Travel Photo no 4

Brian at Bushboy’s World invited me to join him and other bloggers posting a travel photo a day for ten days.

The deal is I also invite someone else each day to join in, and ping-back to my post.

I know how busy many of your blog schedules are, so I am always a bit loathe to nominate people.

But … many of you have travelled much more than me and have wonderful archives to dip in to …and I do really enjoy seeing the world through your eyes.

So Jude (Travel Words and Cornwall in Colours), if you feel like it and have time, I’m inviting you today.

Splash of red on an eternal blue sky

The Ratana Church, Raetihi, New Zealand. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

The Ratana Church, Raetihi, New Zealand. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

I’m not religious – nor even particularly spiritual. If asked I’d probably describe myself as a Presbyterian aethiest with catholic tendencies. I like the socialism of christianity — and I absolutely love old churches.

I encountered this Ratana church in the North Island town of Raetihi on a still, perfect morning. The Ratana Church is unique to New Zealand (although there is a branch in Australia).  It was founded  in the early twentieth century by Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana, a Maori prophet who had a vision instructing him to unite the Maori people in a single Christian church.

This particular church — perhaps because of its hilltop location — is an almost iconic example of Ratana architecture (sort of Romanesque revival), and has been extensively photographed so I felt as though I already knew it. I was on my way to see my dad, not quite sure where I was going and a bit pushed for time. Normally, I’d drive on by and “promise” myself that one day I’d come back and take a photograph, knowing that actually, I probably never would.

I’m not sure why that day was different; why I turned around and made a detour. The church gates were closed and it was difficult to find a good photographic vantage point on the side of a busy road, but I was happy with this shot. I don’t mind that my image is only one of thousands; it’s mine and it will always remind me of a good day; a day of stillness and joy and some reconciliation. A day of eternal blue sky.



Travel theme: reading the stones

Three weeks of glorious autumn in the UK and my photo album is bursting with shots that would fulfill Ailsa’s Travel Theme brief this week.

Most of my time was spent in Scotland and the Northeast of England; much of it doing family history research.

That meant lots of wandering around cemeteries and churchyards in search of ancestors’ headstones. I found a few – including a couple in tiny, isolated places – and felt a sense of connectedness to my past that I really didn’t expect.

I also noticed that Scottish headstones (or perhaps just the Lowland Presbyterian headstones from the eras I was interested in) are quite different to those I’m used to seeing in New Zealand cemeteries. Perhaps because there are more “flavours” of Christianity in NZ, and our earliest headstones date from Victorian times, they are often much more elaborate and include angels, cherubs, and crosses. Those I saw in Fife, Perthshire and Edinburgh were Church of Scotland (or Free Church) and even those from the 19th century were often very plain, and usually carved of sandstone. Many have no epitaph, and in fact, very little information about those interred beneath. The most elaborate, and the largest, were in Canongate Kirkyard in Edinburgh, but from reading them, I think that is because they belonged to wealthier, more prominent citizens than those buried in the smaller, often rural churchyards.

I found myself photographing them, singly and in clusters. Not because they belonged to my past, but because I found a stark beauty in the jumbles of crooked, fallen and weathered stones in Auchtermuchty, Kinglassie, Dysart, Kirkmichael, Abbotshall and Canongate on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

Headstone, Auchtermuchty churchyard. Su Leslie 2013

Headstone, Auchtermuchty churchyard. © Su Leslie 2013

The churchyard, Auchtermuchty. © Su Leslie 2013

The churchyard, Auchtermuchty. © Su Leslie 2013

Kinglassie cemetery. © Su Leslie 2013

Kinglassie cemetery. © Su Leslie 2013

Canongate Kirkyard, Edinburgh. © Su Leslie 2013

Canongate Kirkyard, Edinburgh. © Su Leslie 2013

Headstone, Canongate Kirkyard. © Su Leslie 2013

Headstone, Canongate Kirkyard. © Su Leslie 2013

Word a week photography: arch

I’m in the UK at the moment – revelling in the architectural gems of many centuries that pop out at me wherever I go.

Sue’s Word a Week photography challenge is arch: perfect for so much of what I’ve seen on my recent travels.

The parish church at Gayhurst, Buckinghamshire.

Dunfermline Abbey, Fife, Scotland

The parish church at Auchtermuchty; Fife. Home of my Leslie forebears in the late 19th century.

St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh

Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

The old churchyard at Kirkmichael, Perthshire. The headstone in the foreground is that of my 4x great grandparents, James Wallace and Ann Cunnison.