March 2017 (Vol. 40, Number 9)
The Banner Says…
The Scots and the Irish- Close knit cousins
Realising that this is our March issue, makes me realise that St. Patrick’s Day will be with us again very soon. While this will mean a great deal of merriment and green frothy drinks for many people, it also brings to mind how close the Scots are to their Irish cousins. Geographically the two nations are within sight of each other for many miles of their rocky coastline – particularly on Northern Ireland’s picturesque Causeway Coast.
The Mull of Kintyre is just twelve miles away from certain parts of County Antrim, which as we know, is in Ireland. This means that it is already close enough for some Scots workers in Ireland to row themselves back to their own church on Sunday morning – providing the water is suitably calm. They could also row themselves back again for work again the following morning. Indeed it is along this stretch of coastline that the two neighbours can and do share many common factors.
The Giant’s Causeway
Sometimes called ‘Ulster’s stepping stones to Scotland’, this giant and very famous causeway, is one of the world’s great natural wonders. It is comprised of a mass of strangely shaped columns – which are spread out from the coast until they disappear beneath the cold turbulent waters of the North Channel. These strange mass of columns stretches their rocky fingers out to the sea, attracting thousands of visitors to its slippery surface. Folklore reigns supreme in these parts, and the Causeway comes with its own fascinating tales offering reasons for it’s’ being.
The myth and legend behind the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim involves Irish warrior Finn McCool and the Scottish giant Benandonner. The legend of Finn MacCool states he had an ongoing rivalry with Scots Benandonner or the “Red Man”. The two giants would yell insults to each other from across the seas between Ireland and Scotland. However things between the Scots and Irish were not all bad as Finn McCool had a girlfriend who lived in Fingal’s Cave on the tiny Isle of Staffa in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. In order to make their visits together easier Finn McCool conjured up the Causeway as stepping stones to enable visits between the two that much easier. I personally think it’s’ a lovely story, and want with all my heart to believe it!
Robert the Bruce and the spider
Not far away from the general area where these two lived, is tiny Rathlin Island. Strange to tell, that here in this watery outpost, is a direct connection to Scottish Independence. For it is to Rathlin Island that King Robert the Bruce fled after his 1306 defeat by the English.
It was while sitting in this cave on Rathlin, while he was totally alone and dejected, that Bruce watched a now famous spider. This creature has since become very famous, as it laboriously tried to climb yet repeatedly fell back again. Yet it would not give up. The wee spider finally, as Bruce watched, succeeded to climb on its’ slim silvery thread and eventually reached its objective. Right to the top and achieved its mission.
Today history relates the rest and tells of Bruce’s future victory. Yet eventually it still took another eight years before Bruce could achieve his objective. It wasn’t until 1314, that Bruce himself finally rode victorious from Bannockburn’s bloody field, despite being outnumbered two-to-one and facing what was seen as the best army in the medieval world.
The legacy of Robert the Bruce left Scotland with a great sense of pride and nationhood and doesn’t history unfold in some strange ways? And ideas often come to each one of us sometimes in the most surprising of circumstances. A warrior king had learned from a tiny Irish spider! King Robert was smart enough to realise that lessons can be learned from the most surprising sources.
Immigration to Scotland
Scots and Irish have been travelling across the sea for centuries and the link between the two has survived generations. Between 1841 and 1851 the Irish population of Scotland increased by 90%.Irish farmers relied on the potato crop, as they can be grown on a small piece of land. Between 1845 and 1848 a potato blight struck the harvest in Ireland and this resulted in the ‘Great Famine’.
Approximately two million people left Ireland to escape starvation with many coming to Scotland and ready to start a new life. Today the sharing of music, language, recipes and more make the Scots and Irish true Celtic cousins. During the month of March, it is often said that “Everybody wants to be Irish”. Let’s go one step further, let us say; “The Scots are closer to the Irish than anybody.”
However this month also sees other members of our Celtic family celebrating with both the Welsh celebrating the life of their patron saint, St David, and the Welsh culture on March 1st. Saint Piran’s Day is celebrated each year on 5th March in Cornwall so a great month of Celtic celebration lies ahead.
All of us here at the Scottish Banner wish all of our readers and friends a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, celebrating our Celtic friends and even more importantly, family.
Do you have links to another Celtic nation? Tell us your Celtic story and share with us your views by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us