Fly Us to the Moon? Vennetta goes where no Stitcher went before
True or False?
This one is for April Fools' Day, even though it's [probably] true.
Andrew Crummy has been rightly insistent that he wanted to get as many historical facts right as he could for the Prestonpans Tapestry. With the continuous help of historians Martin Margulies and Arran Johnston, plus Stephen Lord's Walking Experiences and Gareth Bryn-Jones architectural nous, we all like to believe he's done rather well.
However his scholarly predisposition has had to be supplemented by 'time of day/ sunrise/ battle duration' speculation concerning September 21st 1745, and concern more recently as to when Scotland adopted the Gregorian calendar. And now we have reached to new heights; at least Vennetta Evans has.
Precisely where were the stars and the moon in the sky on the night of September 20th/ 21st?
After all, if you were walking the Riggonhead Defile in the night you'd see them, weather permitting of course. And they'd have aided Cope's redcoats pickets who spotted the Highlanders and challenged them before the sun rose too. And if your chosen Tapestry panel [# 69 ] describes those pickets .... well you've got to get the position of the moon and the stars right have you not? Was it a full or a half or a lesser moon?
click to enlarge all images
The Astronomer Royal ought to know the answer did he not?
Now Vennetta is a serious researcher. She even knows Sir John Cope [not Johnnie but today's Sir John also Lord Cope, a former MP in Gloucestershire and a Supporter of the Trust.] He knew nought. So she contacted the Royal Astronomical Society who [after consulting their sister French Society because their records did not go back that far] eventually put out a general website request .... which was answered by Storm Dunlop a Visiting Fellow at the University of Sussex and a member of the History of Astronomy Study Group ....... simple really.
And the answer was: A waning crescent rising in the NE at midnight.
Better than that, how about a digital image of the contemporary sky at midnight? No problem - also provided.
True or False? Stranger than fiction?
It's true. It shows the addictive power and the surreal dedication of the Stitchers of the Prestonpans Tapestry. Long May You Stitch. God Save the King!
And it's false. The night sky depicted above was at midnight. By 4 am when the pickets spotted the Highlanders the moon, the astronomers told Vennetta, would have disappeared. Undeterred, and with righteous use of poetic licence, Vennetta has embroidered the sky as the Highlanders would have seen it [probably] as they left Tranent to prepare to make their way through the Riggonhead Defile that night after Robert Anderson had alerted Lord George Murray and the Prince to the option it provided - and the redcoats' pickets as they sat by their fires wondering what the morrow would bring.
Ed. And of course Vennetta wins a free copy of Sarah Bower's A Needle in the Blood, the fine novel of Bishop Odo's love affair with one of the Stitchers of the Bayeux Tapestry a millennium ago - to remind her of earthly passions on her way to the full moon and back.
Published Date: April 1st 2010