The Thistle – Scotland’s national flower

By: Rheanna-Marie Hall,
The National Trust for Scotland (NTS)

The thistle is the flower of Scotland and one of its most recognisable symbols. Since King Alexander III, it has been Scotland’s national emblem. No-one is truly sure of how the thistle came to be Scotland’s national flower. A well-known story though attributes the thistle being chosen as the emblem of Scotland to the Battle of Largs (a coastal town in Ayrshire) in the 13th century. A Norse army journeyed to Scotland, intent on conquering the land.

The legend has it that they left their ships under cover of night, and were planning to ambush the sleeping Scottish Clansmen. In order to be as quiet as possible, the Norsemen had removed their shoes. However as they crept across the countryside, one of them stepped onto a thorny thistle. His cry of pain roused the Scots, and the warriors rose up and defeated the invaders.


Silver coins in Scotland and later Britain have long featured a thistle, and the first coins to do so were as early as 1474, issued by King James III in Scotland. The most recent design to feature the thistle plant was the British 5p coin (which stopped being minted in 2008), which was impressed with ‘The Badge of Scotland, a thistle royally crowned’. In 1687 King James VII and II founded the Order of the Thistle. Its heraldic emblem was, of course, the thistle. Its full title is the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, and it is an order of chivalry, the highest honour Scotland can bestow on an individual. The motto of the Order, Nemo me impune lacessit, ‘No one provokes me with impunity’, pairs well with the prickly thistle which cannot be picked without difficulty.

The symbol of the thistle can also be seen in combination with other national flowers and symbols. Below is a flag gifted to Falkland Palace in 1950, to mark the 300-year history of the Scots Guards. The emblem represents the Crown and the rank of Colonel, showing the Scottish thistle, English rose and Irish shamrock with the words Unita Fortior, ‘stronger in unity’. The military colours were presented to George VI when he was Colonel-in-Chief of the Scots Guards from 1932–7.

The thistle flower

Alpine blue sow thistle alongside melancholy thistle.

Thistles can be found right across Scotland, from the Lowlands to the Highlands, and even on the islands! There are a number of different types which grow in the UK, and a variety of thistles can be found in the wild around Scotland, the most common being the spear thistle, the creeping thistle, and the marsh thistle. It is the native spear thistle, Cirsium vulgare, which is thought to have been used as the national emblem. They are abundant in Scotland, and the imagery on coins, flags and other symbols through history closely matches this particular variety.

There is another type of thistle known as the ‘Scotch thistle’ or cotton thistle, Onopordum acanthium, but this is non-native. It was likely introduced from Europe sometime before the 16th century, and is most abundant in the United States of America and Australia. Different varieties of thistle can be seen at NTS countryside and garden properties across Scotland, such as Mar Lodge Estate National Nature Reserve.

At Mar Lodge Estate, where over 600 plant species have been recorded, since 2018 a rare plant conservation project has been underway for two species which are at risk of extinction in Scotland. One of these is the alpine blue sow thistle (Cicerbita alpina). At Mar Lodge it can be seen growing beside the more traditional-looking varieties of thistle, here a melancholy thistle, Cirsium heterophyllum.

A popular symbol

The thistle is now well ingrained into the cultural identity of Scotland, and you can find it everywhere. Amongst other things, it is the logo of Scottish Rugby, adorns the crest of Scotland’s national football team, is a core component of the Police Scotland logo, and is a popular choice for any number of Scottish businesses. For visitors to Scotland, a keepsake decorated with a thistle flower is often a must-have!

Thistle plant extract can also be found in beauty products, particularly soaps and face creams, as in recent years it has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties and be a beneficial ingredient in skincare.

Text and images courtesy of the National Trust for Scotland. For more information on the Trust or to help them protect Scotland’s heritage see:

Fang-tastic! Scotland’s link to Dracula

VisitScotland is celebrating Scotland’s surprising links to Dracula and its famed author Bram Stoker on the iconic book’s 125th anniversary. Scotland is said to have played a crucial role in the creation of the classic story with Stoker holidaying north of the border as he wrote it. Visitors and locals alike are being encouraged to indulge in some literary tourism, whereby people are inspired to visit the locations depicted in literature, and delve into the country’s connections to Dracula, following in Stoker’s footsteps.

Slains Castle

Locations in Edinburgh, the Scottish Borders and Glasgow all have links to Stoker,  but it is perhaps the striking cliff top castle in Aberdeenshire that is best known for its links to the story. Slains Castle, near Cruden Bay, is believed to have inspired Dracula’s castle – specifically a unique octagon-shaped room described in the book, which Slains boasts. Stoker began writing Dracula – which was published in 1897 – while staying at the nearby Kilmarnock Arms Hotel, with his signatures from its guestbook in 1894 and 1895 surviving to this day.  Now in ruins, the castle is best admired from nearby and should not be entered due to safety reasons.

The 125th anniversary of Dracula is fittingly marked during Scotland’s Year of Stories which celebrates and promotes the wealth of stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland. Recently, the national tourism organisation co-hosted a special event with Blackwell’s bookshop in Edinburgh to mark the anniversary attended by Stoker’s great-grandnephew Dacre Stoker, who took part in a Q&A and book signing attended by fans of Dracula and horror literature. Jenni Steele, VisitScotland Film and Creative Industries Manager, said: “This anniversary is a fantastic opportunity to highlight Scotland’s connections to this world-renowned book and character.  Dracula holds such a sense of intrigue and mystery, so it is not surprising that Bram Stoker’s writing is said to have been influenced by the country’s magical landscapes and locations while on his travels. It was pleasure to co-host the special event in Edinburgh and have Dacre involved in sharing his passion and knowledge about Dracula in Scotland. 2022 also marks Scotland’s Year of Stories – so this anniversary is a perfect fit to celebrate our links to this world-famous tale. And we hope that by shining a light on those ties, people will come and see the inspirational places that arguably helped created one of the most famous pieces of literature ever written.”

Scotland’s literary tradition

Dacre Stoker, great grandnephew of Bram Stoker, said: “It is a great privilege to part of this special anniversary, and even more so to be celebrating it in what is arguably the birthplace of Dracula; Scotland. The rich culture and heritage clearly left its impact on Bram; from the ruins of Slains Castle clearly inspiring the gothic setting of Dracula’s castle, to the vast landscape of Aberdeenshire’s coast to his links to Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders, including his friendships with writers such as Arthur Conan Doyle and other writers that make up the fabric of Scotland’s literary tradition. Scotland has inspired many writers and artists for centuries and its stories and landscapes hopefully will continue to inspire many more to come.”

Scotland has world-class literary links. Our landscapes, history and people have inspired writers for centuries, helping to bring to life enduring characters that capture the imagination. From Dracula to Outlander, Harry Potter to Sunset Song, Scotland has inspired some of the world’s best-loved literary creations. Pre-Covid19 there were over three million visits to literary attractions across Scotland (2013-2019). Figures released by the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development at Glasgow Caledonian University detail visitor numbers to places with literature links including Abbotsford – The Home of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, the Grassic Gibbon Centre, the Writers’ Museum, JM Barrie’s Birthplace, Scott Monument and Burns Monument Centre.

And there are several Scottish locations with Dracula and vampire ties for visitors to discover:

Glamis Castle, Angus.

Renfield Street, Glasgow – It is believed Bram Stoker supported the staging of plays at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow and that the name of RM Renfield, the character featured in the novel, was taken from Glasgow’s Renfield Street.

Edinburgh – Before writing Dracula, Bram Stoker worked as a theatre manager, which saw him heavily involved in the opening night of the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh in 1883.

Glamis Castle, Angus – There is said to be a ‘vampire child’ who was born in the castle and kept in a secret room. Another vampire legend tells of a woman who worked in the castle and was caught drinking blood from a body and was punished by being walled up alive in a secret room, where she remains to this day.

Melrose Abbey, Scottish Borders.

Melrose Abbey, Scottish Borders – Reportedly, during the 12th century an unpopular priest lived at the abbey. He was a rule-breaker and nicknamed Hunderprest because he preferred hunting with dogs rather than serving God. After he died and was buried on the grounds, it’s alleged Hunderprest rose from his tomb, wailing and drinking the blood of the nuns. One night, as the undead priest rose again, the other priests beheaded him, cremated him and scattered his ashes to the wind.

Blair Atholl, Perthshire – A local tale describes how two poachers were attacked by a blood sucking creature while they slept in a bothy near Glen Tilt. The pair fought the creature off after which it flew away into the night or accounts claim it simply vanished.

Another interesting Dracula connection is through Emily Gerard, an author born in Jedburgh, Scottish Borders and lived in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire. She was the first person to bring the word “nosferatu” or “vampire” into use in western Europe. She studied and wrote about Transylvanian folklore having married an Austro-Hungarian chevalier, who was stationed in a small town there. Gerard’s collection of Transylvanian myths and legends are known to have influenced Stoker’s Dracula.

Text and images courtesy of VisitScotland. For more information about Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022 visit:

Main photo: Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire is said to have inspired Dracula author Bram Stoker.

Glengarry Highland Games 2022-Celebrating McLennan pioneers

This year’s Glengarry Highland Games will be a special time to recognize the McLennan pioneers of south-east Ontario.  In attendance will be the Chief’s Commissioner in Canada, Clan Genealogy worldwide Coordinator and many researchers who have been documenting the Pioneers of Glengarry. Farquhar McLennan, a native of Morvich, near Kintail on the west coast of Scotland, arrived in Canada in 1802 and became a prominent businessman in Glengarry.  It is understood that Farquhar migrated to Canada on the 1802 voyage of the Neptune

His grandson “Big Rory” McLennan (1842-1907) was a champion athlete, famous railway contractor, banker and politician.  In 1891 and 1892 he was elected the member for Glengarry.

McLennan pioneers of Glengarry

Monument to “Big Rory” McLennan and his parents at the Williamstown Church. Photo courtesy Clan MacLennan Genealogy.

Today there are thousands of descendants of the McLennan pioneers of Glengarry. The Clan MacLennan genealogy Glengarry research group is well advanced with documenting the pioneers in Glengarry and their descendants.  Many of the famous Glengarrians are buried at the Williamstown churchyard.  Their research results are available from Numerous members of the research group will be at the Games this year to meet descendants and connections in the Clans area. On the Thursday the MacLennans will be at the Tartan Ball and on Friday they will host a reception in the Clans barn. For more information about Clan MacLennan see the Clans pages in this issue of the Scottish Banner.

Main photo: “Big Rory” McLennan, MP (1842-1907) – Member for Glengarry, served for 3,516 days. Photo courtesy Parliament of Canada.

Study sheds light on life beyond Rome’s frontier

Archaeologists from Edinburgh have discovered more than 100 Iron Age settlements in south-west Scotland that date from the time of Roman occupation. The team has been surveying an area north of Hadrian’s Wall to better understand the impact of Rome’s rule on the lives of indigenous people. Researchers explored nearly 600 square miles around Burnswark hillfort, Dumfries-shire, where Roman legions campaigned as the Empire expanded northwards. Previous archaeological research in terrain between Hadrian’s Wall and the Empire’s more northerly frontier at the Antonine Wall had focused predominantly on the Roman perspective. It had concentrated on the camps, forts, roads and walls that the Rome’s empire built to control northern Britain – rather than sites associated with native tribes.

Immense firepower

The new study initially focused specifically on Burnswark – home to the greatest concentration of Roman projectiles ever found in Britain, and a testament to the firepower of Rome’s legions. The research team went on to scour an area of 580 square miles beyond the hillfort, using the latest laser-scanning technology. Although much of the area had been studied before, researchers found 134 previously unrecorded Iron Age settlements — bringing the total number known in the region to more than 700. The survey’s discovery of so many small farmsteads is a significant finding, researchers say. Such settlements offer key insights into how the majority of the indigenous population would have lived. Analysis showed sites were dispersed evenly across the landscape — with dense clusters in some places — suggesting a highly organised settlement pattern, researchers say.

Empire’s edge

Work on Hadrian’s Wall began in AD 122 and, for two decades, the defensive fortification between the Solway Firth and the River Tyne marked the northernmost border of the Roman empire. In AD 142, having made further gains north, the Romans built a second defensive line called the Antonine Wall between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde. A few decades later, however, this second wall was abandoned with the Empire drawing its frontier back south to Hadrian’s Wall. The findings of this latest study by the University of Edinburgh, Historic Environment Scotland and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre have been published in the journal, Antiquity. The study is part of a wider project called Beyond Walls, which is seeking to shed light on ancient sites, stretching from Durham in the south to the fringes of the Scottish Highlands in the north.

Northernmost frontier

Study author Dr Manuel Fernández-Götz, of the University’s School of History, Classics and Archaeology, said: “This is one of the most exciting regions of the Roman Empire, as it represented its northernmost frontier. The land we now know as Scotland was one of very few areas in Western Europe over which the Roman army never managed to establish full control”.

Fellow author Dr Dave Cowley of Historic Environment Scotland said: “The discovery of so many previously unknown sites helps us to reconstruct settlement patterns. Individually, they are very much routine, but cumulatively they help us understand the landscape within which the indigenous population lived.”

Visit East Lothian launches new destination driving routes

Taking inspiration from over 40 miles of stunning coastline, an expanse of open countryside, rolling hills and fascinating stories, Visit East Lothian has re-developed three driving routes which cross the county. The routes encourage visitors and locals alike to explore 102 miles around East Lothian and discover scenic landscapes, uncover picturesque towns and villages, visit hidden gems and experience authentic Scotland.

With people looking for new ideas and places to go, these routes open up a world of new adventures and opportunities.  The routes can be broken down into smaller sections which make for ideal cycling too. The Driving Routes provide a unique insight into the region’s fascinating history and heritage and continue right up to date with modern East Lothian. There are three routes to choose from. Each has stopping points with interpretation boards which link to further information on things to see and do in the surrounding area via a QR code.

Neil Christison, Regional Director, VisitScotland said: “East Lothian is a fantastic place to visit and explore and with its breath-taking coastline, quaint villages and quality visitor attractions has something for everyone. These driving routes will encourage visitors to explore further, stay longer and discover the region all year round. The impact of tourism spreads far beyond the industry itself – it benefits our economy, our community and our wellbeing.”

Breath-taking scenery

The Driving Routes take in some of Scotland’s most breath-taking scenery and iconic landmarks including The Bass Rock, Tantallon Castle, Belhaven Bay and Concorde as well as less well-known treasures such as Preston Mill, St Mary’s Church, Whitekirk and Gifford. The three themed trails follow an individual route between Bilsdean, close to Dunbar on the main A1 route into Scotland travelling from England and Musselburgh which links East Lothian to Edinburgh.

The Coastal Trail is perfect for exploring rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, wildlife spotting and historical attractions. The Saltire Trail follows a central route through the county and delves into Scotland’s rich history, heritage and culture. East Lothian is birthplace of The Saltire, Scotland’s national flag and the story of its creation is just one of many told on this trail. The Hillfoots Trail meanders through glorious countryside, heads up into the Lammermuir Hills, passes through traditional villages and takes in panoramic views. There is a network of EV charging points in East Lothian and parts of the routes are also suitable for cycling and walking.

Elaine Carmichael, Visit East Lothian said: “With the increase in the staycation market and the desire from locals to become ‘hametown’ tourists, we felt the time was right to give our car touring trails a new lease of life.  The resulting Driving Routes are a great addition to the overall East Lothian product and experiences offer and we are sure they will appeal to many people who want to really soak up the essence of a place, slow down and make the most of their holiday or day out. ’”

The routes can be viewed at:

Dunfermline granted City status by The Queen

Dunfermline is celebrating its new, official status as a city. The ancient capital has won its bid to have official status city, as part of the civic honours competition to celebrate The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022. Provost of Fife Jim Leishman, said: “The official title of city will give Dunfermline the wider recognition that it deserves as one of the fastest-growing, urban areas in Scotland, offering all the amenities that any modern city could hope for. City status will help us grow economically and as a tourist destination and will have a positive impact on Dunfermline and the surroundings. Of course, the people of Dunfermline have always known that Dunfermline is a city, that’s why we have the City Car Park, the City Hotel and City Cabs but it’s great to finally get official recognition of this. “

Dunfermline and St Andrews were both put forward to the competition, keen to see their heritage recognised and their historical status officially restored, and both bids were supported by Fife Council. Both towns were strong contenders, with Dunfermline a growing urban centre and historical capital of Scotland, and St Andrews known worldwide as the home of golf and Scotland’s first university.

Provost Leishman continued. “I’d like to congratulate Dunfermline and say thank you to all those who put in so much effort with the bid to get Dunfermline recognised as a city. And commiserations to St Andrews and all those who pulled out all the stops to put forward an excellent submission. We look forward to being able to say ‘officially’ – Welcome to the City of Dunfermline! “

Floral Clock blooms in honour of HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

Work has finished to complete this year’s design on the world’s oldest Floral Clock in Edinburgh’s West Princes Street Gardens. For 2022, the hugely popular landmark celebrates Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

A team of five gardeners took just four weeks to plant over 35,000 flowers and plants used to create the clock, which will be in bloom until October. There are nine different plants included in this year’s design such as Agaves, Echeveria, Sedums, Pyrethrum, Crassula, Kleenia, Antenaria, Geraniums and Begonias. To be ready for the recent Jubilee celebrations, the team at Inch Nursery brought the plants on earlier than previous years and the gardeners worked quickly to complete this in time. They will be in full bloom throughout the summer.  This year also marks 70 years since a cuckoo clock was added which still chimes every 15 minutes.

The oldest of its kind in the world

Edinburgh’s Lord Provost Robert Aldridge said: “I am delighted to once again see the city’s beautiful floral clock completed, and in perfect time for the Jubilee weekend. Each year the iconic clock marks special occasions and events in the heart of the Capital and this year it is a unique tribute coinciding with celebrations taking place around the country as the nation marks the Queen’s 70-year reign. My thanks and congratulations to the dedicated and creative parks team who have put together the design that I’m sure will be enjoyed by everyone who passes by it this summer.”

The Floral Clock was first created in 1903 by then Edinburgh Parks Superintendent, John McHattie, and is the oldest of its kind in the world. It initially operated with just an hour hand, with a minute hand added in 1904, followed by a cuckoo clock in 1952. Until 1972 the clock was operated mechanically and had to be wound daily.

Since 1946 it has been designed in honour of various organisations and individuals, including the Girl Guides Association, Robert Louis Stevenson and The Queen, for her Golden Jubilee. In the clock’s centenary year in 2003 it won a Gold Medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Floral Clock-Did you know?

-The clock was created in 1903 and is the oldest floral clock in the world.

-It is housed in the plinth of the Allan Ramsay Monument at the north-east corner of West Princes Street Gardens.

-Planting begins in May each year.

-Up to 40,000 plants are used in the design each year (compared to 13,000 in the 1930s; 25,000 in the 1950s).

-In 1946 the clock began celebrating a different event or anniversary each year.

-In 1952 a cuckoo clock was added and still chimes every 15 minutes.

-The clock began being operated electrically for the first time in 1973.

-The clock won a Gold Medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2003.

-Clock circumference: 36 ft.

-Clock width: 11 ft 10 ins.

-Weight of large hand (when filled with plants): 80lbs.

Weight of small hand (when filled with plants): 50lbs

Floral clocks are now distributed worldwide and many were made in Edinburgh, where the idea originated.

They can be found in India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South America, United States of America, Canada and many other European countries.

Photo: Floral clock 2022. Photo courtesy of Edinburgh City Council.

Hebridean study to explore disease and genes link

People with at least two grandparents from the Hebrides in Scotland are being asked to take part in a major genetic study. The distinctive Hebridean gene pool could shed light on the causes of diseases such as stroke, diabetes, heart disease and cancer and, in time, potentially point to new treatments for the general population, researchers say. The genetic make-up of people from the islands – which previous research has shown to be different from the rest of Scotland – will allow researchers to investigate how variations in Hebridean DNA influence the health of locals.

The University of Edinburgh study, which is aiming to recruit 2,000 people, will not be limited to people living in the Inner or Outer Hebrides, but will also include people with Hebridean grandparents who live anywhere in the world.

Viking Genes study

Participants will be asked to complete an online questionnaire about their health and lifestyle and to return a saliva sample by post, which researchers will use for genetic analysis. Volunteers who live in the UK can choose to receive specific genetic information from their saliva sample. This information, provided in collaboration with the NHS, could help prevent future disease. The MRC-funded research builds on the work of the Viking Genes study, which has recruited over 8,000 volunteers with Orkney or Shetland ancestry.

Professor Jim Wilson, lead researcher and Chair of Human Genetics, University of Edinburgh, said: “Expanding the Viking Genes study will allow us to explore the unique genetic heritage of the Inner and Outer Hebrides. We will explore how the distinct gene pools influence the risk of disease today and investigate the Norse, Scottish and Irish components of ancestry in the different Hebridean isles.” The study also involves the University of Aberdeen and NHS Grampian Clinical Genetics doctors Professor Zosia Miedzybrodzka and Dr John Dean.

Register your interest in the study at:

Main photo: The village of Tobermory, Isle of Mull. Image: via Getty Images/University of Edinburgh.

When the Pipers Play

The Scottish Banner speaks to Finlay MacDonald, Artistic Director of Piping Live! Glasgow International Festival of Piping

The world’s biggest piping festival celebrates its return to the full in-person programme for the first time since 2019, offering a blended showcase of in-person gigs and online events, so both local and international audiences can enjoy the array of world-class performances. Finlay MacDonald, Artistic Director for Piping Live! Took the time to speak to the Scottish Banner on the festival which annually attracts over 30,000 attendees to Glasgow.

Finlay MacDonald.

Finlay you learned to play the pipes from your father and piping has been a huge part of your life. What is it about the instrument that you find so iconic and timeless?

FM: For me when I was younger it was simply the sound of the pipes that drew me. When I grew up my dad was a Pipe Major, and I was exposed to pipe bands from a very young age. That sound of standing by a pipe band is incredible, there is no recording that can capture what it is like to hear live pipes and drums. The visceral sound and the unique feeling you get when you hear those sounds, for me cannot be replaced. The pipes were so prevalent in my house, my father, sister and cousins all played, and it was very much in the family.

Piping Live! Is the world’s biggest piping festival and returns to venues across Glasgow this August. Can you tell us about some of the highlights at this year’s event?

FM: The highlight for me is getting PipingLive! back as an in-person event again. It has been a tough couple of years, but we have made things happen online and we are so grateful for everyone who has supported us through that and bought tickets for our online events. And while we still are doing an online element this year, which I think is still important in many ways as it keeps us connected to our digital supporters and those who cannot travel to Glasgow this year. Musically though getting people back is so important and obviously there is the atmosphere of a live crowd, there is nothing like it.

Attendees can meet with friends, enjoy a drink and listen to live music, and for me that is a really big thing. Musically we have some great acts coming, our headline act is Rura a really great Scottish folk band and one thing that makes that special is the band actually formed about 12 years ago just to play at PipingLive!, at the time at the emerging talent stage and I was actually teaching the guys over at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland here in Glasgow and I encouraged them to get together musically and we gave them their first gig.

Scotland is known the world over for bagpipes; however they truly are a global instrument. Can you tell us how does PipingLive! champion international piping performers and sounds?

FM: The pipes themselves have always been true to our core and it really is an international piping festival. We are lucky to travel around a bit and I am always on the lookout for different piping sounds in order to bring performers to Glasgow to showcase their sound. This year we have a great international element with pipers from Ireland, Estonia, Brittany, America, New Zealand and amazingly the first ever professional Iranian female piper Liana Sharifian.

Young composers Ellie McLaren (left) and Anna Scott (right) announce the return of Piping Live!

PipingLive! includes a great initiative for young people called Pipe Idol. Can you tell us more and why you find it so important to engage with and celebrate the next generation of great pipers?

FM: It has been part of our festival since we started and it is a great way to encourage younger plays to get up on a stage in front of an international audience, which can be a bit daunting. We do it in a very supportive and encouraging way, it is not like the formal judging panel; some may be used to. We pick judges who are in Glasgow, so an international panel, and they are seated amongst the audience, and we very much encourage it as a performance rather than a competition.

The contestants get to meet their peers from different countries and perform on the same stage as them, it really is a real positive thing for those taking part and gives them a platform and experience they otherwise may not have had before. When you give young musicians a platform like that, they generally go for it.

Piping Live! takes place at the same time the World Pipe Band Championships are also on in the city. For those that have yet to attend can you tell us just what the buzz in the city is like for pipe band fans?

FM: There is nothing like it, it really is piping heaven in Glasgow. If you are into piping or pipe bands, then Glasgow is the place to be in August. The music is one thing, that goes without saying, but there is also the social side to all this. Piping is a very friendly machine. At our festival we try to encourage a social side to the music where people can come together and meet each other from across the world, Glasgow itself really is alive with piping at this time and it is a great place to be.

Multi award-winning band RURA (Steven Blake – pipes/ Jack Smedley – fiddle/ Adam Brown – guitar/ David Foley – bodhrán) . The band RURA will headline Piping Live! 2022, 12 years on since first forming at the festival. Since launching at Piping Live! over a decade ago, the 4-piece have gone on to tour the world.

Glasgow is a UNESCO City of Music. How important do you feel it is to make sure the bagpipes are celebrated in Scotland’s most musical city?

FM: Glasgow is a year-round music city and great music can be had all over. Music can find you in this city from the great live music scene in clubs and venues to the simple pub scene there is always so much on offer. We have not just PipingLive! and The World’s here but great music events such as Celtic Connections which brings a great array of artists from across the globe. We are obviously passionate about showcasing and the celebrating the pipes and can think of nowhere better to do it than Glasgow.

The pandemic has been quite hard on pipe bands the world over, with practices and performances cancelled. How have you found the spirit, resilience, and comradery of the pipe band movement has helped players get through the isolation and tough times?

FM: It has been really tough for most bands, and some have found other ways to keep going like through online practices. It is so difficult to recreate the live sound of a band online when each member is Zooming in from a different address, but many bands have stuck with it and have also been creating new music during lockdown.

For some bands they have used the time to develop new material and really been massively resilient and come out stronger. We recently had our first in person competition here in Scotland in Gourock and there was a real amazing atmosphere and people were in fact joyous to be able to play the pipes again.

Finlay MacDonald performing at PipingLive!

And finally, Finlay what message do you have for anyone, regardless of age, interested in taking up the pipes or drums and joining a pipe band?

FM: Just do it! People in the pipe band movement are very welcoming and here at the National Piping Centre we teach people from the age of 8 to 80 and you are never too young or too old to learn. There is also all the added benefit of the experience that has been gained during the pandemic of online learning for those who are not near a pipe band.

You can start off online for those that can’t travel, and I know that online tuition works as I have seen students flourish through our online courses. Pipe bands really connect people and offers a huge range of opportunities and experiences that most would not have otherwise, like I said just do it!

Piping Live! Glasgow International Festival of Piping, will return to Glasgow from 6th – 14th August 2022. For details see:

2022 Balmoral School Summer Camp

Balmoral returns to its roots, hosting 2022’s summer camp at the university campus in Edinboro, Pennsylvania! July 17-21, join pipers and drummers from around the world for classes in an intimate setting, or register to sit-in on classes via Zoom. The week will include instruction and performances by some of the world’s leading educators and performers, with opportunities for both individual and group instruction as well as camp-wide activities suitable for all ages and ability levels.

Guest instructors

Guest instructors for 2022 include: Roddy MacLeod, MBE, of Glasgow, Scotland, who won his first Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting in 1986, Argyllshire Gathering Gold Medal in 1988. He is a 10-time winner of the Piobaireachd at the Glenfiddich Solo Piping Championship and has won the overall title five times. While Pipe Major of the Scottish Power Pipe Band, he led it to over 45 Grade 1 Championship prizes including the Cowal Championships and All Ireland Championships. He was Principal of The National Piping Centre from 1996 -2020.

Originally from Northern Ireland, now a resident of Pittsburgh, Andrew Carlisle who has won numerous top awards: A Grade Strathspey and Reel at Oban, the A Grade Piobaireachd & Overall at The Cowal Highland Gathering, US Gold Medals for both Light Music & Piobaireachd, and three All-Ireland titles at Senior level. He’s 3-time winner of the Macallan Trophy at Lorient, Brittany, France. Andrew holds the prestigious positions of Professor of Music and Director of Piping at Carnegie Mellon University.

Terry Tully, of Dublin, Ireland, who is one of the most influential composers of bagpipe music in Ireland and a former Pipe Major of St. Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band. Under Tully’s leadership, SLOT was the first pipe band from the Republic of Ireland to win the Grade One World Championship, also winning prizes in Ireland, as well as the Scottish and British 2008 Championships. Tully has performed with the Chieftains at Carnegie Hall and has appeared on three of the band’s albums.

All aspects of Highland Piping

Balmoral Staff Instructors include: Snare drumming instructor Ian McLeod and Bagpipers; George Balderose, Richmond Johnston and Sean Patrick Regan. Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Balmoral School George Balderose says: “The 2022 Balmoral Summer programs have a variety of offerings from professionals in the field that cover all aspects of Highland Piping, from beginning to advanced pipers and drummers, including a course on playing the pipes in ensembles with other types of instruments.”

Registration is currently open and will close July 5th, 2022. Join in person in Edinboro, PA or online. For more information or to register, please visit:

Multiverse celebrates the Summer Solstice

Crawick Multiverse held a special sunrise-to-sunset summer solstice celebration – a chance to enjoy the longest day amidst a spectacular 55-acre environmental artwork inspired by the sun and stars.  The site features standing stones, a great avenue, huge mounds and the beautiful Sun Amphitheatre. Summer Solstice at the Multiverse held activities that gently enhance the experience of being in a place specifically designed to link us to the cosmos.

Events included music, outdoor theatre, tai chi and yoga sessions around various parts of the Multiverse – with a special performance from the top of the mounds that represent the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies.

The idea was for visitors to have the time and space to mark the solstice in their own way, enjoying a site that many feel has a sense of spirituality akin to ancient henges and stone circles. It also represents the next stage in the emergence of the art installation, created by the late Charles Jencks, into an outdoor events and performance venue. 

A cosmic landscape worthy of the ancients

Sharon Glendinning, Crawick Multiverse General Manager, said in the lead up to the event: “Crawick Multiverse was created by Charles Jencks to be ‘a cosmic landscape worthy of the ancients’ and is the perfect place to celebrate the solstice. The events and activities we have planned are intended to be engaging and fun, while bringing people closer to the tranquillity of the natural world around us, and the wider universe.”

Crawick is situated in the hills between Sanquhar and Kirkconnel, on the border of Dumfries and Galloway and Ayrshire. Crawick Multiverse is a spectacular land art installation created and inspired by Charles Jencks thinking about space, astronomy and cosmology. It was a major land restoration project, transforming 55 acres of former open cast mining into an inspirational landscape, unique destination and visitor attraction.

Crawick Multiverse reflects both the ecology and geology of the region where it stands. It has many spectacular features for visitors to enjoy which include 2,000 boulders were used to create Crawick Multiverse, the Northpoint provides a 20-mile 360-degree panoramic view and the Sun Amphitheatre at the heart of the Multiverse and can hold approximately 3,500 spectators.

For more information on Crawick Multiverse see:

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

July – 2022 (Vol. 46, Number 01)

Scottish band Rura and members from PipingLive! celebrate the return of the Glasgow Piping Festival.

The Banner Says…

Scotland rolls out the welcome mat for summer

As we finish off the July issue the summer solstice is taking place across Scotland. Those long days allow visitors to Scotland to take in so much as some regions of the country can experience up to 19 hours of day light per day.

The summer solstice occurs each year when one of the Earth’s poles has its full tilt towards the sun, bringing the longest period of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere. Scotland has traditions dating back to the Stone Age during the summer solstice which included the use of fire to ward off evil spirits and bless crops and livestock.

An exciting summer of events

One thing that summer certainly brings to Scotland are events and after the last couple of years of cancellations and Covid protocols it is fantastic to see Scotland is again ready to welcome people from across the world for an exciting summer of events. The return of Highland Games and music festivals has already begun across Scotland and from next month major events such as the Edinburgh Festival’s, the World Pipe Band Championships and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo are all making a very welcome comeback.

In addition, 2022 is Scotland’s Year of Stories and events are taking place throughout the year celebrating the nations rich heritage of storytelling and the stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland. Please check our events page for just some of the great events taking place this summer not only in Scotland but across the Scottish ex-pat world. For those who can’t get back to Scotland in 2022, next year will again be filled with some great events to take in on your visit.

Regardless of the time of year there is always something to enjoy in Scotland, just plan your wardrobe for all the weather Scotland can bring! Closer to home Scottish events are already back into full swing with Scottish community members filling their calendar each month with an array of outings which celebrate our common love of Scotland.

In this issue

Another major event returning this summer is Glasgow’s PipingLive! There is no sound that shouts Scotland more than the bagpipes. This month it is great to have Finlay MacDonald the Artistic Director of Glasgow’s International Piping Festival PipingLive! speak to us about the return of the world’s largest piping festival. Finlay and his team at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow promote, teach and celebrate pipes and drums year-round. PipingLive! is a celebration of global bagpipe sounds from across the world. Next month will be the place to be if you are into pipes and drums with both PipingLive! and the World Pipe Band Championships returning to Glasgow after the pandemic.

The City of Edinburgh has recently unveiled the city’s iconic Floral Clock. A sure sign of summer for the locals and visitors alike to enjoy and if you happen to be heading to the Scottish capital this summer and into early autumn, please do yourself a favour and check it out. The clock is the oldest floral clock in the world and is located in the heart of Edinburgh’s tourist scene. I have been to the clock in summer before and been amazed by the many thousands of plants used to create the annual spectacle with this year’s celebrating The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Rock art can be found around the world and often has been used by our ancestors to tell their story. Scotland happens to have thousands of these mysterious carvings dating back thousands of years. One of the areas which has those in abundance is Kilmartin Glen which has the greatest concentration of prehistoric carved stone surfaces to be found in Scotland.

Happy Birthday Scottish Banner!

This month also sees the Scottish Banner notch up another anniversary year and celebrate our 46th birthday. They say for dogs one year is like seven, well for small independent publications like ours one year must be at least a decade! As with so many businesses we have had some tough months recently and I did wonder how the Banner could continue
through those pandemic days when we lost so much revenue. I am so thankful to those who continued to buy their copy each and every month and our wonderful advertisers who stuck with us.

Whilst we are not yet back to ‘normal’ and of course I realise, like so many, that actually a new normal may be what we have for some time. The support of the readers and advertisers has meant we march into our 46th year with a sense of hope and gratitude for the support.

So please join me in celebrating another year, as it is an achievement, we have all contributed to and here’s to many more to come!

Are you attending any events in Scotland this year or planning on returning next year? Do you have you any comments from the content in this month’s edition? Share your story with us by email, post, social media or at:

#ScottishBanner, #TheBanner

Covid-19 is having a major impact on many of our regular advertisers, with events being cancelled and businesses suffering. The Scottish Banner is more reliant than ever on our readers helping us to provide you with our unique content by buying a copy of our publication, regardless if by print or digital subscription or at a retail outlet.
We appreciate your support and hope you enjoy this edition.

A Celebration of Scotland’s Treasures Gala honours Outlander author Diana Gabaldon as Great Scot

The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA’s annual gala, A Celebration of Scotland’s Treasures, drew tartan-clad philanthropists to New York City’s The Metropolitan Club in April, when American author Diana Gabaldon was honoured as the 2022 Great Scot. Gabaldon’s bestselling Outlander novels have brought the romance and drama of Scottish history to life for more than 50 million readers worldwide. They are also the inspiration for the Starz television series of the same name.  The presentation of the Great Scot Award was the highlight of the event, which this year raised $375,000 to support the conservation of heritage sites in the care of the National Trust for Scotland, including Culloden Battlefield and Robert Burns’ birthplace.

Chair of NTS USA Helen Sayles, CBE, Diana Gabaldon, and NTS USA Executive Director Kirstin Bridier.

Actors Sam Heughan and Graham MacTavish, stars of the Starz television series Outlander, presented the award to Gabaldon virtually from the United Kingdom, where they were filming. MacTavish noted, “Now it’s true that Diana herself is not Scottish, but I don’t think any of us can deny that Diana has done more than almost anyone to promote Scotland, its history and culture, on the world stage over the past decade. For that reason, I think, and I am sure you will agree, that Diana is surely an honorary Scot – and now a Great one at that.”

In accepting the award, Gabaldon made humorous and heartfelt remarks about the origins of her first novel, public reaction to the series, and her unanticipated role in preserving Scottish culture. Gabaldon had never been to Scotland before writing Outlander, and she shared that the Gaelic phrases used in her early books came directly from a Gaelic-to-English dictionary. After a Scottish scholar suggested as much, Diana developed a close relationship with him and incorporated more authentic phrasing in her later novels. Today, the Outlander series is recognized as contributing to a revival of interest in the Gaelic language and Highland culture.

An evening in true Scottish fashion

Kirstin Bridier, Executive Director of the Foundation, noted the parallels between Gabaldon’s role in promoting Gaelic and the work of 20th century American folklorist Margaret Fay Shaw who, together with her British husband John Lorne Campbell, made early audio and video recordings of daily life in the Hebrides in order to capture the language, folksongs, and traditions of the islands before they were lost to time. Providing access to Shaw’s remarkable collection, which is housed in her former home on the Isle of Canna, southwest of Skye, is the focus of the Foundation’s fundraising efforts this year.

A Celebration of Scotland’s Treasures was chaired by arts philanthropist Naoma Tate, whose great-grandfather was a master stonemason at Drumlanrig, home of the Duke of Buccleuch. Mrs. Thomas H. Hubbard and Jeannie Redpath Campbell Becton served as honorary co-chairs in recognition of their leadership support for the Isle of Canna over the past decade.  Guests were welcomed with a cocktail hour, including tastings by The Macallan, the official whisky of NTSUSA, and Rock Rose Gin, a multi-award-winning gin created by Dunnet Bay Distillers and with music by Skye Trio and Special Guests.  A silent auction featured opportunities to stay at luxury hotels The Fife Arms and Schloss Roxburghe; Scottish textiles from Begg X Co and Araminta Campbell; fishing with Orvis; jewelry from Edinburgh’s Hamilton & Inches; and a signed, hardbound set of the entire Outlander series.

Alasdair Nichol, Chairman of Freeman’s auction house and a frequent appraiser on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, charmed 200 guests with a rousing live auction that included a week-long stay at Tulach Ard, a Highlands country house lovingly restored by ANTA designers Lachlan and Annie Stewart; a bronze maquette of sculptor Andy Scott’s Equus Altus; and an exclusive 50cl replica of The Intrepid—officially the world’s largest bottle of whisky.  In true Scottish fashion, the evening culminated in a cèilidh, at the end of which guests joined hands to sing Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne.

The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA is an independent non-profit organization that exists to support the work of the National Trust for Scotland’s most urgent conservation priorities. For further information see:

Beyond The Burrell

By: David McVey

In March 2022 Glasgow’s world-famous Burrell museum, The Burrell Collection, welcomed visitors once more. Originally opened in 1982 (and ceremonially opened by the Queen the following year), it had been closed since 2016 for an extensive programme of renovation to repair faults and enlarge the available display space.

Naturally, the first weeks of reopening, which partly coincided with the Easter school holidays, saw vast numbers converging on the shiny new Burrell. I’ve been there and it’s still a jaw-dropping experience, unforgettably showcasing the enormous, eclectic collection of art and artefacts amassed by Glasgow shipowner Sir William Burrell, and subsequently gifted to the city. However, the crowds are likely to continue as we move across the summer months and as travel restrictions are relaxed. I’d suggest putting the Burrell aside for now, until numbers plateau a little. The Burrell has a leafy location in Pollok Park, and there are other good reasons for going there.

Glasgow’s largest park

Pollock Highlander. Photo: David McVey.

Pollok Park is Glasgow’s largest. It was voted Europe’s Park of the Year in 2008 but it didn’t start out as an urban park. It didn’t start out as urban at all. In the 1700s this was all countryside and, in some parts, it feels like countryside still. The best way to arrive is by train to Pollokshaws West Station from Glasgow Central; an electric shuttle bus runs from there to the park and its attractions, but I prefer to walk. Once you pass the Burrell car park you have fields on either side in which graze Glasgow’s very own herd of Highland cattle. In spring there will be a few of the teddy bear-like calves. The path starts to drop downhill to the left and suddenly you’re faced with the stunning frontage of Pollok House.

The Maxwell family have been linked with this area as far back as the 13th century but it was in the 1740s that a series of smaller pre-existing houses (or castles) were replaced by the present building, commissioned by Sir John Maxwell. The legendary William Adam is known to have drawn up plans for a house here but it’s unlikely that his designs were followed. The original house was a simple, four-storey structure outside but more lavish inside, with extensive decorative plasterwork.

In the 1800s the family line was merged with the Stirlings of Keir and the combined name of Stirling Maxwell was adopted. Sir William Stirling Maxwell (1818-78) was an expert in, and collector of, Spanish art. From his time onward the house became a focus for Spanish paintings and what’s now known as the Stirling Maxwell Collection is one of the highlights of a visit to Pollok House. There are two El Grecos on display.

Sir John Stirling Maxwell (1866-1956) inherited the estate in 1878 and was responsible for enlarging the house by adding two wings; you’ll probably start your visit in the east wing, in the breath-taking library. This Sir John (the eldest Maxwell or Stirling Maxwell was always John) sat as a Glasgow MP, was chairman of the Forestry Commission from 1929-32 and was involved in the formation of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) in 1931. A crucial meeting to discuss the formation of the Trust, involving Sir John and other Scottish grandees who included the Duke of Atholl and Sir Iain Colquhoun of Luss, took place in Pollok House, in the Cedar Room. You can visit the Cedar Room, which resembles a small comfortable lounge in a Victorian hotel. Sir John was the Trust’s President from 1944 until his death in 1956. It’s fitting, then, that the house should now be in the care of the NTS.

Pollok House’s splendid tearoom occupies a space below stairs in the servants’ corridor. Some of the other aspects of servant life are presented in various rooms off the main corridor. In Sir John’s time in the early 1900s, his family (of three) were looked after by around fifty servants!

Pollock Estate

Pollock House. Photo: David McVey.

The full glory of Pollok House, though, is only visible when you step outside and stroll down to the White Cart Water, and stand between the house and the fine 18th century stone bridge over the river. The house is stunning from here, a soaring but attractive presence above the formal gardens.

Pollok Park is still often referred to as ‘Pollok Estate’ by local people. The park was, indeed, part of the Pollok House Estate, but then so was much of Glasgow far beyond the park, now long disappeared beneath houses and shops and roads and railways. The house and estate were given to the people of Glasgow by the Stirling Maxwells in 1966 along with the art collection, though the family retain ownership of the books in the library. More recently the management of the house was transferred by the city to the NTS.

Pollok House’s stable block is now being refurbished and will soon provide a home for the city’s Clydesdale horses. Away from the house, the park includes woodland, fields and river as well as a golf course and other recreational areas. There are trails for walkers, cyclists, runners and horse riders. It’s very easy to imagine yourself in some far distant stretch of rich Scottish countryside, at least until a nearby tower block appears between the trees. Many will go there in the coming months intent only on seeing the Burrell Museum and its astonishing collection. But there is more to Pollok Park than The Burrell.

Main image: Pollock House. Photo: VisitScotland.

The World’s Biggest Ceilidh comes to Glasgow this December

Musician and broadcaster Gary Innes and Highland dancer Rachel McLaggan at the OVO Hydro to launch World’s Biggest Ceilidh.

The world’s biggest ceilidh will take place in The Ovo Hydro in Glasgow later this year. Entitled Hoolie in the Hydro, the night will feature some of the top musicians on the Scottish and Irish scene. The world-first event, which will take to the Glasgow stage on Saturday 17th December 2022, has the potential to be the biggest night of traditional music to ever have taken place.  Marking the first time an arena has been hired by an individual in the UK to showcase a night completely dedicated to traditional music, Hoolie in the Hydro will be an iconic moment for the traditional music scene.  This momentous showcase, as the genre takes over the country’s biggest indoor arena, will be a watershed moment, with organiser Gary Innes hoping it will be the beginning of something special for the traditional music scene.

World-first event

Musician and broadcaster Gary Innes and Highland and dancer Rachel McLaggan.

Hoolie in the Hydro organiser, broadcaster and musician Gary Innes said: “I appreciate that putting a show of this size and scale during the current times is a bold move, but I also genuinely believe that traditional music has a place on the country’s biggest stages. Someone always has to go first, and my hope is that Hoolie in the Hydro will pave the way for other traditional musicians to take the gamble and start booking shows on a similar scale. Once the door is opened and people see that it can be done, I don’t see any reason why traditional music can’t be showcased throughout the year on stages like The Ovo Hydro. This world-first event is set to be the biggest night of traditional music that Scotland has ever seen. I can’t wait to have thousands of people join us for what’s sure to be a serious party and a history-making moment.”

Sparked by a Facebook post by musician and BBC broadcaster Gary Innes in early 2020, this unique concept has grown in momentum with unequivocal support from individuals both at home and abroad.  The idea first hatched in January 2020 after Gary reached 20,000 likes on his Facebook Page. To celebrate, he put out a slightly tongue in cheek post which said if half of the people who had ‘liked’ his page bought a ticket for the Hydro, they could have the world’s biggest ceilidh. The likes, shares and support for the idea started flooding in so he decided to properly research and scope the idea, meeting with the venue and further gauging people’s interest. The feedback was resoundingly positive so in early March 2020, Gary went ahead and booked Scotland’s largest indoor venue.

The star-studded night of entertainment will showcase some of the biggest and best names on the Scottish and Irish traditional music scene, including famed Caledonia singer Dougie Maclean, Celtic-rock sensations Mànran, Ireland’s Sharon Shannon Band, award-winning Scottish outfit Skerryvore and festival favourites Trail West. An All-Star ceilidh band will open the night and an unforgettable encore will welcome a host of special guests to the stage to finish this legendary night in extraordinary style.

Hoolie in the Hydro will take place on Saturday 17th December 2022 and tickets are on sale now at:

Aberdeen Highland Games back for 2022

The annual Aberdeen Highland Games, to be held 2nd July is now attracting great interest from all over as ticket sales ramp up. Following two years without the event many are very eager to get out and about and back to what they were doing pre COVID. There has been great interest from the pipe band world, and we expect some fifteen bands to be present on the day. People love the massed bands, and this year will provide a splendid showing.

The Kilted Warriors, the strong men, will also be back with their usual displays, another crowd favourite. New this year will also be music by The Boatmen.

There is a great array of stalls this year some of whom we have not seen before. They will provide an opportunity to pick some Scottish/Celtic items. We have some twenty clan tents that will allow individuals to check out the past and their family histories. There are always people around these tents. There will be novelty events for the children and a good supply of food outlets for those attending.

Be there at Aberdeen in the NSW Upper Hunter Valley from 8:30am for a 9:00am start. Tickets to be purchased online via the web site at:

The Montreal Highland Games 2022: OPEN in so many ways

By: Marilyn Meikle
Communications Coordinator, Montreal Highland Games

Participants and attendees have been waiting two long years for the return of The Montreal Highland Games. Wait no more! The Games will OPEN on the grounds of the Douglas Hospital, Sunday, July 31, 2022 after a hiatus due to COVID regulations. Expect enthusiastic crowds, the warmth of sunshine, the sound of pipes and drums, and cheers from the stands as the Games host the Canadian Scottish Athletic Federation OPEN Championships – the preeminent competition for Heavy Athletes. Will records be broken? Will new champions be crowned?

Scott MacKenzie, President of the organization, is thrilled to see the Games back live and in person. “We held an online edition of the Games in 2021”, says Scott, “but we can’t wait to bring together Montrealers of all backgrounds to celebrate Scottish sport, music and culture. Nothing beats seeing the massed bands march across an OPEN field!” MacKenzie is grateful for the support of returning sponsors and patrons whose financial commitment to the Games keep entrance costs at a minimum and permit organizers to run a shuttle bus service from the closest Métro station directly to the site.

The sounds of Scotland in Montreal

The Celtic Mile will be OPEN with vendors offering an assortment of Scottish fare. There will be fiddle contests. Plenty of opportunities to meet with Clans who welcome members with OPEN arms, and of course the Family Village with bouncy castles and Wee Games for the kids! Tiny cabers, rocks and wee hammers being tossed by children outfitted in kilts – the perfect photo opportunity for parents of all cultures. Medieval combat will return as competitors swing their axes in a quest for glory. Kilts will swing too as dancers compete in flings on the Highland dance stage. The friendliest competition of all will be the Tug of War in support of the Douglas Hospital. All funds raised support mental health initiatives – donations can be made via the Games website.

Ever-popular band Mariner’s Curse, leads the entertainment in the Ceilidh Tent for an eclectic afternoon of Celtic and Canadiana music. A more sublime atmosphere can be found in the Patrons’ Pavilion just across the green where a full Scottish lunch will be served by the Burgundy Lion Pub.

OPEN your senses to the sights and the sounds of Scotland in Montreal! Join in the Montreal Highland Games – they are sure to be “pure dead brilliant”.

For full details see:

Extremely rare medieval manuscripts now online

Stunning illuminations, medieval doodles, zodiac medical material, and advice to 12th century Knights Templar on the ‘superfluity’ of beards and moustaches can now be viewed in an extremely rare collection of medieval and early modern manuscripts online.

The National Library of Scotland digitised a collection of more than 240 precious manuscripts, which are available to view on The work was made possible by a generous donation from Alexander Graham. With the Scottish manuscripts in particular among the rarest, the collection contains items ranging from the 9th to the 16th century, but a few later transcriptions of important texts are also included. The resource includes manuscripts on a range of subjects such as medical manuscripts, the rule of Knights Templar, and rare survivors of the Reformation.

Rule of the Knights Templar.

Manuscripts Curator Dr Ulrike Hogg said: “This fascinating digitised collection is international in origin, though a large part of the volumes were written in Scotland. The survival rate of medieval Scottish manuscript volumes is generally low. For example, only one per cent of religious manuscripts of Roman Catholic use – many of which were systematically destroyed during and after the Scottish Reformation – are believed to still be in existence. It is difficult to estimate how many cultural treasures were lost during these times. The collection presented here includes a number of those fortunate survivors that have endured subsequent centuries. We’re delighted to make these extremely rare pieces of history publicly accessible online.”

Medieval Scottish book production

The collection includes:

•A 15th century folded medical/zodiac almanac, which probably belonged to a doctor based in northern England. Folded up, it could be worn on the belt.

•A selection of historical doodles showing rich period detail.

•A 12th century manuscript of the Rule of the Knights Templar order, including advice on the ‘superfluity’ of beards and moustaches.

•A 15th century psalter written and illuminated at Culross Abbey, Fife

•A tiny 15th century Book of Hours from Italy with lavish gold illumination

•An early 16th century manuscript written and illuminated in Dunkeld.

Book of Hours.

Dr Ulrike Hogg adds: “The digital images provide a new opportunity to gain some insight into medieval Scottish book production. The interests, tastes and knowledge of medieval scribes can be seen in these images, as well as the development of the medieval Scottish book hand and styles of illumination. The collection reveals much information on later owners of the manuscripts, who annotated them or added irreverent doodles as the volumes passed through their hands.”

The collection also includes volumes produced in England, France, Italy and northwest Europe, as well as Greece and Iceland. Many of these are finely decorated or of major textual significance.

The collection can be viewed at Early manuscripts – National Library of Scotland:

Melbourne Tartan Festival returns

After two long years the Melbourne Tartan Festival is back!  The skirl of pipes will be echoing through Melbourne from 3rd-28th July. The Festival program includes pop-up events in the city, Kirkin ‘O The Tartan, historical tour and exhibition, a high energy Ceilidh Dance with Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club, Scottish Connections CBD walking tour, Scottish migration author talks, Gaelic language, music & culture morning, whisky dinner, whisky tasting, a haggis supper, traditional Scots music recital, concerts, music gigs, The Victorian Pipers Association Championships and the Victorian Scottish Dancing Members Association 61st Commonwealth Championships. 

To put you in the mood for all things Scottish, we begin the festival with a lead-in event on Friday 17th June – The Westin Whisky Dinner experience. The Westin Melbourne’s Executive chef has created a five-course menu matched to five premium Single Malt Whiskies from some of the world’s finest distilleries.  The evening will be hosted by Whisky Ambassador Andrew Buntine, one of Australia’s most influential whisky professionals, who will guide you through this exquisite whisky journey.

Great selection of Scottish themed events

The Scots’ Church in Melbourne Kirkin ‘O The Tartan service on Sunday 3rd July. The Clans and Associations procession is piped in carrying clan tartans. There is a reading in Scottish Gaelic and singing by the renowned Scots’ Church Choir.  Following the service and morning tea, curator and tour guide Kenneth Park will conduct a tour of the Scots’ Church and The Assembly Hall.

Gather a group of friends and head to Bell’s Hotel, South Melbourne for a fun Whisky Tasting night on Thursday 7th July, hosted by Whisky Ambassador Andy Bethune.

On Friday 8th July we welcome you to a rip-roaring traditional Scottish Jam Session at the home of Melbourne’s trad scene, The Last Jar Pub.  Sisters Tess and Luisa Hickey will lead the session and be joined by some of Melbourne’s best Scottish players. The musicians will transport you to Scotland with a toe-tapping mix of best-loved traditional tunes and popular contemporary ones. Book yourself a table for a meal and enjoy the vibe. Or BYO instrument and join in.  Free entry

Pop up performances will surprise and entertain city shoppers during the Festival. You never know where one of our performances will be, although we’re reliably informed that Sunday 10th July will be a good day to be in City.  There will be a pop-up performance in the Bourke Street Mall at 11.30am and dancing and music displays in Gordon Reserve from 11am-1.00pm.  At 2.00pm The Melbourne Tartan Festival Tartan Day Parade with 11 massed pipe bands will parade from Spring Street down Collins Street. 

A Celebration of Scots Song

Following the success of their 2019 Taking Flight concert, Hawthorn Pipe Band returns for a night of piping & drumming.  The Legacy Concert is a special music tribute to the band’s long serving Drum Major and WW2 veteran, the late Bob Semple and features of mix of new and traditional pipe band music with folk inspirations.  Hawthorn is one of Australia’s top pipe bands and the ‘Legacy’ Concert will see the band at its’ best.  They’ll be joined by a line-up of special guests.

A Celebration of Scots Song – Don’t miss internationally acclaimed traditional Scottish singer Fiona Ross, accompanied by guitar maestro Shane O’Mara, at Kew Courthouse on Sunday 17th July. This themed concert of traditional Scots song, interweaving live music with narrative and audio-visual presentation. The concert includes songs from their recent album Sunwise Turn – winner of Music Victoria’s Best Folk Album 2020 Award

The Melbourne Tartan Festival Gala Dinner and Concert at Melbourne Town Hall is on Saturday 23rd July, a spectacular night of entertainment that has become a yearly tradition for some families.  You’ll be piped up the red carpeted staircase of the iconic Melbourne Town Hall for a grand black tie/kilted evening.  Be greeted with drinks and canapes on arrival, a traditional Address to A Haggis, a gourmet menu accompanied by outstanding traditional and contemporary concert style entertainment. Close the night out with Australia’s own, internationally acclaimed Celtic rock band Claymore.

The close-out event of the Festival is on Friday 5th August with the Caledonian Castaways Concert at Collingwood Town Hall.  The Caledonian Castaways are a group of ex-pat Scots drawn from Melbourne’s Blues/Roots scene singing amusing and heart-warming songs about Scots in Australia and back ‘hame’.  They wowed a packed National Celtic Festival with their original songs and cheeky renditions of some traditional Scottish tunes – ska, rocksteady, funk, blues, country grooves.

For full details and to book event tickets go to:

Sir Billy Connolly CBE honoured with Fellowship at the 2022 Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) has honoured award-winning and iconic comedian, actor, artist, writer, musician and presenter, Sir Billy Connolly, with the prestigious BAFTA Fellowship at this year’s Virgin Media BAFTA TV Awards which took place in May. The Fellowship is the highest accolade bestowed by BAFTA in recognition of an individual’s outstanding and exceptional contribution to film, television or games across their career. Fellows previously honoured for their work in television include Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, Jon Snow, Sir Bruce Forsyth, Joanna Lumley, Melvyn Bragg, Michael Palin, Sir Trevor MacDonald, Sir David Attenborough, Dame Julie Walters, Ray Galton, Alan Simpson, Katie Adie and Joan Bakewell.

Sir Billy Connolly’s first BAFTA recognition was in 1995 when he won the BAFTA Scotland Entertainment category for Billy Connolly’s World Tour of Scotland. He has since received five BAFTA nominations, and has been presented with a BAFTA Special Award in 2002 and the BAFTA Scotland Outstanding Contribution to Television and Film in 2012. Sir Billy Connolly said: “I am deeply honoured. Fifty films and… I can’t remember how many TV shows, as well as my stage comedy, added up to something that’s a joy to look back on. A lovely thing. I have no regrets at all. I had no idea the Fellowship existed, but I’m told it’s a big deal! (laughs). It’s lovely to be recognised and to become a jolly good fellow.”

Emma Baehr, Executive Director of Awards and Content, said: “We’re honoured to be awarding Sir Billy Connolly with the 2022 BAFTA Fellowship Award. He has made a remarkable contribution to our industry from his first appearance on Parkinson in 1975, through to becoming a national treasure on stage and screen, adored by fans around the world. BAFTA is looking forward to celebrating this award with Sir Billy in due course and thanking him again for his phenomenal career in television.”

Sir Billy Connolly left school at 15 to become a welder at the shipyard in River Clyde in Glasgow. Honing his love for performance and music on the side, the young Billy soon decided to try his hand as a musician and a folk duo with Gerry Rafferty called The Humblebums. But it was his ability to spin stories, tell jokes and hold an audience in the palm of his hand that truly set him apart as he forged a hugely successful career on television, as well as in film and on stage. As a young comedian, Connolly broke all the rules. He was fearless and outspoken – willing to call out hypocrisy wherever he saw it. However, his stand-up was full of warmth, humility and silliness too. His startling, hairy ‘glam-rock’ stage appearance – wearing leotards, scissor suits and banana boots – only added to his appeal.

It was an appearance on Michael Parkinson’s chat show in 1975 – and one outrageous story in particular – that helped catapult Billy from cult hero to national star. TV shows, documentaries, international fame and award-winning Hollywood movies then followed, and his standout 1985 TV special An Audience With Billy Connolly, reducing the audience to tears with his iconic incontinence trousers routine. Billy’s pitch-perfect stand-up comedy kept coming too – for over 50 years, in fact – until a double diagnosis of cancer and Parkinson’s Disease has brought his remarkable live performances to an end. Since then he continues to make TV shows, creating extraordinary drawings and writing. Connolly currently resides in the USA and is unable to attend the ceremony on 8 May to receive his award in person. A recorded acceptance message is to be played during the ceremony. 

Photo: BAFTA/Sarah Dunn.

Williamstown Highland Celtic Gathering comes to Melbourne

In this current Melbourne Cold Snap why don’t you rug up “Don yer Kilt & come to Oor Gathering!”

With support of Hobsons Bay City Council  & their Make it Happen Recovery & Reconnection Grants, MHG&CF are hosting the inaugural Williamstown Highland Celtic Gathering at the Seaworks Maritime Precinct

To kick the Gathering off the sound of the Pipes will once again be heard in Commonwealth Reserve on the Williamstown foreshore at around 9:30am on Saturday the 18th of June. A small pipe band parade will proceed to Seaworks in time for the opening at 10:00am

After the recent very successful Highland Games held in Croydon this gathering is promising to be another wonderful celebration of Celtic Culture.

After a brief Opening Ceremony at 10:00am we will have five continuous hours of Dancing, Piping and Folk Bands. (Including the dynamic folk band Saoirse)

Scottish Clans, Celtic Community Groups, Glen Lachlan Marshal Arts, Wessex Village & Roman Reenactors and a cannon salute from the Werribee half battery will also be on display as well various activities for younger children.

Additionally vendors will be offering a range of celtic products including food & apparel.

Get Tickets: (Adults $20 Concession $15 & Under 16 free)

Williamstown Highland Celtic Gathering 2022 Tickets, Seaworks Williamstown, Williamstown | TryBooking Australia



Clan Buchanan to reunite as Chief takes the ‘throne’ after 340 years

One of Scotland’s largest and most ancient clans is preparing to reunite for the inauguration of the first Buchanan Clan Chief for over 340 years.

Clan Buchanan is calling on clansfolk, affiliated families and supporters to gather for the historic occasion at its modern clan seat, the Cambusmore Estate in Perthshire, in October. The inauguration ceremony last took place in the 17th century and follows the appointment of John Michael Baillie-Hamilton Buchanan as Chief of Clan Buchanan. With a global community of over five million members, the chief will lead the first Clan Parliament in over 350 years to explore the future of Clan Buchanan and discuss how its traditions could be celebrated in the modern day.

Scottish ceremonial traditions

John Michael Baillie-Hamilton Buchanan, Chief of Clan Buchanan. Photo: Stewart Attwood Photography.

The last Chief of Clan Buchanan was his ancestral kinsman, John Buchanan, who died in 1681 without a male heir. The upcoming ceremony will feature millennia-old clan inauguration rituals and a stone ‘throne’ carved by specialist Scottish craftsmen. New ‘clan jewels’ have also been meticulously reconstructed following years of historic research. These include the ancestral Sword of Leny, a white rod to symbolise clan justice and a falcon-shaped sguian dubh, the small knife traditionally worn with a kilt.

The inauguration will be the centrepiece of a weekend of celebrations in the picturesque setting of Cambusmore Manor in Callander, which is home to the chief. It will feature Scottish ceremonial traditions that have inspired scenes in Outlander and Game of Thrones, including a Clan Court and clansfolk kicking up their heels at a traditional Scottish ceilidh. 

The Chief of Clan Buchanan said: “The clan has a thriving global community of more than five million people so we’re calling for Buchanans, affiliated families and supporters around the world to unite for this incredible moment in Buchanan history. For centuries our ancient clan was left without a Chief or Clan Parliament but this year we’re finally gathering in Scotland. This is a chance to restore Scottish traditions that have been confined to the history books for hundreds of years, bringing them back with a thoroughly modern twist.”

Decades of genealogical research

Lady Buchanan, The Buchanan and Lucy Buchanan. Photo: Stewart Attwood Photography.

The Buchanan’s appointment to lead the clan was the culmination of decades of genealogical research conducted by a renowned genealogist, the late Hugh Peskett, who famously traced President Ronald Reagan’s Irish ancestry in the 1980s. While Clan Buchanan can be traced back to 1010 AD in Scotland, its global community includes members from across Great Britain, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa among many other countries. Over 120 affiliated family surnames are recognised as part of the clan including Watson, Morris, Richardson, Coleman, Gilbert, Walter and Harper.

They are represented by the world’s oldest clan society, the Buchanan Society, which was established in 1725 to support members of the clan in times of hardship, and the worldwide Clan Buchanan Society International. David J. Byrne, President of Clan Buchanan Society International based in the USA, said: “We’re eagerly looking forward to the inauguration of our new Chief, which will demonstrate to the world that Clan Buchanan is still a vital and thriving family with a shared history. What has been most encouraging to clansfolk scattered across the world is the Chief’s modern approach, while still embracing our heritage and traditions. We’ve used this as an opportunity to renew pride in the history of Clan Buchanan alongside a new sense of purpose as we look to the future.”

Clan Chief Inauguration

The Buchanan. Photo: Stewart Attwood Photography.

The Buchanan is the manager of Cambusmore Estate in the Southern Highlands near Callander. He has four children with his wife The Lady Buchanan including heir apparent, Angus John Buchanan younger of that Ilk, Bruce, Lucy and Rory. As well as those with the surname Buchanan, clansfolk also include those with Scottish roots and surnames such as Bohannon, Coleman, Colman, Cormack, Dewar, Dove, Dow, Gibb, Gibbon, Gibb, Gibson, Gilbert, Gilbertson, Harper, Masters, Masterson, Morris, Morrison (some only), Richardson, Rush, Rusk, Walter, Walters, Wasson, Waters, Watson, Watt, Watters and Weir. In the modern day, these are known as affiliated families but were previously known as septs of the clan.

Clan Chiefs must be approved by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. The Lord Lyon has full judicial powers to enforce use of heraldry and coats of arms in Scotland through the Lyon Court, the last surviving ‘Court of Chivalry’ in the world. Its powers are governed by an Act of the Scots Parliament from 1672. Many features of the inauguration ceremony come from a book by the late Lord Lyon, Sir Thomas Learney of Innes’ who wrote The Clans, Septs & Regiments of the Scottish Highlands.

The inauguration events and celebrations will run from Friday 7 to Monday 10 October with event activities ticketed and requiring bookings in advance. This includes the Clan Chief Inauguration at Cambusmore Manor, Clan Parliament at Cambusmore Chapel and a golf tournament at Buchanan Castle Golf Course. Talks and tours of the estate will also be offered throughout the weekend.

The Clan Chief Inauguration will take place on Saturday 8 October as part of a weekend celebration beginning on Friday 7 to Monday 10 October 2022. Tickets and further information are available at:

The Last on Bell Rock

By: Nick Drainey

This month marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Stevenson’s birth on June 8th.  Stevenson was famous for designing and building many of Scotland’s lighthouses for the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) between 1794 and 1833. The last principal lighthouse keeper shares some of his unique memories of being on Robert Stevenson’s most famous lighthouse, as Nick Drainey explains.

“I liked the Bell but looking back I often think I must have been a bit of a nutcase,” says John Boath, the last Principal Lighthouse Keeper of the Bell Rock and the last person to turn off the light before it was automated. This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of its designer Robert Stevenson. Many say it is his finest work and it has been called one of the seven wonders of the industrial world. John Boath has another name for the 35 metre (115ft) tower 11 miles off the coast of Angus; he calls it a “vertical submarine”.

It was tough on the Bell Rock, even for someone who had nearly two decades of experience as a lighthouse keeper. John, who first arrived at the Bell Rock in 1983, said not many fellow keepers would relish a posting to the Bell Rock. “The Bell Rock was a totally different environment. If anybody got the Bell Rock it was usually followed by an expression of ‘oh no!’ because it had such a reputation.”

Rules lighthouse keepers had to follow

Bell Rock Lighthouse. John Boath (left) and another Keeper at the Bell Rock. Photo:  NLB.

They worked four weeks on four weeks off. No running water meant no baths, and washing was kept to a minimum to save water. John adds: “You had a sponge down – water had to come in by ship in barrels so you had to be cautious with it. We didn’t have hot water – you had to boil a kettle and wash yourself down with a cloth.” John adds: “These lighthouses are pillars on rocks where you were basically inside for your four weeks, you didn’t get out. You can only get on it at an ebb tide. The rest of the time it is completely surrounded by water.”

And if the weather was bad when it was time to get off, you could be stuck on it for longer. “If we couldn’t get off the ship would go and anchor in St Andrews Bay to try on the next tide. They would probably try for about three or four tides and then the relief would be cancelled. Hopefully they would comeback in another two weeks. All lighthouses would carry an emergency food kit; corned beef and stuff like that.” Usual provisions which were sent on the same boat as the keepers included fresh vegetables and fruit but could best be described as basic. John says: “I used to take a bar of Cadbury’s and have one square a night.” There were some upsides: “At the top it is all glass and I used to go up there and sit and read. I used to have a deckchair and I could look out at the sea, it was all peaceful.”

Stevenson didn’t like ill-discipline and that was where the rules lighthouse keepers had to follow from then until John’s time came from. John says: “When Stevenson had built the Bell, some of the people who first manned it where people who had worked on the building of it – they were rough diamonds. Stevenson seemingly didn’t like this and brought in regulations with uniform and discipline. You needed regulations. When Commissioners came round they used to wear white gloves and when they walked around they would wipe their fingers (over surfaces) to find dirt. I was a bit of a rebel but you accepted it.”

Amazing feat of engineering

Bell Rock Lighthouse and helicopter. Photo:  NLB.

Away from the regulations, the longevity of the Bell Rock Lighthouse is all the proof John Boath needs that Robert Stevenson should be recognised for an amazing feat of engineering. “It speaks for itself, the fact it has been standing all these years.” It is the world’s oldest working sea-washed lighthouse. The long and treacherous reef on which it stands is close to shipping lanes for vessels plying the east coast and using the Firths of Tay and Forth.

But Stevenson himself talked of a navigation history going much further back than the 19th century, and perhaps one that gave the rock its name. While an engineer to the Northern Lighthouse Board, he wrote: “There is a tradition that an Abbot of Aberbrothock directed a bell to be erected on the Rock, so connected with a floating apparatus, that the winds and sea acted upon it, and tolled the bell, thus giving warning to the mariner of his approaching danger. Upon similar authority, the bell, it is said, was afterwards carried off by pirates, and the humane intentions of the Abbot thus frustrated.”

John Boath in front of the former lighthouse keepers’ cottages in Edinburgh, where he and his family once lived.

Mike Bullock, chief executive of the Northern Lighthouse Board, believes Robert Stevenson would have embraced automation, but he also praised the work of keepers like John. He said: “The departure of keepers was a poignant milestone and the end of an era. This unique profession wasn’t just a job, it was a way of life and for John Boath and for many others, automation marked the end of a long career. But as reliable technology became available to protect those at sea, automation was inevitable and if the great innovator Robert Stevenson could have automated lights from the outset, I am pretty sure he would have done so.”

And the legacy from Stevenson’s day lives on, according to Mr Bullock, who said the “role of the Light Keeper is never far from our minds”. He added: “For over 200 years they kept the lights shining and saved countless lives at sea. Their legacy lives on and I’d like to think we are seen as the modern-day custodians, looking after these wonderful structures for the next generation, keeping mariners safe and helping protect our precious marine environment from environmental damage.”

John Boath was the last man to turn off the light on Bell Rock before it was automated in 1988. “I just happened to be on watch that morning and switched it off. It was quite emotional. I had enjoyed my time at the Bell and I was very sad to leave.”

Main photo: Bell Rock Lighthouse. Photo: Ian Cowe.

2022 Robert Burns Scottish Festival returns with a full program of events

The 2022 Robert Burns Scottish Festival (RBSF) is set to return to Camperdown, Victoria in July. The Festival’s Chairperson, Dr John Menzies OAM is pleased to announce that festival is going ahead and promises to be a great festival.  After two years of covid restrictions and limited festival events last year due to the covid restrictions the committee are working hard to ensure that patrons and the local community can enjoy a full festival in 2022.

The committee members are working hard to secure and have invited back the musicians who were to perform at last years cancelled festival, these include The Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club, Fiona Ross and Shane O’Mara, Claire Patti,  Austral, and Corner house bands are coming to Camperdown this year with a line-up of talented local bands and musicians including Pete Daffy and his band, Tuniversal Music Group, the Twa Bards, Camperdown’s Lakes and Craters Band and the Warrnambool Pipes and Drums, and further confirmation from bands to confirm they are coming to Camperdown in July.

A celebration of Burns

Scottish and Irish fiddler Laura Flanagan.

The international act, coming from the USA, is Scottish and Irish fiddler Laura Flanagan who will be performing at this year’s festival and conducting a series of Fiddle Workshops at the festival. Laura is based in Texas and arrives in Australia in early June, the committee is looking forward to hosting Laura and having her perform at this year’s festival. Early Bird tickets for the weekend will be available, with a festival weekend ticket for $50.00 per person, this ticket will allow patrons to go to all concerts at various venues from Friday until Sunday. 

“The festival committee wants to acknowledge that the past two years have been difficult due to the Covid pandemic and want to encourage patrons to come along to the festival this year”, Dr Menzies said.  Normal ticket entry is $20.00 per event so this is a great discount for festival patrons and a way of offering savings. The RBSF will see the return of the School Children’s Program with primary and secondary aged events including art works, poetry, story writing and the popular shortbread baking competition these activities will happen before the festival and delivered in the schools. Dr Menzies also said that schools can access programs from the Robert Burns World Federation at no cost and connecting to Scotland, the birthplace of Burns is a wonderful opportunity for students, to learn more about Burns. The festival committee is continuing with the Satellite Concerts and two events one at Darlington on June 25th with live music and a movie night. The second event will be at the Commercial Hotel in Terang on the Thursday 30th of June featuring Laura Flanagan and Tuniversal Music Group in concert at Terang.

The Gala Dinner will be held at the Theatre Royal on Friday the 1st of July and promises to be a sumptuous and authentic Scottish meal including an Address to the Haggis, headline performers and more, booking will be essential, and numbers will be capped at 100. 

The popular Music Workshops will be held on the Wednesday, 29th June, Thursday 30th June and Friday 1st of July at the Commercial Hotel in Terang with festival musicians running instrumental workshops and on Saturday 2nd June Claire Patti will be conducting two choir workshops in Camperdown. There will be virtual master classes connecting our festival to the world.

Much on offer

The Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club.

The very popular Cookery Class will be happening with Liz Patterson and Ruth Gstrein which gave participants the opportunity to cook authentic Scottish food and eat a meal at the end of the session.  Booking will be essential due to limited class sizes.  Lecture co-ordinator Bob Lambell has organised four wonderful guest speakers for Saturday the July 2nd to be held at the Killara Centre.  Wee Stories at the library for the children, activities in the avenue with music, Highland dancers and pipes will activate the Clock Tower precinct with market stalls and plenty of things to see and do.  Several concerts at various venues over the weekend will be hosted so there is plenty of variety on offer.

Both Saturday and Sunday the Camperdown Heritage Centre and the Masonic Lodge will be open for folk to visit along with the Clock Tower. Highland dancing on Saturday will also be opened to the public and for the golfers the Robbie Burns Ambrose will be hosted at the Camperdown Golf Club. On Saturday evening the family night event with workshop participants coming together to provide the music at the Theatre Royal and smaller events at various venues including the local hotels will give patrons lots of choice.  Sunday market stalls and children’s activities in the avenue, music with the Twa Bards and poetry at the statue in the morning with the Festival Finale Concert in the afternoon winding up the festival.

For more information on the festival and tickets see: and

Or contact Catherine O’Flynn RBSF Co-ordinator on: 0407 056 126.

Main photo: Fiona Ross and Shane O’Mara.

New Scottish Golf Trail launched in honour of golfing legend

Golfers from home and abroad will be able to retrace the steps of the world-renowned Grand Old Man of Golf with the launch of The Old Tom Morris Trail, across some of Scotland’s most spectacular and challenging courses, to commemorate the great man’s unrivalled influence on the game. VisitScotland is supporting the attraction and welcomed the launch of the new 18-course golfing trail saying it would play a role in supporting the recovery of Scotland’s international golf tourism in a hugely significant year for the sport in Scotland.

Old Tom Morris was a huge figure in golf

St Andrews-born Old Tom is globally recognised as the most important person in the history of golf. During the 19th century, he did more than any other to spread the appeal of golf, travelling the length and breadth of Britain and Ireland designing course after course. The Old Tom Morris Trail has been created by Aberdeen-based luxury golf vacation operator Bonnie Wee Golf. Managing Director Dave Harris said: “Old Tom Morris was such a huge figure in golf. What better way to pay tribute to the legend than to create a unique trail in his honour? “It was something we felt inspired to do during the pandemic to mark the 200th anniversary of Old Tom’s birth. We carefully selected some of the finest courses – some iconic and others hidden gems – that have all been designed or enhanced by Old Tom.”

Dave set up Bonnie Wee Golf 20 years ago after working as a caddy for American tourists who couldn’t get enough of Scotland’s golf, in particular the challenge of links courses. Bonnie Wee Golf’s range of luxury golf tours now attract more than 300 repeat clients, mainly from the US.  Dave said: “The nature of our repeat business shows the allure Scotland continues to have for golfers who want to play some of the world’s best courses. Everyone’s travel plans were sadly put on hold for the last two years. Through the worst of the pandemic, we were repeatedly forced to postpone our clients’ trips, but now Scotland is well and truly open for business, we know that the appetite for golf here is greater than ever.  We are delighted and very excited to launch the Old Tom Morris Trail, allowing golfers to follow in his footsteps, and to demonstrate that Scotland really is worth waiting for.”

Golf is an integral part of Scotland


This year, Scotland plays host to the 150th Open Championships in St Andrews; the Scottish Open at Renaissance, East Lothian; the Women’s Open at Muirfield; the Women’s Scottish Open at Dundonald Links, Ayrshire; and the Men’s Senior Open at Gleneagles. Alan Grant, VisitScotland’s Senior Golf Manager, said: “Golf is such an integral part of Scotland, and this is a significant year for the sport as we look forward to achieving full capacity at these major events. The Old Tom Morris Trail provides an excellent focus for golf visitors – from home and overseas – to sample some of our most iconic golf courses, as well as those more off the beaten track. By featuring some hidden gems as well as traditionally well-known courses, the trail supports our responsible and sustainable tourism strategy, to spread the benefits of golf tourism across our regions. US golf tourists are hugely important to Scotland, and we would encourage tourism operators across the country to make a connection with golf to allow them to share in the benefits that this year will inevitably bring.”

While some golfers may be tempted to complete the Old Tom Morris Trail in one visit to Scotland, it has been designed to encourage golfers to visit on more than one occasion to complete the tour, again supporting VisitScotland’s strategic aims. Mr Grant added: “Visiting Scotland to play golf is a force for good. Playing sport in the great outdoors, relaxing and unwinding with friends, and enjoying the magnificent scenery and hospitality that our country offers, is an unbeatable proposition for tourists the world over.”

A colossus of golf

US-based golf historian Stephen Proctor, author of Monarch of the Green: Young Tom Morris – Pioneer of Modern Golf, said: “The trail is a brilliant idea and I’m sure it will be a smash hit for Scotland. Old Tom Morris was a font of wisdom; he truly was a colossus of golf. Back when golf was coming of age, he was the one you contacted if you wanted to build a new golf course or discuss a design. He was an honourable man and would charge £1 per day, plus expenses, to design a course.  He was instrumental in spreading the Scottish game around the world, and it was his character that helped shape the reputation of golf as a game of honour. It is so wonderfully fitting that golfers from all over the world will now be able to retrace his steps. I can’t wait to visit.”

The official start of the trail is Askernish in South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides, and the official finish is Machrihanish on the Mull of Kintyre. The Tom Morris Bar & Grill in St Andrews will be the trail’s halfway house. The Old Clubhouse Pub at Machrihanish will be the official 19th Hole. Each golfer will be gifted a unique Old Tom Morris Trail collector’s edition commemorative coin for each of the 18 golf courses that they play, and those who complete the trail will be awarded a commemorative wall display for all 18 coins.

For more information see:

Main photo: Dave Harris (left), with Bonnie Wee Golf tour specialist team Cam Howe (centre) and director Stew Morrison, display the Old Tom Morris Trail commemorative coins.

Remembering a Scottish First World War naval disaster

This month marks the 106th anniversary of one of the First World War’s worse naval disasters which took place just off the coast of Orkney and where more than 700 men died in the tragedy.

On 5 June 1916 Earl Kitchener, Britain’s Secretary of State for War, was heading to Russia as part of a diplomatic and military mission to take part in talks aimed at boosting Russia’s efforts on the Eastern Front. He set sail from the Royal Navy’s base at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands on board HMS Hampshire. However, at about 7:45pm, in a heavy storm, the warship hit a mine laid by a German U-boat just off Orkney’s Atlantic coast. There were only 12 survivors with hundreds of lives lost. For many years it was thought that about 640 men died when HMS Hampshire sank. But research by Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial Project volunteers has identified the names of 737 men who were lost.

War grave

HMS Hampshire, a Devonshire-class armoured cruiser, built by Armstrong Whitworth, Elswick, was launched in 1903 and went into service with the Royal Navy in 1905.  She took part in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916. Kitchener was a hero of the British Empire and in 1926 the Kitchener Memorial, a 48-feet high stone tower, was unveiled at Marwick Head, Orkney, overlooking the site of the sinking. The plaque on the Kitchener Memorial reads: “This tower was raised by the people of Orkney in memory of Field Marshal Earl Kitchener of Khartoum on that corner of his country which he had served so faithfully nearest to the place where he died on duty. He and his staff perished along with the officers and nearly all the men of HMS Hampshire on 5th June 1916.”

The memorial recently was upgraded by the Orkney Heritage Society’s Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial Project to ensure the memory of the lives lost would continue for future generation and includes a commemorative wall, made with Orkney stone, which is engraved with the names of all 737 men lost, including Kitchener, listed alphabetically.

The HMS Hampshire today remains on the seabed less than 2 miles from the Orkney coast. The ship in 2002 was placed under official government protection as a war grave.

Photo: HMS Hampshire. Photo: Orkney Library and Archive.

National Trust for Scotland woodlands to be part of Ancient Canopy to celebrate The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

The National Trust for Scotland is delighted that four of its woodlands have been chosen as part of a nationwide network of 70 Ancient Woodlands to be dedicated to The Queen in celebration of the Platinum Jubilee. The Queen’s Green Canopy recently announced the network of 70 Ancient Woodlands and 70 Ancient Trees across the United Kingdom which will form part of the Ancient Canopy to celebrate Her Majesty’s 70 years of service. The initiative was launched by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, who is Patron of The Queen’s Green Canopy, under one of the Ancient Tree dedications – the old Sycamore located at Dumfries House in Scotland. His Royal Highness is also the Patron of the National Trust for Scotland.

Four of the conservation charity’s woodlands have been selected

Corrieshalloch Gorge, Wester Ross.

Four of the conservation charity’s woodlands have been selected to be part of the network:

Coille Mhòr at Balmacara in Wester Ross, an excellent example of Scotland’s Rainforest, a type of temperate rainforest that is severely threatened globally (sometimes known as Atlantic or Celtic rainforest). Its ancient oak trees and many other tree species combine to support scarce and important lower plants like lichens, bryophytes, ferns and mosses. The site also plays host to a nationally significant assemblage of dragonflies and damselflies.

Corrieshalloch Gorge, Wester Ross is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserve designated for its Upland Birch Wood as well as its incredible geomorphological features. The hanging wood that clings to the gorge side has a wide range of tree species including birch, hazel, aspen, sessile oak, rowan, which elm and guelder rose.  It is rich in woodland plants including wood anemone, wood sorrel, sanicle, blue bell, primrose, wood mellick, water avens, golden saxifrage, and mosses, liverworts and ferns.

Coille Mhor, Balmacara, Wester Ross.

Mar Lodge Estate, Aberdeenshire includes Caledonian pinewoods and birchwoods and native woodland plantations, the Mar Lodge Estate woodlands sprawl across several glens, forming part of the 30,000 ha Mar Lodge Estate, the largest National Nature Reserve in the UK. Its oldest tree dates back to 1477. The estate’s woods accounts for around 5% of Scotland’s remaining Caledonian Pinewood.

Merkland Wood at Brodick Country Park on Arran is part of a nationally significant wider historic designed landscape surrounding Brodick Castle, which dates back to at least 1703. The mature woodlands were established in two phases between 140 and 240 years ago. It is made up of sessile oak, European larch, ash, Scots pine, beech and silver fir.  The woodland supports the endangered red squirrel, as well as otters and badgers. Dead wood is retained to help support a myriad of insect life and to provide bat roosting and bird nesting habitats.

Ancient natural spaces

Merkland Wood, Brodick Country Park on Arran.

Stuart Brooks, Head of Conservation and Policy at the National Trust for Scotland said: “We are very honoured that four of our most important woodlands have been selected to be part of this celebration. They are a wonderful demonstration of the diversity of woodland habitats that the Trust has in its care, from the rare Atlantic rainforest of Wester Ross, the dramatic Corrieshalloch Gorge and the ancient pines at Mar Lodge to the species rich Merkland Wood on the isle of Arran. Unique in their make-up and character, these woodlands have stood for centuries, contributing to Scotland’s biodiversity, absorbing carbon and benefitting us all with their nature, beauty and heritage. Our charity is proud to play its part in protecting them now and for the future, and through our regeneration and management work, will ensure that they continue to thrive for many more centuries to come.”

Established over hundreds of years, the chosen woodlands and trees represent the diverse canopy of the four nations, it is a celebration of our living heritage. All the woodlands and trees have a story to tell. Some are famous specimens and others have a local significance. These ancient natural spaces hold significance and meaning for so many people in many different ways. They are symbols of community pride, places to connect socially and vital spaces for health and wellbeing activities.

By sharing the stories behind the ancient woodlands and trees, as well as the incredible efforts that are made to protect them, The Queen’s Green Canopy aims to raise awareness of these treasured habitats and the importance of conserving them for future generations.

Main photo: Mar Lodge Estate, Aberdeenshire.

Inspection programme underway to assess Scotland’s national heritage assets

An inspection programme designed to assess the condition and the impact of climate change on some of Scotland’s most significant heritage sites is getting under way.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES), the public body responsible for 336 historic buildings and sites, is rolling-out the new programme of tactile condition surveys in response to concerns over the deterioration of high-level masonry caused by several combined factors, including the materials used during construction, age, physical location and climate change. Inspections and sample surveys conducted by HES last year uncovered a range of decay on high-level building fabric, creating a risk of falling masonry and potential injury. To protect staff and visitors, access has been restricted at many of the affected sites, though every effort has been made to enable visitor access where this can be done safely.

HES has created an indicative prioritisation which will inform the inspection schedule, with considerable preparatory work already underway. Priority will be given to surveying sites where it is difficult to fully mitigate all risks to public safety such as where the nature or location of a site presents a particular challenge or where adjacent land owned by a third party may be affected. Sites where access restrictions are having a significant adverse community and economic impact will also be prioritised this year.

Caring for these historic assets

The surveys will provide a detailed and accurate picture of properties’ condition and will inform a subsequent programme of repairs, conservation work, adaptation measures, interventions and new ways of caring for these historic assets. The surveys are being undertaken by specialist HES technical staff and will be literally “hands on”.

Dr David Mitchell, director of conservation at HES, said: “This is a major programme of activity taking place across Scotland, involving a new approach to inspections and new skills requirements for our teams. Our changing climate since the 1960s has accelerated the natural process of decay and the nature and location of some properties makes them particularly susceptible. Our response to this situation requires us to evolve our approach and what we are finding will increasingly become an issue for many building owners across Scotland. We have developed an approach to allow us to prioritise sites based on health and safety first and foremost, as well as the benefits that properties generate for local communities. It is important to note that conclusion of a survey does not necessarily mean a property will re-open in full or in part right away, it is entirely dependent on what we find. Once a site is assessed and we have an indication of what the issues are, we will then make decisions on what happens next.”

While surveys and subsequent remedial work is taking place, HES is exploring alternative visitor experiences. This includes partial access at some of the sites, where it is safe to do so, and opening up interior spaces with safety corridors and viewing platforms. HES is also creating more interpretative signage and performances, exploring the use of innovative technology and new audio tours, videos and trails to augment the visitor experience for 2022.

Main photo: Craigmillar Castle. Photo: Historic Environment Scotland.

Major new study shows role beavers could play in restoring Scotland’s rivers

Beavers could make an important contribution to improving the condition of Scotland’s rivers, including helping to improve water quality and limiting the effects of drought. The positive role they can play in water resource management, as well as in creating habitat, carbon sequestration and river restoration, is highlighted in a report produced by scientists at the University of Aberdeen and the James Hutton Institute. 

They have collated evidence from 120 studies of beaver populations worldwide, as part of a large-scale review of their effects on streams and rivers. In Scotland, beavers have already taken up residence in a few areas, including Tayside and Knapdale. While sometimes their presence has been welcomed, in other situations there has been conflict, for example where their activity affected intensively managed landscapes.

Beavers engineer ecosystems

Until now, evidence of the role of beavers in helping to manage river ecosystems in Scotland has been minimal. Angus Tree from NatureScot said: “This is a significant study that clearly demonstrates the unique ways in which beavers engineer ecosystems. It backs up evidence we’ve gathered over the years and will help our work with stakeholders as we develop the best ways to live with, and benefit from, beavers. We are committed to continuing work to restore and manage beavers, as one important way to protect Scotland’s environment and respond to the climate emergency.”

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

June – 2022 (Vol. 45, Number 12)

The Buchanan and Lady Buchanan.

The Banner Says…

Scotland-Out of this World

As international borders and travel slowly starts to get back to a version of normal we have all been missing, many readers will be considering plans to get them from A to B, or perhaps more likely for some readers from A, or B, to Scotland.

SaxaVord UK Spaceport

A form of travel of a whole other kind has been creating excitement in Scotland itself recently. Shetland Islands Council has approved an application to build a £100m spaceport at the Lamba Ness peninsula in Unst. The Shetland location for the SaxaVord UK Spaceport will be the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport and will be used to launch small satellites into low-earth orbits and used by telecommunications, media, weather and defence organisations. The first launch is hoped to take place in the third quarter of this year with targets of up to 30 launches a year from Shetland, and the first orbital launch from UK soil.

Space Hub Sutherland

Blast off will also take place from the Scottish mainland as plans are also well underway for the £17.5m Space Hub Sutherland, which is also developing a vertical launch site on the A’ Mhoine peninsula, in Sutherland in the far north of the country. Space Hub Sutherland aims to become the world’s first carbon neutral spaceport and hopes to have up to 12 launches a year of small satellites.

Scottish Space Strategy

It is not only the far north which has galactic plans. Glasgow Prestwick is looking to become Europe’s leading space hub. The Ayrshire hub that many may have memories as a transatlantic passenger hub now wants by the end of 2023 to develop and operate horizontal space launch systems for small satellites, which would be the first in Europe to be able to do so.

These spaceports are part of the Scottish Governments Scottish Space Strategy project which is looking to place Scotland as a leader in commercial space development. The Scottish Government has ambitious plans to achieve a £4 billion share of the global space market for Scotland and create 20,000 jobs by 2030. It appears space employment is not as far away for some as the solar system is with a huge increase of 65% in the number of space related business now operating in Scotland since 2016, and twice as many people in the UK space sector work in Scotland rather than other regions.

In this issue

Returning back to earth, or at least the coast of Scotland, this month is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Stevenson. Though they were in fact related he is not to be confused with the famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, etc) Stevenson made a name for himself as one of Scotland’s great lighthouse engineers, designers and builders. Robert would go on to build Scotland’s tallest, most northernly and westerly lighthouses and also one of his most famous, and the oldest surviving rockbuilt lighthouse in Britain, Bell Rock. This month we hear from the last lighthouse keeper at Bell Rock.

Hundreds of years in the making and many years of methodical research will see one of Scotland’s largest Clans take a chief later this year. Clan Buchanan is now inviting clansfolk from across the globe to descend on Callander for the appointment of John Michael Baillie-
Hamilton Buchanan as Chief of Clan Buchanan, the first since 1681. We featured the new chief in our pages back in 2020 and look forward to hearing about the inauguration events taking place in October.

There is a reason Glasgow is called the ‘Dear Green Place’ as the city boasts over 90 parks and green spaces. Every time I visit the city, I make sure some of my time is spent in one of the many great green patches which dot the city. Pollok Country Park is the city’s largest and the only County Park to be found in Glasgow. Many will have visited the park as they visit the recently refurbished and reopened Burrel Collection museum and gallery. However, the leafy sanctuary also boasts some amazing gardens and includes the very stately and grand Pollock House.

Lift off

Whilst other locations across the UK are also looking to develop spaceports such as Cornwall and Newquay, parts of Scotland are being seen as favourable spots to launch small satellites missions and who knows if space tourism may one day follow. When people think of space perhaps Scotland does not come to mind, just yet, but with the potential of creating a multibillion-pound industry and tens of thousands of jobs the term “lift off” can’t come soon enough. Scotland’s space industry ambitions will have benefits across not only Scotland and the UK, but the world.

For me I plan to remain firmly grounded on earth and hope soon to lock in that ticket to Scotland, a place that for me remains out of this world.

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RSPB Scotland launches UK’s first eagle nest camera feed at Loch Garten Nature Centre

New camera provides visitors to The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Scotland Loch Garten Nature Centre with live views of a white-tailed eagle nest. In what has been hailed as a first for the UK, a new live camera feed at RSPB Scotland’s Loch Garten Nature Centre is giving visitors an up-close look at Scotland’s largest bird of prey.

A pair of white-tailed eagles, Shona and Finn, have established a nest in the vast landscape of the Cairngorms Connect partnership, of which RSPB Scotland is part, with their activities beamed live to the Loch Garten Nature Centre at the charity’s Abernethy nature reserve. Using methods successfully trialled in other countries including Estonia and Latvia and under special license from NatureScot, experts from Wildlife Windows have installed a camera approximately 3 metres from the nest. As eagles will often become nervous about new items or changes around their nest, all work was undertaken in autumn when it was safe to do so and the camera has been hidden in a stick to avoid unsettling them.

Jason Fathers of Wildlife Windows said: “Wildlife Windows consider it a privilege to have installed this white-tailed eagle nest camera. As far as we are aware, this is the first camera of this quality on a white-tailed eagle nest in the UK. This has been one of the most challenging camera installations we have completed, due to the sensitivity of the species and remote location. We are very keen to see the story unfold while getting a close-up insight into white-tailed eagle life.”

Jess Tomes, Abernethy Site Manager for People at RSPB Scotland, said, “This is an enormously exciting addition to the visitor offer at the Loch Garten Nature Centre. The images we’re getting live from the nest are phenomenal and our visitors will get a very rare and extremely privileged peek at the domestic life of a breeding white-tailed eagle pair. Already we’re noticing little personality traits in them – the male is very attentive to his mate and to tidying the nest – it’s fascinating to watch.”

Also known as sea eagles, white-tailed eagles have a wingspan of 2.5 metres and are often referred to as ‘flying barn doors’. They were driven to extinction in Scotland in 1918 before birds from Scandinavia were re-introduced to the Isle of Rum in 1975. Subsequent re-introductions in other parts of the country, as well as the birds’ natural dispersal means there are now populations spread as far as Fife, Orkney and the northwest Highlands.  To avoid disturbance of the birds, the exact location of the nest is not being disclosed to the public. Visitors to RSPB Scotland’s Loch Garten Nature Centre can view the live feed daily throughout the spring and summer. 

Main photo: Photo: Ian McNab @RSPBScotland.

Stunning bear sculpture lit up in solidarity with Ukraine

The stunning sculpture of a brown bear, The DunBear, has been lit up in the Ukrainian flag colours of blue and yellow in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Located beside the A1 at Dunbar, The DunBear is a tribute to the pioneering Dunbar-born naturalist and conservationist, John Muir, who played a key role in the establishment of National Parks in the USA. The five-metre-high steel sculpture is much-loved by the local community and has attracted increased footfall to the town, benefitting it immensely.

Designed by renowned Scottish sculptor, Andy Scott, also responsible for The Kelpies, The DunBear was erected in 2019 by Hallhill Developments. It forms the centrepiece of DunBear Park, a proposed 54.3-acre low carbon community that aims to include a range of commercial, community and residential uses.

Show of solidarity

Ken Ross from Hallhill Developments, which is responsible for The DunBear and is undertaking the DunBear Park development, said: “As part of the global show of solidarity for the people of Ukraine, we have lit up the stunning DunBear sculpture in blue and yellow, the colours of the Ukrainian flag. We wanted the people of Ukraine to know the considerable support they have, given the horrific impact of the Russian invasion, which has torn so many lives apart. Our thoughts are with them.”

The DunBear illumination joins a variety of historic and cultural sites across Scotland which have been lit in blue and yellow in support of the people of Ukraine.

PPBSO Judges all set for The Worlds

The World Pipe Band Championships are set to return August 12-13, 2022.

As with The Pipers’ & Pipe Band Society of Ontario’s (PPBSO) Diamond Anniversary, this year also marks the 75th anniversary of the “modern era” World Pipe Band Championship. Since 1947, the annual pipe band championship has been organized by The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (RSPBA) and for the last 30 years or so has been staged on the grounds of Glasgow Green, Scotland. As most know, the Covid-19 pandemic has halted the running of the annual contest over the last two years.

This year the championship is back in full force and this coming August 12-13 will see a few of the PPBSO’s well-kent judging faces put to work: Greg Dinsdale, Ken Eller and Bob Worrall are all scheduled to judge various grades of competition.

In addition to judging on Friday of the event, Bob Worrall is back, again, to provide colour commentary to the live-streamed Saturday main presentation. For many years he has, alongside Jackie Bird, co-hosted The Worlds show. The tradition continues with BBC Scotland once again packaging a prime-time television programme for airing shortly after the big day.

More information on The Worlds can be found at:, or by visiting the RSPBA’s website:

Passing time at Huly Hill Cairn

Text and images: David C. Weinczok

In the west of Edinburgh sits the almost forgotten prehistoric monument, Huly Hill Cairn. Today this historic site sits amongst a modern capital city.  How should historic sites dating back thousands of years be viewed in our modern world?  David C. Weinczok poses the question, did ancient people really intend for their monuments to last forever?

The historic centre of gravity in the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh pulls so strongly that many extraordinary places on the city’s fringes are effectively invisible to all but the most dedicated seekers. There are standing stones in suburban hedges, Roman forts alongside crowded beaches, and medieval towers absorbed within college campuses. Of all the wonders of Edinburgh’s fringes, none are as strikingly strange as Huly Hill. Wedged between a massive roundabout, a McDonald’s, and a go-cart track while also directly under the flight path of departures from Edinburgh Airport, there is no guidebook for Huly Hill.

If it were located anywhere else, it would be a tourist draw on par with the ancient monuments of Kilmartin Glen or Orkney.

The historic landscape of Huly Hill

Huly Hill consists of a large 3,500-year-old burial cairn, now sealed shut, thirty metres in diameter rising to three metres high. It is triangulated within a trio of tall standing stones which were once possibly part of two separate concentric stone circles. A large motorway separates these stones and the cairn from an outlying standing stone, all of which were part of a large, continuous megalithic site.  A major discovery was made just south of Huly Hill in March 2001 during the building of an industrial estate. The remains of a chariot built between 475-380BC were unearthed, the only known chariot burial in Scotland and the oldest example in all of Britain. Known as the Newbridge Chariot, it testifies to the use of the area for burials and associated rituals over a period of several thousand years.

Beyond its archaeological significance, Huly Hill and the thoroughly modernised landscape of Newbridge raise essential questions about permanence and continuity. Sitting at the foot of one of the standing stones as planes fly overhead, freight trucks refuel, and Big Macs are doled out of drive-through windows, you can’t help but reflect on change.  

Building impermanence

When we build things, it is taboo to think about their inevitable destruction. Construction is a possessive process, reflected in the language we use around historic sites. Castles, stone circles, soaring tenements and other monumental undertakings are described as ‘imposing’ and ‘dominating’ themselves over their surrounds. The language of buildings’ life cycles insinuates this, too – a structure is said to be ‘in decline’ or ‘ruinous’, suggesting a move away from its original intent, function, and worth.

The idea that the endurance of the things we build, and therefore our tangible legacies, will be subsumed by circumstances beyond our control strikes us on an existential level. Was it always so?

Permanent sedentarism is a relatively new feature of human life, so there is good reason to believe that our monuments were not always built as everlasting testaments to our place in the landscape. The people who made Huly Hill Cairn and the megaliths that surround it were permanently settled agriculturalists, yet their relationship to an ever-changing landscape and climate was arguably quite different – and certainly newer in collective memory – than our own. How shocked would they be by Huly Hill’s modern environs? Perhaps less than we assume.

Example of creation through destruction

Across Scotland, there is ample evidence of ancient monuments of the kind that we imagine were meant to last forever being fundamentally altered. Tealing Earth House is an Iron Age subterranean passage known as a ‘souterrain’ located between Dundee and Forfar. Around 2,000 years ago, someone saw fit to place a stone bearing cup and ring-style rock art at its entrance. The rock art was carved between 4,000 and 2,500 BC, meaning it was older to the builders of the souterrain than they are to us. The deliberate removal and repurposing of it tells us that the leavings of the past were regularly being adapted into the present.

Duddingston Loch, also in Edinburgh, was the scene of a tremendous Bronze Age offering. In its waters were deposited the deliberately broken fragments of swords, spears, and other metal objects between 1,000-800BC. Research into Bronze Age hoards by Dr Matt Knight, Senior Curator of Prehistory at National Museums Scotland, indicates that the breaking of these objects would have required considerable time, effort, and resources, suggesting a sacrificial and highly symbolic motive.  In a time when bronze objects were the ultimate status symbol, their breaking and offering to the loch’s waters can be interpreted as a creative act. Far from being ‘destroyed’, they attained a new significance and function after being broken. We may see such an act as a disposal, after which the objects became passive rather than active parts of the society that created them, but there is no reason to believe that Duddingston’s Bronze Age residents saw it that way.

In the Orcadian isle of Wyre, a 12th century Norseman named Kolbein Hruga built his stone castle within the ruins of a broch which predated him by a millennium. Not far away in the chambered cairns of Rousay, which are not entirely unlike Huly Hill, the interring of bodies within them was a cyclical affair. The dead were regularly moved around, replaced, and removed altogether, suggesting that remembrance of individuals lasted only as long as the survival of those directly connected to them.  Speaking of the famous Ring of Brodgar, another Orkney monument that changed substantively over many centuries, Mark Edmonds suggests in his book Orcadia that, “…duration may not have always been that important to Neolithic people. Some things were built for the time, not for all time.”

Change as a feature, not a flaw

A common assumption of both residents of and visitors to Scotland is that many features of our natural and built landscapes ‘always’ looked as they do now. At site after site, however, we see that change rather than perfect continuity is the defining feature of the passage of time. When in such places, I often wonder what the people who created them would think of what has become of them. Would they be comforted by the knowledge that their homes and tombs are still subjects of awe thousands of years later? Or would they be aghast that the place where their ancestors were interred are now, as Huly Hill is, surrounded by noise, fumes, busy thoroughfares and uncaring passers-by?

Putting aside the obvious shock at the technological differences between the ages, the more I learn about places like Huly Hill and prehistoric peoples the more I suspect their reaction would be somewhat different. “Are those things still around?” they might ask. “Don’t you think it’s time to find somewhere new? Have you really just let it sit there for all those years, frozen in preservation? That’s perfectly good stone you could be using!”

Still, on some fundamental level there is continuity here. Huly Hill remains a place to dwell on the passing of time and our fleeting place in it. It is still a monumental work, even if our relationship to such monuments would be unrecognisable or baffling to their creators. Amid a maelstrom of motor vehicles, air traffic and commercial transactions, there is still a reflective calm to the place.  Some things change, some things stay the same – I like to think that the people who broke the first earth and placed the first stone at Huly Hill would have it no other way.

From Largs to Brisbane

Text and images by: David McVey

Brisbane, Queensland, is now a great world city. Most people in Australia and elsewhere will have a vague notion that it’s named after a figure from colonial times; they might perhaps even suspect that he was a Scotsman. And it’s true that the city seems to have been named after the Brisbane River, while the river originally took its name from Sir Thomas Brisbane, the Governor of New South Wales from 1821-1826.

Sir Thomas Brisbane was born in 1773 in the family home, Brisbane House, high in the glen of the Noddsdale Water (a much smaller river than the one that would eventually bear his name) near Largs in North Ayrshire. The little peak of The Knock dominates the scene. Brisbane studied mathematics and astronomy at the University of Edinburgh. While he is most remembered as a soldier and administrator, Brisbane would also make his mark as an astronomer.

After Edinburgh, Brisbane joined the army at the age of 16 (people in Scotland went to university very young back then) and quickly rose in the ranks, becoming a Major General by 1813. He served in numerous actions over the decades including the War of 1812 in the United States and the Peninsular Campaign against Napoleon. The Duke of Wellington was apparently a friend and admirer of Brisbane. Brisbane married Anna Maria Hay Makdougall [sic] of Makerstoun in the Borders in 1819. When his wife’s father died, in a modern-sounding move, he adopted their surname, becoming Thomas Makdougall Brisbane.


Brisbane Glen in Scotland.

Brisbane may have become Governor General of New South Wales on the recommendation of Wellington. By most accounts, he was a decent Governor according to his lights and introduced or promoted a number of reforms in currency, trade and agriculture, but tired of much of the political infighting within the colony. However, during his time in New South Wales he continued his interest in astronomy. In 1822 he set up an observatory at Paramatta, which became the first, perhaps, at which the southern skies were studied in detail; it’s said that Brisbane observed and catalogued 7385 stars during his time in Australia. After his governorship, the observatory continued to function until 1847 and a memorial in the form of an obelisk now marks the place where it stood. In 1978, the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium was established in Brisbane.

When his Governorship ceased, Brisbane returned to Scotland, to Brisbane House, and he lived there for the rest of his life. Attempts were made to coax him back into the army, but he refused. His life back home was not a quiet one, however, and he certainly left his mark – and his name – in history and geography. In 1808 he had built and equipped an observatory at Brisbane House; the Paramatta one is said to have been modelled on it. He made sure there was no need for him to cease from his astronomy studies when he was visiting his wife’s family estate at Makerstoun, by building an observatory there. This building survives today.

In 1833 Sir Thomas succeeded no less a figure than Sir Walter Scott as President of the prestigious Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), on the strength of his astronomical studies. Sir Thomas founded the Makdougall Brisbane Medal for scientific achievement awarded most years by the RSE. Confusingly, he founded another Makdougall Brisbane Medal, presented by the Royal Scottish Society of Arts. Talking of medals, in 1961 it was revealed that Brisbane’s military medals had been stolen from the place where they were in storage in London. This would have been an impressive and valuable collection given the length and variety of his military career. They have never been recovered and have possibly been melted down.


Brisbane died in 1860. The Brisbane House he lived in is no more; it was unoccupied by 1939 and demolished some years after. The remains of his observatory, however, can still be seen near Brisbane Mains farm and a trust has been formed with ambitious plans to restore it. Various drawings and architectural plans survive as a basis for this. If he has left his mark on Australia, Brisbane’s name is also clearly etched in and around his hometown. He is buried in Old Largs Kirkyard, in the Brisbane Aisle. The glen of the Noddsdale Water is now usually known as Brisbane Glen. The road that runs through it from Largs towards Greenock is unambiguously named Brisbane Glen Road. By the side of the southern end of the road, near Brisbane Lodge and opposite Brisbane Glen Cemetery, there is an easily overlooked cairn that stands as a memorial to Sir Thomas Brisbane. The inscription, enclosed by a map outline of Australia and accompanied by Scottish and Australian flags, runs:

This cairn commemorates Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane who was born in this glen in 1773 and died in Largs in 1860. He was Governor General of New South Wales from 1821 to 1826 and gave his name to the Brisbane River. This cairn was donated by the people of Brisbane, Australia and was erected in 1989.

Of course, Largs is another name that is familiar in Australia. The North Ayrshire town remain a popular seaside resort, famous as the site of the 1263 Battle of Largs, as the ferry terminal for Great Cumbrae, and for the legendary Nardini’s ice cream parlour. It might surprise some that Brisbane, who might easily have remained in Australia, opted to return to Scotland. Certainly, he had obligations as a laird and landowner. And if Largs is a little cooler than Brisbane’s Australian haunts, it’s not that cool. The Gulf Stream warms the Firth of Clyde and there are many palm trees in private gardens and public spaces around the town. Perhaps there were some in the early 19th century too. If so, I wonder if Sir Thomas Brisbane, laird/soldier/astronomer, saw them when visiting his nearest town and was reminded of his time in the warmer parts of the world?

Main photo: Brisbane Glen, Brisbane Mains Farm, Scotland.

Olivia and Jack are Scotland’s top baby names

Olivia has overtaken Isla to become Scotland’s most popular name for baby girls for the second time, according to figures on baby names registered in 2021 published recently by National Records of Scotland (NRS). Jack is the most popular name for baby boys for the 14th year in succession, followed by Noah and Leo. Lyla shot up 56 places in the top 100 girls’ names to 74th overall, while Blake rose 46 places and Rowan 41. Carson has seen the largest increase in the top 100 boys’ names in 2021, rising 42 places to 83rd, while Struan has jumped 37 places and Myles is up by 35.

Director of Statistical Services, Pete Whitehouse said: “Beneath the headline figures the long-term trend is for more names to be used each year, including some names only given to one baby in 2021. Almost 12% of baby girls were given a name that no other girl was registered with in 2021. Almost 9% of boys had unique names for births last year. Together with the growing range of names being used this means it’s far less common for children to share their name with their classmates than it was for their parents or grandparents.”

The popularity of first names in Scotland over the years

With NRS running this year’s census Pete Whitehouse took the opportunity to appeal to parents to take part and said: “I know the parents of young children, particularly those with babies, have busy lives but I ask them to make time to fill in the census form and record their growing families in the census. Like registering a birth, filling in the census form is a legal responsibility for every household and provides the Scottish Government, councils, the NHS and many others with data they need to provide services for the whole country from the very youngest to the oldest.”

You can explore the popularity of first names in Scotland over the years with NRS’s interactive app. NRS also published a list of the most common surnames in the Birth, Marriage and Death registers for 2021.  Smith, Brown, and Wilson have been the three most popular surnames since the first list, which is for 1975, and remained the top three in 2021.

Babies’ First Names, 2021 and the Most Common Surnames in Birth, Marriage and Death registers are available on the NRS website:

The Slate Islands-The islands that roofed the world

By: Judy Vickers

The Slate Island are a group of islands, consisting of Luing, Seil, Easdale and Balnahua, and located in the Inner Hebrides, just north of Jura. They are known as the islands that roofed the world because, as the name suggests, they were once famous for their slate quarries. Now more than half a century later the island community is looking to start slate quarrying again as there is a growing market for the product, as Judy Vickers explains.

For a couple of centuries, they were the islands which roofed the world, their rich mineral deposits which had been used since time immemorial for simple homes, suddenly in demand around the globe. Hundreds flocked to the tiny Slate Islands off the west coast of Argyll, swelling the population into thousands, to work the seams of rock which would cover mighty buildings as far afield as Canada, Calcutta and New Zealand. But two world wars and the influx of modern materials, as well as slate from the likes of Spain and China, which lacked the iron pyrite (or fool’s gold) that gave the islands’ slate a distinctive glitter but also meant it wasn’t suitable to be cut by machinery, saw the industry collapse in the 20th century.

The last quarry closed in 1961 but now, more than a half century later, there are plans to restart the slate industry, albeit on a much smaller scale. The community trust on one of the islands, Luing (pronounced Ling), has commissioned a geotechnical survey to be carried out by rock experts to see if the plan is viable. A renewed interest in historical buildings means that if there are sufficient and accessible deposits, slate quarrying will return to its ancient home. Because from the days of earliest man, the slate from these islands – Seil, Luing, Belnahua and Easdale – was used by its inhabitants to make homes, animal shelters, gravestones and anything else they needed. “Slate was used for everything,” says Mike Shaw, chairman of the Scottish Slate Islands Heritage Trust. “Back then it wasn’t just a material for putting on roofs. You name it, everything was made of slate.”

Easdale slate

The outer rim of the slate quarry at Ellenabeich. Photo: W. L. Tarbert, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Islanders with little technology at their disposal came up with an ingenious way of splitting the rock into thinner sheets to make it more useable. Mike explains: “The slate is exposed on the beach, there are long outcrops of slate running in seams down the beach and into the sea so it’s staring you in the face. Early people drove wooden wedges into the cracks at low tide, when the tide rose and the water got into the wood, the wood swelled and cracked the slate. It was a low-tech solution.”

Until the 18th century, there was no large-scale commercial quarrying although slate from the islands – known as Easdale slate whichever of the Slate Islands it comes from – was used for many prominent buildings including nearby Castle Stalker, Cawdor Castle near Inverness and Glasgow Cathedral. People quarried in their spare time to supplement their income from farming or fishing. But in 1745, the landowner, the Earl of Breadalbane, part of the Argyll Campbell family, set up the Marble and Slate Company to make more of the islands’ natural resources. The marble side never really took off, but the slate did – within 50 years production rose fivefold to five million slates a year. With a Highland population suffering in the aftermath of the ’45 Rising and the Clearances, there was a ready labour force and the population of the islands rose from 1492 in 1755 to 2833 in 1831.

Men worked in dug-out pits lined with slate for shelter. They were paid per thousand slates sold – in arrears.  “They lived on the company shop on credit and when they did get paid most of it went back to the company shop to pay their debts,” says Mike. “It is filthy dirty work, slate creates a dust a bit like coal dust and everyone’s faces were black when they came out of the quarries.”

The sea was vital

Luing.  Photo: Remi Mathis, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The sea was both a help and a hindrance – quarries were placed close to where the slates could be loaded as even with skilled nappers (rock splitters) they were still a hefty two to two and a half inches thick. In the days before decent roads, the islands were surprisingly well connected – the inner channel running from Seil down Loch Linnhe out past Jura and Islay to Ireland providing a protected sea road from earliest times. Even when Seil was attached to the mainland in 1792 by the Bridge Across the Atlantic, the structure was built with a big arch. “The reason for that amazing arch was that even by then they really didn’t want to close it as a sailing route,” says Mike. “When you look around at this part of the world, these sea lochs and little islands, they are all defined by little forts and later castles from the Iron Age onwards. There was always a lot going on here. The bridge was a froth really because things continued to be moved by sea by the beginning of the 20th century. The sea was vital.”

But with the plethora of small quarries having seen the easy pickings dug out in the early days, deeper, below sea level minings struggled to keep the ocean out. “Water was always a problem,” says Mike. Nevertheless the quarries became deeper – and with an enormous proportion of waste, as much as 60 per cent, the industry changed the face of the islands. In fact, originally there was another island – Ellenabeich, or Island of the Birches – which lay between Easdale and Seil. “There was an enormous quarry there, it became like an orange, cut in half and with all the orange taken out and only the peel left, in places only a metre and a half thick, so really very thin and quarried to a depth of 300 feet,” says Mike. “The waste was enormous and the spoil was dumped in the channel between Ellenabeich and Seil to the point that the channel was completely blocked.” The island of the birches ceased to exist as an island but on that hard, packed-down spoil in the former channel, a village was built – called Ellenabeich. It’s just one of the quirks about these islands; others include the fact that the primary school on Seil is called Easdale Primary School and there are buses which run from Oban, the nearest main town, to Easdale “even though a bus can’t go to Easdale island”.

Easdale slate was exported around the world – including eastern Canada where there were Breadalbane land interests, but also to India and New Zealand, where there is an Easdale Street in Wellington. Breadalbane’s company was dissolved in 1866 and the quarries came under the control of separate commercial interests but in 1881 disaster struck. A wild storm saw a tsunami hit the islands and various quarries, including the one at Ellenabeich were flooded. There was no loss of life – the inhabitants headed for the hills in time – but even the huge suction pump that kept the daily ocean influx out couldn’t cope with this deluge and the quarry was abandoned, as were others that were close to the end of their lives anyway.

A tiny part of the islands’ rich history

Quarry on Seil. Photo: Remi Mathis, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The 20th century brought more challenges. ”Men here joined up in droves for the First World War and the Second World war. A lot of lives were lost but those young men who survived were exposed to the world and a lot turned around and said: ‘Do we really need to be digging slate?’” Production was also halted during the Second World War as it was not seen as necessary for the war effort. And as machinery was brought in to do skilled jobs, it was found the iron pyrite in Easdale slate – which sparkles when first exposed to the air, dulling as time goes on – made it unsuitable for the new technology. “Easdale slate had no chance,” says Mike.

The last quarry closed in 1961 by which time the population had collapsed, dwindling to just three on Easdale at one point. Model estate worker cottages, built in the 19th century to house immigrant labour at the height of the industry, were sold off to sitting tenants for a few shillings but many couldn’t find work and moved any way, leaving the houses to sit empty. “But then 25 years later, people come and said: ‘That’s my grandpa’s house, I’m going to have it as a holiday home’,” says Mike. The beauty and tranquillity of the islands means many have chosen to move here and the population has risen again – with around 150 on Seil and 200 on Luing – albeit many are retired. Belnahua, which was once home to almost 200 people, is now uninhabited. Easdale, however, which struggled to sustain a population without the slate industry as it has no natural water supply, now has a population of around 60 thanks to modern technology.

The heritage centre sees many visitors coming to find out more about their quarry worker ancestors. For Mike, though, the slate industry boom was just a tiny part of the islands’ rich history. “The slate industry lasted around 200 years – the Vikings were here for 400!  If you have any eye for history you realise you are stubbing your toe against a far older time here.”

To find out more go to:

Main photo: Easdale, Slate Islands. Photo: Michael Walsh, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Platinum Jubilee celebrations come to Ottawa

The Sons of Scotland Pipe Band and Pipe Major Bethany Bisaillion have put together a spectacular weekend of programming to mark many special occasions, and they want you to take part, even if you don’t live in Ottawa.

The weekend of May 21 and 22 will see historic downtown Sparks Street come alive with the pipes and drums of the Sons of Scotland, and many guest players for the National Tartan Day festivities and will be joined by many Highland dancers from schools in Ottawa and Hamilton, Ontario. 

Platinum Jubilee celebrations

They will have Scottish country dancing, a grand Corgi Walk, and music by many fantastic singers too.  You can join them at the CBC Studios on Sparks Street and complete a card of congratulations for Her Majesty The Queen to mark her Platinum Jubilee, and the band will deliver them to Her Majesty. 

If you can’t be there in person, you can arrange to send the band a card of your own that they will take to Scotland.  All details will be on the Pipe Major’s website at and the band look forward to a wonderful weekend of celebrations and so much more.

Scottish Medical Pioneer Dr Flora Murray featured in Bank of Scotland £100 note

“Deeds, not words.” This, the motto of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), founded by activist Emmeline Pankhurst, perhaps best captures the spirit of the suffragette movement and the sacrifices its members made for equality. As with all necessary struggles it’s often the actions of brilliant and tenacious individuals that create lasting change. One such individual was Dr Flora Murray. And to acknowledge her services during the First World War, plus her unwavering commitment to women’s rights, she will feature on Bank of Scotland’s new £100 polymer note, the first to celebrate the contribution of a significant Scottish person. Born in Dalton, Scotland, in May 1869, Dr Flora Murray was one of Britain’s early woman doctors and a prominent suffragette.  She began her career as a probationer nurse at the London Hospital, Whitechapel, aged 21. And from there studied at the London School of Medicine for Women, the University of Durham and, eventually, the University of Cambridge.

Together with her partner, fellow medical practitioner and daughter of the first English women to qualify as a doctor, Louisa Garrett Anderson, she set up the Women’s Hospital for Children which provided health care for working class children. But despite her extensive skills and savvy leadership style, Flora struggled to progress in her career. Until the start of the First World War women doctors were only permitted to treat women and children and could not study general medicine and surgery either. This is one of the reasons why Flora – already a staunch women’s rights advocate – believed so passionately in women’s suffrage. Alongside delivering medical support to suffragettes recovering from hunger strike and other injuries sustained through their activism, Flora spoke regularly at public gatherings and became one of the key figures for the movement in Scotland. She also joined the 1911 census protest – whereby Emmeline Pankhurst rallied women suffragettes to refuse the 1911 census in protest of the government’s unwillingness to give women the vote.

How did Flora help during the First World War?

Image credit: Wellcome Collection C C BY 4.0.

Thousands of soldiers needed urgent medical assistance during the First World War. This is where Flora and Louisa spotted an opportunity to do their bit, plus try and change damaging societal norms for the better.  So, knowing their offers to help would likely be rejected by the British War Office, together they set up the Women’s Hospital Corps (WHC) – a group of women doctors and nurses who ran two military hospitals in Paris and Wimereux, France, between September 1914 to January 1915. Following the success of those hospitals, Flora and Louisa were then invited by the UK Government to run Endell Street Military Hospital – a large institution in London staffed predominately by suffragette women.  More than 24,000 seriously ill soldiers were treated and countless lives saved while the hospital was open. Even more impressive; both Flora and Louisa had little knowledge of trauma or orthopaedics, yet rose to the challenge nonetheless. Unsurprisingly, Flora’s heroism didn’t go unnoticed. In 1917 she and Louisa were awarded the CBE for their efforts during the war. And in 1923, they retired to their cottage in Buckinghamshire with their two terrier dogs. Although little is known about Flora and Louisa’s personal lives they remained in a committed relationship, and even wore matching diamond rings. In 1923, Flora sadly died of cancer at the age of 54, leaving behind an inspiring legacy that promoted gender integration within the medical profession. She was buried in Buckinghamshire. Her memorial stone also pays tribute to Louisa, and concludes with the line ‘We have been gloriously happy.”

Bank of Scotland’s bank notes

In 1696 Bank of Scotland became the first commercial bank in Europe to successfully issue paper currency. And the bank has issued notes showcasing Scotland’s incredible history for more than 320 years. Currently, it issues £1, £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100 note denominations. The new £100 polymer note will feature a portrait of Dr Murray at The Royal Free Hospital in London, painted by Francis Dodd in 1921 on its reverse side, plus an image of female stretcher bearers outside Endell Street Hospital. It also boasts significant security features too, such as an anti-counterfeit ‘window effect on its front side that displays an image of Dr Murray, the bank’s logo and ‘£100’ within a vertical strip.  The new £100 polymer note entered circulation on 9th May 2022, a day after Flora’s birthday.

Caroline Clarke, Chief Executive of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, said: “As the first institution in Britain to train women in medicine, the Royal Free Hospital drew aspiring female doctors from across the globe; we’re immensely proud that the Bank of Scotland and the Royal Free Charity have worked together to give Flora her rightful place in the pantheon of British medical history. Almost a century since her death, Flora’s story is a reminder of the huge debt of gratitude we owe to those early agitators who refused to accept the limitations imposed by a society that didn’t believe women could or should be doctors, physicians and surgeons. Then and now, we embrace the pioneers, the innovators, and the game-changers.”

Main photo: Bank of Scotland’s new £100 polymer note.

Text and images courtesy of the Bank of Scotland.

Scotland strengthening bonds with US and Canada

The enduring cultural, historical, educational and economic links between Scotland, Canada and the United States was underlined by External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson when he visited North America to mark Tartan Day. The Cabinet Secretary engaged with business leaders, political representatives, diaspora groups and cultural organisations in Ontario, New York and Washington DC. Mr Robertson also met with the US Government’s State Department to discuss the continuing warm relations between the US and Scotland, as well as a series of businesses who are investing in Scotland. Celebrating the historic connections between Scotland and the United States, Mr Robertson met with the Friends of Scotland Congressional Caucus in Washington DC, and members of Scottish Diaspora groups in New York City.

The Cabinet Secretary attended a VisitScotland event to discuss modern and sustainable tourism at the University of Guelph in Ontario. In addition to taking part in the annual Tartan Day parade in New York City on 9 April, the Cabinet Secretary went to Niagara Falls. Ontario and witnessed the iconic falls illuminated in blue and white, in a special celebration of the links between Scotland and Canada.

Time-tested relationship between North America and Scotland

MSP Angus Robertson, Ontario’s Tourism and Culture Minister Lisa MacLeod and Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati at the majestic Niagara Falls.

Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Angus Robertson said: “International trade and investment is key to growing our economy, and this week in Canada and the US I will emphasise the Scottish Government’s role in working with partners to support Scottish companies, and the benefits to investors of working with the Scottish Government and Scottish Development International. These thriving modern links can only add to the strong and time-tested relationship between North America and Scotland, which is forged in history and renewed each year in the warm and colourful celebration of Tartan Day. This year in particular, Tartan Day, on 6 April, is a timely reminder of the importance of friendship and community between nations, of celebrating shared histories, nurturing relationships, and upholding the values that we share and hold dear.”

Tartan Day started in Nova Scotia, Canada and has grown to be a continent-wide celebration of Scottish culture and community. Tartan Day is celebrated each year on 6 April, having been created by a Senate Resolution in 1998, which led to Presidential passing of recognition of the observance, and a Presidential Proclamation by President George W. Bush in 2008. Events span across Tartan Week, culminating in Tartan Day parade in New York on 9 April. There are almost 1,000 Scottish associations and clubs in America and, in the most recent US Census, more than five million Americans claimed Scottish ancestry.