rate country house hotel.  But the district of Killiecrankie encompasses a wider rural area that includes a few farms, a handful of holiday cottages, the nationally important battlefield, and a magnificent, steeply wooded, gorge, bisected by the fast-flowing River Garry. 
People visit here primarily because they know of the battle, an exceptionally bloody episode in Scottish history that inspired Robert Burns, William Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott.  It also has equally dramatic scenery that played a key part in the choreography of the battle.  Thus the historic environment, and the natural heritage are inextricably entwined. 
The National Trust of Scotland (NTS), a conservation charity, operates a small visitor centre at the Pass of Killiecrankie, to champion both the natural and cultural heritage.  Besides the Killiecrankie Hotel, there are only two other commercial operations in the area.  One is a modest NTS shop in the visitor center, and the other is the jumping off point for Scotland’s first fixed-point bungee, called Highland Fling. 
There are fewer than 200 residents in Killiecrankie. The county of Perthshire is on the tourism map but there is plenty of scope for growth as it ranks about the middle or a little lower (coming well behind big names such as Edinburgh, Glasgow and Highlands & Islands) when measuring visitors by region whether on holiday, on business or visiting friends and family.  However, within the county of Perthshire. Killiecrankie is the 5th most visited site.

OH: Has OUTLANDER's popularity helped increase tourism to the battlefield?

LM: Visit Scotland, the national tourism agency, is aware of the potential as it develops all things Jacobite, in response to the Outlander effect on visitor numbers.  It is, after all, inspiring more visitors to Scotland (particularly from the US) than any other TV show or film, surpassing Braveheart, Harry Potter and Highlander. See to the map called “On the Trail of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites” Killiecrankie features, as you would expect, right at the start of the story. 

OH:  Transport Scotland is currently conducting archaeological studies on the proposed area for A9 expansion.  What has been discovered so far?

LM: The studies to upgrade the road over the battlefield (from one lane in each direction to two lanes in each direction) have been done in 3 stages, starting in 2012.  It was not until the final stage that geophysical studies were done in a field adjacent to the existing road.  Under the current proposal, the entire field will be used to build a slip road for an exit junction, to create 2 more carriageways on the main highway and to build an access road plus a huge drainage basin for the new infrastructure. 
In the course of these studies, surveyors identified “pit-like anomalies”.  No one knows what kind of pits these are but archaeologists say that “burial pits should not be considered unexpected in areas surrounding battlefield sites and these features could be related to the battle or its aftermath”.  In other words, there is a possibility that these are graves.  Nobody knows what they are. 
What we do know is that further investigations are required, and additional assessments are being done now.  Local historian, Rulzion Rattray, estimates the number of fatalities at the Battle of Killiecrankie at 2,100.  Jacobites lost possibly 600 and Williamites perhaps 1,500, making this one of the bloodiest of all Jacobite engagements.  More died at Killiecrankie during the first of the Jacobite uprisings than at Culloden which concluded the rebellion.

OH: So these pits could be mass graves, like those marked by clan stones at Culloden. Are there any known graves from the battle in the area? 
LM: The only known burial place is that of John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee, the charismatic Jacobite leader who was fatally wounded in the opening minutes of the battle and died the following day.  He was buried nearby in consecrated ground at St Bride’s Kirk beside Blair Castle.  His tomb can be visited today. 
Where thousands were buried is still not known.  Military historian, Neil Ritchie, says that in battles of the period the fallen would usually be buried on the site of the battle or close to it.   Historians agree that the fighting was concentrated along the existing line of the road and along its northbound shadow where the new lanes and all related infrastructure are proposed.  Neil Ritchie explains that it is likely that a small number expansion large pits or several smaller ones are in the very area threatened by the proposed design and route.

OH: If expansion of the A9 could potentially desecrate undiscovered burial sites, are there any government agencies , or laws, that can protect these sites?  

LM: Transport Scotland received 183 objections to the plans.  Nearly all those objections relate to worries about the battlefield.  They were submitted by key authorities such as Historic Environment Scotland (HES) who, as the name suggests, is in charge of everything historical, as well as the Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust, whose remit covers everything archaeological. Cairngorms National Park Authority, which has a duty to protect cultural assets within Scotland’s largest national park, objected too, along with armies of societies, groups, and individuals, worried about protection of history, heritage, and archaeology.
Since the original road was built through the battlefield in the 1970s, Scotland has published screeds of policies, guidance notes and directives on how to protect not just our historic sites but our wider cultural environment.  The most important single document for protection of the Killiecrankie battlefield is something called the Inventory of Historic Battlefields.  This lists every historic and natural feature of the designated Killiecrankie site and accords them the highest level of protection possible. So much so, that when Transport Scotland came to planning a route and design through the battlefield, there should have been a paradigm shift in their thinking.  There is an imperative on developers to minimize the damage to an Inventory battlefield.  That means they have to explore all ways of avoiding damage and only when all options have been exhausted are they allowed to investigate the next least damaging option. They failed to do that.  Instead they decided at an early stage to import thousands of tons of earthworks and dump them where the new northbound lanes have to be built, thus damaging and destroying numerous key features of the battle site.  Given that this is also where the fighting was concentrated, where ‘pits’ have been discovered and where burial sites may lie, it is hard to imagine a worse design for the road and a worse route for it.

OH: How can Transport Scotland disregard so much opposition? Are there loopholes that will allow them to carry out their expansion in spite of the area being an inventoried historical site?

LM: The naïve bystander would think that all the planning rules concerning protection of Scotland’s most important historic assets would trump such a crude proposal.  Alas, there is a breath-taking paradox here.  The layers of protection would be taken into consideration if this proposal were within the planning system.  But, as the Minister for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs clarified in April, this project does not fall within the planning system.  
This road project is of such national importance that it will be decided, ultimately, by the Scottish Ministers.  They may choose to have a Public Local Inquiry which may investigate how Transport Scotland arrived at such a contentious proposal but – even if they did -  the Scottish Ministers are under no obligation to accept the outcome of any such inquiry. They are in danger of accepting the plan, knowing that it is extremely damaging, in order to keep to their proclaimed completion deadline.
Paradoxes abound.  As Outlander fans and Visit Scotland know, history and heritage drive tourism.  Transport Scotland’s proposed design and route will damage a battlefield whose importance is likely to increase with the popularity of the Jacobite trail.  Transport Scotland is already considering “legacy” benefits of the road with no sense of irony that the legacy will amount to a desecration of Scotland’s heritage. 
So-called protection rules do not apply, consultation with the community is derisory and Transport Scotland enjoys a cosy relationship with the Scottish Ministers.  The prospect of this plan being rubberstamped is real.  Only one thing can stop the rumbling juggernaut and that is a huge public outcry.

We have recently seen that it was impossible to prevent a plan to build new houses on Culloden, another Inventory battlefield.  The circumstances there were different in that permission had been given at earlier stage and the recent vote was no more than an epilogue.   At Killiecrankie there has not yet been a decision.  Therefore, there is a chance to make our voices heard.  Please sign our petition and encourage as many others as possible to do likewise.

OH: Obviously, the local community has a personal connection to the battlefield. Do any of the local community members have a personal/ancestral tie to the history of Killiecrankie? What are some of the local folktales connected to the area?

LM: The roll call is long for this battle.  Among the most well known names on one side were Graham, Fraser, MacLean, MacGill, MacDonald, Cameron, MacNeil, Grant, MacGregor, Cannon and Buchan.  On the other were Mackay, Lauder, Balfour Ramsay, Kenmure, Leven and Hastings.  Many of these surnames belong to residents of this area.

Legend has it that a Redcoat, a private soldier who was part of the Government troops, managed a spectacular escape by jumping 18 ft over the raging River Garry to a rocky outcrop and safety.  The story of The Soldier’s Leap is a gift for the tourist business and is promoted vigorously by the National Trust for Scotland who manage a visitor centre at the spot of his supposed leap.  
The leaping soldier was Donald McBane. He was a shameless self-publicist and lived a colourful life after the Battle of Killiecrankie running a brothel and becoming a fencing master.
The right flank of the Government line was anchored beside the Girnaig burn. It’s a healthy watercourse that feeds into the River Garry just before it flows into the deep gorge.  The left flank of the Government line was anchored further along the flat area beside the Chluain burn which also flows into the River Garry. Even before the hand-to-hand fighting started, we know that some soldiers ran away.  McBane was one of them.  Some soldiers must have been chased over the Girnaig because the ground on the other side is now known as Skirmish Field, much of which will also be lost to the road project.
Written nearly 40 years later, McBane gives a vivid account of his escape from Killiecrankie: “The Highland men … advanced furiously upon us and were in the middle of us before we could fire three shots apiece, broke us and obliged us to retreat.  Some fled to the water and some another way …. I went above the pass where I met with another water very deep.  It was about 18 foot over betwixt two rocks.  I resolved to jump it. So I laid down my gun and hat and jumped and lost one of my shoes in the jump.  Many of our men was lost in that water and at the pass.”

OH:  Killiecrankie is highly rated for it's natural beauty, with plenty of forest trails along the River Garry that provide great outdoor enjoyment. How would the A9 road construction impact the scenic/natural value of the area? 

LM: The road passes high above the river and the Pass of Killiecrankie.  The battlefield is just to the north of the Pass where the terrain opens out.  Transport Scotland claims that the scenic impact would be the same on the battlefield no matter how the road were widened because damage was already done when the original road was built in the 1970s.

This argument is facile and misleading.  Firstly, attitudes and rules about our historic and cultural environment have changed enormously since the 1970s.  Indeed, one of today’s rules concerns sites that have already been damaged by development.  There is a requirement to take extra measures to avoid further damage in these cases.  Transport Scotland has ignored the requirement. Secondly, Transport Scotland used dubious methodology to evaluate the landscape impact.   The northbound carriageway is almost continuously lined by vegetation and trees, some from the Ancient Woodland Inventory, which results in birds’ nesting areas being concentrated on that side.  In contrast, the southbound carriageway is virtually treeless.  Nevertheless, Transport Scotland concluded that development on the northbound or southbound side would have a similar impact.  Thirdly, the loss of all the natural screening on the northbound side of the road will mean that the area where the memorial cairn stands will be exposed.  At the moment, the stone monument is where visitors come throughout the year to reflect quietly on the impact of battle and to see the exact area where thousands of men fought and lost their lives.  There is a remembrance service which takes place at the memorial cairn in a weekend-long commemorative event every July on the anniversary of the battle.  Such places are meant to retain an atmosphere of dignity.

OH:  What makes Killiecrankie stand out from other battlefields throughout Scotland?

LM: I cannot make a comparison of Killiecrankie with any other battlefield in Scotland. What makes Killiecrankie unique is the fact that it is the only battlefield that the A9 road traverses in its 110 miles route between Perth and Inverness.  Given the numbers killed in such a short, savage burst of fighting, the site demands to be treated sensitively and sensibly.  In historical terms, it holds the record for many firsts:  it was the first battle of the first Jacobite uprising in Scotland, of the Glorious Revolution; it is the first recorded use of the plug bayonet in battle in Britain; and it is thought to be the first time that the hand grenade was used in combat in Britain.
The scale of the brutality at Killiecrankie inspired Burns, Wordsworth and Scott whose literary works, in turn, seared the battle into the popular imagination. 

The association of the battle site with the exploits of an “ordinary” soldier whose unlikely leap over an 18 ft void is still celebrated throughout Scotland.  It is also unique in that the Jacobites’ charismatic leader, “Bonnie Dundee” was killed, granting him near mythic status in the Jacobite legend. Without him the rebellion lost impetus and failed. Had he survived there may have been a different outcome: one of the classic ‘what ifs’ of the historical narrative.
The battlefield at Killiecrankie happens to be one of the best preserved of its era. The choreography of the battle can be understood today by the undisturbed terrain, landscape and historical features.    Its exciting archaeological potential will be obliterated by Transport Scotland’s proposed design and route.   We cannot allow the mistakes that were made in the 1970s to be compounded.  

Places of historic interest:  Blair Castle, the fortress that controlled strategic routes, in Blair Atholl about 3 miles from the battlefield.  The castle was the reason why the battle took place in Killiecrankie.  St Bride’s Kirk, beside Blair Castle (which controlled strategic routes, thus the reason for the battle), where John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee, is buried.  Dunkeld, 16 miles south of Killiecrankie, where the first Jacobite uprising ended, less than 4 weeks after the Battle of Killiecrankie.

(St. Bride's Kirk)

OH: If Outlander fans want to visit the area, and see the battlefield, what time of year would you best recommend?

LM: Best time to visit:  May (for dry weather, wild flowers and return of migrating birds), July (for celebration of anniversary of the battle with re-enactors staging various scenes, tours of the battlefield and a commemorative service) and October (for magnificent autumn colours in the area, renowned for its arboreal splendour).  

There is much truth to the old Scottish proverb, "Twelve highlanders and a bagpipe make a rebellion" as it applies to Loretta, and the group KillieCrAnkie1689's perseverance in their mission to stop this government backed road expansion. It has been quite enlightening, and a joy communicating via email with Loretta.  I hope to one day meet her in person, and get a hopefully unsullied by traffic, tour of Killiecrankie Battlefield.  In the meantime, I plan on staying in touch with Loretta, and will post any dramatic changes to this somewhat fluid situation. If you care to show your support, please sign the petition to stop Transport Scotland's A9 highway expansion:

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Outlander - 'The Fans Who Make It' - Series by Roma Sars

Hello everyone! (From Roma Sars on "My Outlander Friends" on Facebook)

As a member of the Outlander fandom, I have visited many websites and blogs by fans who interview the actors, production staff and others involved with the making of the Outlander series.
I have also seen fans collect tens of thousands of dollars for the charities of their favourite actors, as well as fans making the most beautiful art and videos, all dedicated to the Outlander story.

What motivates the fans do this? Why have some of them devoted the best part of their days to the Outlander story?
So far, no-one has interviewed these fans who are behind these websites, blogs and twitter handles, some of them with thousands of followers.

So, I thought that I should be the one to do that, and I have approached some of them and found them conducive to do interviews.
In doing so, I hope to understand this obsession which has taken a hold of me ever since I discovered the Outlander story in 2015.

This will be the start of my “Outlander- the fans who make it” series of interviews.
I hope you will like what I will post, as I am sure I am going to enjoy doing it.

(This interview has been conducted by Roma Sars of, My Outlander Friends!)

Here’s the next interview in the ‘Outlander – 'The Fans Who Make It’ series. This time I chose Cathy McQuistion, famous Cat lady, and known for the series recaps she does with special music added. I met Cathy at Highlanders 2 in Blackpool last year, and found her to be a warm and an empathetic person.

I hope you enjoy this interview.

Please tell us about yourself.
Hi, I’m Cat, also known as Cathie McQuistion. I’m 57, and I live in Bryan, Texas, in the USA. I work as an IT helpdesk tech for the six locations of the Texas A&M University Libraries. I specialize in mobile devices and <big sigh> printers. I have been dubbed “the Print-cess” by one of our students, and I’m totally going to trademark that. And make a t-shirt!

I never intended to work in tech; in fact, my first degree is in Wildlife Fisheries Science. I wanted to work at a zoo or nature center but, after graduation, I discovered that entry level jobs, even with a degree, paid minimum wage. And I just didn’t have any money to relocate and live on those funds. So what brilliant idea did I have? Let’s get another degree, this time in Education, so I can get experience as a teacher, and then hopefully get a job as an educator at a nature center. I worked as a Dorm Hall Director to pay the way and had lots of fun experiences doing that. Afterwards, I got a job teaching 4th grade locally and really enjoyed it, although it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Seriously, teachers are truly unsung heroes for the job they do!

In my 3rd year teaching I saw an advert to teach in London for a year, and decided to give it a shot. I got the job, and had the most interesting year of my life. So many highs, but oh my goodness, some lows as well. The main low was due to errors in how much I was paid, which meant I was basically totally broke the whole time. So, all the travelling around the UK that I had planned didn’t quite pan out. The good news, however, is that there is so much you can do in the London area with just a bus pass. The actual teaching was difficult, as I was in what would be considered an “intercity” school with some tough kids who, at 10 years of age, could give the kids in “To Sir With Love” a run for their money. But it turned out to be a wonderful experience. I think I made a difference for the students I taught, and I know they profoundly touched me.

Now here’s where everything Outlander started for me. When I returned home from London in August 1991, it was too late to get my own class. I did some substitute teaching, but was looking for a full-time job with benefits. One of my former student’s mom, who worked at the public library, recommended me for a clerk position. I started working in circulation by shelving, checking out books, and here’s the important part, checking IN books. One day I was doing this, and a book cover caught my eye. It intrigued me, and the description made me check it out. Yep, that book was Outlander and, once I read it, my life was never the same. Oh, the agony and ecstasy of being an original reader, waiting between each publication! After ‘Dragonfly in Amber, I told everyone that, if there was no book 3, I would drive to Arizona and make Diana Gabaldon tell me what happens next. I got so mad in “Fiery Cross” about what happened to Roger, that I swore I’d never read another book (mini-spoiler- especially the James McQuiston connection). Then, five minutes later, I started the countdown until book 6 would be published.

I spent 10 years at the public library, moving from circulation to cataloging, then became an Automation tech, helping to convert the library from card catalog to computer. Best bit from my resume? Bookmobile driver! Then it all becomes blah, blah, blah good at technology & yada, yada, yada ended up at the A&M Academic Libraries as a microcomputer specialist. During this time my Mom, who was also my best friend, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I was her primary caregiver for 8 years, and caring for her is the single proudest accomplishment of my life. I tell you this because, when she passed away, I was really depressed, and became a total homebody. I didn’t feel like doing anything or going anywhere. And then 2014 came, bringing Outlander the TV show in it’s wake. My life turned upside-down, and in all the best possible ways!

How long have you been doing your edits for Outlander? Is this the only show you do edits for, or do you also do this for other shows?
I was one of those book readers who did NOT believe anyone could do a proper job of adapting Outlander. Sure, I knew they were doing it, but I didn’t get involved in all the online fun and excitement when season 1 was being made. And then Starz did something remarkably clever: they released Sassenach, episode 1 online for free. I often liken it to a drug dealer giving someone a free sample, to get them addicted, and they have to come back for more. From the second I heard Caitriona’s voice saying, “People disappear all the time,” I was hooked. I called my cable provider and ordered Starz.

I have been a fan of other shows and film franchises, but I quickly realized being a fan of something is not the same as being obsessed. And I WAS obsessed by the way Ron Moore & the whole team was bringing Diana’s story, that I had loved for so many years, to life. I got active online, creating the @CatsAndKilts moniker, and was blown away by all the love and creativity being generated by the fans of the show. I was in awe of the memes, artwork and craft being made, and wanted desperately to show my love in a tangible way as well. I especially loved the humorous takes on Outlander by fans like @ConnieBV and @ABootlanders. They were already doing funny recaps and, out of the blue, I thought “what if I did a funny video recap, but used snips of my favorite oldies songs to help tell the story?” I adore music from all decades and genres, and I find that certain events make me think of certain songs. So, I told myself it was a brilliant idea and proceeded to teach myself how to make a musical video recap. Through trial and error, laughs and tears, I published my first video November 2014. Looking at that first video now, I can’t believe how poor the quality of the audio and video is, but I still make myself laugh when I watch it. It’s sounds totally egotistical, but I do love my Outlander recaps! And no, I don’t think I’d ever do this for any other show.

How much time do you spend every day on Outlander?
Am I allowed to take the Fifth amendment, on the grounds I may incriminate myself? Seriously, I can’t quantify it, but it is a significant amount of my life, when I’m not at work or sleeping. Keep in mind I’m not married, I have no kids, and I live alone with my cats. As I mentioned, losing my Mom was devastating, and I lost who I was for a long time. Meeting all the like-minded fans online, and finding a creative outlet for my love of the show, and even taking the leap to go by myself to Scotland in 2015; all these things transformed the life I was living. Outlander has become such a big part of my life, I think it would be easier to count the hours I DON’T spend on it. But I’m still refusing to answer the actual numbers as my sister has threatened to turn me in to that TV show about addicts, called Intervention. She just doesn’t get my love for Outlander, and I don’t want to give her any ammunition. Just kidding!

What do you like most about the Outlander books and show?
Of all the myriad reasons I love both the Outlander books and show, my favorite thing is the humor that Diana brings to the story and which has continued in the show. Sure, I’m crazy about the love story, the history, the adventure, the time-travelish goodness, but it’s the laughter that keeps me sustained. Laughter is an essential requirement for my well-being, and it thrills me that it’s a strong component of Claire and Jamie’s marriage, and for all the other people in their lives. It’s those light-hearted moments that keep me reading the books over and over, watching the episodes repeatedly, and spending hour after hour making goofy little recap videos.

Dragonfly in Amber

Which character in Outlander is your favourite?
There is no story without both Jamie and Claire, and from my first reading I started thinking of them as one entity. Yes, they are each their own person, but they are only whole when they are together. For me they are the story, so I’ve decided to tell you about my other favorite character. Roger Wakefield MacKenzie. Oh, I always knew I’d be no match for Jamie, but as soon as I met Roger in Dragonfly in Amber, I knew I would be perfect for him. Sorry Brianna, after all these years I STILL think I’d be better for him than you! It’s not just his humor, intellect, and loyalty that I love, but the fact that he is a caregiver. Both Jamie and Claire are also caregivers, though in different ways. Roger is someone who thinks about others and cares for their wellbeing ahead of his own. In fact, this very quality I love has gotten him into trouble many times. (mini-spoiler: Morag anyone?) But I wouldn’t want him to be any different than he is, and I’ve grown to appreciate that Bree loves him for these qualities, too. Also, did I mention his humor?

There is something else that makes Roger such a hero to me, and this is a spoiler for people who haven’t read ‘Drums of Autumn’ – so you’ve been warned. When Claire goes through the stones, the first time, it’s an accident; the second time is to get back to Jamie, her true love. Brianna chooses to go back to get to her beloved mother, and to meet her father. (And to warn them). But Roger went back with no guarantee that Brianna would accept him. He went even if it meant arriving in a strange world, where the person HE loved had made no commitment to him. I think that took real courage. Some people compare Roger to Jamie and find him lacking. Well of course he can’t compete with all that Jamie is; they were born in vastly different times and raised to be successful in their own times. The hardest thing Roger probably ever had to do before going back, was facing down some Oxford professors. I think it’s a testament to the man he is that Claire realizes his worth immediately and that, despite the “rocky” beginning to the relationship, Jamie grows to appreciate and care for Roger Mac.

On the show side, I had been a fan of Richard Rankin since I saw him in ‘The Crimson Field’, so I was excited when he was cast as MY Roger. And the cool thing is that, even though I am decades too old for him, when I saw him in episode 213, he made me fall in love with Roger all over again. If they stay true-ish to the books, Richard will have one heck of a ride in season 4 and 5. And I can’t wait to see it!

How has Outlander affected your life and/or lifestyle?
I think that, from my other answers, you can tell Outlander has had a massive impact on me. Besides feeling lost without my Mom, working in a technology customer service job has absolutely no room for imagination or creativity. I was stagnating and, frankly, feeling sorry for myself. Outlander reminded me of how much fun I could have if I just put myself out there and tried new things. Talking with other people online, and watching all the amazing ways they expressed their love for Outlander, encouraged me to try new things. But more than that, I made friends who shared my passion for the story, and I began to come out of my hermit-like state, sharing things beyond my love of Outlander.

One of the tangible things that happened is my travels to Scotland and to Outlander events to meet so many of my wonderful fan friends in person. There really are too many amazing people to mention them all, but there are two people who have made my life so much better. They are the kind of friends who share and encourage my joy but keep me grounded when I need it. That’s very rare to find in people, and loving Outlander is the only reason they are in my life. I’ll tell you about Anne in my last answer, but I don’t think I’d be writing this today if it weren’t for Jenna Powell. The first Outlander event I went to didn’t turn out well, and I learned that just because you’re with people who love Outlander, it doesn’t always translate to liking each other in real life. (Shout out to Jody and Betsy who kept the spark of believing in great fans yet to meet). Luckily, I decided not to give up, and I went on an Outlander tour in Scotland the summer of 2015. There were only 6 of us on the tour and we all got along beautifully, and fell in love with Scotland together. Jenna and I particularly bonded, and she helped see how wonderful meeting other fans could be. Since that trip, she has become one of my best friends even outside of Outlander. Sure, we’ve traveled to OL events together, but more importantly we share the ups and downs of our lives. Jenna supports me in everything I do, and I don’t know what I would do without her. I owe our friendship completely to Outlander.

I’m very lucky. I have a decent salary and, being on my own, means I get to decide how to spend it. I made the decision to scrimp and save in all other aspects of my life, so I can indulge in Outlander gatherings now. I have a very good friend at work, Sean, who has known me for 17 years. He isn’t into Outlander but is a major fan of other things, and he totally gives me moral support for my fangirling. He constantly tells me he’s glad I am doing all this now because he can see the difference in my outlook on life. And Outlander did THAT, too.

Is this the first fandom you are a member of? What made you decide to join this fandom, rather than any other one?
There have been many shows and movies and stars I’ve been a fan of, but never have I considered myself a member of a fandom. I have trouble explaining to people outside this fandom why I love the story of Outlander so much, and what drives me to devote so much time to it. I can tell all of YOU what makes me love being a part of this fandom. It’s the amazing fact that, no matter when someone discovers Outlander, it grabs them heart and soul. From the people like me who have loved the books for almost 27 years, to the ones who just discovered the show last week, has binged all the episodes and can’t wait for season 4, so she goes looking for the books. It seems incredible to me that Diana wrote a story which became this incredible TV show, and that once it gets a hold of you, it never lets go! I’m sure every fandom feels this way, but I’m not sure there’s anyone quite like us!

Of course, each of us interprets it through our own filter, and that’s why we sometimes disagree so vehemently about things that happen on the show. But I firmly believe that you shouldn’t get your fan card revoked just because there are things you don’t like, and you want to express it civilly. I obviously love the show, or I wouldn’t do my videos, but if you watch them, you’ll note I put things in from the books that I think should have been in the show. (There’s initial carving in my 213 recap and Diana approved!) I am always willing to engage in a friendly discussion over differences of opinion. Even when we disagree, in the end it’s our love that keeps us together. (Yes, I hear that song playing now).


Which personality from the Outlander stories did you enjoy meeting the most?
Oh, I love them all for distinct reasons! I can’t name just one so here’s a few:

-Diana Gabaldon: I only met her for a moment to get her autograph at San Diego Comic Con, but it was so thrilling!

-Richard Rankin: You know my affinity for Roger? Well, when I was getting my picture taken with Richard, I asked him to look at me like he thought I was adorable. He immediately said, “You ARE adorable.” It was my Roger come to life and I think I may have passed out.

-Sam and Caitriona: My Time Travel For Dummies photo op. They were so amazing! I only had a second to show them my made-up book and ask them to look at it like they were fascinated. Caitriona channeled Claire and gave the “Oh that’s how it works” look, while Sam became Jamie and looked totally clueless. I will NEVER have a picture love more than that one!

-Steven Cree: There’s a very long story why Cree always remembers me when he sees me, but that’s better told over a dram of whisky. Let’s just say he jokingly considers me a pain in the arse, and I wear that honor with pride.

-This one may surprise you: Clive Russell, who played the Old Fox in the show. When I meet one of the stars, I always ask them if they have a suggestion for an oldies song I should use in my recaps for their character. Usually it’s too hard for them to think of one quickly, though a few have given me some songs later. In this case when I described what I did, and asked Clive for an idea, he was intrigued and wanted to know more. We had a lovely discussion, but he couldn’t come up with something, so I asked if I could contact him online later. He said he wasn’t online but gave me a way to contact him. When I did, he gave me the suggestion “Under My Thumb” by the Rolling Stones – perfect for the Old Fox! I sent him the link to my recap when it was done, and he called it insightful and hilarious. He was the very first person associated with the show to see and like one of my videos! Needless to say, I will always have a very special place in my heart for Clive.

I noticed you wearing a Scottish costume at the Highlander Con in Blackpool. Did you make this yourself? How many such costumes have you made? And how long did it take you to make this?
That was my first time to cosplay, and it’s all due to my friend Anne Swetonic. She was one of the kind people I met online through my videos, and I was excited to meet her at Emerald City Comic Con. Anne showed up in a handmade Claire costume, and she looked incredible! We hit it off and spent the rest of that day and the next together. At one point I remember saying I’d like to have a costume someday, and she immediately said she’d make me one. Well I thought it was just the sort of thing people say, but Anne was serious. When I got home she started contacting me for what kind of costume I wanted, materials, and my measurements! We decided I should be Jenny in the later years, which could pass for a waulking woman, too. I found the tartan I liked and paid for the materials, but she did everything else. Anne made that entire costume for me in about a month, never once having me there to try it on. Talk about talented! But more than that it was such a special gift from a caring new friend, and over time we have only grown closer. Anne is another friend who supports me whole-heartedly, and she’s only in my life because of Outlander. Heads up everyone – we are going to be at the Las Vegas con in July – and we’re entering the costume contest with what we think will be a very surprising duo!

The Cover

What keeps you connected to the Outlander fandom?
You know that quote that pops up periodically that says “find your tribe?” Well the Outlander fandom is MY tribe. I didn’t know I was missing anything, but once I “joined” you all, I felt I found my place. It sustains me every day, whether it’s laughing over memes, tweeting with people, reading a blog, watching a fan video, or looking-in on an OL Facebook group. I crave that interaction, and I feel a bit lost when work or real life keeps me too busy to check in. I don’t watch an episode or read from a book every day, but it is a rare day that I don’t have some sort of exchange with another person I only know because they’re an Outlander fan. It doesn’t have to be about OL, it’s just touching base that gives me comfort.

I also freely admit finding people who really “get” me and my humor is a big part of it, and extremely validating. And as much as I try to offer kindness and positivity back to the group, what I receive is 100 times more than I could ever share. I don’t know how you all do that, but you do. And it’s something so affirming, I wouldn’t willingly give it up. No matter how long Outlander is on the air, I feel certain that a core group of the fandom will stay in my life forever.

With Ann in NYC 

With Jenna at ScotCon

What do you have coming up next?
Season 3 recaps! I’ve only done the first two episodes so far. Honestly, the first part of the season is so emotionally HEAVY that my usual humorous take doesn’t work, and I have to spend more time to make sure I show the right amount of respect to the serious subject matter. (The Battle Joined and Culloden was particularly difficult to achieve a respectful tone). My goal is to actually finish season 3 recaps before season 4 comes along. Once 4 starts, I’ll decide if I’ll keep doing the recaps, though if there are still people willing to watch, I’m not sure I could stop if I wanted to!

I’m also making a Drums of Autumn design to go along with my previous Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager creations from last year. It’s just another fun way I can be creative, since I’m not naturally a crafty gal.

Meanwhile, I’ll be off to Creation Entertainment’s Las Vegas Con in July. Anne and I are doing the costume contest, and I’ve entered a modified version of one of my recaps into the fan music video contest. Keep your fingers crossed for me! As to my potential participation in the Karaoke contest? It’ll all depend on how much whisky there is…

Here are all my social media links:

All my Outlander recaps as @CatsAndKilts:

YouTube channel:

My occasional blog:




All added graphics and edited formats for this blog done by Dorianne Panich

Thursday, July 5, 2018

“Silly Voices and Dress Ups” - Outlander actor Tim Downie discusses the acting life with your Aussie Blogging Lass

Outlander Homepage originals

Jamie and Claire Fraser have mixed success when their lives cross paths with figures of authority. Their relationship with Colum and Dougal, Laird and War Chief of Clan Mackenzie, was strained to say the least; Major John Grey proved to be a friend; while the less said about the notorious Black Jack Randall, the better. In season 4, the couple will again meet up with authority, in the form of Governor William Tryon, as portrayed by actor Tim Downie. While details of season 4 are still under wraps, we’ll have to wait and see how this relationship turns out, but in the meantime, Tim agreed to talk to Outlander Homepage about his own acting journey. 

“I’ve always known that I wanted to be an actor, or at least to do something that involved telling stories,” Tim began. “I didn’t enjoy school. I was always the joker, the one that would make up tales, something which didn’t always go down well with teachers. I was immersed in books and in other worlds, which I think helped kick start my imagination. When I was a teenager I did a lot of improvisation classes. They helped me to be much more creative and to push boundaries. At sixteen I left my small village for London and drama school.” 

Tim laughed as he recalled a more recent description of his vocation.

“My four year old says all I do is put on silly voices and play dress up,” he said, “which is probably the most accurate description of what I do!”

We wondered if there was a role that stood out amongst the many characters that Tim has played over the years. His choice came, rather surprisingly, from long before he was a well known actor. 

The part I look back on and still think about is the Sheriff of Nottingham in a production of Robin Hood when I was eight,” Tim replied. “I gave him a lisp, which, when you’re eight, is hilarious. I had a pivotal line about arresting Robin and sending him to the tower. But in my haste to be the funny one, I totally messed it up and ended up sending him to a bakery. I have absolutely no idea why a bakery, but Act Two, by rights, should have then started with Robin Hood chained to a wall of brioche and iced buns!” 

With such a memorable beginning to his acting career, we wondered what characters Tim would still like to portray.

“I would adore to be in Mervyn Peake’s ‘Gormanghast’,” Tim replied. “I have loved the books ever since my father gave them to me when I left home for drama school. Along with Steerpike, I would love to play Lord Sepulchrave, Titus Groan’s father who goes mad when his beloved library burns down, and comes to believe he is a death-owl who lives in the Tower of Flints. Great stuff!”

Knowing as we do that Outlander is a little short on death-owls, we asked Tim how familiar he was with Diana Gabaldon’s series. 

“I have only read the first two books,” Tim admitted, “which were kindly sent to me by @outmander.  I have a lot of reading to catch up on!”

But if he could have his choice of the Outlander cast list, Tim knew what type of character he would choose.

“The baddies are always really fun to play, so I would have to go with the English officers,” he said. “They were just so unbelievably mean and cruel so I think it would be interesting to play that side of things. Also, red goes with my eyes, so it’s a win win really.”

Of course, he was joking, but for those who haven’t seen the colour of Tim’s eyes... 
They’re a boring hazel. A warm chestnut, if you will.”

Finally we asked Tim where he would like to go if he could travel through the stones.

“I think that if I could go through the stones, I would want to end up in 12th century Toledo, Spain,” Tim answered. “It was an epicentre of political turmoil, riddles, mystery, sorcerers, alchemy and magic. A melting pot of old Pagan belief mingled with Islamic and Jewish thought. Would be Wizards from all over Europe and the Middle East flocked there to learn the latest in magical theory and practice in the hope that a hidden world of untold knowledge and power would be revealed to them. Wondrous!”

Wondrous indeed. We’d like to thank Tim for sharing his thoughts with us and can’t wait for the first appearance of Governor Tryon later this year. 

This interview was conducted by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. She’s not sure why, but she’d rather like to see a death- owl now...

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Outlander - 'The Fans Who Make It' - Series by Roma Sars

Hello everyone! (From Roma Sars on "My Outlander Friends" on Facebook)

As a member of the Outlander fandom, I have visited many websites and blogs by fans who interview the actors, production staff and others involved with the making of the Outlander series.
I have also seen fans collect tens of thousands of dollars for the charities of their favourite actors, as well as fans making the most beautiful art and videos, all dedicated to the Outlander story.

What motivates the fans do this? Why have some of them devoted the best part of their days to the Outlander story?
So far, no-one has interviewed these fans who are behind these websites, blogs and twitter handles, some of them with thousands of followers.

So, I thought that I should be the one to do that, and I have approached some of them and found them conducive to do interviews.
In doing so, I hope to understand this obsession which has taken a hold of me ever since I discovered the Outlander story in 2015.

This will be the start of my “Outlander- the fans who make it” series of interviews.
I hope you will like what I will post, as I am sure I am going to enjoy doing it.

(This interview has been conducted by Roma Sars of, My Outlander Friends!)

The next interview in the ‘Outlander- the fans who make it” series is with Kathryn Elliott, aka Laugh Outlander on Twitter and Facebook, with thousands of followers.

I enjoy Kathryn’s elegant and intelligent humour and find her a huge asset to our fandom.

Please tell us about yourself.
I’m Kathy Elliott – wife, mom and extrovert. My age is somewhere between finding-herself and can’t find my keys. I live in Connecticut with my husband and two college age sons and our puddle-of-love-Labrador, Maggie.

Professionally, I spent the first 20 years of my career as a publicist – first in music and then, (dramatic horror, music) politics. I believed in the men and women I worked for, but eventually Washington bureaucracy drained my will to live, and I turned to non-profit fundraising for a series of Connecticut based charities. And like so many American families struggling to secure long-term financial stability, I work a second job as an office manager for an incredible physical therapist. It’s nice to have an on-call expert for the aches and pains of aging!

Oh, I’m also a contracted writer for a few local publications, and I’m a published author. {Insert Shameless Plug} My first book, ‘Adding Lib’, is available on Amazon in all formats, as well as through my publisher, The Wild Rose Press. I’m woefully behind on the next in the series, ‘Finding Caroline’, but can hopefully spend more time on it when my youngest is off to college in the fall; the empty nest will fill with a little more creative time.

How long have you been doing your memes for Outlander? Is this the only show you do memes for, or do you also do this for other shows? 
I only do goofy memes for Outlander, and I guess LaughOutLander has been up and running for a little over two years?? Can’t remember exactly. Before this, I crafted a few memes for my favorite cohort-in-crime, Outlander Ambassador and a few other larger accounts from my personal Twitter, CandidKathryn.

How much time do you spend every day on Outlander? 
Depends on how much time my darling husband spends watching sports. If the Yankees, Steelers or Rangers are on – I’ve got a few free hours to kill. That’s typically when we snuggle on the couch – he yells at the game, and I make a stockpile of memes. It’s the pinnacle of love.

So…to answer your question, on a normal day, I try not to spend more than an hour on Outlander related social media. The books, however - they’ve been known to happily eat up entire days, weeks and months of my time. ☺

What do you like most about the Outlander books and show? What do you like the least? 
Least – Fans policing fans. The cyber Gladys Kravitz mentality is ludicrous.

Most –The cast’s relentless commitment to charity, and continual efforts to use their tremendous platforms to speak up for those in need.

On a very personal note, Caitriona, Sam and Graham helped bring awareness to our friends Jeff and Sandy’s charity, The Caroline Previdi Foundation, in memory of their vivaciously-perfect daughter, a victim of the Sandy Hook tragedy. There are no words to adequately describe my gratitude.

Which character in Outlander is your favourite? Please explain why. 
Character? Lord John Grey. He epitomizes the ultimate gentleman; charm, intellect and can we talk about that razor sharp wit!?! Above all he’s admirable, owns who he is and loves unconditionally – perfect.

Now if you want to know which actor is my favorite – Tobias Menzies. No contest. Talent incarnate. I was a fan before Outlander, and will be well after.

How has Outlander affected your life and/or lifestyle?
Honestly, my home life/lifestyle has not really changed. I’m still the same overscheduled mom with too many commitments and not enough time. But Outlander has, without question, brought me an incredibly diverse and spectacular new circle of friends.

I’ve met some amazing women here. Strong, beautiful souls who shared incredible experiences with me, opened their homes and hearts and formed unbreakable friendships. I had no idea a story could connect me with strangers from all corners of the globe, whom I now call cherished friends.

Is this the first fandom you are a member of? What made you decide to join this fandom, rather than any other one? What do you like and dislike about this fandom?
First… and last fandom. If it weren’t for the aforementioned friends I’ve come to love dearly, I would have left ages ago. Confession – I’ve got a temper. (Shocker, right?) This is the reason I keep my follows extremely limited. The less I see – the less likely I’ll stigmata my tongue trying to keep my anger in check.

Have you met Diana or any of the actors of Outlander? If so, which personality did you enjoy meeting the most? If not, who would you like to meet the most?
I’ve met Diana twice; the first was at a writer’s conference. I’m fairly certain I said ‘hello’ – but I was so nervous, I forgot vowels and drooled a little. Not my best day. 

As far as the cast, I’ve had the privilege of meeting several of the talented men and women who make up this fabulous ensemble – and I say ensemble because I view Outlander as a team – no one performer more talented than another. I’ll give you a synopsis (dreaded writer word) of my experiences.

Gary – I love him, and our late night Facetime chats with my husband. A gem.

Graham – Best hugger in the universe. Period!

Lotte – Incredibly friendly and gracious – even in line for the ladies room.

Duncan - <girlish giggle > No one eye-flirts better.

Nell – Would make a deal with the devil for her GORGEOUS skin! Not to mention personality. xo

Will – Dr. Abernathy’s got grooves!! Man knows his music. Impressive!

Grant – A bear of a man with the soul of a poet. (and saintly wife!)

Stephen W – Amazing listener – even when I gush. Sings like silk.

Steven C – Born entertainer. Also, needs occasional kilt supervision. Avoid NY wind.

Rik – Never battle wits with a man whose dimples possess superpowers. Unforgettably charming.

Sam – A gentleman -who treats you like the only person in a crowded room.

Caitriona – The beauty on the outside can’t hold a candle the beauty within. Grace.

What keeps you connected to the Outlander fandom? 
That’s an easy one – the people! Don’t misunderstand, I love Diana’s books, and the adaptation is one of the best I’ve seen, but it’s the friends I’ve made here that make this journey worth taking. Eventually the show, and yes, the books will stop. But the relationships - those are forever.

What do you have coming up next?
Damned if I know! LOL! For now, I’m going to keep making an effort to bring a smile to those who need it most. Like EE Cummings said, ‘The most wasted of days is one without laughter.’

Facebook: Laugh Out Lander
Twitter: @LaughOutlander

All added graphics and edited formats for this blog done by Dorianne Panich