The Posy Ring

By: Catherine Czerkawska

Praise for Catherine Czerkawska’s writing

‘A powerful story about love and obligation…a persuasive novel, very well written.’ John Burnside

‘Moving, poetic and quietly provocative.’ Independent

‘Clear-eyed, succinct…a much more substantial piece of work than its slim page count suggests.’ Rosemary Goring, National

‘Take any aspect of the novelist’s art and you’ll find it exemplified here to perfection.’ Bill Kirton, Booksquawk

‘Heart-warming, realistic and page-turning.’ Lorraine Kelly

‘Beautiful – lyrical and sensual by turns.’ Hilary Ely

‘Blisteringly eloquent.’ Joyce Macmillan, Scotsman

‘A romance of Scotland’s great Romantic. There is a pastoral beauty… their courtship is drawn gorgeously. The Jewel finally gives voice to Jeany Armour, the girl who sang as sweetly as the nightingale, who was muse, mother, wife and lover to Scotland’s national poet. This is her song.’ Sunday Mail

‘Uplifting…does much to put right the wrongs of historians. The characters come to life beautifully on the page…Serves as a superbly researched biography of a deeply admirable woman who until now has been…unjustly neglected.’ Undiscovered Scotland

‘Beguiling and enchanting…Czerkawska is an excellent storyteller…Full of suspense…and lush sensuality, so you can almost feel the grass brushing against your skin, and smell the honeysuckle in summer evenings.’ Scottish Review

‘A beautiful historical novel.’ Edinburgh City of Literature

‘Czerkawska tells her tale in a restrained, elegant prose that only adds to its poignancy.’ Sunday Times (season’s best historical fiction)

‘A compelling read, with a satisfying blend of history, nature and romance.’ Amanda Booth, The Scots Magazine





This is for my late and much missed mum,

Kathleen Czerkawski,

who loved vintage long before it became fashionable.





PROLOGUE


The islands of Scotland are home to a fair mixture of dark-eyed, dark-haired folk and it is popularly supposed that they are descendants of survivors of the Armada debacle, sailors who came ashore in Scotland, either voluntarily seeking sanctuary or unwillingly as victims of storm and shipwreck. We should, however, remember that the native Celts are as likely as not to be dark, although there are red-headed Scots and fair-haired Vikings here in plenty.

Tales of the Armada and Spanish treasure may have been exaggerated by subsequent generations, although there is certainly some evidence of the wreck of a Spanish galleon in Tobermory Bay. Those Spaniards who were unfortunate enough to founder off the coast of Ireland might, had they survived, have told a tale of the wholesale slaughter of those who surrendered, albeit at the hands of government troops rather than the natives, who may have been more disposed to be sympathetic. The fate of those who landed in Scotland was a little different.

It must be borne in mind that the great Spanish expedition followed on from the execution of the Scottish queen by her cousin Elizabeth. If the politics of the time were complicated in England, they were doubly so in Scotland, with something of a divide between Highland and Lowland allegiances. Even that division, like all such history, is far from clear, being open to misinterpretation and prejudice.

Without knowing the personal tales of the survivors who reached these small Scottish islands in comparative safety, we can only guess at the nature of their lives thereafter. Some were returned to Spain and of those, a great number perished on the voyage. A few remained. Their stories seem to be lost in the mists of time and even official records may have been deliberately falsified for the safety of all concerned. The Spaniards were, after all, the enemy.

From Island Tales by the Rev. Bartholomew Scobie (Edinburgh 1900)





ONE


Daisy glimpses the house as the ferry nears the island, a brief, tantalising hint of grey stones that seem to have become a part of the hillside, embedded in it, as objects become embedded in ancient trees. She was on the island only once before, and she’s hardly even sure that she recognises the house, not until she’s on the lane, peering in through the rusting wrought-iron gates on the landward side. Memory plays tricks but she knows that she must have seen it three times, all those years ago.