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

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