by Dom Donald
St. Lucy is one the most popular names for centuries.We thank God for the gifts of light and of eyesight dramatized in every aspect of the story of the martyrdom of Lucy and the traditions associated with her name. She is the patron of all those who suffer eye ailments and blindness.Drama, music, art and poetry have recounted the moving experience suffered not only by Lucy but by those denied eyesight at birth, impaired by disease or by violence. One can easily add the feminist aspect to Lucy’s death. The martyrdom she suffered for her faith had the hallmark of male domination in the vengeance of the thwarted suitor for her marriage.
The poet John Donne was still following the old calendar when he wrote, A Nocturnal upon Saint Lucy’s Day. It is interesting to note that Donne wrote his will on St Lucy’s Day (December 13th) 1630. His poem ‘A Nocturnal upon S. Lucy’s Day, being the shortest day’ concerns his despair at the death of a loved one. Donne expresses a feeling of utter negation and hopelessness, saying that “I am every dead thing…re-begot of absence, darkness, death”. In that melancholy state it seems he chose to write his will on the date he had described as “Both the year’s, and the day’s deep midnight.”
On St Lucy’s Day it is interesting to recall the Fr. Michael Sherry’s account of the Walter Scott connection. Sir Walter Scott. “It has been said that Nunraw has a strong claim to be recognised as the “Ravenswood” of Sir Walter Scott’s “Bride of Lammermoor.” (Trans. E L. Antiq. Vol. 1, Part V). This tradition led Lily Pons, world-famous for her interpretation of the part in Donizetti’s opera, “Lucia di Lammermoor,” to visit the original “Ravenswood” in June, 1948. She was much surprised to find it occupied by monks. It is known that Sir Walter Scott stayed in Gifford, while doing some of his writing, and took long walks in the vicinity of Garvald. Certainly there are points in the description of “Ravenswood” castle as “in a gorge of a pass or mountain glen ascending from the fertile plains of East Lothian” (Chap. II) and his mention of the ancient proprietors as inter-married with the Douglasses and Hays, which support the claim. Further, Scott’s reference to the rumour of Lucy Ashton’s marriage as the most talked of matter “betwixt Lammer Law and Traprain” certainly shows that the locality was providing him with a backdrop to his story. In his introduction, Sir Walter admits that his story of the reluctant “Bride” is founded on several versions of the marriage on 24th August, 1669. of Janet Dalrymple, daughter of the first Lord Stair, to David Dunbar of Baldoon, near Wigtown, followed by the death of the unhappy girl three weeks later The historian will hasten to point out that all this took place in Galloway nearly a century before the Dalrymple family’s short ownership of Nunraw”. (Nunraw Past and Present, 1950, see Nunraw Website).
Later study of the background is to be found in Wikipedia, “Synopsis –
The plot of Sir Walter Scott’s original novel is based on an actual incident in the history of the Stair family. Events take place in the Lammermuirs area of Lowland Scotland, in 1669. It may be noted that while the libretto retains much of Scott’s basic intrigue, it also contains very substantial changes in terms of characters and events.
The story concerns a feud between two families, the Ashtons and the Ravenswoods. When the opera begins, the Ashtons are in the ascendancy and have taken possession of RavenswoodCastle, the ancestral home of their rivals. Edgardo (Sir Edgar), Master of Ravenswood and last surviving member of his family, has been forced to live in a lonely tower by the sea, known as the Wolf’s Crag. The Ashtons, despite their success, are threatened by changing political and religious forces. Enrico (Lord Henry Ashton) hopes to gain the protection of the important Arturo (Lord Arthur Bucklaw) to whom he intends to marry his sister Lucia (Lucy)”.