GreeneFisher Publications™

  Sarasota, Florida, USA 

The GreeneFisher Guide to The Green Flourish Pentalogy

Notes on Book 1: The Sisters Find a New Home

Preface and Opening Letter

-The Green Flourish Pentalogy was originally published as five separate books, but I always intended for it to be read like an old-fashioned serial. Ultimately, it is one ongoing story following Mary from her birth until she is at the point of being able to stand on her own two feet at which point the novels being (Loggerhead, One Little Word, etc.).

-"Death comes in and speirs (asks) nae questions" is a Scottish proverb of unknown origin found in many collections such as Scottish Proverbs Collected and Arranged by Andrew Henderson (published 1876, digital version courtesy of

-Note that I used standard British syntax and spelling throughout the entire series to give the writing a more contemporary feel. When it comes to archaic spelling of words, Mary always prefers the old-fashioned or less frequently used styles (phantasy, not fantasy).

-Every novel begins with a letter written at the same time as the story to follow, and in considering the Pentalogy to be one long story, it has its own letter as well. The purpose of the letter is to put the time of the writing in context. Although Mary is writing about her childhood, she is writing it from decades in the future in the year 1936 and the intervening years may have easily colored her perception of the events of her youth.

-"...goose-stepping in the Rhineland..." and "...those same goose-steppers (Nazis) will be hosting the Olympic Games..." are references to what was really occurring in Europe at the time of Mary's imprisonment (March 7 1936 Nazi invasion and the 1936 Olympic Games at Berlin).

-"In the end is my beginning" is a quote attributed to Mary, Queen of Scots.

Chapters 1-2

-The date of Mary's birth being either the 7th or 8th of December is another reference to Mary, Queen of Scots, whose birthday is traditionally remembered as being on the 8th although it is believed possible she was actually born on the 7th.

-"In the style of Caesar" that is, by cesarean section.

-A caul is a piece of membrane usually attached to a baby's head, but sometimes covering much more of the body. Less than 1 in every 75,000 births results in a caul and frequently it is nothing more than a part of the amniotic sac which has attached to the baby during the birthing process. Various folklore tales from around the world suggest that a person born "in the caul" is immune to drowning.

-Free Kirk or Free Church (known today as the "Wee Free") is a denomination that started due to a split in 1843 within the Church of Scotland. Around the end of the 19th century, most of the Free Church joined with the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland but a minority remain outside of that union until this day.

-"...the law states that a papist will never again sit the throne..." Since the time of the Act of Settlement of 1701, Catholics had been proscribed against becoming the monarch (for a number of cultural and political reasons stretching back to the time of Henry VIII). The law was finally repealed by parliament in 2015.

-" proverbial riches..." Proverbs 23:5.-"...a foreigner from the South..."  Mary never clearly states what her mother and uncle's national origins are but with the available information given throughout the book it can be inferred that they likely are German.

-The song is part of 

The Silver Tassie by Robert Burns.

-"Black Friday" was a real event as described on October 14, 1881. Specific information was taken from contemporary news articles including from the Edinburgh Evening News.  The "friend" Mary mentions is Phillip Tafton.

-Warp and woof (or warp and weft) are the longitudinal and transverse lines of thread which make up cloth.

-" a good Corinthian woman in kirk."  1 Corinthians 14:34.

-"One and six" is one shilling and six pence, or one-and-a-half shillings.

Chapters 5-6

-"Scarletina": Scarlet Fever.

-"the broadcloth manufactory", etc., are all actual contemporary industries of the area.

-The enterprise of the "foreign colony" Mary refers to was an actual attempt made by Scottish investors.  In the 17th century, various English laws made trade incredibly difficult in Scotland and the decision was made to try to rectify the situation by founding a colony on the Darien isthmus of modern Panama in Central America near the present day location of the Panama Canal. The plan was that transshipments of goods being traded between Europe and India would take place there with a tariff being paid to the Scottish owners of the colony.  The expedition was, however, doomed from the start for a number of reasons.  Not only was King William III (also known as William II of Scotland) against the idea from the start, but the Spanish had already claimed the entire area as their own lands and William was, at the time of the preparation for the voyage to Darien, attempting to sign an alliance with the king of Spain. The original plan was to fund only half of the expedition with Scottish money, but given the political atmosphere little investment could be found in England or on the continent.  In July of 1698, three ships carrying 1200 settlers set sail for Darien and their cargo is as unuseful as Mary describes it.  The settlers seemed to have no idea of how hostile the environment was, let alone how unwelcoming the local Spanish residents would be.  Ultimately, most of the settlers died of disease and the remainder were forced to return to Scotland after a Spanish attack. The cost of the expedition was £400,000 which essentially represented the entire economy of Scotland at that time.

-The surname of Douglas is taken from the Scottish author George Douglas Brown who wrote The House with the Green Shutters which was released in 1901. In the book, the author purported to represent the reality of life in the region at that time by presenting an unsympathetic view of the average Scot as well as of Scottish culture in general (in opposition to the sentimental "Kailyard School"). Modern analysis would suggest that the Kailyard School and Brown's book more likely represent two extremes of the same spectrum and that the truth was somewhere in between.  Mary's "Scottishness" as a literary character is based somewhat on the 1890s fiction of the Kailyard School of Scottish literature which presented an idealized look at rural life in Lowland Scotland at the end of the 19th century, thus her nemesis is named in part after the author of the book meant to represent the anti-Kailyard.

-"liquid consumable" is a reference to the number of 18th century Scotsmen who made millions selling tea or whiskey (Lipton and Johnnie Walker, for example).

-"southern capital" London.

-"inspired fiction" The Kailyard School of Scottish literature: see the works of J. M. Barrie, Ian MacLaren, S. R. Crockett, etc.

-"blockhead" taken from the autobiography of Scotsman Alexander Carlyle.

-"If thour't the lord of this castle..." The ballad quoted is "The Battle of Otterbourne".

-"vegetarian cookery" I read several vegetarian cookbooks written at the end of the 19th century that were produced either in consideration of personal health or being humane to animals. Some examples available through Project Gutenberg are New Vegetarian Dishes by Mrs. Bowditch (1892), Cassell's Vegetarian Cookery by A. G. Payne (1891) and No Animal Food by Rupert H. Weldon.

-Mary's friend who would later say "not everyone is a believer" is a reference to Abigail Greene.

-"caller haggis" The fishwives used to announce themselves by shouting "caller herrin" (fresh herring) on the streets of Edinburgh.

-"feteo, fetes, fetet..." would be translated as "I stink, you stink, he or she stinks..."

-"thrawnie" The word thrawn in Scots refers to something twisted, crooked or deformed. The titular character in Thrawn Janet (1881) by Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson is often thought to be the first literary mention of what we now think of as a "zombie", and thrawnie is Mary's own word for such a creature.

-"McGregor kept a row of cucumber frames..." as in Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

-"Sunday Braws" The nice set of clothes set aside for the Sabbath (as opposed to one's "ilka-day dress").

-"Ye lie, ye lie, ye liar loud! So loud I hear ye lie."  The lines are from the Scottish "The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens".

-Magic Lanterns were in use as early as the 17th century.  They operated similar to a modern day slide show but featured painted (later photograph) glass slides which were projected onto a screen with a lense and a light source.

-"wander the Earth forever" Genesis 4:10-14  Mary refers to herself as bearing similarities to Cain multiple times. Like Cain, there is something about her appearance that visibly marks her as being different; like Cain she is a wanderer (stravaigerer); like Cain she is a "murderer".

-"the sea will one day give up her dead" Revelation 20:13

-"grunting at his briar" In Farewell Miss Julie Logan, J. M. Barrie refers to grunting when smoking a pipe as the best way to draw out the flavor of the tobacco.

-The tollbooth was a government building where fees and customs were collected, but also was the judiciary seat and usually contained a prison.

-A ducking stool (earlier known as a cucking stool) was a traditional form of legal punishment carried out through public humiliation and aimed almost exclusively towards "troublesome" women. There were various ways in which the punishment was carried out, but basically they all employed a chair in which the woman was confined and then dunked into water repeatedly.

-Psalm 17: Mary's version isn't perfect but is close, the main problem being that some of the lines are out of order.

-"I would have fain there had been a darkness over all the Earth" Mark 15:33, Matthew 27:45, Luke 23:44

-"O whar are ye gang..." from the Scottish ballad "The Fause Knight Upon the Road".

-Gansay sweaters, also known as ganseys or guernseys are a kind of knitted woolen sweater that originated in the islands of Guernsey. The cloth of the gansey is popular with seamen due to its tight weave that can deflect water.

-Tackety-boots: Hob-nailed boots.

-The "Box Walk" was part of a traditional festivity marking the end of the fishing season each September in Fisherrow. As part of the ceremony, a box was walked through town to collect charitable donations for people in need.

-"Auld Reekie" (English: Ol' Smokey) is a traditional nickname for the Scottish capital of Edinburgh (it has also been known as "The Athens of the North"). The name was given during the industrial revolution in regards to the large amount of coal smoke produced by the town's many factories. The distance from the town centers of Edinburgh and Fisherrow is about 5.7 miles.

-The quote regarding foul play is from the Scottish ballad "Kathrine Jaffray".

Chapters 7-9

-"like a sheep she remained faithfully among a parish full of goats..." Matthew 25:32

-Chapel is a colloquial term used sometimes for any non Presbyterian (non-Scottish) church but usually used to refer to the Anglican Church.

-a phaeton was a kind of open-topped carriage with over-sized wheels drawn by one or two horses.

-a manse is the parsonage of a Presbyterian church, although some other denominations have adopted the term as well.

-Bull of Bashan: Psalm 22:12

-Gour refers to mucous in general but specifically relates to what collects in the corner of the eye.

-Babel: Genesis 11:1-9

-Mary and Jamie both refer to Rebecca as being an odd name. Mary states that nobody is named Rebecca referring to the fact that it was an unpopular given name in Scotland at the time (as opposed to the name Mary which was and is very popular). Jamie's statement that he sees Mary's sister "as being some sort of bonnie Waverly Jewess, a healer of wounded knight crusaders" is a reference to a character in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. Thanks to that book, by the end of the 19th century the name Rebecca had come to be seen as a Jewish name only and was not considered appropriate for Christian children.

-Averin is the Scots name for the cloudberry which is popularly made into jam in northern European countries.

-"As I beheld the mote in his eye I considered the beam in my own..." Matthew 7:1-5

-The character of Jamie is based in every sense on the real-life Sir James Matthew Barrie, Scottish dramatist and writer who lived from 1860 to 1937. I never meant to imply that there would have been an actual meeting of Mary and the real Barrie as obviously the chronology does not match. This portion of the story takes place in 1895, and Barrie was already a well-established thirty-five year-old writer in London, not the fourteen year-old "man muckle" he is presented as in the story. Nonetheless, the characterization of Jamie is true to life, and Mary's realization of his faults is an accurate indictment of the man himself, especially as regards his family, particularly his mother, as can be seen by reading the biography Margaret Olgivy (1896). If I had to pin inspirational responsibility for Mary's creation as a literary character on any one person, it would most certainly be J. M. Barrie, often cited as the chief creator (or, at least, chief perpetuator) of the Kailyard School of literature. In that sense, Mary is clearly criticizing herself by scrutinizing Jamie (which fact she acknowledges).

-"I found myself wondering if he would ever grow up." In modern times, Barrie's best known work is the play Peter Pan and the books he subsequently published featuring the related characters. This statement by Mary is less a reference to Peter Pan and more a reference to Barrie himself. In some respects he might have been considered rather egocentric and self-absorbed, but a modern re-analysis suggests that, whatever the cause, Barrie had difficulties with complex, adult relationships, and himself never actually grew up emotionally. A number of biographies of the author have been written which examine the subject. My favorite modern biography of Barrie is Lisa Chaney's Hide-and-Seek with Angels: A Life of J. M. Barrie.

-"It was as if he could write a biography of her (his mother's) life and at the end the reader would know nothing factual on the woman with the exception that she had produced a son, the author." Barrie's biography of his mother, written shortly after her death, was mostly about himself. The references to the rest of Jamie's family are all based on Barrie's real-life family.

Chapter 10

-The "spiritually minded friend" is a reference to Jessica Weston

-Jonah as in the Book of Jonah and Matthew 12:39-41, Luke 11:29-32

-"a continental farmer" Mary never identifies the origin of her mother's side of the family, rather she says they are "continental" and "from the south" and originated in a land full of great cathedrals. At the time of Mary's mother's death in 1878, her uncle could speak neither English nor Scots also suggesting he was not English, rather that he had come from Europe. The colony near Austin founded by her uncle's "fellow countrymen" is a reference to Texas cities such as Fredericksburg which were founded by German colonists. In modern times, German influences on the culture of Texas are being more widely recognized, but in Mary's day, such communities tended to remain closed to the outside world and its influences.

-"Got the hayseeds out of his hair" Is from Richard Henry Dana, Jr.'s 1840 autobiography Two Years Before the Mast.

-"the broad path" Matthew 7:13

-"all the kingdoms of the world" Matthew 4:8, Luke 4:5

-The story Mary references featuring the Crawford Clan is Crawford's Sair Strait from Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr's Scottish Sketches.

-The friend of "Iberian descent" is Magenta.

-The term "Black Legend" (la leyenda negra) was first coined in 1914 by Julián Juderías. The Black Legend is comprised of centuries of anti-Spanish propaganda originating in the 16th century with the original purpose of demonizing what was then the foremost world power by the lesser European rivals. The Black Legend, which exaggerates the perceived negatives of "Spanish" culture in general and largely ignores its positives, has persisted to the modern day where Spanish culture, including by extension the cultures of Central and South America, are by default considered to be morally inferior to others sourced from Europe.

-"Mr Cooper's book" is James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans. As Mary notes, the book stood out during its time for presenting the Native Americans as being just like any other people where there were both good and evil among the population.

-"Fishberries" is one of the many names (including Indian Nut and Levant Berry) of the dried fruit of the Southeast Asian plant Anamirta Cocculus. Fishberries have been used medicinally for numerous afflictions for many centuries including seasickness, though as Mary states its primary action upon the consumer is one of stupefaction. For a time in the 19th century, brewers would infuse their products with fishberries to increase the effects of intoxication, but the practice was outlawed through the UK around the middle of the century. The specific term "fishberry" comes from a practice in which the dried fruit was thrown into the water by fishermen to be eaten by the fish which were then stupefied and could simply be caught by a net.

-Sea coat and fishing nets: Saint Peter in John 21

-Seven stones would be roughly 98 pounds.

-"Fired up by the best bits of some of my countrymens' novels..." Mary's fantasy relates primarily to Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped and The Master of Ballantrae.

-"The John B. Sails" is a folk song likely originating sometime in the 19th century from the Bahamas that first appeared in print in Harper's Magazine in 1916. Richard le Gallienne transcribed it and it also appeared in his novel Pieces of Eight the following year. The song again became popular when it was covered in 1966 by The Beach Boys.

-"dumb like sheep before our shearers" Isaiah 53:7

-The article referenced is from an actual edition of the Savannah Morning News and reflects the reality of the culture Mary and Rebecca are about to be inserted into. The Washington referred to is Booker T. Washington (Mary's presumption that he must be related to George Washington only further demonstrates her naivete in regard to the situation), and for a time in the 20th century the "compromise" he was influential in working out would be seen as detrimental to the ultimate goal of proper civil rights, although in modern times it is viewed more as a natural part of the process of allowing a generation to pass in which everyone became accustomed to the fact that pre-Civil War society was a thing of the past never to be brought back again no matter how much a certain segment of the population wished it to be so. The hallmarks of the compromise were simply a "gentlemens' agreement" in which the black population would no longer strive for the full rights of citizenship so long as the white population would end its violent ways and stop terrorizing the freed men (and women and children) and provide them with vocational training (as opposed to full education). By today's standards this is culturally backwards in every sense, and things would not begin to change until the time of W. E. B. Dubois in the 1930s who paved the way for the Civil Rights generation in the 1960s. Coming to America, particularly the South, at this time, Mary and her sister are fully ignorant of what all of this means and Mary, in particular, is going to receive a rude awakening when she is put into position to experience the prevailing attitudes of the time first hand.

The fishwives of Fisherrow, circa 1900.