Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

May 2019 (Vol. 42, Number 11)

Gracing our front cover: The 2019 Tartan Day Parade in New York. Photo: Jennifer Leonard.

The Banner Says…

The changing flow of whisky

Think Scotland for many non- Scots and images of tartan, bagpipes and whisky come to mind. Scotland is all these things, and so much more, but those traditional icons often stand out for many. This month whisky will be highlighted both in Scotland and across the world as May hosts Whisky Month in Scotland and World Whisky Day also takes place globally.

Sold in over 200 countries worldwide, whisky is one of Scotland’s most famous exports, with nearly forty bottles of whisky being exported from Scotland every second! Last year that equated to nearly 558 million bottles, with recent big increases in the Indian and Chinese markets. This is on top of the already robust markets of Europe and the United States. A whisky can be called Scotch whisky only after it has matured for a minimum of three years in oak casks in Scotland itself. Over the years I have been asked about being ‘Scotch’ and I must let the person know that it is in fact a drink, not Scots.

It’s believed whisky-making began in Scotland as wine making methods spread from monasteries in Europe during the 11th century. Whisky which translates in Gaelic ‘uisge beathe’ (or ‘water of life’) is a product steeped in tradition, but at the same time one which is innovating itself in today’s modern world.

Ancient craft

The ancient craft of creating oak casks has been part of Scotch whisky for centuries, but the industry has celebrated a new first with the recruitment of two female coopering apprentices. First-year coopering apprentices Angela Cochrane and Kirsty Olychick – recruited by leading Scotch distiller Diageo at its Cambus Cooperage in Clackmannanshire – are breaking down the gender barriers and blazing a pioneering trail in the once male dominated trade.

Diageo has invested significantly in its coopering operations in Scotland in recent years, opening the £10 million state-of-the art Cambus Cooperage in 2011. Drawing on generations of skill and knowledge, and combining it with the state-of-the-art engineering, the cooperage is now able to process more whisky casks than ever before, producing over 400,000 casks each year to be used to mature spirit from Diageo’s portfolio of single grain and single malt distilleries.

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival takes place this month in locations across Speyside, the spiritual home of Scotland’s whisky industry. One of the more unusual events is Secrets of Spynie on May 4 which combines walking and canoeing. During their guided journey by foot and by voyageur canoe, visitors will be able to learn about the 1,500-year history of the Laich of Moray where much of the barley used in local whisky is grown. Guides will also be sharing the story of Macbeth, the history of Spynie Canal and will visit Spynie Palace, which dates back to medieval times.

In this issue

Last month some prominent Scottish events took place around the world. We were thrilled to see Sir Billy Connolly take part in the New York Tartan Day events. It may be the Big Apple, but when the ‘Big Yin’ walks down the city streets in his kilt it was sure to make people stop and cheer. As our headline says, New York certainly had a tartan takeover.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is one of the world’s top live events. Regular readers of the Scottish Banner will know of this event as we highlight the Tattoo on a regular basis with many readers having attended the Tattoo or most certainly have it on their bucket list. I was fortunate to sit down with Brigadier David Allfrey to hear about this great event and how it really is becoming an international viewing experience.

The Proclaimers are one of Scotland’s great music exports. They were certainly part of the soundtrack of my youth and over 30 years later they are still making great music and playing to audiences across the world. Craig Reid told me he was simply trying to get off the dole as he and twin brother Charlie formed the band back in the 80’s. Well they sure did that and made us all the richer for doing so.

Ron Dempsey

This month we say farewell to the longest contributor in Scottish Banner’s history Ron Dempsey. Many will know Ron from his What’s In A Name genealogy column. Ron has written for the Scottish Banner for over 30 years and provided much insight into people’s names and we hope has helped many people add that extra piece of information to their own family tree. Ron has always come up with a column when his mail bag is full, or empty, and his love of genealogy and helping others has come across in every column. To keep your content fresh and insightful for so long is no easy task, and I can think of few contributors who have been so loyal to the Scottish Banner and our readers.

I would like to thank Ron for his dedication and friendship to the Scottish Banner for all these years. I have known Ron since childhood and whilst the Banner will not be the same without him, I hope you will join me in wishing Ron all the very best for the future and if he has helped you or sparked your genealogy interest please share your story with us. Ron as you hang your keyboard up with us, I hope you can look back with pride on helping so many and most certainly helping the Scottish Banner grow to new heights one name at a time.


Do you have any comments on this month’s editorial or edition? Share your story with us by email, post, social media or at: www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….


Gracing our front cover: Iona in the Inner Hebrides on the western coast of Scotland.

April 2019 (Vol. 42, Number 10)

The Banner Says…

Tartan-The Cloth of a Nation

This month North American Scots will be celebrating Tartan Day on April 6th. The day had its humble beginnings in Nova Scotia and today has grown to be recognised by official government bodies and includes celebrations across Canada and the USA.

The first Tartan Day was held on April 6th, 1986 at a meeting of the Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia, which symbolically took place on the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath (the most famous document in Scottish history, which declares Scotland’s independence, drafted in 1320).

Whilst Tartan Day is not being celebrated this month in places such as Australia and New Zealand, they celebrate on July 1st, regardless of where you are in the world tartan one of Scotland’s true icons.

Tartan culture

The diverse history in textile manufacturing is one of Scotland’s great economies. The industry is today so much more than just producing world class kilts in someone’s family Clan tartan. Large fashion houses have used tartan in their collections and the textile industry uses tartan on multiple products such as homewares and fabrics, thus creating an exciting ‘tartan culture’.

The industry continues to represent quality products that are made with tradition and tell a story of a nation, often mixing modern with historical threads, allowing it to reinvent itself. Go to any kilt maker or weavers and you will find a space awash with colour as there are literally thousands of tartans to choose from. Each year many new tartans are registered, and they of course are not all family linked. Tartans are created to mark special occasions, districts, anniversaries and more. Regular readers will know in each issue we feature unique tartans with our Tartan of the Month section, and the Scottish Banner even has our very own tartan marking 40 years of publishing!

Tartan’s overall contribution to Scotland’s GDP is equivalent to approximately £350m per annum, with an estimated 700,000 people employed in the industry making it a huge part of the Scottish economy.

In this issue

After a long dark winter, most people look forward to bringing in the light and warmth of summer. This month in Edinburgh hundreds of very loud people will be putting on an ancient Celtic display at the Beltane Fire Festival to roar in the beginning of summer. Fire, drums and acrobats will certainly be letting Mother Nature know they are ready to receive the season in an event which has become a highlight of Edinburgh’s cultural calendar.

A visit to a doctor today could easily be with a make or female and most would not even consider being seen by a man or a woman. Roll back to the 1860’s and things were quite different and a group of women who would become to known as The Edinburgh Seven opened up the possibility of women getting into the medical profession in the UK. Things were not easy for these women who suffered abuse and roadblocks to fulfilling their dreams, they however did fulfil those dreams and made not only Scotland, but the world know medicine was not a male only domain.

One Scottish writer is honouring her father, a father she barely got to know, with a production premiering in Scotland this month. Lost at Sea tells the story of what many fishing families and communities have struggled with and uses the Northeast language Scots language of Doric. What a tribute to a father forever lost at sea, but never forgotten.

Many who have passed are remembered with grave sites across Scotland, however one family has used incredible architecture to forever rest in peace. Two grand Victorian Monteath family mausoleums can be found in both Glasgow and the Scottish Borders. While some may find it morbid, I love going to a cemetery and reading about people and taking in how they are remembered. I have visited several Scottish cemeteries and soaked up the history of the place and those who came before. The Monteath cousins certainly have left Scotland with monuments for all to enjoy.

A fabric that continues to reinvent itself

Few fabrics I can think of speak to you like tartan and give the wearer a real sense of belonging and connection to Scotland. I have been to Scottish events in several countries around the world and you will always find many in tartan, it is a timeless product and carries a great legacy with it. You of course do not have to be Scottish to wear some tartan as it represents quality in manufacturing the world over.

It also a fabric that continues to reinvent itself, showcasing more than kilts, and something more than just Scots aspire to owning. It is one of ‘brand Scotland’ top ambassadors and is renowned for its premium quality, allowing Scotland to be a nation of top production.

Last year a design student from the Scottish Borders designed a tartan for the blind and vision impaired. Heriot-Watt student Anna Cuinu designed a knitted tartan fabric using stitch structures to translate colours and patterns from the traditional tartan fabric into a sensory one. This is a perfect example how the industry is moving along with a modern world and being of appeal to a broad spectrum of people.

In todays fast fashion world products with heritage, legacy and that last are becoming more and more rare. Tartan has been part of the fabric of the story Scotland for generations and long may that weave of quality continue.

Wishing those celebrating a fantastic Tartan Day this month, I know I will be wearing my kilt on April 6th!

Do you own tartan or have a special connection to the fabric?   Share your story with us by email, post, social media or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us