Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

July 2019 (Vol. 43, Number 01)

Gracing our front cover: Knox Grammar School Pipe Band from Australia, part of Piping Inverness.

The Banner Says…

Bringing Scotland’s past to present

Scotland has always been a leader in preserving the past. From historic sites to vast genealogy networks of information, the past is never too far away. I was recently sent a fascinating film trailer of footage shot in the 1930’s, which shows a side of Scottish life few ever experienced. Filmed by an American who became spellbound by Scottish, and more specifically Gaelic culture, the film shows a life that does not exist anymore and creates an incredible historical document for all of us to enjoy.


The new film celebrating the footage collected by Margaret Fay Shaw recently premiered at an event in South Uist. Created by the National Trust for Scotland’s Canna House archivist, Fiona J Mackenzie, Solas (Gaelic for light) uses rediscovered film shot by the US-born folklorist who dedicated her life to documenting Gaelic song.

Folklorist Margaret Fay Shaw first came to Scotland as a teenager from Pennsylvania, in 1920. She was orphaned at an early age and her family decided to send her to St Bride’s School in Helensburgh, in an attempt to get Scotland-the home of her forefathers-to ‘sort her out’. It was in Helensburgh, at a school recital, that Margaret first heard Gaelic being sung by Victorian song collector, Marjory Kennedy Fraser, and she decided there and then to make Gaelic song her ‘life’s quest’, to find the ‘pristine version’.

Margaret spent six years living in the remote hamlet of North Glendale, South Lochboisdale, South Uist, between 1929- 35 and over the course of these years, she became one of the world’s first female photographers and cinematographers, documenting a disappearing way of Hebridean life.

Margaret Fay Shaw left the world a fascinating collection of images and invaluable film of a lifestyle which no longer exists. She not only took film and photos in the Outer Hebrides but also on the Isle of Canna, where she lived with her husband, fellow folklorist John Lorne Campbell, from 1938 when they bought the island, until her death at the age of 101 in 2004.

Historically important

This film collection was recently re-digitised by the National Trust for Scotland, who have cared for the island since 1981, to ensure its preservation for years to come. In the process of carrying out this work archivist Fiona J Mackenzie uncovered some previously unseen film, including footage of such historically important events as the first plane landing on the Cockle Strand on Barra, 1936.

Solas uses Margaret’s images, films and words to tell the story of her life and the people in that life. Using two broadcasts which Margaret made for the BBC in the 1950s and the words of her close friend and companion, Basque born Magda Sagarzazu, their own recorded voices tell how their lives were affected by the islands, the people, the animals, crofting, the birds, the songs and the sounds.

The film also uses samples from the sound archive recorded by John Lorne Campbell during the 1930s and 40s in the Hebrides, primarily Barra, South Uist, Eriskay and Canna. During the production of the film, musicians spent a week in Canna House, using the films to produce a suite of new music. This includes actual sounds from Canna House, such as, the front door, the Canna Steinway piano, John Lorne Campbell’s bugle, Margaret’s typewriter and the servant’s bells which all make an appearance in the music.

In this issue

Another film which is now being released in the UK is the new Robert the Bruce movie. The film takes place after Robert the Bruce was crowned King of Scotland following William Wallace’s torture and execution. Whilst not quite a sequel to Braveheart, this film picks up from that story and promises to take viewers on a brutal journey as Bruce leads his country to a hard-fought independence battle. The Scottish Banner was fortunate to be one of the few international publications to get some images and release details at time of press ahead of its Edinburgh International Film Festival world premiere. I, like many, look forward to seeing this release.

I remember growing up in Canada and on those crisp days going out on a school field trip to tap Maple trees for sap. Now a Scottish company in Perthshire is looking at what Canada has done for decades and using similar techniques to create a healthy Birch Water product. Birch water is the birch sap collected from birch tree and perfect for those of us who are moving away from sweet drinks to a healthier choice. Birch water contains antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and is packed with electrolytes, such as calcium, manganese and zinc, providing ideal hydration properties. Birch water also contains saponin, which is known for lowering cholesterol content. With with over 91,000 hectares of birch woodland in Scotland the potential is endless and untapped.

The Lewis Chessmen are the most important chess pieces in history. Found on Lewis in 1831, the Lewis chess pieces are regarded as one of the most well-known archaeological finds from Scotland. Believed to be Scandinavian in origin, the pieces have been preserved in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and the British Museum in London and believed to be 900 years old. Of the 93 pieces, 5 pieces have been thought lost with their whereabouts unknown for many years, but one was recently found in the Scottish capital. The piece purchased for £5 in 1964 goes to auction this month and adds another intriguing layer to Scotland’s incredible story.

Celebrating 43 years

This issue marks our 43rd year of producing the Scottish Banner. When my parents decided to start the Scottish Banner, they could never know the life the business would have and the travels it would take. It began out of humble beginnings above our then Scottish restaurant and pub and over 500 issues later we present you with the Scottish Banner of today.

The Banner simply would not be still be here if it wasn’t for the many thousands of loyal readers and advertisers who have supported us over the decades. There is no denying in 2019 this is not an easy business to be in, but the Scottish community is strong and vibrant and that has been a great part of our lifeline, so as you read this issue we thank you for helping us continue and keep telling the old and new stories of Scotland.

Have you got a story on how Scotland’s past is being told today? How has the Scottish Banner touched you over our 43 years?  Share your story with us by email, post, social media or at: www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

June 2019 (Vol. 42, Number 12)

Gracing our front cover: The city of Edinburgh, one of the cities ready to welcome visitors to Scotland this summer. Photo: VisitScotland.

The Banner Says…

Keeping Scottish history alive

Each month in the Scottish Banner we cannot let an issue go out without covering a piece on Scottish history. The story of Scotland is incredibly complex, amazing, brutal and layered. It really is a case that fact is stranger than fiction when it comes to the tales of Scotland’s story.

There are of course countless books covering all the drama and intrigue of Scotland’s past, as well as numerous films and television productions. The international hit show and best-selling book series, Outlander, certainly is helping Scotland’s tourism industry with both UK and international visits up across Scotland and at the various historic sites and locations associated with the hit show and books.

Scottish history survey

However, it was surprising to recently learn many Scottish school children are not learning about the incredible story of Scotland and their very own people. A survey recently commissioned by The Edinburgh Dungeon looking into Scots’ knowledge of their own history has revealed that half of 16–24 year old’s in Scotland don’t know William Wallace defeated the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. As thousands of school pupils across Scotland recently sat their end of year exams, the survey showed one in six Scots aged 16-24 said they didn’t learn any Scottish history at school.

More than a third of respondents said they learned more about history from films, such as the recent Mary Queen of Scots movie, starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie. The survey probed Scots’ awareness of key events and characters, with one of the questions asking respondents to match famous figures with historical facts. The report found three quarters of Scots could correctly match Mary to the fact that she was imprisoned for 19 years before being beheaded in 1587.

Despite Netflix’ blockbuster Outlaw King streaming into homes around the globe, with Chris Pine in the title role of Robert the Bruce, when it came to naming which battle he won, just over half of the young Scots (53%), aged 16-24 did not know that Robert the Bruce led the Scots to victory against the English at the Battle of Bannockburn.

The survey also looked at where Scots get their knowledge of Scottish history from and reveals three in five Scots of all ages are learning about it from television. Ironically, when asked who invented the television, only 14% knew it was Helensburgh-born engineer, John Logie Baird.

On being polled about more history being taught in Scottish schools, 82% of Scots agreed this should be the case, while four in five said it should be taught in a more engaging and interactive way.

In this issue

It is one of the most talked about television shows in the world. I may be one of the few on the planet who have yet to see Game of Thrones, a show where history is re-imagined as fantasy. We welcome back David C. Weinczok this month who draws on a vast array of characters, events, places, and themes from Scottish history that echo Game of Thrones at every dramatic turn.

The Edinburgh Playhouse is the UK’s largest theatre and celebrates its 90th birthday this year, bringing audiences the best in live entertainment in the heart of Edinburgh. The stories generated from this cultural landmark do not just come from the stage but also the building itself. The Playhouse has hosted many big names over the past nine decades from royalty to music and theatre legends. The building has been saved by a group of passionate locals who love it as much as some big names such as Billy Connolly and the resident ghost called Albert.

This month on June 21st the world celebrates Arctic Day, on what is generally the longest day of the year and when the arctic is bathed in 24- hour daylight throughout the Arctic Circle. There is now also a Scottish connection to this day as a campaign to get people to wear Antarctic and Arctic tartan ribbons to raise awareness that our polar regions are warming, and the ice is melting fast. Long-time readers may recall the Scottish Banner first highlighted the Antarctic tartan back in 2000 and this month we are pleased to again highlight this great tartan and this initiative of the world’s first Polar Awareness Day.

Scotland keeps enticing us to discover more

These are just some of the stories we have this month. As you work through this month’s edition you will see that Scotland’s history is very much making news today. The story of Scotland keeps enticing us to discover more and I can only hope that more Scottish school kids can have the opportunity to learn their own amazing history. And whilst it is great that Scotland is being featured on the big and small screen around the world, I hope Scottish kids learn their past in school accurately rather than through a dramatised version. I would have thought Scottish history would be one of the most interesting classes around, surely it must be just as exciting as any student’s video game or what they are reading on their phones??!

Someone once told me Scottish history was like doing a family tree, you often find something you were not expecting, and at times can learn something you are shocked by. There are few countries I can think of that can offer such an intriguing and dramatic past, let’s hope the story is never forgotten.

Do you think Scottish history should be more widely taught in Scotland or did you learn Scottish history in school?  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….

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

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….


Gracing our front cover: Highland Inspiration-Claire Marie wearing Lorna Gillies designs. Photo: Darja Bilyk.

March 2019 (Vol. 42, Number 09)

The Banner Says…

Celtic Connections

This month many of our Celtic cousins will celebrate their varied identities with Wales celebrating St David’s Day and the Welsh culture on March 1st, Saint Piran’s Day is celebrated on 5th March as the national day of Cornwall and the widely known Irish Saint Patrick will be celebrated across the world on March 17th.

What do these celebrations have to do with Scots, who have their own day in November with St Andrew’s Day? Perhaps more than we realise, as Celts the link is deep and strong amongst us.


Both Scotland and Wales have two amazing, and mythical, national animals. The Welsh dragon is known the world over and proudly is shown on their flag, while Scots have the lesser known but just as unique unicorn which appears on Scotland’s Royal Coat of Arms. Scots hero Sir William Wallace may also have Welsh back ground as Wallace is said to translate to Welshman.

Who doesn’t love a wee dance? A twmpath is Wales’ own form of a ceilidh – the traditional Gaelic social gathering involving folk music and dance originating in Scotland and Ireland. The twmpath includes the familiar trad music instruments such as the accordion and fiddle.

Like Scotland Wales has its own language which they are working hard to preserve, and Welsh may have originated by early Welsh settlers to Scotland, who went on to develop Old Welsh.


Also preserving their own language heritage are the Cornish. The language is spoken by hundreds of people in Cornwall who are working to revive and promote the Cornish language, identity and culture.

Though at opposite ends of the country, Scotland and Cornwall are ‘linked’ by a rite of passage journey for many. The well-trodden 874 miles/1,407km journey from Land’s End to John o’Groats, the most south-westerly point of Cornwall to the north-eastern tip of mainland Scotland, has inspired many to travel the length of Britain by car, bike and even on foot.

Recently Cornwall was also given minority status – the same protections as the Welsh, Scottish and Irish – under European rules.


At the closest point Scotland and the North Antrim Coast are just 12miles/19 km apart, and the migration of people between the two countries has been going on for centuries.

Today a visitor to both Scotland and Ireland will pick up numerous Celtic similarities between these two great nations. One would be the use of the Gaelic language in street signs, spoken word and music. Whilst the Irish Gaelic and Scots Gaelic languages are distinct, they remain part of the same dialect and individual words and phrases remain close enough for each to understand the other.

Both are great lands to try a dram as each blend their own ‘juice of the barley’, whether it is spelt whiskey or whisky. The aptly names ‘water of life’ flows as uisce beatha (Irish Gaelic) or uisge beatha (Scots Gaelic) and both nations produce world class products and are important to the local economy both as exports and for inbound tourism. Regardless of which you prefer both the Scots and Irish will raise a glass with the traditional sláinte, or cheers.

Both nations as well have seen their nationals spread across the world. The Irish and Scottish Diaspora today celebrate their land of ancestry with millions of people claiming ancestry to one, and often both.

In this issue

Scotland never seems to go out of fashion and that can also be said for the great fashion the nation produces. Tartan and tweed are so linked to Scotland and represent quality, history and fashion. This month Highland designer Lorna Gillies speaks to us about how she is using ancient cloth in a progressive way.

The ancient practice of medieval combat takes place at many Scottish and Celtic festivals around the world today. Scotland now has its very first female knight who has spent a great deal of time and effort learning the sport carrying literally the weight of armour and the nation on her shoulders.

Munro bagging is a past time that is uniquely Scottish. A Munro bagger is somebody who makes it their mission to conquer all of Scotland’s mountains which have an elevation of greater than 3000 feet (914 metres). There are 282 mountain ranges that classify as a Munro, so those who take up this challenge certainly deserve recognition. This month marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Sir Hugh Munro who started the craze and his name literally lives today in Scotland’s majestic mountains.

Special bond

It is great Scots have a strong bond with many nations around the world, especially where Scots settled. However, amongst the Celtic nations, Scotland certainly has a special bond with links between it and many neighbouring nations. There are of course seven Celtic nations and this bond runs across all of them.

Though we are clearly Scots in our heritage, I know my own family can trace back to the ‘Cathedral Town’ of Letterkenny in County Donegal, Ireland. Millions of Scots will also have connections and bloodlines with various Celtic nations, interwoven in their family history.

Celts share many cultural, historical and social identities, and whilst different to Scotland, those nations are without a doubt very much our Celtic cousins.

Do you share a connection with another Celtic nation 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: Saoirse Ronan as Mary Queen of Scots. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

February 2019 (Vol. 42, Number 08)

The Banner Says…

Dunblane’s golden son

For many, and certainly for those in Scotland, the grip of winter is well and truly on. Those cold days and dark nights can get to you after a while, leaving many to wonder when will it end. I grew up around snow and ice and remember longing for sunshine and warmth and no month did that ring truer than February. It may be the shortest month of the year, but it often felt the worst for the winter chill.

Andy Murray

Of course, for those on the other side of the Equator things are very different. As we go to press the Australian Open is on with days forecast close to 40°C (or 104°F) making some crave a “driech” cool Scottish winter’s day. Speaking of the Australian Open many tennis fans around the world were left saddened and shocked that Scottish tennis superstar Andy Murray admitted his body is in pain every day, and he is even struggling to put on his socks and walk the dogs-never mind play elite tennis.

Murray has certainly done Scotland proud on the world stage with a career that has seen him being a US Open champion, double Wimbledon champion, double Olympic gold medallist, 11 Grand Slam finals, a former world number one just to name a few. Murray has done so much for the sport and today is Dunblane’s most famous son. A gold post box honouring the first of Murray’s two historic Olympic triumphs takes pride of place in the High Street of the town which sits just outside of Stirling.

The Dunblane native narrowly escaped the 1996 school shooting tragedy at Dunblane Primary School. Sixteen children were murdered along with their teacher on 13 March, 1996 when a gunman broke into the gymnasium and began shooting at a class of five- and six-year-olds. The young Murray, then eight, and his brother Jamie, two years older, were in the school at the time and were on their way to the gymnasium when shots rang out. No doubt Andy’s close call with evil has left him deeply affected, and thankfully the incident is still today the only mass shooting at a UK school.

In this issue

There certainly is something about Mary at the moment, with Mary Queen of Scots on the lips of many people around the world. A new international film release has certainly put the spotlight on one of the icons of Scottish history. It is another example of just how the story of Scotland needs no script as the history of this dynamic nation is so compelling and we feature just how this latest film is helping Scotland tell her story to the world.

Planning a trip to Scotland? I would imagine a castle, distillery or taking in the amazing outdoors are in order. What about going to prison? Some may be interested to learn that Scotland has its very own prison attraction. HM Convict Prison Peterhead once housed Scotland’s most hardened inmates and now tourists can visit their cells and here the stories of both the prisoners and guards on just what it was like to live one of the North East’ most infamous places.

Resting on the steep north shore of Loch Awe sits the incredible St Conan’s Kirk. This church was built by the love of son for his mother and used his unique and creative styles of design to create a building that would most likely never today be made. Walter Campbell used granite from nearby Cruachan and the wooden beams for the roof are believed to have been taken from old wooden battleships that had recently been broken up, creating an amazing piece of architecture. Now a grant is helping St Conan’s not only continue to be a place of worship but also for weddings and events so that even more people can take in one of Scotland’s most unique buildings.

Love of Scotland

This is also a month of love with St Valentine’s Day on February 14th. I hope on the 14th you honour someone or something you love. Your family, pet or simply your love of Scotland. A land that continues to tell its tale with pride.

Andy Murray has said he hopes his tennis success has helped his home town, a town he loves, recover from the school shooting ordeal that will forever be part of his life. I am sure his success has helped and more, as Dunblane and Scotland can forever be proud of Murray who has taken the tennis world by storm, yet never forgot where he is from. Whether Andy continues to play or not he will always be Dunblane’s golden son.

Is there something about Scotland you love 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: Up Helly Aa Vikings. Photo: VisitScotland.

January 2019 (Vol. 42, Number 07)

The Banner Says…

Starting the year off Scottish style

With the holiday vibe in full swing many people are extra busy in the lead up to January. Some may even consider January a quiet month to get over all the holiday cheer, not the Scots!

The month begins of course in full festive flair throughout Scotland with Hogmanay celebrations taking place across the country, as the clock strikes twelve, millions of Scots around the world celebrate ringing in the bells and throwing a party called Hogmanay.

You would then assume January 1st may be a quiet day for many? Well in Scotland a couple of great traditions take place that certainly are unique ways to start the year off. In South Queensferry outside of Edinburgh, over a 1000 people, many in fancy dress, plunge their bodies in the icy Firth of Forth to start their year. This great cause is not only a spectacle to be seen but raises funds for charity while soaking away any cobwebs from 2018, or perhaps the night before…

The Kirkwall Ba’

For those seeing the New Year in Orkney, an altogether different tradition takes places on January 1st. The Kirkwall Ba’ (which is also held on Christmas) is one of Orkney’s favourite traditions, with origins thought to go back to when Norse Vikings settled in Orkney. On New Year’s Day a mass football game takes place up and down the streets of Kirkwall in a very rough and tumble event that even the Vikings would be still proud of.

The Ba’ has two teams the Uppies and the Doonies, your team is judged by where someone is from.

If you were born to the north of the Cathedral you were a Doonie, with Uppies being those born to the south, or you play on the side that your father or grandfather did before you. Uppies and Doonies came from the term “Up the Gates” and “Doon the Gates”, from the old Norse word-gata, meaning road. A scrum involving hundreds of men and boys then erupts across the town as each team crushes and competes each other, with games lasting up to five hours or more, with apparently few injuries.

Currently this is a male dominated event, however in 1946 after the Second World War, a Women’s Ba’s took place for the first and only time, so far.

Not for everyone but these are just two examples of how Scots start the year off. Overseas Scots are also beginning the year off right with Highland Games on New Year’s Day in both New Zealand and Australia, as peak summer allows pipes and drums, Scottish dancers and Clans to gather in celebration of our culture and the year that lies ahead. With Highland Games also taking place later in the month in Florida for all those snowbirds to enjoy.

Burns Night

You cannot mention Scottish celebration in January without Robert Burns. Scotland’s Bard is celebrated and revered across the globe and this month thousands of people will attend Burns Suppers which have been taking place since 1801. Burns started his life as a poor tenant farmer and his creative and powerful poetry made him one of Scotland’s most important cultural icons.

Today Robert Burns is thought to generate £200m every year to the Scottish economy and Burns Supper’s celebrate not just the man and his work but his values and belief in justice and equality. From Scotland to the world, Burns Suppers will celebrate this great literary figure from Africa to America. Our events page includes some of great events taking place and hopefully you can take part whether it be at an informal at home event to one of the great many dinners taking place though January into February.

In this issue

Another uniquely Scottish tradition taking place this month is Shetland’s biggest fire festival, Up Helly Aa. This event though modern, also takes a nod to the island’s rich links to Shetland’s Viking heritage. Each year a month after Christmas the streets of Lerwick see hundreds of torch-carrying “guizers” lead a procession to burn a Viking longboat and light up the winter sky. The festival incorporates Norse traditions and celebrate Shetland’s Viking heritage.

While this month many will celebrate Robert Burns, in this issue we also look at those who helped shape the man. The bard’s family would certainly be instrumental in making Robert who he was and in turn part of the legacy that he left on Scotland. Robert Burns was one of seven children and those lives would have been interwoven as we look at Robert’s humble beginnings.

With 2019 upon us there is a great deal happening for those planning a trip back to Scotland. We have included some highlights of events taking place in both the piping world and across the tourism industry. Perhaps if you had been thinking of going back to Scotland, this may just convince you?!

Experience some Scottish culture this year

As you can see there is much going on this month for Scots. The best wee country in the world certainly starts the year off with a bang and 2019 looks to be another great year of events and celebration. Whether it be back in Scotland or closer to home I hope you can experience some Scottish culture this year, there is something on every month and the more we celebrate our culture the stronger our events and identity to it becomes.

All of us at the Scottish Banner wish you and yours the very best for 2019.

Will you be visiting Scotland or attending some Scottish events closer to home in 2019?  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: Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations. Photo: Chris Watt/ Edinburgh Hogmanay.

December 2018 (Vol. 42, Number 06)

The Banner Says…

Look Back, Act Forward

Welcome to December which is always a very busy month for people with all the festive celebrations that come with Christmas and Hogmanay. For many it is a magical time of the year, with the infectious joy of excitement that comes from kids who simply cannot wait to wake up on Christmas morning to see what is under the tree.

I hope the joy of Christmas reaches your home on Christmas day, however we must not forget those who may not have lots to celebrate this holiday season. Some will have lost loved ones this year making the Christmas lights that bit duller, whilst others will be alone without others to share the holiday season with.

Reaching out to someone you know who doesn’t have another to share the season with or may have lost someone important this year, it may just be the best gift you can give. Not one of monetary value but one that truly evokes the true meaning of the season.

The 30th Anniversary of the Lockerbie Disaster

One group of people who have had their holiday season impacted for the last 30 years are the relatives and friends of those who perished both in the air and on the ground during the tragic Lockerbie Air Disaster. On December 21st, 1988 259 passengers and crew aboard Pan Am 103 left London Heathrow Airport bound for New York with plans for the upcoming Christmas to be with loved ones or start a new adventure, but those souls did not reach their destination.

Instead, a terrorist bomb caused the jumbo jet to explode in the sky above Lockerbie, killing all on board, plus a further 11 residents in the Scottish Borders town as large sections of the plane crashed to the ground. The sleepy town of Lockerbie was once home to Scotland’s largest lamb market but has forever been linked to the terrorist attack which this month will mark its 30th anniversary.

The entire town and its surrounding communities were deeply affected. As the aircraft imploded it fell onto the Scottish town from a great height, landing in several pieces and ripping roofs off homes and creating a large hole in the earth. Thousands of
emergency workers from Lockerbie, the surrounding communities, across Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom responded and the town would never be the same.

In Dryfesdale Cemetery, on the outskirts of Lockerbie, there is a memorial garden that is a fitting and touching tribute to the victims of the 1988 Lockerbie Air Disaster.

Cycle to Syracuse

Recently five men completed a 3,238 mile journey called the “Cycle to Syracuse — The Lockerbie Memorial Tour 2018” that began in Lockerbie in September, honouring those lives lost in the most remarkable way. On board Pan Am flight 103 were 35 Syracuse University students, the New York institution has since 1988 held an annual remembrance week to show support for all who suffered in the Lockerbie tragedy. The Cycle to Syracuse team chose to finish the journey that those people who boarded Pan Am 103 did not get the chance to complete and finished their journey at Syracuse University. On their cycle shirts the team had the very fitting slogan which “Look Back, Act Forward.”

With each pedal taken the legacy of the victims of Pan Am flight 103 and in the town of Lockerbie have not been forgotten, and their lives have been celebrated for what they were before December 21st, 1988.

In this issue

Hogmanay is Scotland’s holiday and this year the country will again awaken out of winter darkness to celebrate all the magic of this festive period. Scots make a bigger deal of Hogmanay than
they do of Christmas and a New Year brings hope of things to come, whilst also honouring tradition. It is today one of the top destinations in the world to ring in the bells and a further example of how Scotland does “Look Back, Act Forward”.

Scots have travelled the world over and added to the stories of many nations. As Scots settled, they brought with them their customs and religion. A part of that legacy is the diverse selection of Scottish churches or Kirk’s you can find around the world. Wander various cities or towns and a touch of Scotland can be found with a great story to tell, these buildings have not only added to the architectural wonder of destinations but have added to the social fabric of far flung Scottish outposts.

A further example of how far the reach of Scots has been is the story of a unique ship that is currently in Hawaii, with plans to bring her home to Scotland. The Falls of the Clyde turns 140 this month and is a rich part of Glasgow’s “Clydebuilt” engineering history. The ship is the last surviving iron-hulled, four masted full-rigged ship in the world, and a campaign is underway to repatriate the tall ship from Hawaii to Scotland and you are invited to help bring her home to be transformed and refitted for 21st century use.

A wonderful and peaceful holiday season

2018 has been a difficult year for the Scottish Banner as we have had to deal with both personal and business challenges. We however get a great deal of pleasure and pride from hearing from so many readers who tell us how much they continue to enjoy the Banner every month. I know many readers who pass on their paper to friends and family, who in turn pass on their copies to even more people, this is great way to introduce others to our publication.

However, for those who receive a copy from someone else on a regular basis, perhaps you can make a New Year’s resolution to get yourself a subscription with us? Each copy or subscription that is purchased really does help us put together the publication, if each reader who is able to do so, supported us in this way it would greatly help us continue to keep providing the content which so many enjoy each month.

From all of us at the Scottish Banner we thank all our readers, followers, friends and advertisers for their continued support of what we do, and wish each of you a wonderful and peaceful holiday season ahead and as 2018 comes to a close may you “Look Back, Act Forward”.

Do you have any comments about this month’s editorial?   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: Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe return in Season 4 of Outlander. Photo: Starz.

November 2018 (Vol. 42, Number 05)

The Banner Says…

The spell of Scotland – Big benefits for Scotland on the small screen

Welcome to November which is proving to be a big month for Scotland and Scottish history. This month millions of people across the world will be enthralled with the story of Scotland with two major television releases, Outlander and the Outlaw King.

Regular readers of the Scottish Banner will certainly be aware of both productions as we have featured each in past editions. We again have more coverage this month as both shows will no doubt be gaining exposure across the world.


Outlander is a phenomenon that has been thirty years in the making as US author Diana Gabaldon penned the first novel, having been inspired by a kilt wearing character in the show Dr Who, never knowing a television show would be created. Her best-selling books are sold in the tens of millions and available across the world. Clearly those of Scottish background have been instantly drawn to the story of Claire and Jamie Fraser as the time-travelling drama is laced with Scottish history which Gabaldon has researched so well.

However, this is more than a hit show, as hosting productions such as Outlander not only generates significant income for Scotland, but also boosts the Scottish screen industry by creating an opportunity to train the next generation of directors, producers, craft and technical crew.

A team of twenty Scottish-based trainees were selected for an intensive skills development training programme on Season 4 of the award-winning TV production, fifteen of which were taking their first step into the Film and TV industry. Working alongside highly experienced crew members on location and in Wardpark Studios, Cumbernauld the trainees will develop skills in a variety of creative and technical roles.

The Outlander effect

The “Outlander effect” also has also had a positive sweeping impact across Scotland with tourism numbers increasing due to the show. Venues used have included Blackness Castle, doubling as the Fort William headquarters of Black Jack Randall, which has seen visitors rise by 182%. Doune Castle, doubling as Castle Leoch and home to Colum MacKenzie and his clan, saw numbers up an incredible 227%. Outlander tours have now begun across Scotland to cater for those who have a new-found interest in Scotland.

Why is this so important? The latest available figures show that spending by tourists in Scotland generates around £12 billion of economic activity for the wider Scottish supply chain and contributes around £6 billion to Scottish GDP, representing about five per cent of total Scottish GDP. The tourism industry in Scotland supports more than 217,000 jobs accounting for around 8.5 per cent of employment in the country.

Outlander is also encouraging more people to live and work in the Highlands thanks to a huge boost in interest created by the hit sci-fi series, which has had a positive impact on both the local job market and the housing market.

Outlaw King

This month Scotland’s biggest budget feature film ever to be produced in Scotland by home-grown talent, will be released globally on subscription service Netflix. Outlaw King, tells story of Robert the Bruce, and is directed by one of Scotland’s foremost filmmakers, David Mackenzie and features a cast principally of Scottish and UK leading actors alongside leading actor Chris Pine. The production which is set and shot entirely in Scotland, has also employed a large number of Scottish based craft and technical talent and utilised over 45 different locations including Craigmillar Castle (Edinburgh), Linlithgow Palace, Berwick Bridge, Talisker (Skye), Glencoe, Doune Castle, Mugdock Country Park (Milngavie), Coral Beach (Skye) and the Quiraing (Skye).

Film trainee initiative

Outlaw King has also hosted Scotland’s biggest ever single film trainee initiative. 35 trainees have experienced working across the creative, technical and business areas of the production. Dedicated to nurturing the next generation of filmmakers, the programme reflects the aims of valuable similar initiatives taking place across Scotland working to develop a continuous flow of skilled and creatively ambitious craft and technical crew.

Both productions pull in some great star power, however arguably one of the biggest stars of the series and the biggest scene-stealer, is Scotland itself, with its stunning landscapes and historic buildings, towns and villages and of course it’s incredible and brutal history used as a story line.

In this issue

Alongside our Outlander and Outlaw King coverage we also must never forget 100 years ago this month. November 11th is the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice, which will recognise the significance of the end of the First World War, and the sacrifice made by so many men and women during the war. Scottish soldiers sat alongside those from many nations and today are still not forgotten. An example of remembering them is being shown by the small town of Wigtown, who are honouring hometown Victoria Cross recipient Sergeant Louis McGuffie.

For some it’s a regular pilgrimage and for other it sits at the top of their very own bucket list. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a show like no other. Steeped in tradition and musical excellence we hear from Tattoo on this year’s spectacular “The Sky’s the Limit”. Like the shows mentioned previously the Tattoo is also nurturing the next generation, with pipers and drummers from around the world invited to take part in The Pipers Trail.

St Andrews Day is on November 30th and celebrations will take place across the globe. As always you can find some listed on our events page and we wish all our readers a very Happy St Andrew’s Day!

Great Scottish themed and made drama

So, as you sink into your favourite chair or perhaps binge-watch some of the great Scottish themed and made drama that is hitting our screens this month, consider just what a positive impact it will have for Scotland. More people will fall in love with Scottish history, as well as the film locations and want to visit. Also the great benefits to a variety of industries in Scotland, which will help the Scottish economy today and into the future.

With the release of the upcoming blockbuster Mary Queen of Scots to next enthral audiences in the cinema, Scots are certainly lucky our story is so great that it continues to be told to a wider audience, who no doubt will join us in falling under the spell of Scotland.

Will you be watching Outlander or Outlaw King?  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: The next generation at the World pipe Band Championships. Photos: Glasgow Life.

October 2018 (Vol. 42, Number 04)

The Banner Says…

Supernatural Scotland

This is always a month where things go bump in the night just that much more, as millions of children and adults around the world plan and create the perfect costume or scary trick with Halloween finishing off the month each October.


As the sugar rush of treats hits its peak many may not be thinking of Halloweens Celtic origins. Samhain is an ancient Celtic celebration based on the tradition of the Feast of Samhain, which marked the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of the new one, much like New Year’s Eve traditions we have today.

Samhain also marked the end of summer and the change of season (taking place between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice) ahead for Celts as nights draw in and cooler weather prevails, and dates back thousands of years.

Part of the Samhein celebration involved rituals to honour people’s deceased relatives and spirits that roam the land. Scotland is no doubt a hot spot for ghosts and spirits, proving it really is a must see destination, as even in the afterlife people visit! With so many historical sites, with such at times brutal and horrid pasts, there is no doubt Scotland is a land filled with spooky opportunity.

Most parts of the country will have a story to tell and while some laugh it off as folklore others leave with some unique tales to tell. I have had a few experiences in different parts of the country which I cannot explain, nor do I feel the need to, they become part of the Scottish experience for me.

Rosslyn Chapel

I remember being in Rosslyn Chapel, located in the village of Roslin outside of Edinburgh, admiring its incredible stone work and going into a lower chamber and getting the sense that someone was around me and a very strong rush of cold also came around me. This was in winter so I try to explain that to myself as a probable reason, but this was different than the cool air everywhere else…

Regardless this is an incredible place to visit just to take in the incredible stonework which is filled with mysterious Celtic symbolism and detail. There are of course numerous reports of “happenings” here with reported sightings of spirits such a lady in white within the chapel to a horse rider in black outside the chapel, it is the possible place of the Holy Grail, considered to be on a spiritual fault line and even had reports of aliens visiting by UFO spotters!

In this issue

The bagpipes are the sound of the Scotland and we have a roundup of this year’s World Pipe Band Championships as bands and piping fans descended on Glasgow for one of the pinnacle pipe band events in the world. Bands from all over the world attended including of course Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. These bands joined not only bands from across Scotland, Ireland and the UK but diverse nations such as France, Oman, Switzerland, and even Zimbabwe. Proving the bagpipe really is a global instrument.

The colours of a Scottish autumn are a sight to be seen. The nation begins a fiery dance of colour as tress change and skies soften. Crisp air and blankets of fallen tree leaves make it a great time to visit as the crowds drop away but the nation puts on a natural display the whole world is invited to enjoy.

The song Caledonia is known by millions of Scots the world over and this year is having its 40th anniversary. We have been lucky to again catch up with our friend Dougie Maclean on his musical journey from penning that as a young man in the late 1970’s to how that song and his musical overall talent has helped him create a creative family business in Perthshire.

One of the most haunted countries on Earth

For those who dare and are intrigued by spooky spots in Scotland we do give some a mention in this issue. There are of course hundreds of other places that have stories to tell, in fact you can’t go far without finding a haunted story in Scotland, and perhaps you have visited and experienced something yourself?

Edinburgh is considered not only one of Scotland’s most haunted spots but one of the most haunted cities in the world with tales around every corner and close. This Halloween marks the 190th anniversary also of the final killing in Edinburgh by the infamous William Burke and William Hare, two Irish labourers who murdered 16 people in the space of a year and sold their bodies for medical research. They preferred suffocation and this became known as “Burking”.

Their last victim, Marjory Campbell Docherty, was killed on October 31st, 1828 and William Burke was hung in the Lawnmarket district of Edinburgh the following January. William Hare was spared and fled to England after the gruesome events took place. Today Burke’s skeleton is still on display at Surgeon’s Hall in Edinburgh next to his death mask adding to the city’s spooky credentials.

From haunted moors to spooky castles Scotland is considered one of the most haunted countries on Earth, but that dark past only adds to its magical appeal. If you happen to be at Halloween event or have a visiting trick or treaters at your door you may want to think of our Celtic ancestors who celebrated this time of year and marked a new Celtic year ahead, a year filled with opportunity and celebration of those who walked before us, and perhaps are still walking amongst us today…

Have you had a spooky experience in Scotland?  Share your story with us by email, post, social media or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us

This month also marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month and includes our pink tartan cover, the Scottish Banner will be donating proceeds from this issue to help this great cause, and we thank our readers for their support.

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….


Gracing our front cover: members of The Society of John De Graeme at Callendar HousePhoto: Vass Media

September 2018 (Vol. 42, Number 03)

The Banner Says…

Many readers of the Scottish Banner no doubt take the chance to embrace our heritage by attending a Highland Games, whether it be near or far, to celebrate Scotland with like-minded friends old and new.

In any given month we list hundreds of Scottish events on our website, and in each edition, from around the world allowing us to have one of the most comprehensive international Scottish events listings available anywhere.

I have attended hundreds of Highland Games and Scottish/ Celtic events across the world and regardless of where I am, I always am checking the weather in the lead up to the big day. I am sure that is something that many a reader can relate to.

I was recently at a Highland Games which began with blue sunny skies and no wind, a perfect day for a Games. However as the day progressed the winds picked up and a dark clouds approached, as I scrambled to close down the Scottish Banner tent I wondered if I could get everything packed away safely.

All in it together

As one of my display items hurled across the field it hit someone’s legs, thankfully not causing any injury, he brought it over to me and said; “You are going to need some help here!” He and his friend jumped into action and helped me get everything away safely with not one minute to spare before the heavens opened as the wind whirled around us. I have witnessed this incredible act of community kindness before and am sure some readers have helped or been helped at events in the past.

On another occasion my van got bogged in the ground and I was helped by some of the heavy events men and women who pushed out my van like it was a shopping trolley. I was so thankful to them but they insisted it was no big deal and that “we were all in it together”. This sums up so many people that attend Scottish events around the world, happy to help each other and look out for one another.

So make sure you check our calendar of events and find a Scottish community event you can attend. You may just run into one of the many kind Scots I have, and find reason to join one of the many great Scottish organisations our community offers. The international Scottish community is very fortunate to have so much on offer year round, and so many great people running, participating and attending these events.

In this issue

Speaking of community groups, this month we speak to an re-enactment group in Scotland who are passionate about sharing the story of Scotland to the wider community. The Society of John De Graeme promote not only an important figure in Scottish history but the overall story of Scotland itself. These passionate volunteers spend many personal hours away from family and friends to engage with people and the Society’s Convener David Keith is a great example of Scots promoting their own history.

The story of Scotland has been told many times over in word with hundreds of books documenting Scotland’s struggles, humour and individuals. Readers of the Scottish Banner no doubt love a good page turner much like those who will be visiting the 20thWigtown Book Festival in Galloway this month. The Festival has not only become a major event for the region but also a fantastic platform for Scottish writers and has given the town of Wigtown a new lease of life. How amazing that books can have such a profound impact on a town and its people and that in itself is a story worth telling.

This month the eyes of the world will be on Dundee and the opening of the V&A Dundee (Victoria and Albert Museum), the only other V&A Museum anywhere in the world outside London. V&A Dundee will be Scotland’s first international centre of design and is part of a major revamp of the city. Scotland’s fourth largest city is now the capital of cool and is the UK’s only UNESCO designated City of Design. Dundee has been declared Scotland’s sunniest city and it will no doubt be in the spot light not only this month but for the foreseeable future.

The kindness of Scots

In last month’s editorial I spoke of the passing of my father Jim Cairney. Whilst our family is still working through the sadness of this, I have been so touched by the great many comments of support I have received from people around the world. Some know me or my Dad and some of us have never met but the compassion from the Scottish community has been incredible. Though I know my Dad would say “That’s what Scots do!”

It again affirms to me the kindness of Scots and the friendship that we have within the readership of the Scottish Banner.

To the two gents who helped pack up the Scottish Banner tent recently, thank you for your kindness that day, and no doubt it’s simply what you do…

Have you had an act of kindness from a fellow Scot you wish to honour or recognise?  Share your story with us by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

Gracing our front cover: Preparing the Red Arrow at The National Museum of Flight at East Fortune Airfield, East Lothian.

June 2018 (Vol. 41, Number 12)

The Banner Says…

Scotland riding a wave of history

Most readers of the Scottish Banner live in places where something is considered old if it is not much more than a 100 years. Our new lands are full of tales of trials and tribulations as our ancestors began new lives in far off lands. However many of us live in lands which are considered “New World” in terms of development and progress and whose story is still very much unfolding.

This may be why so many of us are drawn to the story of Scotland with its rich and dynamic past and tales that date back much beyond our own stories. The history of Scotland is fascinating and often more dramatic than anything Hollywood could ever wish to script. There are multiple tales of gruesome warfare, harrowing events and struggles of power and wealth.

I recently spoke to a woman who was amazed that the hit TV show and bestselling book Outlander used real Scottish historical events throughout the story line. She was shocked this could even be possible and then realised this is Scotland we are talking about and sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. The “Outlander Effect” has today drawn thousands of people a year to Scotland to learn more about this historic nation. The benefits that Scotland’s history has brought to this modern nation is immense with both the tourism and film industries riding the wave.

Return to the Ridings

Scotland’s story, whilst not always pleasant, is so varied and unique it draws people to learn more, whether they be Scots or not. Scotland today champions its history with events year round that celebrate its past. This month for example the Scottish Borders begin an annual celebration which dates back to the 13th century. The Return to the Ridings can be traced to when the border badlands were in constant upheaval during the long wars with England and because of the tribal custom of plunder and cattle thieving, known as reiving (the ancient word for robbing) that was commonplace amongst the major Borders families. These colourful celebrations begin this month and run through to August across 11 towns across the Scottish Borders region. If you happen to be visiting the area try and check out one of Europe’s most unique events.

Of course this is just one example of just how the story of Scotland is being preserved by Scots. Today historians, governments and academics are working hard to keep the story of a nation alive and available to both the wider community and the next generation using modern technology to ensure an accurate recorded story can be told.

In this issue

The medieval history of Scotland is being told by the passionate members of the Clanranald Trust for Scotland at the fortified village of DunCarron. What began as a dream to tell the story of Scotland to the wider community, simply scribbled on a beermat in a Edinburgh pub, has grown to a venue which is being used by international film and television productions, and whose members have learned ancient techniques to tell Scotland’s story.

In a world of online shopping and flat pack furniture it is fascinating to hear of Scottish craftsmen using a 7,000 year old tree from the last ice age to make furniture. The Stone Age oak was protected by Scottish weather and cocooned by ancient peat bog and must make it one of the most unique options for furniture in the world.

The Battle of Culloden is an historical and defining moment in Scottish history. Few visit Culloden Moor outside of Inverness without feeling moved by the tale of tragedy and bloodshed. Today a new battle is taking place with those trying to protect this sacred land with the forces of modern expansion and developers wanting the land to build housing estates. I love the Highlands however I would not chose to live on a war grave and wonder what cost this form of progress will really be.

The Antonine Wall was built around AD142 in the reign of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius. The Wall ran coast-to-coast across Scotland from the Clyde to the Firth of Forth. The Wall was the Roman Empire’s most northerly frontier and today is still revealing its secrets some 2000 years later.

Certainly a more modern look at Scottish social history would be our discussion with Edinburgh cabbie and photographer Ryan Wells. Ryan has taken his love of people and photography and combined them to create a unique glimpse at the lives of residents and visitors to Scotland’s ancient capital Edinburgh. I have never had a cabbie ask me for my photo and can only imagine the unique stories and connections that are made during these brief but fascinating interactions. Everyone has a story to tell and it is wonderful to see a project like this happen.

Historical Scotland

In high school I loved history and enjoyed learning about times past. However I did not realise history could be so exciting and impact todays current world. How you connect with the story of Scotland is up to you, we are thankful to hear from our readers that they learn so much about Scotland through our pages.

Scotland has so many tales to still tell and whether they are discovered by a popular TV show, delving into the treasure trove of research material available or simply visiting Scotland and learning about a local character along the way, there is much to discover. Scots are very proud of their story, bloods, guts and all. We are fortunate to have a connection to a country which has much to teach, tell and inspire us-historical Scotland!

Do you have a favourite piece of Scottish history?  Share your story with us by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us


Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

Gracing our front cover: Singer-songwriter KT Tunstall, Grand Marshal at the 20th New York Tartan Day Parade. Photo: Benjamin Chateauvert.

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’.

Highland Games

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


Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

Gracing our front cover: Team Scotland track and field stars Lynsey Sharp and Andrew Butchart. Photo: Alistair Devine/Team Scotland.

April 2018 (Vol. 41, Number 10)

The Banner Says…

The Tartan Revolution-A month for tartan to shine

April is upon us and for some comes with it all the wonder of spring and everything newly in bloom. For others the days draw in more and cooler more comfortable days lie ahead.

For Scots though this month is also awash with tartan, which of course is fashionable in any season. In North America Scots will be celebrating all that is great about Tartan Day. April 6th has been proclaimed as Tartan Day since a small Scottish community organisation in Nova Scotia, Canada had some very big ideas to celebrate the achievements of Scots and celebrate many people’s shared Scottish heritage by wearing some tartan on this date.
The notion of Tartan Day has grown across North America with the Governments of both Canada and the United States officially recognising Tartan Day, in addition to individual states and provinces. This month is also the 20th anniversary of the New York Tartan Day Parade which sees the Big Apple turn tartan with events and of course the main parade enjoyed by tens of thousands of spectators. This year the parade will be led by KT Tunstall, the first female Grand Marshal.

April 6th is a significant date as in 1320, Scot’s signed the Declaration of Arbroath, formally declaring their independence from England.

In the Southern Hemisphere Tartan Day is held on the 1st of July, the anniversary of the repealing of the 1747 Act of Proscription that banned the wearing of tartan. This can be confusing for many not knowing which day to follow and no doubt traction for the day would be improved if globally Tartan Day fell on the same date, regardless of where you are.

However in Australia this month tartan too will be out in full force as Team Scotland lead the international athletes at this month’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, with billions of people seeing the Scottish athletes in kilts at the Opening Ceremony.

Tartan revolution

Tartan is so much more than just kilts in April of course, it is a worldwide fashion icon which represents quality and craftsmanship. It is such a versatile cloth and has so many possibilities and used by fashion houses across the globe. However one nation will always be synonymous with tartan, Scotland, and today the tartan industry is worth over an estimated £1 billion to the economy.

Back in the 1980’s when the meeting of the Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia took place to recognise Scots, initially in just Nova Scotia, they could not have known the ‘tartan revolution’ they would create. A revolution which celebrates those Scots who have helped form the countries in which we all live and the unique heritage they passed down, which millions of people around the world celebrate today.

Those that worked so hard on getting Tartan Day going, including long-time friend of the Scottish Banner Jean MacKaracher-Watson, we thank for their Scottish spirit and determination, and no doubt as we all today celebrate the achievements of pioneering Scots they will be included for their passion and dedication.

In this issue

Speaking of passion and tartan we are thrilled to have Scottish designer Siobhan Mackenzie take part in this issue. This cutting edge designer from the Highlands has incorporated tartan into modern fashion and this month her designs will be worn by Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Games. Her passion for Scotland and Scottish design just proves how tartan is in safe hands and will continue to be part of the international fashion scene in the future. We also speak to the head of Team Scotland who are heading to Australia this month with hopes of having their most successful international Commonwealth Games ever-we wish them luck and look forward to helping cheer the athletes on.

Anyone who has visited Glasgow in the last twenty odd years will know it’s a city of constant change and reinvention. Gone are the industrial grit of ship building and manufacturing and in its place is a creative city boasting rich mosaic of music, culture and sport. Thirty years ago this month the Glasgow Garden Festival, a five month event which quite literally helped the city go into bloom for the future. Locals and visitors loved what the city had to offer and what the city could do and may have helped Glaswegians plant the seed that their city was not a has been of its industrial past but a city of reinvention and regeneration.

A sure sign of spring in Scotland must be daffodils when they pop up across the countryside. I was surprised to learn that Scotland is the biggest exporter of daffodil bulbs to the world. Scotland is in fact a world leader in growing daffodils with large global interest and demand in Scottish exports. The flower industry has been cultivating in Scotland for generations and the much loved flower plays an important role in the Scottish economy.

There is no doubt Scotland will be on show across the world this month whether it be through the excellence of sport or the passion of the ex-pat community, there will be plenty of ways to don your tartan and celebrate our incredible heritage.

What does tartan mean to you? Share your story with us by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

The Munro Piper Grant Macleod with his mate Cluanie on the top of Scotland.

March 2018 (Vol. 41, Number 09)

The Banner Says…

Where is Scotland?

If you are reading this then no doubt you know where Scotland is. Some may even be quite specific and tell you Scotland’s coordinates are 56.4907° N, 4.2026° W, but then again most of you would know that as well…

A reader in the USA recently posted on our social media that they were surprised to hear that there was a Paisley in Scotland. They clearly were familiar with the American town of Paisley (you can find a Paisley in both Oregon and Florida) but surprised to hear of the market town outside of Glasgow with a history that dates back to the 1100’s.

Scottish footprint

This month one of our features delves into how the Gaelic name for Edinburgh, Dùn Èideann, has become Dunedin for two places on opposite sides of the world thanks to their shared Scottish links. Which got me thinking just how much of the world has a Scottish footprint, whether the residents are aware or not. There are simply hundreds of cities, towns and villages across the world with a Scottish name, this does not include the many lakes, rivers and virtually anything else that can have a name, having a connected name. In fact

Scotland is all around us regardless of where you live.

Around the world this month all eyes will be on our Celtic cousins, the Irish, for St Patricks Day with green beer flowing and Irish music getting toes tapping. Many wonder why the impact of Scotland cannot be as widely recognised through events such as St Andrews Day, Burns Night or Tartan Day. However many pipe bands will be kilted up at not only St Patricks Day parades this month but at a variety of public events throughout the year, across the world. At any one time our website has hundreds of Scottish events listed from around the world. I am pretty sure a week does not go by where someone somewhere is not celebrating Scotland through events such as at Highland games, Scottish dance events, with music and Clan functions. It goes without saying that many places named after a Scot or somewhere in Scotland itself, still today carry out Scottish events as a nod to those founding Scots who persevered in new lands.

Everyday millions of people go to bed each night in a place that has been touched by a Scot, who has helped not to only give it a name but shape the place they call home today. Of course billions more enjoy inventions that were created by a Scot, from telephones to televisions we would be lost without them today. So in many ways Scotland is around in what we do and where we live, still today.

In this issue

This month we speak to the Munro Bagpiper Grant MacLeod who is playing the pipes at the very top of Scotland. Grant is looking to become the first person to play his bagpipes at the top of all 282 of Scotland’s Munros (mountains with a height of over 3000 feet). Mountains, bagpipes & kilts what could be more Scottish?

Scottish world record setting endurance cyclist Mark Beaumont recently placed himself again in the record books by cycling 18,000 miles across the globe in 79 days. Now the Perthshire native has set himself a new challenge for 2018 by riding his Penny Farthing bicycle farther than anyone else in one hour. The determination of this Scot is incredible and with every pedal he makes us all proud.

Cruising has never been more popular, with ships plying the world’s oceans taking passengers to some amazing locations. Scotland too, has never been more popular, with 2018 set to be the best year yet. Orkney has evolved from Viking boats to cruise mega ships and been declared

the cruising capital of the UK. I was surprised to hear this and with well over 100,000 people coming by ship this year Orkney has a fantastic opportunity to show off its unique scenery and culture to the world. However the influx of so many people on tiny island community of less than 25,000 has to be carefully managed and made to be a positive impact for local residents.

The legend of Merlin dates back to the 6th century and some may be surprised to learn of the Scottish links of the mythical wizard. In fact a Merlin Trail is being launched this month so visitors can follow in not only the legend we know from books and film, but the original figure who roamed the hills and forests of southern Scotland long ago.

Footsteps of our history

Most of us yearn to get back to Scotland to discover the land of our ancestors and step in the footsteps of our history. However we can also find some those same amazing footsteps in our own backyards which have seen Scots walk before us. Perhaps next time you are out for a drive and see a name that says Scotland to you, there just may be a great story behind it, with Scottish history. Our ancestors left us with a rich Scottish history across the planet and how fun might it be to find out where that Scotland is for you.

Do you know a special place outside of Scotland with a distinct Scottish name or link? Share your story with us by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us


Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

All aboard! The Jacobite steam train passing over the Glenfinnan Viaduct . Photo: VisitScotland.

February 2018 (Vol. 41, Number 08)

The Banner Says…

February may be the shortest month of the year but for some it is also the month of love. Love can mean so many things to different people. Love for each other, our pets, places, music and pretty much anything else that we connect with.

This past couple of months have also caused me to reflect on some wonderful readers I have gotten to know over the years and have recently sadly passed away. With the Scottish Banner I have been lucky to travel all over the world to attend Scottish events (in 2017 I was at events in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Scotland and the USA) and at these functions I get to meet many readers and literally put a face to the names. Some also call our offices when a new issue hits to tell us how on the mark, or off, we were with a story or piece of coverage.

One lady called me to tell me she took her husband’s paper in to him in hospital as he was not doing well. Once she arrived he read it from cover to cover and died soon after with a smile on his face she said. This gentleman I had met before and was a long time reader, and I know we were a vehicle for him to express his deep love for Scotland and each month we helped connect him to the nation his heart never ever left.

To those long time readers who I can’t speak to again, but let me know on a regular basis how much they “loved Scotland and their Banner”, thank you for teaching me more about the land you loved and keeping your passion for Scotland alive until the end.

Corpus Valentini Martyris

With Valentine’s Day coming up this month, many may be surprised to hear nestled in the heart of the Gorbals area of Glasgow lie the remains of a man who inspires the world to more romantic and celebrate love every February 14th. But just how did the remains of St Valentine end up not only in Glasgow, but one of its most notorious suburbs?

In 1868, a wealthy family from France made a donation to the Franciscan church of a small wooden box inscribed with the Latin phrase ‘Corpus Valentini Martyris’ or ‘The Body of Saint Valentine.’ The church sent the relic box (apparently containing his forearm bones) to Saint Francis Church, in the Gorbals on the south bank of the River Clyde, as they were impressed with the religious devotion of locals. There the box remained, with few knowing the important relics said to lie within, for over a century. In 1999 the gold box was moved to the nearby Blessed St John Duns Scotus, where it has been given pride of place at the entry of the church. Every Valentine’s Day, the church is decorated with flowers and the priests pray for lovers, and today some men also choose that spot on February 14th to propose to their partners.

There is some question of course if these remains are in fact those of St Valentine as also Rome, Italy; Birmingham, England; Roquemaure, France and Dublin in Ireland claim to house St Valentine’s bones. Regardless today Glasgow often bills itself as the ‘City of Love’ due to these remains. It is without question a city I love and always look forward to my next visit back.

In this issue

Travel by train can be a great way to see a country and Scotland is no different. With an excellent network many visitors to Scotland can sit back and take it all in by train. Some routes also access parts of the country roads do not, making it extra special. With this issue you can sit back and get on board for a ride along the rails and some of Scotland’s best train experiences.

If you have travelled by train no doubt you have seen sheep from the window of your carriage. A team of Scottish researchers have been studying the facial expressions of sheep who exhibit emotions through facial changes and reactions. With more sheep than people and one of the longest life expectancies in the world it is wonderful to see researchers learning how we can help sheep by looking at what their faces are telling us.

Recently the Renfrewshire town of Paisley missed out on being named the UK’s City of Culture for 2021. As the only Scottish entry this of course came as a big blow, but the town is not letting that stop it from a dynamic cultural change. I remember one summer renting a flat in Paisley, on the doorstep of Glasgow, when I was a teenager with friends. We instantly loved the town and its amazing buildings and Paisley will always hold a special place for me. I know there is much more to the town than just an iconic pattern and next time you are in Scotland try and see what all the fuss is so rightly about.

Scotland really can be considered a romantic destination with world class vistas, heritage and food, no matter what month you visit. The month of February some may say is short and sweet. It can also be the dragging out of winter, or summer, for many and perhaps a quick nod to St Valentine (regardless of where he resting) halfway through the month can only be a good thing.

If you are reading the Scottish Banner, no doubt you have a love for an ancient land called Scotland, and no matter what you do on the 14th that is something we can all agree on…

Tell us what you love about Scotland. Share your story with us by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us


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….

Scottish actor Graham McTavish as Dougal MacKenzie in Outlander. Photo courtesy of Foxtel.

October 2017 (Vol. 41, Number 04)

The Banner Says…

A spooky kiss

This month many kids, big and small, will be donning costumes of witches, ghosts and just about anything else that could bump in the night. Most popular across North America this tradition in fact has its origins with our very own Celtic ancestors.


Halloween is a shortened version of All Hallows Evening, which refers to the Christian festival of All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve. The ancient pagan Celtic festival of Samhain (or Samhuinn in Gaelic), was held on the 1st of November, which marked the end of summer season and harvest period and the onset of winter ahead. The Celtic year was determined by the growing seasons and Samhain, considered one of the most important periods in the calendar, symbolised the boundary between the world of those living and the world of the dead. Many Celts believed on the night of October 31st, ghosts would walk again amongst them, and large bonfires were lit in each village to honour the dead and in order to ward off any evil spirits.

Spooky stories and tales

Today Scotland is still known for many spooky stories and tales. Edinburgh has been named the most paranormal city on earth and only just exceeds Glasgow in reported “ghostly events”, with both reporting hundreds of paranormal sightings or occurrences. I have been to Scotland and also had some unique stories to bring back with me. Whilst staying in a stately home which today is a hotel in the west of Scotland several people in our group came to breakfast asking who had a barking dog, staff quickly told us there in fact was no dog at the hotel, however it was a faithful dog who died twenty years previously and who lost his master many years ago before, and was reported to still bark for his owner.

On another visit I remember keeping my blinds open at night in a different hotel as it had such a brilliant view, I went to brush my teeth before bed and came out and the blinds had been lowered and thought- that’s odd… Later that night I awoke to a peck on the cheek and thought-that’s even odder!  I felt very strange going to the desk the next day to request a room change and when I told them why the staff told me there was a motherly spirit that had been reported at the hotel over many years by several guests but she was lovely. I can’t say this was my best kiss ever but one I will never forget!


Last month the Scottish Banner expanded our social media reach and initiated an Instagram account. Many people had commented how much they enjoy our Facebook and Twitter images and that we should also use the photo based social media platform. So if you happen to also use this popular service please follow us and help us share our story and love for Scotland.

In this issue

Many people around the world should by now be able to breathe a bit easier as the hit television show Outlander has returned to our screens. The “Droughlander” has been fixed for the time being and this month we are so thrilled to have one of the shows most beloved actors taking part. Graham McTavish took the role of Dougal Mackenzie and made it his own and literally brought the character swinging out of the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s books to our screens.

Scotland recently named the most beautiful country in the world by travel gurus Rough Guides. This has made headlines around both Scotland and the world and we are so happy Scotland has been recognised in this way. Of course the Scottish Banner has been telling people this for over forty years and our readers know this already but this well-deserved accolade just reaffirms what we do each month and why.

Also big in the news recently was the opening of Scotland’s newest landmark, the Queensferry Crossing. This bridge looks to have many uses, first and foremost as a modern transport link for locals and visitors but also creating a “bridge tourism” effect with people looking to come to Scotland to see all the great bridges the nation has and some are described in this issue.

As mentioned this month is Halloween and we have a few of our favourite Scottish spooky places highlighted in this issue. Whether or not you believe in ghosts Scotland remains a fascinating country with a rich history and an incredible story to be told. This month millions of people will celebrate a tradition our Celtic ancestors created and passed on, this is a gift to the world.

If you happen to get a kiss in the night this month, I hope it is from someone lovely, even if they happen to be a ghost…

Have you had a spooky experience in Scotland? Share your story with us by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us

This month also marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month and includes our pink tartan cover, the Scottish Banner will be donating proceeds from this issue to help this great cause, and we thank our readers for their support.

Please share with us your views by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us


Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

Gracing our front cover: Sam Heughan leads the charge for the series 3 return of Outlander this month. Photo courtesy of Starz/Foxtel.


September 2017 (Vol. 41, Number 03)

The Banner Says…

September is often considered a time of change. In the Northern Hemisphere many kids are settling into the new school year and back into a routine after a fun filled summer break. The weather begins its change and the nights slowly begin to draw in, as do the temperatures.

In the Southern Hemisphere of course the days grow longer and temperatures warm up to a lovely spring feel with gardens beginning to burst with colour and life.

When do the Scots gather?

One thing however that does not change is it is another month to enjoy Scottish events. I once had an advertiser who is not Scottish ask me, “When do the Scots gather?” I referred her to our online events page as it was a hard question to answer. We always seem to be gathering somewhere. This lady came back and was confused as she had expected one or two events a year and she was seeing hundreds listed. I suppose I am quite used to seeing dozens of events listed across several countries in this publication at any one time, but someone not connected to the Scottish community may be surprised by how much the community offers, and of course you don’t have to be Scottish to take part and enjoy.

Our events page often reads like a story of the diverse, active and passionate global Scottish community. One look at our events calendar will see there are many great things on this month to celebrate your connection to Scotland. Our regular readers will know in each issue we list a variety of Scottish events taking place and we urge our readers to get out there and support the people who run these great cultural spectaculars. The stage is set to showcase Scotland every week somewhere in the world. At any one time we also have hundreds of Scottish events listed at www.scottishbanner.com/events for example, these listing are updated weekly, year round and offer our readers, friends and followers information to plan an event near them or perhaps attend one when they are next in Scotland, or even at the other side of the world.

One of the world’s top Scottish events resources

We are proud to offer one of the world’s top Scottish events resources available from concerts, Clan events, Highland Games, Scottish festivals, Scottish dance and pipe band events and more. From January to December we hope something catches your fancy and if it does, tell your friends and family and let’s keep these events going and growing.

Last month I attended the Fergus Highland Games in Ontario, Canada and met many of our readers and friends. It was really great to see so many from Ontario where the Scottish Banner began, but also many who were visiting from various parts of both Canada and the USA at this event. I am not sure if there is such a saying but “Have kilt, will travel!” comes to mind.


Speaking of stories, this issue is a special one for us as we celebrate the global return of the television series Outlander. I remember seeing the author of the books, Diana Gabaldon, at Highland Games. This was long before the show came to be, but her passion for the characters and history of Scotland have propelled millions
of people around the world to fall in love with the books and now the show, with the third series of the TV show airing this month.

We are so honoured Diana took the time to be part of this issue we have also included some other Outlander themed stories as ‘Droughtlander’ ends this month. Outlander has done much for Scotland by awaking many Scots to their own story and has had a profound impact on both the tourism and film industries in the country.

The Outlander story seems to not only be an international best seller and People’s Choice Award winner, but a story in itself on how the
books and show are contributing to Scotland. This is unravelling before our eyes and it is amazing to watch.

Continued US expansion

Last month we launched the Scottish Banner at Books A Million stores across the USA. After this successful launch we are thrilled to further expand our footprint as we launch with this issue at Barnes & Noble locations around America.

This is in addition to our already robust distribution across Australia, Canada and New Zealand. We thank each and every reader for purchasing an issue whether it be at a shop or by subscription. These sales do so much to help us produce this publication and deliver a wee bit of Scotland to you each month.

We are also so thrilled to see many of our customers taking up our digital download subscription. This is giving those who want to read the Scottish Banner on their devices the option to do so. Our print edition is here to stay as many continue to want a physical paper and even say it is a more relaxing way to enjoy the Banner.

The publishing industry has to keep up with trends and in order to reach new readers and remain a relevant part of the community, we are excited to offer this choice.

In this issue

In this issue readers will find some varied stories to connect us back to Scotland. Another successful World Pipe Band Championships recently took place in Glasgow and this year was won by a Scottish band.

An amazing Scottish adventurer was honoured recently, Myrtle Simpson, who is considered the “mother of Scottish skiing” took her kids on an artic adventure fifty of years ago. This pioneering Scot still snow skis today at near 90 and must be considered one of the coolest grandmothers out there.

Conservation in Scotland remains an important industry and it is so great to hear that initiatives are being developed to save the iconic Scottish bird, the capercaillie. This bird has been under threat before and we hope has the spirit of Scotland in them to bounce back.

Anyone who has been to Edinburgh knows the city is like a museum. 101 objects around Edinburgh have been selected to represent the city’s incredible history
over the past 1000 years. I am sure many who have been have visited some of these fascinating objects, however if like me, there may be some you are not aware of and can plan to take in on your next visit.

Edinburgh, like Scotland itself, always has a story to tell.


Please share with us your views by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us


Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

Gracing our front cover: Ross OC Jennings, the First Piper, at the Old Man of Storr, Skye.


August 2017 (Vol. 41, Number 02)

The Banner Says…

Carrying on a legacy

This edition of the Scottish Banner may look familiar to many filled with our great contributors and the usual mix of snippets and news. However, this page is certainly a very different one. For over four decades, Valerie Cairney, has set the tone for each issue with her editorial welcoming readers with often quite personal and heartfelt columns. As months developed into years people got to know Val through the connection of words.

Practicing Scots

This month I have the task to try and take on that role and connect our readers to each edition we produce. I thought it would be best to briefly tell people of my connection to the Scottish Banner and the international Scottish community. I cannot remember a time where Scotland has not been a part of my life. I grew up around family, businesses and events that clearly identified us as “practicing Scots”

The Scottish Banner began because of our family’s strong Scottish connection and determination to keep that connection alive for others. My childhood included visits to Highland games across North America. Not many summers went by without my helping at some and getting to see Scottish culture across the continent. From Nova Scotia to California I soon learned that the Scottish community was large, active and diverse

Over 40 years ago Valerie attended the Fergus Highland Games in Canada to launch the Scottish Banner and this month, some 493 editions of the Scottish Banner later, I also will be attending the Fergus Highland Games and look forward to meeting as many of our readers and friends as possible. So if you will be attending please stop by the Scottish Banner tent and say hello

A wee paper

With today’s world of constant information and real time news it can be hard to remember a time we did not have everything at our fingertips. Back in the 1970’s when the Scottish Banner began, for some just getting a “wee paper” with bits of information from Scotland was a big deal. So much so, the paper spread its pages across Canada and United States.

In the 1990’s I went backpacking and spent quite a bit of time in Australia. Whilst there, I attended some Highland games and immediately noticed the Southern Hemisphere had no Scottish newspaper, I told this to my mother, Valerie and that soon changed, with Australia and New Zealand distribution following.

Well that “wee paper” has gone on to resonate with many Scots and those of Scottish heritage around the world,  and today it is read by people across four nations who each month celebrate with us their connection to Scotland.

Much to write about

We are very fortunate to have the topic of Scotland and Scottishness as the backbone of any issue of the Scottish Banner. For such a small nation, Scotland has given us much to write about, at times brutal history, the stunning scenery and the amazing events that fill the calendar. The dynamic forward thinking nation of today and of course the passionate international Scottish Diaspora community who today continue to celebrate and innovate just what it means to be a “practicing Scot”.

Each issue we produce we often have several articles waiting for placement because so much news, ideas and accomplishments are coming to us from both Scotland and the international Scottish community.

Connecting people to Scotland

Today we have people reading this publication in its print format, on their electronic devices, and also there are thousands of people connecting with us daily on social media. The Scottish community is strong, bold and that is why the Scottish Banner continues today some 41 years later after the first issue printed.

There have been many changes to the Scottish Banner since the 1970’s. Just in the past few years alone we have introduced a new layout presentation, digital download subscriptions and new writers. However, one thing that has not changed is the “wee paper” is still connecting people to Scotland each month. You don’t have to sound Scottish to have the spirit of Scotland in you and running through your veins. Today our readers speak with many accents but they have one common love of Scottish culture.

I have great news for our American readers. From this issue on we will be available at Books-A-Million stores across the United States, and I hope to be able to share some more exciting distribution information with you soon. I am looking forward to connecting with more of the Scottish community from across North America in the coming months and discussing how we can work together.

In this issue

In this issue, we feature the First Piper Ross OC Jennings, who is connecting people to the sounds of Scotland with his bagpipes. If you are in Edinburgh this month for the Fringe Festival you may be interested in how the Army is making its Fringe debut this month.  A true Scottish icon, Mary Queen of Scots, continues to captivate people from across the world and we learn why her legend is still strong. We hope you enjoy this issue and as always keep in touch with us with your opinions, ideas and stories as we continue to keep the Scottish Banner as the “wee paper” for “practicing Scots”

Please share with us your views by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us


Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

Gracing our front cover: Geoff Allan-Scotland’s premier bothy expert.

July 2017 (Vol. 41, Number 01)

The Banner Says…

Seeing out four decades

As we hit the press this month we close our 40th anniversary year and welcome in 41 years of the Scottish Banner. During our 40th anniversary we had a busy year launching our new layout in North America, our very own tartan to mark this milestone, a new look web site, welcoming new writers (and still enjoying our long time favourites!) and celebrating with our recently launched digital download subscription service-giving our readers around the world a choice in how they read their Scottish Banner.

Humble beginnings

Looking back four decades it is amazing to see all the change that has transpired at the Scottish Banner. From its humble beginnings in rural Ontario in Canada to a paper that is read across both North America and Australasia (as well as Scotland itself!). Starting a paper back then was so very different with the technology we have today and things like internet, social media and smart phones not even a thought on people minds. Getting news from home back then, as it is today, was so important and connected us no matter where we lived.

I never knew how the Scottish Banner would be received and for how long. I never thought it would be available in the places it now is and I would writing an editorial 40 years later. We have some incredibly loyal readers, writers and advertisers who we simply could not publish without.

Today we have kept a place in this modern world we live and now connect with global Scots with each edition printed or downloaded and through social media daily.  For my 40 plus years doing the Scottish Banner I have seen a great deal of change but one thing that remains is that Scots, regardless of how far back that goes back, have a passion for being Scottish and celebrating that passion. We see it with our readers who never miss an issue, those who attend Highland Games, play in pipe bands, spend hours researching their roots and those travel back to Scotland’s shores (regardless of how long that flight can be) to connect quite literally with the land of their ancestors.


I have been able to see some great parts of the world with the Scottish Banner attending Scottish events across North America, Scotland and Australasia. The love for Scotland and people’s Scottishness have not really changed since the 1970’s to today, whether they be in Auckland, Toronto, San Francisco or Sydney. This has been such a great privilege to witness this across the world and see that in 2017 being Scottish is still so important to so many.

Keeping up with all the changes of modern day publishing can certainly be a challenge. Each issue we produce takes many hours to compile and complete and once one issue has “gone to bed”, another is already being planned. I have loved this exciting journey that the Banner has given me all these years, however now I am ready to start another, albeit slower, journey and that includes stepping back from my duties at the Scottish Banner.

The Scottish Banner family

The paper has been part of our family for now over four decades and I am glad to advise it is staying in the family with my son Sean taking over for me.  I hope the Banner is also considered part of your family and you continue to enjoy our pages for many years to come as he and his team of writers from around the world bring you a monthly dose of Scotland.

The Scottish Banner family is a global one and one that that involves a variety of ages, back grounds, interests and locations-however it one that unites many people for many different reasons to Scotland. Our readers have been so special to me and given all of us here a sense of “doing each issue better”. For over 40 years this publication has been my job, lifestyle, pride and passion, I have enjoyed every minute – well most. And I thank you for being most patient with me at times. I will never be far away, and I thank you for all the experience you have given me.

Excited to see where it goes next

I have many different reasons for stepping away from the Banner but do so with pride of where I leave it and am excited to see where it goes next.  After this issue my son Sean will be taking over the publication. He has been doing this for so many years now that he is probably better than me for what he does, and I wish him luck with everything he does.

May Scotland continue to reach out and give the world its own brand of Scottish colour, charm and history. I have been proud nurture and develop the Banner all these years and now am proud to release it to Sean. Good luck Scotland and Sean- may you always be winners.

If you have any comments about this month’s editorial or wish to send Valerie a message please share with us your views by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

Gracing our front cover: The Kilted Yogis, Finlay Thomas Wilson and Mr Scotland, Tristan Cameron-Harper, at the New York Tartan Day Parade. Photo courtesy of Moya McAllister / New York Tartan Day.

June 2017 (Vol. 40, Number 12)

The Banner Says…

Scottish heritage-Connecting the past with today

Looking at some of the content we have in this issue one can’t help but be amazed at how the Scottish community across the world is today constantly celebrating and showcasing Scottish culture and heritage.

 Tartan Day Parade

Tartan Day was celebrated across North America in April (with Tartan Day celebrations soon coming up in the Southern Hemisphere) and is growing in popularity each year. Recently, in New York, it was the annual Tartan Day Parade which is featured in this issue.  When you are thinking of New York, a city that never sleeps, it can be hard to stand out from the massive crowds. However, closing down Sixth Avenue with 3000 pipers, drummers and marchers, suddenly the Big Apple stops and takes in all the spectacle, sound and colour that comes with celebrating Scotland and Scottish culture to the world. This parade is an example of how keeping Scotland relevant in our modern world can be done successfully while helping to create a broader interest in Scotland as a destination, product and dynamic culture.

Return to the Ridings

In the glorious Scottish Borders this month the Return to the Ridings will see several towns come alive with colour, pageantry and tradition going back hundreds of years to a time when the Scottish border lands were not the peaceful and gentle place they are today. Pageantry and horses will bring out locals and visitors from across the world to take part in this ancient festival which is a highlight in the Border calendar.. This great sense of community spirit comes alive with history and celebration of tradition. The Return to the Ridings is enjoyed by young and old and thankfully this tradition is one that is alive and well and considered one of Europe’s most unique events.

Highland games

In the Northern Hemisphere bagpipes will start sounding that bit louder and tartan will brightly light up the already lovely early summer days at Highland games. Across North America and Scotland, the Highland games season is now underway with events in towns, cities and even at the top of mountains. Many Scottish Banner readers will be attending these events as spectators, band members, dancers, athletes, with their Clan or society or even vendors.

The various aspects of the Scottish community will come together and proudly display the culture of Scotland to thousands of spectators, both those who are of Scottish heritage and those that simply wish they were… Each of the groups help make these events what they are and you can simply look at our events page to see there are things happening all over the world for everyone to enjoy and take part in.

Scotland also highlights its very own unique culture right at home as the Highland games season has also begun there and will run to September across the country. Visitors to Scotland over the next few months can enjoy these great traditional events in addition to other great festivals highlighting Scottish culture.

Events such as the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo will be of interest to many this year with the Clans gathering to make a Splash of Tartan, whilst the World Pipe Band Championships and PipingLive! will see Glasgow come alive with the sounds of the pipes in August.

Our Southern Hemisphere readers have events taking place year round to enjoy and winter is no exception. From cosy winter nights with fellow Scots at a range of events, Tartan Day next month, to the events in places such as Queensland taking place after the summer heat. There is much to enjoy.

Few countries have this form of global promotion with thousands of ambassadors who devote their time and energy to celebrating and keeping traditions, not only alive, but at the forefront of cultural calendars across the world.

Regardless if someone is a Scot, or not, just about everyone loves Scotland and her people and the country is simply easy to attach yourself to. We have had several regular readers of the Scottish Banner who do not have an ounce of Scottish blood but love the country and culture so much that they feel they do own their own personal piece of Scotland, and that is of course what it shares so well with the world.

New passion for Scotland

The way Scotland is celebrated has evolved over time and a new generation of Scots is developing Scottish heritage today. Young pipers and dancers for example are learning their notes and practicing tirelessly so that when you are at one of the Scottish events and see them perform, the new passion for Scotland is evident with each tune played or step performed in each new generation, and it is a passion they were born to have.

Today there are many ways to connect with Scotland’s heritage. From visiting Scotland itself, joining your local club, pipe band or Clan, engaging with an online Scottish community or attending Scottish events.

Digital subscriptions

It is also heart-warming for us that you are a reader of the Scottish Banner, helping us spread the word of what this dynamic, ancient yet modern nation and culture are doing. We are also excited to now offer our readers a choice on how they can read the Scottish Banner, with both print and digital subscription options. Allowing you to connect with Scotland in the way you prefer. Have a wonderful month ahead.

How do you connect with Scotland’s heritage? Tell us your story and share with us your views by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us

To see how you can connect with your Scottish heritage at: www.scottishbanner.com/events

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

Gracing our front cover: Getting ready to say “I do” on the top of Scotland. Photo: Hamish Frost Photography.

April 2017 (Vol. 40, Number 10)

The Banner Says…

Tartan Day-Celebrating the Scots

Here in North America it is time to dust off the kilts, position the plaid, and get ready for Tartan Day! Tartan Day is the annual celebration of the achievements and contributions that Scottish forbearers had across both Canada and the USA.

Our Australian and New Zealand readers will note that Tartan Day is celebrated in your part of the world on July 1st, marking the repeal of the 1747 Act and the banning of wearing of tartan.

This month will also see the Big Apple turn tartan at the 19th Annual New York Tartan Day Parade takes place on April 8th and part of the Scotland Week, a week-long programme of events promoting Scotland in North America. Events will take place throughout the city, all dedicated to Scots and their important contribution to America.

Amongst the pipe bands, Clans marching, Scottish dancers and Scottie dogs will be the parade Grand Marshal actor Tommy Flanagan. Tommy was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland and seemed very proud to be honoured as Grand Marshal of the Parade.

He later said; “I have great pride in my heritage. Although I now live in Malibu, I visit Scotland regularly and visit with my family. I’ll have my daughter flying her flag forever”. Past marshals have include Sir Sean Connery, Scots-born actors Brian Cox, Kevin McKidd, Alan Cumming and Sam Heughan, and former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

The origins of Tartan Day

The origins of Tartan Day however come from Canada’s East Coast in 1986. Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia members Bill Crowell and Jean MacKaracher-Watson put forward a motion which stated: “That we establish a day known as ‘Tartan Day’. This to be a day chosen to promote Scottish Heritage by the most visible means. The wearing of the Scottish attire, especially in places where the kilt is not ordinarily worn, i.e.: work, play or worship.”

This began a decade’s work of working with Scottish community groups and every province in Canada to have the day officially recognised. Scottish settlers have made a huge contribution to that country, and it is very appropriate people remember and honour the many Scots who helped shape Canada to be the nation it is now, which is this year celebrating 150 years.

As Tartan Day became better known and the momentum picked up, the Americans heard about it. They decided they too wanted to promote it, and Tartan Day gained even further recognition. This special day, little known just a few short years ago, has gathered a great deal of momentum recently, and has now become an important day in the life of those promoting the contribution of Scots to North American audiences.

Wear something tartan

Whilst not everyone can be celebrating in New York itself several events are also taking place throughout Canada and the USA. Everybody is encouraged wear something (however small) tartan. From kilts, ties, sashes, stockings to dog collars all help you make a statement on this important day.

I even received a telephone call from Australia where a charming man called to say he had stayed up half way through the night to wait for our office to open up here in Florida, just to wish me a Happy Tartan Day. His time zone is approximately 16 hours ahead of our Florida time and that I believe, shows how strong our links can be.

Lady Fiona MacGregor

Our North American readers can read more about Tartan Day in this issue while we also explore a fascinating range of topics. Our cover couple from the Highlands who decided last month to get married on one of Scotland’s highest mountains and in skis! Jonathan in his kilt and Bridget skied down in her white wedding dress. A magical day and memory for this special couple.

This month is also the Pagan festival of light in Edinburgh at the Beltane Fire Festival which has turned into a great event for the Scottish capital. The Johnstone Collection in Wick has digitally archived an incredible collection of Caithness social history which images which were collected by three generations of one family over a hundred years and the Scottish Banner is very fortunate to be able to reproduce some of those images in this edition. Glasgow Central Station is one of my favourite stations in Britain and we learn about the tour which now takes place there and the important role this station continues to play in the lives of Glaswegians.

And finally all of us here at the Scottish Banner would also like to congratulate Lady Fiona MacGregor for recently receiving an award from the British Royal Television Society. Fiona, who is also Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Dumfries, was awarded with the Contribution award in recognition of her long and distinguished career in television. This award is so well deserved and we are thrilled a long time writer and friend of the Banner was recognised in this way.

Will you be celebrating Tartan Day? Whether it be in North America or soon in Australasia tell us your story and share with us your views by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us


Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

Gracing our front cover: Miss World Scotland, Lucy Kerr, stops traffic in New York for Dressed to Kilt. Photo: JohnMaslinPhoto.com.

March 2017 (Vol. 40, Number 09)

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

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

February 2017 (Vol. 40, Number 08)

The Banner Says…

Scotland: A lifelong love affair

This month many around the world will celebrate love. Valentine’s Day is named after Saint Valentine, a Catholic priest who lived in Rome in the 3rd Century. Valentine was jailed for planning the banned marriages of soldiers and was sentenced to death for doing so. There, he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and when he was taken to be killed on 14th February he sent her a love letter signed “from your Valentine”.

Love can take on so many forms and have many meanings, a love for your partner, kids, family, friends, pets, music, travel, your work and so much more. Many will be honouring their special loved ones this month, both those who are here and those who have left us.  But when you think of love it goes beyond those who are so important around us and in the Scottish community we have that in spades.

Love for Scotland

Regardless of how you celebrate Valentine’s Day if you are reading the Scottish Banner you no doubt have a great love for Scotland. One has to simply look around the vibrant international Scottish community to see the love held for Scottish heritage and Scotland itself.

Pipe bands are a great example of how thousands of talented musicians around the world whose passion for music is helping keeping Scottish culture alive and well. Their love for performance is evident each time they play, whether it be at a highland games, street parade or concert. Pipe bands are also always one of the most loved aspects of these public events. The pipe band movement is a lifelong fraternity and we encourage anyone interested in taking part to reach out your local band and take part.

The hours of practice and more practice is what gives those in the Scottish dance community the grace and skill of both Highland and Country dance. The love of dance is often nurtured from a young age (however you are never too old to start!) and is a passion that runs throughout a dancer’s life.

Another great love in the Scottish community is the Highland Games. Year round somewhere in the world Scotland is being celebrated and it is a love affair that has not diminished. These tremendous family friendly cultural events bring in so many aspects of Scotland for attendees to celebrate. From music, language, dance, genealogy, athletics and more-the pride and passion of Scotland is on display for all to fall in love with. The countless hours of planning these events require (often by committee volunteers) shows such great commitment and professionalism. For the wider Scottish community this is great platform to connect with each other and enjoy the love they have for their heritage.

Fall in love with Scotland

Many people outside the Scottish community can often be surprised just how much is going on and may wonder how they too can “fall in love with Scotland”. Each month our events page lists a great range of events and activities for Scots and those who want to get involved in Scottish culture. For those wanting to plan ahead you can always check our website which has events added weekly and is one of the most comprehensive international Scottish events listings available. So get out and attend one of these great events and connect with your community, you will love yourself for doing so!

Scotland a country anyone can easily fall in love with

We know many readers have been to Scotland or are planning their next visit to the land of their ancestors. Scotland itself has some incredibly romantic places to visit year round, and in this issue we look at some of those fantastic locations. The sheer beauty of the nation and rich history makes Scotland a country anyone can easily fall in love with. From wildlife to whisky, castles to golf, or the nations historic cities with a new modern heartbeat- this is one country that you can fall in love with time and time again.

For those with a love for history you will be spoilt (and quite possibly shocked!) by the story of Scotland. Whether it be looking at your own family story or the wider journey Scotland has taken, this small country has such a dynamic and dramatic past which you will more exciting than any modern day soap opera. For example did you know the Gorbals area of Glasgow still today holds some of the relics of St Valentine’s?

Regardless if you celebrate the 14th of the month, the love you have for Scotland is a not only a year round celebration, but a lifelong one.  I have no doubt St Valentine himself would not only approve of this love but he too would fall in love with the land and the heritage we are all so lucky to hold so dear.

What is it about Scotland or how Scottish culture is celebrated around the world do you love so much? Share with us your views by email, post or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

January 2017 (Vol. 40, Number 07)

The Banner Says…

Superstitions and the New Year-Bringing some old stories alive from long, long, ago

As Scots, we are a pretty superstitious crowd. I know many people, myself included, who cannot stand watching someone stirring their tea (or coffee) with a knife. Heaven forbid they should put a pair of new shoes on the table – in spite of the fact that old ones are OK. In fact if you put new shoes on the table at New Year – the chances are great that you will split with your spouse or sweetheart within twelve months – a story I was told many years ago but which I have long since forgotten from who, is based on an old Scottish saying.

Scottish superstitions

Speaking of shoes, remember that you must not put your left shoe on first – for if you do, you will hear bad news before midnight says another old Scots saying.

Needless to say, walking under a ladder is something nobody in their right mind ever does, and if a picture falls off your wall, duck for cover. It too is a sign of bad luck! If a mirror in your home breaks – there is even more bad news- you have seven years of bad luck heading your way should this happen to you.

Just last month (December), somebody here in the office hung a January 2017 calendar on the wall. As soon as it was seen – it was quickly and discreetly moved (I thought everyone knew not to hang the following year’s calendar up prior to the old year being over).

Being more than a little superstitious myself, I was interested to read some of the Scottish superstitions surrounding the New Year and I wanted to pass some of these on to our readers.

Do not wash clothes on New Year’s Day. To do so washes a member of the family away – which causes death on the ‘hoose’.

Sweeping the house at New Year brings bad luck as the broom sweeps away good fortune- and therefore all that is good from the home throughout the rest of the year.


On the other hand if you partied a wee bit too much at Hogmanay and got a wee bit too ‘merry’ it is perfectly alright to stay in bed the next morning – for as long as you like. Staying tucked up under the sheets ensures a safe and prosperous New Year – according to Scots tradition.

Yet if your lover has jilted you – now is the time to get your revenge! Scots tradition says that jilted lovers can get their own back by giving the faithless swain a ‘good whipping’ during the hour before midnight.

This is also right when a wife is allowed to throw a bucket of water over an annoying husband. He, on the other hand, is not allowed to reciprocate until the following day. Drinking, eating black bun, performing the old fertility rite of kissing and singing Auld Lang Syne are all a part of Scottish tradition.

New Year’s Day

To go ‘first-footing’ or perhaps, going to a friends or neighbours house with a traditional lump of coal (to keep the fires burning), a piece of shortbread to eat in the hoose, and a wee dram to sip with it – are all part of celebrating the Hogmanay in Scotland.

In the old days in Edinburgh, the first person to walk over the threshold of a house carried an evergreen branch. This was a symbol of everlasting life. This first person was then expected to go directly to the fire with the evergreen branch, stir the dying embers then turning to greet the entire household.

It was not until the 1600’s that in Scotland New Year’s Day was transferred from March 25th to the more logical January 1st. This caused New Year’s day to fall on the ‘Daft Days’ otherwise known as the twelve days of Christmas. This also coincides with the mid-winter festival of Yule, which heralds when the sun-gods returned from exile – bringing longer days to our planet with them.

Burns Night

Yet we must also remember our Burns Night on the 25th of January. Robert Burns is still remembered everywhere. During past evenings of these we have often had our own evenings of fun on this particular evening, and whilst I have never been a part of the attractions at these events, I have certainly hosted numerous amounts of Burns Nichts both here in the US as well as in Canada while I was still living there. I was gratified in having numerous full houses, for the Burns Night events I hosted and always closed them with numerous thanks for many people who helped put on a great evening.

These are extremely creative events and I certainly enjoyed them. I no longer host them – yet will be attending one on the evening of a Burns Nicht taking place near us. I hope you will all do the same, as this is such a very special Scottish event, and I believe we are fortunate to have these.

Yes, we certainly do have some very special occasions to look forward to. Let us add to each one by supporting those who work so hard at putting these Scots events on. After being so involved in so many of them during the past, I know from experience they are very worthwhile and fun events to help with.

Lang may yer lum reek

Whatever you have lined up for your New Year, or your Burns Night, may it be an overwhelming success. And may your 2017 be the same – it is a very special time of the year for Scots. And our very best wishes to you and yours throughout these dazzling and giddying times of the year.

From all of us here at the Banner to all our friends and readers worldwide may you have good luck and good health throughout the coming year ahead or as the Scots Hogmanay saying goes, “lang may yer lum reek” (lum = chimney, reek = smoke). Literally meaning ‘long may your chimney smoke’, or we wish you well and a long and healthy life.

Do you have any New Year superstitions you grew up with or still follow today? If so please share with us your family tradition or superstition.

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

December 2016 (Vol. 40, Number 06)

The Banner Says…

Looking into the past this Christmas

It seems hard to believe that the most exciting time of year is just around the corner, and as most of us are aware – that, of course, is Christmas.  This special season with its magical atmosphere has an excitement which, while only coming once a year, with shops full of colourful lights and festive music and busy shoppers overwhelmed while busily wondering about Christmas giving. Although this time of year comes with its’ own magical atmosphere, it also comes with its’ problems. What to buy for the big day? This is followed closely by a second question – which is – and how much should I spend?

Very few seem to stay within their budgets during this season. Hearts are often bigger than budgets and the bills of January seem a long way off in these busy pre-Christmas shopping days! Perhaps this applies more so this year with the economic crunch many are experiencing today which of course is guided by our financial status.

Doom and gloom
Each time we pick up a paper or listen to a newscast, there are more tales of gloom and doom. Sales are down, jobs are becoming redundant, and world economies are falling. The financial mood of the world today is not doing very well at the present time unfortunately. Yet during these tough times, we tend to forget just how good we really do have it! Certainly we have taken a step back financially during the past year, yet still our homes are warm and safe this winter, our refrigerators are full and (by and large), we live in peaceful times.
It hasn’t always been this way. Many of those who walked these paths before us had life a lot more complicated than we do. Let’s take a look back for just a moment, while we take a look back at other lives’ – those whose lives were much more difficult than we have today. Let’s just look back and take a moment while we reflect on other folks.  Just like us they wanted a better life for their families. They had heard that countries in the New World offered this lifestyle, which was basically work hard and more opportunities would come your way for a better life. So immigration came from the ‘old countries’. They boarded ships promising to take them across the ocean to a new world, one which was away from their old lives, their friends and family. Yet their hearts were full of hope, and the glimmer in their eyes betrayed the excitement which lay beneath. They never gave a thought for a possible downside to this adventure.

Life used to be much harder

And so they arrived on these new shores. They had precious little money, but they had far more to give than youth. They had strength and hopes as bright as diamonds. What more might be needed for a new life in this virgin land? They were people – just like you and I. They lived, loved, laughed and cried the way we do, (although they may have cried a little more, sometimes).  They had heard that in this new (and foreign) world which lay so far away from their home land, were wonderful countries with so much to offer.

Once there you could go to the Land Register people, and for $10.00 buy up to 160 acres of your very own land.  The soil was fertile and once the land was cleared of trees, it could yield a very good harvest. A homestead could then be built, animals would graze, and the children would grow in freedom. And so they came to conquer.  Forests, which had once known only the sound of birds, and the creaking of tall pines in the wind, suddenly came alive with the voices of men, and the sharp crack of axes on timber. The days were long and the work was gruelling – yet it was a time of excitement. These immigrants were shaping their new lives in a new country.

New countries were not tamed easily
But these new countries, which were predominantly, Canada, Australia, America, New Zealand, and others, were sometimes like wild animals.  They could not be tamed easily and many new difficulties were placed in the way of the new settlers. The worst discomfort in the summertime was the mosquitoes, particularly in Australia.
Since the beginning of time they had been allowed to breed freely – now as the land was slowly cleared beneath them, the pests were everywhere. Even eating a meal without consuming some was often a tricky business for the newcomers. But it was in the depths of the cold winters in Canada when the newcomers needed every ounce of courage they could muster. Outside their frugal homes, temperatures were almost intolerably cold. While inside it wasn’t much better. Before leaving their homeland, they had heard that the temperature where they were moving to was cold. But how does somebody from Edinburgh compare ‘cold’ when faced with 40 below?

They could never have imagined a snow storm being so severe that people were actually lost, and even died – while being only five feet from their home. It was the loneliness that finally took the lives and happiness away from so many. Women, many of whom had lived in cities surrounded by family and friends, could no longer take the long cold days and nights. Some of them finally eventually gave up and returned home -either with or without their husbands.

The strong survived
The men, stayed strong, yet were buckled by the weight of work and infinitely saddened at seeing their melancholy wives miss their homes and families so badly, often gave up too. A silent figure hanging from the rafters of a barn was not an unfamiliar sight in those days. Yet they survived, and with Gods’ help and their own strong right arm they slowly harnessed the land they had now slowly grown to love. Spring finally returned, weddings took place, babies were born, and life began anew.  They are gone now leaving us to walk in their footsteps and harvest from the furrows they ploughed.


Happy Christmas

As we give thanks this Christmas, let us remember those from who we came. Without them we would not be so rich today. These are the stock from which we came!  The daily news sometimes looks bleak, yet it has been worse before, and it will turn again.

All of us from the Banner wish our extended family throughout North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Britain a happy and healthy Christmas season.  Merry Christmas and Happy Hogmanay to all!

If you have a story from your forbearers (or even your own) and how they began a new life abroad share it with us.

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

November 2016 (Vol. 40, Number 5)

The Banner Says…

St Andrew’s Day and Armistice Day-Two Important days in November

November 30th is a very important date on the Scottish calendar with Scots at home and across the world celebrating St Andrew’s Day. St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and the celebration on November 30th is often regarded as the start of the Scottish winter celebrations that take place.  No doubt many readers will also take part in St Andrew’s Day celebrations whether it be a large formal event or a smaller casual affair at home. Some may not be aware that nations such as Russia, Romania, Italy , Barbados and Greece also have St Andrew as their patron saint.

In the Scotland the early Picts modelled themselves after St Andrew as he was considered to have qualities and charisma they wished to emulate, qualities that seem to continue for Scots today. Though St Andrew was not born in Scotland, he was a native Bethsaida, and a fisherman of Capernaum and brother to Simon Peter. The people of Scotland became motivated by the good deeds as one of Christs direct disciples. St Andrew was one of the Twelve Apostles (disciples of Jesus) and brother of St Peter. One story on St Andrew  claims that he actually came to Scotland and built a church in Fife. This town is now called St Andrews, and the church became a centre for evangelism, and pilgrims came from all over Britain to pray there. Andrew’s connection with Scotland relates to the legend that some of his remains were kept at the site that is now the town of St Andrews. A chapel was built to house the remains and became a place of pilgrimage.

St Andrew’s Cross

When it comes to gifts given by saints, Saint Andrew has given Scotland a very special gift. That is the Saltire – the diagonal white cross on a blue background. St Andrew is believed to have died on a diagonally transversed cross which the Romans sometimes used for executions and which, therefore, came to be called St Andrews Cross. It is said that he believed himself unworthy to be crucified on a cross like that of Christ, and so he met his end on a ‘saltire’, or X-shaped cross (St Andrew’s cross) which became his symbol. Strange as it may seem, our covenanting forefathers, do not appear to have had a lot of use for saints in general, yet do seem to have been very proud to have the St Andrew’s cross on their banners. This particular saint also has his name used on more than fifty parishes which choose to claim him as their patron saint. The areas where his name is mainly used are most commonly in cathedrals, churches, educational institutions as well as some towns.

Yet although the parishes of St Andrew, have been greatly used in Scotland for churches, the name has been used also for parishes also. In fact one particular location, which is Monike and is on the River Tay also claims connection with the saint’s shrine. Today visitors to St Andrews can visit St Andrews Cathedral which is Scotland’s largest and most magnificent medieval church. The cathedral dominated Scottish religion until 1560, as headquarters of the medieval Scottish Church. Even in its ruinous state, the cathedral remains a prominent landmark highly visible from the sea.

Armistice Day

But November is famous for more than St Andrew’s Day- it has more to offer us than many other months do. For November also includes in its list of another very famous day – and that is Armistice Day. The first Armistice Day was held at Buckingham Palace, when King George 5th hosted a Banquet of Honour of the President of the French Republic during the evening hours of November 10, 1919. The first official Armistice Day events were subsequently held in the grounds of Buckingham Palace on the morning of 11 November 1919. This was to set a day of the trend for a day of remembrance for decades to come.

Some years later, in 1919, South African Sir Percy Fitzpatrick proposed a two-minute silence to Lord Milner, This has been a daily practice in Cape Town from April 1918 onward after being proposed by Sir Harry Hands, and within weeks it had spread through the British Commonwealth after a Reuters correspondent cabled a description of this daily ritual to London. People observed a one of more commonly a two-minute silence at  11am local time. It was first made as a sign or respect for the 20 million people who died in the war, and in the second minute dedicated to the living left behind, generally understood to be wives, children and families left behind but deeply affected by the conflict. Armistice Day – held on the 11th of this month commemorates the signing between the allies and Germany at 11am on that date this month. Although hostilities continued in some areas, fighting the armistice, when it was first signed, it essentially brought an end to four years of fighting in the First World War.

Even today in Britain, it is tradition to pause for a two minute silence at 11am on this day to remember those killed in the two world wars and the 12,000 British servicemen killed or injured since 1945. Armistice was originally signed in French military commander Ferdinand Forch’s railway carriage in the remote North of Paris at 5am on 11 November 1918 and came force six hours later at 11am (Incidentally, in 1940 Hitler forced the French to sign an armistice on German terms in the same railway carriage). Forch was in charge of leading the negotiations and signing the agreement which made it impossible for the German army to recommence fighting. The treaty of Versailles signed six months later acted as the lasting peace treaty between the nations.

Remembrance Day vs Remembrance Sunday

Armistice Day is commonly referred to as Remembrance Day – they both refer to November 11th and this year will fall on a Friday. This should not be confused with Remembrance Sunday which always falls on the second Sunday in November and this year is on November 13th. This is the time when schools, offices and churches up and down the country usually take part in a two-minute silence at 11am on Armistice Day and hold services at war memorials – yet sometimes this also happens on Remembrance Sunday instead. November 11th is also marked around the world. After Second World War, many countries changed the name of the day from Armistice Day to Remembrance Day, while the United States chose to call it Veterans Day and the day is a federal holiday.

First Poppies

In the spring of 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, Canadian surgeon Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies growing in battle-scarred fields so write the now famous poem In Flanders Fields. His poem moved American teacher Moina Michael who began making and selling silk poppies to friends to raise money for the ex-service community. Before long the poppies made their way to the UK and became the symbol of the Royal British Legion when it was formed in 1921. The first ever ‘Poppy Appeal’ in the UK that year raised over 106,000 pounds for war veterans. The following year a poppy factory was set up by Major George Howson MC, giving jobs to disabled former servicemen. Today the bright red poppy is regarded as a resilient flower which managed to flourish despite fields being destroyed by war.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

By: John McCrae, May 1915.

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

October 2016 (Vol. 40, Number 04)

The Banner Says…

Scots myths, folklore and legends

As we go into this latest October issue, we realise what is soon happening in Scotland and around the world this month-Halloween. As we celebrate Halloween on October 31st around the globe, many may not be aware this holiday has very distinct Celtic traditions. Scotland is a land  full of myths, folklore and legends which stretch far back into history and carry on today. Scotland has celebrated  this time of year for hundreds of years and many of the Halloween customs we know and love today are in fact remnants of this ancient culture. Scotland has a long history of myths, legends and strange stories that occur throughout the year but at this time of year as the nights draw in sooner and we prepare for All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve (Halloween) we can’t help but think of the folklore that has helped shape this great nation.

The Loch Ness Monster

Certainly Scotland’s most famous and unsolved mystery of all, is the Loch Ness Monster. This large dinosaur-like creature is reputed to inhabit Loch Ness (‘Nessie’ as it is now affectionately called) in the picturesque Scottish Highlands.  Of course, Loch Ness will, have many visitors watching its shores from those watching for the sighting of its giant beast.  This creature was first reported being seen almost 1,500 years ago, when a giant animal was said to have leaped out of the lake near Inverness and ate a local farmer. Since then the myth of the Loch Ness Monster has magnified.

In 1934, a London doctor snapped a photograph that appeared to show a dinosaur-looking creature with a long neck emerging from the water of Loch Ness. Since that day dozens of sightings have been claimed – many of these having been hoaxes. Yet since then the myth of the Loch Ness Monster seems to have magnified. In 2009 a newspaper reader claims to have spotted ‘Nessie’ while browsing Googles Earth’s satellite photos of Loch Ness.  Regardless of the truth, the suggestion of the monster’s existence, today makes Loch Ness one of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions, with thousands visiting its shores each year in the hope of catching a rare – and much favoured glimpse of its famous monster. Nessie is certainly forever linked to Scotland and continues to have a great impact on tourism and business for the Highlands.

Robert the Bruce

When Robert the Bruce became King of Scotland in 1306, Edward the 1st took immediate action against him. The King forced Bruce into hiding, and according to legends we have inherited at some point, while he was on the run and at his lowest ebb, Bruce hid himself in a cave. Whilst he was there, according to legend, he watched a spider spinning himself a web from one part of the cave to the other. He watched the spider try and try again to build his web before finally succeeding. This spider is said to have inspired Bruce to succeed in continuing to carry out fighting the English, which he did. After the death of Edward 1 in 1307,  Bruce defeated Edward 11’s armies at Bannockburn in 1314.

The legend of Sawney Bean

The story of Sawney Bean is one of the most gruesome of Scottish legends, which wouldn’t be out of place in a modern horror movie. Unfortunately it is unknown whether Alexander ‘Sawney’ Bean was actually a real person or just a creation of Scottish folklore, but the story certainly has a lot of intrigue. According to legend, Sawney Bean was the head of a criminal, cannibalistic, family in the 15th century, during the reign of King James 1 of Scotland. It has been claimed that he, his wife and 46 children and grandchildren killed and fed on over a thousand people before they were captured and executed. However there is more on this hungry man in this issue so keep reading!

Halloween-Fires, neeps and lanterns

Of all the seasonal holidays, Halloween is one of many favourites – both within Scotland itself and also within the Scots people themselves.  It inspires spiritual significance or that same giddy expectation as one may have with Christmas. There is some macabre theatricality about it which never fails to bring out the big ‘child’ in many of us. Scotland certainly also celebrates the season, with its atmospheric landscape and array of haunted castles, peculiar superstitions and occasional  morbid history – it’s not surprising Halloween first took root there.

Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet, wrote about the myths, legends and traditions associated with Halloween in Scotland in his poem Halloween about this topic in 1785. Halloween in Scotland is all about supernatural witches, spirits and fires. In this poem Halloween, can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (summer’s end) held on November 1st. The Celtic year was determined by growing seasons with Samhain  (Samhuinn in Gaelic) marking the end of summer and the beginning of harvest season with the onset of winter.

The next season was the beginning of the dark and cold winter.  This festival symbolised the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead. It was during those years that the Celts believed that on the night of October 31st ghosts of the dead would walk amongst them. Large bonfires were lit in each village to ward off evil spirits. All fires were put out and new fires lit from the new great bonfires.  Today the Samhuinn Fire Festival in Edinburgh is an annual event marking the Celtic New Year, and is presented by the Beltane Society. The event features ancient Celtic traditions which include a spectacular procession of fire, music, martial arts, drumming, dancing, theatre and fireworks, all taking place in Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Today bonfires are still used to scare away the un-dead in some areas of Scotland.  These are more usually “neep lanterns”  (turnip lanterns) are made by scooping out a turnip and cutting a trough in the skin to create eyes, nose and mouth with creepy grimaces.  A candle is then lit inside to make the lantern. These lanterns are also supposed to ward off evil spirits. Nowadays thanks to the influence of American culture, pumpkins are as common as turnips for lanterns.

The Witchcraft Act of 1733

Until recently, ‘trick or treat’ was unknown in Scotland. Instead children dressed up pretending to be evil spirits and went ‘guising’ (or ‘galoshin’). The custom traces back to times when it was thought that by disguising children in this way they would blend in with the spirits that were abroad that night. Children arriving at a house so ‘disguised’ would  receive an offering to ward off evil. Today it is expected that the children, as well as dressing up, also perform a party trick – a song or a dance, or recite a poem, for example – before they are offered a treat which might be fruit, nuts or more commonly nowadays, money or sweets.  The Witchcraft Act of 1733 contained a clause preventing the consumption of pork or pastry on Halloween. However, this act was repealed in the 1930’s, and today it is now legal to offer pork pies or sausage rolls to children as treats.

“Dookin’ for apples” is a popular Halloween party game and involves taking an apple floating in a basin of water, without using your hand, either by spearing it with a fork, held in your teeth, or by biting it. This  allows another Halloween tradition with its roots in pagan times. The original bobbing for apples still continues to stem back to ancient Celtic traditions.

Scotland undoubtedly is one of the most haunted nations on earth and offers a Halloween experience as spooky as it gets, from family friendly silliness to genuinely spine tingling escapades. Take your pick from a  range of events and activities guaranteed to make this Halloween one you won’t forget in a hurry. In this issue you will find some more content on Scottish myths and legends which we hope you will enjoy. Wherever you spend your Halloween, I wish you a wonderful time, with many fine Scottish legends and treats to enjoy – no matter which myth you choose to believe (or not)!

This month also marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month and includes our pink tartan cover, the Scottish Banner will be donating proceeds from this issue to help this great cause, and we thank our readers for their support.

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

September 2016 (Vol. 40, Number 03)

The Banner Says…

A Royal love affair with Scotland

Britain’s Royal Family have long had a love affair with Scotland. Scotland has played in role in royal holidays, education, marriages and more. This month the Braemar Gathering will again take place highlighting the Royal Family’s special bond with Scotland. From spectacular castle’s, events and history Scotland continues to play its role in shaping one of the world’s most famous families.

Palace of Holyroodhouse

Starting with the Palace of Holyroodhouse these are some of the places the royals love so much.  Holyrood as it also known, is the Queen’s own official residence in Scotland. The palace is situated at the end of the famous Royal Mile which extends up to Edinburgh Castle. Mary Queen of Scots lived here between 1561 and 1567, and successors of kings and queens have made it their premier residence in Scotland. The queen has an official Holyrood Week, which runs from the end of June to the beginning of July. During this week the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh entertain guests at an annual garden party, a tradition that dates back to King George V and Queen Mary. The ceremony is attended by guests from all walks of Scottish life.  In celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday the Palace recently presented Fashioning a Reign which charted significant events in The Queen’s life and the nation’s history through an unprecedented collection of dress and accessories designed for these occasions, from childhood to the present day.

Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle, in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, has been the Scottish home of the Royal Family since it was purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1848. Much loved by Queen Victoria, Balmoral led in her journals as My Dear Paradise in the Highlands. The Royal family are usually in residence between September and the beginning of October, when the grounds are closed to the public. Many royals have spent part of their honeymoon at Balmoral, including the Queen and Prince Phillip, Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, Prince Edward and Sophie the Countess of Wessex, and Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.  The Queen is said to be at her most relaxed when at Balmoral and its surrounding areas. In 1992 Princess Anne married Timothy Laurence in Crathie Kirk, which lies close to Balmoral. In 1848 Queen Victoria began the custom of members of the Royal Family and their guests worshipping with local people in the parish church. Today still the Kirk is best known for its regular attendance by the Royal Family who worship here during their stays at the castle.

The Braemar Gathering

Every September the Royal Family can be found at the Braemar Gathering in Aberdeenshire. The annual visit always generates a great deal of interest from visitors and media from across the globe as they enjoy a day of Scottish culture and tradition. The event is run by the Braemar Royal Highland Society which was formed back in 1815. From the time of her first appearance at the Gathering in 1848, Queen Victoria took a close interest both in the Society and the Gathering, and in 1866 ordered that the title “Royal” should be added to the name of the Society. Since 1848 the Braemar Gathering has been regularly attended by the reigning Monarch and members of the Royal Family.

Glamis Castle

Glamis Castle, in Angus, has been the family home of the Earls of Strathmore for over 600 years. Glamis was the childhood home of the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, whose parents were Lord and Lady Glamis. At the age of four, Elizabeth’s grandfather, who was the current Earl, passed away and her father inherited the earldom and with it Glamis Castle. The family then divided their time between Glamis Castle and two other royal residences. Glamis has many stories and legends attached to it and is thought to be one of the most haunted castles in Britain. The late Princess Margaret, sister of Her Majesty Elizabeth II, was born in Glamis Castle, the first royal baby born in Scotland since 1600.

St Andrews

The town of St Andrews in Fife lays claim to being the birth town of the love that blossomed between Prince William and Kate Middleton.  Both studied at Scotland’s oldest university which is where they met in 2001. After the announcement of the royal engagement St Andrews University laid claim to the title of Britain’s top match-making university where one in ten of their students meets their future partner.


Prince William and Kate Middleton took the titles of Earl and Countess of Strathearn following their marriage. The Perthshire region of Strathearn, which means Valley of the River Earn, stretches from the central lowlands to the Highlands.  The region has had royal connections since Robert Steward, High Steward was created Earl of Strathearn in 1357. The picturesque areas, which once belonged to Queen Victoria’s father includes the towns of Crieff, Auchterarder and Comrie.

The Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia is one of the world’s most famous ships. It was launched at John Brown’s shipyard in Clydebank in 1953 and served the Queen for 44 years. The Britannia carried out 968 voyages for the Queen and the Royal Family, until it was taken out of service in 1994. The Royal Yacht Britannia can now be found in Leith, Edinburgh, where visitors can discover what life was like on board for the Royal Family and the crew and today is one of Edinburgh’s most popular attractions.

Other Scottish Royal Connections

Catherine Middleton’s wedding dress was designed by Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen. McQueen, whose father was Scottish, frequently used tartan in his work. Scotland had its own royal wedding on July 30, 2011 when Zara Philips, daughter of Princess Anne, married rugby player Mike Tindall, at the Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh. The Duke of Edinburgh Prince Charles, Andrew and Edward, all attended Gordonstoun, a school in Moray, Scotland. Whilst Princess Anne followed family traditions and sent both children, Zara and Peter to Gordonstoun. In 1074 King Malcolm 11 was murdered at Glamis, where there was a Royal Hunting Lodge. William Shakespeare’s Macbeth was supposed to have lived in Glamis Castle, the real MacBeth never did.

Of course Scotland is there for all of us to enjoy its rich history, culture, scenery and people and regardless of your bloodline Scotland will roll out a royal welcome mat for you on your next visit.

Have you been to any of the royal sites in Scotland? Tell us and share your story.

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

August 2016 (Vol. 40, Number 02)

The Banner Says…

Scotland the land of music and culture

August is an incredible month for many reasons. The weather is usually better this month than any other time of year – at least here in the Northern Hemisphere. The children are happy as they are usually out of school on summer holidays, many people are on vacations, and around the world things seem to slow down while people take a little time off, before starting off for the busy fall season ahead. When my children were young we all looked forward to being together for the summer season, and I would often try to have outings with them to enjoy each other during that time.

However by the time the month was over and it was time for school again, both they and I were ready to get back to school routine again. Today as I look through events taking place in Scotland I see that the month of August is a very busy month, bursting with festivals both musically, as well as art festivals. In fact, after writing about Scotland in this publication for many years, I am still overwhelmingly impressed with how proud Scotland is of her own heritage. By this I mean how proud a country it is which seems so proud of its’ music and other forms of heritage in so very many ways.

Scotland presents

Scotland continues to present numerous high profile events and festivals. Whilst these events are taking place across the country in the form of music festivals or highland games, Edinburgh in particular seems to be bursting at the seams with cultural events. No question about it, Scotland certainly is proud of its culture and wants to not only enjoy it themselves, but show it to the thousands of visitors who will be visiting the country over the summer months. Edinburgh alone has so many events which show off both the music and the dance of Scotland, as well as many from around the world, making it a melting pot of performance culture. Some of the more important of these is the Edinburgh Festival, Festival Fringe and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Surely nothing is more Scottish than the Tattoo and when it annually visits Edinburgh each year, it brings with it thousands of visitors who are there to not only to see the country – but also this outstanding event. As a child I often watched this event on television and could hardly believe the time when I was actually taken to the Mound in Edinburgh to watch it for myself. As I expected it was a most thrilling experience with the sound of the pipes and drums, the beauty of the Scottish dancers, and the pride of the guards as they marched so impeccably in their ranks.

A stirring experience indeed, and certainly one that highlights the Scottish pride in each and every Scots heart. Yet the Tattoo is by no means a new or a recent event in Edinburgh. The first time it took place was as far back as 1950. At that time I was living and growing up in the UK. During that time it had also never been televised and so, of course was not so popular as it became later. Of course when that started happening the Tattoo soon became far better known, making the Tattoo far more important to not only Edinburgh but also to Scotland itself – particularly for the tourism cash which it helped to encourage. This year as the 2016 Tattoo prepares to unfurl the Tattoo will celebrate its 66th anniversary. This of course is quite a celebration, from its early days, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has been an international favourite. Performers from over 48 countries have taken part in the Tattoo including from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.

Global gathering

Each year the Tattoo is very much a ‘global gathering’ which showcases the talents of musicians and performers from every corner of the globe. The international flavour of the Tattoo has been deliberately developed as a key element to capacitate and entertain a huge, cosmopolitan audience. Now that it is televised it is still as strong as ever – perhaps even more so. In spite of its length of time running, the Tattoo has always been staged at Edinburgh Castle (apart from Tattoo productions that have been held in both Australia and New Zealand), although rehearsals for the event take place at Redford Barracks, which is also in Edinburgh. Since its inception it is believed that more than 14 million people have attended the Tattoo. This amount, coupled with the viewing audience internationally, is generally thought to be 100 million spectators making this an extremely large and loyal audience. Experts believe that approximately 70 percent of each audience comes from outside Scotland, with half being from overseas. In spite of the length of time the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has been running, not a single performance of the Tattoo has ever been cancelled – that in spite of the somewhat changeable weather within Scotland. Yet of course, Edinburgh is not the only city you will find in Scotland ready and willing to show its’ historic exhibitions this summer.

Pipes out in Glasgow

Another exciting event taking place this year, this time in Glasgow, is Piping Live! the international piping festival and the World Pipe Band Championships. Piping Live! will take place August 8 -14 August, and will include not only some of the world’s finest piping but also entertainment by the fantastic Red Hot Chilli Pipers, who will also bring their “bagrock” to the event. There will also be many other entertainers on hand for the event. This year Piping Live! will also be adding Scottish food and drink to the event as well as a new addition called, ‘Moments that Matter’. Whilst the world’s pipe band community will also descend on Glasgow Green for the World Pipe Band Championships this month. In this issue we get a different perspective and hear from one of the international judges for this event which showcases the sound of Scotland like no other.

It certainly does sound as though Scotland will be very exciting this summer and will be sure to draw even bigger crowds this year than ever before. For the small country that Scotland is (approximately 30,414 miles), it certainly has a great deal going on. It is a country that boasts it’s heritage and welcomes the rest of the world to share it. For a small country Scotland will be punching above its weight with world class music and culture, if you’re going to Scotland this summer – you’re going to a very unique place in this world.

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

July 2016 (Vol. 40, Number 01)

The Banner Says…

40 years on!

The front page of this issue of the Scottish Banner, is one I never thought I would see. It announces it is the 40th Anniversary of this publication. When first we started publishing I never would have dreamed we would have continued to see such a long anniversary!

The first edition

I recall when printing our first edition back in 1976. Well! Just printing that issue seemed to take almost half a year. Living in Canada at the time, as I did, I thought starting such a publication for ex-pat Scots should first be presented at a Scottish event. A rather big Scottish event. But where? In those days we were just a Canadian distribution, so my choices were smaller than they would be today, distributing across Canada, U.S., as well as Australia and New Zealand. While choosing where to first distribute the publication, I compared the time of year (summertime). What happens then? Highland Games, of course.

The launch

The next question was – which one? After a quick study of those available to me, I decided Fergus Highland Games was one of the largest in Ontario and was also close to Toronto. Prior to making a final decision on this location, I called staff at the Fergus Highland Games to ensure I had their approval. Pleased with their answer I made plans accordingly. After a long and arduous press time, and with that first July edition finally printed, the morning of Fergus Highland Games gates opened up with myself at the entry gate handing complimentary Scottish Banner’s out to those arriving inside the Games area. Of course, nobody had ever seen a Scottish newspaper in Ontario – unless it was imported, and so everyone had the same question. “What’s this?” they asked. When told it was a newspaper for ex-pat Scots, they looked at me scornfully. “No such thing”, they said. “Maybe for the English. Not for us Scots”. I responded by urging them to take a copy to see for themselves. After looking at the Banner for a moment they walked away quietly. It was simply that- all day long. When it was over I knew it was too early to see how it had really gone. For that I would have to wait and see. Fortunately my answer was not long in coming back to me.

The Scottish Banner takes flight

Monday morning the phone in the office started ringing before 7am – unusually early for us. It continued all day long reminding myself to order more than the two lines I currently used. I also needed help to answer phones, as I was overwhelmed with the amount of activity in the office that day. These calls were mainly subscription requests, advertising enquiries were very popular also, certainly two things I needed. I was taken by surprise by the activity of the office after only one Highland games – yet, I reminded myself, I planned on attending many more -and so I had to be ready. Driving home from the Games that Saturday night I was both elated and exhausted. I thought the day had been a success and after meeting more people than I ever imagined possible, had many positive comments on the publication, I felt the Scottish Banner had won the day. Yet, in spite of the success of that memorable day, new concerns were already being considered. A second issue now had to be worked on. Distributors had to be met. Writers needed to know deadlines for the next issue. Also, unlike before, the phones in the office were now ringing off the hook-not only from subscribers, but also advertisers and, just simply, curiosity seekers. Suddenly the office had come ‘alive’, and I was increasingly concerned about how the next issue would ever get to press. On time? Yes, of course it did. As have hundreds of other issues ever since.

Those early days

Those early days were full of surprises. I could never have dreamed how many people I would meet, either physically, by telephone, or through the mail after being introduced through the Banner. To my amazement some of these were very famous names, while others were well-wishers who simply wanted the Banner to succeed. Letters came from across Canada, U.S.A and Scotland itself. I particularly recall one letter from Scotland not long after we first started printing. The writer informed us that he had just discovered the Scottish Banner, which he enjoyed greatly. He also wondered if we would be interested in an article from him? I continued reading through the letter. When I read the name of the writer I was shocked. It was none other than Nigel Tranter. I held the letter thoughtfully, while looking at his name. I reminded myself this man’s name has gone down in Scottish writing history – where it will remain for many years to come. Of course, I was thrilled to respond positively to his suggestion. Shortly thereafter Nigel was writing a monthly column for the Scottish Banner, which was very happily received by both myself and our readers. Sadly this great man left our world in the year 2000. Yet while he was here, we were proud to call him a Banner writer. He was a man who, through his many novels ‘lived’ the lives of all the kings of Scotland, as well as notables including William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, and others. When speaking to me one time Nigel advised, “The problem is the next stage”. When I questioned this he responded by saying, “Well, that is when I will meet the people I have been writing about. They will question me by asking ‘What is that you wrote about me, eh?…..” Nigel was more than a gifted writer, he was one of Scotland’s finest sons, and is missed today not only by us, but many thousands around the world. Who recalls that old radio programme Life with the Lyons, back in the 50’s. As the Scots maid in the Lyons family, Molly Weir delighted listeners with her weekly programmes about a Scot living life with an American family while in the U.K. Molly also became a Scottish Banner writer later, whose articles were a great success with readers.

Today’s Scottish Banner writers

Today we have still other wonderful writers. A true and good friend for many years Lady Fiona MacGregor has blessed our pages with interesting articles for some time. As I write I understand she and husband Sir Malcolm are currently in Australia. My good wishes go to them on their journey. In spite of living in Australia, Jim Stoddart brings his many years of Scottish upbringing into the Banner pages each month, and is much appreciated. I must also mention What’s In A Name columnist, Ron Dempsey, who is the longest running columnist of all. We are fortunate to have contributions from across three continents giving a true Scottish global outlook from a diverse range of writers and media partners. Yes, my forty years with the Banner has given me an interesting and varied way of life, meeting many interesting and famous people many of whom I might otherwise never met. Royalty seems to have visited Ontario in the mid-70’s more so than today. I recall visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia and chatting with the Queen while on board. I found Her Majesty such a warm, genuine, and comfortable lady to speak to, that when she spoke so highly of her Scottish grandmother, I had to remind myself that she was actually speaking of Queen Victoria. Of course there have been many, many, deadlines, with many (but not all), having been met.

A world class publication

When my son, Sean graduated from university, many years ago he toured the world to decide where he wanted to live. I was thrilled when he took the Scottish Banner to Australasia for distribution there. In doing so he has become a huge help to me here in North America. The Banner helps us keep a little closer – in spite of many miles between us. My thanks to you – our readers, advertisers and friends for bearing with us for these many years. Today you are more than Scottish Banner readers – you, like Sean, are family we visit once a month, and just like other family we know you are always there – as part of us.
Finally, I would like to thank the many people who have sent us congratulatory messages on page 3 and 15 and helping to celebrate this anniversary. They include many close friends and warm memories, thank you all.

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

June 2016 (Vol. 39, Number 12)

The Banner Says…

Like many Scottish Banner readers I also am an immigrant, arriving in Canada as I did, with my parents many years ago. For me it was a very difficult and unhappy experience. Why? At the time I was leaving my friends-and in particular my boyfriend, who made my life in the U.K, a very happy place to be. Of course our family had discussed the ‘big move’ many times, and yes, at the time I too thought it was a good decision. But as the time went by and I realised the importance of ‘leaving my friends’, so soon, things changed a little.
I arrived in Canada missing both my British lifestyle and my friends. That was way back in the 50’s, and as we all know, as we grow older, things change greatly in life. Today I am happily both as a U.S., as well as a Canadian citizen. And I love both. Yet I was particularly interested in an article in a recent Scottish newspaper about a Glasgow primary school. An article which I felt I had a lot in common with.

The school in the article was the Annette Street Primary School, situated in Govan, Glasgow, Scotland, and the ethnic profile of the students attending this school may not include a single child born to conventional white Scottish parents. Yet the children who populate the diverse roll, many who were born on these shores, are keenly aware of the culture of their city, country, homeland and heritage, as well as those of their classmates. The school is in an area with a proud history of migration where many migrants of Irish or Polish families once settled in their search for a new life. The teachers are from Scotland, England, Europe and Pakistan – probably reflecting on the birth countries of their students. The schools 129 year old walls are filled with a multi-lingual diaspora and prides itself on the colourful studies on many Scottish subjects along with a corridor of stairs decorated with projects on the life and legacy of Robert Burn, there are pictures of Hebridean island life – signed by each pupil. The teacher, who is also a former pupil will end her association with the school, which stretches back five decades when she retires at the end of this academic year Her classes, pupils from Ben Nevis are striving to out-do each other in a race to name as many lochs as possible. Safwan, an 11 -year old Celtic supporter from Pakistan, and Hamreeb, a Rangers supporter of the same age from Glasgow, are part of a group of boys discussing the legend of the Scottish Kelpie. “It’s a hybrid of a fish and a horse”, offers one.


Another classmate, 10-year old Daniela, from Brazil, can recount the mythology behind the ree, the fish and the bird on the bell a feat many a born and bred Glaswegian might struggle with. She then tells how she went to Hampden to see Scotland play Denmark in March, singing the national anthem on the way – causing one Glasgow wife to tears. In her office – with the door bearing the words “Head Teacher” in nine different languages – Shirley has just waved a bus-load of kids off on an outing to Finlaystone Country Estate in Renfrewshire, on a language and environmental trip. Another group are on a litter-picking mission, collecting rubbish from the nearby streets. Cambuslang Park is looking better after its spring clean.

The school was the first in Glasgow to earn a Green Flag for Eco-Schools environmentalism (Eco-Schools is an international initiative designed to encourage whole-school action on sustainable development education issues). It currently has six. Shirley said, “We have children who are Scottish Pakistani, we have Roma children who were born in Scotland, and although their families might originate in Slovakia, Romania or elsewhere, we very much view them as Scottish. But to me, it’s actually not important which children were born in Scotland. We do a lot of work in the school about Scotland and Glasgow. We get the kids out and around Glasgow, we teach them about their city, their country. We educate them about Scottish culture and traditions but not at the expense of their own. There’s a commonality of language used in the school. We look for ways to develop them in all sorts of ways. Citizenship is a huge part of that. Our children take small steps and make huge achievements with them”.

Despite the right-wing sneering, the crowdfunding is on target to raise more than six thousand pounds in a week. There will be more playground equipment and more educational trips. Unlike some Scots, these kids can sing all three verses of Flower of Scotland. They sing our-their-national anthem with obvious pride. Theirs is the voice of a modern country. Wherever they go, Scotland will be a part of their story. And they are a welcome part of ours.


In this issue we are also highlighting in our series of Scottish cities and regions, Dundee. One of Scotland’s (and the UK’s) fastest changing places. A new creative hub and an amazing waterfront development is being created. The project is being led by Dundee City Council, Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government. The success of this long-term project, which commenced in 2001, is already starting to show with new buildings and businesses emerging and major attractions, such as V&A Dundee, promising great potential for the future. Dundee was long known for the three J’s- jam, jute and journalism. Today the city of discovery and design is a forward thinking city on the move and we are excited to watch Dundee reinvent itself and play its role in the story of Scotland.

For more information or to help with the Annette Street Primary School Crowdfunding Project: see: www.annettestreet-pri.glasgow.sch.uk.

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

April 2016 (Vol. 39, Number 10)

The Banner Says…

Highland games-A celebration of Scotland

Having email has made the world a much smaller place and we are able to communicate quite freely with those close to us, wherever in the world they may be, providing of course they have electronics and electricity to ‘plug in’ to. Yet while we happily use our up to date devices in our homes and offices, we do continue to enjoy many of our older traditions. In this particular situation I refer to the old Scots tradition of highland games.

Started by clan chiefs

It is believed these festivals were started by clan chiefs in Scotland who held athletic competitions to support claims of superiority between Scottish clans, each chief claiming his men were stronger and faster than that of his rival.  This fierce rivalry has been traced all the way back to King Malcolm Canmore’s reign-as far back as the 11th century. In those long ago days the king would be in attendance at all athletic highland games competitions. Those found to be the strongest would eventually become the king’s messengers. Highland games hill races go all the way back to King Malcom’s reign. Although written documentation cannot be found, stories shared over the centuries indicate that these first races may have been held to determine the most fit to act as couriers for the King. Since the traditional Highlander cannot be traced back farther than the 14th century, one could surmise that the first highland games foot races were between area peasants with clansmen simply in attendance.

The Braemar Gathering

Legend also tells us that there were quite a few clans at these highland gatherings. One in particular was called the Braemar Gathering, which was a particularly special highland event for a couple of reasons. One was the location! It is well suited for being a hunting ground, therefore allowing hunting to be part of the event. Plus it was located in the hills, an excellent place for gathering locals. Braemar Gathering itself has the added attraction of having The Chieftain of the Braemar Gathering as Her Majesty the Queen, and for this very special Chieftain Her Majesty ensures the highland games are highly attended each year. International athletes will be among those taking part in the heavy and track events. Today those of us connected to highland games in any way are very aware of the name Braemar as it has become a special place in Scottish highland games and culture even today.


Contests between Scottish clans

There are also those who believe that these initial highland games were no more than simple contests between Scottish clans. They were more a ‘rite of passage’. Some of some of these which the heavy events competitors added, such as caber tossing. Highland games have been held regularly for hundreds of years, from their inception in the 11th century. With the defeat of the Jacobite uprising, the British imposed the Act of Proscription, essentially outlawing the Scots culture, music and way of life. Even the kilt was banned during that time. Upon being held hostage by an oppressive British regime, many Scots immigrated to the colonies, either voluntarily or by force. This resulted in the traditions of highland games being spread to other British colonies including North America and Australasia. It was in the year 1819 in the Canadian town of Maxville, Ontario, the first highland games took place in the Americas.  In pre-civil war in America, Highland Games were routinely held in four locations only – they being Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Newark, N.J.  In those early American highland games days there were just between twelve and twenty events to be watched during the festival. Some of them can still be seen even today, such as, hammer throw, caber toss and highland dancing. Detroit holds the title today of the oldest continuous games in North America, whilst in Australia Victoria’s Maryborough Highland Gathering has been conducted each New Year since its formation in 1857 and on New Zealand’s North Island the Turakina Highland Games began in 1864.

Scottish heavy events

Soon after the Games were started in North America money became a factor. Cash prizes were being offered to winners of competitions. The Scottish heavy events have always been one of the most watched events at highland games, but the heavy events athletes had to be paid in order to attract more attendees to the event.  This resulted in the games having to charge admission.  Highland athletes soon spread throughout the west coast. Today Pleasanton, California hosts its own highland games as well as the US Caber Tossing Championships, the Heavy Events Championships, and several other highland games related competitions. This month will also see heavy events put to the test at the Brigadoon Challenge which will take place at the Bundanoon Highland Gathering in the NSW Southern Highlands of Australia.

The heavy events that make up most highland games, include the Scottish hammer throw and the 56 pound weight throw. The caber toss may be the most fascinating of the highland games events as it is both simple and demanding. Its origins can likely be traced back to Scottish loggers. While some believe that the event can be traced back to the loggers need to flip trees for their work. Other suggest that this activity had nothing to do with work related tasks, but was rather simply a measure to brute strength and a test of manliness. Either way, spectator’s fascination with this event is undeniable, and one could easily consider the highland games to be the best of Scottish sports and a sort of heavy event Olympics. Today highland games events are held across Scotland and the world some time or another. Scottish Banner readers can see our events page for a plethora of Scottish events such as highland games taking place both near and far. We hope readers make plans to attend these fantastic family events and support the great work these events do for the Scottish community.

Tartan Day

This month across North America on April 6th Tartan Day will be celebrated and we encourage everyone to wear some tartan on this day. This is the 30th anniversary of this fantastic event which has its roots in Nova Scotia, Canada. Started by Jean MacKaracher-Watson and her husband Andrew the event has grown to be celebrated across North America and acknowledged by parliament for the great achievements Scots have had on the development of Canada and the USA. Our Australian and New Zealand readers can of course wear some tartan on April 6th but they will celebrate Tartan Day on July 1st. April also sees Outlander return to screens across the world and you will find some great Outlander content in this issue including our interview with Outlander star Sam Heughan. April certainly is looking to be another great month to celebrate Scotland!


Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

February 2016 (Vol. 39, Number 08)

The Banner Says…

Gretna Green-Scotland’s home of love

With Valentine’s Day almost here,  we take a look at the next step, Gretna Green!

The month of February brings with it a very special day-one that is full of warm feelings and love. That day of course, is the 14th, St Valentine’s Day. I well recall as a young girl, waking up that morning, and as our mail man usually delivered the mail prior to anybody getting out of bed, (remember those days?),  I would look down the stairs from my bedroom, and there, sure enough, were a handful of card size envelopes, which I hoped (and thought) may be Valentines cards. I bounded down the stairs and seized the envelopes, before running back up to my bedroom where I carefully opened each and every envelope to see who had taken the time to surprise me, on this, the most romantic of days with a Valentines card.

Of course, as I grew older, there were fewer cards as relationships occurred in those days which were more ‘one on one’, being a natural change from the school age relationships when numerous dates -none of which were serious, to those that came later. However, as we age, relationships continue to change. Life ‘happens’ and things often change whether or not we want them to. Others lives change, as well as our own be it due to health issues or simply just a move to another location.

The idyllic Scottish Borders

Yet as we are approaching this, the  most  romantic time of the year, let us spend a little time thinking about romance and other important issues of the heart.  Somewhat surprisingly, one of the main romantic locations happens to be in Scotland itself! I refer to the millions of runaway marriages over the years, not only from across the U.K.,  but also from across other parts of the world. This romantic and most unique part of the marital world is Gretna Green.

Why did Gretna Green become the worlds’ most romantic and favourite place for those wishing so  fervently  to marry – yet were unable to do so? Perhaps due  to parental feelings  (quite possibly the bride’s father), who would not give his daughter the permission she so badly wanted from him to marry her new loved one. In the 18th century English law lords approved new laws which tightened marriage arrangements quite considerably. This also meant that couples had to reach the age of 21 before they could marry without parental consent. Another big step for many was the fact that in those days marriages had to take place within a church.

Scottish laws however, were quite different and much more simple. They made many English couples decide that marrying at Gretna Green in the idyllic Scottish Borders, would allow them to marry on the spot, in a simple ‘marriage by declaration’ or ‘handfasting ceremony’. This ceremony required only two witnesses as well as assurances from the couple involved that they were both over the age of 16, (unlike the English and Welsh law which stated the age of 18).  With such a relaxed arrangement, and particularly with Gretna Green being within such easy reach of England, as it is the first village in Scotland.  Further, it was also conveniently located on a main route from London going directly into Scotland. There was no other place to compete with it. Gretna Green was the perfect location to take advantage of simpler marriage laws of the two varying countries.

Blacksmith Priests

Sometimes there was also a feeling of haste in the marriage. This might have been partly to do with an angry father of the bride not wanting his daughter to marry the person she had chosen, or perhaps as some other reason.  There were often family feuds about marriage, causing some couples to runaway prior to the rest of the family knowing their plans and therefore try to prevent the marriage itself. If this was the case, as soon as they reached Scottish soil at Gretna Green, the romantic duo could find a place of security where they were able to marry in haste, before angry family members could catch up with them stopping them from what their romantic hearts so badly wanted to do- unite! Yet still more locations have evolved in this very romantic and historic part of the world. Today the Old Blacksmith Shop is associated and best known for Gretna Green Weddings. This has  become an enduring symbol of the romance of the area, with certain ‘Blacksmith Priests’  sometimes, somewhat flamboyant characters who conducted ceremonies in the Famous Blacksmiths Shop, where couples have gone to marry since 1754 still stands there. A modern day blacksmiths shop was created as recently as 1939,  shortly after which came another new idea, that being the ‘Anvil’ blessings. These blessings caused more cash flow to the organisers and were strongly suggested to follow a registrar wedding.

One of the most romantic places on earth

Gretna Green has certainly made its reputation across the world as being one of the most romantic places on earth. Even today thousands of couples are still attracted by its reputation and continue to travel to “The Gateway to Scotland” for their own victuals. The town of Gretna was planned during the First World War. It provided homes for 30,000 employees of a munitions factory that was the biggest in the world,  being an incredible nine miles long. A story was made of the factory at ‘The Devil’s Porridge’ in Eastriggs. Gretna Green itself became famous for being  the ‘marriage capital’ of the UK. It is believed that around 5,000 couples decide to  get married there each year.

Gretna Green marriage

In common law, a “Gretna Green marriage” came to mean, in general, a marriage transacted in a jurisdiction that was not the residence of the parties that were being married, to avoid restrictions or procedures imposed by the parties jurisdiction. In 1856 Scottish law was changed to require 21 days’ residence for marriage, and a further law change was made in 1940. The residential requirement was lifted in 1977. Other Scottish border villages used for such marriages were named Coldstream Bridge, Lamberton, Mordington and Paxton Toll.  Yet still Gretna Green is the one that stand out as the most exciting and romantic part of Scotland. Many thousands of young girls plan a romantic wedding at Gretna, however, as they mature a little, many of them decide to have the original wedding, with her husband to be at her side, being ‘given away’ by her father(usually with a tear in his eye, plenty of loving  family to watch). Its’ a little more ‘acceptable’ way of becoming married in a church. Gretna’s status as the ultimate wedding destination remains still today as the village with a population of just 2,700 , hosts almost two weddings per person per year, following the many thousands who have said “ I do” at Gretna since 1754.

This month we also continue our look at the 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design with a focus on Scotland’s ancient capital, Edinburgh. Regardless of who or what you love, I hope it you enjoy your February.

Have you been to Gretna Green or perhaps wed there yourself? Tell us about your Gretna Green story.


Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

January 2016 (Vol. 39, Number 07)

The Banner Says…

A time for reflection

If Christmas is full of hustle and bustle, New Year is a time of parties, yes but more than that, it is a time of reflection.  Just look around and think for a moment about those who touch your life, not just during the holiday season, but all year round. Think of the difference they make just by being ‘there’. Sadly, we are unaware sometimes how much they mean to us, until they are no longer, often leaving a void which is both painful and difficult for us to accept. After a discussion on this very subject during the holiday season, I took some time to think about those who affect my everyday life, bringing with them pleasure and often lighten an otherwise busy or stressful day. At the same time I reflected on those who have helped so much in bygone days bringing their own talents to the Scottish Banner, thus helping overseas Scots forge a link and voice their opinions with others. These have often become good personal friends, both now and in times past. Some are still with us, but others have now gone, leaving pleasant memories and the shadow of a warm smile.

Looking back

Some years ago I met Scots author and actress Molly Weir. A well-known and delightful lady, Molly and I soon became firm friends. Molly never had a computer they were hardly known when she wrote for the Banner.  Instead we received long typewritten pages, which in turn had to be re-typed into our computers upon receiving them.  Always, there was a very long private to letter to me tucked in the envelope telling me what was happening in her life, etc. Eventually these letters, brought more and more news  of her husband Sandy’s sickness, and finally his death. I knew her heart was broken through her last letters and eventually the letters, and the columns, stopped altogether. My dear friend Molly had gone to be with her Sandy, which is where I knew she wanted to be. I still miss ‘our Molly.’

Author Nigel Tranter, was perhaps the most well known and most loved writer to ever come out of Scotland. He wrote many famous books as well as numerous prolific articles about Scottish history for the Banner – which he seemed to know like the back of his hand. These were often  accompanied by the same warm and friendly letters.  I was astounded and very surprised when he first offered to write articles for us, and of course, agreed with his offer. Nigel did continue to write for us, until he could no longer when he departed this earth. There are still dozens of Nigel’s’ private letters to us in files here at the Scottish Banner office. They can never be discarded as they are his words, written just for the Banner. Upon his death his daughter inherited all copyright to his works.  She knew her father held the Scottish Banner in high regard and shortly after his passing, gave us permission to use his articles in future issues. A most generous and cherished legacy, and for which I am still most grateful. Yet I still miss Nigel himself and am very proud to have known such a man of his calibre.

Charlie Mill who also wrote for the Banner was not a famous man, but for us he was a true hero, coming through as he did, with many interesting articles each month. We cherished him greatly and although we knew he had health problems, it was a terrible and tragic  blow when we heard from his daughter that he  had passed away. He did so leaving us with lovely memories of his views on Scottish life. But this is not meant to be about those who have gone before. There are others whose names we are proud to have in these pages, and who have been there for a long time, and who we hope will continue be there for a much longer time to come.

Looking forward

My dear friend and fellow writer, Ron Dempsey is one of these. Ron brings us an enlightening column on Scottish names each month and is an important part of the Scottish Banner team. Ron has a loyal and strong readership who would probably revolt were he to miss a month! Lady Fiona MacGregor whose friendship I have treasured  for many years, continues to write wonderful articles from the across Scotland. Using her pen the way an artist uses brushes, she paints a veritable picture of life in her part of the world every month.  We are also so fortunate to have some other great contributors such as Angus Whitson, Dr Ken B Moody, Marieke McBean, Joyce Milne D’Auria , David McVey and Jim Stoddart, all who help us make the Scottish Banner what it is today as we go into our 40th year of publication. These are just a few of those who come to mind when I think of those whose lives not only touch on mine, but also reach out across the miles with their words touching readers around the world.  I say this knowing how many wonderful comments they receive here at the Banner.

Our wishes for 2016

At this New Year, I would also like to recognise our readers, without whom there be no Scottish Banner.  At these offices we will continue bringing you news and views of Scotland, both from today and yesterday. From all of us on the Banner team both here in North America and from our offices in Australia, so ably handled by my son Sean, may we wish all of our readers, contributors, advertisers and friends, a happy and healthy 2016.  This year also sees the Scottish Banner reach the incredible milestone of 40 continuous years of monthly publication in July. In Scotland January starts The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016 which you can read about in this and future editions throughout the year, this month we start with a focus on Glasgow.

The best small country in the world

To Scotland, the best small country in the world, long may she flourish and may the fire never dim within the hearts of her sons and daughters, no matter where in this world they have settled. And last but by no means least, to this amazing world we all share. May we continue to live in peace, freedom and happiness along with others we share it with. May we have pride in our hearts when we consider where we live and how fortunate we are in so many ways. God bless 2016