Encounter at Kilgore Falls

by Richard Gwynallen

Kilgore Falls - FW - 5

In the summer of 2015 my daughter and I spent a day at Kilgore Falls in Harford County. We were looking for a day hike somewhere new and interesting, and Kilgore Falls is the second-highest vertical waterfall in Maryland.   Continue reading Encounter at Kilgore Falls


Furnace Town & Nassawango Creek

Furnace Town - 7

By Richard Gwynallen

In the Pocomoke State Forest, along Nassawango Creek, sits a small recreated 19th century village. The iron furnace  around which the original village developed looms over it, a ghost from a fleeting piece of Maryland history. The village was called Furnace Town, after the main industry, and Nescong, Nasseongo, or Nassawango, after the name of the creek .  Wikipedia indicates that “Early English records have it as Askimenokonson Creek, after a Native settlement near its headwaters (askimenokonson roughly approximating a local Algonquian word meaning ‘stony place where they pick early [straw]berries’).” The area is thought to have been a significant area of Native American settlement. Continue reading Furnace Town & Nassawango Creek

The Bannock – Scotland to North America

by Richard Gwynallen

In the late 1970s I had an opportunity to work with a variety of Native Americans.  At one of my first gatherings I ate from a bread and said, “That tastes like a bannock.” One of the Native guys near me said, “That is a bannock.” In that moment the humble bannock gained a universality in my mind.

Food is one of those ways that cultures interact, and where the borders of those cultures meet a lot of exchange tends to happen.

Bannock is a simple, flat loaf of bread with a texture that is fluffy at the center, crisper on the exterior, and a bit crumbly. The word “bannock” is a Scots English word. In Scottish Gaelic the term is “bonnach” or “bannach”. Continue reading The Bannock – Scotland to North America

Hutting in Scotland – Reconnecting People and the Land

by Richard Gwynallen

Shepherds and herders have used them for centuries in summer pasturelands.  The fisherman’s cottage and rooms in a boathouse are seaside versions of the same.  In the early 20th century these structures became the model for simple huts in Scotland sought by an urban, working class population to escape from the city and be close to nature.  Now, there could be a revival of the tradition.  The Scottish government is moving to relax building regulations for these recreational, low-impact dwellings.

The drive behind spurring a new hutting culture is more of a “returning” than building something new.  The hutting culture of the early 20th century connected people to the land and offered a natural remedy for the grime, endless hard surface, and stress of urban life.  Today, too, hutting looks to improve the relationship of people with the forest and the environment, build a deeper understanding of place, and foster love for the health of the environment, while improving mental health and well-being by making possible inexpensive retreats to nature. Continue reading Hutting in Scotland – Reconnecting People and the Land

Black-eyed Peas at the New Year

by Richard Gwynallen

My mother and grandmother always made some dish of black-eyed peas for New Year’s eve and New Year’s Day.  We were supposed to eat them for good luck in the coming year.  I gradually dropped the tradition, then picked it up again later.  The secular New Year, like all changing times, is filled with traditions to ensure prosperity, health, and more.  Why black-eyed peas? Continue reading Black-eyed Peas at the New Year

Can there be a common memory in a post-colonial country?

by Richard Gwynallen

As with every 4th of July there will be fireworks, parades, and picnics celebrating what is now 242 years since the American colonies achieved independence from Great Britain.  In my childhood I watched 4th of July fireworks in Japan, San Francisco, and Baltimore; from army bases, from fields, and from shopping center parking lots. It was always an exciting show. The actual 18th century revolution was only faint in my mind.

For most Americans, the historic document that lies at the foundation of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, might not be in the forefront of our thinking on the 4th of July, but it at least rests in the back of our minds, almost myth-like in its importance in the American narrative.

When I was in high school we studied American history as did every other American student.  But it was the early 1970s and the counterculture movement, Civil Rights Movement, Anti-War Movement and other social change efforts were still underway. So, perhaps the era created the conditions for some of us to wonder a bit, and to look at things from a different angle.  In any case, when I read the Declaration of Independence, probably not for the first time, for a class assignment, something very contradictory stood out for me. Continue reading Can there be a common memory in a post-colonial country?

An Edgar Allan Poe ramble in Baltimore – Yes, another Poe tour – but read on

by Richard Gwynallen

At midnight, in the month of June
I stand beneath the mystic moon.
~ The Sleeper, Edgar Allan Poe

I sit in a pew on a June afternoon (no moon) on the far right side in the majestic sanctuary of B’nai Israel Congregation at 27 Lloyd Street in Baltimore looking out a window straight ahead. From this spot you can see the domed roof with a cupola and cross on top of what was in Edgar Allan Poe’s time the Washington Medical College.  The building is at 100 N. Broadway, between East Fayette and East Baltimore streets, on “Washington Hill” just blocks south of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was there Poe died on Sunday, 7 October 1849 at 5:00 am.

A typical tour of Poe sites might start at Westminster Cemetery where the poet is buried, or the small house on Amity Street he shared with several others for two or three years. But I like here.  It’s one of those little known (almost unknown actually) Baltimore spots, and never associated with a Poe event. In fact, the synagogue was not here in Poe’s time, but today one can view the site where Poe concluded his life, and contemplate that life in quiet with the rest of the teeming life of the city seen surrounding the building. Death might be best contemplated from a distance anyway. Continue reading An Edgar Allan Poe ramble in Baltimore – Yes, another Poe tour – but read on

25 years of the movement for community land ownership in Scotland

By Richard Gwynallen

Last year the owner of the Isle of Ulva announced he was putting the estate up for sale.  The news gave an opportunity for residents of Ulva and Mull to initiate a campaign that would put the estate under community ownership. Recently, Roseanna Cunningham, the Scottish environment secretary, announced she would allow a community trust in Mull, The North West Mull Community Woodland Company (NWMCWC), to try to buy Ulva, over the objections of the current owner.  Thus, the tiny island of Ulva has become the most recent high profile campaign by residents to achieve collective control over their land and their futures.

Ulva Buyout Continue reading 25 years of the movement for community land ownership in Scotland

Interview with Rick Gwynallen

Gaels on the Chesapeake Interview with Rick Gwynallen
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Rick was born to a military family in 1956 on Fort Ord in Monterey, California, but grew upRG on the Rocky Ridge hike - Blue Ridge - NC - July 2011 - 2 in Japan; San Francisco, California; and Baltimore, Maryland.  Rick’s mother settled in Dundalk, Maryland after his father’s death when Rick was in seventh grade.  Rick became involved in left political movements and social change in high school, a field that has dominated his personal and professional life since that time.  He graduated from Towson University with a major in Sociology, then did graduate studies at American University in Washington, D. C. in Macrosociology or Political Economy.  Periodically, Rick lived outside Maryland as an adult, including twelve years in Oregon with his wife, which is where his daughter was born, but claims Baltimore and the Chesapeake region as his most consistent home. The last 13 years Rick worked in urban revitalization in west Baltimore. He is at present a consultant helping progressive nonprofits, and a writer with a wide range of writing interests.

Q:  What brought you to the study of Gaelic? Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey into Scottish Gaelic. How does it fit into the story of your family and your personal experience and identity? Continue reading Interview with Rick Gwynallen

The threat to public and Native lands in the United States

by Richard Gwynallen

In March 2017 the Congressional Research Service released a report entitled Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data. The report shows that, as of 30 September 2015) the federal government owned “roughly 640 million acres, about 28% of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United States.” This does not include any land added to that inventory since 30 September 2015.  Four major federal land management agencies administer 610.1 million acres of that land:  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and National Park Service (NPS) in the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Forest Service (FS) in the Department of Agriculture.  Each of these agencies has different mandates. For instance, the BLM operates under a multiple-use mandate specifically including economic activity while most Forest Service lands are protected National Forests.  Still, the federal agencies administer these lands on behalf of the interests of the people of the United States. The debate between protection of public land and economic use of public land is long standing, and it is these federally owned public lands administered by these agencies that are at the heart of the current debate. Continue reading The threat to public and Native lands in the United States

an online magazine edited by Richard Gwynallen