Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

A snow boarder on the edge of Nevis Range. Photo: Steve McKenna.

January 2018 (Vol. 41, Number 07)

The Banner Says…

January-Celebrating two great Scots

A New Year has again come around and with the hopes of health, happiness and hopefully some fortune to be had! For some January is a month of setting goals and catching up after the busy festive period and for the Scottish community there are a few big events to celebrate.

Robert Burns

This month thousands of Scots will of course honour Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns, whose work has permeated everyday life and is still recognised as some of the most important written works in history. Burns was born on 25 January 1759 in Alloway and his works about the ordinary man, love and social inequalities have given him an international following. As a child I somewhat felt I grew up knowing Robert Burns. Now you may be asking how I could have known a poet from Scotland who died in 1796, clearly I am not (quite) that old nor was it my childhood imagination running rife. 

In fact I knew of Robert Burns because of my Uncle, John Cairney, who was considered as one of the world’s leading interpreters of the works of Robert Burns. As a small child of course you do not know any different than what I did, and that was seeing people pack theatres to see him perform the works of Robert Burns. When I did get to see him perform I was usually dragged up on stage for a moment of the show by him, much to my horror. I am sure my red face of embarrassment was one of the very few moments the audience took their eyes off my Uncle and his engaging performances as he portrayed the brilliant works of Robert Burns, which have been enjoyed by many for hundreds of years.

 So as you can imagine Robert Burns was a part of the family’s growing up. When Uncle John came to town we all chipped in and helped where we could with the shows. It was only a little later in childhood I realised that not all my friends were dragged up on stages by a famous Uncle and probably none knew who Robert Burns was.

As many people around the world, and most certainly many Scottish Banner readers, will celebrate the great Robert Burns, I will too raise by glass to both the national poet of Scotland and also the man who was for me the living Burns of my youth.

Greyfriars Bobby

Around the time of my theatrical debut (as mentioned above!) I also started a small dog walking service. Each day after school I would pick up local dogs and walk them for neighbours so I could get some pocket money. We already had dogs in our family and my lifelong love for our four legged friends started at a very young age. So I am always interested to see the special place the city of Edinburgh has for one faithful dog called Bobby, and each year the Scottish capital honours a Skye Terrier known today as Greyfriars Bobby on January 14th.

The story of Greyfriars Bobby is one that has captured generations of people across the world.  In 1850 a gardener named John Gray arrived in Edinburgh with his family looking for a better life. Unable to find work as a gardener he ended up joining the Edinburgh Police Force as a night watchman. To keep him company through the long winter nights John took on a partner, the Skye Terrier called Bobby. Together John, or Auld Jock has he was sometimes known, and Bobby became a familiar sight walking along the ancient cobbled streets of Edinburgh. They became each other’s friend and family ‘pack’ member and patrolled the streets year round as companions and work partners.

Sadly John Gray passed away from tuberculosis on 15 February 1858 and was buried in an unmarked grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard, leaving Bobby behind. Once Auld Jock was buried Bobby began a new career which involved protecting his master’s grave. Bobby carried on to protect his master’s grave for the next 14 years in all weather and out of true love and devotion.  Bobby’s fame spread throughout Edinburgh and many people took on roles to help Bobby by feeding him and looking out for him. The then Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William Chambers, ensured Bobby’s freedom by buying a licence and dog collar, allowing him to roam the graveyard.  Bobby continued to protect Auld Jock’s grave up until his death in 1872 and his poignant memorial reads: ‘Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.’

Today the statue of Greyfriars Bobby is one of the most popular visited sites in Edinburgh (please don’t rub his nose however) and the story has crossed over into books and film and surely must be considered one of the great stories about ‘mans best friend’ ever.

In this issue

2018 is now amongst us and Scotland is again ready to welcome visitors to a nation that keeps offering something to come back to. We look at some of the highlights of both the Scottish tourism and piping calendar in 2018. With new attractions opening, anniversaries and pipe band competitions being held throughout the year it nearly wants to make you want to pack your bags today!

Winter has now set in across Scotland and we learn about how technology is helping the Highland ski resorts create the perfect ski run for visitors who will be taking to the slopes right into spring amongst some of the most stunning scenery in the Scotland.

The Scottish Snowdrop Festival will begin later this month and this heralds in the first floral sign of growth for Scotland. And whilst not quite spring it provides locals and visitors a sure sign that spring will come with each new bloom across the country. 

This month is also the anniversary of one of the most prolific and celebrated Scottish historical further Nigel Tranter. Tranter wrote over a hundred books and let Scotland’s story set the stage for a read which was hard to put down. It was wonderful to see he also inspired one of our very own writers, David C Weinczok, who though separated by several generations cherishes his works and uses them today to help him to tell the story of Scotland in a modern way. Many readers will also remember Nigel was a contributor and supporter of the Scottish Banner and we know few international publications can say that.

January is a great month to reset yourself and take stock of where you are. It is also a month that we remember some great Scots and hope that some of their lasting legacy helps us in the year ahead, Happy New Year!

How are you celebrating Burns Night or do you have any plans that involve Scotland in 2018? Share your story with us by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us


Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

December 2017 (Vol. 41, Number 06)

The Banner Says…

Scotland-Where ancient customs and modern festivities meet

As December approaches we are reminded of one of the most special times of the year when we can all pause and celebrate Christmas and Hogmanay with our loved ones. The month is a busy one with social events for many and catching up with friends, family and ourselves.

I remember as a child the excitement of putting up decorations and seeing presents appear under the tree (especially if they had my name on them!) We had a ritual in our house where we were allowed to open one gift before bed on Christmas Eve. It usually was a prelude of things to come the next day and consisted of lots of wrapping paper ripped apart and across the floor with everyone checking out what the other received.

Banned Christmas

Christmas, however, was not always such a special time in Scotland. The Protestant Reformation banned Christmas in Scotland for 400 years and it was simply just another day for everyday Scots and amazingly Christmas Day didn’t become a public holiday in Scotland until 1958, with Boxing Day not a holiday until 1974.

Perhaps this is why the Scots have always been known for their Hogmanay celebration which have been an important ancient Gaelic winter celebration for centuries and today attracts people from all over the world to the country.

Unique Scottish traditions

Scots not only know how to throw a party (and welcome the world) this month, many will also keep up with some rather unique Scottish traditions that are carried out across the country.
The custom of First-footing describes the arrival of your first guest on New Year’s Day. Tradition dictates a tall, dark male bearing various gifts is said to bring good luck and prosperity to a home; whilst fair-haired males and females are thought to be unlucky.

The Kirkwall Ba’ is a mass-football game played out in the streets of Kirkwall in Orkney every Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The game pits two rival groups (the Uppies and Doonies, the names being derived from Up-the-Gates and Doon-the-Gates), against each other in a battle to secure a goal and win the game. Dating back to the mid-17th century the Kirkwall Ba’ is still today one of the most popular parts of the Orkney holiday calendar.

Maybe not as exciting for some is the tradition of redding where a thorough housecleaning or “redding,” removal of the ashes from the fireplace, and repayment of all debts — all of which must be done before “the bells” at midnight on December 31st. Who doesn’t like to start the year off in a nice clean hoose?

The small town of Burghead in Moray gets a bit greedy over their Hogmanay celebrations with two celebrations to enjoy. The Burning of the Clavie is a fire festival unique to Burghead, which greets in the New Year. The Pagan festival dates back to at least the 1750s and takes place both on December 31st and also again on January 11th. The significance of the 11th January dates back to the 1750’s, when the Julian calendar was reformed in Britain. The new Gregorian calendar was introduced. People rioted, demanding back their 11 days – but not in Burghead. The clavie, which is a half-cask filled with wood shavings and tar, is set alight. Getting of a piece of the clavie is said to bring good luck for the coming year.

In the issue

Scotland’s historic capital is again rolling out the red carpet for kids of all ages this festive season with a huge range of events to cater to all tastes, highlighting with the spectacular fireworks display over Edinburgh Castle. The city will again blend a mix of new and old customs for the tens of thousands of revellers which showcases Scottish hospitality and tradition.

As winter takes hold this month the days become shorter and skies much darker. Scotland is now a top stargazing nation and parts of the country are some of the darkest in Europe. For those who want a real out of this world light show there are few places that can match the celestial displays of bright stars and Northern Lights.
The reconstruction of an Iron Age roundhouse in Dumfries was recently honoured and the ancient settlement of Whithorn is being recreated for future generations to understand Scotland’s Iron Age past. Many crafts people have worked tirelessly to preserve this part of Scotland’s rich heritage.

Scottish folklore is full of interesting tales and this month we look at the story of the last dragon to be killed in Scotland. Many may not be familiar with the Linton worm in the Scottish Borders, however Sir Walter Scott was. Just like the much more famous Loch Ness monster, fact or fiction, the tale is incredible because just what if it was true…

A festive time in a very festive nation

Scotland offers a unique mix of ancient tradition mixed with a modern flair. This month is a festive time in a very festive nation, however wherever you may be spending your Christmas or seeing in 2018 all of us at the Scottish Banner wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season and may 2018 be a year of health and happiness.

Have you got a favourite Christmas or Hogmanay tradition or perhaps been lucky enough to visit Scotland for during the holiday season? Share your story with us by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us

How are you celebrating St Andrew’s Day? Share your story with us by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us