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Pilgrimages prove inspirational for Marilyn

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By Fiona Reid
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Pilgrimages prove inspirational for Marilyn

MANY people visiting the Powfoot Hotel will probably have seen the collection of scallop shells in the hotel garden. A selection of these proved perfect for the cover of Marilyn Parkes-Seddon’s new book “Seeking the Scallop Shell”.

That’s because the scallop shell is the worldwide image of a pilgrim and has been so for over 1700 years.

And the book tells of Marilyn’s journey’s over two and half years to 22 pilgrimage sites across the UK.

She said: “As a project it just grew, but the experience proved more than I could have imagined.

“It fulfilled an odyssey I had wanted to do for many years. The journeys themselves were interesting, as were the people I met. As an odyssey, it highlighted areas not previously explored in such a way, I was able to experience the mindset of thousands of pilgrims from the past.”

It took her and husband Malc from their home in Waterbeck up to Iona, down to Norfolk and many places in-between.

Marilyn said: “Many sites are now abandoned, ruined or deliberately destroyed in the Reformation, but all are different and interesting.

“Most sites go back to Anglo Saxon and medieval times when they would have looked very different, crowded with pilgrims seeking advice, healing or forgiveness from their favourite saint.

“But pilgrimage is not a thing of the past, it is still flourishing.”

A particular highlight was visiting the cell of St Julian in Norwich. “Julian lived in the 14th century and was the first woman to write a book in English,” said Marilyn. “Close to death, she experienced many visions of Jesus and Mary, she recovered convinced she was meant to interpret these visions and spent the next 40 years in self incarceration in a room measuring barely 10ft x 10ft.

“She was an inspiring woman in her life and still is today as her writings are just as relevant as when she wrote them.”

Closer to home, she went to Whithorn, Hoddam, Lockerbie and Samye Ling at Eskdalemuir and each chapter of the book details a different pilgrimage.

Marilyn added: “There were many more I could have done but I chose those that were most interesting and different.

“There were certainly gaps, although I have no immediate plans to do any more trips but pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela would be logical additions.”

Describing ‘Seeking the Scallop Shell’, she said: “It is not a dry, dusty book, rather it is light and easy to read.

“I never imagined my journey would be so interesting, I was confounded by the stories of saints, shrines and of people today who are as integral as those of the past.

“Readers will hopefully find it spiritually uplifting and entertaining.”

This, her second book, is a departure from her first fiction novel and she explained the process was different: “With writing novels I can just sit down at home and write, whereas this book was exciting with the travel, research, history and these made it a very different project.”

Keen not to be pigeonholed as a certain type of author, she added: “I am currently writing two more novels but, in fact, I have a plan for another non fiction when travelling is safe to do so after covid.”

‘Seeking the Scallop Shell’ is published by Stockwells of Devon and is available in hardback and as an e book. It is stocked at Bookends in Carlisle and Moffat Bookshop, as well as online.

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