Edinburgh, Outlander and “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”

Another Edinburgh post, as I came home from last week’s trip armed with lots of great pictures that are ripe for sharing. This time we stayed in an apartment right at the top of the Grassmarket, which centuries ago was the site of one of Edinburgh’s main markets. The name apparently came from the grazing livestock, held in pens beyond its western edge.

Daniel Defoe, who visited Edinburgh in the 1720s, described the West Bow at the north-east corner of the Grassmarket (where our apartment was situated) as follows – “This street, which is called the Bow, is generally full of traders and dealers”, and you know what, it still is today, although nowadays the colourful shops are aimed primarily at the many tourists who pass through every year.

Because it was originally a gathering place for market traders and cattle drovers, the Grassmarket was always a place full of taverns, hostelries and temporary lodgings – Again nothing much has changed, bar the prices, and the fact the traders and drovers have been replaced by tourists. In 1803 William Wordsworth took rooms at the White Hart Inn, where the poet Robert Burns had stayed during his visit to Edinburgh in 1791. It was described by him as being “not noisy, and tolerably cheap”. In the film version of Greyfriars Bobby, they chose a lodging in the Grassmarket as the place where the Skye terrier’s owner dies. Yes indeed, lots of history thereabouts.

Having lived in the midst of such history for days, imagine my delight when we got home, to find that the next episode in the box-set we are currently watching on telly, was now set in the Old Town of Edinburgh circa 1766. The show Outlander is based on the historical time travel series of novels by Diana Gabaldon and is a firm favourite with most of us who live in the Highlands, as much of the drama is set here. It stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, a married World War II nurse who in 1945 finds herself transported back to the Scotland of 1743, where she meets the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser (played by Sam Heughan) and becomes embroiled in the Jacobite risings. It does all sound a bit implausible, and is another of those wibbly wobbly timey wimey kind of things, but possibly because it covers all the bases for a cult drama, has kind of become one.

I will include a clip here of the opening title sequence, which definitely gives a flavour of what the show is all about. Also, it makes use of the music to the Skye Boat Song, which most of us in Scotland are very familiar with – Unlike the very twee versions I was used to hearing in my youth, performed on highly uncool shows like The White Heather Club, this version has been given a 21st century makeover by Bear McCreary. The lyrics, taken from the Robert Louis Stevenson poem Sing Me a Song of a Lad That Is Gone, were adapted to fit the storyline and are performed by Raya Yarbrough,

So here we were this week, still thinking about our trip to an Edinburgh that has changed little since the 1700s, watching a show that was set in that very place and time. It isn’t often that contemporary music is used for the show’s soundtrack, but in one of the episodes we watched this week, a particularly poignant scene was played out to Bob Dylan’s song A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall. All about a blue-eyed son, so very apt really and thankfully (for me) not performed by Bob but by the Canadian band Walk Off the Earth. In case anyone watching the show hasn’t reached season three yet, I won’t give the game away and include a clip of that particular heart-wrenching scene, but suffice to say the song was just perfect for it, and has most definitely formed an earworm this week.

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall by Walk Off the Earth:

Walk Off the Earth had performed the song just once, for kicks, and then pretty much forgot about it until someone from Outlander contacted them about using it for the episode. Band founder Ryan Marshall said they were surprised, as it was an acoustic cover without any bells and whistles – Just one of those tearjerker songs. When the writers decided they wanted to use the song, because Bob had just won the Nobel Prize an’ all, they knew they would never get his version, but after hearing the cover they kind of fell in love with it, as have I.

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So, “What’s It All About?” – Last time I wrote a post about the film Trainspotting, and here I am now writing about the cult television drama Outlander. Yes, I do like my film and telly, and having emotionally invested in some of the storylines watched on both big and small screens, it can be quite something to find yourself in the very spot where they were filmed. It seems I am not alone however, as only this week I read a story in the local paper about how the Clan Fraser marker stone on Culloden Battlefield has had to be cordoned off, and the road around it relaid due the sheer volume of Outlander fans coming to visit it. Even poor old Greyfriar’s Bobby has had all the paint rubbed off his nose (see picture above) due to the sheer number of visitors to the faithful dog’s statue on Candlemaker Row.

One more Edinburgh post before I move on to new themes, but this next one won’t be about music from film or television. No, it seems the time has come to admit to which band was the first one I ever saw perform live!

Until next time….

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall Lyrics
(Song by Bob Dylan)

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
And where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, that roared out a warnin’
I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
I heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded in hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest dark forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall