The region where the southern reaches of medieval Scotland bordered England’s Northumbria was generally defined by the River Tweed. Not only was it a primary water source, but its flow carried commerce of all sorts and fed the population with some of the world’s finest salmon. Life depended upon its eastward flow, emptying into the North Sea at Berwick. The port of Berwick burgeoned with shipping throughout the middle ages. as a cross roads of international culture, trade and Templar networking.
Inland commerce, abbeys, and settlements were interdependent upon each other for a thinly veiled balance of living. The abbeys were scattered throughout Scotland’s southern regions, serving as autonomous landowners, healers, commercial innovators. Abbey lands answered to no one, neither bishops or kings. And as such, served as ingenious buffers against invading forces. Medieval Scottish kings donated vast portions of land to various holy orders, who pastured and sheered sheep. Among the vast abbey lands were Melrose, Dryburgh and Kelso abbey, which come into play in Book 2… (soon to be released!)
The Templars guarded it all under an innovative system, from the pilgrims along the roads and managing treasuries of kingdoms, to wool shipments destined for Templar ships setting sail for the continent. They were more than mounted calvary and peace keepers; they maintained manors and centers of learning throughout Europe and Asia Minor, which thrived under their oversight of medieval society on the move. Their networking of regional jurisdictional provinces made them naturals at driving societal progress, including Scotland.
Early in the crusades, Templars were granted Scottish land intertwined with Abbeys, so as to protect and defend their endeavors. In fact, Templar followed the Cistercian Rule. The Augustinian canons also established ‘houses’ along southern Scottish trade routes to accommodate travelers and minister to the sick. This interdependent network of hospital/hospitals provided intermittent refuge from the elements.
Soutra Aisle was one such center of healing, where they grew most of their own cures in gardens only a few paces from their doorsteps. Their open door policy was invaluable to those making their way north to Edinburgh or east to Berwick from Scotland’s Templar headquarters at Balantrodoch. The word ‘Soutra’ is derived from sou- terrain, referring to the partly earthen cell like dwellings built into the hillside. The opening chapter in the Haling and the Scottish Templars was inspired by my visits to the windswept remnants of this once thriving way post.
Scene 2 in the Haling’s first chapter opens in the shadow of Kelso Abbey. Across the River Tweed below Roxburgh Castle, which protected the northern banks, we meet Lord Lair Eagan and his two mysterious warrior companions. These are not your usual Scots. Their exotic origins are revealed as the story unfolds. And while they are not Templars, they are integral to the deeper story and exemplify the extended diversity of those who worked closely with the Templars.
The canons of Soutra Aisle, the grand abbeys of the border regions, ports, shipping fleets, castles, treasuries, pilgrims… they all depended upon the institutions and structures set into place by the Templars. They were the medieval managers of travel, military, treasuries, and business, bridging the gap between church and parish, as well as King and soldiers. The Häling and the Scottish Templars brings this historic dynamic to life.
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