Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, Scotland, graduation 2016


 Rebecca graduated from Edinburgh University

We were so happy to be invited to our niece Rebecca's graduation from Edinburgh University, Scotland, which was founded in 1583.

The ceremony was held at Usher Hall

As this was Scotland, there had to be a piper around…

…while we waited for the ceremony to start

University Officials at the graduation ceremony
in their academic gowns

Becca waiting to be called up to receive her degree

This is the culmination of all Becca’s hard work, and we were so happy to be able to celebrate it with her in this time-honoured ceremony. The students are doffed on the head with the historic “Geneva Bonnet”, which legend claims is made using material from the breeches of John Knox.

Unfortunately, I failed to get a record of that, as I was so excited to see Becca being conferred, I forgot to take the photo, and only just managed to take this next one (below).

Becca received her degree

After the ceremony, the graduates waited for the photographer to sort them out by height 
for the official photo… (can you spot Becca?)

…they waited and waited for the photographer to take the photo,
he was very slow.

Meanwhile, we went to the reception venue, and started on the champagne

This was such a special day, and there was more to come. We thought we were going to dinner, but Becca had arranged for us all to go to an Elton John concert. We were ecstatic!  What a wonderful end to the day.

Foy Vance, the opening act at the Elton John concert

For the uninitiated, Foy Vance is a Northern Irish musician and singer-songwriter signed to Glassnote Records in 2013. Vance has toured as a support act to British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran and his music has been featured on numerous TV shows.

I just managed to take the above photo, when I was told to put my camera away, as it looked too professional! However, I did manage to take one of Elton John with my phone!

The crowd loved Elton John, and we all sung along with him.

Thank you Becca, for  wonderful day, and an awesome evening!

Elizabeth Coughlan


King's Lynn, Norfolk, England, UK

Old houses in Nelson’s Lane, a historic part of King’s Lynn

While we were in Norfolk, we spent a day in King’s Lynn. As you can see from my photos, it was an overcast rainy day, but this city has a fascinating history, dating back more than nine hundred years, so, despite the rain, we were happy to explore.  From as early as the 12th century, King’s Lynn was one of England’s most important ports.

This building was opened in 1685 as a Merchants’ Exchange,
before becoming Lynn’s new Custom House in 1717

This bronze statue in front of the old Customs House is of the explorer
Captain George Vancouver, 1757 – 1798

Canada's Vancouver Island, and the city of Vancouver are named after Captain George Vancouver, as are Vancouver, Washington, Mount Vancouver on the Yukon/Alaska border, and New Zealand's sixth highest mountain. 

Devil’s Alley, King’s Lynn

Where you have a large port, like the one in King’s Lynn, it is often difficult to track the people arriving from all parts of the world – and beyond! Legend has it that one day a ship docked at Lynn carrying the devil. He came ashore, but a priest spotted him in this alleyway, and drove him back to the ship with prayers and holy water. The devil is said to have stamped his foot on the ground in anger, and left his footprint on the cobblestones. Although nothing can be seen today, it is thought the legend may have arisen from a large foot-shaped cobble which was once visible in the paving.

Entrance to Hampton Court, King’s Lynn

Given its history, it is not surprising that King’s Lynn has managed to preserve much of its original architecture. This is the entrance to Hampton Court, with a late 15th century building, constructed for a very wealthy Merchant, in the front. Going through the arch you come to a fully enclosed courtyard, and each century seems to have added a wing.  The south wing is 14th century, west wing 15th century, and the north wing completed the courtyard about a hundred years later.

The Valiant Sailor

This was once a Public House, named after Jack Crawford, a sailor who fought in the Battle of Camperdown, 1797. Later, the house became the home of the artist Walter Dexter.

Historic houses along King’s Staith Lane, leading to South Quay,
with an intrepid explorer in the front.

Trinity Guildhall with its distinctive flint, chequer-board patterned, front

This magnificent building dates back to the 1420s, and is the centrepiece of the Town Hall complex. It also comprises the Old Gaol House built in 1784.

King’s Lynn Minster

Originally named St Margaret’s Church, when it was founded by the first Bishop of Norwich in 1101, it was designated a Minster Church in 2011 by the present Bishop of Norwich. This is a title dating from Anglo-Saxon times, when it was given to churches if they were a missionary teaching church, or a church attached to a monastery. The second tower, the Greyfriars tower, was erected about 1400 to enhance the Church, and acted as an important landmark for ships sailing into the Wash until the 19th century.

As a port town on the east coast of England, King’s Lynn was vulnerable to severe storms. In 1741, a storm brought down the medieval spires of both St Margaret’s and nearby St Nicholas’ church, and both had to be replaced. There was also a severe flood in 1953, when much of the town was under water. The marker next to the door in the image below is a reminder of the flood level at that time.

A marker next to a door in King’s Lynn,
showing the level the water rose to in 1953

King’s Lynn was also Great Britain’s first member of Die Hanse (The Hanse). This was an active network of towns and cities across Europe, which historically belonged to the association of merchant towns known as the Hanseatic League. The original mediaeval Hanseatic League, which comprised a group of towns around the Baltic and the North Sea, was an extremely influential trading association and very much a part of King’s Lynn’s development and historic past. The league dominated commercial activity in northern Europe from the 13th to the 15th century.

Thanks to the preservation of so many historical sites, King’s Lynn is a history buff’s dream. Nine hundred years of maritime trading history are preserved in its historic core of fine houses, medieval churches and guildhalls, secret courtyards, and hidden alleys. I would definitely like to explore further, but preferably on a warmer, sunnier day!

Elizabeth Coughlan


Sandringham, Norfolk, England, UK

Sandringham, Norfolk, the country retreat of Her Majesty the Queen

We went to visit my brother, Eddie, who lives in Dersingham, Norfolk, right next to the 24 hectare (59 acre) estate that belongs to the Queen. When she is not in residence, the grounds, and parts of the house, are open to the public; so we didn’t hesitate to pay a visit.

Eddie and David standing in front of the imposing gates to the grounds

Queen Victoria bought Sandringham in 1862 for her son, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, as a private retreat, so he could escape to the country from time to time, and it has been in the royal family ever since. Interestingly, Sandringham is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as “Sant Dersingham, the sandy part of Dersingham, which became shortened to Sandringham.

The gardens are exquisite, and beautifully maintained

I love photographing reflections, so I was in my element, given all the lakes!

There are other houses dotted about the grounds, 
apart from the main one, like this pretty little gatehouse...

…and York Cottage

This was originally built as a bachelor pad, and for any overflow of Sandringham House guests. It was subsequently named after Prince George, the Duke of York (later King George V), when his father, (the future King Edward VII, then the Prince of Wales) gave it to him as a wedding gift. Although it is called a cottage, the building is large and said to resemble "three Merrie England pubs joined together." Today, York Cottage contains the estate office for Sandringham; apartments for estate employees, and some vacation accommodation.

A bronze statue of Estimate, commissioned from the sculptress Tessa Campbell- Fraser

We came across several interesting statues in the grounds. This one of Estimate, was one of the Queen's favourite horses. Her Majesty The Queen loves horse racing, and takes a particular interest in bloodstock breeding. Estimate was given to Queen Elizabeth II as part of an 80th birthday present from the Aga Khan, who bred the horse in his own stud.

This statue of Buddha was bought in China by Admiral Sir Henry Keppel in 1870, 
as a gift for the Prince of Wales.

They say, if you rub the Buddha’s tummy and make a wish, your wish will come true. Naturally, we had to try that.

Old Father Time sits at the end of the North Garden at Sandringham. It was bought by Queen Elizabeth (the late Queen Mother) in 1951. The statue is believed to date from about 1800

The gardens at Sandringham show nature at its best, 
everything seemed so perfect, even this drake!

We also saw trees of every colour

This was a wonderful day out, to be highly recommended. Of course, we did go into the house to see all the wonderful treasures, but unfortunately photography is not allowed, so you will just have to make the trip and see for yourself. Thanks, Eddie, for showing us around this magnificent piece of English history.

Elizabeth Coughlan


Hidrellez Festival, Edirne, Turkey

The tour group in Istanbul

I was fortunate enough to be asked to be the photographer and videographer for a tour group going to the Hidrellez Romany Spring Festival in Edirne, Turkey. It was a small group, as many people cancelled, after a woman blew herself up at Bursa Ulu Mosque, just before the participants were due to leave for the tour. But though we were few, we had great fun!

The tour was run by Oriental Istanbul, a tour group specialising in travel, dance and music. The focus of this particular tour was to introduce the group to Romany culture in Turkey, and experience the Hidrellez Festival, held every year in Edirne.

The first two days of the tour were spent in Istanbul, taking dance classes, and generally enjoying the atmosphere. I joined the group on the third day, as they were about to take off for Edirne, where they began with different dance classes.

Turkish Folkloric Fusion class, taken by Yoko Kraliche

Belly Dancing class, taken by Dilara Sultan

Learning to dance with a tambourine

Raw Roman class, taken by Reyhan Tuzsuz

Meltem Guzey taught the group Bulgarian Folk Dance

We entered the Hidrellez Festival grounds, ready to party!

The Romany Gypsies were partying too…

…and there was music everywhere.

People were lining up to have their photos taken with the colourful Romanys

Hidrellez is a very important day for Romanys. They celebrate with street parties all through the night. Gypsy bands play traditional music, and people dance to the 9/8 rhythm.

A fire is lit, and the young men jump over it while making a wish.

For the not-so-brave wishes can be written down, and buried, or tied to a tree branch. In Edirne, the Romany people go to the river very early in the morning, to take a ritual dip in the cold water, or throw their written wish into the river, to send it to the prophet Hizir, who will help them achieve their desires.

We had such a great time on the trip. We spent one evening in the Aga Kosku  Restaurant, 
where Edirne Yuksel and Friends played traditional Romany music for us

Some of our group danced for the crowds in the restaurant..

…and Burcu, one of the group leaders, sang for us

Here is my video of the party

Despite our very late night at the restaurant, we left the hotel a 4:00am the next morning to watch the Hidrellez sunrise ceremony.

People gathered on the bridge at dawn, to throw their wishes into the river…

…while others hung their wishes on a tree.

This was a wonderful tour run by Oriental Istanbul, and I can’t thank the two leaders, Burcu and Yoko, enough for inviting me to be their photographer and videographer for the trip. It definitely felt more like fun than work!

Elizabeth Coughlan

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