May 2018 (Vol. 41, Number 11)
The Banner Says…
Raise a dram and gather the Clan
May is upon us and in Scotland that means some of the nations most loved and famous icons come to life. May is Whisky Month and I cannot think of nation more associated with the ‘water of life’ than Scotland itself. This of course does not take away from places like Ireland, Japan or Australia also producing fine drops, but Scotland is known the world over for quality and excellence in dram.
Perhaps then it is no surprise that for a small country like Scotland, it still boasts over 100 distilleries (and growing!) across the country. Scotland’s whisky industry is worth £5bn a year to the UK economy and accounts for around 20% of all UK food and drink exports. Staggeringly whisky exports earned £139 every second in 2017.
In Scotland you don’t have to look hard to find whisky as the country has some 20 million casks maturing in warehouses. From the Lowlands to the Highland and islands there is a dram waiting for you, usually with a great tale behind it. I did wonder if I had to have my DNA checked as I have never liked whisky. I have visited several distilleries in Scotland and may have been one of the few not looking forward to the obligatory tasting at the end.
Just like a good single malt however I have aged and have found some drops I enjoy. I was fortunate enough to sit down with actor Sam Heughan (aka Jamie Fraser from the hit show Outlander) a couple of years ago and he asked me to join him for a dram, how could I say no?
Call it the ‘Outlander effect’ but since then I have found I too can enjoy ‘Scotland’s national drink’.
Another national icon that will take off this month with the full bloom of spring are Highland Games in Scotland. The Scottish community is very lucky to have these cultural assets take place across the globe, and throughout the year, and getting to experience them in Scotland itself is always special. Readers of the Scottish Banner will be well versed with these great celebrations of Scottish traditions. Pipe bands, heavy events, Scottish dancing, singers, Clans and societies, whisky tastings, Scottish dogs and more are on offer to remind us of where we came from and are a great tool to pass on our culture to the next generation.
This month Scotland again begins their Highland Games season, kicking the season off at Gourock Highland Games (always the first of the year). This year the Gourock Games has wisely chosen 16 year old Rhys McCole its Chieftain. Rhys a champion boxer and also a member of the SportScotland and Young Scot’s Young People’s Sports Panel and an Ambassador for Inverclyde for the Year of Young People 2018. This is a great way to connect younger people with their heritage and keep an event relevant.
Attending a Highland Games in Scotland itself can really be a great way to experience ‘Scotland in Scotland’ and a wonderful way add memories to your next visit. As with everything in Scotland the weather dictates much of the calendar and Highland Games run from this month through to September.
Of course across North America the Highland Games season is about to burst into many peoples calendars with northern regions getting ready to showcase Scotland from now through to the autumn. And while it may be cooling down in Australia this month’s events page is packed full of Scottish events taking place, including of course Highland Games. So do check out what is coming near you, or perhaps further away. Our events page each month lists many options for people and our web site houses one of the largest events listings for international Scots in the world, and is updated several times a month.
In this issue
As mentioned May is Whisky Month and we are lucky to hear from Drew McKenzie Smith from Lindores Abbey. Lindores Abbey is considered the ‘spiritual home of Scotch whisky’ with Scotland’s first whisky production recorded there in 1494 and last year Lindores Abbey reopened and has restarted its journey in whisky history.
Think St Andrews and you will no doubt think of golf, as you should. However look into the past and like so many parts of Scotland you will find a savage and gory history. This month marks the anniversary of a brutal siege at medieval St Andrews Castle. This involved the digging of siege mines which remain an utterly unique archaeological specimen to this day.
Anyone who had a radio plugged in the 1970’s will remember the Bay City Rollers. This month we speak to lead singer Les McKeown who must have had one of the most unique experiences growing up. At 18 Les and fellow band members donned tartan and became one of the biggest music bands in history. The Rollers topped charts around the world and sold millions of albums. To be part of the soundtrack of an entire generation whilst wearing as much tartan as possible would be hard for most of us today to comprehend. The Bay City Rollers are still today one of Scotland’s most successful bands ever and put Scottish music on the map.
Changes at the Scottish Banner
Our North American readers will be aware from this issue we will be going digital only in the North American market. This decision whilst not easy reflects the challenging market conditions we face and at the same time our small family run office has been impacted by a series of life
changing health issues. The Scottish Banner will of course continue to be distributed across Canada and the USA by digital subscription and we thank all our readers for their continuing support.
Do you have a favourite whisky or Highland Games? Share your story with us by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us