Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow sculpture assembly complete

Assembly of the giant Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow sculpture is complete in Inverclyde. The huge 10-metre (33 feet) tall stainless-steel figures by renowned artist John McKenna are now in place in the town’s Coronation Park. Lighting will soon be added to illuminate the figures, which pay tribute to the people who served in Port Glasgow and Inverclyde shipyards and made the area world famous for shipbuilding. Landscaping and paving works are also to be carried out and signage added between now and the summer to finish off the project.

Councillor Michael McCormick, Inverclyde Council’s convener of environment and regeneration, said: “The delivery of these sculptures has been a long time coming and much has been said about them but it’s now clear to see that they are quite spectacular, and the reaction thus far suggests they are well on their way to becoming an icon of Inverclyde and the west of Scotland. These sculptures not only pay homage to our rich shipbuilding heritage and the many local people who served in our yards but will also provide another reason for people to discover Inverclyde as we continue to promote the area as a good place to live, work and visit.”

The largest sculptural figure of a shipbuilder in the UK

Sculptor John McKenna was commissioned to create a striking piece of public art for Port Glasgow and the design was chosen following a public vote. The artist said: “When my design of the shipbuilder’s sculpture was overwhelmingly voted for by the people of Port Glasgow, I was absolutely thrilled that my vision for the artwork would be realised. It was no easy task to design and complete the sculpture, a complete unique one-off, a dynamic pose, the colossal pair swinging their riveting hammers, trying to evoke working together. To see the pair finished in metal at full-size was fantastic, for so long these complex figures were all ‘in my head’. That complexity and the size of the work were a huge challenge, not only in the structural design but the faceted plating that is the sculpture surface. These artworks, made in my studio in Ayrshire, are to celebrate the historical shipbuilding industry of Port Glasgow and the impact ‘Clydebuilt’ had on the whole world. They were made for the people of Port Glasgow, those who had faith in my design and voted for it. Hopefully, they will cherish and enjoy these colossal giants of industry for many generations to come.”

The figures measure 10 metres (33 feet) in height with a combined weight of 14 tonnes. It is thought to be the largest sculptural figure of a shipbuilder in the UK and one of the biggest of its kind in Western Europe.

Sustainable Scotland-The Scottish Banner speaks to Lord Thurso, the Chairman of VisitScotland

Lord Thurso was appointed as Chairman of VisitScotland in 2016 and has significant travel industry experience. Lord Thurso and the team at VisitScotland today are responsible for promoting Scotland as not only the incredibly beautiful destination so many know it is,  but also a sustainable destination for many to enjoy into the future. Lord Thurso took time to speak to the Scottish Banner from his home Caithness on how Scotland has managed the tourism downfall caused by the pandemic, what is happening in Scotland in 2022 and why Scotland really is calling so many to come back when they are ready to travel again.

Lord Thurso.

Lord Thurso, you have had a long and varied career in the hospitality and tourism industry. With all your many years of experience how do you feel tourism will begin to rebound, particularly in Scotland, after the last two years?

The first thing is, for me, the core elements of what makes Scotland great, have not changed. And it’s a combination of all the environments: the built heritage, the natural environment, you’ve got the heritage and the history, and you’ve got fantastic people who are dying to do great things and a huge centuries long tradition of hospitality. So those core elements of why people love to come to Scotland are unchanged. So, I have absolutely no doubt that at a moment, we will recover back to where we were in 2019. And actually, go beyond that.

One of the most interesting things for me to remember is that in 2019, we had approximately 3.5 million overseas visitors come into Scotland, and they represented about 43% of the spend that we had. They’re incredibly valuable. Whatever it is about Scotland, that combination of things, it touches heartstrings and pulls people back. And I think that’s coming back. When I look back to the first three or four months of the pandemic and lockdown, and the moment when the entire hospitality industry, every element of tourism, the whole visitor economy was basically closed, I think there was about 10% of the industry that was open looking after key workers, but 90% closed. And I must admit, there were times that I did wonder how we will get through it. But in fact, the interesting thing was that people at home rediscovered they were in Scotland, which was tremendous.

As an example, my own little business here, I had people coming back to stay in cottages and play golf and fish and all these kinds of things and they said, “We haven’t done this for 20 years, we normally go to Spain, or somewhere else. This is rather fun. I think we’ll do this again.” Rediscovering your own country for Scots was quite interesting. What I think will happen and I suspect it will take a year or two to build right back up, but I think there is an immense pent-up demand for people to come back.  I know so many other of the diaspora Scots, that I’ve been in touch with who say, “we just can’t wait to come back”, there is still that emotional pull to come back to Scotland. And it’s one of the huge advantages of brand Scotland is that people have an emotional attachment to Scotland, which is not something you say about every country. The enabler was always going to be the airlines coming back, and the ability to travel without doing umpteen million tests and all the other things and that is now beginning to happen. We’re seeing flights in and out of Glasgow and Edinburgh and connecting flights up from Heathrow. We are certainly expecting this summer to see something of a resurgence, but I suspect this year will be better than two years ago and last year, but not back to 2019 levels.  I think 2023 will be close to 2019 visitor levels and I think 2024 will be exceeding 2019. So, I am hugely optimistic as to the fact that it will happen. I simply don’t know quite the timing.

2022 is Scotland’s Year of Stories, can you tell us more about what the year will hold for visitors to the country?

I thought it was a stroke of genius to come up with the idea of the Year of Stories, because in every part of Scottish tradition, is the tradition of telling tales. Going right back to the wonderful Celtic myths, and right back to the sagas of the Vikings. But then you add into that all the great storytellers, some of the obvious ones like Robert Burns or Sir Walter Scott, but also the modern storytellers and you’ve got Outlander, you’ve got TV, you’ve got films. So, there’s a huge canvas which to take pictures of Scotland. For example, the National Trust for Scotland have put together a range of products based on their places where you tell tales. For example, there is the Sir Walter Scott Trail and there is an Outlander Trail. So, the Year of Stories just gives everybody an opportunity to tell a tale about Scotland, and the visitor will find that all over Scotland, people are telling tales in lots of different ways. From the wonderful peat fire with a lovely peaty whisky and a tall tale of the evening, right through to the history and to modern times, and TV and film trails, there is such a story to tell.

Scotland’s tourism industry is really getting behind responsible tourism. Can you tell us more about just what that means and how visitors to Scotland can also be participants of responsible tourism?

Funnily enough, the genesis of what is now responsible tourism came from a way we began to think at VisitScotland about four years ago, so that predates a lot of what has come since.  I remember saying to my colleagues I feel that the environment is something that we really ought to pay attention to, and I think it’s going to come up the political scale in every country in the world.

We began to look at how do we take carbon out of what we do, because tourism essentially is a good story as tourism brings wealth in. I’ve always defined economic activity of tourism as being to generate the maximum wealth for the minimum environmental and social disruption. But on top of that, being a tremendous wealth generator for the country. It also enhances our wellbeing, and we are all understanding of mental health following two years of isolation and lockdowns. Tourism also spreads understanding and friendship and I am a huge believer in the fact that tourism is a force for good.

So internally, we’ve decarbonized, hugely. Interestingly, one of the things is I don’t travel nearly as much as I used to, but I’ve learned to do things like video conferencing and much more online. We’re great believers in reusing if we possibly can, and recycling if we can’t reuse, and working towards a minimum waste.

We have got a couple of initiatives, one of my favorites was to encourage the use of electric cars on the touring routes, and to talk to some of our big electricity providers about putting in more electric charging points and encouraging more accommodation providers to have electric charging points. And that if you like is all about environmental sustainability, then there’s the community sustainability, which is the other half of it, which is about having a positive impact in the community by supporting jobs and wealth creation and not having a negative one by trashing the place and blocking the roads or whatever it may be. And the two actually go hand in hand.

So, it’s responsible tourism which is the beginning of a journey. It’s about encouraging people to be responsible when they’re here and encouraging businesses to offer a product that is naturally green.

Has the legacy of the recent COP26 (UN Climate Change Conference) event in Glasgow further driven how the Scottish travel industry can show the world just how tourism and sustainability can work together?

I think interestingly, the first thing I’d say is Glasgow appeared on the world stage day in day out for two weeks, and most of the coverage was fantastic. It demonstrated to the world that a major conference can be staged in Glasgow, and there’s no other city in the UK that’s done that. So, the knock-on effect of showing the world just how good we are at major events was a huge plus for the future and I think we will get a lot of business coming into Glasgow and Edinburgh on the back of COP26.

My sense was that for the first time probably ever in the history of COP conferences that there was a huge willingness to try and achieve something, and it was the first conference where coal was allowed to be discussed, and a kind of no coal future was part of the conference.  I think that reflects the fact that really, everybody now gets that the manmade heating of the planet is not going to be a terribly good thing. And if we want to preserve the planet, in the way we like it, then we’re going to have to do something about it. One of the things I learned about it was that a large chunk of it is going to be about changing behavior, but it’s also going to be about technology. I see the unbelievable advances that are taking place, literally in the space of two or three years, which is going to be a huge difference. Some of the technologies we think we’re going to be able to invent, but we haven’t invented yet. Scotland certainly took COP26 to its heart, and what a wonderful way to introduce people to Scotland, and Glasgow, but through one of the most important conferences for one of the most important topics that has ever taken place. So, I thought it was fabulous, and we’re doing everything we can to build on that.

Last year VisitScotland became the first National Tourist Board to declare a Climate Emergency. Can you tell us why that was so important for VisitScotland to do and how you aim to play a leading role in the development of Scotland as a globally recognised responsible destination?

I am absolutely convinced that the generations that are coming along, they want to enjoy a destination, they want experiences, but they want to do it responsibly. And if they have a choice between somewhere that takes account of that and was working hard on sustainability, and somewhere else that doesn’t, I think they will choose the sustainable product every time. I think it’s in part about doing the right thing, but I think it makes huge economic sense. And I think that’s what really will drive this. And I’m convinced if we can say, we’ve created a visitor experience that doesn’t use any carbon, I think that’s a choice that people will make. I see it as one of the things that within the next few years will become one of our great unique selling points. Scotland is not only a beautiful place, but it’s a sustainably beautiful place, and one the visitor can enjoy sustainably.

Scotland is such a varied destination with incredible natural assets, creative and vibrant cities and coastlines that transport you to another time. For a relatively small country it more than packs in much for the visitor, how easy, or hard, is it to showcase the huge variety Scotland has to offer to potential visitors?

Well, the wonderful starting point is that virtually everybody in the world is heard of Scotland. All across the world in Africa and Asia and beyond armies have regiments with pipes and drums. It’s one of those extraordinary exports that exists. There is a reach from Scotland, that goes right across the world that very few other countries have. Are problem to a certain extent is that reach is bagpipes, shortbread, and Edinburgh Castle.

The great thing is to look at that hook of the fact people know something about Scotland and give them the rest of Scotland. That plays into our current campaign, Scotland is Calling, which is all about understanding that there is emotion involved, and it is about appealing to people’s emotions and appealing to how people feel about Scotland.

What you appeal to is the sentiment, what you appeal to is the sense of experience. If we offer an experience that’s clearly got emotion behind it and feeling, we get far more hook into people.

You come from Caithness in the north of Scotland, an area often untouched by tourists. Can you tell us a bit more about this special region and perhaps why visitors should consider it on their next visit?

Duncansby Head is the most north-easterly part of the British mainland in Caithness.
Photo: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam.

The first thing I’d say is Caithness is an example of lots of bits of Scotland which are slightly off the beaten track. I have had the privilege as Chairman of VisitScotland to visit huge amounts of Scotland that I had never seen before and there really is just so many different places that offer something different. So, I would encourage people to come to Caithness but also to lots of different parts, for example if you go into Dumfries and Galloway and locations like that, as there’s huge, wonderful places off the beaten track.  I visited several spots in the country that are such a pleasure to see like across Aberdeenshire or visit the whisky trail. Scotland offers a rich smorgasbord of experiences for everybody to enjoy.

Caithness is a wonderful county; several writers have described it as being beyond the Highlands. The names up here are mostly Norse, and we have a huge amount in common with the Orkney Islands and people often describe Caithness as an island that didn’t manage to get through. I think we have spectacular coastal landscapes, stunning sea birds, and then right up butting up against these beautiful Heather headlands.

Then, in the middle of the county, you have the blanket bog, known as the flow country, which is taken from a Norse word meaning wet boggy place and the flow country of Caithness and Sutherland is the largest blanket bog in the world. There are more carbons sequestered in the peat of Caithness and Sutherland than in the entire Amazonian rainforest. It’s a stunning world class environment and we are very hopeful it will become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of course, I happen to think that the people of Caithness are among the most special of Scots and we have a reputation for very warm hospitality.

The international Scottish community has always been a strong driver of inbound tourism to Scotland. How important does this market continue to be for Scotland and what message do you have for the Scottish Diaspora now getting ready to make plans to come back ‘home’ for a visit?

My message is we’re here with open arms ready and willing to look after you. It’s Haste Ye Back, but when it’s safe, and you’re comfortable to do so. I think that level of comfort is coming this year and so what we always say to everybody is, is that “Scotland is Calling”, we’re calling out to you, we are here, we love you, we remember you, and we’re ready to look after you as and when you are ready. But do it when you’re comfortable. So hopefully across the globe, the Scottish diaspora is getting ready to come back and when people feel they’d like to, we’re ready to welcome them. It’s always good to see the diaspora coming back and we so appreciate how much they amplify the sound of Scotland in their communities and teach non-Scots what fun it is to come and be in Scotland. I’m hugely grateful for the fact that all the organisations across America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the rest of the world, do such a really great job in helping us promote Scotland.

Plan your next trip, or be inspired to VisitScotland at:

Commemorating The Battle of Littleferry

By: Alison Cameron

The Battle of Littleferry was fought, near Golspie, Sutherland on 15th April 1746. This month, on 15th April,  a memorial stone is to be unveiled and a “pilot” battlefield trail launched. A history of the battle is also being written.

Exciting plans to commemorate a previously unheralded Jacobean battle in Golspie in the Highlands – previously overshadowed by events at Culloden the following day – are accelerating.  The Battle of Littleferry on April 15, 1746, between government forces and supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie, resulted in as many as 100 being killed and twice that number injured.  Now, this little-known piece of Jacobean history is to be marked later this year with the erection of a large memorial stone and garden at the site, a mile or so south west of Golspie, in memory of those who fell on both sides.

Overshadowed so much by Culloden

The small village of Golspie is in Sutherland on the eastern seaboard of the county. Littleferry, a hamlet of just a few cottages at the time, is about three miles along the shoreline. Littleferry resident Major General Patrick Marriott initiated the idea of the memorial and has gathered a project team together to take the idea forward. He has written a full history of the skirmish, which resulted in the defeat of the rebel Jacobites, in spite of them outnumbering the government forces by perhaps as much as 2-1.

Major General Patrick Marriott.

He says: “This is the first time ever that a full history of the battle has been written and is being captured by the erection of a memorial stone. Very few have really been able to research the battle before and little interest has been shown in it. Increasing digitisation and access to hitherto largely unknown primary sources has made this much easier. The battle was overshadowed so much by Culloden that it disappeared; yet how many villages in the UK have a pristine battlefield around them?”

276th anniversary

The stone at its original site on the hills above Golspie.

The stone will be dedicated at a special ceremony to commemorate the 276th anniversary of the battle on April 15 this year. Plans for the event to take place in 2021 on the 275th anniversary had to be postponed because of Covid restrictions. The stone itself was identified on land above Golspie and has recently been transferred to the site itself. It is believed to date back more than 400 million years and stands around 6ft high with a width of 5ft. However, such an imposing stone also presented a logistical nightmare – how to transport it to the memorial site? Weighing about 10 tons and having to negotiate mainly single-track roads it was quite a challenge for the team!

Littleferry today.

The battle started at Dunrobin Castle on the outskirts of the village, seat of the House of Sutherland. As fighting became more fierce, the Jacobites realised that despite superior numbers, they were being outflanked. They made their escape along the Littleferry road, with various skirmishes along the way, until they were surrounded at Littleferry pier with only the sea as an escape route. A few managed to board small boats but many were captured and Prince Charlie’s men eventually surrendered. The fascinating Battle of Littleferry book, going into the background to the events as well as monitoring in fine detail the roll-out of the battle,  will be launched on the same day as the dedication ceremony.

A battlefield trail has also been created with six way-marker stones placed along the route from Dunrobin. These will eventually have QR facilities for those travelling the route to learn about its history. The trail is also incorporated within the book. Local schools are being involved and the Sutherland Schools Pipe Band have written a special tune to commemorate the battle. Talks are being held with the Culloden Visitor Centre to have a historic link between the two sites. The Royal British Legion Scotland have agreed to hold a ceremony annually from next year, at the memorial site, to commemorate the dead on both sides.

Keep up with developments or learn more at:

Can Robert Burns’ Soul of Freedom Save Us From Another Civil War?

By: Andrew McDiarmid

He survived the cancel culture of his day to become the favorite poet of presidents. His song Auld Lang Syne is among the most recognized choruses in history. He championed honesty and humility over wealth and rank. Son of a farmer and hailing from an obscure village in southwest Scotland, Robert Burns became a household name in the United States throughout the 19th century, inspiring many in the new republic with his catchy lyrics promoting equality, liberty, and democracy. And in 2022, he can inspire us again to be a humble, grateful people deserving of the American experiment.

Scotland’s Bard

Long before the Battle of Fort Sumter ignited the Civil War in 1861, a teenage Abraham Lincoln discovered Scotland’s Bard. Along with Holy Scripture and Shakespeare, Lincoln quickly committed to memory some of Burns’s most popular poems and songs, including Tam o’ Shanter, The Twa Dogs, and Scots Wha Hae. Here was a man from similar humble beginnings who not only shared a strong faith in God’s providence but also conviction in the intrinsic worth of the ordinary individual. As Ferenc Morton Szasz points out in his book Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns: Connected Lives and Legends, Lincoln found in Burns a kindred spirit he would carry with him throughout his whole life. And it would not be unreasonable to say that Burns’s lyrics about the equality of man reinforced the belief in Lincoln’s heart that all men are created equal. “The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,” Burns puts it. “The man’s the gowd (gold) for a’ that.”

Some say we’re on the verge of another civil war in America. And while that may sound extreme, it’s certainly true that we’re a divided people. Respectful interaction is getting harder to find. Tolerance is in short supply. Vitriol is plentiful. But Burns can help us move past this polarizing, combative moment to see each other once again as brothers and sisters. His advice is threefold: rise above cancel culture, remember who we really are underneath it all, and live with that “soul of Freedom.”

Burns offered bold ideas in his work, and for that, he had his haters. If he had kept his mouth shut like his superiors in the Board of Excise wanted him to, he would have gotten promoted. But he couldn’t, and we’re all better for it. Whether it was ratting on him to authorities as a sympathizer of the French Revolution or walking on the other side of the street to shun him, upset locals and leaders made efforts to de-platform him. But while he vented privately to friends about the miscreants who “deliberately plot the destruction of an honest man,” he kept writing, penning some of his bravest and best lines in what would be the last years of his life.

Burns lives on

Andrew McDiarmid.

Burns had a keen sense of human nature, knowing we all have the same worth irrespective of title, class, or background. For this, he is cherished by those of all stations in life. In his book, Szasz declares that “[f]reethinker and cleric, Democrat and Republican, socialist and entrepreneur—somehow everyone could find a way to celebrate the lyrics of Robert Burns.” And if you know your worth and the value of those around you, Burns holds, you’ll be more likely to “gently scan your brother man, Still gentler sister woman,” and let He who made the heart do the judging.

Burns was a great admirer of the American cause of independence. His Ode for General Washington’s Birthday may as well have been an ode to liberty itself: “But come, ye sons of Liberty, Columbia’s offspring, brave as free, in danger’s hour still flaming in the van, Ye know, and dare maintain the Royalty of Man!” He goes on to praise the arm that crushed Usurpation’s boldest daring and the Despot’s proudest bearing. Seeing America come into its own would have gladdened Burns’s heart immensely. Let’s live with what he described as the soul of Freedom. Let’s take none of our freedoms for granted. And let’s fulfill the responsibilities of freedom too, both to our nation and to our fellow citizens.

Robert Burns has been dead for over two centuries. The American republic has been alive about the same amount of time. Burns lives on through his words, and every year his birthday is celebrated across the globe, for good reason. America can live on too, if we can remember who we are and the value of what we hold in our hands.

Andrew McDiarmid is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. Born and raised in Scotland’s capital city, he hosts Simply Scottish, the long-running podcast of Scottish music and features. His writing has appeared in the New York Post, The Scots Magazine, History Scotland Magazine, and others. Learn more at

This piece first appeared on the American Greatness website:

Threat to the future of Geelong’s Highland Gathering

By: Daryl McLure

The future of one of Geelong’s longest running and most popular events, the Geelong Highland Gathering, first held in 1857, is in doubt because it is unable to attract younger people to join its committee. The Gathering, held on the third Sunday in March, has led a nomadic existence since being evicted from its modern home of 53 years – Queen’s Park, Newtown – in 2011. It has since been held at Fyansford, Geelong Showgrounds, Deakin University, Goldsworthy Reserve, Corio and, in 2019, at Osborne Park, North Geelong. It was not held in 2020 and 2021 because of the corona-virus pandemic and also was not held this year for the same reason.

Massed bands at Deakin University.

Gathering President and Chieftain, Dr Maurice Marshall, said most committee members were in their 60s and 70s and an injection of younger blood was needed to ensure the survival of the event. “The City of Greater Geelong and Geelong Major Events Committee have been wonderful supporters of the Gathering and we hope to find a new permanent home where we can rebuild it to once again be the second largest, perhaps even the largest, Highland Gathering in Australia. But we do need a younger generation to become involved and develop a vision for the future,” Dr Marshall said.

Meeting of the Clans

Highland dancing at a Gathering in Geelong more than 100 years ago.

The first Geelong Highland Gathering was held in South Geelong, in 1857, organised by the Comunn Na Feinne Society, itself formed only a year earlier. Comunn Na Feinne, in Scottish Gaelic, means “Meeting of the Clans”  which, in many respects, is what Highland gatherings are all about. The Comunn Na Feinne Hotel, on the corner of Kilgour and Bellarine Streets, South Geelong, is a reminder of the past. Geelong’s gathering was the first held in Victoria and was only the second in Australia. It came to an end in 1929, due to the Great Depression, but Newtown City Council resurrected it in 1957, when looking for a showpiece event for Queen’s Park.

In 1993 and 1994, with municipal amalgamation, the gathering was held under the auspices of the newly-formed City of Greater Geelong (CoGG). The Geelong Highland Gathering Committee was formed in 1995 and took over the organising of the event with financial support from the CoGG council.  The new committee, over the next 26 years, built the Gathering into one of the largest pipe band contests and Scottish events in Australia. Queen’s Park became permanent home to the Victorian Pipe Band Championships, and they were also held in new Geelong sites in in 2014 and 20125 (Deakin University) and 2017, 2018 and 2019.

“Geelong has a great Scottish history and is close to Melbourne with its population of more than three million people. There is still room for Geelong to expand its gathering if it can rebuild its committee with younger blood and find a permanent home once again which can win over Victorian and Australian pipe band championship organisers. It has been a wonderful major event for Geelong over so many years.” Dr Marshall said.  

For further information about joining the Geelong Highland Gathering committee, contact: Marene Turnley, Gathering secretary, 0407 512 672 or [email protected]

For more information on the Geelong Highland Gathering see:

Rare Pictish symbol stone found near potential site of famous battle

Archaeologists have uncovered a Pictish symbol stone close to the location of one of the most significant carved stone monuments ever uncovered in Scotland. The team from the University of Aberdeen hit upon the 1.7metre-long stone in a farmer’s field while conducting geophysical surveys to try and build a greater understanding of the important Pictish landscape of Aberlemno, near Forfar. Aberlemno is already well known for its Pictish heritage thanks to its collection of unique Pictish standing stones the most famous of which is a cross-slab thought to depict scenes from a battle of vital importance to the creation of what would become Scotland – the Battle of Nechtansmere.

Leading Pictish research

The University of Aberdeen archaeological dig site at Aberlemno.

The archaeologists were conducting geophysics surveys of the ground early in 2020 in an effort to better understand the history of the existing stones as part of the Leverhulme Trust funded Comparative Kingship project. Taking imaging equipment over the ground, they found anomalies which looked like evidence of a settlement. A small test pit was dug to try and establish whether the remains of any buildings might be present but to their surprise, the archaeologists came straight down onto a carved Pictish symbol stone, one of only around 200 known. Their efforts to establish the character of the stone and settlement were hindered by subsequent Covid lockdowns and it was several months before they were able to return to verify their find. The team think the stone dates to around the fifth or sixth century and they have painstakingly excavated part of the settlement and removed it from its resting place – finding out more about the stone and its setting.

Professor Gordon Noble who leads the project says stumbling upon a stone as part of an archaeological dig is very unusual. He said: “Here at the University of Aberdeen we’ve been leading Pictish research for the last decade but none of us have ever found a symbol stone before. There are only around 200 of these monuments known. They are occasionally dug up by farmers ploughing fields or during the course of road building but by the time we get to analyse them, much of what surrounds them has already been disturbed. To come across something like this while digging one small test pit is absolutely remarkable and none of us could quite believe our luck. The benefits of making a find in this way are that we can do much more detailed work in regard to the context. We can examine and date the layers underneath it and extract much more detailed information without losing vital evidence.”

Pictish symbols

Images such as a mirror can be found carved into the stone.

Research fellow Dr James O’Driscoll who initially discovered the stone describes the excitement: “We thought we’d just uncover a little bit more before we headed off for the day. We suddenly saw a symbol. There was lots of screaming. Then we found more symbols and there was more screaming and a little bit of crying! It’s a feeling that I’ll probably never have again on an archaeological site. It’s a find of that scale.” Like the other stones at Aberlemno, the new discovery appears to be intricately carved with evidence of classic abstract Pictish symbols including triple ovals, a comb and mirror, a crescent and V rod and double discs. Unusually the stone appears to show different periods of carving with symbols overlying one another. The stone has now been moved to Graciela Ainsworth conservation lab in Edinburgh where more detailed analysis will take place. Professor Noble hopes that it could make a significant contribution to understanding the significance of Aberlemno to the Picts.

Dr Noble added: “The stone was found built into the paving of a huge building from the 11th or 12th century. The paving included the Pictish stones and examples of Bronze Age rock art. Excitingly the 11th-12th century building appears to be built directly on top of settlement layers extending back to the Pictish period. The cross-slab that stands in the nearby church at Aberlemno has long been thought to depict King Bridei Mac Bili’s defeat of the Anglo Saxon King Ecgfrith in 685, which halted the expansion of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms to the north. The settlement of Dunnichen, from which the battle is thought to have taken its name, is just a few miles from Aberlemno. In recent years scholars have suggested another potential battle site in Strathspey, but the sheer number of Pictish stones from Aberlemno certainly suggests the Aberlemno environs was a hugely important landscape to the Picts. The discovery of this new Pictish symbol stone and evidence that this site was occupied over such a long period will offer new insights into this significant period in the history of Scotland as well as helping us to better understand how and why this part of Angus became a key Pictish landscape and latterly an integral part of the kingdoms of Alba and Scotland.”

Researchers will now be working with the Pictish Arts Society to develop a fundraising campaign for the conservation and display of the stone.

Broch-t back to life

A millennia-old, ‘new-build’: first look at archaeological group’s ‘grand design’ for ancient monument.

Archaeological charity Caithness Broch Project (CBP) has unveiled their impressive vision for the first broch to be built in Scotland in 2,000 years. Brochs – tall, double-walled, drystone towers found only in Scotland – were once common features in the Iron Age landscape across the Highlands and Islands, and Caithness can lay claim to have more brochs than anywhere else. CBP now want to recreate one as a thriving visitor attraction for the county. The visuals, created by digital reconstruction artist Bob Marshall, showcase the ambitious aims of the charity, who seek to construct the monument using tools and techniques only available to their Iron Age counterparts. The broch, designed by CBP co-founder Iain Maclean, reflects the wider architectural repertoire of brochs across Scotland, incorporates a number of flourishes such as triangular doorway lintels, cells built into the broch itself, and a series of outbuildings such as wags, wheelhouses and blockhouses.

Broch construction from all over Scotland

Digital reconstruction of an iron age broch.

“We wanted to capture a variety of features found in Broch construction from all over Scotland, so the design isn’t a carbon copy of any individual Broch but instead is a kind of chimaera of elements chosen for a number of reasons, ranging from structural robustness, health and safety, or purely because they were interesting. features.” said co-founder and director Iain Maclean.

Maclean also noted that there were “elements of the design such as the roof and the construction of the floors that had to be figured out with a degree of educated guesswork and speculation given that none of these survive in archaeological record”, remarking that their broch vision was “as honest an interpretation of what a Broch looked like as we may ever arrive at.”

It is hoped that the project will become an important visitor attraction for the region of Caithness, which has recently been projected to lose over 20% of its population over the next 20 years. “This project will be a hugely important one for the county,” remarked CBP director Kenneth McElroy, “not only do we want this to become a sustainable and successful contribution to the economy of Caithness, but it could become an icon for the county too.”

Caithness Broch Project hope to acquire land for the construction of the broch within the next year, with funding sources from a variety of sources. By 2023 it is hoped they can begin their project in earnest, involving a wide range of skilled heritage craftspeople.

For more on Caithness Broch Project, visit
To view more of Bob Marshall’s work, please visit

Images courtesy of the Caithness Broch Project.

Inaugural President’s Day ceremony held at newly restored Abraham Lincoln Statue in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Culture and Communities Vice Convener Cllr Amy McNeese-Mechan has joined representatives of White House Historical Association, U.S. Consulate and Scottish Government to lay wreaths at restored Abraham Lincoln Statue in new Presidents’ Day tradition. On Presidents’ Day 2022 (21 February), wreaths were laid at the foot of the Abraham Lincoln statue and war memorial at the Old Calton Cemetery in Edinburgh. The new annual tradition has been initiated by the White House Historical Association, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving, protecting, and providing access to White House history.

Association President, Stewart McLaurin, travelled to Edinburgh over the Christmas period and visited the monument, which was inaugurated in 1893 to commemorate Scottish soldiers who died in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The memorial includes a statue of the 16th President, the first statue of any American president in Europe and still the sole statue of a U.S. president in Scotland, and a freed slave and is also believed to be the only memorial to the Civil War outside the USA. Inspired by this and his own Scottish roots, McLaurin proposed a new annual tradition of marking on Presidents’ Day Lincoln’s life and the historic relationship between Scotland and the United States.

The United States and Scotland share many deep and profound connections

U.S. Consul General Jack Hillmeyer laid a wreath on behalf of the association and the U.S. Government alongside Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, Angus Robertson MSP, and City of Edinburgh’s Culture and Communities Vice Convener Councillor, Amy McNeese-Mechan. The occasion also saw the unveiling of a minor restoration of the statue, which had been missing a spearhead on one of its regimental flags for over 40 years. The spearhead had been broken off and collected for repairs, sitting in various workshops for this time and had been thought lost. It was of great surprise when it was returned to the council in late 2021 by a now-retired employee now living in Spain who had kept it for safekeeping during various workshop moves.

Stewart McLaurin, President of the White House Historical Association said: “To see a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Edinburgh is a thrilling reminder of how he bent American history towards the arc of justice—and of our nation’s deep ties and everlasting friendship with Scotland.”

Jack Hillmeyer, U.S. Consul General said: “The United States and Scotland share many deep and profound connections. The Scottish American Soldiers Monument provides a constant reminder that our close relationship even extends to the field of battle. This ceremony is a fitting tribute to Lincoln, whose shining example of leadership during America’s darkest hour continues to inspire, and the Scots who were moved to fight for freedom and equality on American shores.”

Main photo: Angus Robertson MSP, U.S. Consul General Jack Hillmeyer and Amy McNeese-Mechan.

Lismore City Pipe Band marching on despite devastating flood damage

The submerged pipe band hall

Late on one steamy February afternoon, alerts started to reach the residents of northern New South Wales, sounding the alarm that the unusually heavy rain that had been hammering Southeast Queensland was now bearing down their way. Knowing that their gear could be in danger, members of the Lismore City Pipe Band sprung into action as soon as they heard the news. As one of those now-rare bands that own their own practice hall, they moved quickly to pack up and shift everything of value – uniforms, instruments, memorabilia, supplies and equipment – to higher ground in the hall’s upper level. They left that evening reassured that everything was carefully stored away as securely as possible, and well above the 1974 flood line – the highest levels that water had previously reached.

Interior hall damage.

Then just a few days later, they watched on in horror as their town was almost completely submerged by a staggering 14.4 metre floodwater peak – a new record, at more than two metres higher than any previous flood on record. The roaring floodwater caused devastating damage to a region that was already struggling after the consecutive blows of 2020’s catastrophic bushfires followed by the global pandemic. The band’s hall was entirely inundated, only the very top of the roof was visible when the floodwater peaked at an estimated 5.5 metres – and several band members’ houses and business were also severely impacted by the disaster.

The band remains stoically optimistic

“The local community have been coming together with flood rescues, accommodation, food, clothing and other assistance,” said Pipe Sergeant and Acting Secretary Scott Cameron, who’s been a member of Lismore City Pipe Band for more than 40 years. “We’ve also been so grateful for how so many people from the pipe band community have reached out to us and offered support.”

Since the floodwaters receded, band members have cleaned down the hall itself and salvaged any uniforms and instruments that they could, while also helping band members and other residents reclaim what they could of their homes and livelihoods. “We’ve been lucky to have saved most of our uniforms and drums, but we’ve lost a lot of other equipment, including tenor and bass drumsticks, a few sets of bagpipes, and our drum cases, plus some other stuff we’re not sure yet whether we can restore,” Scott said. “The worst was probably throwing out 75 years of ruined records and photos. You think this stuff is totally safe and secure in your hall, and then the unexpected happens. Totally heartbreaking, but had to be done.” 

The hall itself is still structurally sound but has suffered significant damage inside, and with limited opportunities for performance income and fundraising over the last few years, the band was already finding it difficult to sustain the cost of building maintenance and running the organisation. Now, even while working through the adversity of trying to replace expensive equipment, pay for repairs, and rebuild the organisation, the band remains stoically optimistic. “It will be a tough few weeks and months, but we’re hoping to have a band on the street for Anzac Day for our community,” Scott said. 

Pipe Bands Queensland is supporting Lismore City Pipe Band to get back on their feet and into the circle – they will be collecting gold-coin donations at all association-run competitions during the 2022 season, working with local businesses to secure equipment donations, offering tutoring and instructional support for the band and its players, and helping the band set up an online fundraising website to collect donations from well-wishes who live further afield. Please visit the Pipe Bands Queensland website for more information on how you can help:

World’s largest Jurassic pterosaur unearthed on Scottish island

A spectacular fossil of a huge flying reptile known as a pterosaur, that was found on the Isle of Skye, is the largest of its kind ever discovered from the Jurassic period. The giant winged creature, more popularly known as pterodactyls, lived around 170 million years ago and had an estimated wingspan of more than 2.5 metres. The fossil is the best-preserved skeleton of a pterosaur found in Scotland, experts say. The species has been given the Gaelic name Dearc sgiathanach (pronounced jark ski-an-ach), which translates as ‘winged reptile’ and also references the Isle of Skye, whose Gaelic name means ‘the winged isle.’

The unique specimen, discovered during a National Geographic Society-funded excavation in 2017, will now be added to National Museums Scotland’s collection and studied further. The find is described in a new paper published in Current Biology authored by scientists from the University of Edinburgh, National Museums Scotland, the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, the University of St Andrews and Staffin Museum on the Isle of Skye.

A superlative Scottish fossil

Lead author, University of Edinburgh PhD student Natalia Jagielska, said: “Dearc is a fantastic example of why palaeontology will never cease to be astounding. Pterosaurs preserved in such quality are exceedingly rare and are usually reserved to select rock formations in Brazil and China. And yet, an enormous superbly preserved pterosaur emerged from a tidal platform in Scotland.”

Professor Steve Brusatte, Personal Chair of Palaeontology and Evolution, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, said: “This is a superlative Scottish fossil. The preservation is amazing, far beyond any pterosaur ever found in Scotland and probably the best British skeleton found since the days of Mary Anning in the early 1800s. Dearc is the biggest pterosaur we know from the Jurassic period and that tells us that pterosaurs got larger much earlier than we thought, long before the Cretaceous period when they were competing with birds, and that’s hugely significant.”

Dr Nick Fraser, Keeper of Natural Sciences at National Museums Scotland, said: “Even in the context of the amazing palaeontological finds on Skye in recent years, this one really is remarkable. To find and describe a specimen which is both so well-preserved and so significant is really special and we’re delighted to add Dearc into our collection, a unique addition to the fossil record and a specimen which will be studied now and long into the future.”

Amelia Penny, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, discovered the fossil during a field trip in 2017, led by Brusatte, after spotting its jaw protruding from the limestone layer on a tidal platform at Rubha nam Brathairean (known as Brothers’ Point). She alerted colleagues who inspected and identified the head of a pterosaur. A painstaking operation ensued to extract the fossil, led by Dugald Ross of Staffin Museum, involving the use of diamond-tipped saws to cut it from the rock, all while racing against time as the tide came in. After the fossil was salvaged, it was brought to the University of Edinburgh for analysis and description. CT scans of the skull have revealed large optic lobes, which indicate that Dearc would have had good eyesight.

The Mesozoic era

The specimen will be the subject of further study by PhD student Natalia Jagielska, which aims to reveal more about Dearc’s behaviour, particularly how it lived and flew. She adds: “To achieve flight, pterosaurs had hollow bones with thin bone walls, making their remains incredibly fragile and unfit to preserving for millions of years. And yet our skeleton, ~160 million years on since its death, remains in almost pristine condition, articulated and almost complete. Its sharp fish-snatching teeth still retaining a shiny enamel cover as if he were alive mere weeks ago.”

Pterosaurs were the first vertebrates to evolve powered flight, some 50 million years before birds. They lived throughout the Mesozoic era – the so-called age of reptiles – as far back as the Triassic Period, about 230 million years ago. In the later Cretaceous Period – the time of Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops – and immediately before the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, pterosaurs grew to the size of fighter jets.

However, they were previously thought to have been much smaller during the Jurassic Period. Fragmentary specimens from England had hinted at the possibility that larger pterosaurs lived during the Jurassic Period and Dearc sgiathanach is the first complete specimen to confirm this.

Main photo: Natalia Jagielska, Lead author, University PhD student with the world’s largest Jurassic pterosaur. Photo: © Stewart Attwood.

Bay City Rollers tartan to march at New York’s Tartan Day Parade

Mrs Eileen Longmuir proudly wearing the Alan Longmuir Proud Son of Edinburgh tartan.

In the 1970’s the Bay City Rollers were one of Scotland’s hottest exports. Fans the world over were obsessed with Les, Alan, Derek, Eric and Woody and Rollermania was born. The founder members, Alan and Derek Longmuir created the band in the front room of 5 Caledonian Road,  Edinburgh, after which their lives were never the same again. With their half-mast trousers and scarves tied to wrists,  they made tartan trendy and for the next forty odd years the Rollers were synonymous with tartan.  

When Alan passed away 2nd July 2018 there was huge outpouring of grief from fans the world over, a true legend had gone. Lesley Stirrat, a lifelong fan and traditional kiltmaker, had the idea of honouring Alan with his own tartan. The idea was run past friend and fellow fan Gillian Watkins and Alan’s wife Eileen, who both loved the idea and so the seed was sown. Working with Marton Mills, designs and colours were discussed and chosen. The colours chosen were purple for the heather, green for the Ochil Hills, blue for the Bannock Burn and pink a favourite of Eileen and Lesley. Next was the name, although Alan lived for many years in Bannockburn near Stirling, he was always first and foremost a proud son of Edinburgh and so this beautiful tartan, the Official Alan Longmuir Proud Son of Edinburgh tartan was born.

Team Tartan in the Big Apple

On 9th April 2022 Bay City Roller fans from all around the world will be taking part in the world-famous New York City Tartan Week grand finale, the Tartan Day Parade.  Eileen was touched and honoured beyond words when she was told that the march, down iconic 6th Avenue into Central Park, was to be in honour and memory of Alan. Eileen, Lesley and Gillian were so thrilled that Alan’s Proud Son of Edinburgh tartan was to be the featured and showcased tartan on the day. Lesley and Gillian are beyond excited to now be able to complete the “Team Tartan” attendance Stateside and join with Eileen and 100 other fans from across the UK and around the world, at this unique and exciting fan event.

For Eileen it will be especially poignant as only a few years ago Alan was asked to be the honoured Grand Marshall of the Tartan Day parade that year, but alas was unable to do so. Perhaps with his own beautiful tartan being waved and displayed, it will almost be like him being there after all. If folks at home the world over, who cannot attend, display their tartan at home in Alan’s honour on the day, we can show the world that though he is no longer with us, Alan Longmuir, Proud Son of Edinburgh, the original Bay City Roller can still turn the world tartan.

You can follow the story, and journey to New York this month, of the Official Alan Longmuir Proud Son of Edinburgh tartan at:

The New York City Tartan Day Parade takes place on Saturday, 9th April, 2022. For details see:

Main photo: Bay City Rollers founding member Alan Longmuir.

Bundanoon Highland Gathering moves to August

Wet weather and unsafe ground conditions have forced the Bundanoon Highland Gathering committee to postpone one of Australia’s largest Scottish events to August. Much work goes into this great community event, led by volunteers, and the committee, local council and RFS have deemed the site unsafe to run Bundanoon is Brigadoon. With the safety of all involved paramount and also the Gathering’s commitment to caring for the grounds this event had no option but to postpone.

Bundanoon is Brigadoon

After the mists have risen at dawn, the town of Bundanoon in the New South Wales Southern Highlands becomes Brigadoon for a day (even the name on the station changes to Brigadoon!) The main street is closed and there is a bustle of activity as people prepare for the big parade and visitors from all over Australia make their way to Brigadoon (over 10,000 of them).

The good news is this is not a cancellation but just a postponement of one Australia’s premier Scottish events. The Brigadoon committee is happy to announce that they will be holding this years postponed Brigadoon and Ceilidh on the 6th of August.

For details see:

The Washington Tattoo is coming to Northern Virginia

The Washington Tattoo (TWT) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to producing world-class music events consistent with the tradition of military tattoos. Founded in 2019 by current and alumni members of elite military bands, The Washington Tattoo supports veterans and first responders through a host of music and entertainment opportunities. These events include an annual Fife & Drum Workshop, Tattoo performances in and around the DC area, special events and presentations.

On April 4th, 2022, The Washington Tattoo will be hosting a Gala ’22 event at the Winery at Bull Run (15950 Lee Highway, Centreville, VA).

Internationally acclaimed traditional bands and artists

The evening will include several internationally acclaimed traditional bands and artists, amazing silent auction items, fine wine, beer, and food. Our guests will enjoy a wide array of music while strolling through the winery. The conclusion of the evening will include a mini-tattoo performance with several of our entertainers performing in a massed-bands march-off.

Featured performers include OzScot Highland Dancers (from Australia), Baroque Flute Trio, GMU 8th Regiment Brass Band, 22nd Battalion Gray Coats Fife & Drum Corps, Irish Trio, Mularky, and the Spirit of 76 Pipe Band.

For details see:

Sharing stories since 565AD, when Columba first discovered Nessie

Visit Inverness Loch Ness launches promotional video to aid area’s Covid-19 recovery.

Man’s best friend at Dores Beach, Loch Ness.

Visit Inverness Loch Ness has launched a promotional video for Inverness, Loch Ness and the surrounding area inspired by tales of the legendary Loch Ness Monster. As part of VisitScotland’s Year of Stories, the Tourism Business Improvement District has created the video to encourage visitors to come and spend time in the area and discover its stories, including the legend of Loch Ness, and aid the area’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The launch of the video follows 16 official sightings of the Loch Ness Monster in 2021, just short of the 2019 record of 18. Proving that the Loch Ness Monster’s popularity is as strong as ever. The video is filmed across 13 locations with locals sharing stories about Nessie sightings, some of them passed down through generations. All the stories combine into one big tale that captivates the viewer, who is left wondering if they too will get a glimpse of Nessie this time.

You can’t beat a good story

Culloden Battlefield.

Everybody who stars in the video is local, from local businesspeople to families, and it features some of the area’s most iconic locations. Among the stars of the video are Jo de Sylva, Chair of Visit Inverness Loch Ness, and local family vloggers Family is our Thing.

Jo de Sylva said: “Inverness, Loch Ness and the surrounding area have so many stories, legends and myths to tell, so it’s great to have this video to encourage people to come and discover the stories for themselves. From the history of Culloden Battlefield and Urquhart Castle to the beauty of Loch Ness and the great activities and attractions in the area, this video is the perfect way to bring them all together to showcase what we have to offer, as well as our sense of humour!”

Johan Sikkema from Family is our Thing added: “You can’t beat a good story and we have one of the best ones on our doorstep! Nessie is such a star in Inverness and around the world so why shouldn’t we tell stories about her? The video is such a fun way to do this, and we are so excited to be involved.”

Dores Beach.

Filming locations include Culloden Battlefield, Ness Islands, Dores Beach, Urquhart Castle, MacGregor’s Bar, Loch Ness by Jacobite, Ancarraig Lodges, Cameron’s Tea Room, City sightseeing bus by D&E Coaches, Loch Ness Clansman Hotel, The Malt Room and kayaking on Loch Ness by In Your Element.

Michael Golding, CEO at Visit Inverness Loch Ness, said: “Come for Nessie, stay for the history, beauty and numerous activities and attractions. Inverness and Loch Ness are so much more than just Nessie, but she is the star of the show and our new video, which we are delighted to launch. Thank you to everyone who volunteered to star in the video and allowed us to film at their business. By pulling together, we give ourselves the best chance of recovery from the pandemic. I really hope the video brings a sense of pride for locals while showcasing the area and its beauty to visitors, acting as a steppingstone for people to discover our stories.”

The video can be viewed at:

True Blue, Aussie Music Legend, John Williamson will headline the 30th Anniversary Australian Celtic Festival

Australian music legend, John Williamson, will headline the Australian Celtic Festival in Glen Innes on Saturday, 30 April 2022, making the Festival’s 30th anniversary celebration one to remember.

Glen Innes Severn Council Mayor, Cr. Rob Banham said, “Council is excited to announce John Williamson will be performing at the Festival on the Saturday. It isn’t everyday we get to welcome a music legend like John to the Glen Innes Highlands community,” he added. “His participation in the Festival will attract visitors to the region and boost our local economy.”

John Williamson’s impressive achievements throughout his career in the music industry include induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2010, 28 Golden Guitar Awards, Australian Roll of Renown induction in 1997 and a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1992 for ‘service to Australian country music and in stimulating awareness of conservation issues’. With 52 albums, including 20 original studio albums, over 5 million albums sold and thousands of shows performed, John Williamson is without doubt an Australian icon.

John Williamson said, ‘I’m delighted to be performing at the Australian Celtic Festival in Glen Innes. My songs are basically Celtic with an Aussie accent, blended with our own songbirds and the didgeridoo. Glen Innes in the New England district has the perfect atmosphere for this event and I look forward to sharing my music with the people of the region and afar.’

To experience John Williamson, live at the Australian Celtic Festival, book Saturday or Weekend Passes at

Cr Banham acknowledged, “This welcome addition to the Festival experience has been made possible by funding through the State Government’s Regional Event Acceleration Fund (REAF) to support the growth of the Australian Celtic Festival. The 30th anniversary of the Australian Celtic Festival will be really something to behold, and I thank Member for Northern Tablelands Mr. Adam Marshall M.P. and the NSW State Government for providing this grant, which will make this milestone something to remember”.

About the 30th Anniversary Festival

Held at the Australian Standing Stones in Glen Innes on Saturday, 30 April and Sunday, 1st May 2022, visitors can enjoy the major attractions or niche cultural experiences. Catch the live action jousting tournament or highland games and strongman competition where attendees can compete for the 2022 title. Keep the kids entertained with loads of activities, browse Celtic inspired market stalls, meet your clan and learn about your Celtic heritage or simply enjoy the broad range of Celtic music, dance or traditional fashions.

The festival has an exciting line-up with many crowd favourites returning to the stages and a variety of soft delicate melodies and big Celtic rock sounds. Ella Roberts, Murphy’s Pigs, Highlander, Limerick and The Gathering are just some of the talented and award-winning artists performing.

In a festival first, you’ll witness the launch of Tara from the creators of A Taste of Ireland. This ultra-modern Irish dance show features all-female performers and stages untold stories of the ancient warrior women of Ireland. This show is a must see along with the many other dance performances throughout the weekend.

The 30th Australian Celtic Festival will take place on 28 April – 1 May, 2022 in Glen Innes, NSW. For more information or to get tickets see:

Loganair celebrates its Diamond Anniversary

Loganair, the UK’s largest regional airline, has marked its 60th anniversary – a major milestone for the longest-serving name in the UK airline industry. The Glasgow-based airline, which was formed on 1 February 1962, now flies over 70 routes throughout the UK, Isle of Man, Ireland, Norway and Denmark, and serves more UK airports – a tally of 34 – than every other airline put together.   It marked the anniversary in true birthday style with balloons and cake, commemorative chocolates for customers on every flight and a special 60th anniversary offer for its growing band of loyal Clan Loganair frequent flyers.  

Jonathan Hinkles, Loganair’s Chief Executive, said: “We are thrilled to be celebrating our 60th anniversary, an unrivalled milestone in the UK regional airline industry.   In the time that Loganair has been serving customers in Scotland and beyond, over 50 other airlines have come and gone – yet a constant has been the commitment of Loganair to keeping communities connected. The next 60 years will undoubtedly see a different set of challenges, yet I’m already hugely encouraged by progress to develop new carbon-neutral electrical and hydrogen power sources for domestic flights.   It’s clear that short-haul domestic flights will be the first to benefit from these new technologies, and I fully expect that we’ll see the first of these powering Loganair customers to the destination within the first six of our next 60 years.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon commented: “For six decades now, Loganair, the oldest name in UK airlines, has made an exceptional contribution to the Scottish economy. Since 1962, the airline has helped keep the country moving, ensuring that people across Scotland are connected – particularly those living in and visiting our most remote communities. The importance of that has never been clearer than during the pandemic as the airline continued to operate, transporting patients, tests and equipment across Scotland and beyond. Loganair’s leadership in the net zero transition is also hugely appreciated and it should help ensure a very bright future for Scotland’s airline.”

The Burrell Collection in Glasgow to open following major refurbishment

The Burrell Collection in Glasgow will reopen to the public on Tuesday 29 March after major refurbishment. The A-listed home of The Burrell Collection in Pollok Country Park is now a modern, greener museum that will show more of the Collection to visitors and give access to over a third more of the building. Sir William Burrell devoted more than 75 years of his life to amassing, along with his wife, Constance, Lady Burrell, one of the world’s greatest personal art collections, renowned for its quality of Chinese art, exquisite stained glass, intricate tapestries as well as its breadth of fine art.

One of the greatest gifts ever made to any city in the world

The Collection is home to the Wagner garden carpet which is one of the earliest surviving Persian garden carpets in the world, and has rarely been on public display since The Burrell Collection first opened in 1983. The museum’s refurbishment and redisplay means this priceless carpet will now be on long term display, accompanied by new and innovative methods of interpretation. The Collection has 457 objects of Islamic culture including Persian piled carpets that form one of the finest collections in the UK and significant ceramic pieces which demonstrate the influence of Chinese porcelain on the pottery of Turkey. Other highlights include Chinese pottery and porcelain produced over a 5,000-year period, making it one of the most significant collections of Chinese Art in Europe; paintings by renowned French artists including Manet, Cézanne and Degas; Medieval treasures including stained glass, arms and armour and over 200 tapestries and carpets, which are among the finest in the world.

Sir William Burrell acquired spectacular Chinese bronzes from the era of the Shang and the Zhou dynasties when bronze casting is considered to have been at its height. The Collection also includes an exceptionally rare Ming dynasty Meiping vase dating from the Hongwu era (1368–1398), one of only four known examples anywhere in the world. The Burrell Collection’s medieval works include stained glass of outstanding quality and one of the largest and most significant holdings of tapestries anywhere in the world.

Sir William Burrell also had great interest in art produced by his near contemporaries. The Burrell has more works by the Glasgow Boy, Joseph Crawhall than any other museum and its 20 paintings and pastels by Edgar Degas place it among the largest groups of works by this artist worldwide. Other notable modern French artists include Boudin, Corot, Daubigny, Manet, Sisley, Gauguin and Cézanne.  Sir William also acquired significant Old Masters including Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna and Child which had hung for almost 500 years in the Barberini Palace in Rome. The donation of the Collection to the city was described at the time as: “One of the greatest gifts ever made to any city in the world.” (Sir Hector Hetherington, Principal of Glasgow University).

One of Glasgow’s greatest treasures

The Scottish Parliament passed a bill in 2014 which would allow international loans of objects from and to The Burrell Collection. Nearly 30 venues around the UK and across the world hosted art from The Burrell while its home was refurbished. Included were loans to New York’s Metropolitan Museum, the Musée de Cluny in Paris and several cities in Japan including Tokyo. Over a million people were able to enjoy artworks in the Collection through the tour. 

Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life and Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council said: “The Burrell Collection is one of Glasgow’s greatest treasures which deserves much greater recognition and appreciation around the world. The refurbishment of its A-listed home, which itself, is one of Scotland’s modern architectural triumphs, and the redisplay of the Collection will ensure visitors have an unforgettable experience and return time and again to appreciate the breath-taking beauty of the art on display. At the same time, the connection between the city and The Burrell Collection and Pollok Country Park will grow even stronger as a result of the museum reopening.”

On reopening, the museum’s gallery space will have increased by 35%, allowing important and unique objects from the Collection, which have not been seen for decades, or have never been on permanent display, to go on show.  New displays will give visitors a better understanding of the international significance of The Burrell Collection’s artworks and the people who made them and some of the people who have owned them. In total 225 displays will spread across 24 galleries. The displays include innovative digital elements such as video walls, interactives and hybrid systems created to help people engage with the stories behind the Collection.  The museum’s environmental performance has been enhanced by greatly improving the building’s exterior through a new roof, glazing and cladding, and by replacing power, heating and lighting systems with more efficient and sustainable technologies.  As the world recovers from Covid-19, The Burrell is a reminder of culture’s contribution to the vibrancy and international appeal of Glasgow.  The opening of The Burrell in 1983 was one of the first demonstrations of Glasgow’s commitment to culture-led regeneration. By harnessing the power of its incredible cultural draw, Glasgow has positioned itself as one of the world’s great cultural and creative cities, making it a must-visit destination.

For further details see:

Scotland Street lighting restored to Georgian glory

Newly installed Georgian replica streetlights were switched on in Edinburgh’s Scotland Street, made famous by the Sandy McCall Smith 44 Scotland Street series of episodic novels. The project, which was completed through a partnership between Edinburgh World Heritage and the City of Edinburgh Council, is part of a wider scheme to restore historic street lighting at sites across the city.

The first of this wave of streetlight restoration took place in Circus Lane in 2001, and since then Lynedoch Place, Belford Road, Clarendon Crescent, and Alva Street have all benefitted from the addition of historically appropriate lighting. The design for the Scotland Street lamps was based on one that stood next to the Heart of Midlothian on the High Street, as seen in a photograph from 1883. This style of lamp was used widely in Edinburgh in the 19th century, and features a conical glass cap and a large glass globe light, designed to protect the original lamps from the fierce heat of their “fishtail” burners. The present design also incorporates a rounded glass finial, which the 19th century Holyrood Glassworks Catalogue described as a “crystal knob”. Much of the original research and planning for the project was provided by Andrew Kerr, a long-term resident of the New Town and former trustee of Edinburgh World Heritage.   

Improved the architectural landscape

The design process for the Scotland Street lamps began in 2011, but was held back due to the lack of original globe lamps in the city. However, one was found in a Dublin Street cellar, which was used as a model. By studying old photographs, Jonathan Knox, of the University of Edinburgh, was able to create a 3D computer rendering of how the lamps would have looked. 

The streetlights were manufactured by Manchester-based Metcraft Lighting, a company that specialises in high-quality heritage and decorative lighting, and are fitted with LED lights to conform with the City of Edinburgh Council’s plans to convert the city’s streetlights to energy-saving LED.

Christina Sinclair, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage commented: “The new lighting’s authentic design has improved the architectural landscape of the street and enhanced, in a modest way, the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site. Additionally, there is the practical benefit of improving night-time visibility for residents and road users alike. This project perfectly demonstrates how heritage and city improvement can go hand in hand, creating a more beautiful but also more liveable city for Edinburgh’s residents.”

Taming the wolves? Rethinking medieval Scottish politics

By: David C. Weinczok

“Treacherous and vile wolves”. That’s how Walter Bower, writing on the island haven of Inchcolm in the Firth of Forth in the 1440s, described the Scottish nobility. In contrast, the crown – at the time worn by James I – was a bulwark against the self-interested, anarchic nobility. If any noble got too high and mighty, the king would lay siege to their castle, pry them out of their stone shells, put them in their place, and peace would return to the land. The knives were always out, and pointed in all directions.

At least, that is the version of late medieval Scottish history that many students have been taught to accept. It’s a top-down view, one in which the institution of the crown is the ultimate, and rightful, authority. In most conventional historical narratives, the crown is always presented as a force for stability, and the nobles always a force for ambition and chaos who need to be tamed like wild beasts.

Primitive state

The Black Dinner, showing William, Earl of Douglas, being seized before his execution by order of James II.

It’s an enduring narrative, and there are numerous incidents that seem to support it. The alleged treason and subsequent execution of Murdoch, Earl of Albany, in 1425. The infamous ‘Black Dinner’ of 1440 resulting in the murder of the Earl of Douglas at Edinburgh Castle, and the murder by the king’s own hand of another Douglas Earl suspected of treachery at Stirling in 1452. The rebellion of the Darnley Stewarts in Renfrewshire in 1489, which required the king’s army to come calling with a royal artillery train in tow. James IV’s unsuccessful siege against Archibald ‘Bell the Cat’ Douglas at Tantallon Castle in 1491. On and on the list goes, full of examples of revenge, treachery, jealousy, violence and the rebalancing of power in favour of whoever sat on the throne.

It may surprise you, then, to learn that between 1341 and 1469 there were twice as many rebellions and three times as many civil war battles in England than there were in Scotland. Three times as many English magnates were killed for political reasons than their Scottish counterparts (even though the magnate class in each country was comparable in size). Looking further afield, we find that political violence in late medieval Scotland was no more rife, and in some cases markedly less so, than in other European kingdoms. So, why do we still think of that period, in Scotland specifically, as an especially venomous viper pit?

Many historians, especially during the mid-20th century when disciplines like castle studies flourished, were stuck on the idea that Scotland was an irredeemably warlike nation. This is partly due to the firmly pro-Union politics of the era, in which the unquestioned orthodoxy was that the Union of the Crowns in 1603 and the Act of Union of 1707 had a ‘civilising effect’ on Scotland. This was accompanied by fervent support for the modern monarchy. From this perspective, the alleged anarchy of medieval Scotland was a natural consequence of its more ‘primitive’ state, one that was tamed by a unified central authority based in London rather than Stirling or Edinburgh.

Another factor was that many of the most prominent historians of the mid-20th century had experienced first-hand the terror of one, if not two, world wars. Understandably, those experiences deeply shaped their perspectives and convinced them that Britain was a place constantly under siege by enemies outwith and within its borders. This trickled down in interesting ways, such as the now-rejected concept of ‘bastard feudalism’. This was the idea that medieval lords in their castles lived in constant fear of their soldiers and mercenaries rebelling. As a result, they designed their residences to keep their fickle retainers separate from themselves and their families.

Relationship between the nobility and the crown

Portrait of James IV, King of Scots. Public domain/Wikimedia Commons.

As ever when studying history, taking into account the biases and perspectives of the historians who write it is just as important as understanding the events themselves. Not just modern historians, either. When Walter Bower deemed the nobility “vile wolves” in the 1440s, he knew it would go down well with his intended audience: the king. Along with the epic poem The Brus written by John Barbour in the late 14th century, Bower’s Scotichronicon was part of a suite of ‘royal propaganda’ intended to legitimise the Stewart dynasty’s right to rule. While Scotichronicon did levy some critiques against king James I, it nonetheless presented the crown as the ultimate source of legitimacy and authority. When historians in the late 19th and 20th centuries read these medieval sources they found a worldview sympathetic to their own, leading many to adopt it uncritically.

More recent research by scholars such as Katie Stevenson, Jennifer M. Brown and Alexander Grant emphasises a more complex relationship between the nobility and the crown. For example, Hugh Montgomerie, a late 15th century Ayrshire nobleman, was able to act with extraordinary impunity: he had the leaders of two rival families, the Boyds and Crawfords, assassinated, and utterly destroyed the Cunningham stronghold of Turnielaw. By any definition this was a disruption of the peace and a power grab by Montgomerie. Yet because he took the side of the future king James IV at the Battle of Sauchieburn, that king was content to forgive these transgressions. A noble’s ambition, it seems, was not a bad thing in itself. So long as you show up the for crown when it counted, the iron fist of the king’s justice would land somewhere else.

This vision of a more symbiotic relationship between nobles and the king is just one way that the narrative of a uniquely violent and adversarial medieval Scotland is being deconstructed in recent decades. Whenever we are presented with theories for how a society worked (past or present), it is a good idea to bear in mind the adage of the late Canadian political theorist, Robert Cox: “theory is always for someone and for some purpose”.

The more blood-drenched image of Scotland made sense to an overwhelmingly pro-Union generation of historians scarred by the horrors of industrial warfare. The more nuanced reality may not be as salacious a story as one in which nobles and kings constantly vied for power in a zero-sum game, but I believe it hits closer to the mark of truth. And that, ultimately, is what good faith historical revisionism is all about.     

Main photo: Tantallon Castle. Photo: David C. Weinczok.

Historic Braemar Castle celebrates fundraising success

The local community behind Braemar Castle is celebrating a significant milestone as work gets underway to restore the historic building and re-develop its grounds. The community management team is delighted that, thanks to their fundraising campaign and the generous response of donors alongside support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic Environment Scotland, the programme of work can now get underway. A feature of the landscape for over 400 years, since 2007, Braemar Castle has been under community management (Braemar is the first community-run castle in Scotland), and aspirations for this historic site go far beyond simple restoration.

An iconic landmark in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, the Castle has a fairy tale aspect with battlemented towers and turrets, a star shaped curtain wall and a bottle-necked dungeon.  Built in 1628 by John Erskine, 6th Earl of Mar, as his Highland hunting lodge, it was a target in the first Jacobite uprising in 1689, torched by the infamous “Black Colonel”,  John Farquharson of Inverey.  Following the Battle of Culloden, the Castle was used as a garrison for Hanoverian soldiers to suppress any lingering Jacobite support.  Now, the Castle’s future rests with the small community of Braemar, a village of just 500 residents.  

Conserving the 17th century castle

The “Raising the Standard” project will enable Braemar Community Limited to advance their goal of conserving the 17th century castle as a visitor attraction.  But the plans will also create a community programme so that the Castle contributes to the future welfare of the whole region. An imaginative and far-reaching programme of learning and engagement will give opportunities for schools, charities and individuals to grow through creative activities both at the Castle as well as off-site.

Chair of Braemar Community Limited, Simon Blackett says: “We are grateful to our funders for recognizing the importance of this project and for supporting us in making our vision for Braemar Castle a reality. We, as a community group, have been gearing up to this moment for over 14 years and are delighted that capital works can finally begin in 2022. Our vision for Braemar Castle is much more than simply repairing and rebuilding walls, although that is a very important element of the work, it’s about breaking down barriers and reaching out into the local community and further afield, with initiatives that can help everyone, including some of society’s most vulnerable. After the impact of the past two years and the issues of uncertainty and isolation, mental health and wellbeing have never been more important.  This project will achieve a visually much improved Castle with the harling repaired but it will also take on the expanded role of engaging even more people with heritage.”

Braemar Castle has drawn visitors to the village since the early 50s, and since the community took over, has worked with schools and community groups on site but now a much more ambitious vision for community engagement and learning has been developed.  In future, it is anticipated that the Castle team will be welcoming greater numbers to Braemar for a more diverse programme as well as engaging more broadly with communities and groups across Aberdeenshire.

Fundraising continues to ensure that, on completion in 2023, the redeveloped Castle and its outreach activities have the greatest effect and impact across the North-East. 

To learn more or donate to this ambitious community project please visit

The Australian Celtic Festival

A Celtic experience like no other set in the stunning Glen Innes Highlands, New South Wales. Witness the township embrace their Celtic Heritage and join in the festivities held among the Australian Standing Stones national monument. Glen Innes, located in regional New South Wales, proudly hosts the annual Australian Celtic Festival as one of their premier events on the first weekend in May, drawing visitors from all over Australia.

This year marks the 30th anniversary event and the theme celebrates the Celtic nations of Brittany, Cornwall and Wales with an action-packed program from the 28th of April until the 1st of May.

The main event

The Australian Standing Stones. Photo: Steve Wright.

Enjoy the major attractions at the Australian Standing Stones on Saturday the 30th of April and Sunday the 1st of May. Catch the live action jousting tournament or highland games and strongman competition where you can compete for the 2022 title. Keep the kids entertained with loads of activities, browse Celtic inspired market stalls, meet your clan and learn about your Celtic heritage or simply enjoy the broad range of Celtic music, dance or traditional fashions. The festival has an exciting line-up with many crowd favourites returning to the stages and a variety of soft delicate melodies and big Celtic rock sounds. Ella Roberts, Murphy’s Pigs, Highlander, Limerick and The Gathering are just some of the talented and award-winning artists performing.

In a festival first, you’ll witness the launch of Tara from the creators of A Taste of Ireland. This ultra-modern Irish dance show features all-female performers and stages untold stories of the ancient warrior women of Ireland. This show is a must see along with the many other dance performances throughout the weekend.  Those interested in the history of the ancient Celts and Vikings can’t go past the re-enactment village and jousting demonstrations. The New England Medieval Arts Society (NEMAS) is a social community offering a look at Celtic and Viking culture from over 1000 years ago. Explore the village and find cooking stews, roasting meats, traditional games, arts and crafts and the practise of military drills plus various demonstrations and battles throughout the day. Nova Hollandia will also be demonstrating live jousting tournaments on horseback. Highland Muscle will be leading the Highland Games and Strongman competition with traditional heavy events for both women and men. A chance for adults to see if they have what it takes to take out the title in putting the stone, caber toss, and farmers walk with prizes up for grabs.  

After a full day of adventure kick back at the Boar and Drum Bar and listen to the music with old friends and new in the welcoming atmosphere.

Events happening around town

Photo: Tony Grant.

During festival week there is a range of fun events happening around Glen Innes for visitors and the community, catering to all interests and ages. On Thursday the 28th of April, the Australian Celtic Festival hosts the official 100,000 Welcomes Concert at the Glen Innes and District Services Club. This is a taster of what’s to come and a popular event for early arrivers featuring performances by Asleep at the Reel, North and Elsewhere, Cape Byron Celtic Dance, Flashjack and Tara.

There will be a medieval long table dinner and entertainment on Friday 29th April with delicious meats and accompaniments in a rustic setting at the Australian Standing Stones and the Cantorian Sydney Male Voice Choir will be performing at the Glen Innes Chapel Theatre as part of their tour on Saturday the 30th April. Tickets are required for these events as spaces are limited. There are also some fantastic, free, family friendly activities to enjoy like the Street Parade where the official opening ceremony is held in the historic town centre and the crowds gather to watch the massed pipe bands, clans and societies marching in solidarity. Following the parade those who aren’t heading up to the festival can grab a bite from the main street and head to King Edward Park with their picnic blankets to join in the free entertainment at the Rotunda.

Find a place to stay

Glen Innes has many accommodation options to suit all budgets, from the humble motel to the luxurious and secluded farm stay, there’s also a great range of caravan parks and some free camping areas.  There’s also the option of seeing more of the beautiful New England High Country region in its peak Autumnal season by staying in Glen Innes’ surrounding villages and neighbouring towns that are under an hour’s drive to the festival.

Tickets for Australian Celtic Festival official events are on sale from 1st March 2022, available online at where you can also find the full program of events happening around Glen Innes or follow Australian Celtic Festival on Facebook and Instagram.

The Maid of the Loch – Paddle Restoration Campaign

A new campaign dedicated to restoring the paddles of the much loved Clyde-built paddle steamer, Maid of the Loch has been launched. The Maid of the Loch needs public support to raise funds for purchasing essential materials and equipment required to restore both port and starboard paddles. The monies raised with help procure new paddle floats, bearings and bushes as well as overhaul of the jenny nettles structure and painting of the interior of the paddle boxes. The ‘Jenny Nettles’ is the arrangement that makes the paddles feather resulting in more efficient propulsion. On the port side this is misaligned and requires significant refurbishment.

Replacement of the spring beams and the addition of ending/paddle turning gear are also required and are included in the restoration campaign aspirations. The current slipping will probably be of the longest duration on the journey to the ship sailing, so it is vital that the paddle work should be done now. Repairing the paddles is one of the most challenging jobs of the restoration process, however since most of the work is being undertaken by the dedicated team of volunteers involved at the ship it is possible to keep the costs at a much more manageable level.

Clyde-built ship engineering

Jim Mitchell, Industrial Heritage Director: “These funds will allow us to take the paddles to ‘as-new’ condition. The plan is for the ship to be returned to the Loch with all underwater work completed. This, along with the hull work will be a major leap forward towards the Maid sailing once more.”

The Maid is a magnificent example of Clyde-built ship engineering. Already a much-loved feature on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, she attracts thousands of visitors every year and, over the last 25 years, a loyal band of volunteers has focused every available hour on her recovery and conservation. With public support the Loch Lomond Steamship charity hope to safely steer the Maid to a new phase of her life, relaunching her as a fully operational paddle steamer on Loch Lomond. If we can show public support for the paddle refurbishment then we have a pledge from a benefactor to a generous amount of £15,000. All those who contribute to the appeal will be given exclusive access to a new online virtual tour of the entire ship.

The Maid of Loch is the last paddle steamer to be built in the UK and on the Clyde, it is also the largest to be built for an inland waterway.

Crowdfunder campaign link and video:—paddle-restoration-campaign Donations to return the Maid to sailing can also be made through their dedicated website,

The 1,000 Years Hike -Walking the West Highland Way

By: Nick Drainey

With a combined lifetime which would span a millennium, a group of sixteen friends aged sixty-plus are travelling from across the world to undertake the gruelling 96 miles of the West Highland Way. Stu’s Band of Brothers, most of whom first knew each other at school in Dundee, want to walk the long-distance footpath over some of the most beautiful and mountainous terrain in the UK to raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK, following the of one of their friends Stuart Fraser.

The Way

Buachaille Etive Mòr from the Devil’s Staircase.

Stuart’s younger brother Garry said: “The name of our mission – The 1,000 Years Hike – derives from the sum total of our ages. We are travelling from across the world, from Scotland, England, Switzerland, Canada and Singapore. Few of us have the opportunity for regular walking in this kind of terrain, but some of the Brothers are experienced walkers with a couple who have already completed the Way.” Garry is one of the more experienced of the 16-strong group. “I’ve done the Way twice already, both times for charity,” he says. “And after the second I decided to call it a halt. You can get too much of a good thing! However, when I heard about this venture, I couldn’t say no to having another crack at it. Doing it with some of Stuart’s closest friends is an added bonus. Not only that, but Prostate Cancer UK was a great help to Stuart latterly, and I know hundreds of other sufferers have benefited from their support. So it was, as they say, a ‘no brainer’. I was a bit younger when I first did it, and all I really had to worry about was how to dodge midges. Now, my concentration is on dodging not only these wee beasties, but also avoiding sore knees and sore ankles! Still, we have our resident medic with us, a retired GP. I fancy he will have his work cut out!”

Stuart Fraser.

Stuart, originally from Dundee, passed away last September and for many of the group the challenge this May has a bittersweet feeling. Gordon Emslie was brought up in Broughty Ferry but now works in Singapore with a family home in Victoria, Canada. He says: “As an expat Scot and having been away from ‘home’ for forty-one years, the opportunity to walk the West Highland Way is undoubtedly a bucket list item. To have the pleasure to walk across Rannoch Moor, a place I have on many occasions remarked to be one of the most pleasurable and scenic places in the world, will be a great joy. Returning to Scotland even if only for a short time, it will be fantastic to reminisce and reacquaint myself not only with my long-standing (as opposed to old) friends but also with my great desire for haggis and bagpipes. Whilst it may not be the right time of year for the haggis, I will nonetheless keep an eye open for the beasties, if only on the local menus. The downside of this great adventure is that the walk is now in honour of our good friend Stuart Fraser. I know he will be with us on the walk which means we can expect a few thunderstorms along the way as he will no doubt introduce a few challenges for us. I can already see the wry smile on his face! He was a great friend, bringing laughter and support wherever he went. He was always quick with a quip but also possessed good common sense, keeping us all grounded.”

Strenuous hillwalking

Crossing Rannoch Moore.

Bobby McMahon also moved to Canada from Dundee. He left in 1979 and has not returned since 1992, so catching up with old friends will be a big of the challenge for him. He says: there are a number of reasons he accepted a place: “The challenge, the comradery, reconnecting with friends that meant so much to me during the formative years (and continue to do so) and contributing to a great cause.” And he is no doubt Stuart would be thrilled if he was there: “He would be looking forward to this immensely and wondering what tricks and daftness he could get up to.”

The West Highland Way, from Milngavie to Fort William, is usually completed in six to eight, difficult days. As well as the mountainous terrain, the unpredictable Highland weather can often delay walkers, as well as testing their resolve. The official website warns: “The West Highland Way involves some strenuous hillwalking … at times the route can be quite remote from roads and services. So, it is essential that you are well prepared and take the right advice.”

Bobby hopes his training in Canada will put him in good stead. He says: “After living on the Canadian Prairies for over 40 years my Canadian wife and I moved to Kelowna in British Columbia last August. Within a couple of weeks we started to hike, and we have over 50 under our belts already. If we had stayed in Winnipeg all the training in the world would not have helped as the Prairies are as flat as a billiard table.”

Meanwhile, Gordon Emslie has also been training but not quite as intensively. He is, however, undeterred. He says: “I am not sure how this mixed bag of aging cronies will cope with the challenge however it will be fun, and I am certainly looking forward to the ‘wee saunter’. As for my fitness, apart from hacking out my own trails around golf courses I have undertaken little in the way of hiking since I was a member of the 10th Broughty Ferry Scout Group some 50 years ago. I anticipate my own personal challenge!”

To support Stu’s Band of Brothers on their quest to complete the West Highland Way, and to make donation, see:

2022 Te Anau Tartan Festival another Covid casualty

It is with very heavy hearts that the Te Anau Tartan Festival committee announces the cancellation of its 2022 event. Chairman Chris Watson said the group had been excited about the events planned for this year and the huge numbers of people it would have brought to the town in New Zealand’s southland, which has been suffering from a lack of tourists since the borders closed in 2020.

However, after exploring all possible options, the committee determined there was just no way the festival could go ahead with the COVID-19 Protection Framework at Red and a predicted surge in Omicron cases still to come.

Back in 2023

The Te Anau Tartan Festival will be back in 2023.

Chris continued; “We will be working very hard in the coming months to resecure our special guests, and look forward to offering the same, if not better, programme at Easter weekend next year (7th-10th April 2023). We have had an overwhelmingly positive response from those we have contacted already, but we’re also mindful of the blow this will deal the local accommodation and hospitality industry which were looking forward to the economic injection the festival promised,” he said.

Full refunds will be offered to those who had already entered competitions or purchased show tickets.

“If you have booked accommodation, we would urge you to consider coming anyway, supporting our local operators, and exploring Fiordland and everything we have to offer,” Watson said.

For more information about the Te Anau Tartan Festival see:

The 2022 National Tartan Day Award for Outstanding Leadership in the Scottish American Community Chosen

Robert Currie, Commander of the Name and Arms of Currie to be Honoured in Alexandria, VA

The Scottish Coalition USA has announced the selection of the 20th Annual National Tartan Day Award to Robert “Bob” Currie, Commander of the Name and Arms of Currie for his outstanding contribution as community leader and volunteer to our Scottish American community.

“We were unanimous is our choice of awardee. Bob Currie has devoted more than 30 years to supporting and promoting Scottish-American culture in the USA, from developing the outstanding Tartan Week festival for the past 20 years at Ellis Island every year during Tartan Week to producing the Pipes of Christmas concerts, both are now recognized as leading annual calendar events of the Scottish American diaspora. This together with Bob’s tireless work in support of the Learned Kindred of Currie and promotion of Gaelic culture makes him such an outstanding recipient.”

Currie commented, “First and foremost, I’m very grateful for the recognition from the award committee. Having remained faithfully committed to my love of Scotland for decades, I don’t really seek accolades, I work for the joy of introducing people of Scots descent into their wonderful and historic heritage. It’s all the better still when I see non-Scots or “affiliate” Scots, as we call them, share in this experience.”

Currie continued, “It is especially profound for me to receive this honor in its 20th year. This is a year of so many important anniversaries for me. I made my first trip to Scotland exactly 40 years ago in 1982. I formed the Currie Society ten years later in 1992. This year also marks the 20th year since we started our ‘Tartan Day on Ellis Island’ program. Ten years ago this year, we began rallying our Kindred via social media on Facebook and Twitter and now enjoy a strong worldwide following. And now we’re here in 2022 and I’ve just signed on as a staunch supporter of the new Lord Lyon Society and added a new music scholarship to our educational programming. It’s truly amazing how one trip to Scotland would change my life forever.”

“While I love all of Scotland, her beautiful country, history and warm and welcoming people, I must confess that my ‘Highland Heart’ belongs to the Island of Arran. It was from here in 1828 that my 3x great grandfather made the brave journey across the Atlantic to establish our family in Canada and later the US. I think about Neil and Flora Currie and often wonder what they think of all this celebration of family. I hope they are proud. Coincidentally, I was raised in a town called Scotch Plains! As you might surmise, the town was settled by Scots in 1684.”

The presentation is part of the Scottish Coalition’s and the National Tartan Day Capitol Committee’s Tartan Day Commemoration Event. The Commemoration will include with readings, music and messages from various Scottish American organizations across the USA celebrating Tartan Day locally in their own ways. The 2022 National Tartan Day Award will be awarded to Currie at a ceremony in Alexandria, VA on April 5, 2022.

About Robert Currie

Currie is a respected leader in the Scottish American community and has been involved in ethnic affairs and historic preservation for the last 30 years.

Following an international call for nominations, he was unanimously elected Commander of the Name and Arms of the Currie family – a Scottish bardic dynasty dating back to the 13th century. The election was held in Glasgow, Scotland in 2017 and affirmed by the Lord Lyon, King of Arms in 2018 at a celebration in Edinburgh. Bob recently became a member of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.

In his book, “Scottish Clans and Tartans,” noted author and historian Ian Grimble wrote, “Through the MacMhuirichs (Curries) the Literary Torch of in the Western Islands was preserved for generations. They were recognized as the as the most illustrious body of learned men who were specialists in the heroic literature and genealogy of the ancient Gaelic world.”

Currie, along with the support and guidance of the Scots Gaelic community reestablished the once famed literary dynasty by forming a family society in 1992. Now a “Learned Kindred” as opposed to a Highland Clan, the far-flung Curries have grown from strength to strength, now counting thousands in their membership rolls and multiple social media outlets on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter among others.

The Society’s signature events include “Tartan Day on Ellis Island” (founded in 2002) and the award-winning “Pipes of Christmas” concerts now in its 24th year. The Society has distributed thousands of dollars in scholarships to deserving students in the US, Canada, and Scotland.

The Society is also the Title Sponsor of the US National Scottish Harp Championship and was at the forefront of developing cultural heritage tents specifically for harp, fiddle and Gaelic singing at Scottish games in the United States.

Currie was instrumental in forming the Bonnie Brae Scottish Games in Millington, NJ in 1986. From 1993 to 2002, Currie served as Chairman of the Ethnic Advisory Council for the State of New Jersey. Robert was appointed by Governor Whitman to the NJ Advisory Committee on the Preservation and Use of Ellis Island in 1998. In 2000, the committee’s work developed into the Save Ellis Island Foundation where Mr. Currie currently serves as Director and Secretary. 

In recognition of his years of service to the Scottish American community, Bob received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2017. He has also received an Honorary Doctorate from Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland and was also the recipient of the Saltire Award from St. Andrew’s University in Laurinburg, North Carolina.

In November of 2017, Bob received the International Gaelic Leader Award from Scotland’s Bòrd na Gàidhlig – the departmental public body of the Scottish Government with responsibility for Gaelic. It was established in 2005 and is based in Inverness. Bob is also an inaugural Supporters of the new Lord Lyon Society in Edinburgh.

Currie dedicates the award to his wife and daughters who have provided unwavering support and inspiration for his long road back to the Isles.

Bonnie Jean Cameron

This year is the 250th anniversary of the death of Jean Cameron. Jean led 300 men to the raising of the Jacobite standard at Glenfinnan in 1745, even though she was a woman. Anti-Jacobites started many rumours about her, including that she was Bonnie Prince Charlie’s mistress, she had a wooden leg, she died of poverty in a stairwell in Edinburgh, and she wore men’s clothes, all to blacken her name and that of the Jacobites. In fact, after the failure of the 45, she moved to near what is now East Kilbride and though a devout Catholic, supported the local Presbyterian school, and it was said helped many poor Highlanders who visited her there as Judy Vickers explains.

She was, some claimed, a wanton debauched hussy, thrown out of school while still a youngster for her scandalous behaviour, who fathered children out of wedlock, and who became the mistress of a prince. Others said she was a mannish Amazonian, who wore male clothes, enjoying fighting duels and marched into battle at the head of her forces. In fact, it is just possible that Jean Cameron of Glendessary was a dignified noblewoman and a Jacobite loyalist whose biggest crime was to bring 300 men to Glenfinnan when Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard in 1745 at a time when many thought women should stay at home and stay quiet.

This month marks International Women’s Day on March 8 with a call to break down gender stereotypes – historic stereotypes which Jean paid a heavy price for due to her bravery in answering the call by clan chief Cameron of Lochiel to support the Young Pretender, as, in the absence of her brothers John and Allan, she was factor of the family estates in Morvern.

The Jacobite cause

Bonnie Prince Charlie. Photo: Allan Ramsay/Wikimedia Commons.

In the years following the ‘45 uprising, when Charles Edward Stuart, grandson of King James VII (II of England) attempted to take back the throne of Britain which his family had lost to William of Orange in 1688, her reputation was dragged through the mud – plays, ballads and books were written about her, mostly for anti-Jacobite propaganda and the details of her life became more lurid with each retelling. In fact, following the ill-fated rising’s defeat at Culloden in 1746, Jean – often called Jenny or Jeanie – bought an estate in Lanarkshire and opened a school for orphaned children, living quietly until her death in 1772, 250 years ago this year.

Her death is one of the few definite facts known about Jean despite the outpouring of words about her, leading her to become a byword for all that was wrong with the female sex in the 18th century.

It is believed that she was born around 1698 into a lesser branch of Clan Cameron, although through her mother she was related to the Cameron of Lochiel, the hereditary clan chief. Her immediate family held land in Morvern and were well-known supporters of the Stuart cause – her father had joined the 1715 uprising. According to one account she was sent to school in Edinburgh but became embroiled in a sex scandal while still a teenager and had to be sent to a convent in France by her family. But her behaviour there did not improve and she ended up being returned to Scotland. The account, however, is found in James Ray’s Complete History of the Rebellion from its rise in 1745 to its total suppression. He was a staunch Hanoverian who followed the Jacobite army from Carlisle to Derby in 1745 so that he could provide information to the Duke of Cumberland, leader of the British forces.

Other accounts say that she was married to a distant member of the Cameron clan and was widowed, or wed to an Irish officer called O’Neill who treated her badly and from whom she fled back to her childhood home. Whatever the truth, she was back in Scotland, looking after the family’s estates as her brothers John and Allan had travelled abroad before the prince called on the Highlands to rise in his cause.

She is said to have ridden at the head of 300 men, the Glendessary estate’s quota of men required to turn out at the command of their clan chief, Donald Cameron of Lochiel who supported the Jacobite cause.

Accounts strongly differ as to her appearance at the prince’s camp, though. According to Archibald Arbuthnot in A Brief Account Of The Life And Family Of Miss Jenny Cameron: The Reputed Mistress Of The Pretender’s Eldest Son, she arrived in a “sea-green riding habit, with a scarlet lapel, trimmed with gold, her hair tied behind in loose curls with a velvet cap and scarlet feathers . . instead of a whip, she carried a naked sword in her hand. A female officer was a very extraordinary sight, and it being reported to the young chevalier, he went out of the lines to meet this supply; Miss Jenny rode up to him without the least concern, and gave him a soldier-like salute.”

A lady of distinguished family, character and beauty

Glenfinnan, Loch Shiel. Photo: J. Drevet/Wikimedia Commons.

However, Aeneas MacDonald, one of the seven men of Moidart, captured after Culloden and exiled, later described her arrival rather differently; “Among the rest was the famous Miss Jeanie Cameron, as she is commonly, though very improperly called, for she is a widow nearer fifty than forty years of age. She is a genteel, well-looking handsome woman with a pair of pretty eyes and hair as black as jet. She is of a very sprightly genius and is very agreeable in conversation.” According to his account Jean didn’t accompany the army and was only with the prince “in public when he had his court in Edinburgh.”

Nevertheless, the idea of female soldier was a gift to the anti-Jacobite propagandists. In 1746 a musical play was performed at Drury Lane called Harlequin Incendiary or Columbine Cameron and popular ballads were written about her including Bonnie Jean Cameron, which included the line: “She prayed to the saints and bade the angels defend her, and sank in the arms o’ the Young Pretender.” Arbuthnot’s account also claimed she had had several children out of wedlock. She was also often mixed her up with another Jenny Cameron, who was taken prisoner by government forces in 1746 – this Jenny Cameron was in fact a milliner from Edinburgh. Whatever the truth, her name had become a byword for notoriety in the aftermath of the defeat at Culloden and the suppression of the Highlands.

A collection of memoirs printed almost ninety years after Culloden has a tale of a shopper buying snuff in Edinburgh when a beggar entered. Without speaking a word, the shopkeeper handed the beggar a coin, which was taken silently and the beggar left. The customer, however, having noticed the elegant hand of the beggar, asked the shopkeeper for more details and was told it was Jean Cameron who had followed the prince to France but been cast off, then rejected by her family on her return to Scotland.

And in Robert Chambers’ Traditions of Edinburgh, published in 1825, an even more tragic picture was painted: “Jeanie Cameron, the mistress of Prince Charles Edward, was seen by an old acquaintance of ours standing upon the streets of Edinburgh, about the year eight-six. She was dressed in men’s clothes and had a wooden leg. The celebrated and once attractive beauty, whose charms and Amazonian gallantry had captivated a prince, afterwards died in a stair-foot somewhere in the Canongate.”

In fact, in 1751, Jean bought the estate and mansion of Blacklaw near what is now the town of East Kilbride and renamed it Mount Cameron. Writing twenty years after her death, a local minister said she was remembered as “a lady of distinguished family, character and beauty”. She was also said to be “informed, intelligent and graceful”. Another said many poor Highlanders came to visit her in her new home and she was said to have opened a school for Highland children orphaned in the ‘45.

Why she left her beloved Highlands isn’t known although her notoriety and the repressive measures inflicted on the areas loyal to the prince may have been the cause. She asked to be buried back near her childhood home but her grave is at Mount Cameron. It now lies in an open area in a suburb which has built up around it but is marked by a cairn built in 1995 of stone brought from Acharn in Morvern.

Main photo: Jean Cameron. Photo: National Library of Scotland/Wikimedia Commons.

The Bundanoon Highland Gathering Returns

After the mists have risen at dawn, the town of Bundanoon becomes Brigadoon for a day (even the name on the station changes to Brigadoon!) The main street is closed and there is a bustle of activity as people prepare for the big parade. Visitors from all over Australia are making their way to Brigadoon (over 10,000 of them).

This annual event began on 21 October 1978, its principal aim to raise funds for local charities and bring tourists to Bundanoon in particular and the Southern Highlands in general thereby benefiting local businesses, guesthouses and hotels. Continuing to this day, “Bundanoon is Brigadoon” has become one of the most successful events staged in the area. From its humble beginnings of a handful of pipe bands and spectators, and is recognised worldwide and has grown to into one of the finest Highland Gatherings in Australia

A day of Scottish celebration

This great family day out draws in people from far and wide to the stunning NSW Southern Highlands for a day of Scottish celebration and numerous events which cater to everyone including: The Street Parade with pipe bands, marching Clans and Scottish societies and floats, Massed Pipes and Drums display, Scottish Country Dancing and Scottish Highland Dancing, individual pipe band performances throughout the day at 3 locations around the oval, Bonnie Bairns Competition for children under 5 years, Sydney Scottish Fiddlers, Children’s Games traditional and not so traditional, The Tartan Warriors-Lifting the Bundanoon Stones, The Australian Highland Heavy Weight Championship, and much more.

The Bundanoon Highland Gathering takes place on Saturday April, 2nd in Bundanoon, NSW.  Early bird tickets are now available and to learn more see:

The Drought is nearly over smash-hit period drama Outlander returns

The highly anticipated Season 6 return of epic drama series Outlander will premiere this month, putting to an end the two year ‘Droughtlander’ some have been experiencing. Production in Scotland of the hit international show was delayed due to the Covid pandemic, and this season will be eight episodes, less than the average 12-13 episode seasons. Season 6 will be however launching with an extended ninety-minute episode, new episodes will then premiere weekly.

Sophie Skelton as Brianna Fraser.

The Outlander television series is inspired by Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book series whose first eight books have sold an estimated 50 million copies worldwide, with all of them gracing the New York Times best-seller list. The television series has already been renewed for a seventh season. Outlander spans the genres of romance, science-fiction, history and adventure in one epic tale. It follows the story of Claire Randall, a married combat nurse from 1945, who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743 Scotland. When forced to marry Jamie Fraser, a chivalrous young Scottish warrior, Claire’s heart is torn between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

Fraser’s Ridge

Caitriona Balfe as Claire Fraser and Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser.

Season six of Outlander based on Gabaldon’s book A Breath of Snow and Ashes, picks up where the fifth season left off after Claire Fraser (Caitríona Balfe) had just escaped a violent encounter with Lionel Brown (Ned Dennehy) and returned to Fraser’s Ridge. The sixth season of Outlander sees a continuation of Claire and Jamie’s fight to protect those they love, as they navigate the trials and tribulations of life in colonial America. Claire and husband Jamie MacKenzie Fraser (Sam Heughan) now strive to maintain peace and flourish within a society which, as Claire knows all too well, is unwittingly marching towards Revolution.

Richard Rankin as Roger MacKenzie.

They must defend their home, established on land granted to them by the Crown, not only from external forces, but also from the increasing strife and conflict in the community within their care. For the Frasers and their immediate family, “home” is more than simply a site in which they live, it is the place where they are laying the foundations for the rest of their lives. For the Frasers and their immediate family, ‘home’ is more than simply a site in which they live, it is the place where they are laying the foundations for the rest of their lives. If season four asked ‘What is home?’ and season five asked, ‘What are you willing to do to protect your home?’ then season six explores what happens when there is disharmony and division among the inhabitants of the home you’ve created: when you become an outsider, or an ‘outlander,’ so to speak, marginalized and rejected in your own home.

Season 7

Claire and Jamie.

The series lead actor Sam Heughan told Starz about Season 6, “Jamie’s past almost catches up with him… or comes back to haunt him, per se. We meet some characters that come back into Jamie’s life and some are good and some are more unsettling.” He added, “This season, we’ve had the build-up to this War of Independence, this revolution, and Jamie Fraser’s very much been part of that. He’s been on the side of the British. He knows they’re the losing side. As we get closer to that point, the stakes are higher… but also Fraser’s Ridge, there’s a revolution within the home as well.”

Production of the seventh season was confirmed in 2021 with production yet to start.  Season 7 will be based on Diana Gabaldon’s novel Echo in the Bone and will be pleasing for fans as it will be an extended 16-part season. US writer Diana Gabaldon released the ninth Outlander book late in 2021 called Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, and has committed to 10 books in the Outlander series.

Are you an Outlander fan? Do you have a favourite character, storyline or book? Share your story with us by email, post, or social media.

Images coutesy of Starz.

Outlander returns on Sunday March 6, 2022 at 9pm on Starz. Season 6 of Outlander will screen on the W Network in Canada.

Outlander returns on Monday March 7, 2022 at 7pm On Demand on FOXTEL, and available to watch 9pm every Monday on FOX ONE. Season 6 of Outlander will screen on Neon in New Zealand.

The 2022 Virginia International Tattoo Marches On in 2022

The largest spectacle of music and might in the United States, The Virginia International Tattoo will MARCH ON April 28 – May 1 with a triumphant return to Scope Arena in Norfolk, Virginia. Celebrating its 25th anniversary season, the 2022 Tattoo features an all-new international cast, a musical tribute to “March King” John Philip Sousa, and an emotional celebration of the resilience of the human spirit. 

Bringing together hundreds of performers from not only across the USA, but internationally, must be quite a challenge, can you tell us more this year’s cast and participating countries? 

The Grant brothers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

VIT: Highlights of this year’s Virginia International Tattoo (VIT) include:  Band of the Netherlands Mounted Arms Regiment – “The Bicycle Band” – in their 4th appearance at Virginia International Tattoo, WWI Era uniforms and history of Dutch bicycle cavalry and modern brass band excellence. Pipes and Drums of the Highlanders, 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland will make their second trip to the Tattoo. One of the most historic Pipe Bands in the world. Pipe Major CSgt Peter Grant served as the lone piper at the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Pipe Major CSgt Grant serves alongside his brother Drum Major Sgt Ruaridh Grant, the first siblings to hold the appointments of Pipe Major and Drum Major at the same time in the history of The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Jordanian Armed Forces Band and Jordanian Armed Forces Pipes and Drums return to the Tattoo as they Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Kingdom of Jordan. A strong British influence remains strong from the Transjordan Mandate of the early 1920s when the British helped set up and train the protectorate’s army following WWII.  

Virginia International Tattoo Dance Company – A total of 32 dancers from 3 nations. Led by Aileen Robertson, a well know Highland Dance instructor from Scotland, whose first Tattoo was the Virginia International Tattoo in 2006, went on to become the director of Highland Dance at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. During that process we wrote a letter of recommendation with a contingency, that she could come back to Virginia! We are thrilled that Aileen is returning to lead our first ever Virginia International Tattoo Highland Dance Group. 

The U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps is the only unit of its kind in the U.S. Armed Forces. The musicians of this unit recall the days of the American Revolution as they perform in uniforms patterned after those worn by the musicians of General George Washington’s Continental Army. Musicians of the highest calibre, the Corps uses 10-hole fifes, handmade rope-tensioned drums and single-valve bugles, which bring to life the exciting sounds of the Continental Army. 

U.S. Marine Forces Reserve Band will return with pulse pounding music and their signature re-enactment of the Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima is an iconic photo of U.S. Marines raising the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in the final stages of the Pacific War. All members of the band are trained riflemen and fulfill Corps-wide physical fitness and combat training requirements, just like any other active-duty Marine. The band is prepared to “Fight Tonight” and can be called upon to provide security, both domestically and overseas, by order of the Commander, Marine Forces Reserve. 

Andy Carlisle’s Tartan Army is a gathering of many of top solo pipers and drummers in the United States, many who have won national championships, as well as awards at international competitions. The majority are students and contemporaries of Highland Bagpipe Soloist Andrew Carlisle, who has been with the Virginia International Tattoo for over ten years. Recruiting pipe bands during a pandemic proved challenging so Carlisle invited some of his students and former students to come and form a “pick-up” band to enhance the Tattoo Massed Pipes and Drums. All embraced the opportunity and are sure to be a very strong musical ensemble. 

U.S National Scottish Fiddle Champion Seán Heely is one of the most creatively versatile and captivating young artists of his generation. He is a as well as an award-winning Irish Fiddler and singer in the folk and Gaelic traditions of Scotland and Ireland. Seán holds a degree from University of South Carolina in Classical Violin Performance and has performed in Scotland, Ireland, and at across the United States. 

Additional U.S. Military performers including the U.S. Air Force Heritage of America Band, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Herald Trumpets, U.S. Marine Corps FAST Company and U.S. Navy Fleet Forces Band. 

The Tattoo also has its very own tartan, can you tell us more? 

VIT: The Virginia International Tattoo is embracing Scottish Tattoo tradition with its own tartan design.  The tartan is the inspiration of Virginia Arts Festival Board Chairman, Jim Hixon and therefore named the Virginia International Tattoo Hixon Tartan. 

The tartan was designed in Scotland by Alastair Dunn, award winning bag piper and Pipe-Sergeant of nine-times World Champions Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band.  The fabric was loomed by R.G. Hardie & Company, Ltd in Glasgow, Scotland.  

Tartan is a pattern consisting of crisscrossed horizontal & vertical bands in multiple colors.  The tartan is particularly associated with Scotland.  The colors of the Virginia International Tattoo Hixon Tartan, steeped in tradition and bound to its roots, perfectly demonstrate the rich heritage the Tattoo celebrates and the great state in which it resides.  The dominate blue, “Festival Blue”, embodies the Virginia Arts Festival and pays tribute to those who bring the arts to life.  The red, white and blue threads intricately woven throughout the tartan symbolize the patriotic themes and the heart-stirring performances synonymous with the Tattoo.  The Virginia Flag and the Norfolk Seal are illustrated by the blue hues interlacing the tartan.  And the grey stripes proudly guarding the red, white and blue remind of us the massive grey hulls that guard our harbor and the mighty jets whose presence overhead keep us ever mindful of the men and women who sacrifice for our freedom. 

The Tattoo is really an all-ages event, with a great school outreach program, and offers something for the whole family. How rewarding is it to host an event that crosses generations and brings in people to Virginia from across the country and the world? 

VIT: The Tattoo has the ability to connect across generations. One of our guests wrote about the Tattoo, “This was the first time in our family’s history that we were able to sit through an ENTIRE performance with ALL eyes watching, ALL mouths smiling, ALL minds engaged, ALL fingers and feet at peace, ALL hearts happy. Thank you for this special night. It is now our family’s annual favorite event!” 

Can you tell us about the Tattoo rehearsal process? Is it very difficult because of the large amount of participants?  

Jordanian Armed Forces Pipes and Drums.

VIT: There are some unique rehearsal challenges for the Tattoo. Musical rehearsals are relatively straight forward. All of the performers receive music well in advance and we can usually get the music polished up in one rehearsal. The overall choreography is what is most difficult. Getting every person, musical instrument, microphone, lighting instrument, video camera, and Flag in the right place at the right time is a very involved process. I rely on a production team of more than 100 to help make it happen.  

How do you prepare yourself for each performance? 

VIT: We do a production meeting following each rehearsal and student matinee to review any and all production challenges that need to be addresses. It is important to address any changes with the entire team because one person deciding on their own to “improve” something seemingly innocent can affect a lot of other people in ways that they can’t imagine. From the moment that meeting ends until the next performance begins the team is trusted to implement the changes as discussed.  

Is there anything else you want to share about the 2022 Virginia International Tattoo? 

The Netherlands Mounted Arms Regiment.

VIT: The 2022 Virginia International Tattoo – our Silver (25th anniversary edition)– will be an extraordinary homecoming for all involved. The Tattoo will return to its long-time home at Scope arena in Downtown Norfolk, Virginia; our international performers will be back with a renewed desire to share their music, culture and traditions; and the free preshow Tattoo Hullabaloo will once again wow crowds for hours every day. 

The Virginia International Tattoo will take place April 28-May 1st at Scope Arena in Norfolk, Virginia. Tickets and Information:, by phone at 757-282-2822. 

Newly restored Burns statue unveiled in Leith

Leith’s iconic Burns statue has been returned to its home on Bernard Street, as Scotland prepares to celebrate the national bard. The 19th century bronze sculpture was put into storage in December 2019 to make way for Trams to Newhaven construction. It has since undergone specialist conservation work before its reinstatement at Bernard Street’s junction with Constitution Street.

On the morning of Burns Night (Tuesday, 25 January), Council leaders, tram project officers and contractors were joined by conservationists and former Edinburgh Makar Alan Spence to unveil the monument. They also marked the placement of a new time capsule underneath the statue, alongside an original capsule discovered in 2019, which contained relics from both the late 19th century and the 1960s.

Home in Leith

Councillor Lesley Macinnes, Transport and Environment Convener, said: “I’m delighted to see this much-loved Robert Burns statue returned to its home in Leith and spruced up thanks to specialist conservation work. It’s fantastic that so many members of the community have been able to contribute to the new time capsule placed underneath the statue. Thanks to their input we’ll be able to share an insight into Leith today with future generations, just like our 19th century forebears did when they buried the original time capsule.”

In November the Trams to Newhaven project reached its two-year point and, despite challenges posed by the Covid pandemic, including a 13-week site shutdown, remains on track for opening for revenue service in Spring 2023. The entire section from York Place to London Road is expected to be completed in Autumn 2022.

On Tuesday, Alan Spence read out a specially written poem, which has been added to the 2021 time capsule created for the statue’s reinstatement. The capsule also contains poems and stories by Victoria Primary School pupils, a letter from the Edinburgh Burns Club, coins from 2021 and a face mask, amongst other artefacts. This has been placed in a purpose-carved socket in the plinth underneath the monument along with the original time capsule, which originates from when the statue was first erected in 1898. This was opened when the statue was moved in December 2019 and its contents include newspapers, coins and a letter from the Leith Burns Club. From 1961, there were newspapers and a letter from the people who had opened the original time capsule.

Loch Lomond- A story of Culloden

By: Dr Wade King

The song Loch Lomond is well-known by Scots. Most of us learnt it as children. The lyrics are not immediately clear; it is a lament about “me and my true love” but it does not say who they were. The story behind the song is true. “Me and my true love” were Robert King and his wife Janet Kissock who lived in Renfrewshire from 1673 to 1746. They courted in 1698 – 1700 and married in 1700, to be parted by his death 46 years later.

Robert King’s baptism was recorded on 3rd January 1673 in the Old Parish Registers of the parish of Kilbarchan [ref. O.P.R. 568/1053 Kilbarchan] as “Robert son lawful to James King and Agnes Ffairy”. His parents were from the Dudwick estate at Ellon in Aberdeenshire. They had to leave Dudwick because they belonged to the Scots Episcopalian church, were Tory by political persuasion and their families had supported King Charles I in the Civil Wars of 1638-1649. The King family of Ellon were attainted specifically by a 1644 Act of the Scots Covenanter (anti-Royalist) parliament because General James King, Lord Ythan, had led the Royalist army centre at the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644. Also in that Royalist army were James’s brothers William and John, sons of the King family of Barra in the Garioch district of Aberdeenshire. That William King was the grandfather of James King who married Agnes Ffairy.

In 1652 Cromwell led an English army into Aberdeenshire to kill Royalists or drive them from their lands. James King and Agnes Ffairy fled before Cromwell’s forces. With other Episcopalians and Tories, they moved south to Renfrewshire, a Whig area where Cromwell would be unlikely to seek them. Many settled around Paisley, near Glasgow. The local Presbyterians were generous in letting them worship in one of the side chapels of the Abbey in Paisley. This was named the Non-Conformist Chapel to disguise its congregation. The Episcopalian families recorded their baptisms and marriages in the Old Parish Registers there for generations. These Episcopalian records were thought by genealogists to be lost until a few years ago, when the current author discovered them hidden in plain sight in the Abbey registers.

Robert King grew up on the family farm in Kilbarchan with his father James King, his mother Agnes Ffairy, his younger brothers William and James, and his younger sister Janet. Robert is recorded as attending Kilbarchan Kirk on 30th June 1686. Members of the extended King family lived around the Clyde, with other Episcopalian families that had sought refuge in the 1650s. In childhood, the King children roamed the farmlands along the Clyde and later the hilly country north of the river, out to the Highland hills around Loch Lomond, where the boys hunted the wild red deer.

Janet Kissock

Janet Kissock was born around 1680 but no record of her birth has been found. She was the daughter of George Kissock of Cumnock in Ayreshire. He later moved his family to Auchinleck in Ayreshire.

In 1698 Robert King met and became enamoured of Janet Kissock. In 1699 Robert aged 26 and Janet about 19 were courting as “true loves”, roaming in the gloaming along the River Clyde and the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. They married in her family church in Auchinleck on 20th August 1700. They lived in Cumnock, Ayreshire and later in Beith, Renfrewshire, where Robert developed a farm and a mill. They had three sons, George born 1702, William born 1705 and James born 1707, and a daughter Janet born 1709.

Politics in Scotland became polarised between the Whigs in power in Edinburgh, supported by the Hanoverian government in London, and the Jacobites wanting restoration of a Stuart King, “the King over the water”, James VIII of Scots. In 1715 came the first major Jacobite rising, “the Fifteen”. Robert was a Tory, a Royalist and a Jacobite, like all his family, so he took his weapons and went to join the Jacobite army raised by John, Earl of Mar. Robert was then aged 42. He enlisted in Mar’s army and fought in the Battle of Sheriffmuir on 13th November 1715. The battle was indecisive and the surviving Jacobites retired. Robert went home to Beith and his soulmate, Janet Kissock.

Meanwhile, King James VIII’s son Charles Edward Stuart, remembered as Bonnie Prince Charlie, campaigned in France for a Stuart restoration. He pressed King Louis XV of France for financial and military support.

In 1745, Prince Charlie landed in western Scotland, raised his banner at Glenfinnan and declared he had come to reclaim his father’s throne. Robert, then aged 72, took his weapons and joined the Prince’s cause, enlisting in the Atholl Brigade being raised at Blair Atholl by Lord George Murray. Because of his experience, Robert was appointed the Brigade’s (only) Sergeant, or Training Officer. As such he taught the three battalions of the Atholl Brigade battle tactics, especially the Highland Charge, which involved a lot more than is commonly thought. Robert taught the clansmen to run forward, brandishing their weapons and shouting warlike slogans, until they were 20 feet from the Sassenach (English) line, then fire their muskets and pistols at the English, throw those weapons as hard as they could to injure the Sassenachs, then drop down as the English returned fire over them. Then, when the Sassenachs were reloading, Robert would shout the order for the Atholls to stand up, form wedges and hack into the Sassenachs with their broadswords and dirks.


Robert is listed in the muster roll of the Prince’s army as King but he took the nom-de-guerre of MacRae, the maiden name of his first daughter-in-law, because the King family had started to grow wealthy again, running ships from Port Glasgow to the American colonies, and he feared if he was captured under his real name the English would take vengeance on the family business.

Robert led the Atholl Brigade in the charge at Prestonpans on 21st September 1745, when General Cope’s English army was routed by the Scots. Robert continued serving the Prince in the Jacobites’ march into England in late 1745, when they reached Derby, and then the return march to Scotland. Later, Robert led the Atholl Brigade in another highland charge at Falkirk Muir on 17th January 1746, when the Scots defeated the Sassenachs again. Things seemed to be going the Scots’ way until the English Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, led a large, heavily armed English and Hanoverian army into Scotland to suppress the Rising. The Scots and Hanoverian armies came together at Culloden moor just east of Inverness on 16th April 1746.

At Culloden, Cumberland declared he would give the Jacobites “No Quarter”. Prince Charlie’s generals argued about whether to fight that day and if so the best tactics. Lord George Murray ordered Robert to lead the Atholl Brigade onto the moor on the right wing, the position of honour, while the generals continued arguing.

Robert formed up the Atholl Brigade’s second battalion on the moor and took his position in the middle of the front rank. They stood for twenty minutes while the English artillery bombarded them. Finally, Lord George Murray gave the order to charge. Robert led the Atholl’s in a highland charge down the right side of the battlefield. First, the Atholls came under musket fire from treacherous Campbells hidden behind walls on their right. Then the Atholls came under volley fire from Wolfe’s English infantry drawn up perpendicular to the main Sassenach line, so as to pour musket fire into the attacking Scots from their right flank. Robert led the Atholls into Wolfe’s regiment, and they did great slaughter there. Then Robert led them on into Barrel’s and Munro’s regiments of the main English line, and the Atholls did great slaughter again, although at the expense of heavy Jacobite casualties.

Robert fought with his broadsword and dirk for forty minutes, no mean feat for a man of 73 years. When he realised the battle was going against the Scots, Robert led an orderly withdrawal and the Atholl Brigade, or what was left of it, left the battlefield in good order with pipes playing, then dispersed into the Highlands.

A love bond

After Culloden, redcoat Sassenachtroops scoured the Highlands to hunt out Jacobites. They ravaged and killed Highlanders, whether Jacobites or not, killed their livestock and burnt their dwellings. In July 1746 Robert was captured and taken to Carlisle Castle in northern England, where he was confined in the dungeons with about 200 other Jacobite prisoners-of-war.

The English feared another Jacobite rising and wanted to ensure there were not enough Highlanders to form another Jacobite army. Initially they decided to execute all Jacobite prisoners-of-war in their keeping, as they had done with the Scots wounded and captured at Culloden. However, they also wanted to reach a political settlement with the Scots, so they decided to execute one in ten of their Jacobite prisoners and let the others go free. Because of his age, 73 years, Robert volunteered to be one of those executed, so allowing a younger man to go home.

On 18th October 1746 Robert and nineteen other Jacobite prisoners-of-war were taken from Carlisle Castle to nearby Harraby Hill. There they were executed by the atrocious English way of killing “traitors”, being hung, drawn and quartered. After the appalling process, their heads were placed on spikes over the castle gateway and their quartered body parts were sent to be displayed in four distant locations in England.

Robert’s execution inspired the words of the folksong Loch Lomond. The young Jacobite whom Robert saved “took the high road” (that is, he walked home) and Robert “took the low road” (was killed) but Robert was “in Scotland” (in spirit) “afore ye” (before the younger man reached home); but “me and my true love (Janet Kissock) would never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond” where they had courted 46 years before.

Thus, Loch Lomond is a love song, about a love bond that lasted almost 50 years. It is also a lament, about the severing of that bond by the Sassenachs when Robert and Janet might have lived together for many more years. It is a lament too for the Highland culture crushed by the Sassenachs after Culloden in the bloody aftermath of the battle and then the devastating Highland Clearances.

The author is the five-greats grandson of Robert King who led the charge at Culloden. He is immensely proud to be of Scots heritage and, in a sense, a son of Culloden, and is profoundly moved whenever he hears the tune Loch Lomond.

Are you a West Coaster?

Tourism group launches campaign to find kindred spirits.

Visit Wester Ross, a voluntary tourism association based in Wester Ross in the Scottish Highlands, has launched a campaign designed to attract visitors who have an affinity with Wester Ross and the people that live there.  Launched in January, Are you a West Coaster? comprises a series of films featuring West Coasters who run businesses in Wester Ross and are looking to develop sustainable tourism to the area, which is also designated a Biosphere by UNESCO. Douglas Gibson, Co-ordinator at Visit Wester Ross, explains what it means to be a West Coaster: “People living in Wester Ross share the same mindset. We are passionate about where we live, we treat our stunning natural environment and each other with respect and we are proud to welcome visitors from all over the world and share our home. But a key difference is that we take ‘Highland time’ – this landscape and our culture has developed over a long period of time and is not something that needs to be rushed. We think there are fellow West Coasters all over the UK and indeed the world. People who want something different, people who want an authentic experience in a place where people, place and land are inextricably linked, people who want to stay and spend quality time, not just pass through for a selfie. So, we are asking people to identify as a West Coaster and come and spend some quality, Highland time with us.”

Breath-taking landscapes

A series of films will be released featuring West Coasters in their places of work, talking about what it’s like to live in Wester Ross and the impression the area makes on visitors. Viewers will be introduced to the Mountaineer West Coaster, the Nature West Coaster, the Water West Coaster, the Cultural West Coaster and the Foodie West Coaster, each giving their perspective and asking the question: Are you a West Coaster? This campaign is the latest development in the tourism strategy for Wester Ross, supported by national efforts spearheaded by VisitScotland to develop sustainable tourism. Natasha Hutchison, General Manager of the Wester Ross UNESCO Biosphere, is proud that Wester Ross has been included in the world’s first UNESCO trail which was launched by VisitScotland last year.

Natasha highlights the significance of the UNESCO Biosphere designation for Wester Ross: “UNESCO Biospheres are often located in breath-taking landscapes and Wester Ross is no exception. This makes them wonderful places to visit. But living in a UNESCO Biosphere is about actively working towards a sustainable future and finding that delicate balance between development and conservation to ensure the wellbeing of our people and place for generations to come. We hope that this campaign strikes a chord with people and encourages visitors who are as passionate about Wester Ross as we are.”

Wester Ross was recognised as a Biosphere Reserve in 2016 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for the fantastic array of landscapes, wildlife and cultural heritage that the region offers. Biospheres house dynamic local partnerships, rooted in communities that work collaboratively with Biosphere teams in a global network, to explore how – through education, science, culture, communication and information – we can learn to live in harmony with our environment.

More information about Visit Wester Ross can be found at:

Scotland’s anthrax island

Tucked away in a secluded bay on Scotland’s west coast, the remote island of Gruinard concealed one of British Intelligence’s most deadly secrets for over half a century.  Gruinard Island is a small island approximately 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) long by 1 kilometre (0.6 mi) wide, located in Gruinard Bay. The island was selected by Second World War scientists as the perfect spot to test an anthrax bomb after the government of the day became anxious about Hitler’s capacity to develop biological weapons.  The experiment in 1942 was horrifically successful, in that it annihilated a flock of sheep and left the 520 acre island enshrouded in anthrax and out of bounds to any human being until 1990. Approximately 95% of people infected with anthrax die.

Gruinard’s importance

Even though particulars of the pollution programme were familiar locally, Gruinard’s importance was officially recognised in documents declassified in 1997. It was during the 1980s that Dr David Kelly (who tragically committed suicide after being involved in the controversy about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction), was head of microbiology at the Chemical Defence Establishment at Porton Down and oversaw the operation to decontaminate the island.  Cleaning and purifying an entire island proved a mammoth challenge, but ultimately it was accomplished in 1986 with the help of 280 tonnes of formaldehyde dissolved in seawater.

On 24 April 1990, after 48 years of quarantine and four years after the cleaning of Gruinard, the island was certified as safe and four years later a local crofter, John Robinson successfully reintroduced sheep. According to the wartime newspapers, scientists concluded that anthrax had ‘enormous potential’. The wartime government was so taken aback by this statement that it declared that “these forms of frightfulness” should play no role whatever in the war effort.

Today you can take kayaking tours around the island and take it in its beauty. However some experts still today insist that the island will remain dangerous for several hundred years, as it is simply impossible to destroy the remnants of the anthrax in its territory.

Actress Karen Gillan named Grand Marshal of 2022 NYC Tartan Day Parade

The National Tartan Day New York Committee is honored to announce award-winning Scottish actress Karen Gillan as Grand Marshal of the 2022 New York City Tartan Day Parade. The popular Scottish-themed event, entering its 24th year, will be held in midtown Manhattan on Saturday, April 9, 2022, returning in person for the first time since 2019. Gillan will helm the parade, followed by a lively procession of Pipe & Drum bands, Highland dancers, Scottish family clans, Shetlander Vikings and more. The annual celebration of Scottish heritage and culture brings together a rich tapestry of participants along with many thousands of spectators.

“I am absolutely delighted to represent Scotland in the next New York City Tartan Day Parade,” Gillan says. “I’m honored to help celebrate Scotland in America, and I look forward to playing a part in broadening the public’s awareness of Scotland’s history and cultural contributions.”

Karen Gillan is internationally known for her film, television and stage acting in productions including fan favorites from the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame, in addition to several other projects such as Gunpowder Milkshake, Jumanji, Jumanji: The Next Level, and Doctor Who. Her most recent credits include Dual and the upcoming The Bubble. She is currently in production on Marvel’s Guardian’s of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and it was recently announced that she will be voicing the title character in Rhona Who Lives by the River for Disney+. Gillan’s work has been recognized with multiple British film and television awards, such as an Empire Award and a National Television Award. She has additionally received a Teen Choice Award in the United States and nominations for a BAFTA Scotland Award and Saturn Award.

Gillan was born and raised in Inverness, Scotland. In addition to her impressive roster of acting credentials, she is also a filmmaker and garnered a Best Feature Film nomination from British Academy Scotland Awards for her Inverness-set film The Party’s Just Beginning.

Registration for the 2022 NYC Tartan Parade is now open. Groups and individuals are invited to march in the 24th Annual New York City Tartan Day Parade on Saturday, April 9, 2022 for free and can register by visiting:

The King at Pleasure and Prayer

By: David McVey

James IV is usually remembered as the tragic king who not only lost the Battle of Flodden in 1513, but also died on the field. In fact, he was a very much more complex and interesting figure who influenced both the world of the church and the world of the arts. One place where these interests came together was Linlithgow Palace.

Linlithgow figures prominently in the Flodden story; it was in St Michael’s Kirk (adjacent to the Palace and also surviving today) that, before Flodden, James reportedly saw a blue-gowned apparition that warned him not to march with his army to England. Well, we can take that, as all such stories, with a hefty pinch of salt but if James IV were to see a ghost when in church, he’d be likely to see it in St Michael’s for he regularly went to Linlithgow. He commissioned a number of developments and enhancements to the palace. It’s been called ‘James IV’s Pleasure Palace’, but it was also a place of prayer with its own Chapel Royal – as if St Michael’s Kirk wasn’t grand enough.

The arts

St Michael’s Chapel. Photo: David McVey.

James IV had one especially distinguishable characteristic; he travelled about his kingdom a great deal, being seen in public, carrying out engagements and making agreements with local power bases. This was a probably a deliberate contrast to his late father, James III (a lot of Stewarts were called James) who had been criticised for rarely venturing outside Edinburgh. James, by contrast, progressed, in traditional royal fashion, between his various palaces including Edinburgh, Linlithgow, Stirling Castle and Falkland.

James encouraged the arts. He ordered the completion of the Chapel Royal and the Great Hall at Stirling Castle (both of which we can still appreciate today) and poets like William Dunbar and Gavin Douglas were encouraged to flourish. James became the patron of King’s College, Aberdeen in 1505 and in 1507 licensed Scotland’s first printing press. Scottish sacred music also began to get noticed, Robert Carver being its key figure.

Carver was an Augustinian canon at Scone Abbey near Perth, but also a composer of church music. He is most notable, however, for compiling what is now known as the Carver Choirbook, a collection of polyphonic sacred music, which included some of his own compositions. The National Library of Scotland suggests that the Choirbook was put together at some point between 1513 and 1520 (ie, after James IV’s death), possibly for use in the chapel at Scone Abbey, or the Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle. However, it’s just possible that the collection was compiled a little earlier for use in the Chapel Royal at Linlithgow Palace in the presence of James IV.

James IV was devoted to the cult of St Catherine and was known to celebrate her feast day (November 25) at Linlithgow. His alleged spectral warning about Flodden came in the St Catherine’s Aisle of St Michael’s Kirk and he paid fifteen visits to a healing well at Liberton in Edinburgh that was dedicated to St Catherine. The well still survives, in the grounds of a restaurant, and is sometimes known as ‘the Oily Well’ because of the oil that naturally appears on the water from local shale deposits. It may be significant, then, that the Carver Choirbook includes a number of works referencing St Catherine.

The sound of live Renaissance worship

Inside Linlithgow Palace. Photo: David McVey.

Two research projects, involving Edinburgh University and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council – Space, Place, Sound and Memory and Hearing Historic Scotland – have been investigating the appearance, layout and acoustic properties of the Linlithgow Chapel Royal during James IV’s time. The aim is to enable people today to experience what the sound of live Renaissance worship was like. Linlithgow Palace is now mostly ruinous (though still impressive) and the Chapel Royal is a bare, roofless, windowless space. The researchers surveyed the existing chapel using laser technology and studied the likely furnishings and layout of the space in James IV’s time. The aim was to make recordings and to develop an app that would allow listeners to experience the music as it might have sounded in Linlithgow’s Chapel Royal in its heyday.

Informed by the Hearing Historic Scotland project, a CD was recorded and issued, composed of selections from the Carver Choirbook (although none of the chosen music is by Carver himself) including some pieces dedicated to St Catherine. The music was performed by the Binchois Consort, conducted by Andrew Kirkman. James VI is known to have celebrated Easter at Linlithgow in 1512, so the selections are designed to be a possible order of service for that occasion, performed in the presence of a king who reverenced St Catherine. Using the app, listeners can compare how the music would sound in the recreated chapel of 1512, with the sound in today’s cold bare space.

Renaissance sacred choral music may not be your cup of tea, but these studies add to our understanding of James IV. It’s remarkable how much of the world that he knew can still be visited today. The sacred well at Liberton is freely accessible and so are James’ royal palaces, although Stirling, especially, was much remodelled later by his son James V. Even the burial place of his parents, James III and Margaret of Denmark, can be visited at the site of Cambuskenneth Abbey, a quiet spot near Stirling.

Much of what we know about James concerns his piety; the chapels, the music, the sacred sites. There is also his Book of Hours, a spectacular illuminated prayer book created probably in Ghent, Belgium, and now held in the Austrian National Library in Vienna. And yet, in the strange world of the 15th and 16th centuries, he was able to combine his religiosity with a liberal love-life. He had several children by a string of mistresses.

James IV was a fascinating if not a particularly admirable man. Recent research now enables us to appreciate even the music he heard during his devotions. He was more than just the king who received a ghostly warning about an impending battle, ignored the warning, and rode out to his death.

You can see a sample page of the Carver Choirbook at the National Library of Scotland’s website:

Details of the Hearing Historic Scotland and Space, Place, Sound and Memory research can be found at:

Main photo: Linlithgow Palace. Photo: VisitScotland.

Scotland has a ‘golden opportunity’ to spark snow sports boom after two seasons effectively lost to Covid-19

A group of skiers standing above the entrance to the Back Corries at Nevis Range.

The Scottish ski season is ready to return with a bang after two lost years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s the view of Snowsport Scotland CEO Trafford Wilson, who believes the first full season since the beginning of the pandemic, ongoing uncertainty around overseas travel, plus the impact of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, create the perfect conditions for a snow sports boom in Scotland as its five resorts prepare to fully open this winter. More than 750,000 tickets are sold at Scottish snow sports venues every year in an industry worth more than £30 million to the nation’s economy annually. The Scottish Ski Industry (SSI) also supports a workforce of more than 1,000 people, as well as almost 50 elite athletes involved in the Snowsport Scotland performance programme, which includes stars such as freestyle skier Kirsty Muir. 

However, the pandemic has significantly restricted the last two winter seasons, meaning the upcoming 2021/22 ski season is pivotal to the recovery and future of the industry in Scotland. The past two years have been challenging for the Scottish snow sports industry – with the stop-start disruption of the pandemic grinding ticket sales to a halt, resulting in snow sport facilities facing a £20m reduction in revenue.  Snowsport Scotland, the governing body overseeing Scottish snow sports activity at all levels, independently verified Snowsport facility losses from the pandemic over the past two winter seasons – even accounting for mitigation from furlough, redundancies, and deferred capital payments – are more than £12m.

Look to Scotland this winter season

However, despite the difficulties, Mr Wilson, who marks four years at the helm of Snowsport Scotland in May, believes Covid-19 provided opportunity by putting the industry under the magnifying glass and highlighting its importance to Scotland’s economy and tourism industry. He said: “While Covid has been a massive headache to say the least, particularly the stop and start nature of it, it’s also provided the opportunity to gain heightened support from the Scottish Government and other agencies and promoted the national importance of the snow sports industry.  Snow sports matters in Scotland. As evidenced through independent research the snow sports industry injects £30m into the Scottish economy every year, supports a workforce of more than 1,000 professionals, plays an important role in tourism, and allows literally hundreds of thousands of people each year to enjoy the physical and mental benefits that snow sport activities offer.”

In response to the many financial setbacks spurred on by Covid-19, the Scottish Government provided a £7m “ski centre fund” to safeguard Scotland’s commercially run snow sport centres – Nevis Mountain Range, Glencoe Mountain Resort, The Lecht Ski Centre, Glenshee Ski Centre, Bearsden Snowsports Centre, Snow Factor – Glasgow, Newmilns Snowsports Centre and Glasgow Ski and Snowboard Centre.

However, for the centres and the communities around them to thrive, Mr Wilson believes more investment is needed, which will hopefully be achieved in part, by strong ticket sales in the coming winter season.  With thousands of people also facing uncertainty due to the ever-changing quarantine rules in European countries, Mr Wilson hopes more people may look to Scotland this winter season.  

He said: “There’s a golden opportunity to get people in the UK thinking about coming to Scotland as concerns remain about travelling abroad. We hope that this opportunity allows more people than ever before to experience snow sports in the UK; and want to come back for more in the years to come.  It’s fundamentally important we have a good season. We want people to ski and snowboard in Scotland, enjoy it, and make it a habit going forward. This winter season presents a great opportunity for people to make the most of the varied terrain on offer, explore our backcountry playgrounds and to learn how to ski or snowboard on home soil.  With GB Snowsport looking to confirm 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic squads, Snowsport Scotland expects to see a strong base of Scottish athletes included. We are enormously proud of the number and quality of athletes preparing to compete at the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics and look forward to seeing how their performances help inspire the next generation of snow sport participants in Scotland.”

For more on Snowsport Scotland and its activities, visit

Did you know?

Charne Hawkes from Inverness, skiing high above Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil, at Nevis Range.

•There are 5 mountain resorts in Scotland; Cairngorm Mountain; Glencoe; Glenshee; Lecht 2090; and Nevis Range.

•There are 16 artificial snow sport centres; Aberdeen Snowsports Centre; Glasgow Ski & Snowboard Centre; Midlothian Snowsports Centre – Hillend; Snow Factor; Bearsden Ski and Board Club; Newmilns Snow and Sports Complex; Polmonthill Snowsports Centre; Firpark Ski Centre; Alford Ski Centre; Glenmore Lodge; Huntly Nordic and Outdoors Centre; Lagganila Outdoor Centre; Loch Insh; and, RM-Condor Arbroath.

•There is calculated to be demand for approximately 840,000 ‘skier days’ per year in Scotland, with 580,000 taking place on artificial slopes and a further 260,000 at mountain resorts.

•750,000 ‘skier days’ were recorded in the 2018-19 winter season (the last season recorded prior to covid)

•Currently, 18 of the 48 athletes on the UK Sport funded winter sports programme are Scottish.

•Snowsport Scotland’s membership has increased by 39% over the last 4 years (4,112 new members).

Diana Gabaldon, Bestselling author of Outlander novels, to be honored as NTSUSA’S 2022 Great Scot

American author Diana Gabaldon has brought the romance and drama of Scottish history to life for more than 50 million readers worldwide with her bestselling Outlander novels. Gabaldon’s novels, and the Starz television series they inspired, tell the story of a British army nurse who mysteriously travels back in time to 18th century Scotland. Now, The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA will recognize her extraordinary contributions to Scotland and America’s shared heritage by presenting her with the 2022 Great Scot Award at their 15th annual fundraising gala, A Celebration of Scotland’s Treasures, on April 14, 2022.

“2022 has been designated Scotland’s Year of Stories, and so it seems especially appropriate to honor Diana Gabaldon, whose stories have come to embody Scotland and Scottish culture for millions of readers and television watchers around the world,” said Helen E.R. Sayles CBE, The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA’s chair. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to thank her for inspiring so many readers to explore and fall in love with Scotland.”

Ms. Gabaldon’s first novel, Outlander, was published in 1991, and the story has extended across eight additional New York Times bestselling volumes. Her books have sold 50 million copies in 39 languages and 114 countries. The latest and ninth book, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, was published in November 2021.  Largely set in 18th century Scotland, many of the Outlander novels use actual historic events as the backdrop for Claire and Jamie Fraser’s romance. Some of these, including the 1746 Battle of Culloden, are historic sites now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. In addition, National Trust for Scotland properties including Falkland Palace, Preston Mill, and the Village of Culross, have been used in filming the Sony/Starz television series based on Ms. Gabaldon’s work. The series stars Catriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, and its sixth season premieres on March 6, 2022.

Americans have embraced Scottish culture through their love of Outlander

Diana Gabaldon visiting Falkland Palace in Fife, Scotland, a property cared for by the National Trust for Scotland.

“I have seen firsthand how Americans have embraced Scottish culture through their love of Outlander,” said Kirstin Bridier, executive director of NTSUSA. “Many Outlander fans have contributed generously to the preservation of National Trust for Scotland sites associated with the novels and television show – sites like Preston Mill. We could not ask for a better ambassador for our work.”

The presentation of the Great Scot Award is at the heart of a black-tie event that raises funds to support Scotland’s largest conservation charity. Past recipients of the award include documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, comedian Sir Billy Connolly, award-winning actors Alan Cumming and Brian Cox, endurance athlete and world-record breaking cyclist Mark Beaumont, sculptor Andy Scott, and authors Denise Mina and Alexander McCall Smith.

A Celebration of Scotland’s Treasures is a festive evening that features a whisky tasting by The Macallan; the recitation of Burns’ Ode to a Haggis by Alasdair Nichol, Chairman of Freeman’s auction house and a frequent appraiser on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow; Scottish country dancing; and live and silent auctions. Before heading home, guests form a circle, clasp hands, and sing Auld Lang Syne. The National Trust for Scotland cares for 100 natural and cultural heritage properties across Scotland, including several sites that commemorate historic events described in Outlander or used for filming the Sony/Starz television show.

The Great Scot Award will be presented on April 14, 2022, at The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA’s first in-person fundraising gala since 2019. The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA (NTSUSA) exists to support the work of Scotland’s largest conservation charity. NTSUSA makes grants for projects that protect Scotland’s natural, built, and cultural heritage on behalf of future generations. Since 2000, NTSUSA has committed more than $10 million in funding for the National Trust for Scotland’s most urgent conservation priorities. Donations to NTSUSA, a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization, are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. To learn more about NTSUSA or to become a member, please visit

To learn more about the A Celebration of Scotland’s Treasures gala, visit

Main photo: Great Scot Award honoree Diana Gabaldon with Outlander stars Catriona Balfe and Sam Heughan.

Auld Lang Syne ritual lodged in Scotland’s past

It is a custom observed worldwide by millions every New Year, now research has uncovered why revellers link arms when they sing Auld Lang Syne. A study of Robert Burns’ best-loved song links the practice to freemasonry, where singing with arms crossed and hands joined was a parting ritual in many Lodges. University of Edinburgh musicologist Morag Grant, who has just published a book about the song, spotted the Masonic connection while sifting the archives of Glasgow’s Mitchell Library. A newspaper report of an Ayrshire Lodge’s Burns Supper in 1879, describes the song being sung as members formed ‘the circle of unity’ —a common masonic ritual, also called the ‘chain of union’.

Global popularity

Dr Grant says the tradition of singing the song at times of parting, and doing so with crossed hands, emerges in the mid-19th century – not just among Freemasons, but in other fraternal organisations too. The Masonic link is hardly surprising, according to Dr Grant. Burns was a Freemason all his adult life and the organisation was instrumental in promoting his work during his lifetime and after his death. Dr Grant has studied a range of historical sources – including written accounts, newspaper reports, theatre playbills, printed music and early recordings – to illuminate the song’s path to global popularity.

Auld Lang Syne’s sentiments didn’t just resonate with Freemasons”, says Dr Grant. “Some of the earliest reports of the song’s use at parting come from American college graduations in the 1850s.” Within decades, the use of the song at graduation had crossed to Japan, where the well-known tune — known as Hotaru no hikari—is still played at the close of business in some shops.

Dr Grant’s study shows that Auld Lang Syne’s global fame predates the invention of sound recording and radio. Many commentators had previously linked its rise to the dawn of the broadcast era. Historical analysis suggests otherwise. In 1877, Alexander Graham Bell used it to demonstrate the telephone, and in 1890 it was one of the first songs recorded on Emil Berliner’s gramophone. The song’s use at New Year emerged around the same time, principally through exiled Scots gathering outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London, but also expatriates living abroad. By 1929, the tradition was so well established internationally that a line from the song was displayed on the electronic ticker at New Year’s celebrations in Times Square. The Scouts too played a key role in spreading its fame. The song was sung at the end of the first World Scout Jamboree in 1920 and versions in French, German, Greek and Polish soon followed.

Song’s origins

Dr Grant’s book, Auld Lang Syne: A Song and its Culture, also explores the song’s origins and Burns’ role in creating the modern song from older models. The book examines the part played by his publisher, George Thomson, in picking the tune generally sung today, which is not, in fact, the one Burns intended. Auld Lang Syne quickly became popular with Scottish audience when it was published in this form in 1799 and soon became well known elsewhere.

A key step in this process was its inclusion in an opera called Rob Roy Macgregor, or Auld Lang Syne – which premiered in London in 1818. Before long, it was being performed in North America. Says Dr Grant, who’s based in the Reid School of Music at Edinburgh College of Art: “It’s remarkable how this song, written in a language which even most Scots don’t fully understand, has become so synonymous with New Year the world over. The many traditions and rituals associated with the song – as well as it simple, singable tune – are key to understanding its phenomenal spread, and why we still sing it today. Auld Lang Syne is a song about the ties that bind us to others across the years and even though its appeal is now global, it’s very much rooted in the world Burns inhabited,” says Dr Grant.

Auld Lang Syne: A Song and its Culture by M J Grant is published by OpenBook Publishers and is available to read free online at:

Finlay Wilson-The Kilted Yogi

Viral Scottish yoga star Finlay Wilson is back with his new book Wild Kilted Yoga: Flow and Feel Free, get ready for more tartan, more dramatic scenery and more tips and tricks to make your yoga practice extra special. Finlay took time to speak to the Scottish Banner on his love of yoga, his rescue dog Amaloh, tartan and of course Scotland. 

Finlay you have fused Scotland’s incredible scenery, the iconic kilt and the ancient, but non-Scottish, practice of yoga to become a viral Scottish yoga star a few years back. Since then, you have helped sell yoga, kilts and Scotland to the world. How has your life changed since 2017 and are you still surprised how merging these elements has been enjoyed by millions of people across the world?

FW: It constantly surprises me that every week new people engage with it. I get messages and comments from all over, some first timers to yoga, but most that are big fans of Scotland. If it gets more people thinking about yoga and a practice for themselves, then great!

You have said your dog Amaloh is the reason you created Kilted Yoga and that you rescued Amaloh from Sri Lanka with a yoga strap as a collar. Can you tell us more and how has having Amaloh in your life changed you?

FW: If it weren’t for the on-the-spot decision to rescue him, the chain of events would have meant Kilted Yoga never happened! Once Amaloh was over here, I made a video about him that went viral. In the small period of time afterwards people waited for the “what’s next” and were receptive to Kilted Yoga. His three million views were knocked out of the park within 24 hours! On a more serious and less digital note, I had just gone through an awful divorce and having him suddenly in my life gave shape to my days, keeping me from sinking too deeply. He also really enjoys being around when I am doing Yoga, so he was like a familiar that encouraged me to do even that.

As the world changed so drastically last year with many facing isolation and depression. How do you find yoga has helped you during the pandemic and how have you had to adapt your business during a Covid world?

FW: Yoga is my daily practice. The pandemic added a lot more pressure but what it did was move me outside. I found to deal with the challenges mentally, I had to augment my practice by getting outside more and became an avid cyclist, gardener and walker. From a business point of view, teaching online wasn’t new to me, so we were able to transition straight away to online classes without missing a beat. While practicing online isn’t the same as being in person, it was a means to and end that kept our community together and in a routine for the 18 months. Our staff all stayed on full time and our audience grew to span the world, that was a very unexpected bonus!

You do a lot of community outreach from your Dundee based studio and help children, young adults and families and recently became an Ambassador for the Prince’s Foundation, can you tell us more?

FW: I sure can. The studio, Heart Space, just celebrated 10 years since I opened it and now that we are back into the swing of things (albeit with physical distancing still in place) we have a full schedule of classes for families that are free. So far, we offer pregnancy yoga, parent and baby yoga, parent and baby barre, kids yoga, kids aerial yoga, and kids aerial silks and a class called Yoga for Every Body. All of our other classes help fund this and the work we do in the community. With community centres and groups still working out this new environment, we are hoping to keep developing and reforging connections we had 20 months ago.

With this focus and skillset, I was approached by The Prince’s Foundation to be an ambassador for the incredible work that the foundation does around mental health, wellbeing, and education. Without it being too much of a theme, as we come out of the pandemic, my role will become clearer as we find new ways to work with each other.

In 2017 you released the bestselling book Kilted Yoga: Yoga Laid Bare which introduced many to yoga and also some spectacular Scottish scenery.  Now you are releasing Wild Kilted Yoga: Flow and Feel Free. Can you tell us more about the new book, working with your twin brother and how making this book you were able to visit special places in Scotland from your childhood?

FW: Not only was it amazing to get out when restrictions lifted, I also hadn’t spent any meaningful time with my twin brother since the start of the pandemic. So, to be able to go out with a project and a plan felt incredible. Now, the weather had other ideas and we were hit with blizzards as soon as we got to Glen Coe in May, hail, gale force winds and torrential rain. We had to move some of our locations around and for each sequence (fire, water, earth, and air) we shot in two different locations for each as we navigated the weather. Only one of the locations, air, was new to me as we trekked along single track roads for hours to get to Sanna Beach. It looks more like Caribbean waters than what you would associate with Scotland!

Alastair has taken almost all of the images you see on my pages, we do a calendar every year and I wanted to work with someone that knows me very well, understands the poses and when I am fully in them, but also to celebrate that he is as much an essential part of kilted yoga as the guy doing the yoga!

The book follows on from book one which set the foundations of the practice I teach and moves into four very different sequences that build on these foundations. Each sequence has a different energetic with flowing movements for water and strong holds for fire. There is also a bonus chapter in there for two people practicing together, just like book one.

In 2018 you created the Kilted Yoga tartan which gives a nod to the mystical Scottish wolf. Can you tell how important it is for you incorporate kilts in your work and to also champion the art of kiltmaking and Scottish textiles?

FW: I did indeed. The colours are a cry back to a wolf’s coat with a shot of red through there for other parts of my environmental studies with Red Deer and Scot’s Pine (which has a lovely red hue to the bark). It matches the wolf tattoo on my forearm and is something that has held my imagination since I was younger and began my studies. Prickly Thistle helped design and weave the tartans and a big part of their message is the permanence of traditional Scottish industry vs. fast fashion and plastic-based materials. I know a lot of people growing up inherited a kilt, it has a lifespan beyond that, unlike most clothes and I really put mine through its paces.

Finlay what would you tell someone, regardless of their age, who wants to try yoga? Also, can you tell us about some of the ongoing benefits yoga has given you and how does it make you feel to be taking yoga to such a new level across the world?

FW: A lot of people have tried yoga, one of the things we try to let people know is that there are many styles, systems, methodologies and personalities out there. Depending on what you need (and you may not even know) it is worth shopping around a little. One teacher’s interpretation of gentle may be vastly different to another’s. It is useful to find a teacher that is knowledgeable and experienced, especially if you are navigating any injuries but it is best to check with a physical therapist about the best route for that.

For me, yoga makes me less reactive. I have a core that feels steady in the face of challenges. Breath work and endurance have helped me on so many occasions it doesn’t need mentioning! It is this that I hope brings people to my classes, the desire to explore what they can do rather than adding to a list what they can’t do.

And finally, Finlay in your book and your videos you get to travel across Scotland and show off its beauty to many. How does Scotland’s natural settings compliment yoga and do you have a favourite part of the country to visit when not rolling out the yoga mat?

FW: I love practicing all over but if it’s a peat bog and soaking, I am usually miserable!  Give me dry and grippy rock and we are on to a winner. It’s the fresh air, the feeling of life in with each breath. Whenever I am away travelling it is something I look forward to on my return.

Wild Kilted Yoga: Flow and Feel Free by Finlay Wilson is available now. For more information or to keep up with Finlay see:

Photo courtesy of: Alastair Wilson/Hodder & Stoughton.

Earlybird tickets on sale now for CelticFest 2022

CelticFest organisers are pleased to announce that Early Bird tickets are now available for the CelticFest Gathering, the festival’s main ticketed event to be held on Saturday 26 March 2022 at the Warwick Showgrounds. For the very reasonable price of $15 for adults and $5 for school age children, festival-goers will be able to immerse themselves in a full day of events to celebrate all things Celtic, including highland games heavy events, pipe band competition, Irish dancing, highland dancing competition, clan gathering, Celtic choir, medieval village, Celtic-themed markets, and music from bands such as Limerick.  In the evening, Irish band The Gathering will get everyone up on their feet and dancing. CelticFest Gathering tickets are available at

A celebration of the Southern Downs’ rich Scottish and Irish heritage

Warwick Thistle Pipe Band.

CelticFest is a celebration of the Southern Downs’ rich Scottish and Irish heritage and continues on from the Warwick Caledonian Society’s 150th Anniversary celebrations in March 2021.

“Those who attended the 150th celebrations in March 2021 will have some idea of what to expect,” said Alexander Manfield, the Society’s chieftain. “From medieval re-enactments to marching bands, from highland games to highland dancing, from pipe bands to Celtic rock bands, from highland coos (cows) to haggis, it will be like the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo right here in Warwick.” The Warwick business community will also experience the benefits of CelticFest, with accommodation providers already receiving bookings for the event, Manfield added. “The Warwick Showgrounds is going to transform into a sea of tartan, armour, music, dance and traditional food,” he said. “This is going to be a brilliant festival.”

CelticFest organisers are also delighted to announce that Warwick Sandstone, Warwick Friendly Society, Proterra and Ironside Industry have committed to providing sponsorship for CelticFest. “It is our pleasure to be able to contribute towards an exciting new festival, CelticFest – another reason to put our great town of Warwick on the must-visit map,” said Jill Bockman, from Warwick Sandstone. “Warwick Sandstone wishes the CelticFest planning committee good luck for an exciting and great outcome.”

Celtic-themed events

In addition to the main Saturday event, CelticFest Community events will be held on Friday 25 March and Sunday 27 March. Some of these events will be free, and some will have their own ticketing. The CelticFest Community events will be held across many of the towns and villages in the region including Warwick, Killarney, Allora and Clifton, and will celebrate the area’s Celtic heritage, music, art, dance and natural beauty including workshops, performances and tours.

Club Warwick RSL, a key CelticFest supporter, will host toe tappin’ Irish band Limerick (the Saturday after St Patrick’s) Day, and is planning other Celtic-themed events leading up to CelticFest. Southern Downs Steam Railway will offer a trip to Clifton on Sunday 27th  March, which will include lunch at O’Shanley’s Irish Bar and Restaurant. The Warwick Art Gallery is holding a Celtic-themed art exhibition, titled ‘Cruthaich’ (Gaelic for ‘create’) between March 3-April 19, 2022, for which it is currently inviting submissions from artists; submissions close 11 February 2022.  

Meanwhile Scots PGC College will run a Pipe Band competition, also on Sunday 27th March, and Glengallan Homestead and Warwick’s Pringle Cottage will host roaming pipers while celebrating the region’s history. Warwick Parkrun will host a Scottish-themed parkrun on the morning of Saturday 26th, and is inviting those in town for CelticFest to get their tartan on for a running start to the event. This is just a taste of what CelticFest visitors can expect from what is sure to be an event that will have something to suit everyone’s interest. CelticFest is assisted by the Local Event Funding Program (LEFP), which is a temporary funding program facilitated by Southern Downs Regional Council and jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland Governments as a component of the 2019 Queensland Bushfires Community Recovery Package under Category C of the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.

Information about CelticFest and the CelticFest Community events will be placed on the CelticFest website at, and also on the CelticFest Warwick Facebook page as they are confirmed.