Eildon Hills-Icons of the Scottish Borders

By: David C. Weinczok

Hills are so often described as ‘focal points’ in a landscape. But what happens when the hills are shapeshifters? Such is the way of the Eildon Hills, whose three highest peaks are perhaps the most recognisable and beloved landmarks of the Scottish Borders. Their shadows touch, quite literally, upon the remnants of ages past that altogether shaped the identity of the area. In the low winter sun, the shadow cast from Eildon Hill North breaches the boundaries of the vast, and almost entirely vanished, Roman fort of Trimontium astride the River Tweed. It has also been noted, only quite recently, that the Midwinter shadow of Eildon Mid Hill very nearly touches the high altar of Melrose Abbey.

Most would say that there are three Eildons – Eildon Hill North, Eildon Mid Hill, and Eildon Wester Hill. There is, however, a fourth, aptly called ‘Little Hill’, nestled at the edge of a shallow valley on the western edge of the range between Eildon Mid and Eildon Wester hills. Still, from most perspectives it is the three highest peaks that dominate. Depending on where you stand, even this is subject to change. The tendency of these hills – so sudden and magnetic in their otherwise low-lying and placid surrounds – to become three, two, or even one has bolstered belief in their magical quality. Seen from the west and south, for instance from high ground above Sir Walter Scott’s home of Abbotsford or the Minto Hills, they stand as triplets, with Eildon Wester stretching away from the others. From the north, as at the old monastic site of Gattonside, Eildon North and Mid hills appear as twins, with perspective playing tricks as to which is the highest (Eildon Mid Hill comes out on top, barely, at 422 metres compared with Eildon North’s 404). From the east, the three become one as Eildon Hill North seems to engulf them all.

Hollow hills

In the realm of legend, the Eildons are ‘hollow hills’. Much like Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, they are said to contain a vast, magical realm within, inhabited by fairy folk and the sleeping warriors of Arthur who will one day awake at the sound of a great horn to sweep evil from the land. Also like Arthur’s Seat, the Eildons are the remains of a volcanic range which fundamentally shaped the landscape they loom over today. Their hollows were long ago filled in by powerful geological forces. Much more recently, people have filled them with stories. One such story is of Thomas the Rhymer, one of the Borders’ most enigmatic sons. In lore he has gone down as a man of prophecy and mystery. In life he was a 13th century multilingual seeker of knowledge steeped in Welsh literary traditions (though he wrote in English) who came to own a small tower house in what is now Earlston. One of his most famous prophecies was that the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea would one day meet in the middle of Scotland. This arguably became true upon the completion of the Caledonian Canal. Another was that only a dead man could take Roxburgh Castle. In 1460 King James II of Scotland was killed besieging Roxburgh Castle when his own cannon burst its barrel, though the castle did indeed fall soon after.

Thomas’ gift of prophecy was given to him by the Queen of the Fairies. While resting beneath a tree at a site now marked by a small monument called the Rhymer’s Stone, Thomas was beckoned by the Queen to join her in her kingdom within the Eildons. Such was the wealth of this hidden kingdom that the teeth of sheep grazing on the Eildons’ slopes were said to turn yellow from gold dust! A series of otherworldly wonders presented themselves on the way, including a red river representing the amount of blood shed on earth in a single day and an orchard filled with apples grown out of all the curses people uttered aloud. The Fairy Queen presented him with one apple which gave him a tongue that could never lie, and so Thomas of Ercildoun became the Rhymer.

The greatest hilltop settlements in Scotland

More tangibly, Eildon Hill North was once among the greatest hilltop settlements in Scotland. Though almost nothing aside from much-reduced earthen ramparts are visible to the naked eye, the broad summit was once entirely enclosed by a wall containing nearly 500 huts borne on wooden platforms. During the Bronze and Iron Ages it could support upwards of 3,000 people, 500 more than the population of modern Melrose. Recent excavations unearthed evidence that Eildon Hill North was fortified well into the Early Medieval Period, with the invading Northumbrians of the 7th century referring to it as ‘Aeled-Dun’, ‘Fire Hill’.

All this overlooked Trimontium, a sprawling legionary fortress that saw intermittent use by various waves of Roman would-be conquerors for three centuries. Astonishing finds including glittering metal cavalry helmets, hoards of gladius swords and other panoplies of war, and bronze wine jugs have been recovered from the fields of crops which now conceal this remnant of Empire. Like the dot at the bottom of a question mark, Eildon Hill North is punctuated by small dip, all that remains of a Roman watch tower. What was the relationship between this mighty native hilltop haven and the legionaries in its shadow? Many Roman objects have turned up in sites occupied by local tribes and vice versa, so it was not all ‘us versus them’. Still, there are many questions which the Eildons yet hold the answers to.

The best way to know the Eildons is to walk them. Each is formidable in its own way, yet more than worth the effort. The summit of Eildon Mid Hill can seem almost sub-Arctic, scree-scattered and blasted by winds with tiny conifers eking out from the thin soils between stones. Eildon Wester Hill, with its steady path towards the Eildons’ furthest outstretched point, feels like a south-facing pulpit overlooking the fertile lands leading to the Cheviots and England beyond. From atop Eildon Hill North, the architectural wonder of Melrose Abbey far below seems like little more than a doll’s house, putting our earthly and spiritual ambitions into perspective. A strangely still lochan, its waters too murky to reveal their depths and its intrigue enhanced by its absence from the OS map, rests by Little Hill. Set within the amphitheatre of the Eildons, the romantic in me wonders what treasures might have been deposited in its depths long ago by the people of the hills. In every sense of the term, there are many Eildons. Their meaning transforms with each person’s motivations for seeking them, and even their appearance shifts with each new approach. What do the Eildon Hills hide? Nothing less than the stories and histories we scatter across their slopes.

The Bundanoon Stones-A feat of strength at the Bundanoon Highland Gathering

It is with great pleasure that the Bundanoon Highland Gathering announce the following competitors for the events being run by the Kilted Warriors under the direction of Dr. Lance Holland-Keen and Aaron Monks The Brigadoon committee would like to express their deep appreciation and congratulate the Kilted Warriors for their continual support at Bundanoon At 3.10pm, on the oval The Kilted Warriors will be lifting the Bundanoon Stones.  Could this be the best challenge ever?

The weight of the stones are 100kgs 115kgs 125kgs 140kgs and 165kgs.  This should be an outstanding event this year as these are the top athletes in the games at the present time: Strongmen Andrew Fraser, Hank Theunissen, Luke Reynolds and Rongo Keene will all compete in the Lifting of the Bundanoon Stones and the Australian Highland Heavy Weight Championships.

A full day of entertainment

The Rt. Honourable the 15th Earl of Loudoun, Simon Abney-Hastings.

Also on display at Bundanoon will be the Street Parade at 9am, Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Enjoy wonderful displays of Scottish Highland Dancing and the Country Dancing on the main oval during the day. Listen to the twenty-five pipe bands who are scheduled to perform, including an incredible massed bands performance with a moving lone piper display.

The Chieftain of the Day will be The Rt. Honourable the 15th Earl of Loudoun. Simon Abney-Hastings is an Australian Earl who is the current holder of one of the oldest Scottish noble titles, Earl of Loudoun. Also on display will be Swordplay School of Theatrical Fencing & Stage Combat and Mary Kiani will be performing Scottish classics in the Fiddlers Tent, where you can also tap along to the Sydney Scottish Fiddlers. Kids will have much to enjoy at the Bonnie Bairns Competition and other children’s events. A variety of Scottish Clans and Societies will also be represented, be sure to visit the Clan village to learn about your ancestry and how to become involved in the Scottish community. A huge array of food and stalls will also be dotted around the field to pick up great gifts and experience a taste of Scotland. So, get your kilt on for the Kilted Dash, or just to walk around and soak up the atmosphere of Bundanoon is Brigadoon.

The Bundanoon Highland Gathering takes place April 1st in Bundanoon in the NSW Southern Highlands. For details and tickets see: www.brigadoon.org.au                   

Did you know?

-Modelled on the MacGlashen Stones from Scotland they consist of a set of five round stones ranging from 90 kg to 165 kg in weight.

-Only five of the stones are used at any one time with the current competition set comprising the 115kgs, 120kgs, 125kgs, 140kgs and 165kgs.

-The stones vary in size from 43 centimetres to a massive 50 centimetres or half metre in a diameter.

-The history of the stones goes back over one thousand years to the highlands of Scotland when a boy was considered to have reached manhood when he could lift two stone in weight from the bare ground onto the top of a stone dyke or fence as we know it.

-Most villages took part in this exercise and the stones varied from village to village.

-In the late 1970’s the lifting of the stones was brought back to life in Scotland with the introduction of the MacGlashsen Stones.

-The five round stones range in weight from 90 kg through to 165 kg. The stones are laid out five metres apart lightest to heaviest with each competitor having to lift all five stones on top of a wooden barrel four feet in height.

-The person who can lift all five stones on top of the barrels in the fastest time is declared the champion of the day.        

Shinty-Scotland’s Ancient Sport

By: Judy Vickers

As a sport, its fortunes have often reflected the ups and downs of life in the Highlands where it is played, from Celtic myths, through the Scottish diaspora and the decimation of young men during World War One to the challenges of modern rural life. And those with a passion for shinty – camanachd or iomain in Gaelic – will be hoping that particular tradition continues as the stick and ball sport looks to a future with more young people and women playing, and stronger ties to the Gaelic language, the native tongue in many of the areas where it still flourishes. This month the game’s 2023/24 season gets going, with 53 teams across six men’s divisions and 25 women’s teams playing for glory and the chance to win one of several trophies, the most prestigious of which is the Camanachd Cup with its final played in September.

A community-based game

Thousands across the Highlands, from islands such as Skye, and the west in Argyll up to Badenoch, where the mighty shinty clubs of Kingussie and Newtonmore rule, are involved in the game. Yet the sport takes a back seat compared to football or rugby in terms of headlines, even in Scotland. Camanachd president Steven MacKenzie says that it’s probably down to the fact the sport is still a community-based game. “We are pretty much a village sport, they are generally small communities playing, but it is a big deal within the Highlands.” As it’s an amateur sport, talented players don’t disappear off to the big cities with juicy sporting contracts, so in many ways shinty is still the sport it has been for centuries with community pitted against community for honour and pride.

In fact, shinty’s origins are lost in the mists of time. “We go right back to Celtic mythology,” says Steven, referring to an ancient legend about the game from Ireland. Shinty has common roots with the Irish sport of hurling – the sport was brought over by Irish settlers to Scotland centuries ago and while the sports have developed differently over the years they have enough in common for shinty and hurling teams to play each with adapted rules in international games. And the Irish warrior hero and demi-god Cú Chulainn gained his name thanks to the sport.  According to Irish mythology, he was known as Sétanta until the day Conchobar, the king of Ulster, saw the young boy playing hurling and was so impressed he invited him to a later feast. Unfortunately, by the time Sétanta finished his game and arrived for the feast, the host Culann has loosed his enormous guard dog, which promptly attacked the approaching Sétanta. To save himself, he hit a mighty shot with his hurling stick and drove his hurling ball down the creature’s throat, killing it. As Culann is upset at the loss of his dog, Sétanta promises to stand in as his replacement guard until he can raise a new guard dog. And after that, during all his adventures, he is known as Cú Chulainn, meaning Culann’s hound.

Beauly Shinty Club Bagpipe Tune.

While there probably weren’t many mythological giant hounds to deal with, shinty could be quite a ferocious affair in times gone by, with no strict rules on the number of players – it’s now 12 a side for the men’s game and ten for the women’s. Matches were village against local village, often on a holiday or feast day – New Year was a particular focus. Rules began to be made more uniform once the Camanachd Association, the governing body for the sport, was created in 1893 but a match could still be quite a lively affair, as Dr Isabel Frances Grant, the founder of the Highland Folk Museum in 1935, now located in Newtonmore, reported as she gathered anecdotes about Highland life. “To watch shinty at its liveliest one must see a match between the teams from two neighbouring and rival districts. The speed is terrific. The spectators, all local people, are whipped up to vociferous animosity against the opposing side. Casualties are borne off the field (sometimes including spectators hit when the ball flies wide) but they generally soon rise to re-engage in the conflict. After a cup-match the winning team carries the trophy home in triumph, and it is filled and refilled with whisky by a public-spirited hotel keeper and carried up and down the village street every passer-by being given a sip out of it.”

Helps to bind communities together

1913 Beauly Camanachd Cup winners.

But the early 20th century also brought tragedy. Many Highland and island communities saw their populations of young men wiped out by the First World War and shinty, with its ranks of young fit men, was hit hard.  One battle in particular cut a devastating swathe – the Battle of Festubert in France in May 1915. Among the 16,000 British soldiers killed in ten days of fighting in that battle were the cream of both the 1913 and 1914 Camanachd Cup winning teams. In 1914, the Camanachd Cup was won by Kingussie, still today one of the biggest teams in shinty. Five of the 1914 team failed to come home, including the captain, William MacGillivray. The 1913 winners, Beauly, lost 25 men, including the captain Alastair Paterson and his brother Donald – hit by a sniper during the battle after stopping to tend to two wounded men. But the story of Donald, a 23-year-old lance corporal and noted piper, has a touching aftermath. “Years and years later his niece found his pipes and a tune he had written for Beauly Shinty Club during the war,” says Steven. The bagpipes, still with blood on them, had been retrieved from the battlefield and sent back to Donald’s family along with a tune he had somehow managed to write while in the trenches and stored away. It was a poignant moment when the song was first performed, more than 80 years after it was first written. The pipes are now played by a descendant of Donald.

The game also helped to sustain those sent to war – camans were sent out to troops in the Second World War and it was played by captured prisoners of war, including Stalag IXc (a German prisoner-of-war camp for Allied soldiers in World War II). And the Scottish diaspora helped to spread shinty further afield as Scots brought the game to their new homes – ice hockey is said to have been started by Scottish immigrants to Nova Scotia who started playing the game on skates on frozen lakes.

In the 19th century it was widely played all across Britain – the English football team Nottingham Forest was founded by shinty players and the Manchester Camanachd Club was formed in 1875 -before football and rugby took over and it returned to its Highland heart. The difficulties of finding jobs and housing in the Highlands in modern times, leading to rural de-population especially of young people, hits shinty as much as any other part of Highland life. But Steven says shinty also helps to bind communities together. “We need to retain families who will have children growing up in the area, we have to hold on to them. Shinty plays a large part in maintaining our rural areas – our youth grow up and represent their communities and people take a great pride in that.”

What is Shinty?

The game starts with the throw up – the referee throws the ball into the air at the centre of the pitch and two players grapple for it in the air with their sticks. The object is to get the ball into the opposed side’s net by dribbling it, passing it or hitting it through the air – unlike hockey, the stick is allowed above shoulder height and shoulder-to-shoulder tackles are allowed. But bashing your opponent’s stick with your stick is called hacking and is a foul.

Helmets are now mandatory for under-17s and will soon become so for senior players, with many already adopting them. Even so, the game has a reputation for a high injury level compared to other sports which Steven says is somewhat undeserved. “That’s more a media reflection of people who don’t know the sport. It’s very skilful, people learn to protect themselves with the stick as well as learning how to hit the ball.”

The stick is known as a caman, coming from the word cam, Gaelic for crooked, referring to the bend at the end. Once made from whatever wood was available locally, often ash – though reportedly even from kelp on some of the islands – they are now usually laminated hickory made by a small band of specialist makers. “It is a craft industry,” says Steven. “They are usually making sticks for the community they come from.” As they are not factory produced, camans can be slightly different sizes and shapes but since the 1920s, all camans must be able to pass through a two-and-a-half inch diameter ring, which the referee used to carry with him.

All images courtesy of the Camanachd Association.

200-year-old barley could be the toast of modern whisky

Scotch whisky could be in for a revamp from a 200-year-old barley crop. Experts from Heriot-Watt’s International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD) are working with Holyrood Distillery in Edinburgh to find out whether old species of barley could create distinctive new whiskies.  Over the next six years, they’ll test at least eight heritage barley varieties and provide the scientific evidence needed to classify the flavours and aromas they bring to a dram.  Dr Calum Holmes, International Centre for Brewing and Distilling, Heriot-Watt University said, “There’s hope that using these heritage varieties of barley might allow for recovery of favourable aroma characteristics.”

200-year-old Chevallier is one of the varieties they’ll be distilling. It was the most popular barley in Britain for 100 years but fell out of favour when tax rules changed. They’ll also test Hana, which was originally grown in Czech Moravia and was used to make the first blond Pilsner lager in 1842.  Golden Promise is from the 1960s and grows predominantly on the east coast of Britain, from Angus down to Northumberland. It is best known as the barely behind the iconic Macallan bottlings from the sixties. The team hopes that the research will create new single malts for Holyrood Distillery and increase knowledge and awareness about the positive traits of heritage barleys. 

Dr Calum Holmes from Heriot-Watt’s ICBD said: “New varieties of malting barley are developed regularly to improve processability and agronomic traits, and its not uncommon to find some predominate the industry for a period of time. However, there’s increasing interest within the malting and distilling industries to explore a role for older barley varieties. There’s hope that using these heritage varieties of barley might allow for recovery of favourable aroma characteristics into distillate and some have also displayed potential resilience to stresses that might be expected from a changing climate.”

Incredible drams

Holmes and his team will be exploring the impact of using heritage barley varieties on malt and distillate quality. The work will focus on the interplay between grain production and composition and the impact on distillery processing efficiency and distillate aroma volatile profile.

Marc Watson, head of spirit operations at Holyrood Distillery, said: “We’re a young distillery and that means we have the freedom to experiment and be playful.  We decided to try making some mashes and distillations with Chevallier. It was fascinating. The first thing we noticed was an oilier mouth texture, it had a great mouth feel. We think there are clear sensory differences with using heritage barleys, but we wanted to back it up with science.  Luckily, we have the world-famous Heriot-Watt right here in Edinburgh, and this is the second time we’re working with them.  Understanding what each heritage barley brings to the flavour, mouth feel and aroma of whisky means we can design incredible drams. It’s using innovation to bring back characteristics that have been lost by switching to newer varieties of barley, flavours and aromas that haven’t been present in whisky for decades if not longer.”

The Melbourne Highland Games & Celtic Festival

For more than half a century The Melbourne Highland Games & Celtic Festival (MHG&CF) has been held annually within the City of Maroondah. Live events were interrupted in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but the Games transitioned to a Virtual Highland Games format that was very successful and provided important support to our Games community during that difficult time.

In March 2022 it was the first Highland games to return “live” in Victoria post the pandemic. The Games hosted a very well attended and successful event which was held at Eastfield Park, Croydon for the first time.

The only traditional Highland Games left in metropolitan Melbourne

The great news is that the MHG&CF will be back at Eastfield Park Croydon on Sunday the 26th of March 2023. As the only traditional Highland games left in metropolitan Melbourne we are anticipating that this year’s event will again be very well attended and should be a spectacular day for everyone involved.

The celebration of Scottish and Celtic culture will include hundreds of pipers and for the first time “Highland Muscle” will be staging the Men’s and Women’s Heavy Events. Many forms of Celtic dancers will comprise of Scottish Country dancers, Scottish Highland dancers as well as Welsh and Irish dancers. The folk tent, hosted by the Victorian Folk Club, will be back again so there will be live music being performed throughout the day.

There will be numerous other exhibits and stalls and the committee are working hard to have plenty of activities for children of all ages as well as adults. Last year, most festivals struggled to find the vendors that are an important part of festivals. There should be plenty of food, beverage, memorabilia, crafts and apparel vendors for attendees to spend their money on. Vendors can book a stall at: www.melbournehighlandgames.org.au/about-the-games/book-a-stall

The Melbourne Highland Games & Celtic Festival takes place at Eastfield Park, Croydon on Sunday March 26th 2023. For full details please see: www.melbournehighlandgames.org.au

Virginia International Tattoo 2023-A Tribute to Military Families

The most international cast ever, with performers from nine different countries – including Ukraine!

The 2023 Virginia International Tattoo will feature the largest international cast to date, April 20 – 23 in Norfolk, Virginia. Nine countries will bring their awe-inspiring performers to Norfolk and be a part of the largest spectacle of music and might in the United States. Performers from Australia, Latvia, New Zealand, Singapore, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and more will join the cast in what is sure to be an emotional and inspirational Tribute to Military Families.

As the Tattoo’s Producer/Director, J. Scott Jackson said: “Imagine if Hollywood decided to create an old fashioned epic motion picture with a patriotic theme and you had a chance to see it performed live. You would have: A huge cast, stunning costumes, intricate choreography, a dramatic musical soundtrack, moments of sheer spectacle, stirring pride and patriotism, something to make you laugh, something to make you cry, 2 hours that flew by way too fast and a really good villain. Replace the villain with 125 bag pipers and drummers and you have the 2023 Virginia International Tattoo.”

What is the Tattoo?

The centuries-old tradition of Tattoo originated as a signal from drummers instructing Dutch innkeepers near military garrisons to “Doe den Tap-too” or “turn off the tap”. Hearing the call “Tap-too” soldiers would return to their barracks for an evening roll call. The ensuing parade of soldiers evolved into a military marching band performance now known worldwide as “Tattoo.” The Tattoos seen across the world today are ceremonial performances of military music by massed bands. Each Tattoo is influenced by the culture of the country they represent. Fans of these massed spectacles of music and might flock to the world’s great Tattoos: Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Scotland, Basel Tattoo in Switzerland, and Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo in Canada. But the greatest Tattoo in the United States, and rivaling the largest in the world, is the Virginia International Tattoo.

The Virginia International Tattoo is located in the Coastal Virginia city of Norfolk – home to the world’s largest Navy base, NATO’s only North American headquarters, and the largest population of active duty and retired military in the United States. With “home port” in these waters, it is no surprise that the Tattoo is widely known as the most patriotic in the world.

Tickets and Information: www.vafest.org, by phone at 757-282-2822, or in person at the Virginia Arts Festival Box Office located at 440 Bank Street, Norfolk, VA 23510. Attending the Virginia International Tattoo When: Thursday, April 20, 7:30 pm, Friday, April 21, 7:30 pm, Saturday, April 22, 7:30 pm, Sunday, April 23, 2:30 pm. Where: Scope Arena, 201 E. Brambleton Avenue, Norfolk, Virginia. Stay up to date: Follow the Virginia International Tattoo on social media platforms @VaTatt and subscribe to the Virginia International Tattoo YouTube page for the latest and greatest content, behind-the-scenes, cast takeovers, and more.

Geelong Highland Gathering permanently cancelled

One of Geelong’s oldest and most popular major events, The Geelong Highland Gathering, first held in 1857, has come to an end.  The Gathering attracted thousands of people annually and became the second largest such event in Australia, before losing its home of more than 50 years, Queens Park, in 2011.

Highland dancers at the Gathering in 1880s.

Since 2011, The Gathering has been held at Fyansford, Geelong Showgrounds, Deakin University at Waurn Ponds, Goldsworthy Reserve, Corio and, in 2019, Osborne Park, North Geelong. It was not held in 2020, 2021 or 2022 because of the Covid pandemic. The event was founded by the Comunn na Feinne Society, which itself was created only a year earlier, in 1856, by Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highlander settlers in Geelong. The Comunn na Feinne Hotel – now known as “The Commo” – on the corner of Bellarine and Kilgour streets – is a reminder of the past.

The ageing Gathering committee has been attempting to attract younger members for several years to ensure its future, but without success. At a special meeting following its 2022 AGM, it was decided to bring The Gathering to an end when there were no nominations for office bearers. “For several years we have been trying to attract younger people to take on committee positions to ensure the future of The Gathering, but to no avail”, Geelong Highland Gathering Association’s former Chair and Chieftain, Dr Maurice Marshall, said. He thanked the City of Greater Geelong and its officers who had been very supportive of the event.

A wonderful major event for Geelong

Massed bands at Queens Park in 2009.

“I am saddened and stressed by the loss, but privileged to have been part of The Gathering and at home in Geelong”, Dr Marshall added. He said all members of the committee shared his sadness at their inability to attract younger members.  The Victorian Pipe Band Championships, South Pacific Highland Games Championships, Highland dancing competitions, Scottish country dancing displays, folk music, clan and heritage groups, 42nd Highland Regiment and Varangian Guard historic re-enactment group, Scottish market and Highland cattle display, were major attractions.

The original Gathering ran from 1857 to 1929 when it became a victim of the Great Depression.  But in 1957, Newtown City Council resurrected The Gathering when it sought a major event for Queens Park. The council ran it until municipal amalgamation in 1993, when the City of Greater Geelong took it over before passing it on to the newly formed Geelong Highland Gathering Association (GHGA) in 1995. The GHGA grew the event considerably. “It has been a wonderful major event for Geelong over so many years, reminding us of the major influence of Scottish migrants, including James Harrison, the inventor of refrigeration and founder of the Geelong Advertiser, the Rev Andrew Love, the region’s first Presbyterian minister and Alexander Thomson, first mayor of Geelong”, Dr Marshall said:  “Sadly The Geelong Highland Gathering has ended.”

Waulk this way with homespun harmonies

Once a month, during most of the summer season, visitors to Auchindrain, Scotland’s last remaining ‘living museum’ township, are in for a real treat when the ladies of Sgioba Luaidh Inbhirchluaidh (Inverclyde Waulking Group) make a tuneful appearance. Together since 2000, this ten-strong band of sisters has performed their traditional Gaelic waulking music at Auchindrain for 15 years and have travelled the length and breadth of Scotland, as well as further afield, demonstrating their impressive harmonies.

Waulking, the final stage in the long and laborious process of producing homespun tweed woollen cloth, is the perfect rhythmical process for a song according to Frances Dunlop who heads up the group: “The genesis of Sgioba Luaidh Inbhirchluaidh was way back in 1981, when I first went to a summer school in Stirling University with Anne Lorne Gillies. I had sung in Gaelic choirs for many years, but over several years under Anne’s guidance I came to appreciate traditional Gaelic song – and my life was transformed! Gradually I became more familiar with waulking songs, but it was a long time before I plucked up courage to suggest to Greenock Gaelic Choir that some of us might sing them together and so the group came into being. Our very first performance was in December 2000 when we had a 10 minute spot at the choir’s annual concert. There are currently ten of us in the group, two of whom, besides myself, are founder members. Most of us hail from Greenock, Port Glasgow, Inverkip and Wemyss Bay in Inverclyde but others come from further afield such as Dunoon and Barrhead. We are always on the look-out to welcome new members and have amassed quite a large repertoire of songs over the years.”

Fulling the cloth

Frances continued:  “Waulking or fulling the cloth, was practised widely but we believe that only in Scottish Gaelic culture was it accompanied by singing. It’s a very ancient tradition with some of the songs being centuries old. They’ve been passed on orally and transformed into many differing versions, which adds to the interest but can also be quite frustrating deciding which version we prefer! Most of the songs are loosely structured: in order to make a song last long enough for the work, lines might be imported from another song or perhaps a few lines of improvisation could be thrown in. One woman sings the verse of one or two lines. It seems effortless but takes a lot of skill and practice to get the timing exactly right! The rest join in the chorus, which in the oldest songs are composed of meaningless vocals. Later songs may have some words in the chorus as well. The waulking would begin with a slow song, increasing in speed as the cloth dried, and the women got warmed up. In Uist and Barra, after being waulked the cloth was rolled up, and patted to smooth it out to the accompaniment of a clapping song (oran basaidh) which was a fast, cheerful song, sometimes an improvised ‘pairing off’ song when the names of those present would be linked with local young men.

“Waulking was an important part of female culture, so women wishing to compose a song often adopting the waulking style. The songs come straight from the heart and are full of passion but utterly without sentimentality. Waulking died out a few decades ago but these songs are worth preserving. They need to be ‘worked’ in order to bring them to life. The whole process is very therapeutic. In the songs you can express your every emotion; the hypnotic thumping of the cloth on the table helps to release all your tensions and frustrations and it is very good exercise! In the company of your friends you can have a gossip and talk over problems. It’s great ‘female bonding’ and cheaper than counselling!” added Frances

 Auchindrain Historic Township, situated on the A83 between Inveraray and Lochgilphead in Argyll & Bute, is currently operating in ‘winter mode’ until the end of March 2023. Visitors can explore Scotland’s last township from Monday to Friday (10am to 4pm).

For more information visit www.waulk.org and www.auchindrain.org.uk.

Scotland’s First Minister to resign

Nicola Sturgeon has announced her intention to resign as First Minister of Scotland. The First Minister said: “Being First Minister of Scotland is, in my opinion, the best job in the world. It is a privilege beyond measure – one that has sustained and inspired me, in good times and through the toughest hours of my toughest days. Since my first moments in the job, I have believed that part of serving well would be to know – almost instinctively – when the time is right to make way for someone else. And when that time comes, to have the courage to do so. In my head and my heart I know that time is now. I am announcing my intention to step down as First Minister and leader of my party. I will remain in office until my successor is in place. I have been First Minister for over eight years, and I was Deputy First Minister for the best part of eight years before that. These jobs are a privilege but they are also – rightly – hard. And, it is only possible to give absolutely everything to a job of this nature for so long. Given the nature and scale of the challenges the country faces, I feel that duty, first and foremost, to our country – to ensure that it does have the energy of leadership it needs, not just today, but through the years that remain of this parliamentary term.

The longest-serving Scottish First Minister ever

“We are at a critical moment. The blocking of a referendum as the accepted, constitutional route to independence is a democratic outrage. But it puts the onus on us to decide how Scottish democracy will be protected and to ensure that the will of the Scottish people prevails. I am firmly of the view that there is now majority support for independence. But that support needs to be solidified – and it needs to grow further if our independent Scotland is to have the best possible foundation. To achieve that we need to reach across the divide in Scottish politics, and my judgement now is that this needs a new leader. It has always been my belief that no one individual should be dominant in any system for too long. But, as a leader, while it’s easy to hold that view in the abstract, it is harder to live by it. I consider this decision to be the right one for me, my party and the country.”

Nicola Sturgeon, who is also the leader of the ruling Scottish Nationalist Party, plans to remain an MSP for Glasgow Southside (a seat she has held since 2011) until the next Holyrood election. Sturgeon has been an MSP since 1999 and is the longest-serving Scottish First Minister ever and the first woman to hold the position.

Photo: The Scottish Government.

Dare to be Gallus!

There is a new ceilidh sensation taking over the dance floors in Perth – and Australian audiences can’t get enough. Gallus Ceilidh Band is putting a fresh twist on the traditional Scottish shindig, mashing traditional music with rock and dance tunes to create a high-energy vibe with serious appeal for all age groups.

The band is the brainchild of Ali MacKerron, who wanted to develop a ceilidh sound that would appeal to new audiences and help perpetuate Scottish culture and heritage. He’s delighted with what they have achieved.

“It’s such a great feeling to see the look on people’s faces when the concept clicks into place for them. One minute they are doing a Strip The Willow to traditional music and then it segues into Long Way To The Top. It creates a real energy boost for the crowd.”

Gallus is a good Scottish word meaning self-confident, daring, wild or cheeky, all descriptors which suit the band well. Gallus’ seven members make a big noise, with both small and highland pipes, fiddles, whistle, acoustic and electric guitar, keyboard and drums. And throughout the dance sets you will find an eclectic mix of songs – everything from Avicii to The White Stripes, and Franz Ferdinand to AC/DC. The result is a ceilidh that rocks, and the band likes to play hard and fast, leaving audiences out of breath and wanting more.

“We do walk everyone through the dance sets, but it really doesn’t matter if they make mistakes. It’s about joining in and having a go.”

Since their debut at the Duxton Hotel in August 2021, Gallus has been in high demand for weddings, parties, fund raisers and festivals. Their next public event is at Perth Mess Hall in Northbridge on 3rd of March and tickets are selling out fast.

“Anyone who has been to a ceilidh will understand how space hungry it is. The Mess Hall gives us all the room we need to let everyone kick up their heels. With over 200 attendees expected we think it will be Perth’s biggest ceilidh ever!”

Interested in a Gallus ceilidh experience? Tickets for the Monster Ceilidh at the Mess Hall are available at Megatix.com.au, or follow the band on Facebook and Instagram for future updates.

Gallus Ceilidh Band are:

Ali MacKerron – Small Pipes, Highland Pipes, Dance Caller, Vocals

Fiona Davidson – Fiddle, vocals

Linda Gauld – Fiddle

Graeme Watt – Whistles, Fiddle, Vocals

Joe Mullaney – Keyboards, Vocals

Nathan Borona – Electric Guitar

Marcus Davidson – Drums

Scotland’s best-selling cookbook author returns to North America to serve up the Hebrides on a plate

Coinneach MacLeod, the Hebridean Baker is returning to North America for his second book tour to celebrate the release of his second cookbook, My Scottish Island Kitchen. A fresh selection of wholesome, rustic recipes, charming stories and breathtaking photography from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Inspired by family recipes, traditional bakes and Scottish flavours, MacLeod showcases Scotland’s extensive larder and brings us flavourful dishes with a story to tell. The cookbook is filled with dishes for all seasons from Island Scones to Caledonian Cream, Posh Mince & Tatties to a Flying Scotsman, First Footers Martini to Empire Biscuits and a chapter of festive recipes to light up your Christmas table. This book is filled with treats to make every Scot and lover of Scotland flock to their kitchens!

A breath of fresh Scottish island air to your kitchen

The book tour will take Coinneach to Washington DC, Boston, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Fort Collins, CO, Chicago and Toronto with further dates and cities being announced soon. “I’m so excited to be visiting the US again, I have loved sharing my passion for Scotland and the Hebrides across America and can’t wait to meet friends, old and new at my book events. There will be island stories, some Gaelic songs and the chance to meet myself and Peter”, said Coinneach in advance of his trip across the Atlantic.

From his granny’s recipes to bakes from Scandinavia, this book is filled to the brim with dishes to explore, stunning landscapes, and Gaelic words of wisdom to bring a breath of fresh Scottish island air to your kitchen. There is something for every home cook and baker in this lovingly crafted collection of homemade delights. Coinneach MacLeod was born and raised on the Isle of Lewis, the most northerly of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Inspired by traditional family recipes and homegrown produce, he has motivated his worldwide followers to bake, forage, learn Gaelic, enjoy a dram or two of whisky, and to seek a more wholesome, simple life. Along with his partner Peter and their Westie pup Seoras, Coinneach’s aim is to bring the best of the Scottish islands to a worldwide audience.

Tickets can be purchased for the events at https://hebrideanbaker.com/tour

Clannad 50th anniversary farewell tour comes to Australia

Celebrating an exceptional award-winning 50-year career, Clannad have announced dates on their ‘In a Lifetime’ Farewell World tour which sees the band tour Australia in March 2023, performing in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Canberra. This will be the final Clannad Tour of Australia. The March 2023 tour will mark 10 years since the legendary Celtic folk heroes toured, and it will also the first Australian tour without founder members Pádraig (2016) and Noel, who passed recently. The Grammy and BAFTA award-winning band have sold more than 15 million records worldwide and are responsible for such timeless music as Theme From Harry’s Game, In A Lifetime, I Will Find You and the soundtrack to the Robin Of Sherwood TV series. The multi-award winning Clannad have without doubt done more than any other group to take Irish music and the Irish language to a worldwide audience.

Music carries the listener across oceans

Framed by Moya Brennan’s heavenly voice, their music carries the listener across oceans and aeons to a time when a proud culture was first born.  Fusing elements of Irish folk music with rock, pop, new age, and jazz they have created a beautifully unique and ethereal sound that combines haunting melodies and mesmerising vocals to transcend the sands of time whilst appealing to a worldwide audience of all ages. To coincide with this very special Farewell Tour, BMG Records have released In a Lifetime Anthology, a multi-format, career-spanning compilation containing tracks from their 50-year recording career. The live shows will see Clannad performing songs from the Anthology that will both delight and excite their enormous and loyal fanbase as well as introduce this legendary, influential, and culturally important band to a whole new generation of music fans.

For complete tour, ticket, and VIP information, visit: www.livenation.com.au

Clannad ticket giveaway

Grammy and BAFTA award-winning Clannad will be live across Australia in March. Fusing elements of Celtic folk music with rock, pop, new age, and jazz they have created a beautifully unique and ethereal sound that combines haunting melodies and mesmerising vocals to transcend the sands of time whilst appealing to a worldwide audience of all ages.  Catch them live in Perth March 8th, Adelaide March 10th, Canberra March 12th, Sydney March 16th, Melbourne March 17th and Brisbane March 18th. The Scottish Banner is pleased to offer one double pass for each city.

Courtesy of Live Nation, one reader will win two tickets to the above performances listed. To enter please ensure you note what city you are going into the draw for and simply email: [email protected], enter via our website by clicking Contact Us, or post (sorry no telephone entries) our Sydney office. Please ensure you include your full postal address and email/phone details. Winners will be notified directly, good luck!

Dumbarton Castle set to reopen to the public

Visitors will soon be able to visit the 800-year-old stronghold that sheltered Mary Queen of Scots in 1548. Dumbarton Castle is set to reopen by early spring following the completion of high-level masonry inspections, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has announced. Access restrictions were put in place at the start of last year, as a safety precaution while HES, who manages the site, introduced new measures to manage the impact of climate change on its heritage assets, an issue which is affecting heritage owners globally.

The High-Level Masonry Programme, which is the result of ongoing risk assessment and sample surveys, assesses the impact of climate change on sites as well as the scale of deterioration caused by a number of other factors, including the materials used in the building’s construction, its age and physical location. Whilst this is not an issue unique to Scotland, HES is believed to be amongst the first heritage managers to approach it in this way, with the results shared with peer organisations. Work is taking place at a number of sites across Scotland as HES has completed detailed, tactile inspections at 25 sites across the country since May, with a further 13 due for completion by Spring 2023.

One of Scotland’s most important strongholds

Work at sites can take over a month, due to the scope of the task and the different characteristics of the buildings, many of which date back several hundred years, and were constructed according to the conventions and materials of the time. The tactile inspection of Dumbarton Castle, which took 20 working days, was completed late last year. Some necessary repairs and checks will now be carried out before the site reopens by March. Once it has reopened, visitors will be able to explore the majority of the 800-year-old site including The Governor’s House, the Guard House and Portcullis Arch, the remains of the White Tower which are on top of the highest point of the site, the French Prison, Wallace Tower, the Magazine and Crane Bastion.

Dumbarton Castle will be the latest site to reopen as part of the prioritised programme of inspections, following sites such as Doune Castle, Burleigh Castle, Dundonald Castle and St Andrews Castle which reopened after their surveys were carried out. More than 30 sites currently have increased access since inspections began in May last year.

Craig Mearns, Director of Operations at HES, said: “I am delighted to announce that we will soon be reopening Dumbarton Castle to visitors. We are working as quickly as we can to reopen our historic sites, and we appreciate the public’s patience while we undertake these necessary inspections and subsequent repairs. Dumbarton Castle is one of Scotland’s most important strongholds and climate change is another part of its long and varied history. We look forward to welcoming visitors back to the iconic site as soon as we have carried out the final checks and implemented any additional safety measures.”

Manuscript of Rob Roy to go on display for first time

For the first time in at least a century, members of the public will get to see the manuscript of Rob Roy. Written in the hand of Sir Walter Scott, the manuscript will be on display at the Treasures of the National Library of Scotland exhibition from March 2023. The manuscript was among the many literary treasures that were held in a private collection called the Honresfield Library. Formed in the 19th century by mill owner William Law, the Honresfield Library’s contents were kept hidden from all but a few scholars until now. The items were due to be sold at auction in 2021. Fearing the items would be returned to private hands and possibly overseas, the library’s contents were purchased by a UK-wide consortium of organisations a year ago following an international fundraising campaign, and renamed the Blavatnik Honresfield Library in tribute to its majority donor.

The manuscript of Rob Roy is one of the items that came to the National Library via this UK-wide acquisition of materials. Manuscripts Curator Ralph McLean, who worked with partners in securing this acquisition said: “William Law formed a fairly close relationship with the Scott family, and was able to buy material from them directly. This is how the manuscript Rob Roy came to be in his private collection. The manuscript wasn’t always in the Scott family’s possession however – its ownership tended to depend on how wealthy they were at any given time. When Sir Walter Scott and his business partners encountered financial difficulties after the crash of 1826 a number of his manuscripts were later auctioned off to reduce the debt incurred. Rob Roy was sold, but was eventually bought back by Scott’s son-in-law John Gibson Lockhart, and returned to the Scott family in the mid-19th century. However once again, the family fell on hard times, and it was purchased by William Law and added to his private library.”

Rob Roy MacGregor

Rob Roy was published in the early 19th century, the first run making up 10,000 copies which is a huge number for that time. Scott was still publishing anonymously, but the book was marketed as ‘written by the author of the Waverley novels’. As these novels were extremely popular, Rob Roy sold out immediately. One of Scott’s most popular novels, it has never been out of print in the 200 plus years since it was first published. 

Ralph McLean adds: “What’s interesting is that Rob Roy himself isn’t a central character in the novel – he only appears sporadically throughout. It was actually Scott’s publisher who suggested the title. The depiction of Rob Roy MacGregor as a character in the novel undoubtedly added to the myths surrounding this person, as has subsequent depictions since in various media. We expect this will be one of the star attractions at our Treasures exhibition next year.”

Treasures of the National Library of Scotland is on at George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, and open Monday to Saturday. Entry is free.

25% increase in Gaelic Duolingo learners in a year

Duolingo has released new data revealing that 1.5 million people have started learning Scottish Gaelic on the App since the course launched just over 3 years ago on St Andrew’s Day (November 30th) 2019. The free Duolingo course has seen a 25% increase in daily learners since St Andrew’s Day 2021. Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture,  and Duolingo officially joined forces to deliver the popular Scottish Gaelic language course in 2022, which currently has 450,000 active Scottish Gaelic learners. The primary motivation for learning the language is recorded as culture, with many looking to reconnect with their heritage.

An interest in Scotland’s Gaelic language and culture

Màrtainn Mac a’ Bhàillidh, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, said: “There has always been an interest in Scotland’s Gaelic language and culture, especially with such a vast Scottish diaspora, but learning apps like Duolingo and the growth of Gaelic Medium Education in schools have made the language so much more accessible to a larger audience.  Gaelic on Duolingo has played a big part in the expansion of learning resources and opportunities across the board, including the multimedia platform SpeakGaelic. At Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, we have had students come to us via Duolingo, starting with our An Cùrsa Inntrigidh or An Cùrsa Comais immersion courses and going on to study on our degree courses. Long may this growth continue.”

Colin Watkins, Duolingo’s UK Country Manager said: “We’re delighted Scots Gaelic has reached 1.5 million learners on the app, which I challenge to reach 2 million by this time next year. It’s great to see so many people cite culture as their reason to learn, showing the role language plays in all our lives, something we are proud to celebrate. Our mission at Duolingo is to make education accessible, which is why our Scots Gaelic, French, Latin, and other courses in 39 other languages are free to all.”

Crown of Thorns-Saving the iconic symbol of Linlithgow

By: Judy Vickers

When the spire on Linlithgow’s parish church was first erected in 1964, its modern shiny look, contrasting so sharply with the weathered stone of the ancient building, sparked a fierce reaction. Some said it looked like a rocket waiting to take off, others compared it to a wigwam. Certainly many felt the contemporary aluminium “crown of thorns” did not belong on a medieval church just a stone’s throw from the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots. But it was the vision of the then minister, the Very Rev Dr David Steel, father of the politician Lord Steel, to create something bold and iconic. “And the way people have reacted over the years, I think he really achieved that,” says Alan Miller, an elder at the church, St Michael’s.

Emblem for the town

Because the spire, representing the crown of thorns forced on Christ’s head before he was crucified, with 12 smaller spikes for the 12 apostles, has become a real emblem for the town, appearing on many local businesses and organisations’ logos, and on images of the former Royal Burgh.  As it approaches its 60th anniversary, however, the spire is in difficulties – the campaign Alan is referring to, Aspire Linlithgow, is aiming to raise £300,000 to save the crown. The timber structure under the aluminium cladding is badly rotted and needs urgent work if it is to remain in place. If the fundraising campaign is successful, the restoration will see the spire re-clad in a bronze alloy, giving it a pale gold look instead of its current silver – which will actually be a return to its original tone. “The pale gold basically weathered away after a few years. The new cladding will be a bronze alloy and it will stay pale gold. It will look magnificent,” says Alan, who is head of the fundraising campaign.

St Michael’s interior.

It will be the latest chapter for the church which has seen centuries of Scottish history, much at first hand. St Michael’s has stood witness to the ravages of the Scottish Wars of Independence and Oliver Cromwell’s invasion, hosted royalty, to the violence of 16th century protestant reforms, provided a refuge from the plague in the 17th century and withstood the body-snatchers of the 19th century.  Its first appearance in history books is in 1138 when it was described as “the great church of Linlithgow” in a charter of King David I, gifting it to the Cathedral of St Andrews, although historians believe it dates back to well before that. Edward I, the King of England and so-called Hammer of the Scots, requisitioned the church as a storehouse in 1301 as the First Scottish War of Independence raged with the English monarch attempted to control his northern neighbour.

Bannockburn brought peace and the chance to repair the church after the destruction of the war, but in 1424 a massive fire badly damaged both the church and the adjacent royal palace. Rebuilding work took 115 years, with money coming from the Stewart kings and fines for chimney fires – Linlithgow Palace was also rebuilt during this period, becoming a holiday retreat for the Stewart kings, who used the church to worship in between jaunts out hunting in the surrounding pleasure park.

In 1513, King James IV was one of those monarchs but when he stepped inside St Michael’s he was confronted by a spirit, an old man in a cloak, who warned him not to go to war with the English – he ignored the spirit’s words of caution and died at the Battle of Flodden. By the 1540s, St Michael’s was restored to glory, with 20 stone carved saints in niches around the outside of the church and a stone “crown”, similar to the one which still stands at Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, topping the square tower. It was ready in time for the baptism of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was born at the palace in December 1542. But Mary’s reign was marked by bitter battles between those of her religion, Roman Catholicism, and the growing Protestantism and St Michael’s did not escape. In 1559, the font used to baptise Mary, along with statues and altars deemed to be too “popish” for the new religion were smashed.

Golden glory

Winter sunset. Photo: Martin Brown.

The 17th century was no kinder – it was briefly used by the University of Edinburgh in 1645 when plague in Edinburgh saw scholars flee the city, then shortly after came perhaps its darkest moment when Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the republican regime in Britain, requisitioned the church and used it to stable his horses and to billet his troops.  Another restoration to repair Cromwell’s damage followed but by the 19th century the church was in a poor state, with whitewashed walls, and the 16th century ceiling replaced with a plaster one. A watchman’s hut was erected outside with three men keeping guard at night to prevent body-snatchers digging up and selling recent corpses to the medical schools in Edinburgh – grieving families could also hire a metal cage to be fixed over newly-dug graves. And in 1821, the stone crown was removed after it was discovered it was too heavy for the tower and was in danger of collapse. The tower stayed bare until the 1960s. “I suppose the only option in the 1820s would have been some other stone structure and that wasn’t possible as the tower was in a poor state and had to be stabilised.”

With conflicts on home soil, plague and graverobbers consigned to history, from the end of the 19th century onwards the church saw happier times, with a major restoration in the 1890s reviving much of its ancient glory. Churches are almost always in need of repair, though, and it was due to a fundraising campaign for essential maintenance in the 1960s that the idea of the spire came about. “David Steel always had the idea that if there was money left he would like to create something on the top of the tower,” says Alan.“Geoffrey Clarke came up and looked at the church, three months later he sent a box containing a small model of the spire. One local architect who saw it said: ‘That’s genius!’” Today as well as welcoming many tourists, St Michael’s is still a vibrant place of worship and continues to evolve – one of its more recent innovations came in 1992 with the installation of a new stained glass window in the St Katherine’s aisle, around the theme of Pentecost, which dapples the church floor with multi-coloured light.

And now the next stage of the church’s evolution is in motion. The Aspire campaign has already had £120,000 pledged and Alan hopes it won’t be long before work can begin on restoring the spire to it golden glory. “The fact that so many people have donated to our campaign shows it is a unique and iconic piece of work that people are proud of,” he says.

For more information on the campaign, visit: www.stewardship.org.uk/pages/aspirelinlithgow

The 58th anniversary of the Phoenix Scottish Games

Scotland returns to the Desert Southwest during the weekend of March 3rd thru 5th, 2023 with the 58th annual Phoenix Scottish Games to be held at new Gilbert Regional Park in Gilbert, Arizona.  You don’t need to be Scottish to enjoy the games featuring full highland pageantry with Pipes & Drums, Highland dancers, athletics, Celtic bands, and Gathering of the Clans.  As you move from area to area within the festival, you’ll be treated to a variety of live entertainment, interactive displays, and athletic events. The event hosts championships for Highland dance and pipe bands. In addition to those competitions, you won’t want to miss numerous performers of traditional folk, bluegrass and Rock music their sound rooted in Scotland. Watch in awe as highland athletes make it look easy to throw a log bigger than a telephone pole or toss a hammer farther than you can throw a ball! Events include the Caber Toss, Sheaf Toss, Hammer Throw and “Putting the Stone” with male and female competitors of all ages from across North America.

Scotland underneath the Arizona desert sky

Direct from Scotland, the Isle of Skye Pipe Band.

Returning this year will be the twilight tattoo Friday March 3rd. Those in attendance can enjoy an amphitheater concert showcasing the sights and sounds of Scotland underneath the Arizona desert sky. Performers will include Celtic music, a military band, Scottish dancers, traditional pageantry and of course pipes and drums.

Acts include: Marine SandPiper- Hailing from the greater metropolitan area of Twentynine Palms, CA, MarineSandpiper is the Southern California High Desert’s only Rock & Roll bagpiper.  With over 21 years of bagpipe experience, MarineSandpiper can cover everything from traditional bagpipe music to classic rock and pop music.

Craic in the Stone – They’ve taken the Celtic Folk’n Rock world by storm by bringing traditional songs to the present while pushing the envelope with their traditional yet unique sound and style when covering songs by the Cranberries, Pogues, Dropkick Murphys, U2, Beatles, and even Led Zep. Their unique sound features two talented ladies up front singing the stories, backed by a group of multi-talented musicians that rock the house.

This year’s event is featuring the Isle of Skye Pipe Band, for the first time in Arizona a visiting pipe band from Scotland. Audience members will be treated to a display of Scottish arts spanning the globe with performers from Canada, Scotland, and the United States. The acts above will be joined by The Alma College Kiltie Dancers, Arizona Academy of Highland Dance, The Jason Cartmell Rockstrosity, The Mesa Caledonian Pipe Band, champion flourishing drum majors, color guards, military bands, rifle teams, and more.

Enjoy the sights and sounds of Scotland with this outdoor concert under the stars! The military tattoo tradition evolved from 17th century Europe when a drummer or bugler would sound a call through the village, signalling the soldiers’ return to barracks. Today, military tattoo’s celebrate with marching, music, dancing, and more.

Scottish heritage

Scottish dancers on display.

If you are curious about your heritage, join us in the Clan and Genealogy area. Arizona has over 175,000 Scots. You could be one of them! Everywhere you look you can see deep ties between Arizona and Scotland. Douglas, Arizona was named for a Canadian-Scotsman, and the Rose Tree Museum in Tombstone Arizona features a rose tree grown from a cutting shipped to a young Scottish bride from her family in Scotland in 1885.  Even if you don’t have any ties to Scotland, you will enjoy yourself at 58th annual Phoenix Scottish Games.  All ages will have fun in the Celtic Village, featuring a variety of Celtic merchants with clothing, music instruments, jewelry, baked goods and other traditional culinary delights that you won’t find at any other festival – traditional shortbread cookies, highland beef dishes and more. There will be Scotch Whisky Tasting where you can enjoy a dram and hear about the whisky making process of each expression. Car lovers don’t forget to vote for your favorite vintage vehicle at the British Car Display and show.

Heavy events.

As long as you relish good music, food, and fun, you’ll have a great time!  The Phoenix Scottish Games are produced by the Caledonian Society of Arizona, the largest Celtic organization in the state, promoting Scottish culture through art, education and athletics. Funds raised at the event supports scholarships to aspiring and professional Highland athletes, musicians, and dancers and/or other individuals or organizations whose mission, project or program promotes Scottish heritage.

The Phoenix Scottish Games take place on Friday March 3, 2023, from 5pm to 900pm, Saturday March 4, 2023, from 9am to 630pm and Sunday March 5, 2023, from 9 am to 5pm. Single day tickets can be purchased at the gate for $25 or $40 for weekend ticket. Purchase in advance at www.phoenixscottishgames.com. Discounted pricing is available for members of the military and children. See the website for detailed pricing information.  Free parking is available at the park, check the website for parking details.

Stella–A Scottish Cinderella takes international best drama film award

A new Scottish feature film about a German Jewish refugee who finds herself working in a stately home belonging to aristocratic supporters of fascist leader Oswald Mosely has won an international Best Drama award.  Stella, inspired by Cinderella, took the award at the Melech Tel-Aviv International Film Festival where it had its world premiere.  And it has now been nominated for the Montreal Independent Film Festival – one of the most popular events of its kind. The makers of the film, which features Gary Lewis, Susan Vidler, Richard Hansell and Rufus Wright, are also in negotiation for UK distribution.

Beautiful period drama

Galloway House.

Set in 1937 and filmed at Galloway House, it highlights a lesser known and dark moment in Scottish history – when Dumfries and Galloway became one of the main centres of support for Mosley and his British Union of Fascists. It is 1937 and Stella, a 20-year-old student at Oxford, has lost touch with her parents in Germany. She finds herself homeless and penniless but through the help of a school friend, lands a job as the German tutor at the House of Rig in Southwest Scotland.  The Rig Family, Stella quickly learns, supports Oswald Mosley and the fascists and she must subvert her true identity in order to survive. At the same time, she befriends a young poet, Will, who is trespassing on the Rig’s land for the summer, living in a hut near Rig Bay.  They form an immediate, deep romance. Will is determined to marry her, but when the Rig’s host a party to celebrate Oswald Mosley’s arrival, their eldest son returns home for the occasion … it turns out to be Will.

Stella’s true identity is discovered, and she has to choose between her old life or her new one. Gary Lewis, who lives in the region and whose credits include playing Colum MacKenzie in Outlander, said: “It was a joy to be a part of this film – the story is great, the location is stunning and everything else, from the camera work to the music, was excellent. Stella tells the story of a young German woman stranded in Scotland as the Nazis rise to power in Germany. The difficulties she faces echo those of desperate people today; refugees and asylum seekers trying to escape many horrors. Isolated and terrified for the fate of her family, she then encounters supporters of the Nazi’s racist ideology.”

The beautiful period drama, in which Edinburgh actor Oli Fyne plays Stella Deutch and Louis Hall is Will (the young man she falls in love with) is as relevant for today’s world as it is to the 1930s and 1940s.  Oli said: “I was drawn to the character of Stella immediately. It’s still rare to have a strong female protagonist in a period drama, and that really excited me. Stella is strong in the authentic sense of the word, inherently flawed and brave in the face of struggle.  Stella’s struggles with her mental health resonate deeply with me, as well as her fears of coming of age in a world that feels constantly insecure and unstable. I also share her love and passion for music, nature, and family. Embodying Stella and working with Jessica was a dream come true. It’s such fantastic and poignant project and I am thrilled to have been a part of it.”

Cinderella without the glass slippers

Writer and Director Jessica Fox.

Writer and director Jessica Fox, who lives in Wigtown and is the granddaughter of holocaust survivors, said: “To have been named Best Drama at the international film festival where Stella had its world premiere was beyond our wildest dreams. And now we’ve been nominated for Montreal’s Independent Film Festival we hope to bring it to a much wider audience in the near future.”

While Stella is described as an adaptation of Cinderella, the inspiration is from the early versions in which there were no glass slippers or fairy godmother.  Jessica said: “I never liked the story of Cinderella – her fairy godmother, the glass slippers or the fuss of the ball – until I heard the older folk versions. In these stories, Cinderella has no magical transformation. Instead, she flees her kingdom to find safety in another. She takes on a new name and identity. As a grandchild of holocaust survivors, who had to flee their homes, find new identities and keep only what they could carry, this Cinderella resonated. She wasn’t the fairy tale archetype, an epitome of goodness waiting to be rescued; she was a refugee, a survivor, heroic. This Cinderella, her story, was one I wanted to tell and one that is relevant to so many people forced to flee their homes today.”

Oli Fyne and Louis Hall.

Originally from the USA where her career included being a storyteller for NASA, Jessica moved to south-west Scotland where she has found success in TV, theatre, film and literature – her book Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets is being developed as a TV series by Endeavor Content.  With Stella she wanted not only to create a compelling film blending historical reality with an ancient folk tale, but to celebrate the wealth of talent that exists in Scotland and Galloway.

Other members of the cast have praised the film and the story it tells.  Susan Vidler, who plays Lady Rig, said: “This is a wonderful new take on the Cinderella story and I’m delighted to have been involved in a project that celebrates a young woman’s resilience and the power of love in the face of the evil that was overwhelming Europe and threatened the world.  We need stories of this kind right now – perhaps more than at any time since the Second World War. It was also a real privilege to be part of the remarkable community which came together to create this film.”

The project was led by an entirely female production team and was also certified as a green production.

No international film release information is yet available. You can follow Stella on Twitter and Instagram @stellathemovie or see, www.stellathemovie.com.

Boxfuls of rare documents lift lid on town’s intriguing past

Rare archive material documenting more than 500 years of a Fife town’s fascinating history is being made widely accessible for the first time. People can gain intriguing insights into Kinghorn’s eventful past now that archivists have catalogued two boxfuls of artefacts collected by a local dignitary.

The collection, which belonged to local history enthusiast Jimmie Edmiston, spans from 1478, when a royal decree established a hospital in the town, to the end of the 20th century. Included in the archive is a copy of a charter, signed by James III in 1611, confirming Kinghorn’s royal burgh status, and a duplicate of the earliest town plan drawn up in 1828.

As well as collecting artefacts, Mr Edmiston, who died in 2017 aged 95, kept pages of handwritten notes, gathered over a lifetime of local history research and giving talks. The former councillor’s collection also features photographs of local people and landmarks – among them one that captures the unveiling of the monument to Alexander III in 1887. Archivists from the cultural charity OnFife have been working with Kinghorn Historical Society chairperson Ginny Reid to preserve the collection and help place its contents in their wider context.

Local history enthusiasts can gain insights into key events such as the coming of the railway, the loss of Kinghorn’s ferries and the fortification of Inchkeith, begun in 1878. There are details too of the town’s vanished industries, including its tannery, bottle works, golf club making factory and, on the eastern fringes of the parish, Invertiel brick works. Major construction projects are recorded as well, with references to the demolition and rebuilding of South Overgate in the 1960s and the arrival of new homes at Pettycur harbour in the 1990s.

Historical curiosities abound

Among the collection is a transcript of hearth taxes imposed on local homes in the 17th century and valuation rolls from the 1920s, 30s and 60s. The archive mixes business with pleasure. Mundane accounts of drainage, sewage and rights of way contrast with exhilarating glimpses of musical shows, a pro-golf tournament and the Children’s Gala. There are also insights into the formation of the Kinghorn Lifeboat service in 1965 and the creation of one of Scotland’s first caravan sites, which began life as a camping ground in the 1930s.

OnFife Collections archivist Andrew Dowsey says the archive illustrates how diverse the history of small towns can be: “We get a real sense of how towns and burghs such as Kinghorn, although outward looking, were much more the centre of their own worlds than they are today.”

The archive has been donated to OnFife by Ross Brown of Glenrothes, who is a grandson of Mr Edmiston. Also instrumental in transferring the collection to the OnFife archives was Kinghorn resident Roy Mackie. Mr Edmiston, who was born and raised in the town, was awarded an MBE in 1999 for his services to the local community.

Fox Sports comes to Bundanoon

The President and Committee of the Bundanoon Highland Gathering are delighted to announce that Fox Sports will be attending on 1st April. The Matty Johns Show larrikins Hindy (Nathan Hindmarsh) and Fletch (Bryan Fletcher) will be participating in their own style of Strongman Heavy Events.

The producers for this event are Leon Mitchell and Ben Hogarth. The show will be televised later in the year. The duo will be attempting to Toss the Caber, lift a Bundanoon Stone and try their hand at the Stone Put.  Their show starts at 11am just to the right of the stairs and below the announcer’s tent.

There will be available for a short period of time to “meet and greet” members of the public with probably the odd selfie available. Kilts are compulsory and the arena will be fenced off and members of the public are forbidden to enter the arena for their own safety. Children must be under paternal control or that of an adult. Come along and enjoy support this terrific event, it really will be a lot of fun and laughter.

The Bundanoon Highland Gathering takes place on Saturday April 1st in Bundanoon in the NSW Southern Highlands. For full details and tickets see: www.brigadoon.org.au

The St. Augustine Celtic Music & Heritage Festival

The St. Augustine Celtic Music & Heritage Festival is held in America’s Oldest Celtic City with multi-award-winning cultural events to be held on Saturday, March 11 and Sunday, March 12. Top international and U.S. Celtic bands,  Highland Games, workshops, lectures, Celtic food and artisan crafts, and a St. Patrick Day parade will be featured, plus a special whiskey tasting event on Friday, March 10. The Celtic Music & Heritage Festival and activities will be held at Francis Field, 29 W. Castillo Dr. in historic downtown St. Augustine. Fla. The events are produced by Romanza-St. Augustine, Inc.

Tickets for the festival on March 11 and March 12 may be purchased online at www.celticstaugustine.com/tickets or at Ann O’Malley’s Irish Pub, 23 Orange Street in St. Augustine, and during the Festival at the gate. The Whiskey Tasting begins at 6:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. with a variety of offerings and acoustic music by The Steel City Rovers. Whiskey Tasting limited-seating tickets are available online only.

America’s oldest Celtic city

According to Pat Syeles, Festival Director, the events were first produced in 2011 and have increased in significance and attendance with awards for best music festival and best food festival in northeast Florida. The music of the Celtic people of Scotland and Ireland, and the seven Celtic nations will be celebrated in St. Augustine, America’s Oldest Celtic City founded in 1565 by Spanish Celts. St. Augustine’s four centuries of Celtic heritage will also be highlighted during the Festival’s Highland Games on March 11 and March 12 starting at 10 a.m. at Francis Field with athletes demonstrating and testing their strength and endurance, and Celtic clans displaying their ancestral pride.

A special highlight of the festival weekend includes the only St. Patrick Parade in Northeast Florida on Saturday March 11 at 10 a.m. starting at Francis Field. In 1601, St. Augustine’s first Irish vicar, Padre Thomas Hassett led the first historically documented St. Patrick procession recorded in the world. This year’s parade will feature professional bagpipe and drum bands along with local talent and hundreds of parade participants through historic, downtown St. Augustine. The Parade Review Stand is sponsored by Ann O’Malley’s Irish Pub. 

The St. Augustine Celtic Music & Heritage Festival begins at 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Sunday. Top touring bands from Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and the U.S. will play traditional songs and Celtic rock throughout the two-day festival. An extensive music line-up includes Albannach, Dublin City Ramblers, Seven Nations, Steel City Rovers, La Unica, Syr, Jamison, and Dragonfly. Chad Light is the main stage host and emcee. Additional entertainment, lectures and workshops will be on the second stage with host Robert Burns. 

Tickets include a variety of entertainment options for both days. Vendors will offer Celtic cuisine along with a variety of food and beverage, as well as handmade and imported Celtic crafts.

For more information about the Festival and St. Patrick Parade, visit the website at www.celticstaugustine.com.

Isle of Cumbrae Distillers-The Female Scottish Gin Makers

On Scotland’s Ayrshire coast lies the Isle of Cumbrae, just a short ferry trip from Largs. A group of five international women have come together to create the islands first gin distillery called Isle of Cumbrae Distillers. Bronwyn Jenkins-Deas from the team spoke to the Scottish Banner on building a new business during the pandemic, how a women led business is contributing to the community and just why visitors to Scotland should be adding Cumbrae to their travel plans.

Think distilling in Scotland and most will think of whisky, however Scotland boasts around 100 gin distilleries and produces 70% of the UK’s gin. What is it about this industry that excites you and what would you say sets Scottish gin apart from others?

The industry in Scotland is very strong, I think the last take was about 106 gin distilleries in Scotland itself. There are benefits to being a gin distiller in Scotland rather than in other markets. For example, if we were distilling in British Columbia, in Canada, you could not operate a distillery unless you were actually fermenting the alcohol and there is a huge complex process that goes on to do that. The Scots look at things more efficiently and the vast majority of gin distillers in Scotland do not make their own alcohol and most use a central hub in England where they ferment alcohol and bring that fermented alcohol to Scotland.

Around 95% of Scottish gin makers are bringing in the fermented alcohol and then using their own botanicals and distilling in Scotland. The gin industry is very creative in Scotland, and we get to concentrate on that specifically. The industry is also quite wonderful in terms of supportiveness. We felt at the beginning we may be laughed off as frauds, but the exact opposite has happened, people have really supported us. People have loved our story and feel it is unique.

The Isle of Cumbrae Distillers is quite unique, being one of the few all-female owed distilleries in Scotland. How do you see women taking on a greater role in what is a male dominated drinks industry? Also do you think a female led business can offer something unique to the industry?

The team behind the Isle of Cumbrae Distillers.

We came into this business as one of the very few women owned distilleries. There are already quite a few women in the industry, but not necessarily owners. We all came in with a bit of age, except for one member of the team, we are all in our 50s and 60s and with no prior experience in the drinks industry. We come from quite diverse backgrounds and with a great deal of life and business experience but none in the gin industry. There are a few exceptional women in the gin industry such as Hendrick’s Gin Master Distiller Lesley Gracie. There is also a group of women in the Isle of Jura, which is certainly much more remote than Cumbrae, and there are three younger women running that distillery.

We also represent the gin drinkers, if you look at the persona of a gin drinker it is mainly women who are 45-65, and we fit perfectly into that. I am not sure if I would say we are trailblazers because we are women in the industry, but we certainly are due to our age. At the end of the day, it does not matter if you are a man or a woman, in this industry you must have an angle to your enterprise in order to be successful. Now we are also looking at a USA expansion and partnering with a US distillery to have our product available to the US market.

The team behind the gin is quite international hailing from the UK, Canada and the USA. Can you tell us how all your roads collided to meet on Cumbrae?

Championing traditional distillation methods.

We all met at a bar and began chatting about having a distillery on the island. As the night went on the five of us were all excited about the prospect of the island having its very own distillery. We thought well it can’t be that difficult and we have the time, let’s do it! We then did a business plan, and each invested into the idea and began to move forward. Looking back, it was probably all a bit naïve because had we known what we were getting into we may not have kept pushing ahead.

The idea of launching a gin brand grew from the need of Millport Town Hall being in desperate need of repair. The Isle of Cumbrae Distillers intends to give back to and support the local Millport community. Can you tell us more?

What we are doing for our community is really what drives us. The Isle of Cumbrae may be Scotland’s most accessible island but it is on the depravation list, meaning it is so small that it cannot sustain industry. It relies 100% on tourism as it has so few businesses and having the distillery there has been a boom for the island. The Town Hall in Millport was built in the 1800s but had closed in 2015. It has become derelict and repair costs need £3.2 million to restore. The distillery started as a way to help raise funds to support the campaign to save the historic building.

When we launched Restoration Gin, it was to celebrate the restoration of the Town Hall. A portion of all sales of restoration Gin goes back to supporting the Town Hall. I am hoping we entice other businesses to come to the island and make a go of it and help build the islands economy and community.

You launched your first gin in 2020 while the world was grappling with the pandemic. Was the timing of the launch good or a challenge for the business?

The Maura Gin label, by artist Hope Blamire.

We incorporated the business in October 2019 with all the best of intensions and then of course March 2020 changed the world. What was interesting about that however was it did work out to our benefit. It gave us time to learn the distilling process, how to run a business and learn about a very complex sales and marketing side that comes with the drinks industry. We were able to concentrate on how to start this business up.

We did a great deal of work but also surrounded ourselves with people who could help us get it done. For us, launching the business during the pandemic was not a bad thing. We even did a crowdfunding campaign which was pivotal for us and helped raise £25,000 and had it not been for the pandemic we would have not raised that money.

Running a business on a Scottish island must be so very important for the local economy but also have its own unique set of challenges. Can you tell us what you and the team have had to overcome and learn about in becoming an island-based business?

There are many challenges, but we are most dependant on the weather for the ferries. For example, our spirt can only go on one ferry a week that handles dangerous goods. Couriers can take days to collect something from us. Getting things such as bottles you pay a premium to get it and the logistics can be also quite complicated. If you live on a small Scottish island there will always be 50% for you and 50% against you, and people were hedging bets if we were actually going to be successful.

However, a few days before our launch virtually the entire island got behind us with all the pubs selling our gin. However, at our opening the island ran out of tonic! The island really is now wholly behind us as they can see the value of the distillery. It has brought more visitors to the island and our goal is to help increase tourism. We are in an enviable position as most of us have retired and we are doing things a bit different than if we were just starting out.

We want to create a legacy more than anything and creating employment for young islanders, because most leave as soon as they finish high school. So, we are trying to create new employment and skills opportunities. We want to make a significant contribution to the island, and I think we can do that.

Along with the gin you have launched your very own tartans, what was that
process like and how important is it for your brand to have a tartan?

The Maura Tartan.

Of the five of us none of us are Scottish, but our husbands are. When we looked at the brand we did so with outside eyes. We thought what would we want to see, and we immediately felt tartan represented Scotland. We developed a tartan online and worked with an Edinburgh based company to get it print ready. We then reached out to the Scottish Register of Tartans and registered the Nostalgin and Maura tartans and will be registering our other tartans soon.

The Isle of Cumbrae is regarded as Scotland’s most accessible island to visit. Can you tell us what you love about the island and any suggestions for those who have yet to visit?

Beautiful Millport.

Millport is a small place, and the entire island has a population of about 1,200 people. It really is Scotland’s most accessible island; it is only 8 minutes by ferry from Largs. You do not even need a car to come here. The island is about 10 miles around so you can walk or cycle it with ease. I can absolutely say for Americans and Canadians it is an easy place to visit as they are used to driving on the other side of the road. You can come here quite easily by public transportation and not need to worry about driving. From Glasgow it is only 45 minutes to Largs so makes for a really easy day trip.

Cumbrae is called the island of a thousand bicycles because the island is so flat, and we have bike hire facilities. It takes around 2 hours to cycle around the island. We have beautiful bays and lovely beaches around the island and on a nice day it offers great views of the Isle of Arran and Bute. We also have the smallest cathedral in the UK, the Cathedral of the Isles is in Millport and was built in the 1800s by the Earl of Glasgow and is absolutely beautiful.

For more information about the Isle of Cumbrae Distillers visit:

Artist Hope Blamire

Meet Hope Blamire, the Maura Gin label artist, a celebrated Scottish painter (and self described gin enthusiast!), whose vibrant artwork captures the coastal landscapes and glistening waters of the West Coast of Scotland. Her artwork is featured in galleries and shops across the UK, and in homes throughout the world.

Born in Ayrshire, Hope studied Illustration and Printmaking at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee. She lived in France, Canada, Egypt, and Malawi, where she taught art before returning the UK. Hope now lives in Bath with her husband and sons, but her ‘spiritual’ home will always be the West Coast of Scotland. She is a highly regarded and exceptionally talented artist, a passionate campaigner for responsible tourism and a champion fund-raiser for several important causes.

Learn more at: www.hopeblamire.com

Jarlshof story translated into Shaetlan for the first time

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) have worked together with I Hear Dee to produce material in Shaetlan for the first time, at one of Shetland’s most well-known heritage attractions. Guide sheets and children’s quizzes in Shaetlan are now available at Jarlshof prehistoric and Norse settlement after staff at the site, which is run by Historic Environment Scotland, worked with the organisation to translate visitor materials into the language.

Shaetlan is a highly distinct contact language that pre-dates Standard English in Shetland yet has never been officially recognized as a language. I Head Dee aims to document, describe and promote contemporary Shaetlan, working to raise its profile as a fully viable language variety in its own right locally, nationally and internationally.

Prof. Dr. Viveka Velupillai, principle investigator at I Hear Dee and affiliate of the Department of English at the University of Giessen, said: “This is such a symbolically significant step as this is the first time ever that Shetlanders can see their own language represented as an equal among other languages on one of their own historical sites. HES has taken the first step to normalising Shaetlan in this bilingual community and give Shaetlan speakers pride of place in both its tangible and intangible heritage. It’s a truly inclusive step to take and as a linguist engaged in documenting, describing and mapping languages of the world, I thoroughly applaud your hospitable and welcoming stance.”

Champion the use of Shaetlan

The initiative at Jarlshof developed following an informal gathering of groups and organisations interested in Shetland’s heritage at the Shetland Museum and Archives which was hosted by the Shetland Amenity Trust and following this I Hear Dee began working alongside members of the site staff at Jarlshof and wider HES staff including their interpretation team, to translate the site materials.  Roy Mullay, co-investigator at I Hear Dee, said of seeing the materials for the first time: “As a native Shaetlan speaker can I say just how liberating and welcoming it is to see such high-quality public information material written in my mother tongue for the first time. I hope the rest of the Shaetlan-speaking public get the same kick out of it as I am getting now – I’m sure they will!”

Corwen Broch, District Visitor and Community Manager – North Region (Orkney & Shetland) at HES, said: “We’re really pleased to have partnered up with I Hear Dee to help champion the use of Shaetlan, by bringing it into one of the island’s most well-known visitor attractions. Incorporating the language into our interpretation highlights the importance of our intangible heritage with our built environment, both of which are closely related, and we hope that locals and visitors alike enjoy these new materials, which tell the story of the site through the distinctive words and phrases of Shaetlan.”

The Melbourne Celtic Festival

Melbourne Celtic Festival (MCF) returns in 2023 to harness Melbourne’s love affair with Celtic music and culture from 12.00pm to 11.00pm on St Patrick’s Day, with 100% of ticket sales going to important mental health initiatives and support through Australian Rotary Health and the Australian Rotary Foundation. Special international guest artist, Scottish guitarist Tony McManus will give two intimate performances in Melbourne’s iconic Mission to Seafarers Complex in the heart of the city. 

Called “The best Celtic guitarist in the world.” by UK guitarist John Renbourn and ranked by peers and predecessors alike alongside the guitar world’s all-time greats, his fiendishly dexterous, dazzlingly original playing draws on traditions from the entire Celtic diaspora – Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, Galicia, Asturias, Cape Breton, Quebec – along with still further-ranging flavours, such as jazz and eastern European music.

All things Celtic

International guest artist Tony McManus.

Festival Founder, Artistic Director and Celtic Musician, Sue Foley, said:  “I recognised a need for a more inclusive alternative to the ‘pub scene’ in Melbourne on St Patrick’s Day.”  She has a long-time passion, nay obsession, for all things Celtic. Having sat on charitable boards including being Chair of Linden Gallery, her current positions include Secretary Murrumbeena Bowls Club, Chair Murrumbeena Village Traders Association, Board of the Animal Re-homing Service and Chair of Fundraising for Rotary District 9800. “St Paddy’s Day is an unofficial public holiday so why not come for the whole day? Bring the kids after school or head straight from work for the evening session.”

The line-up also features winners at the 2022 Australian Folk Music Awards, AUSTRAL, a high-energy, four-piece Australian tunes band combining didgeridoo, Irish pipes, high energy fiddling, journeying songs and energetic foot percussion. Austral will be sure to get MCF going. The festival is also proud to present a host of female performers including Wendy Stapleton’s Australian Women’s Choir, Emma-Kate Tobia, Maria Forde, Claire Patti, Kathryn Clements, Cora Browne, Tracey Roberts, and local favourite female trio Bhan Tre.

Representing Wales are the Victoria Welsh Choir and Platform 9 ¾ alongside acapella group Thursday’s Child, Play it Martha, Comhaltas Melbourne, and Scottish pipers. The Melbourne Celtic Festival is generously supported by Community Bank Murrumbeena, The Mission to Seafarers, FreshPict Creative, Rotary D9800, Oliver-Ramsay Security, Dimattina Coffee, Nachos Cantina Aspendale and a groundswell of community contributions.

The Melbourne Celtic Festival takes place at the Mission to Seafarers, 717 Flinders St, Melbourne on Friday, 17 March, 2023. For more information see: www.melbournecelticfestival.com.au or to book tickets visit: www.trybooking.com/CFETZ

Main photo: The Celtic energy of AUSTRAL.

Scotland named best golf destination in the world

For the first time in the 9-year history of the World Golf Awards, Scotland has been awarded the ultimate accolade of ‘Best Golf Destination in the World.’  Around 200 guests from golfing destinations across the globe, attended the prestigious annual World Golf Award gala ceremony in Abu Dhabi in November. The World Golf Awards, which is part of The World Travel Awards, serves to celebrate and reward excellence in golf tourism with winners chosen by tour operators, media and golf fans from across the world. Scotland’s first win of the night came during the Best Golf Destination in Europe category followed by the top recognition of Best Golf Destination in the World – a unique double, and a first in the history of the Awards. Both awards acknowledge and celebrate the quality of Scotland as a golfing destination and, as the industry continues to recover from the pandemic, everything Scotland has to offer to golf fans. Widely regarded as the ‘Home of Golf’, Scotland has over 550 courses to play, including multiple championship venues and resorts, links courses, parkland courses and 9-hole courses.

The award wins follow on the back of a momentous last year for the Scottish golf industry which saw a number of the world’s biggest and most prestigious golf tournaments return home to Scotland to be played over an action packed five consecutive weeks. Headlined by the historic 150th Open at St Andrews, Scotland also provided the perfect stage for The Genesis Scottish Open, The Senior Open Presented by Rolex, Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open, AIG Women’s Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. The jam-packed calendar of tournaments attracted over 421,000 spectators who watched 748 world class players tee off.  It is anticipated that the awards will further inspire visitors from around the world to visit Scotland, cementing its position as a world-leader in the sport as sustainability, environmental and community initiatives amongst others, came to the fore throughout the summer period. 

Scotland is a bucket list destination for most golfers around the world

Dermot Synnott, Director of Global Partnerships for the World Golf Awards said: “Scottish golf tourism is thriving, and Scotland is a bucket list destination for most golfers around the world. It offers a vast range of parkland and links options across all its regions, so the travelling golfer really is spoilt for choice. No stranger to hosting landmark events, this award is fitting recognition to a top-quality golf destination that successfully staged The 150th Open in St. Andrews.”

Pre-covid, the 2020 UK Event Report reported that the UK’s events industry was estimated to be worth a direct spend of £70bn in 2019, and it is estimated that over £6bn (9%) of this can be attributed to Scotland. The golf industry in Scotland is worth more than £1.1 billion with golf tourism accounting for approximately £286 million annually, supporting around 4,400 jobs.  As well as the tourism boost, the health and well-being aspect of golf was brought into sharp focus during the pandemic as one of the first activities to reopen after lockdown providing exercise and social interaction.  Scotland attracts around 220,000 golfing visitors annually, while an estimated 92,000 ‘regular’ visitors to Scotland will also play golf whilst on holiday.

Main photo: Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club 16th Green. Photo:  John Paul Photography.

Stirling station postcards from the past reveal further information

While the work on Stirling station roof is now complete, the treasure trove of WW1 postcards that were unearthed from the roof crawl space in 2021 continues to offer insights into the lives of the men who served in local regiments. Network Rail recently shared the post cards publicly and asked for assistance from members of the public in a bid to uncover the stories of the men to whom the postcards were addressed. In the year since, progress has been made in identifying and unearthing the stories behind these postcards.

With the assistance of the Regimental museums, information, and photos, have emerged for three of the soldiers featured. As well as the stories of service and bravery during war time including in the Battle of Loos and at the Somme, the search also uncovered human stories of the men and offered insights into their lives beyond the army and back in civilian life. This included stories of marriage and starting families but also in one case, tales of theft and bigamy!

Appeal for anyone who may have further information

A year on from sharing the initial story of the post cards Network Rail felt it appropriate to share an update and reiterate our appeal for anyone who may have further information to get in touch and help us complete their stories. 

Captain and Quarter Master, Arthur James MacDonald of the 8th Cameron Highlanders, re-joined the Army as a commissioned officer in 1914 at outbreak of war. He was dispatched to Stirling from Dingwall with his regiment and then went on to fight in the Battle of Loos in September 1915. During this battle, the regiment suffered heavy losses and only 58 of the original 776 men survived the day. Capt. MacDonald survived the battle and was wounded on 28th October 1918, presumably during the final Allied Offensive. Given that this was only several weeks from Armistice, the Regimental Museum believes he likely survived the war and returned home.

Private and Corporal, Walter Reddiford, it is believed was born on 19th March 1898 in Lancashire, signed up to B Company, 11th Gordon Highlanders in May 1916. He initially joined as a Private and was promoted to Lance Corporal in June 1916 and then to Corporal in August that same year. Around this time, Corporal Reddiford was sent as part of a draft to the British Expeditionary Force and after arrival in France, he was posted to 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders. This battalion suffered many losses during the Battle of the Somme, July – November 1916. It is likely that Corporal Reddiford was posted as part of draft reinforcements to make up for the losses sustained. From 1917 until the end of the war, 2nd Battalion served in Italy. Corporal Reddiford survived the war and was awarded the Victory Medal and British War Medal.    Upon his return home, he married Mary Ann Heywood in 1918 and demobbed in 1919 to live with Mary Ann in Royton. In 1920, it appears that he and Mary Ann moved to Wrexham but later that year sent Mary Ann “home to her parents”. It is believed there were two children within this marriage. The next we hear of Corporal Reddiford is in a newspaper article where charges of theft, forgery and bigamy were brought against him. He was accused of stealing two cheques belonging to Colonel Gregson of Southport and of forging and uttering one of them for £6 5s. 6d. At the time of his arrest, letters were found in his possession which led to a further charge of bigamy and Florence N Stanbrooke gave evidence as to going through a form of marriage with Reddiford in March 1922.

2nd Lieutenant John Neil Campbell, born in Glasgow in October 1896 and educated at Hutcheson’s Grammar School, Glasgow. He enlisted into the 11th Gordon Highlanders in November 1915. Lt. Campbell was sent as part of a draft to the British Expedition Force in September 1916. He arrived in France on 10th  September 1916 and was posted to the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders with the rank of Temporary Lieutenant. When the war ended, he was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. Lt. Campbell demobbed he moved to 20 Queen Mary Avenue, Glasgow. Through the Hutcheson’s Grammar school archives, we have been able to find out that Lt. Campbell married Ethel May Rodgers in 1934 and was listed as a chartered accountant, living in Cuckfield, Sussex in the England and Wales register of 1939. He died on April 20th 1968. It is believed he was survived by his three children.

Current efforts from Network Rail and the Black Watch Regimental Museum have drawn a blank with the search for the soldier serving in the 6th Blackwatch. Names could include George, Rankine, Raukine, Ranking or Rankins.

The happiest areas to live in Scotland announced

Rightmove a UK property portal and marketplace has just announced Scotland’s happiest places to live. Every year the website asks people in Great Britain to tell them how they feel about where they live. People are asked what they love about their local areas, and what makes a place really feel like home. 

The annual survey is now in its 11th year, and this year heard from more than 21,000 people living in towns, cities and villages up and down the nation. Residents score their local areas on things like community spirit, and how much access they have to nature and green spaces, as well as artistic and cultural activities. This year has seen a Scottish location score among the top three places for the first time since 2016.

The Scottish Borders

The Scottish Borders town Galashiels has been awarded second place in the survey, scoring particularly highly on the friendliness and politeness of its locals.  In terms of average prices, it also has the most affordable house prices out of all the areas that made the top ten. The average asking price of a home in Galashiels is £153,546.  Galashiels real estate agent, Alice Brown, says: “Its central placement in the Borders makes it a popular location for families, giving a relaxed way of life, while being in a commutable distance of Edinburgh. Steeped in history, Galashiels has a wide variety of housing from classic period properties to new– builds. The countryside surrounding Galashiels also has much to offer, and the recently established Heartland Market brings together the town and local businesses.”

Two other Scottish areas also ranked among this year’s top 10 happiest places to live: the riverside city of Perth, and the historic city of Stirling. Galashiels was beat out for the top spot by St Ives in Cornwall.

Photo: The happy streets of Galashiels. Photo: VisitScotland.

Masterplan commissioned for home of Auld Lang Syne

Architects and heritage experts will develop vision for Robert Burns farm.

Some of Scotland’s leading architects and heritage experts are to develop a masterplan for the only home built by the poet Robert Burns. A consortium led by Delfinity Limited won the contract to develop a sustainable future for Ellisland Farm and Museum near Dumfries, where the poet wrote Auld Lang Syne and Tam o Shanter.  The £30k masterplan and viability study was commissioned by the Robert Burns Ellisland Trust charity, which has run the site since 2020. The plan will be funded by The Architectural Heritage Fund/Historic Environment Scotland, South of Scotland Enterprise and The Holywood Trust.

The project will explore how to grow audiences and deliver creative learning on the romantic site which was Burns’s first home with young wife Jean Armour. It seeks to improve biodiversity and access, including by foot, bicycle and public transport. Ellisland has 170 acres of land and is the best place to see nature through the poet’s eyes. The site has been run as a heritage attraction since 1928, thanks mainly to the efforts of volunteers.

The masterplan will propose ways to create world class facilities, restore the 1788 buildings and develop new trading income streams as the charity receives no regular public subsidy. The Delfinity team includes Oliver Chapman Architects and HarrisonStevens Landscape Architects who have worked on the sensitive development of Edinburgh’s Old Town and heritage expert Lyndsay Clark whose experience includes projects with the V&A in Dundee and National Museums Scotland. Engagement with local community, cultural and youth organisations is an essential part of the six-month project. 

A place to celebrate Burns

Joan McAlpine, Business Development Manager of The Robert Burns Ellisland Trust said: “We are so excited to work with such a talented team of experts. The home of Auld Lang Syne should be recognised around the world as a place to celebrate Burns, nature and Scottish culture. We want more people, especially young people, to be inspired by Ellisland the way Burns was inspired – and also to generate economic benefit and jobs for this part of South Scotland. We will of course reach out to the wider community to develop that vision.”

The appointment of Delfinity is the latest success of the trust, which includes a masterplan and conservation study and the development of new holiday accommodation. The trust grew its membership income five fold in 2021 and has 12 Burns Clubs members in its “1788 Circle”.

In January last year, The Annandale Distillery and The Globe Inn became Ellisland’s first corporate sponsor and in August the trust launched Explore Ellisland, which recreated the site in Minecraft, one of the world’s most popular computer games.

Celebrate the life and legacy of Robert Burns

Scotland’s winter festivities extend beyond the New Year to Burns Night on 25 January – the birthday of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national bard.  There’s no experience quite like a Burns Night celebration; locals and visitors alike can soak up some Scottish culture, indulge in the traditional dish of haggis, neeps and tatties and natter over a warming dram of whisky at one of the many Burns Night celebrations taking place this year.  Whether toasting virtually at home or heading out to a local event, anyone can join in the celebrations this Burns Night, anywhere in the world. Robert Burns composed some of the world’s most instantly recognisable lines of poetry and song, so what better way to kick off the year than with a celebration of one of Scotland’s most iconic storytellers?

Follow in Burns’ footsteps

Burns Cottage – The birthplace in 1759 of the poet Robert Burns and now museum in Alloway.

Fans of the Bard can experience the poems and songs that the spectacular Scottish landscapes inspired, explore real-life locations and uncover a wealth of stories connected to Rabbie Burns himself on a trip to Scotland.  The romantic ruins and bonnie villages of Ayrshire inspired many of Burns’ masterpieces. A visit to the beautiful village of Alloway will uncover what Burns’ life was like back in the 18th century. There is the thatched cottage where Burns was born and a walk along Poet’s Path leading to a series of weathervanes that tell the story of Tam o’Shanter, as well as the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum where it is possible to take a special behind the scenes tour to see the original first draft of Auld Lang Syne. Other nearby Burns attractions include the Bachelors’ Club in Tarbolton and Burns House Museum in Mauchline.

In fact, connections to Burns scatter the surrounding area. Perched majestically on the Ayrshire cliff, not too far from Maybole where Burns’ parents met, is Culzean Castle. Erected in Burns’ time, visitors can roam the extensive grounds and even stay the night in one of the five impressive suites. South of the castle lies Kirkoswald, home to the “ancient, trusty, drouthy crony” Souter Johnnie who was immortalised in Tam o’Shanter

The globe inn – frequented by the poet Robert Burns on the high street, Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway.

Slowing down and taking in the beauty of the sea, rivers and mountains on a Whisky & Burns cycling tour through Dumfries & Galloway is the perfect way for visitors to savour traditional food and drink whilst learning about Scotland’s national poet. Along the route in Dumfries, tour groups can discover the pleasures of whisky once enjoyed by the bard himself in The Globe Inn, one of the country’s oldest hostelries, and draw up a seat at Burns’ very own dining table, surrounded by artefacts and memories. Fans can follow the town’s Burns trail to Robert Burns House where he spent the last years of his life and see original manuscripts and personal belongings.

Named the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, Edinburgh is renowned for its connection to great literary figures, and Robert Burns is no exception. On 28 November 1786 when Burns arrived in Edinburgh its gates were flung open to him. On the Royal Mile, visitors can find a plaque dedicated to Burns near the entrance to Lady Stair’s Close. The close contains Makars’ Court, an evolving national literary monument celebrating Scottish writers from the 14th century up to the present day, where famous words have been inscribed into the flagstones. While in Edinburgh, fans of Burns will be able to see one of the most famous portraits of Robert Burns at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, painted by friend and renowned Scottish artist Alexander Nasmyth.

The perfect Burns Supper

Burns Supper traditionally consists of haggis, neeps (turnip) and tatties (potatoes).

Many places across Scotland will host Burns Suppers this month, but also see our events page for events taking place across the ex-pat world. Or host your own. All that’s needed for the perfect Burns Night is haggis, neeps, tatties, great company…and some Scottish whisky, of course! Follow these instructions to prepare and host the perfect gathering on 25 January. To start everyone gathers, the host says a few words, everyone sits and the Selkirk Grace is said.

The meal- the starter is served, the haggis is piped in (by a piper in a kilt, naturally) the host performs the Address to a Haggis, everyone toasts the haggis and the main meal is served, followed by dessert (cranachan is a great option).  After the meal the first Burns recital is performed, the Immortal Memory (the main tribute speech to Burns) is given, the second Burns recital is performed, and then there’s a Toast to the Lassies, followed by a Reply to the Toast to the Lassies, before the final Burns recital is performed.

To end the night the host gives a vote of thanks, everyone stands and sings Auld Lang Syne, crossing their arms and joining hands at the line “And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!”   

Download Burns Night resources and hosting tips from www.scotland.org/burns. Find out more about Burns, his life, legacy, and exploring his story in Scotland at: www.visitscotland.com/burns

The Tranquillity of Stonehaven

For many centuries the wee fishing port on Scotland’s east coastline has been a magnetic location for summer tourists, a distinction it retains to this day. Made up of delightful seascapes, an enchanting harbour and a lively town centre, it is an ideal spot for a day trip or a longer visit. Lying on a picturesque bay 13 miles south of Aberdeen, Stonehaven, or “Stoney” as it’s known by the locals, is sadly no longer a high-level fishing port, but it still preserves a great deal of its historic attractions.

As well as the age-old harbour there is the 15th century Tolbooth which includes an enchanting museum of local history and fishing. Another crowd-puller is the impressive sight of Dunnottar Castle which is perilously perched on a rocky cliff just south of the town. Besides having many historic connections, the scenic castle has recently been used for the location of several smash hit movies. The harbour was constructed to supply Dunnottar Castle and for many years the tiny port was very busy. In fact, at the turn of the last century when the herring fishing was in vogue as many as 150 boats regularly tied up at Stonehaven, so much so that one could “walk” from one side of the harbour to the other without getting your feet wet!

Now only a handful of vessels fish regularly, and the harbour is utilised mainly by pleasure craft. But there has been a fresh revival in the fishing industry by scallop boats which arrive in the summer months from as far away as the Isle of Man to dredge the sea bottom just offshore of Stonehaven Bay.

The Feein’ Market

Another attraction Stonehaven presents is the Feein’ Market, held in the Market Square the first Saturday in June. This is a restoration of the old feein’ market when, at the end of a working contract, farmhands who fancied a change of service, gathered to become “fee’d” with new employers after thrashing out a working arrangement regarding fresh terms of employment. The new Feein’ Market is currently organised by the Stonehaven Business Association and covers the entire Market Square, giving visitors a rare spectacle of how farm-life survived all those generations ago.

The wee town’s premier event though ironically takes place at a time of year when only a handful of proper tourists stay in the district, yet visitors from all over Britain descend on the town to witness it. The Stonehaven Fireball Ceremony is held every Hogmanay (December 31st) and is an extravaganza observed by thousands. The highlight of the ritual is when participants walk through the towns streets twirling gigantic fireballs above and round their heads! The fireballs are constructed of wire netting bags crammed with various kinds of combustible substances, and are swung round the head with the help of a long wire rope attached to a handle. The etiquette is said to stretch back to Pagan times where twirling the fireballs acted in fending off evil spirits which might endanger the town during the next 12 months.

The initial settlement at Stonehaven was little more than a number of tiny fishing huts positioned around Stonehaven Bay, but that all changed in 1600 when the wee hamlet was upgraded to become the County Town of Kincardineshire when the seat of the Sheriffdom of Kincardine was shifted from the ancient Kincardine township at Kincardine Castle close to the village of Fettercairn. When the fishing port was elevated to become the administrative centre of the county, it was most crucial to acquire a municipal building and at the time the only appropriate building in the vicinity was the storehouse owned by the Earl of Marischal on the harbour’s northern confines. The repository was hastily adapted to embody a courthouse and prison and, having been repaired and renovated over the centuries, it still stands to this day.

The New Town

The Aberdonian Steam Train. Photo: The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust.

Stonehaven’s New Town expanded in around 1781 when a bridge was erected over the Carron Water by Robert Barclay of Ury, giving more easy access to the town by those living to the south. The New Town was created around the nucleus of the Market Square with the town expanding as ripples from its centre. The famous clock tower was raised in 1857.

Stonehaven expanded as the years passed and it was not long before the railway came to town. The railway did in fact reach the town but due to the ground features of the area it was obligatory to construct the station just up the hill from the town. This resulted in more houses being constructed and a thriving suburban area soon connected Stonehaven with its railway station.

In more recent times the entire length of the town’s main road was extensively restored. Great care was taken to re-lay the old cobblestones on the surface of the street to recreate a 19th century atmosphere. The streetlamps were also given the time treatment with fine reproductions of old gas streetlights. So, if you find yourself on the north-east coast road travelling north to Aberdeen or south to Dundee, make sure you leave the main road and drive a few hundred metres down into Stonehaven. Spending a couple of idyllic hours in the tiny hamlet will put your mind completely at rest and set you up nicely for the remainder of your journey.

Scotland’s the place to be in 2023

Celebrate a new year with plenty to discover across Scotland. New stories, special moments and unforgettable memories are ready to be made in Scotland in 2023. From January through to December there are plenty of reasons why Scotland should be at the top of any travel bucket list. Start the year with Burns Night Celebrations across the country, watch the blooming of bluebells, snowdrops, and fresh fauna, welcoming new wildlife in spring, before gearing up for a festival extravaganza in the summer months. Then comes the turning of the leaves casting a golden blanket over the luscious landscapes before winter rolls round again and the year closes with the sound of fireworks and revelry at Hogmanay celebrations far and wide. 

There are cabins aplenty positioned under the stars for views that are out of this world, lush green forests and spectacular waterfalls spraying mists that are reinvigoratingly cool, and intimate gigs where revellers can dance the night away. So, whether seeking adventure or tranquillity, shopping or feasting – or a taste of it all – those who venture to Scotland will find a world of choices at their fingertips. And as always, visitors can expect a warm welcome awaiting them!  There are many reasons to make Scotland the place to be in 2023, the list below is just a selection of some of the major openings, news updates and events to look forward to in the year ahead.

2023 highlights

Dundreggan Rewilding Centre.

Celtic Connections 30th Anniversary, January 2023

Celtic Connections, the home of world-class music, one-off collaborations, and genre-defying spectacles, is set to celebrate its 30th anniversary in January 2023. The 30th Anniversary is a pinnacle moment for the festival as it recognises the advancements and achievements of the last thirty years and everything the organisers have overcome to bring people together in a defining cultural celebration. The internationally renowned festival marks this milestone with an ambitious and eclectic programme of music showcased between Thursday 19th January – Sunday 5th February 2023. The full programme can be viewed here: www.celticconnections.com

Dundreggan Rewilding Centre, March 2023

Opening in 2023, Dundreggan Rewilding Centre will be Trees for Life’s flagship rewilding estate, a unique place rich in natural and cultural heritage where real change is happening, restoring Scotland’s landscape. The new wild landscape and its ancient connections to Gaelic culture will encourage people to ‘rewild’ themselves by connecting with nature and exploring the heritage of the Highlands. Dundreggan Rewilding Centre will become a gateway for people to experience rewilding in ways that are best suited to them; from a casual visit while passing through, to immersive experiences, encouraging the idea that we can work with nature rather than against it.

V&A Dundee – Tartan, April 2023

In its fifth anniversary year, V&A Dundee will offer a radical new look at one of the world’s best-known fabrics through its flagship exhibition: Tartan. Tartan, the first major exhibition curated by V&A Dundee, with consultant curator ​​Jonathan Faiers of the University of Southampton, will celebrate the global story of a unique pattern which has connected communities worldwide, expressed tradition, revolt and diversity, and inspired playful and provocative design. It is a complex, rich, and sometimes painful history unequalled by any other cloth or pattern. Tartan is a textile which is adored and derided, inspiring great works of art and design, and representative of unity and dissent, tradition and rebellion.

Moreover, V&A Dundee, the first V&A museum in the world outside London, will celebrate its fifth anniversary in September 2023. For more information and to book, please visit: www.vam.ac.uk/dundee

Scottish Crannog Centre, spring 2023

The Scottish Crannog Centre is currently building a new museum located at the site of Dalerb on the North side of Loch Tay in Perthshire which is set to open in spring 2023. The aim of The Scottish Crannog Centre at Dalerb is to be the most sustainable museum in Scotland. The new visitor centre will showcase internationally significant archaeological collections, an Iron Age-inspired village of craft and technology demonstrations, and the first of three expert-led, but community-built, crannogs. For more information, please visit www.crannog.co.uk.

Tall Ships Races, July 2023

Shetland will once again host the Tall Ships Races from Wednesday 26th July to Saturday 29th July in Lerwick. The Tall Ships Races is an annual race series that has been arranged by Sail Training International since 1956 and in summer 2023 the town of Lerwick will welcome the fleet for four days of celebrations, sharing culture and international friendships. The full event programme is currently under development and is set to be published in March 2023. For more information and to keep up to date, please visit www.tallshipslerwick.com

2023 UCI Cycling World Championships, August 2023 

The biggest cycling event in the world comes to Scotland in 2023! The world’s greatest riders will come together in Glasgow and across Scotland to compete at the highest level, make history and show the world the power of the bike. Across 11 days of events, competitors will compete for over 200 rainbow jerseys and World Champions will be crowned in events covering everything from BMX to Mountain Biking, Indoor Cycling to Road Cycling, Para-Cycling and much, much more. With Scotland’s beautiful bike-ready landscapes, legendary cycling centres and epic arenas ready to welcome competitors and visitors from all over the world, there’s never been a better time to plan a cycling trip to Scotland. This event is more than an event exclusive for elite riders, it’s an opportunity for everyone to ride their bicycle! For more information, please visit www.cyclingworldchamps.com

Coast to Coast Cycle Route, Stranraer to Eyemouth, summer 2023

An exciting new 250 mile on-road cycle route covering the length of the South of Scotland has received the green light to progress to delivery stage. The Coast-to-Coast route will run from Stranraer to Eyemouth, making it one of the longest in the UK and a new challenge for experienced cyclists. Riders who want to test themselves can tackle the Coast-to-Coast Challenge route over four days but are highly recommended to slow down, immerse themselves and enjoy more of what the South of Scotland has to offer by completing the Explorer route over eight days or more. The project is aiming to be delivered in time for the 2023 UCI World Championships in Glasgow and across Scotland. Three of the 13 Championships are taking place in the South of Scotland in August next year, allowing visitors to the South to try the new route during or after the Championships.

The Scottish National Gallery, summer 2023

The transformative project to deliver an inspiring new space for Scotland’s renowned collection of Scottish art is set be completed in 2023. From summer 2023, visitors can look forward to experiencing a brand-new suite of world-class galleries at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. The Scottish National Gallery Project will create a beautiful space for Scotland’s art right in the historic heart of Edinburgh, with striking displays drawn from the National Galleries of Scotland’s broad-ranging collection alongside special loans from other leading arts institutions. Large windows will offer spectacular light-filled views across Princes Street Gardens, inviting visitors to come in and discover the work of pioneering Scottish artists such as Phoebe Anna Traquair, William McTaggart, Anne Redpath, Sir Henry Raeburn and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. For more information, please visit www.nationalgalleries.org

Scot City knows the score

New Edmiston House.

Rangers will open a new club museum in Glasgow soon. New Edmiston House will be an incredible, state-of-the-art facility that will host a long-awaited club museum, a new two-storey Rangers Store and an events space for use on matchdays and beyond, thus enhancing the experience for supporters when they visit Ibrox. The new museum opening coincides with the Scottish club’s 150th anniversary.

For budding golfers and enthusiasts alike, Glasgow also welcomes the addition of Topgolf. Make use of complimentary clubs or visitors can bring their own, take aim at the giant outfield targets using high-tech balls which automatically keep score. Enjoy climate-controlled hitting bays for year-round practice, relax in the sports bar or refuel in the onsite restaurant.

For even more golfing fun in the city, Golf It! is The R&A’s brand-new golf concept that will open in Glasgow in summer 2023. The vast new indoor and outdoor attraction is a new innovation and marks a significant financial investment by The R&A towards its purpose of making golf more accessible and inclusive. The new facility will feature a range of introductory golf formats including a twist on pitch and putt, adventure golf and community putting greens plus a double decker floodlit driving range and a new look nine-hole course for all the family to play.

Have a dram

Eden Mill Distillery.

The Cairn Distillery-Late October 2022 saw the opening of The Cairn Distillery, the first new distillery to be built in the Cairngorms National Park for more than a century. Nestled on the banks of the river Spey on the northern frontier of the Cairngorms National Park, every detail of The Cairn Distillery has been considered to create a remarkable structure that is reflective of its environment.  From its sedum roof which encourages insect life to thrive, to the Caithness stone pathways, every aspect is designed to respect the natural shapes and colours around it. The new distillery aims to build on Gordon & MacPhail’s 127-year heritage of producing exceptional Scotch whisky to inspire future generations. With magnificent views of its stunning location just outside Grantown-on-Spey, visitors can choose from a selection of immersive experiences, each culminating in a whisky tasting in The Discovery Room.

Moffat Distillery-Dark Sky Spirits will open Moffat’s first distillery soon. In keeping with the desire for sustainability and local resources, the distillery will have the only wood-fired still in Scotland with wood collected from local, sustainable sources. The pilot set-up is a 350-litre wash still and a 200-litre spirit still which will make Moffat Distillery the smallest whisky producer in Scotland with a visitor centre.

Port of Leith Distillery-A distillery like no other, Port of Leith Distillery is set to become Scotland’s first vertical distillery when it opens its doors in 2023. Set in the historic Port of Leith, the distillery will draw on the incredibly rich whisky heritage of Edinburgh and the history of Leith which was once an epicentre of the industry. The distillery forms part of the resurgence of distilling in the area and will offer guided tours, tastings and a rooftop bar with panoramic views across Edinburgh, Leith and Fife.

Eden Mill Distillery-Founded in 2012, Eden Mill was the first distillery in the region for over 150 years and today has a premium gin portfolio crafted from the finest botanicals, many foraged from in and around St Andrews. Over ten years later, Eden Mill have an ambition to create the finest gins and Scotch whiskies with minimal environmental impact combining traditional distilling techniques with ground-breaking innovation. Eden Mill is building a stunning distillery at the mouth of the River Eden, overlooking the iconic, historic town of St Andrews. The new distillery sits at the heart of the University of St Andrews Eden Campus, a unique site dedicated to zero carbon and sustainable businesses and research.

Trip-spiration – Go your own way

The Flying Scotsman.

From cycle paths to long-distance walking trails, set-jetting to train trips, there are many ways to follow your own path around Scotland in 2023.

A wheely good time-Avid cyclists can follow in the tracks of the world champions set to be crowned at the UCI Cycling World Championships in August and plan a bike-packing trip through the hills and glens of Scotland’s stunning scenery. With routes covering the abbeys in The Borders, island hopping in the Hebrides and the dramatic coastlines in the north, there’s adventure to be had in all corners of Scotland. For those looking for day experiences, an adrenaline-fuelled day at one of the 7Stanes mountain bike centres in the south of Scotland is sure to get the heart pumping or, with routes for all abilities, a day on the waymarked paths at Gravelfoyle is a great way to take in the stunning landscapes of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park at a more leisurely pace. Cities in Scotland are getting greener and Glasgow, Scotland’s very own Dear Green Place, provides a variety of ways to explore the city in a more responsible way from OVO Bikes to the fully electric fleet of sight-seeing buses launching in 2023, it’s never been as easy to keep it green! 

Stay on track-Perhaps a different track appeals more and with the Flying Scotsman celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2023, there’s never been a better reason to hop on board a train and sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s easy to explore Scotland’s eight cities as each are connected by a variety of rail routes meaning a day trip or longer stay to explore each of their cultural highlights, historical sites and foodie delights is only a train ride, or two, away.  Scotland is home to some of the world’s most iconic railway journeys and the routes are surrounded by postcard-perfect views that are guaranteed to surprise and mesmerise as the train rolls by. From Glasgow, travellers can hop on the West Highland Line to the westerly port town of Mallaig traversing remote wilderness and the world-renowned Glenfinnan Viaduct. While from Edinburgh, passengers can climb aboard the longest new domestic railway to be built in over 100 years deep into the picturesque Scottish Borders and the land of Sir Walter Scott. Departures from Inverness include the coast-to-coast Kyle Line, taking in spectacular Highland scenery and finishing with magnificent views of Skye, and the Far North Line which traces the North Sea coast up to Wick, from which it’s only a short hop by bus over to John O’Groats, the most northerly inhabited point on the mainland. 

These boots were made for walking-From an afternoon amble on a leafy forest path to bagging a Munro, from a city stroll to a coastal walk, exploring the great outdoors on foot in Scotland is a fantastic way to spend a holiday. The Seven Wonders of Scotland’s Walking World provide a unique glimpse into Scotland’s natural heritage and offer spectacular walks with views and are located across the country. Adventurous hikers can take on the West Highland Way, a 96-mile challenge between Milngavie and Fort William, or they can cross coast-to-coast on the John Muir Way or follow in the footsteps of pilgrims from centuries ago on the Fife Pilgrim Way. These walks can be enjoyed section by section or as an adventure across several days.

As scene on screen-Launched in November 2022, Set in Scotland is a 52-page guide featuring more than 150 films which have been shot entirely or partially in Scotland – such as Braveheart (1995), Skyfall (2012), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019) and The Batman (2022) – and details more than 100 film locations. Set-jetting is a great way to follow in the footsteps of the legends of TV and film and with two iconic films celebrating big anniversaries in 2023, The Wicker Man (1973) and Local Hero (1983), there’s never been a better time to explore. This handy guide has all the location information needed to plot out a blockbuster trip to Scotland for 2023. The guide and more information can be found at: www.visitscotland.com/see-do/attractions/tv-film

From Edinburgh Castle, Iona Abbey and St Andrews Cathedral to Skara Brae, Urquhart Castle and The Falkirk Wheel, there are dozens of exciting attractions and sites across Scotland to visit in 2023.  For more inspiring days out and exclusive offers and discounts visit www.visitscotland.com/holidays-breaks/day-trips/offers.

The inaugural Australian Juvenile Pipe Band Championships

At the November 2022 Pipe Bands Australia National Council meeting approval was given for a standalone Australian Juvenile Pipe Band Championships to be held as a recurring fixture on the Australian contest calendar every alternate year between occurrences of the Australian Pipe Band Championships.

This initiative will give flourishing juvenile and school programs the opportunity to work towards a major championship on an annual basis.

Developing youth pipe band organisations

Pipe Bands Australia is pleased to announce that the inaugural Australian Juvenile Pipe Band Championships will be hosted and promoted by SCOTS PGC College in 2023. This event will take place Saturday 30 September at the SCOTS PGC College grounds, Warwick, Queensland. It is anticipated that the October long weekend (observed in QLD, ACT, NSW & SA) will be the date for this event in future years.

SCOTS PGC plans a full weekend that will include, in addition to the AJPBC, focused development opportunities such as workshops and recitals for developing youth pipe band organisations that will culminate in an opportunity to showcase Australia’s best pipers and drummers in the Australian Piping and Drumming Solo Championships. Additionally, the wider Warwick community will also be hosting the highly popular CelticFest. In previous years, this event has brought thousands of Celtic cultural devotees to Warwick.

The Scottish Highlands named as one of the ‘Best of the World’ destinations for 2023

The Scottish Highlands has been named as one of National Geographic’s ‘Best of the World’ destinations for 2023. The publication revealed that the region is one of only two UK destinations to make the annual list. It has been shortlisted in the nature category, alongside Botswana, Slovenia, Big Bend National Park in Texas and Azores.

The travel list, which is created, researched, reported and written in collaboration with National Geographic Traveler’s international editorials teams, celebrates Scotland’s rewilding efforts, which aim to restore the original landscape of the Highlands by replanting and restoring native species. It references areas such as Alladale Wilderness Reserve and the Affric Highlands project which will start restoring 500,000 acres stretching from Loch Ness to the West Coast.

Natural assets

In response to the Highlands addition to the National Geographic Best of the World line-up, Tourism Minister Ivan McKee said: “This is excellent news, Scotland continues to go from strength to strength in developing sustainable tourism and to be recognised alongside Botswana and the Azores reinforces that tourism and environmental protection can be developed alongside each other through strategic planning and appropriate interventions. Our scenery is one of the largest draws for our international visitors and it’s important that we preserve it for generations to come. Sustainability is therefore a key strand of our Tourism Strategy: Scotland Outlook 2030 and it’s encouraging to be recognised for this.”

Highland Council Leader, Cllr Raymond Bremner, said: “To have the Highlands shortlisted as one of only two UK destinations in such a prestigious list of nominees is testament to the stunning unspoilt nature of the place we are lucky enough to call home. What is really pleasing is to receive recognition from National Geographic for the efforts in restoring the Highlands’ ecosystems through projects like Affric Highland in the rewilding of 500,000 acres, re-introducing native species, improving biodiversity being carried out in areas like the Alladale Wilderness Reserve, and in the rewilding planned to improve biodiversity across 500,000 acres as part of the Affric Highland Project.”

He added: “Our natural assets bring thousands of visitors to the region every year. Like the rest of the world however we are not immune to the effects of Climate Change. As a region it is vital that we work together in the development of  a more sustainable tourism infrastructure. Areas like the Alladale Wilderness Reserve are proof of what can be achieved when you focus on restoring the balance of nature.”

Main photo: Hillwalker in the ancient Caledonian Pine Forest at Coire Loch, Glen Affric. Photo: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam.

Blockbuster Scotland on Screen

One of the stars of medieval epic blockbusters, Highlander, Braveheart and Outlaw King, and fantasy TV series, Game of Thrones, is fronting a new guide to filming locations in Scotland – in a bid to entice film fans. Scottish acting legend, James Cosmo, who has more than 200 screen credits over the past six decades, pens the foreword to the revamped guidebook, Set in Scotland, published by Scotland’s national tourism organisation, VisitScotland. he 52-page guide features more than 150 films which have been shot entirely or partially in Scotland – such as Braveheart, Skyfall, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, Fast & Furious 9, and The Batman – and details more than 100 film locations. It can be downloaded from visitscotland.com/film.

To date, Scotland has appeared in five of the top 30 highest grossing films of all time, which have brought in a total of $10.6 billion at the box office worldwide. Among them are Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which showed off Edinburgh’s gothic architecture and the quaint fishing village of St Abbs (which doubled for New Asgard) in the Scottish Borders, respectively.  Following the release of Avengers: Endgame, the fishing village is now ‘twinned’ with New Asgard. Its popularity with film fans has given a visitor bump to nearby nature reserve, St Abb’s Head.

The attraction, cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, saw a 25% increase in visitors, to 63,721, when Endgame was released in 2019. In the two years prior to its release, the attraction had on average 49,000 visitors. Last year’s visitor numbers remained above pre-Avengers levels at 58,862, despite the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.   Research shows that around one in five visitors (18%) from the USA and 13% from Canada visit a film or TV location while in Scotland. A recent report valued screen tourism at £55 million to the Scottish economy, based on those visiting film and TV locations, creating 1220 full-time jobs.


Actor James Cosmo. Photo: Julie Howden.

Screen tourism – or set-jetting – is a global trend in which film or TV fans are inspired to visit a location after seeing it on screen. It comes in the form of visiting the exact filming location or providing the general motivation to book a holiday to the destination. The trend is long-term, with many visitors citing film titles released long before their trip as motivation, and so can provide ongoing financial support to the regions and businesses linked to popular locations.  On the small screen, Starz TV series Outlander, based on the best-selling books by Diana Gabaldon, has resulted in a huge boom to screen tourism in Scotland since its first broadcast in 2014, particularly from US and Canadian visitors. Visits to Outlander film locations and attractions rose from 1.47 million in 2014 to 3.2 million in 2020.

Actor James Cosmo writes in the foreword: “Throughout my career I have been privileged enough to be involved in many [films] that have made a real connection with audiences worldwide. People still come up to me while in Scotland and tell me they are here because they watched Scottish films such as Braveheart or Highlander. And what is wonderful, is that the films are only the starting point. They then form a strong connection with the real country – it may be because of their ancestors or the feeling they get while they’re here. That stays with them.”

Set in Scotland covers the last 90 years, from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 version of The 39 Steps, in which UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Forth Bridge, appears, to The Road Dance, which was filmed on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides during the pandemic and released in May this year. Alien, Avengers, Batman, Fast & Furious, and James Bond, are among the global film franchises to have come to Scotland. The guide labels each film by genre, features web links to film themed content on visitscotland.com, and contains a new section, Monarchs of the Glens, which focuses on those films linked to Scotland’s kings and queens, from Shakespeare’s Macbeth to the Oscar-winning The Queen.

After the release of medieval epic Braveheart (1995) about Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace, the National Wallace Monument in Stirling, which commemorates the life of William Wallace, reported visitor numbers leapt from 80,000 a year to nearly 200,000 in 1996.  For the 10-year period from 1996 to 2005 the average annual number of visitors to the National Wallace Monument was 135,000, and it has remained above 100,000 over subsequent years.

Dan Brown’s 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code, had a huge effect on Rosslyn Chapel, in Midlothian, near Edinburgh. Visitor numbers increased by 72 per cent, from 68,603 in 2004 to 118,151 in 2005. In 2006, following the release of the film directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, visitor numbers reached 175,053, providing a major cash injection for conservation work at the site.

For more on screen tourism and to download Set in Scotland: www.visitscotland.com/film 

Major programme of restoration and repair set to start at Rosslyn Castle

A major programme of restoration and repair at one of Midlothian’s most historic sites is to get underway.  Rosslyn Castle, just a short walk from Rosslyn Chapel, was built by the St Clair family and the oldest parts date back to the early 14th century. Although much of the site is ruinous, the East Range, developed as a domestic residence and completed in 1622, is still partly occupied and let as holiday accommodation.

However, some parts of the East Range, the former Great Hall and Tower, have remained in a ruinous state, leading to further deterioration including to the three levels of vaults below ground level. A permanent roof will be built to cover the former Great Hall, to protect important masonry carvings, and the three levels of vaults below. This will also allow a new kitchen and living area to be created at ground level and an additional bedroom to be located in the former Tower. Work will also include the upgrading of the energy efficiency of the whole building and the development of a new sustainable heating strategy.

One of Midlothian’s most historically significant buildings

Rosslyn Castle is category A-listed, recognising its architectural and historic character and its grounds are designated as a Scheduled Monument. The Castle is in the care of Rosslyn Chapel Trust and the East Range has provided self-catering accommodation, through a partnership with The Landmark Trust, since the 1980s. The programme of work is scheduled to last for over a year and access to the ruined areas, and the bridge leading to the Castle, will not be possible during this time. 

Ian Gardner, Director of Rosslyn Chapel Trust, said: ‘We are delighted to be at this very exciting stage when work is about to get underway. This project will help to conserve the East Range of Rosslyn Castle for future generations to appreciate and will transform the quality of the experience for guests staying here. In short, this work will secure the long-term future of one of Midlothian’s most historically significant buildings.’ Rosslyn Chapel Trust has commissioned Page\Park as architects to oversee the work. Karen Nugent, of Page\Park, said: ‘Rosslyn Castle is a special place nestled in the tranquillity of Roslin Glen and we are very pleased to continue our conservation work here with Rosslyn Chapel Trust. The project is a unique opportunity to add a new layer to the historic building and to pioneer sustainable heating systems in a protected setting.’

Rosslyn Chapel Trust was established in 1995. Since then, it concluded a 17-year programme of conservation at Rosslyn Chapel in 2014 and completed a two-year programme of conservation and repair at Collegehill House, the former 17th century inn which stands at the entrance to the Chapel, in 2018.

For more information on Rosslyn Chapel and Castle see:  www.rosslynchapel.com

Central Florida Scottish Highland Games

The Central Florida Scottish Highland Games, the largest community event in Seminole County, is organized each year by the Scottish-American Society of Central Florida. The event was created to promote and preserve the area’s strong Scottish and Celtic heritage. Each January, the two-day gathering welcomes thousands of visitors to Central Winds Park in Winter Springs, just minutes north of Orlando, for a celebration of community and culture.

In 2023, the festivities will begin on Friday evening with the annual whiskey tasting, where visitors are welcome to sample from an array of expertly curated spirits, presented by the Whisky Cabinet – a group of dedicated local whiskey enthusiasts who regularly tour the region to engage, educate and entertain whisky newbies and connoisseurs alike. Things take off on Saturday with a number of competitions in traditional heavy athletics – including the Stone Put and the Caber Toss – Highland dance, bagpiping, and shortbread & scone baking. There is also the popular Boulder Boogie event, where contestants vie for bragging rights of carrying a heaviest rock the farthest distance without dropping it.

A family friendly event

The weekend also hosts several cultural activities, including Border Collie demonstrations, a gathering of Scottish clans, musical performances, a medieval camp, axe throwing, and much more. As always, the festival is a family friendly event featuring “Kids Games” version of the traditional heavy athletics and loads of other activities for the wee ones. Let’s not forget the unique shopping opportunities. The Central Florida Scottish Highland Games features some of the best Celtic artisans presenting jewelry, clothing, artistry, weaponry and more. Get yourself a kilt or new sporran. Add to your Celtic jewelry or purchase items typically found only in Scotland and the UK.

There is plenty of food and drink. Come out and have a beer, wine or whiskey with your haggis, scotch-egg, or fresh fried fish and chips. Finally, there is the Ceilidh, a Scottish and Celtic music fest featuring Albannach, Barley Juice and others performing on the main stage. Whether you are looking to explore your heritage and enjoy a walk through the clan village or cheering on the displays of strength and skill on the athletic fields, or simply enjoy some drink and food with friends while listening to the music, there is something for everyone at the Central Florida Scottish Highland Games.

The Central Florida Scottish Highland Games takes place January 14-15, 2023 in Winter Springs, Florida. Tickets are now on sale at: www.Flascot.com/tickets. For more information see: www.flascot.com.

ScotlandsPeople 1921 Census: Who Will You Find?

The 1921 census records, made up of over 9000 volumes of enumeration district books, have now been released by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) on the online research service ScotlandsPeople. 200,000 images of 4.8 million individual records can now be searched, viewed and downloaded and have been added to the census returns already available on the website, covering every 10 years from 1841. The census is a survey which collects information on every household, building and vessel in Scotland on a particular night. The enumeration books contain all of the information transcribed from the household schedules (which were destroyed after work on the census was completed) and can be seen online as full colour images.

The 1921 census revealed that the population of Scotland had reached 4,882,500 inhabitants; twice as large as had been recorded in 1831, and three times the size as in 1801. The effects of the First World War (1914-1918) and the influenza pandemic known as ‘Spanish ‘Flu’ (1918) had been felt, however, by local communities and were reflected in the 1921 returns. Between the 1911 and 1921 census the male population had grown by 38,803 and the female population by 82,790, totalling 121,593 individuals or a growth of around 2.5%. This was, however, the smallest increase since 1801 in any census period due to war and emigration. Over the years, the questions which formed the census have varied, but all are a guide to what the government at the time wanted to know about its population, including its size and age, location, sex and the variety of occupations employing its citizens. Details captured by the census were used to inform government policy at the time; immediately after the census was taken, as is still the case, statistics were made available publicly for demographic purposes. Today, however, these records offer a rich resource of contemporary information which can be explored by historians and genealogists alike in order to trace people, the history of buildings or local areas.

Delivering the 1921 census

In Scotland the work of delivering the census was led by the Registrar General who relied on a network of registrars and enumerators to get census forms called “schedules” out to every household, filled in and returned. The information from the schedules was then copied into enumeration books by hand. It is images from the pages in those books that customers can find on ScotlandsPeople.  The census of 1921 was taken on 19 June.  Making the personal data of a census available is an unusual undertaking in that it unites two teams of workers 100 years apart. The Census Act of 1920 ensures that once the statistical information has been created from household data the personal information like names, relationships and ages must be kept confidential for 100 years. Only at that point can it be opened for members of the public to view. 

To give people an efficient way of searching, digital copies have been taken of every page of every enumeration book and then every handwritten name transcribed into a computerised index. Quality review work has also been undertaken to improve accuracy.  With a ScotlandsPeople account people can search for their ancestors or other people of interest at no charge with just names and an idea of where they might have been living. There’s a fee to view the images. An account also offers website users handy ways of storing their finds in timelines so key information can be found quickly. The more information about where someone was living the better the chances of finding them. While there are no guarantees that a person is listed it is likely that they will be included if they lived in Scotland at the time. There are online guides full of hints and tips for users. Using the census is a great opportunity to turn detective and NRS invites everyone to tell them: who will you find?

For more information see: www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk

2023 – A Year in Piping & Drumming

By: The National Piping Centre, Glasgow

As we all know, the last couple of years have been tough and it has really been felt by those of us who make music. But we are looking ahead to a 2023 that will be packed with all the things we love – pipe bands playing together, music festivals where we can share the experience of live music once again and the world’s best going head-to-head throughout a full piping and drumming season. 2023 will be a special year for a number of events – read on to find out why!

Glasgow comes alive at the darkest time of year, as the UK’s premier celebration of Celtic music, Celtic Connections returns with a full 18-day programme from 17th January – 5th February to celebrate its 30th Anniversary year. Opening with a spectacular 30th Anniversary concert and featuring high profile traditional musicians such as John McCusker, Treacherous Orchestra and Karine Polwart, as well as a host of up and coming artists, and those pushing the boundaries of their art forms. Head over to the website now find out more – www.celticconnections.com

As well as Celtic Connections, solo pipers are heading to Kansas City once again this January as Winter Storm, organized by MHAF, returns from 12th – 15th January, after a 2-year hiatus. The Competition League for Amateur Solo Pipers also returns in January, with an in-person event in Glasgow on 14th January. This league has an overall and online-only titles so you can compete as an amateur solo player from anywhere in the world. The latest online event saw competitors from Hong Kong to Hawai’i join the event! If you are an amateur player and would like to find out more go to www.theclasp.co.uk

Southern Hemisphere

There is also a plethora of events in the Southern Hemisphere with pipe band events, solo competitions and more. On 1st January, New Zealand holds its first major solo piping and drumming event of the year and the 150th Anniversary of the Waipu Highland Games. Then from the 11th – 15th January, the Royal New Zealand Pipe Band Association will host its summer school. After a year’s hiatus due to the pandemic, this event returns to Christchurch. This Summer School is the perfect opportunity to learn from world class tutors, and it showcases some of the best talent New Zealand has to offer. The RNZPBA is excited to bring the NZ & South Pacific Pipe Band Championships to Christchurch on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th March. The celebration of Scottish culture and music will include pipe bands from throughout New Zealand and Australia.

Then on 18th February, our National Piping Centre Junior Piping Championship returns, one of a host of fantastic contest for young pipers aged Under 18 across the country every year. It aims to encourage all young players to compete, with chanter competitions through to Piobaireachd events.

The National Piping Centre’s Adult Gatherings return from 6th – 19th February, for the first of four events across the year. You can join these schools in person or online, so you can get tuition from the world’s best, wherever you are across the globe!

In Australia, Ballarat Grammar School in Victoria will host its annual pipe band contest on Sat 25th February.  Pipe Bands Australia is also pleased to announce that the inaugural Australian Juvenile Pipe Band Championships will take place Saturday 30th September at SCOTS PGC College in Warwick, Queensland.

On 11th March, the adult solo piping season kicks off in Scotland with the Duncan Johnstone Memorial Competition which is held at The National Piping Centre and managed by the Competing Pipers’ Association for B and C graded pipers.

The National Piping Centre’s Junior Gatherings return in April, from 3rd – 6th, with 4 schools throughout the year for pipers aged Under 18 to come and immerse themselves in playing, whilst meeting other young pipers.

Scottish summer events

Piping Live!

The annual Chicago Highland Games has rapidly become the largest pipe band competition in North America based on the number of entrants, and the June 2023 edition will see the addition of a Grade 1 competition.  The Glengarry Highland Games take place August 4-5 in Maxville, Ontario, Canada and are home of the North American Pipe Band Championships. The Grades 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 Band Competitions will take place on Saturday.

As we move into the Scottish summer (keeping everything crossed for some sunshine!) the pipe band season begins in earnest! The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association have not announced the dates for four of their five major contests yet, with usually happen at the end of May, middle and end of June and at the end of July. However, the date for this year’s World Pipe Band Championships has been announced as the 18th and 19th August. Keep up with all the pipe band news at www.rspba.org

Piping Live! returns in full force to the streets of Glasgow in the run up to the World’s once again as Glasgow hosts the world’s biggest week of piping! This year, we are celebrating the 20th edition of our festival running from 12th – 20th August, which attracts performers and audiences from across the world. In 2022, we welcomed performers from Iran, Hungary and Estonia performing on their own styles of bagpipes, as well as Scottish Pipe Bands from Argentina, USA and Canada, as well as from across Scotland. We can’t wait for the 20th edition – keep up with what’s happening and register for email updates at  www.pipinglive.co.uk

Solo competitions

The Glenfiddich Piping Championship.

The annual Chicago Highland Games has rapidly become the largest pipe band competition in North America based on the number of entrants, and the June 2023 edition will see the addition of a Grade 1 competition.  At the end of August, the piping world turns its focus to top level solo competition, with the Argyllshire Gathering taking place in Oban on 23rd and 24th August, and the Northern Meeting in Inverness happening on 31st August – 1st September. These see the world’s best solo performers gather to compete for the most prestigious solo piping prizes, as well as a chance to qualify for the Glenfiddich Piping Championship.

The Glenfiddich Piping Championship takes place at the end of October each year, and in 2023 will celebrate its 50th event on Saturday 28th October. 10 competitors will gather at Blair Castle to compete in Piobaireachd and March, Strathspey and Reel disciplines to be crowned champion. As it is a special year there will be a host of extra special moments planned. Tickets to join us in person at Blair Castle or to watch through the livestream will go on sale around mid-July through the National Piping Centre website.

But October isn’t all about solo piping, as on Saturday 21st October, the World Solo Drumming Championship takes place, here in Glasgow, with the best drummers gathering to compete of several rounds to be crowned the best. Inveraray and District’s Steven McWhirter has won a record 10th straight title in 2022, so let’s see what 2023 brings!

The Glenfiddich Piping Championship marks the end of the 2023 season, only for the 2024 season to start the very next weekend in London with the Scottish Piping Society of London’s annual competition, which has its 85th year in 2023. Also, in the USA and Canada there are several piping events through November, with the An Crios Gréine – Sun Belt Invitational Solo Piping Competition taking place in Florida and the George Sherriff Memorial Invitational for amateur players taking place in Hamilton Ontario. Dates for these events will be confirmed later this year.

So, if you are travelling this year, come and hear piping in Scotland – or look out for it around the world!

You can find out more about all The National Piping Centre’s projects at www.thepipingcentre.co.uk or get the latest news and results from the piping world at www.bagpipe.news which will give you details of events happening across the globe.

Auld lang syne

Perhaps Burns’s most famous song, these lines are sung across the world on Hogmanay. However, this is not Burns’s original work. It was one of the traditional ballads he heard as he travelled around Scotland, and he wrote it down (with the music) in 1788. Burns reworked the piece (quite how much is unknown) and sent it to George Thomson in 1793 to be published in A Select Collection of Original Scotish Airs for the Voice. In a letter to Thomson, Burns described ‘the old song of the olden times, & which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript, untill I took it down from an old man’s singing.’ An earlier version of the song also appeared in Jame Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum.

One of Burns’s greatest legacies (in addition to his own works) was this transcription of hundreds of traditional ballads, which may otherwise have been lost. Auld lang syne roughly translates as ‘for old time’s sake’, a fitting song to be sung at the end of the year and other big occasions such as Scottish ceilidhs, weddings and, of course, Burns Suppers. It has become traditional in Scotland to hold hands in a large circle for the first five verses and then, at the end of the fifth verse, singers cross their arms (still holding their neighbours’ hands!) and run into the middle of the circle.

Auld lang syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne?


For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne!

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!

And surely I’ll be mine,

And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne!


We twa hae run about the braes,

And pou’d the gowans fine;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,

Sin’ auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,

Frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

Sin’ auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!

And gie’s a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,

For auld lang syne.


Handy glossary: pint-stowp = tankard of ale; pou’d = pulled; gowans = daisies; braid = broad; fere = companion; gude-willie waught = good hearty swig.

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

Main photo: A section of Burns’s handwritten manuscript for Auld lang syne.

New 250-mile Coast to Coast cycle route gets green light

An exciting new 250 mile on-road cycle route covering the length of the South of Scotland has received the green light to progress to delivery stage. The Coast to Coast route will run from Stranraer to Eyemouth, making it one of the longest in the UK and a new challenge for experienced cyclists. Walking and cycling routes can deliver significant economic, environmental and community benefits, and early projections are that the new South of Scotland Coast to Coast route could attract up to 175,000 new visitors to the region, with a direct spend of £13.7million per year.  

The project is aiming to be delivered in time for the 2023 UCI World Championships in Glasgow and across Scotland. Three of the 13 Championships are taking place in the South of Scotland in August next year, allowing visitors to the South to try the new route during or after the Championships. Riders who want to test themselves can tackle the Coast to Coast Challenge route over four days but are highly recommended to slow down, immerse themselves and enjoy more of what the South of Scotland has to offer by completing the Explorer route over eight days or more. The Coast to Coast announcement follows the launch of the first ever South of Scotland Cycling Partnership Strategy in September, which aims to ensure cycling becomes the most popular choice for shorter, everyday journeys by 2032. The Strategy also has a vision for the region to be recognised as Scotland’s leading cycling destination and a world-class cycling destination of excellence.

Home of the bike

Councillor Scott Hamilton, Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Member for Community and Business Development, said: “The development of this route could deliver very significant benefits to communities all the way from Eyemouth to Stranraer and we continue to work closely with the partners involved to bring it to fruition. It is through initiatives such as this that we can really build upon the region’s cycling heritage and already significant reputation for cycling and truly make the South of Scotland the ‘Home of the Bike’.”

Tourism Minister Ivan McKee added: “The South of Scotland is already recognised as a destination that offers a wide range of experiences and activities for visitors including walking and cycling. The creation of the Coast to Coast cycling route will support the Scottish Government’s ambition of delivering economic, environmental and community benefits to our regions through sustainable tourism. The route is part of the momentum building towards the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships in August, which is bringing three of the 13 Championships to the South of Scotland and encouraging participation in cycling across the region.”