Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

December 2019 (Vol. 43, Number 06)

Gracing our front cover: Edinburgh’s annual Christmas celebration. Photo: Snaps By Shirin/ Edinburgh Christmas.

The Banner Says…

A call to protect Scotland’s heritage

The call has literally been made recently across
mainly rural parts of Scotland to save the iconic red call box.

In fact, across Britain telephone bosses and community groups are looking at ways to save one of most recognisable cultural symbols of the country. The first red phone boxes were installed in 1921, but the red telephone box we have come to know (the Jubilee kiosks, commemorating the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of King George V) was
designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, following a competition in 1924.

However, as technology has leaped forward, with most of the Scottish public having mobile phones, the need for call boxes has seen a massive reduction creating a unique 21st century problem. Calls made from public telephones have fallen by around 90% in the past decade and the costs to maintain them continues to increase.

With BT (British Telecom) now closing call boxes across the country (650 have been removed this year so far), with the Highlands and Scottish Borders most impacted. There are today just over 31,000 BT payphones still in place across the UK, but in Scotland one in five call boxes will be closed, leaving just 3,300 active phones.

A significant part in Britain’s national heritage

It is the Scottish communities in rural areas that have the most concern, to lose what could for some be a lifeline. Not all communities have reliable mobile reception and rely on the trusted call boxes as a communication back up.

Also depending on what decade you were born, you may or not, be
surprised to read some older Scots do not use mobile phones and rely on telephones. This is a further hit for rural Scottish communities as some have also lost a variety of essential services such as post offices, banks and the Scottish invention of ATM’s.

BT however has said it will not remove any payphones on the Scottish islands or in areas where there was no mobile coverage.

Adopt a Kiosk

Understanding that the red telephone box plays a significant part in Britain’s national heritage and in many cases forms a focal point for communities across the country, BT is offering communities the opportunity to keep these kiosks. Since the Adopt a Kiosk programme was launched, more than 2,300 communities across the UK have seized the opportunity to do something wonderful with local phone boxes that had little or no usage. For just £1 communities can give their local red phone box a new lease of life as something completely different.

Adopted kiosks have been adapted to include a book exchange, art gallery, grocery shop, a bakery, a wildlife information centre, a coffee shop and even lifesaving defibrillators in some local boxes. BT will continue to provide electricity (if already in place) to power the light for adopted kiosks, free of charge to communities. In Scotland over 700 call boxes are available under the Adopt a Kiosk programme.

In this issue

Festive fun is certainly a thread in this issue as we look at how the Scottish capital will be celebrating both Christmas and Hogmanay. I have spent these holidays in Scotland before and have great memories of being at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay or going for a cool but lovely Christmas walk around Glasgow University with my family. Of course, Scotland really puts a show on for Hogmanay, like nowhere else.

Clearly Christmas would not be complete without reindeer. They surely must have one of the world’s most important transport jobs this month and we are lucky the team at Cairngorm Reindeer Herd took the time to speak to us about these majestic creatures who live in one of the most stunning areas of Scotland.

I was surprised to learn that the classic A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens in the 1843 was inspired from a visit he made to an Edinburgh grave. The main character of the classic book is the mean spirited man Ebenezer Scrooge who famously gets a visit from the ghosts of Christmas present, past and future. Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie was a wealthy vintner and meal man (a corn merchant), and as was customary in Scotland at the time, when he died his trade was etched on his gravestone for all to see. In 1841 Charles Dickens was visiting Edinburgh on a lecture tour and he strolled around Canongate Kirkyard. There he noticed an unusual inscription on a gravestone which said, “Here lies Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie, A Meal Man”. However, what Dickens read was “A Mean Man”, with that Scroggie eventually became immortalised as Scrooge to millions of people in A Christmas Carol.

For hundreds of years in Scotland during the 16 and 1700’s thousands of women were branded as witches and often burned at the stake, strangled or drowned. The suspected ‘witches’ were defined as witches by their neighbours, through a process of gossip and quarrelling. Witches were believed to be malicious and vengeful and have devil like powers. If someone suffered a misfortune after a quarrel, they might conclude that the other person had bewitched them in revenge. Unlike most criminal trials, witch trials permitted the torture of suspected women until a confession was extracted. In this issue we learn of Lilias Adie, who was Scotland’s only ‘witch’ to have a grave and how history is remembering her today.

Happy Christmas

As we all prepare for the festive season ahead, all of us that work on the Scottish Banner wish all our readers, writers, advertisers and friends the very best for the holidays. And whilst many will spend too much, and possibly eat even more, try and remember the simple joys of the season, spending time with friends and family and perhaps looking out for those who are alone or in need. What ever you do, and where ever you spend it,
I hope you find some of the magic of the holiday’s surrounds you.

Happy Christmas & Hogmanay!

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