Winner of the 150th Glenfiddich Piping Championship crowned at Blair Castle

The overall winner of the prestigious Glenfiddich Piping Championship 2023 has been named as Callum Beaumont, as the event celebrates five decades of sensational piping. The prestigious Championship, which was first held in 1974, was founded by Sandy Grant Gordon of William Grant and Sons, and Seumas MacNeill who was Principal of the College of Piping at the time. It was established to inspire the world’s finest exponents of Ceòl Mòr or Piobaireachd (the great music) and Ceòl Beag or light music (the little music). Run by The National Piping Centre, the world centre for excellence in bagpipe music, and funded through the William Grant Foundation, the event is held annually in Perthshire. Callum Beaumont went up against nine of the world’s greatest solo players at the landmark 50th edition of the annual competition at Blair Castle last night to claim the title, his first time lifting the trophy.

Finlay Johnston was crowned runner-up and Alex Gandy was third overall. Callum Beaumont was also named the Piobaireachd winner, and the March, Strathspey and Reel (MSR) competition winner was Alex Gandy. The recipient of this year’s Balvenie Medal, which is awarded annually for services to piping, was Roderick J MacLeod MBE. The five-time Glenfiddich Champion was nominated for the award by his peers for his huge contribution to the world of piping through his solo, pipe band and professional career.  The Championship played out in front of a packed live audience in Blair Castle’s Victorian Ballroom, with advance tickets having sold out well ahead of the event, as well as hundreds of spectators from around the world watching the competition online.

Legacy of great pipers

Callum Beaumont.

Overall winner Callum Beaumont said: “I’m honoured to be taking home the Glenfiddich trophy today. It was fantastic to be part of the 50th edition of the Championship competing against such incredible pipers – everyone gave it their all so it means a lot to be the overall winner, and to join the legacy of great pipers who have received this honour in the past five decades.”

The National Piping Centre’s Director of Piping, Finlay MacDonald, said: “It was fantastic to have ten of the world’s best pipers competing here at Blair Castle for this special edition of the Glenfiddich Piping Championship. The Championship is the peak of all solo piping competitions, representing the very best in piping talent from around the world. It was a tough competition, with some incredible performances, so congratulations to our winners and runners up this year and a big thank you to everyone who came along to watch or tuned in online, and anyone who has supported the Championship over the past 50 years.”

This year’s competitors were once again chosen from the list of qualifying events, with Willie McCallum the Overall Winner of the 2022 Glenfiddich Piping Championship. Callum Beaumont won The Clasp for Senior Piobaireachd and the Former Winners MSR at the Northern Meeting, where Innes Smith was the Gold Medal Winner and Finlay Johnston took second in the Former Winners’ March, Strathspey and Reel. Angus MacColl was the Senior Piobaireachd winner at the Argyllshire Gathering, with Alex Gandy winning the Former Winners’ March, Strathspey and Reel, Alasdair Henderson taking the gold medal and Jack Lee taking second place in the Former Winners’ March, Strathspey and Reel at the same event. At the Scottish Pipers’ Society of London Competition, Fred Morrison was named the Overall Champion, while Bruce Gandy was awarded the Bratach Gorm, as well winning the Piping Live! Masters Solo Piping Competition overall prize.

Images courtesy of Derek Maxwell.

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, Florida – just north of Orlando – for a celebration of tradition, community and culture.

In 2024, the festivities will begin on Thursday evening with the annual whisky tasting, where visitors are welcome to sample from an array of expertly curated spirits. Presented by, The Whisky Cabinet, a group of dedicated local whisky enthusiasts, with an emphasis on unique and rare whiskies to engage, educate and entertain whisky newbies and connoisseurs alike. Things take off on Saturday with several competitions including in traditional heavy athletics, Highland dance, bagpiping, and shortbread and scone baking.

Something for everyone


There is also the popular Boulder Boogie event, where contestants vie for bragging rights of carrying a heaviest stone the farthest distance without dropping it. 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. Our festival is a family friendly event featuring non-competitive “Kids Games” version of the traditional heavy athletics, arts & crafts and loads of other activities for the wee ones. Both kids and adults can enjoy 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 unique Celtic inspired gifts typically found only in Scotland and the UK. There is plenty of food and drink. Come out and have a beer, wine or whisky with your haggis, scotch-egg, or fish and chips. Finally, there is the Ceilidh, a Scottish and Celtic gathering featuring the music of Albannach, Barley Juice and others performing on the “Lochside” stage.

Whether you are looking to explore your heritage and enjoy a stroll through the clan village or cheering on the displays of strength and skill on the athletic fields, or simply enjoying some food and drink 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 take place January 13-14, 2024 in Winter Springs, Florida. Tickets are now on sale. Visit for details.

Thousands gather for the Hororata Highland Games

A bonnie day was had by thousands of people who joined Clan Hororata at the 12th annual Hororata Highland Games 11th November 2023. Colin Forsyth travelled back from his home in Scotland to take the role of Chieftain at the Hororata Highland Games. A founding committee member of the event, it has been nine years since he has been able to attend the Games.

Colin was blown away by how the community has grown this festival. He said: “12 years ago, I took a phone call, they said, ‘we have this idea can you help us’; I said, why not and got on board. There was a lot of trust put in me and we got the first Hororata Highland Games off the ground. The community took my ideas, questioned some, added a kiwi twist, and created one of the world’s greatest highland games, and I know this because I have been fortunate to attend many games around the world. I was simply blown away as I wandered around the festival, it is just phenomenal. The committee has stayed true to our initial vision but expanded it into something that was beyond my wildest dreams.”

Traditional Scottish events

Hororata Highland Games 2023

The Hororata Highland Games hosted nearly 1,000 competitors of all ages competing in traditional Scottish events, with a record number of Highland dancers, pipers and drummers. Visitors got involved with over 1,000 people having a go at tossing a caber, pie eating, running the Kilted Mile, and taking on the Highland Challenge. A highlight of the day was the massed band march and Chieftain’s welcoming ceremony. Followed by a massed Scottish Country Dance where the crowd got to jump the fence into the main arena to dance the specially choreographed ‘Hororata Heavies’ in celebration of 100 years to the Royal Scottish Country Dancing Society.

Massed bands.

St Andrew’s Square hosted 23 Clans and held a moving Armistice Day service at 11.11am while two Spitfires sored overhead. The Hororata Highland Games is a community run event with all proceeds benefiting the rural area. 14 community groups raise funds for their own causes and over 200 volunteers join Clan Hororata to deliver the event. It is a shining example of what a community can do by pulling together with a common vision. Colin Forsyth added: “It was one of the greatest honours that has ever been bestowed on me is to be to the head of the Hororata Clan as their Chieftain. I am so proud of what the Hororata community is achieving. Thank you to all the volunteers, competitors, stallholders, sponsors and everyone who came, it is you who make this event what it is.”

The Hororata Highland Games is a Scottish festival, with a Kiwi twist, in Hororata, Canterbury, New Zealand. The 2024 Hororata Highland Games will take place on Saturday November, 9th. For more details see:

All images courtesy of David Baird.

Next steps for national parks in Scotland

Communities across Scotland are being asked to consider whether their local area could be designated as the country’s newest national park. Individuals, groups or organisations considering making a proposal can now register early interest.  The government has committed to designating at least one new national park in Scotland by Spring 2026.  Visiting Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity Lorna Slater said: “I look forward to engaging with communities and learning more about their proposals, and I encourage everyone to get involved as we move closer to naming Scotland’s next national park. Our existing national parks play an important role in tackling the biodiversity and climate crises, whilst also supporting local communities, businesses and visitors. Last year we consulted widely on the future of national parks in Scotland, and there was broad support for our commitment to create at least one new park by 2026.”

A more sustainable future for Scotland

Chief Executive of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority Gordon Watson said: “National Parks have a vital role to play in securing a more sustainable future for Scotland. They are unique places where we can maximise the benefits that can be provided for nature, climate and people. Scotland has set ambitious targets to reach Net Zero and to restore biodiversity by 2045. If we are to reach those targets, urgent, bold action is required and Scotland’s existing – and any new – National Parks can make a substantial contribution.  Through scaling up our efforts to lock-in carbon in the landscape, restore nature at scale and enable a greener low-emission economy, we can, together, help Scotland make significant progress towards these commitments.” Scotland currently has two national parks, the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

Photo: NatureScot.

Pollok House to undergo major refurbishment

Glasgow’s iconic Pollok House has closed  for approximately two years to facilitate the second phase of a £4 million programme of investment led by Glasgow City Council. The works will comprise roof and general building fabric repairs. Visitors and members of the National Trust for Scotland have until then to explore the house and view the opulent upper rooms used in the past by the Stirling Maxwell family, admire the precious works of art displayed and also discover the lower-level spaces in which staff and servants worked. The popular café and shop in the old servants’ wing on the ground floor and the outdoor space will remain open until the spring of 2024.

Historic mansion

Pollok House was built in 1752, close to the site of earlier dwellings dating back to medieval times, and was extended between 1890 and 1904. In the late 19th and through to the mid-20th century, it was the home of Sir John Stirling Maxwell, 10th Baronet, a great benefactor to Glasgow and one of the founders of the National Trust for Scotland. It is said that the conversation that led to the Trust being established took place in Pollok House’s Cedar Room at the beginning of the 1930s. A key part of the city’s heritage, Pollok House and the surrounding Pollok Country Park is owned by the people of Glasgow, after the historic mansion and the collections contained therein were gifted to the city by Sir John’s daughter, Dame Anne Maxwell Macdonald, 11th Baronetess in 1966. The National Trust for Scotland has managed the house under contract to Glasgow City Council for 25 years.

Minginish Centenary Project-Celebrating 100 years of resettlement on Skye

The Minginish peninsula on Skye was largely cleared in the Clearances of the 1800s but 100 years ago it was deliberately repopulated on land bought by the government from the MacLeod’s of Dunvegan Castle, with crofts created as part of the “land for heroes” campaign after the First World War. Families from Harris, Lewis and other parts of Skye arrived between 1923 and 1924. Now the community is celebrating that anniversary, looking to put together an exhibition in June 2024 and erect a memorial as Judy Vickers explains.

Ploughing in Satran in 1935.

The land in north Talisker, near the famous distiller, had stood almost empty of people for more than 100 years after the brutal Clearances of the 19th century. The Clearances in Scotland saw tenants evicted from their homes, farms and crofts, sometimes physically and forcibly, by landowners keen to make better use and more money from their estates, more often than not by creating large areas for profitable sheep from the seized land. The Clearances, which took place in various parts of Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries, left a scar on Scotland’s history and its people; many ended up emigrating and plenty did not forget the land which had sometimes been worked by the same family for generations. In the wake of the First World War, emotions were running high. Returning servicemen had been promised “land for heroes” and the post-war period was marked by a series of land riots and land raids – where families set up home and began farming on land that had been ancestrally theirs. But in north Talisker in Skye the early 1920s saw a kind of reverse Clearances, and one that was actually carried out by the government.

“The land where we are in Talisker had been really badly cleared by the MacLeod family and turned over to sheep so there were very few families that were originally from the area still here, it was a pretty empty landscape,” explains Nick Middleton, one of the modern-day residents in north Talisker on the Minginish peninsula. He adds: “Men had been promised land before they went to fight in the First World War and they weren’t given it on their return. There were quite a few land riots and land raids, I think the government was embarrassed into acting. The Land Settlement Act of 1919 was a fairly important law in that it allowed compulsory purchase of land from various estates, it happened not just here, Raasay (an island off Skye), and Glendale in north of Skye had similar settlements.”

The centenary of their creation

A family in Fiskavaig in 1957.

In fact, the Macleods of Dunvegan Castle sold 60 acres to the government in order to clear debts and between 1923 and 1924 68 families, almost all from Harris and Lewis in the Western Isles moved to Skye and created a new community. Now that community, including many who are descendants of those original families, are celebrating the centenary of their creation. Organisers of the anniversary events have been collecting photographs and old film and recording memories from older members of the community to mark the special event. Celebrations will culminate in June next year (2024) with a week-long series of events including exhibitions and ceilidhs and ending with the unveiling of a memorial cairn, for which the community is currently fundraising. Of the 68 families who came to Skye to take up the offer of a new croft, 43 came from Harris and 20 from Lewis in the Western Isles with just five from Skye itself, all with a connection to service in the First World War. Men, women and children arrived over the course of a year to create a community of around 400 people, living in the townships of Fernilea, Fiskavaig, Portnalong and Satran.

They came willing because although leaving their home islands behind must have been hard, the offer of a secure croft was too good to refuse. Not that life on Skye was easy, the land had not been cultivated for more than a century and the families had to start from scratch. They were sold small wooden huts – 10ft by 20ft – for £70, a loan which was halved if they built their own house. They had to build their own roads and clear the land to be able to begin farming.

Elizabeth Morrison is the granddaughter of one of the original families who moved to Skye. Allan MacLeod came from Carragrich in Harris, his parents and brother came with him and settled near Portree. “My grandfather was in the merchant navy, they were told when they came back from the First World War, the government would provide land for them but there was nothing available in Harris,” she explains. “Here they were provided with government huts, two-roomed buildings that they had to pay £70 for and they got two cows to start them off but there was nothing here. They had to clear the ground, they had to work hard to get their crofts up and running. Grandpa helped built the road to Portnalong.”

Fiskavaig in 1963.

Her grandfather eventually set up a shop, his family had been shopkeepers on Harris, and allowed the wives to run up debts for essentials while their men were at sea fishing. “So, he provided for all the families, then when the men came back, they paid it off – there was a great sense of community like that, they all looked out for each other and helped each other out.” Nick adds: “There were collective activities, such as planting potatoes, 20 or 30 people would move from croft to croft so everyone shared in the labour to plant and get a crop in. They brought cattle with them. The cattle were spiked into the ground to stop them roaming and the chains cleared the bracken, then the cows trampled it into the ground. The pictures from the 1930s show them just starting to use horses to work the land.”

They lived on porridge, milk, potatoes, fish and crowdie cheese. “They were very self-sufficient; they were skilled in fishing and agriculture and they were a pretty hardy independent people. No-one had a lot of money, everyone was in the same boat, it was really egalitarian. I’m sure I wouldn’t survive very well but they were hardy devils,” says Nick.

Close-knit friendly place

Harvest time in Satran, 1964.

And while it sounds a tough lifestyle to modern ears, there was definitely a sense of contentment in the community, something which amazed Silver Darlings author Neil Gunn, whose own ancestors had been cleared from land in Sutherland, when he visited in 1937.  He described the sound of looms clicking,  many from Harris had brought their looms with them, from “snug and comfortable” homes and the “bright faces” of those who, while there were some grumbles, on the whole felt they “got a good and, in some respects, a generous deal”. In fact, the community was so self-sufficient it was many years before money was used regularly. Nick says: “It wasn’t until quite late, after the world war, when the Talisker Distillery took on more people and there were quite well-paid jobs that money was used and groceries vans began to come out from Portree.”

Collecting old photos for the Centenary Project, Minginish Hall, 2023.

Now of course the community has changed with people leaving and incomers arriving but residents say it is still a close-knit friendly place to live – and that many descendants of the original families still call north Talisker home, including Elizabeth. She says: “I grew up here. I left when I was 18 – I worked in England and Inverness because there wasn’t an awful lot for me here. I’m now 60, I moved back 22 years ago. My children grew up here, my daughter was born here, they are the fourth generation. A lot of my school friends, people my age, have done exactly the same, gone away, then returned to the island. I think something always pulls you back.”

And she says working on the centenary project, collecting memories and photographs, has brought a new dimension to the community. She says: “I feel the whole project has brought the community together after Covid. We have brought everyone out, it’s a social thing as well as a history project, there is a camaraderie there. It’s a positive story, we are unique, very, very unique, I don’t think there is anywhere else that has this story.”

For more information, visit:

Text by: Judy Vickers.

New entrants sweep the boards at 30th Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship

First time competitor Adam Kiani, representing Pakistan, has been crowned World Porridge Making Champion after beating competitors from around the world at the 30th World Porridge Making Championship, which took place in the Highland village of Carrbridge. Adam was amongst 30 competitors competing for the highly-coveted title of World Porridge Making Champion and the Golden Spurtle trophy. The 2023 event had a truly international flavour attracting competitors from UK shores and as far afield as USA, Canada, Cyprus, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Pakistan, Indonesia, Netherlands, and Germany.

High quality of the entrants

An overjoyed Adam said “I am delighted and humbled to win this great event, especially considering the high quality of the entrants and their creations. It’s been a really great day, and I am totally over the moon to be crowned a World Champion. This will take time to sink in.” In addition to the main competition, the title of Speciality Porridge Champion is awarded to the creator of a sweet or savoury dish where oatmeal can be combined with any other ingredients. The Speciality Dish was won by another first-time entrant Bobby Fisher from London. Bobby said “I am overjoyed with winning this award and hope my good friend Charlie who is local to Carrbridge is proud. We always joked about entering the World Porridge Championships and winning the Golden Spurtle. It’s t-oat-ally a dream come true.”

Oatmeal, water and salt

The title of World Porridge Making Champion is awarded to the contestant deemed to have made the best traditional porridge using just three ingredients – oatmeal, water and salt. Charlie Miller the 2023 Porridge Chieftain of the World Porridge Making Championship said: “It has been wonderful to have porridge fans, their supporters and so many visitors attend the 30th edition of this great event. We are delighted the competition continues to attract new and inspirational contestants. What started all these years ago as very much as a small local event has grown to be a highlight of Scotland’s food and drink calendar. It’s truly wonderful to see competitors from around the world coming to Carrbridge with such enthusiasm for both the competition but also being here in Carrbridge.”

Inspections begin on 5,000 years of Orkney history

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has started inspecting 5,000 years of history in Orkney as part of its High-Level Masonry Programme. Access will be maintained where possible while inspections are undertaken. The specially trained High-Level Masonry team will use a range of specialist access equipment to carry out hand’s-on tactile inspections to carefully examine the culturally significant sites, some of which are thousands of years old. Eleven historic sites across Orkney including Midhowe Broch, St Magnus Church, and Noltland Castle will be inspected between now and December. The results of the inspections will then inform any necessary repair works or future interventions.

The inspection teams will also work closely with the local works teams and conservation experts to carry out minor repairs as they go, where possible. The High-Level Masonry Programme is assessing the condition of higher-level structures at historic sites following deterioration caused by climate change and 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 and is sharing findings with peer organisations. As a safety precaution, access is currently restricted at Pierowall Church and Westside Church, St Mary’s Chapel, St Magnus Church, Eynhallow Church and Midhowe Chambered Cairn.

Some of Scotland’s most significant and diverse heritage sites

The other sites being inspected are currently accessible to visitors and HES will maintain as much access as possible, where it is safe to do so, while the inspections are being carried out. Visitors may find some temporary access restrictions around the areas currently being inspected, or areas undergoing or awaiting necessary repair work. While the inspection teams are on-site, they will also be available to answer any questions from visitors who are interested in finding out more about the programme and the work being carried out. The inspections follow on from pre-inspection work that was carried out in Orkney earlier this year. This included ground archaeology and ecology reports which were required prior to inspections being carried out.

This work was vital to ensure the safety of the inspection staff and contractors and allowed HES to carefully consider the safest method to inspect sites and plan accordingly. Craig Mearns, Director of Operations at HES, said: “Orkney is home to some of Scotland’s most significant and diverse heritage sites, spanning 5,000 years of history, and these inspections will allow us to assess and mitigate the impact that climate change and other factors has had on them. Visitors will continue to enjoy access to the sites while the inspections are ongoing, where it is safe to do so, and I encourage anyone who is interested in this work to engage with the inspection teams while they are on-site to find out more about what the work involves and why it is an important aspect in the care of these world-renowned heritage assets.”

Auchindrain-The last Highland township

During the Highland Clearances in the 18th and 19th centuries, when tenants were evicted across the Highlands and Islands, townships (clusters of agricultural smallholdings) steadily disappeared. Much of this activity, associated with the Scottish Agricultural Revolution of the 18th century, was based on agricultural improvement which involved the alteration of the usage of farmland to make it more profitable for the landowners. Most Scottish townships were affected by these changes between 1780 and 1860.

Some were converted into crofting townships, in which tenants had to combine farming with work in local industries for survival. Other townships were transformed into owner-occupied or single-tenant farms. In 1850 a handful of Highland townships remained, and by the early 20th century most had fallen into ruin, some ultimately being nearly effaced from the landscape. But one survived these massive upheavals: Auchindrain.

The blackthorn field

Campbells’ Barn, Auchindrain by David Hawgood, CC BY-SA 2.0.

The name deriving from a Gaelic term meaning ‘the blackthorn field’ or ‘the field of the blackthorn tree’, Auchindrain is situated in Argyll and Bute, 10km south of Inveraray on the A83. Auchindrain first appeared in the historical record in the 16th century, but it may have been established earlier in the late mediaeval period.  Having lost the township at some point, the Dukes of Argyll reacquired Auchindrain in 1776. In 1789 surveyor George Langlands drew up a plan for the dukes for the rebuilding and reorganisation of Auichindrain into crofts. Though the latter part of the scheme never came to pass (probably for economic reasons), in the ensuing decades rebuilding took place and the township adopted methods of improved agriculture, possibly with support and encouragement from the dukes, especially Duke George. By 1840 many of Auchindrain’s turf buildings had been reconstructed of stone.

During the rebuilding, there were some specifics for the arrangement of the structures according to the weather in the glen. Dwellings were resited so that they stood end-on to the prevailing winds of the area, so providing less wind resistance and fewer disturbances to their inhabitants. Threshing barns, on the contrary, were sited broadside to prevailing winds, so that drafts would rush through one open door and out the opposite open door, and so greatly assisting in the grain winnowing process.

Preservation of Auchindrain

Restored cottages, Auchindrain. Kim Traynor, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Auchindrain made the transition from cattle to a sheep farm, and added a sheepfold on high ground west of the township. Though while keeping some cattle, the settlement was running as a full-fledged sheep farm by the 1870s. In accordance with the agricultural improvements, Auchindrain abandoned the awkward runrig method of planting and apportioned the arable land into small fields, two each being allocated to each individual tenant. While Queen Victoria was staying at Inveraray Castle in 1875, she visited Achindrain and Achnagoul (about 5km northeast of Auchindrain), and described them as “primitive villages”.

Auchindrain continued to operate far into the 20th century, becoming the final working Highland township until the last tenant Edward MacCallum retired in 1963.  Preservation of Auchindrain began in 1964, and it opened as a museum in 1968. Today the site remains open to the public as the Auchindrain Township Open Air Museum, administered by the Auchindrain Trust. The grounds extend across 22 acres and feature more than 20 historic structures. Auchindrain is a working farm, with cattle, hens, sheep and horses all resident on the grounds. The entire site is Category A listed, is designated a Conservation Area, and its buildings are a Recognised Collection.

MacCallum Longhouse and barn, Auchindrain by David Hawgood, CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Auchindrain Trust has overseen and operated the museum since 1964. The Scottish Government provides funding to the Trust via Historic Environment Scotland. Those interested in preserving Auchindrain can support the work of the Trust by becoming a Friend of Auchindrain. Donators who contribute £25 or more (£10 for seniors) per year are usually granted membership. Friends of Auchindrain become members of the Trust, can vote for trustees, and receive Auchindrain newsletters. The museum closed temporarily after several of its historic buildings were damaged in a Mid Argyll earthquake on 16 November 2021. Backed with funding from Museums Galleries Scotland, structural engineers and building conservation specialists worked on repairing the structures.

The museum reopened on 1 June 2022 during the ongoing repair work, restricting visitors to guided tours to keep them out of harm’s way.  Visitors can obtain a guide-tablet or a guidebook at the Visitor Centre to assist in making one’s way round the site. A full circuit of the grounds takes 60-90 minutes. It’s recommended to dress for unpredictable weather changes, and to wear boots or heavy walking shoes to traverse the rough and sometimes muddy paths of the museum. Those with limited mobility will likely need assistance to reach some parts of the museum. Non-aggressive dogs on leads are welcome. The Visitor Centre, which houses a coffee shop and gift shop, is closed from November to March. During these months the museum offers a reduced entrance fee. Hours are daily, 10:30 to 4:30. Text by Eric Bryan.


Did you know?

Duke George

The 8th Duke of Argyll, Duke George was born in 1823 and lived at Inveraray Castle. In his teens he began to assist in managing the Argyll Estate, and became duke when his father died in 1847. Duke George contributed to the survival of Auchindrain by urging the tenants to adopt some of the methods of improved agriculture, and by allowing the settlement to continue as a joint-tenancy township. The Duke was a prolific writer, producing work on economy, geology, theology, politics, science and ornithology.

Inveraray Castle

Actually a country house, Inveraray Castle sits beside Loch Fyne in Argyll. There was a castle on the site in the 1400s, but the current building dates to the 18th century and is an early example of Gothic Revival architecture and has been the seat of the Dukes of Argyll since that time.  Archibald Campbell, Earl of Ilay, later the 3rd Duke of Argyll, instigated improvements on the site of the original castle in 1743. Architects William Adam and Roger Morris based the idea for the new castle on a sketch done by Vanbrugh, the architect of Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace. In 1746 the foundation stone for the new building was laid. Adam and Morris died during the long construction of the castle, and Adam’s sons Janes and Robert completed the project 43 years after the laying of the foundation stone. The result was a then-modern, baroque, Gothic and Palladian style castle. The castle suffered an upper storey fire in 1877, which led to major restoration and additions to the structure. These, overseen by Anthony Salvin who was hired by the 8th Duke, include a third floor with dormers and a pitched roof, and conical roofs capping the four corner round towers. Circa 1890, Inveraray was the first home in Scotland to be fitted with electricity.

Main photo: Bell Pol’s House, Auchindrain by David Hawgood, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Coin hoard gives fascinating insight into life before the Glencoe massacre

They were hidden for safekeeping underneath a stone fireplace. But they were never retrieved until now, some 330 years later. Now archaeologists have revealed that a hoard of coins buried in a small pot, just discovered in Glencoe paints a fascinating picture of life for one Highland clan chief and his household. The site in Glencoe was used as a “summerhouse” and traditionally associated with Alasdair Ruadh “MacIain” MacDonald of Glencoe, chief of the MacDonalds of Glencoe from 1646-1692. The 36 coins, which vary in date, were discovered by University of Glasgow archaeology student Lucy Ankers in the grand fireplace of the Glencoe house during an archaeological dig in August 2023.

The coins were found in a pot, with a small rounded pebble for a lid and hidden beneath a hearth stone stab. However, none of the coins were minted after the 1680s which has led archaeologists to suggest that they were most likely deposited under the fireplace either just before or during the 1692 Glencoe Massacre for safekeeping. Whoever buried the coins, did not return for them which could indicate that they were among the victims of the massacre. The MacDonalds took part in the first Jacobite rising of 1689, this resulted in the clan being targeted in the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe. In late January 1692, two companies or approximately 120 men from the Earl of Argyll’s Regiment of Foot arrived in Glencoe from Invergarry. Their commander was Robert Campbell of Glenlyon. An estimated 38 members and associates of Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed on 13 February 1692, including Maclain and his wife.

Dr Michael Given, a Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and Co-Director of the University of Glasgow’s archaeological project in Glencoe, said: “These exciting finds give us a rare glimpse of a single, dramatic event. Here’s what seems an ordinary rural house, but it has a grand fireplace, impressive floor slabs, and exotic pottery imported from the Netherlands and Germany. And they’ve gathered up an amazing collection of coins in a little pot and buried them under the fireplace. What’s really exciting is that these coins are no later than the 1680s: so were they buried in a rush as the Massacre started first thing in the morning of the 13th February 1692? We know some of the survivors ran through the blizzard and escaped up the side glens, including this one: were these coins witnesses to this dramatic story? It’s a real privilege, as archaeologists, to hold in our hands these objects that were so much part of people’s lives in the past.”

The Scots School Albury Pipe Band-Champions of the world

The Scots School Albury Pipe Band was crowned the 2023 World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow in August, amid a gruelling 26-performance schedule at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and just weeks after taking out the Scottish Pipe Band Championship in their category, Grade 4B.To top off what has been a highly successful tour to Scotland, the Band was crowned Grade 4B Best Drum Corps as well as Champion of Champion, which takes into account the Band’s wins in the Scottish and World Titles.

Damon Wright, Scott Nicolson, Albury Deputy Mayor Steve Bowen, Scots principal Vicki Steer, Liam Nicolson at a welcome home reception in Albury City Square.

They also performed to acclaim at Piping Live!, an annual week-long celebration of bagpipes from across the world, embracing Scotland’s heritage and that of piping cultures from around the globe. The festival coincides with the World Pipe Band Championships, held annually on Glasgow Green. The remarkable World Championship effort was accomplished by a mix of alumni, current students, some as young as 12 years old, and friends of the Pipe Band. It was led by Pipe Band Coordinator Scott Nicolson, Drum Tutor Tom Mewett, Pipe Major Liam Nicolson, Pipe Sergeant Jonny Coe, Drum Major Max Coupland and Drum Sergeant Damon Wright.

It was the Pipe Band’s second appearance at the Tattoo. It performed in 2017 and was invited back for the 2020 Tattoo, ultimately cancelled due to Covid. This year’s Tattoo ran with the colourful theme, Stories, and played host to a stunning array of performers from all points of the compass. The Scots Band performed as part of the Massed Pipes and Drums in every one of the 26 performances across 20 days.

At the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow.

Congratulations to: 


Pipe Major Scott Nicolson, Pipe Band Co-ordinator

Pipe Major Liam Nicolson, Year 11

Bianca Sparkes, Year 11

Jonny Coe, Year 11

Neve Harris, Year 11

Saxon Coffey, Year 7

Jessica Coe, Class of 2011

Declan Dempster, Class of 2014

Dylan Forge, Class of 2021

Angus Beath, Class of 1995

George Henderson, Class of 2018

Paul Rolph, Friend of the Pipe Band

Doug McRae, Friend of the Pipe Band

Hamish Hare, Friend of the Pipe Band

William Cavanough, Friend of the Pipe Band


Tom Mewett – School Drum Tutor

Drum Major Max Coupland, Year 11

Drum Sergeant – Damon Wright, Year 11

Josh Niuila, Year 12

Storm Tanavasu, Year 11

Eddie Butko, Year 7

Ewan Douglas, Year 7

Shanaaya Chowdhry, Year 7

Arifa Rizvi, Year 10

Emma Delbridge, Year 11

Kyle Blane-Brown, Class of 2018

Ellen Ring, Class of 2018

Tim Koschitzke, Class of 2017

Madeleine Hedderwick, Class of 2015


Main photo: The band at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Conserving the warp and weft of heritage

A view of the exterior of Weaver’s Cottage.

Weaver’s Cottage, where Kilbarchan weavers still make textiles on a 200-year-old working handloom, is celebrating its 300th anniversary in 2023. Weaver’s Cottage is one of over 100 special places in the care of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) , ranging from castles to gardens to National Nature Reserves such as Glencoe and Staffa. Although perhaps modest in scale compared to some of these places, Weaver’s Cottage tells important and fascinating stories about textile production and its part in Scotland’s economic, social and cultural history.

The 18th century weavers from this Renfrewshire cottage would be astonished to discover that their lives and work are attracting the interest of the Scottish Parliament, as well as visitors from all over the world. The cottage was recently the subject of a parliamentary motion in the Scottish Parliament, submitted by the local MSP, that celebrates ‘that this cherished piece of local history and Kilbarchan heritage is preserved, and hopes that Weaver’s Cottage will continue to be visited and learned about for years to come’.

Hand-woven textiles were the lifeblood of many communities

A 200-year-old wooden hand loom.

Ana Sanchez-de la Vega, Visitor Services Manager for Weaver’s Cottage, explains: “The displays at the cottage transport our visitors back to a time when hand-woven textiles were the lifeblood of many communities. At one point in the 19th century, the village of Kilbarchan was home to over 800 weavers, living and working at looms in cottages such as this.” Ana continues: “At Weaver’s Cottage – where weavers still make tartan today on a 200-year-old handloom – we offer a window into those times, helping people relate to the lives and stories of that community, whose tartans and textiles have stood the test of time. It’s thanks to the support of our National Trust for Scotland members, donors, volunteers and visitors that we are able to conserve this special place, and share its stories and textiles for new generations today.”

Weaver’s Cottage was built in 1723 and remained in use as a home until 1940. It has been in the care of the National Trust for Scotland since 1957. To mark the 300th anniversary of the building of the cottage, NTS have added a new garden and video interpretation. This helps visitors to delve deeper into the history and significance of the cottage and the weaving industry, in alignment with the NTS wide objective to provide access to, and enjoyment of, heritage for everyone.

Also this year, NTS have loaned textiles from the cottage’s collections, including tartan samples and a quilt, to the Tartan exhibition at V&A Dundee.

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

The Scottish North America Community Conference -‘How our history and community, empowers our future’

The Scottish North America Community Conference (SNACC) will take place in person in New York, and online, over the weekend of December 1st and 2nd in Alexandria, VA.  Celebrating its 21st year of this annual conference of leading members of the Scottish American Diaspora, this year the conference will discuss  ‘How our history and community, empowers our future’. Through a series of discussions, we hope to help us all address this important issue. Charles, Lord Bruce, will open the conference speaking of The Scottish Clans Heirs Project, the initiative is led by the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs and headed up Lord Bruce. Ethan MacDonald, Regional Commissioner, Council of Scottish Clans & Associations (COSCA); Member of Council, Clan Donald Society, USA – and founder, Scottish-American Scouting Association, Kalamazoo, MI (via Zoom) and Cameron Steer, American Scottish Foundation (ASF) Youth Ambassadors and Youth Sports Empowerment coach will be joined by others in opening up this discussion. As we look to bring on our young leaders of tomorrow, we have to recognize their challenges and COSCA and CASSOC leaders, John Bellassai and William Petrie joining the discussion. Rory Hedderly, Head of Business Development (USA) – Entrepreneurial Scotland and Saltire Foundation will join Gus Noble and Stuart Adam, Scottish Connections Fund, to discuss the importance of experience programs helping in developing our Young Ambassadors and through the Scottish university alumni network strengthen the message of Scots in America. The Friday session will conclude with a whisky tasting and reception.

Following the Alexandria Christmas Walk on the Saturday SNACC invites attendees to join for a light buffet, the afternoon session will begin with greetings from:

Chris Thomson – Scottish Gov’t Counselor for the USA & Head Scottish Gov’t Office, UK Embassy, Washington, DC

Congressman Myer, representing Alexandria, VA (a Scottish-American and member of House Scottish Caucus)

Campbell Lord Provost of Dundee

Madam Pauline Hunter of Hunterston, 30th Chief of Clan Hunter

It is one year since the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II and a central figure throughout those days and the subsequent Coronation of King Charles III was Dr John Morrow, Lord Lyon, King of Arms.  Lyon will share a unique insight into the past year. Stepping back to Scotland and America in the later part of the 18th century. James P. Ambuske, PhD, Professor of History, James Mason University, Fairfax, VA (specializes in Scotland & America, 18th century) will speak of the Scottish experience on the eve of the American Revolution and the loyalist immigration to Canada. We then return to today, to importance of collaboration and a great example of collaboration at work in the Washington Metro Area with:  Gregory Haymon, President, St. Andrew’s Society of Washington, DC

Heather McKenzie Haddock, Co-Chair, Scottish American Women’s Society (SAWS)

Alexandra Duncan, Vice President, Virginia Scottish Games & Festivals Ass’n (VSGA)

James Morrison, Secretary & Past President, National Capital Tartan Day Committee, Inc. (NCTDC)

Camilla Hellman, ASF President will report on upcoming highlights in Scotland 2024 from Dunfermline to Glasgow, to festival highlights and museum plans. The Conference concludes with a mix and mingle reception with light refreshments and cash bar.

Ticket reservations can now be made at: For further information email: [email protected] or telephone: 212 729 0127.

Main photo: The Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk.

Celebrating Lonach tradition

The Lonach Highland and Friendly Society was formed 200 years ago in 1823- the Society host one of Scotland’s most popular, and friendly, Highland Games. The Lonach Highland Gathering and Games have taken place annually for 180 year each August when all roads lead to Lonach, as Anne-Mary Paterson explains.

It was 26th August, 2023 and the loudspeaker was telling everyone that there was to be a very special guest arriving before the one o’clock March of the Lonach Men. This year is the two hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society and the one hundred and eightieth gathering of what is probably the most unique and friendly Highland Games. Into the arena to huge cheers and applause, came a dark red Bentley car bearing His Majesty King Charles III. After circling the area, the King alighted at a special tent. Then the sound of bagpipes started getting louder and louder. In marched the Highlanders carrying axes and with banners held high, followed by the Lonach Pipe Band, then Sir James Forbes, Patron and the swirling kilts of the Lonach Men, carrying eight-foot-long pikes followed by Wallace’s and Gordons.

At the tail end of this most unusual procession was the Cairt drawn by Socks, an Irish cob to carry any wear or dare I say it drunken stragglers but empty this year. The march had set off early in the morning for six miles on foot from Bellabeg, home of the gathering, up Donside to toast five houses along the way and then back to Bellabeg for a private lunch in the Lonach Hall. One of the houses they visit is Candacraig which before its sale, was owned by Sir Billy Connolly who was very fond of the Lonach and attended most years.

Preservation of Highland garb

The Forbes Highlanders.

By 1823 Scotland had emerged from the years of occupation by the Hanoverian Army after the Jacobite defeat at the Battle of Culloden. It was time for Scotland to resume its place in the world. That same year King George IV awarded Charles Forbes of Newe and Edinglassie (1774 – 1839) with a baronetcy. On 15th December of that same year, his son’s coming-of-age was celebrated with a bonfire on Lonach Hill which inspired the people around and in Donside to set up a friendly society as had been done by its neighbour in Braemar. The first gathering was held in 1836, four years after Braemar. Membership for the society is now drawn from the inhabitants of Strathdon, Sir Charles was one of eleven children. He left Edinburgh University when he was sixteen to take up a post in Bombay, India in John Forbes & Co owned by his uncle John Forbes. The firm had originally traded in raw cotton but over the years expanded into ship brokerage, ship building and as bankers to the Government of Bombay. Because of the success of his business, John was able to buy back the family lands of Newe and Bellabeg, which in the past had been lost due to bankruptcy.

The gathering is always on the fourth Saturday in August. Sir James Forbes of the Newe, three times great grandson of Sir Charles said in his message this year, “The Gathering and our unique March represent the public face of our year-round commitment to the ‘preservation of Highland garb and the promotion of social and friendly feelings among the inhabitants of the district’. Encountering the Lonach Highlanders for the first time takes you back to pre-1745 Scotland, but this is no historical re-enactment: we represent an unbroken link with our forefathers.”

Highland Games may date as far back as the 11th century when King Malcolm III of Scotland needed a personal courier so he organised a hill race to the summit of Creag Choinnich, near Braemar, where the oldest Highland Games were first held in 1832, and since then always on the first Saturday in September. The Braemar Highland Society was founded in 1815, so the Lonach is not far behind its neighbour in Deeside. Like Braemar and many other games, the Lonach carries on the tradition of a hill race and even a shorter one for juniors. Hill races are now a feature of many games and we can imagine that before cars, if a horse was not available and someone was needed to take a message quickly up or down a glen, a race was an easiest way to find and have in hand the fasted of foot. Similarly tossing the caber may have resembled how a tree just felled was pushed away. Tartan and bagpipes are still very important components of the games. One of first ideas was the preservation of the district’s particular dialect of Gaelic but this has not been successful, and it is now extinct. Traditional Highland Games are now held all over the world, particularly in English speaking countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America.

The Lonach Highlanders

Lonach Pipe Band.

The Lonach Highlanders is not an army as it has never been presented with colours like the Atholl Highlanders, its neighbour across the mountain passes. It does carry the society colour and two banners ensigned “LONACH”. On the 150th anniversary of the Lonach, a new colour and banners were presented at the Lonach Gathering. The following week the pipe band and the Highlanders marched over the hills to Braemar to present the new colours to the late Queen Elizabeth II at the Braemar Gathering. The Highlanders set up camp at Braemar Castle re-enacting an occasion that last happened during the reign of Queen Victoria. At the time of the presentation on 5th July 2023 of the Honours of Scotland (the Crown, Sceptre and Sword) to King Charles in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, the Lonach Highlanders along with the Atholl Highlanders marched down the Royal Mile.

Carrying on the Royal connections, King Charles, after watching the Lonach Highlanders’ impressive and unique parade, spoke to a number of officials and other folk before progressing on foot across the arena to become the starter of one of the first races. After a private luncheon at Bellabeg House, the King left quietly for Balmoral Castle with the usual events – light and heavy, dancing, races and piping continuing.  A special day to add to the already colourful history of this unique organisation.

For more details see:

Main image: The Wallace Highlanders at the Lonach Highland Games.

All images courtesy of The Lonach Highland & Friendly Society.

John Macleod was airbrushed from history, but Aberdeen’s only Nobel Prize winner is finally getting his due

The Aberdeen University scientist pioneered the creation of insulin in the 1920s, which has saved millions of lives of those with diabetes, as Neil Drysdale reports.

It’s a discovery which has saved and enhanced the lives of at least 350 million people during the last 100 years. Prior to its creation, countless children, diagnosed with the condition, were left facing a death sentence as their parents looked on helplessly. They could be made to feel comfortable, but medical staff could do nothing more to ease their plight. And yet, the chances are that few will be aware of the prominent role played by a Perthshire-born, Aberdeen-educated scientist in the development and production of insulin, one of the most significant achievements in the history of medical research. That’s because John Macleod was effectively airbrushed out of history for half a century. He was accused of hogging the limelight, of claiming credit for work carried out by other people when he was actually the catalyst for a remarkable breakthrough. And when he left Toronto, where the insulin breakthrough was made, he is said to have been seen shuffling at the station and explained: “I’m wiping away the dirt of this city.”

But thankfully, if belatedly, his reputation has been restored, and a memorial statue of the great man was recently unveiled in Aberdeen’s Duthie Park. It’s no more than he deserves, because Macleod, a beetle-browed, intellectually brilliant fellow, was at the forefront of the trailblazing work which transformed the battle against diabetes after years of trials and tribulations, disappointments and disputes. Professor Brian Frier, of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and an internationally-recognised specialist in diabetes, said: “The discovery of insulin is frequently and inaccurately attributed to Frederick Banting and Charles Best and, for decades, Macleod was effectively airbrushed out of medical history. The importance of the research of this quiet and self-effacing Scottish scientist cannot be over-estimated and he deserves to be as well-known to the public as Sir Alexander Fleming for his discovery of penicillin.” Soon after his birth in 1876, his clergyman father, Robert, returned to Aberdeen and the youngster, who always adopted the approach that genius was an infinite capacity for taking pains, subsequently attended Aberdeen Grammar School and entered Marischal College at Aberdeen University to study medicine from 1893 to 1898.

Macleod worked until the sma’ hours

A new statue of John Macleod in Aberdeen. Photography courtesy of Neil Gordon at

Much of the focus of Macleod’s life has centred on his work in Canada, but he was an apprentice physiologist in Leipzig and studied in his home city and in London, learning to teach and write textbooks and amassing the experience which were the catalyst for later partnerships with colleagues which yielded prodigious rewards in the early 1920s. There are different perspectives on Macleod’s personality and how he interacted with others. It’s clear that he didn’t suffer fools gladly and was always the last person out of the laboratory in his early days while he was pouring himself into his work. A serious-minded figure, he continued to pursue an academic career with a dedication which made him a great scientist, but not always the easiest human being to deal with in his day-to-day business. The driven Scot was director of physiology at Toronto University, but there was no Eureka moment as he settled down to his work. This was real life, not a Hollywood biopic, so the building blocks of the new discoveries which changed the world for the better were only created after myriad hours in laboratories. Dr Ken McHardy, a former consultant in diabetes with NHS Grampian and honorary senior lecturer at Aberdeen University, has studied his career in depth and acknowledges that Macleod’s journey towards insulin was long and meticulous. It included both experience with many traditional techniques to study animal physiology and his expertise in the up-and-coming specialty of physiological chemistry.

He told Aberdeen’s Press & Journal: “His research into experimental diabetes, first stimulated by working on a book chapter, led to several advances over 15 years of painstaking study. This put him at the forefront of world knowledge on the subject and with all of the necessary skills and experience to lead a major breakthrough. However, hundreds of researchers had been trying, and so far uniformly failing, to produce a treatment that could save diabetic lives. Despite work suggesting the pancreas gland may be the source of an important internal secretion, even this was unproven.”

Few could have predicted the spectacular results which would materialise when he joined forces with students Banting and Best. Following their collaboration, Macleod received a Nobel Prize along with Banting, although he and the latter fell out over their contrasting claims of who had contributed most to the discovery. It was an acrimonious climax to what had been an often fractious relationship between the pair and Macleod, unaccustomed to having to prove his credentials when he had demonstrated his excellence in Britain, Europe and North America, was understandably aggrieved at the ill-feeling which festered between the group. At the end of 1920, the well-respected Macleod was approached by Banting, a young Canadian physician, who possessed a bull-headed drive and industrious – if often ill-considered – attitude to the research which later brought him fame. He was a persuasive individual and even though Banting had virtually no experience of physiology, convinced Macleod to lend him laboratory space. The Scot also provided experimental animals and the assistance of his summer student, Best.

Banting and Best isolated an internal secretion of the pancreas and reduced the blood sugar level of a dog, whose pancreas had been surgically removed. They were excited, but Macleod expressed doubts about the results, borne from his greater experience. Eventually, Banting accepted his elder’s instruction that further experiments were required before they could reach any definite conclusion, and even convinced Macleod to provide better working conditions and give him and Best a salary. The next stage of their research was successful and the trio started to present their work at scientific meetings, which gradually built up momentum and publicity. Macleod was a far better orator than his associate and Banting came to believe that he wanted to take all the credit for their efforts. But this notion was nonsense, as was demonstrated when the results were published in the February 1922 issue of the Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine.

Tensions ran high in the group

Indeed, the Scot actually declined co-authorship because he considered it was Banting and Best’s work: hardly the attitude of a man who desired to hog the spotlight. And yet, perhaps understandably, he was growing weary of the paranoia in the laboratory when, as he told colleagues privately, the priority surely had to be creating something which would save the lives of millions of people. And there also remained the issue of how to get enough pancreas extract to continue the experiments. This convinced Macleod to extend his insulin research and recruit the biochemist James Collip to help with purifying the extract. Whereupon, significant progress was made after a trip to a local abattoir when they realised that pancreas extracts could be much more simply produced from fresh ox pancreas. It was slow, methodical work, and Banting felt sidelined the longer it advanced. By the winter of 1922, this fragile character was certain that all Macleod’s colleagues were conspiring against him and Collip, who was increasingly frustrated with the tension in the laboratory, and threatened to leave because of the strained atmosphere. Yet, amid these tensions, there was progress. In January 1922, the team performed a clinical trial on 13-year-old Leonard Thompson and it was soon followed by others. As the news spread, so did the publicity about what had been achieved in Toronto. This was no dry scientific experiment; it was a life-changing discovery in the making and the sensationalist nature of the coverage reflected that sense of history being made.

Macleod’s presentation at a meeting of the Association of American Physicians in Washington on May 3 1922 received a standing ovation from the audience, because it appeared to indicate a major breakthrough was imminent, but obstacles still lay ahead. At that time, demonstrations of the method’s efficiency attracted huge public interest, because the effect on patients, especially children with type 1 diabetes, who until then were bound to die, seemed almost miraculous. Macleod was always proud of his part in the process. But, perhaps understandably, he had grown weary of the egos battling for supremacy behind the scenes. He returned to Scotland in 1928 to become Regius Professor of Physiology at Aberdeen University and later became Dean of the University of Aberdeen Medical Faculty, where he continued to show his prowess in collaborative science, producing original research in tandem with colleagues at the Rowett Institute and in support of the Torry Fishery Research Station, while taking an advisory role to the Government’s Privy Council.

He encouraged scores of youngsters

Physician and medical historian Dr Ken McHardy, Lord Dean of Guild Sylvia Halkerston, Sculptor John McKenna’s wife & studio assistant Claire McKenna, architectural technologist Kevin Otto, Lady Provost Hazel Cameron, Vice-Chancellor and Principal George Boyne of the University of Aberdeen, Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Dr David Cameron and sculptor John McKenna. (seated left to right) Kimberlie Hamilton, Co-Founder of the JJR Macleod Memorial Statue Society & John Otto, Founder & Chairman of the JJR Macleod Memorial Statue Society. Photography courtesy of Neil Gordon at

Perhaps, just as importantly, he was renowned for his mentoring of a number of noted young scientists and engaged in prestigious lectureships on both sides of the Atlantic. All this, despite the debilitating impact of rheumatoid arthritis, which had first affected him in Toronto and progressively limited his ability to travel and to work. Dr McHardy, who has been advising the Macleod Memorial Statue Society for the last two years said: “Nothing should detract from the magnificent contributions of Aberdeen’s only homegrown Nobel Prize winner. We should remember and celebrate his reputation as a world-famous physiologist and educator with pride. He should, of course, always be revered for his single greatest contribution as the skilled and experienced impresario who led the Toronto team. Macleod’s leadership not only gave the world its first clinically useful insulin in 1922, but led the way to survival for millions with what is now known as Type 1 diabetes, and indeed existence, itself, for their descendants.”

This towering figure in his field died in 1935, aged just 58, and is buried in Aberdeen’s Allenvale Cemetery, across Great Southern Road from where the new statue will offer a permanent tribute to his feats. The sculpture shows him reading the pages of the Press & Journal and, although he spent years in Canada, he always considered Aberdeen to be his home. Aberdeen University also dedicated the 2023 Carnegie Lecture to the impact of the former medical student on the treatment of diabetes and a blue plaque will be erected to commemorate his legacy. Celebrating 100 Years of the ‘Discovery of Insulin’ Nobel Prize, was held in October, and explored Macleod’s remarkable achievement with international diabetes expert Professor C. Ronald Kahn. At long last, the world is paying him proper attention.

Words by Neil Drysdale.
Main image: University of Aberdeen.

Prestwick Airport–A place in the heart of many Scots

Many ex-pat Scots will have flown from Prestwick Airport in Ayrshire to start new lives in the United States and Canada and for many the airport holds a special place in their heart.  The same will apply to the thousands of US and Canadian servicemen who transited through Prestwick during both World War 2 and the Cold War era as well as those who were actually based at the airfield.  In this short article, local enthusiast, Allan Mackintosh outlines the history of the airfield from the first recorded early aviation activity in 1913 through to the present day.

A Pan-Am DC 6.

The first recorded aviation activity at Prestwick was recorded in July 1913 when three Royal Flying Corps BE.2a biplanes who were supporting Territorial Army manoeuvres at Gailes just up the coast, used the Monkton ‘Meadows’ as a landing ground in between sorties.  After this event there is no official recorded activity through the 1920s with most aviation activity being centred at the airstrip at Ayr Racecourse.  However, with the increase in aviation activity in the early 1930s and in particular with pleasure flights from Renfrew to the beaches of Prestwick and Ayr there was the odd occasion that a plane set off from Renfrew only to find the beach at Prestwick had the tide in and as it couldn’t land, used the fields of the Monkton Meadows as a relief landing ground.  It was also during this period that Midland & Scottish Air Ferries started to use Monkton as a diversionary landing ground for Renfrew, when fog and low cloud regularly closed the Glasgow airfield.  This was the start of the realisation that Monkton (soon to be renamed Prestwick) offered a safe haven for passenger and mail aircraft on a regular basis given the excellent weather record of the area.  This resulted in the airfield becoming a fully licensed aerodrome in 1934.

The year before in 1933, two young pilots, David McIntyre, and Douglas Douglas-Hamilton members of No.602 City of Glasgow Auxiliary Air Force Squadron, were one of a pair of aircraft to be the first to successfully fly over Mount Everest. Both men had experience of flying into the Monkton Meadows and David McIntyre, in particular, had a real passion for the airfield to be developed further.  After evaluating several local sites, McIntyre, and Douglas-Hamilton, in conjunction with the De Havilland company, set up Scottish Aviation Ltd, based initially around an ‘Elementary Flying School’ training pilots and navigators for the Royal Air Force.  The ‘new’ airfield was built just beside the Monkton Meadows close to Orangefield House, which was later to become Prestwick’s first true passenger terminal. (The first ‘terminal’ was actually a Midland & Scottish Transport bus which kept diverted passengers dry and warm whilst awaiting their limousine transport back to Renfrew!)

International airfield

Orangefield Hotel Terminal.

With the advent of World War 2 in 1939, Prestwick grew from being a small training airfield to a fully functioning international airfield, becoming the preferred landing ground for many aircraft entering the war arena from the US and Canada. Between 1941 and 1945, 37,000 aircraft movements were recorded. Initially RAF Aldergrove (now Belfast International) was the preferred landing ground for the ‘Atlantic Ferry Organisation’ but with Prestwick having a better weather record, the Ayrshire airfield was finally chosen as the preferred airfield.  With the increase in aircraft activity, there was also an increase in aircraft related maintenance, repair, and conversion work so Scottish Aviation’s work grew to the extent that new hangers and buildings had to be erected quickly to cater for the increase in work.  The main hanger (which is still in place today, along with most of the wartime hangers) was affectionally known as ‘The Palace’ (and still is) and this is the Palace of Engineering which took pride of place at the Glasgow Empire Exhibition in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park in 1938.  The building was moved to Prestwick ‘brick by brick’ over a four-month period between April and September 1940 and still stands proudly overseeing today’s international airport.

Post war airline passenger travel through the airport started once again from 1946. In the post war years, Prestwick was afforded ‘transatlantic’ status and initially was one of only two UK airports (the other being the new London-Heathrow) to be allowed this status.  From Prestwick there were regular flights to and from the US and Canada and the airport proved to be a great staging post for flights from France, Belgium, Holland, and Scandinavia. Prestwick’s Orangefield terminal offered a service second to none and was the first UK Airport to offer duty-free.  At this time London Heathrow was an unsightly mass of temporary huts!

Elvis Presley at Prestwick in 1960.

In 1955, the military returned to the airfield in the form of the United States Air Force with a major base at Prestwick and Elvis Presley visited in 1960 for a brief stopover and this made the airport the only place where he set foot in the UK (there are claims that Elvis was also secretly in London but it was obviously so secret that there is no physical evidence of this!)

Scottish Aviation remained a world-leader is aircraft maintenance and aircraft design and manufacturing commences with the Prestwick Pioneer.  This leads to the manufacture of the Twin Pioneer in the late 1950s and in later years (60s through to the early 90s) the company produces the successful Jetstream family of commuter airliners, and the equally successful Bulldog, a military basic trainer.

With the introduction of the jet-age in the late 1950s, Prestwick had to expand to keep pace and the main runway was extended to 9800ft and a new secondary runway was built to the south-west of the airfield.  A new terminal building, freight building, control tower and loop road around the airport was built, with sadly, the old Orangefield terminal being demolished to make way for a new parallel taxiway. The runway extension was actually implemented to serve the US Air Force and it conforms to the standard US military specification of the day. This is one of very few runways in the UK to do so and still to this day one it is of the longest.  This enables Prestwick to be able to handle the world’s largest freighters with full loads and was one of the factors leading to the frequent Concorde training flights in the 70s.

The World O’er

Prestwick Airport spectators terrace.

During the late 80s and early 90s, with the expansion of the airports at Glasgow and Edinburgh, Prestwick’s monopoly became under threat and ultimately ‘Open Skies’ was introduced to allow airports to compete. With Glasgow’s and Edinburgh’s airports now able to accommodate the large passenger jets (as well as being on the outskirts of the cities), in time, all transatlantic passenger airlines moved to the city airports.  This left Prestwick in a perilous position and with the owner, the British Airports Authority (BAA), also owning Glasgow and Edinburgh, the airport looked doomed, with property developers lining up to offer to buy the site and redevelop it for housing and industrial units.  However, a dynamic group of investors, led by a Canadian lawyer, Mathew Hudson, supported by the boss of British Aerospace, Alan Macdonald, saved the day by ‘persuading’ BAA to sell them the airport. Whilst BAA were reluctant to sell to a ‘competitor’, there was a clause in the 99-year lease given to Scottish Aviation that stipulated that the airport runways could not be sold unless Scottish Aviation (now British Aerospace) allowed it.  As British Aerospace needed the runways for their flying college and for the demonstration and testing of their Jetstreams, they were not for giving the runways up!

A Wardair Canada DC-10, 1980s.

The airport was now under new dynamic ownership and from 2004 went from strength to strength as a result of new investment (including the airport’s own rail station) and also due to the low-cost airline revolution. The airport hit 2.5 million passengers per annum in 2006 although, once again, Glasgow and Edinburgh increased their competition practices, with the result that Prestwick’s main airline, Ryanair moved some services to both Glasgow and Edinburgh. Today Prestwick handles close to 800,000 passengers per annum although passenger incomes are now only a fraction of the airport’s main income with property rentals, maintenance, technical stops, cargo, training, and refuelling bring in most revenue. The airport at present has returned to its military roots with the Royal Canadian Air Force maintaining a base there and the Air Forces of the US, Oman, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Kuwait, and Israel using the airport for fuel and overnight stops.  Cargo volumes remain strong, with regular cargo schedules maintained by Cargolux and Air France.

Preswick as an air force base, 2023.

Today, The airport is owned by the Scottish Government, who see the facility as an important infrastructure asset that helps to support in excess of 4,000 jobs in the West of Scotland. It’s the heart of Scotland’s aerospace industry, with over 50% of the country’s aerospace workforce employed at Prestwick, offering a diverse range of aviation services, and providing vital connections to the rest of the world.  Next stop – space!

The motto of Scottish Aviation ‘The World O’er’ remains as strong today as it did in 1935.

Allan Mackintosh has started Prestwick Aviation Tours to bring the amazing and fascinating story of Prestwick to life.  At present, there are short walking tours of a portion of the perimeter of the airfield, where Allan guides the tourists through the story of the airfield from 1913 to the present day.  There are plans for a virtual tour to be up and running in 2024 so that the many ex-pats and service personnel who flew to and from Prestwick can experience the airfield’s story.  Allan can be contacted on +44 (0) 776 416 8989 or via email [email protected]   The website is:

Main photo: A Trans-Canada Air Lines, DC-8 at Prestwick, 1960s.

Oldest and youngest play their part in Scotland

Piper Doug McRae, was the oldest member of The Scots School Albury Pipe Band at 66 years old and Saxon Coffey was the youngest of three 12-year-olds from the school band, making him the youngest member of the 29-strong playing group in Scotland. Doug originally played with Scots Pipe Band coordinator Scott Nicolson nearly 30 years ago when the pair was both working in New Zealand. Doug returned to Albury around the same time Nicolson started at The Scots School Albury in 2013 so it was a natural progression that Doug would reunite with his old buddy to bolster the student group.

Doug learned the pipes as a student of Knox Grammar School in Sydney and found it a satisfying way to make social connections whenever he moved to a new city. As a CEO of Private Hospitals, Doug moved around a bit, but has settled in Albury and is now retired. In fact, he retired in 2017, just in time to accompany the Scots band to its inaugural appearance at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. “I love playing in the band with the students,” Doug said. “The kids are a great bunch, and we see an awful lot of each other as we prepare for the Tattoo. It was a real experience to perform at the Tattoo in 2017. It was very busy because we played in a number of other events while we were there, so we had to learn a lot of tunes. We had the contest tunes and the Tattoo tunes to learn, as we did this time around. It’s very rewarding to help these youngsters on the big stage of the Tattoo.”

Saxon is a Year 7 student who has been playing the pipes for three years and is a natural musician, having mastered the trumpet and piano as well. Saxon found the pipes fairly easy to learn initially but admits there is a lot of practise required as the number of tunes they needed to learn for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the band’s other commitments at the Scottish Pipe Band Championships, the World Pipe Band Championships and Piping Live in Glasgow mounted up. “I do a lot of practise at home as well as at school,” Saxon confided. “The neighbours so far haven’t come knocking on my door to ask me to stop so I must be going ok.” Saxon, whose favourite tune is Sweet Maid, said the nurturing nature of the band is one of the best things about the group. “The older students are very supportive, and I’ve learnt a lot from them. It’s fun to be part of the group.”

Frank Mosley-An artist inspired by Scotland

Scotland, my homeland and the country which I love to paint. There, inspiration greets me at every turn. Highlands, islands, lowlands – every corner of ‘Caledonia’ provides subject matter for my canvases – but I am drawn, time and time again, to the Outer Hebrides. This bejewelled string of islands stretches 130 miles from the Butt of Lewis, south to the uninhabited wildlife haven of Mingulay.  Lewis and Harris (of the eponymous tweed!), Benbecula, the Uists, Eriskay (where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed to lead the ill- fated Jacobite Rebellion) and Barra with its causeway to Vatersay.

An archipelago which forms the last point of civilization between the Scottish mainland and the Americas. Betimes cosseted by the Gulf Stream or relentlessly battered by Atlantic gales, these islands of contrast boast some of the world’s most beautiful beaches – sands of myriad shades and crystalline waters in vivid green and turquoise hues.

The artisit.

This year I was honoured to be asked to stage an exhibition of my paintings on the island of Barra. In June 2023 the island’s Heritage Centre hosted the Centenary Homecoming to mark 100 years since many families on Barra and neighbouring Vatersay left their homes for the promise of a better life in Canada. Post-war, the islands’ herring industry had all but disappeared, work was impossible to find and poverty was rife. Tempted by the lure of rich farmland or well-paid jobs on the Canadian Pacific Railroad, entire households shipped away to the Prairies. Whilst some forged successful new lives others found nothing but disappointment and continuing hardship.

The descendants of these brave emigrants made their pilgrimage to the Homecoming to learn of the life and times of their forebears and where possible to visit the ruins of their ancestors’ humble dwellings. For many, the trip was their first visit to Scotland. For some, it was the very first time they had journeyed from their homes in Canada. For everyone that I met it was an emotional connection with their pasts. Stories tumbled out, family histories were shared – and more than a few tears were shed. The Heritage Centre in Barra’s Castlebay holds a wealth of information about these exiled islanders and an excellent collection of photographs and memorabilia – well worth a visit!

A little part of Scotland in every painting

As I travel, in search of inspiration for my art, I try to collect a tiny pinch of sand and some drops of water from the scene I hope to capture. These elements are incorporated in each canvas, to put a little part of Scotland in every painting. My notebook will record a few paragraphs which, when I return to my studio in France, will bring images back to me in even sharper focus than my camera. Sometimes I will develop these notes into a piece of descriptive prose which accompanies the painting and hopefully enhances the pleasure of ownership for the buyer:

‘Perhaps a little bay, framed by a tumble of rocks dumped by time’s glacial bulldozer – grey, black, brown and shot through with specks of glittering quartz. Or a sweeping ‘Traigh’ – a perfect crescent of pristine sand. There, a scatter of white painted houses gazing towards the sea which, in its giving and taking down the millennia, has shaped these islands and their peoples.

Maybe today, nature’s scene shifters will challenge my canvas by changing the vista a dozen times or more. Once a blue and listless sky, then suddenly a scurry of wispy clouds will enter from stage left in a merry dance. Lowering storm heads might roll in, with only a follow- spot of sunlight to illuminate a squadron of oystercatchers – wings flittering urgently as they head for shelter.

Then, when evening comes, the sun – its day’s work done – will sweep majestically from the scene, scattering tints of rose and peach, purple and orange and a cadmium red so vivid that the horizon seems to smoulder.

Darkness falls, a contented stillness settles and the rippling applause of waves on shore closes another world class performance’.

So, here in France, as winter approaches, the log fire will be lit and my memory will be aglow with recollections of this year’s travels – island visits, exhibitions staged, acquaintances made and old friends revisited. This artist, inspired by Scotland, will pick up his brushes and his pen- and hope to do justice to his beautiful homeland.

For more information and to view Frank’s work see:

Text by Frank Mosley.

Halloween hidden secrets

Warlocks and Witches in a Dance, wood carving by Thomas Hall Tweedy.

Robert Burns is at his best when dealing with the supernatural folklore of his native 18th century Scotland, and nowhere is this more apparent than in his narrative epic Tam o’ Shanter. The 224-line poem is a reimagining of an old tale from Burns’ youth about what happens to a farmer in the early hours riding past haunted Alloway Kirk. “There’s a beautiful wood carving that Thomas Hall Tweedy made in 1860, called Warlocks and Witches in a Dance, that takes its name from a line in Tam o’ Shanter”, says Lauren McKenzie, Functions and Events Manager at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. “It’s one of a set of four lime-wood carvings on display at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum that depicts the central scene in the poem where Tam reaches Kirk Alloway and is stopped in his tracks.” Thomas Hall Tweedy based the piece on a contemporary engraving by artist John Faed. Both artworks capture the humour evident in Tam o’ Shanter, as well as the more gruesome elements of the goings-on in the kirk.

Pumpkins galore

The pumpkins that you will see adorning the battlements of Castle Fraser at this time of year, in the orchard of Leith Hall, or that you’ll find have been made into delicious soup in the cafe at Fyvie Castle, are actually grown on site. “Our properties grow a range of varieties of pumpkins from year to year, from small eating and storing types to large ornamental varieties for pumpkin carving. Some years we have a bumper crop, but every year is different.” says Garden and Designed Landscape Manager Chris Wardle.  Some of the varieties grown include Atlantic Giant which is perfect for carving, Summer Sunburst and Patty Pan Green Tint for ornamental use, and Turks Turban and Uchiki Kuri for soups and storing.

Black cat

David Brodie and Alfonso at Brodie Castle.

Black cats have long been associated with Hallowe’en but one dark feline, named Alfonso, was a friendly family pet at Brodie Castle in the early years of the 20th century. A black and white photographic print from the collection at Brodie Castle, dating to around 1909, shows a young David Brodie (aged around four years old) with Alfonso. “The cat would have belonged to David’s mother, Violet May Hope, who was a big animal lover, she had lots of cats throughout her life and was particularly fond of cats and dogs”, says Jamie Barron, Visitor Experience Supervisor at Brodie Castle. “We have copies of the albums that Violet kept of her photographs, of which this is one. The albums are on display for visitors to flick through in the castle. It’s rather sad because within a couple of years of the photograph being taken, David died of diphtheria.” On tours of the castle, visitors are taken into is a bedroom where Violet, who married the 24th laird Ian Brodie, kept a collection of toads. Visitors hear all about Violet and her pets and the walls are adorned with photographs of Brodie pets from over the years.

Ghostly sightings

The strongroom at Culross Palace.

To protect the original floor tiles in the strongroom at Culross Palace it is cordoned off to visitors, who instead stand behind a rope to see into the place where George Bruce, the richest man in the area, kept his papers and valuables. Dating back to 1597, the narrow room has three-foot thick stone walls and had two heavy iron doors that could be bolted from the inside. It was also designed with a clever slanted entranceway to deter intruders and stop them from pulling out a sword. Not surprisingly it was supposedly cannonball and fire-proof. Visitors might have to stand at the doorway, but that hasn’t stopped some unusual ghostly goings-on being reported in the room over the years. Staff at the property remember a five-year-old girl who went under the rope, stood at the desk and was laughing and joking – with no one. “A guide came in and asked her who she was speaking to. She said, “The man with the hairy face and the funny white thing around his neck.” She was taken to the portrait of George Bruce, and she started waving at him and smiling”  says Linda Whiteford, Visitor Services Supervisor at Culross. “One of our guides went into the strong room to set up battery-operated candles, and the quills in a pewter pot on the desk were whirling round and round. She thought it was the draught from her jacket, so went out and came in again. It didn’t make any difference.”

Hebridean Hallowe’en

Through film and photography, the Hallowe’en traditions of South Uist were documented by Margaret Fay Shaw in the 1930s. Contained in the archive at Canna House, Shaw’s images form a rare record of guisers in sheepskin garb with haystack wigs and rope scarves. It wasn’t just at Hallowe’en when islanders believed there were spirits afoot. For hundreds of years a legend swirled around Canna about Coroghon Castle, also known as Coroghon Prison. “A painting of the castle by Richard Doyle featured in the book Canna: The Story of a Hebridean Island by Shaw’s husband, the renowned Gaelic folklorist John Lorne Campbell. Doyle visited Canna in 1875 on the Viscount Sherbrooke’s yacht,” says Fiona Mackenzie, Canna House archivist and manager. “The story goes that Marion Macleod, the wife of Donald Macdonald of Clanranald, known as Dòmhnall Dubh na Cuthaige (Black Donald of the Cuckoo), had an affair. Macdonald was born in about 1625 and fought in Montrose’s army in the Civil War. He married Marion in 1666. When Macdonald found out about the affair, he locked his wife up in in the castle for the rest of her life. Supposedly on a calm moonlit night you can still hear her wailing and crying to be released. Personally, I think that might be the sound of the seals.”

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

Oddities from the archives

The annals of Scottish history are filled with high drama, triumphs, tragedies, and countless great stories which echo through the ages. Social revolutions, grand set-piece battles, globe-spanning adventures, acts of heroism against all odds – it’s all there, and we all have favourites we recount and revisit again and again. That said, history is the collective story of humanity, and for every epic event there are a thousand flukes, farces, and oddities which capture the often surreal and baffling nature of our earthly existence. Here, for your amusement, are just a few of the eyebrow-raising incidents I’ve encountered recently in archives and antiquarian sources.

A seismic agitation on Loch Tay

Loch Tay.

We don’t often think of Scotland as being particularly affected by earthquakes. Floods and snowstorms are more our style. Yet, something strange happened on Loch Tay on 12 September 1784 which observers described as otherwise inexplicable “violent agitations”. A letter from a Mr Fleming details the extent of the disturbance near Kenmore: “…the water was observed to retire about 5 yards within its ordinary boundary, and in 4 or 5 minutes to flow out again. In this manner it ebbed and flowed successively 3 or 4 times during the space of a quarter of an hour, when all at once the water rushed from the east and west in opposite currents … in the form of a great wave.”

The water ebbed and flowed a while longer before settling back into normalcy. Loch Tay sits upon one fault line, the Loch Tay Fault, and very near another, the Highland Boundary Fault, whose murmurings could explain the sudden tides. Intriguingly, a report from 1789 tells how Loch Lomond experienced a similar phenomenon in 1755 at the very same time that a terrible earthquake levelled the Portuguese city of Lisbon.

Roxburgh Castle and the bovine assault force

Roxburgh Castle in the Borders is now nearly vanished, but was once one of the mightiest castles in the realm. During the Wars of Independence, dauntless James ‘the Black’ Douglas was tasked by Robert the Bruce with taking it and knew, having very limited resources, that he’d need to be fiendishly clever to even stand a chance. His plan? Have his sixty gruff warriors do their best cow impressions. A deadly stretch of open ground lay between the Scots and the castle with its English garrison, and a herd of black cattle grazed it. These weren’t the huge heifers we know today, but a much smaller, scrawnier breed. Douglas waited for the cover of night, ordered his men to drop down on all fours with their dark cloaks over their backs, and meander towards the castle gate. Whether they attempted to mimic the cattle’s mooing is not specifically mentioned in the chronicles, to my great dismay.

Perhaps the guards had drank a little too much that night, as the ploy worked without a hitch and Roxburgh was in Scottish hands by sunrise. Barbour’s The Bruce even mentions how one guard, upon seeing the larger-than-usual herd wandering about, remarked that the farmer responsible for them would regret not keeping them penned up if the Douglas made off with them!

The day the bay turned orange

Dunagoil Bay.

The spoils of shipwrecks are a boon to islanders, who have a talent for making thorough use of anything of value which washes ashore. Nineteenth century visitors to Barra, for example, often noted how women there were dressed in a patchwork of international finery thanks to the steady stream of wrecks off its shores. It must have made for quite the sight when, on the morning of 10 February 1900, a ship ran aground off the isle of Bute and spilled its 2,025 tons of Valencia oranges into Dunagoil Bay! The newspaper The Buteman reported that the bay had a layer of oranges several inches thick, and that locals were illegally rounding them up by the cartload. After a few weeks, however, the oranges began to rot, so many farmers – who were more than likely sick of the sight of them by then – began feeding them to their cattle. In the months that followed, milk from the parish of Kingarth in the south of Bute was said to have a citrusy tang.

The price of getting a head in life

At the height of the Viking Age, Sigurd, 1st Earl of Orkney, brought fire and sword to Scotland’s northern shores. In the course of his wrath, he made a bitter enemy in the form of Maelbrigte, mormaer of Moray. The north would never be big enough for the two of them, so in 892 AD they arranged to fight a decisive battle to the death with forty men on each side. Maelbrigte sported a distinct moniker, ‘the Tusk’, so-called because his bottom incisors sharply protruded from his lips. Let’s just say that Chekhov had his gun, and Maelbrigte had his tusk! Sigurd did not think the Scots could be trusted, so he pre-empted any cheating with a little of his own and mounted two men on each horse.

Even outnumbered two to one Maelbrigte’s men put up a good fight, but the result was inevitable. Maelbrigte fell, Sigurd chopped off his head, and rode off to celebrate his victory with his grim trophy strapped to his horse. There being no true roads, it was a bumpy ride. Along the way, Maelbrigte’s tusk secured its place in history and scratched Sigurd’s leg, so slightly that the Viking didn’t notice until it was too late. An infection set in, and within days the scourge of the north was dead – and, having met such an ignominious end, quite unlikely to enter Valhalla.

Disruptive Doric dogs

The archetype of a Reformation-era kirk as a severely strict, solemn place largely holds true, and one can imagine the consequences for anyone who disrupted the fire and brimstone of a kirk session. Some members of the congregation, however, proved easier to silence than others. An early 17th century entry in the Records of the Kirk-Session and Presbytery of Aberdeen laments how the inhabitants of the burgh “bring with them their dogges to the paroche kirk on the Lord’s day … whair throw and be the barking and perturbation of these dogges, the people are aftin withdrawn from hearing of God’s word, and often Divine service is interrupted.”

It was therefore issued that “no inhabitant whosoever within the same suffer thair dogges, whether they be mastives (mastiffs), curres (curs), or messens (lap dogs), to follow them heirefter to the paroche kirk of this burgh.”

Connecting Scotland’s diaspora-Scottish Connections Fund applications

Apply for funding to set up a project to promote Scotland’s worldwide reputation.

Applications have opened for a new pilot fund to support initiatives that promote Scotland’s international connections. The Scottish Connections Fund is open to bids from individuals and organisations in Scotland’s international diaspora and a total of £15,000 has been allocated for this year’s pilot, which will inform the development of an expanded fund in 2024. The fund follows a commitment in the government’s Scottish Connections Framework, which seeks to expand links and networks with Scottish people living elsewhere in the world, those with Scottish heritage, alumni of Scotland’s educational institutions, and people with professional, business, cultural or other links to Scotland.

External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson said: “The Scottish Government has long believed that better engaging our diaspora – family and friends of Scotland globally – can not only benefit Scotland economically and enrich our culture, but also improve Scotland’s connections and reputation. We know that millions around the world cherish their connections with Scotland, and we are grateful for the work of people and organisations who do so much to strengthen these links – whether that is through the promotion of our culture and heritage or Scotland’s reputation as a place to live, work, visit, study, and do business. This fund aims to support their work to create more vibrant, visible and connected global Scottish diaspora, and I encourage anyone with an interest to submit an application by 8 November, 2023.”

The Scottish Connections Fund aims to help Scottish diaspora organisations and communities and their individual members further the aims of the Scottish Connections Framework. It promotes increased visibility or connectivity between Scottish diaspora communities outside Scotland, or with Scotland itself. The fund supports innovative initiatives “that bring together those with a connection to Scotland, promote Scotland’s reputation and interests, and build greater connections back to Scotland itself.” These include, but are not limited to:

Community projects

Philanthropic projects





Applications can be submitted here:

Kingsville Highland Games finds a permanent home

The Mission of the Canadian Transportation Museum & Heritage Village (CTMHV) is “To preserve the past of Canada’s South for the education and interpretation of present and future generations”. And what could be more representative of Canada South’s history than a celebration of its Scottish and Celtic Heritage. Les McDonald, Chairman of the Board of Directors at CTMHV, is proud to announce that they will be adding the Kingsville Highland Games to the many events that they host on the Arner Townline. According to Heather Colautti, registrar of the Windsor Community Museum, “Scots have been coming to Windsor and Essex County, in large and in smaller numbers, since the days of the North American fur trade in the late 1600s and 1700s, right through to today and …. are one of the ethnic communities with the longest historic ties to Southwestern Ontario”. Reflecting the history of the county, Kingsville had hosted Highland Games for nearly 20 years until they disappeared in 1987.

A permanent home for this great event

The Highland Games, now to be known as the Kingsville-Essex Highland Games, returned in 2019 and more than 6,500 were in attendance for that occasion. The pandemic put paid to the games for a couple of years, but the committee has been working hard to bring the event back to its former numbers. In 2023 the Board at Jack Miner’s Migratory Bird Sanctuary graciously agreed to host the games at Ty Cobb Field when the Town of Kingsville decided to no longer host the event. The Committee will always be grateful for this gesture and are happy to report that more than 3,000 attendees enjoyed that location and all funds raised went to support programmes at the Sanctuary. However, the space available at Jack Miner’s proved to be too small to house the growth expected given the popularity of this event so, a new home had to be found for the future.  “The Board of Directors at the Canadian Transportation Museum & Heritage Village have been overwhelmingly supportive of this initiative” says Doug Plumb, Chairman and Founder of the current Kingsville Highland Games, “Everyone is so enthusiastic about this addition to the portfolio of the CTMHV and we are delighted to finally have a permanent home for this great event”.

The Kingsville-Essex Highland Games will be held at the Canadian Transportation Museum & Heritage Village on June 22nd, 2024 at 6155 Arner Townline, Kingsville. For details see:

The largest fruit in Scotland

The Pineapple is a little harder to find than most National Trust for Scotland (NTS) properties. The access road isn’t actually that long, less than a kilometre from the A905 near Airth and no further from the nearest bus stop. But the signage is minimal and as you pass fields and woodland you’ll wonder if you’re on the wrong track, until you finally get there. Come to think of it, ‘The Pineapple’ is one of the more playful names for NTS properties. But it’s a straightforward description of one of the most whimsical yet stunning buildings in Scotland.

I suppose most people with any connection to Scotland have seen photographs of The Pineapple (the name is sometimes lengthened to ‘The Dunmore Pineapple’) or perhaps have seen it on TV. Nothing can prepare you, though, for how impressive – or how big – it is in real life. It must surely be the largest representation of a fruit anywhere in Scotland, or perhaps anywhere else. If you were planning to create a giant fruit in stone, you’d generally steer clear of pineapples which are complicated and intricate objects. Some of the stonework on the building is delicate, subtle and takes the breath away. But why is there a giant pineapple in the Scottish countryside near the southern end of the Kincardine Bridge?


Christopher Columbus and his crew are generally assumed to have been the first Europeans to encounter pineapples, on the island of Guadalupe in the Caribbean. That was towards the end of the 15th century. Pineapples began to be imported to Europe, and became a delicacy, but only for the very wealthy. They couldn’t be grown outdoors in the United Kingdom, for example, and it was expense to import them. Experiments in growing pineapples in the UK began in the 17th century. I recently visited Oxford Botanic Garden (whose origins are 17th century) and saw pineapples growing there in a steamy glasshouse. There’s a painting in the Royal Collection, which has been dated to the late 1670s, that shows Charles II being presented with a pineapple. The first pineapples are said to have been grown in Scotland in 1731.

In the 18th century the area around The Pineapple was the Dunmore Estate; the name ‘Dunmore’ is still common locally, if you check a map. To the west, for example, is the extensive Dunmore Wood. The Pineapple was built on the instructions of John Murray, the 4th Earl of Dunmore. The building appeared in 1761, without the pineapple, and was intended as a kind of summerhouse in which the Earl could sit and enjoy views of his estate. Murray became Governor of Virginia – the last one before the American War of Independence – from 1771-75. Apparently, it was a custom in Virginia for returning sailors to leave a pineapple (a real one, mind) on their doorstep to indicate that they were at home and able to receive visitors. In 1777 the Earl did the same, in stone, ordering the pineappley bit of the building to be added; he was home, it said, and could receive callers. Incredibly, we don’t know the name of the architect who designed and executed either the original building or The Pineapple.

The detail is stunning – those lifelike stone pineapple leaves each have their own drain to draw away water and prevent damage through a build-up of ice. It’s impressive enough to stand before the structure and examine it from ground level. To be lifted up in a cherrypicker and examine the work at close quarters would be incredible. Perhaps the NTS should consider this…Murray would later become Governor of the Bahamas. Soberingly, his role there involved importing slaves from Africa, so perhaps The Pineapple can also serve as a prompt to reflect on the less savoury aspects of Scotland’s past.

Impressive walled garden

The impressive walled garden that lies to the south is a great place from which to view The Pineapple and is now a green space with flowers, shrubs, trees and even a small orchard. For many years, however, it looked very different. Around the garden were glass-roofed hothouses in which exotic fruit – including, yes, pineapples – were grown for the Earl’s plate. The ghostly outline of those hothouses can still be seen on the walls that survive on either side of The Pineapple. The 4th Earl lived at Dunmore Tower elsewhere on the estate. In 1820 Dunmore Park, a new mansion, was built nearby for the 5th Earl. During the 20th century the estate declined, part of it was bought up by the Countess of Perth and both Dunmore Park and Dunmore Tower became empty and ruinous. The Murrays of Dunmore have lived in Tasmania since the 9th Earl moved there in 1941.  Malcolm, the 12th Earl, visited The Pineapple in 1998 to plant a memorial tree. He remains active in many Australian Scots heritage organisations. I expect he reads the Scottish Banner!

By the early 1970s, The Pineapple, the hothouses and other remaining buildings were in danger of collapse. The Countess of Perth donated the building and surrounding grounds to the NTS in 1974. The remains of the hothouses were swept away but The Pineapple and its adjacent buildings were restored by the NTS alongside The Landmark Trust who now lease the buildings from the NTS and rent them out as holiday accommodation; yes, you can stay at The Pineapple! Casual visitors can view The Pineapple, enjoy the walled gardens and walk in the surrounding woodland. The former curling pond is said to be a haunt of the rare great crested newt. Around the site are some interpretative boards that outline the history of the building and the wider estate. I found the photographs of the walled garden with the hothouses up and running a fascinating comparison to the present day. 250 years old and perhaps Scotland’s most bonkers building, The Pineapple is something everyone should make an effort to go and see.

Words and images: David McVey.

Fall into Scotland’s great outdoors this autumn

Scotland’s landscapes are home to an incredible array of wildlife that can be found in all nooks, crannies and corners of the country. This autumn, there is no better time to start planning a feel-good break in the great outdoors.  For those looking for a holiday where it is possible to bask in glorious autumnal colours, go animal-spotting, and experience all that nature has to offer, Scotland is the perfect place.

Autumn nights draw in

The Northern Lights.

Northern Lights and stargazing-Scotland has some of the largest expanses of dark sky in Europe and while the country is famous for its beauty during day, the twilight hours create a new air of mystery. The autumn and winter months in Scotland offer the perfect conditions to watch the night sky so there is no better time to enjoy a stargazing holiday.  Visitors might be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis (or ‘Mirrie Dancers’ as they are known in Scotland). Some options for a break include:

Pennan, Aberdeenshire-Pennan is a tiny seaside village located by a stunning backdrop of Aberdeenshire cliffs (famous for being where a lot of the 1983 film Local Hero was made). When the days get shorter, and the nights get darker – that’s when the magic happens. Millions of lights seem to dance across the sky and the stars illuminate the night in an array of colour.

Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway-Not only Britain’s forest largest park, Galloway Forest Park was also the UK’s first Dark Sky Park. Stretching across the southwest of Scotland, it is home to glens, lochs, hills and only a few buildings which means it has very little light pollution. On clear nights it is possible to observe thousands of stars, making it one of the best places to stargaze in Europe. In nearby Kirkcudbright (which is also home to the Dark Sky Planetarium), head into Galloway Forest Park to see the skies.

North Uist, Outer Hebrides-With little light pollution, the Outer Hebrides is one of the best places to catch the Northern Lights. With the right weather conditions, each island can provide a mesmerising dancing display of the Aurora Borealis at the right time. Many astronomical sights can be seen through the naked eye including the Orion Nebula, the Milky Way and the Great Andromeda galaxy. During the winter it gets dark late afternoon, giving visitors a great opportunity to not only watch out for the Northern Lights but just look up and stargaze.  Each year in February/March, there is a Dark Skies Festival which features theatre, live music, film, visual art, food, astronomy talks, and stargazing.

Orkney & Shetland-Looking for a real adventure?  A stay in the northernmost regions of the British Isles to possibly witness the Aurora Borealis will feel like a world away. Stay at the Keeper’s Cottage at Sumburgh Lighthouse.  The Lighthouse is the oldest in Shetland, and perhaps the most well-known. Rising above the precipitous Sumburgh Head cliffs at the southernmost point of mainland Shetland, the Lighthouse is visible from land and sea for miles around. There’s no doubt that Orkney is one of the best places in the UK to try and catch a glimpse of them, with low levels of light pollution and unobstructed views.


Scotland is quite a special place to visit in the autumn as the beautiful reds and oranges of the season appear. ‘Leaf-peeping’ has become a trend of the last few years, with people travelling to destinations only to see the fall foliage.  Scotland should be at the top of the list for leaf-peepers.  Places to see include:

The Hermitage, Dunkeld

Roslin Glen, Midlothian

Lochgilphead, Argyll & Bute

Glenmore Forest, Cairngorms

Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire

Binning Wood, East Lothian

Falls of Clyde Wildlife Reserve, Lanarkshire


Wildlife spotting 

A red deer stag. Photo: Paul Tomkins/VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint.

Red Squirrels-Best spotted in the winter months of December – January when their vibrant reddish coats will stand out against the snow. Much smaller than their grey cousins, the fluffy red squirrel is an elusive addition to Scotland’s forests and woodlands. The UK has around 160,000 red squirrels, and approximately 75% of them live in Scotland’s woodlands, parks and gardens. To find these beautiful little mammals, visitors can keep an eye out for their red coat during a walk in Britain’s largest forest park, Galloway Forest Park. Sightings are also common when following the Devilla Forest Red Squirrel Trail, as the Scots Pine trees are a perfect habitat for red squirrels. The Scottish Wildlife Trust is working with NatureScot, Scottish Forestry, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates and the Red Squirrel Survival Trust to protect these adorable creatures by asking people to report sightings.

Red Deer-Red deer are best spotted during the autumn months of September – November. One of the most iconic animals associated with Scotland, the red deer is the UK’s largest land mammal and can be spotted in almost every region in the country.  These stunning animals can be seen in locations including the Isle of Arran, Isle of Jura, Lochaber, Torridon, Cairngorms National Park, and Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. Visitors can stop by Aberfeldy, Perthshire and visit the Red Deer Centre to get up close and personal with these large mammals and learn about their unique traits. If after a more Christmas vibe, did you know the Cairngorms National Park is home to Britain’s only free-ranging herd of reindeer?

Seals-Seals are best spotted during the autumn months of September – November but can also be spotted during the summer. Seals are very common inhabitants off the coastlines of Scotland. Visitors might be lucky enough in the autumn months to spot fluffy grey seal pups too. These adorable creatures can be spotted all across Scotland, but in particular in the Moray Firth, Firth of Tay, Ythan Estuary, and on the Isle of May. Basking Shark Scotland runs Seal and Lagoon tours throughout the year from Oban, Tobermory, or Isle of Mull, where visitors can swim in crystal clear water alongside seals.  Basking Shark Scotland also runs various other tours to allow visitors the chance to enjoy the special wildlife in Scotland, including basking shark tours (of course!), snorkelling experiences, scuba diving trips, and more.

For more holiday inspiration and ideas, visit

New Whisky Year Zero Commemoration to mark 200th anniversary of Act That ‘Laid the Foundations for the Scotch Whisky Industry’ and the ‘Whisky Capital of the World’

The Argyll and Isles Tourism Cooperative has launched a new Whisky Year Zero commemoration to mark this year’s 200th anniversary of the 1823 Excise Act, which was published on 18 July 1823. The act, which sanctioned the distilling of whisky in return for a licence fee, played a key role in shaping Argyll and the Isles as Scotland’s Whisky Coast – an area which encompasses four of Scotland’s recognised whisky regions – Campbeltown, Islay, Highlands (Oban and Loch Lomond) and Islands (Jura and Tobermory).

‘Whisky Capital of the World’

Recognising the significance of the year, particularly to Argyll’s one-time ‘Whisky Capital of the World’, Whisky Year Zero celebrates the destination’s distinct whisky heritage by showcasing the wide range of sites, festivals and experiences whisky lovers can experience in Argyll and the Isles until June 2024. This includes brand new distillery openings, such as the reopening of the historic Port Ellen Distillery on Islay, more than 35 years after it was closed and almost 200 years since it first opened in 1824 as one of the first distilleries to be licensed after the 1823 Excise Act.

The commemoration is being welcomed by leading historians and whisky aficionados, including Pro Vice Principal at the University of Glasgow Bradley Professor Murray Pittock; Master of the Quaich (the whisky industry’s highest accolade) author Dr Nick Morgan; fellow Master of the Quaich acclaimed whisky writer Charles MacLean; and founder of World Whisky Day consultant Blair Bowman. Launching the commemoration Cathy Craig, CEO of the Argyll and Isles Tourism Cooperative said: “We’re delighted to launch Whisky Year Zero to celebrate the rich whisky, or uisge beatha, heritage that has shaped communities and culture throughout Argyll and the Isles. Known as Scotland’s Whisky Coast due the high volume of world-class distilleries dotted along our coastline, there are so many ways in which visitors to the area can learn more about our significant whisky history and why our destination, with its abundance of fertile landscapes, produces some of Scotland’s finest food and drink.”

Explaining the importance of the commemoration, Professor Murray Pittock, Bradley Professor and Pro Vice Principal at the University of Glasgow said: “Understanding our past gives us confidence in our ability to shape the future, so it is vital that we continue to remember key historical moments. Commemorations like Argyll & the Isles’ Whisky Year Zero, that take the time to bring history to life, can play a central role in addressing this.”

Throughout Whisky Year Zero, Glen Scotia, one of three distilleries remaining in Campbeltown, is offering immersive whisky experiences that take visitors behind the scenes and back in time, to discover more the history of their whisky, including how the Excise Act led to their hometown town being proclaimed the one-time Whisky Capital of the World.

Hannah Young, Visitor Centre Manager at Glen Scotia said: “Our historical distillery still maintains much of its original design dating from the 1830s, including our Dunnage Warehouse, so our celebrated heritage and history still influence the award-winning whisky produced here. The 1823 Excise Act played a key role in our formation and those who come on one of our distillery tours can learn all about the impact it made on our town.”

Explaining the significance of the act on Argyll and the Isles, renowned Whisky Writer and Master of the Quaich Charles Maclean said: “The 1823 Excise Act laid the foundations for the Scotch whisky industry by fixing the method of Scotch whisky distillation as we know it today. The Argyll and Isles Tourism Cooperative is to be congratulated for celebrating this significant piece of legislation, which made it possible for Campbeltown to become ‘the world whisky capital’ in the late 19th century and for Islay to become the world’s leading pilgrimage destination for whisky lovers today. Before the Act, distilling in the region was mainly illicit; today it is burgeoning.”

Professor Pittock added: “The 1823 Excise or Wash Act led to a boom in the whisky industry. Local businesspeople and landowners saw vast opportunities in the market, and in Campbeltown developments supported by the Duke of Argyll saw the creation of some 30 distilleries in a town of around three thousand people – it was certainly, as it proclaimed, ‘the Whisky Capital of the World’ in per capita terms at least.”

Reinforcing the scale of industry growth at that time, Dr Nick Morgan, Master of the Quaich, whisky aficionado and author of the book Everything You Need to Know About Whisky (but are too afraid to ask) said: “In 1821 there were eleven licensed distilleries in Argyll producing around 40,000 gallons of whisky a year. Only one, owned by John Beith, was in Campbeltown. By 1826, three years after the passing of the 1823 Excise Act, there were thirty-four distilleries in Argyll producing some two-hundred thousand gallons a year.”

Uisge beatha

Though there are less distilleries than there once was in the area, whisky and now gin production is still a significant industry across Argyll and the Isles, as Whisky Year Zero highlights. The commemoration showcases 14 world-class whisky distilleries, a myriad of whisky experiences, festivals and distillery openings across the destination. Welcoming the celebration and explaining why Argyll and the Isles is such an important whisky destination, whisky enthusiast, founder of World Whisky Day and author of The Pocket Guide to Whisky, Blair Bowman said: “Uniquely for a Scottish destination, Argyll and the Isles encompasses four of Scotland’s recognised whisky regions, earning it the title of Scotland’s Whisky Coast. During Whisky Year Zero, I would encourage all visitors to celebrate by going on a distillery-hoping journey of discovery across Argyll and the Isles to explore the real impact Scotland’s iconic uisge beatha or ‘water of life’ has had on culture and communities in the area, and what makes each of the whisky regions different. There is also something quite extraordinary about drinking a whisky in the same places where the whisky was made. It really enhances the experience. Each whisky is very unique, their flavours tell an important part of history too. Whisky is quite literally known in Scottish Gaelic as the Water of Life, uisge beatha, which is very apt. There is something magical about each and every sip. When you pick up a glass from Argyll and the Isles, you’re not just picking up a drink, you’re picking up a story of Scottish life too. It tells you story of history, a story of culture and a story of craftmanship – from the farmers producing barley to the unique distillation processes.”

Emma Clark AITC Vice Chair, official Argyll & the Isles Food & Drink Ambassador and owner of Glenegedale Guesthouse on Islay (where they serve food platters on top of a reclaimed whisky barrel and even give guests the opportunity to enjoy local whisky in their porridge) agreed: “With our rich fertile lands and world-leading producers, we make and supply some of the very best food and drink, including whisky, right here in Argyll and the Isles. Whisky Year Zero provides the perfect excuse for visitors to go on a culinary journey of discovery to responsibly enjoy our sensational local produce, our unique land and waters, tantalising food trails, world class distilleries and vast amount of award-winning eateries to suit all tastes.”

To find out more about Whisky Year Zero visit:

Kryal Castle event a spectacular success

On 19-20 August 2023, Clans gathered at a misty Kryal Castle, Ballarat to the haunting sound of a lone piper calling all to gather within its mighty walls. The call was so strong that around 4,500 people attended over the weekend and enjoyed the event, an outstanding success for an inaugural event. A sizeable proportion of those attending were from the large Scots diaspora residing near Ballarat and in the Central Highlands region of Victoria. On both days the event was opened by the burly lads and lasses from Highland Muscle, who kept the crowd entertained with feats of strength including caber tossing, hammer throw and other expositions of superhuman strength. This was followed on the Saturday by the official opening of the event by our Chief of the Day, Simon Abney-Hastings, the 15th Earl of Loudoun. Mayor of Ballarat Cr Des Hudson OAM also gave a rousing speech in support of the event. After the opening speeches, the packed arena was filled with the stirring sound of the massed pipes and drums. The massed bands included members from Ballarat Pipe Band, Golden City Pipe Band, Geelong RSL Pipe Band and Ballarat Grammar Pipe Band.

The castle walls were filled with lots of attractions

Chief of Clan MacNicol, John MacNeacail of MacNeacail and Scorrybreac with Andrew MacKinnon Australian Commissioner of the Clan MacKinnon Society and Artistic Director for the Kryal Castle Highland Spectacular and Malcolm Nicolson, Chieftain of Clan MacNicol and Lieutenant to the Chief.

A very popular main arena performance was the Highland Dancing by the Victorian Scottish Union Highland Dancing with performers from Geelong Scottish Dance. The wee’uns stole everyone’s heart with their amazing dancing. One of the unique aspects of the event were highly entertaining historical displays including, “Who is the real William Wallace?” with the crowd regaled by a hilarious blue woad covered imposter and the real 13th century knight! Following, was a joust in tribute to the wedding tournament of James the Second of Scotland and his marriage to Mary of Guelders in 1449. Many lances were broken and the crowd was mightily educated and entertained.

Clan deerhound.

The castle walls were filled with lots of other attractions including Highland ponies, Highland cows and the magnificent Scottish Deerhounds and lots of fabulous vendors selling Scottish food and wares.  Clans were represented by tents including; Fraser, Sinclair, Donald, MacDonald of Yarraville, Edmonstone, MacPherson, MacKinnon and MacNicol with Chief John MacNeacail of MacNeacail and Scorrybreac in attendance. As the dusk drew in, the audience enjoyed the individual band performances from all band participating in the massed bands performance. As evening fell the event was brought to a close, with the lone piper again scaling the parapets of castle and filling the air with the haunting sounds of the bagpipes which was signal for all the happy visitors to return home. As part of the action packed program, there were two Highland themed feasts held with haggis and delicious Scottish food served and a whisky tasting narrated by Kinglake Distillery. The hungry attendees were royally entertained by Auld Alliance, a two-piece band playing stirring Scots classics who also called a few enthusiastic patrons up to dance.By any measure the event was a huge success and will be return again next year.

Highland dancers.

The call has already gone for Clans to gather at Kryal Castle, Ballarat on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 of August 2024 for another Highland Spectacular. Tickets are on sale now at Feast tickets are also available.


ScotsFest: Arkansas Scottish Festival and Lyon College Homecoming comes to Lyon College in Batesville

Lyon College will once again combine its beloved Arkansas Scottish Festival with the excitement of homecoming for one big weekend-long celebration, ScotsFest, from Oct. 27-29 on the Lyon College campus in Batesville. The Arkansas Scottish Festival began in 1979 as a small fair on the campus’s intramural field as a way to pay homage to the Scottish heritage of the college’s Presbyterian founders. It has grown into one of the premier festivals in Arkansas and one of the most prominent festivals in the United States for honoring Scottish heritage and traditions. This is the 43rd year of the Arkansas Scottish Festival and the third year the festival will be combined with the Lyon College Homecoming.

Follow the sounds of the bagpipes

Last year, the event drew more than 5,500 festival-goers and generated an estimated $1.2 million in economic impact to Independence County. Presented by Lyon College and lead partner, Experience Independence, ScotsFest will feature several new events this year, including a vintage swap meet, a comedy show featuring “America’s Got Talent” alumnus Cam Bertrand, a free rocket-building workshop, and performances by the Piper Jones Band and Celtic musician Misty Posey. ScotsFest will open at noon on Friday, with a food truck fair, vendors and Scottish clan exhibitions. Featured entertainers in the Ozark Beer Co. entertainment tent on Friday include third-generation Arkansas musician Garrett Duncan and his wife, Ashton, at 4 p.m.; popular central Arkansas country rock band Drasco at 6 p.m.; and award-winning Arkansas bluegrass band The Gravel Yard at 8 p.m. A variety of homecoming events are planned for Friday, including open classes, a Founders’ Day choir reunion, a Founders’ Day convocation, and an alumni and friends awards celebration and social.  For more information on the alumni events, contact Lyon College Executive Director of Alumni Engagement Cindy Barber at [email protected].  “We look forward to welcoming alumni back to campus all year long, but there’s nothing like the reunions and fun during ScotsFest,” Barber said. “Just follow the sounds of the bagpipes.”

On Saturday, Oct. 28, the festival will get underway at 8 a.m. with historical reenactments by MacLachlan’s Jacobite Highlanders and Colonel Munro’s 37th Regiment of Foot, a Highland heavy athletics competition, Scottish clan reunions, sheep dog demonstrations, rocket demonstrations, pipe band exhibitions, Highland dancing, a British car show, the Li’l Highlanders Fun Zone and entertainment throughout the day featuring Celtic songstress Posey. A vintage swap meet is set from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Student Recreation Center in Becknell Gymnasium. The student-led event will showcase the best in vintage toys, sports memorabilia, fashion, crafts, collectibles, jewelry, artwork and culture. Proceeds from a $3 admission to the swap meet benefit Lyon College student organizations. To register a booth, please contact Pam Palermo at [email protected].

The vibrant display of Scottish culture

The Ozark Beer Co. entertainment tent will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with entertainment throughout the day, featuring popular Celtic performers, the Piper Jones Band, a lyrical, high-energy trio that maintains a strong musical base in traditional tunes from Scotland, Ireland and Appalachia. There will be a band and clan march-past followed by opening ceremonies at 12 p.m. with a mass pipe band concert in the Couch Garden. Afternoon and evening special events include a dog show,  sheep dog demonstrations, and a feast and ceilidh.

Homecoming events on Saturday include a tailgate event, pep rally, student organization reunions, alumni ball games, and alumni and friends meet-and-greets. In Saturday’s homecoming match-up, the Lyon College Scots soccer teams will take on Webster University, with the women’s match at 1 p.m. and the men’s match at 3 p.m. on Huser Field on the Lyon College campus. At 9 p.m., there will be a free comedy show featuring popular comedian Cam Bertrand, who became famous for his TikTok account featuring standup comedy videos and his appearance on “America’s Got Talent.”

The festival opens at 8 a.m. on Sunday and includes historical reenactments, sheep dog demonstrations, Highland dancing, and a Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan worship service at 11 a.m. in the entertainment tent. At 1 p.m., there will be a bonniest knees contest followed by the Kilted Fun Run for adults, students and children. Kilted Fun Run registration is $25 for adults and $10 for students and children. Homecoming events on Sunday include a Club 50 celebration for those who have been alumni for over 50 years at noon in the Maxfield Room of Edwards Common, with the class of 1973’s induction into society. The festival closes at 4 p.m. on Sunday. “Lyon College is honored to be a part of the rich tapestry of Arkansas’s cultural heritage, and the Arkansas Scottish Festival stands as a testament to our commitment to preserving and sharing these traditions,” said Dr. David Hutchison, vice president for advancement. “Through music, dance and the vibrant display of Scottish culture, the Arkansas Scottish Festival demonstrates the power of community and the enduring partnership between Lyon College and our surrounding region”

General admission to the festival is free, though some individual and alumni events require a separate registration. The full schedule can be seen at


A Grand Tour of Cowal with Paul Murton

Paul Murton.

It is the spectacular and serene scenery of the Cowal peninsula, just an hour or so from the hustle and bustle of Glasgow, that provided broadcaster and writer Paul Murton with what he describes as his happy childhood. “It was my nursery and playground,” explained Paul who grew up in the east Cowal village of Ardentinny on the banks of Loch Long, “and I had a great degree of freedom to go out and explore the landscapes that enveloped me.

“I was out climbing or messing about on the water from an early age long before the era of health and safety. I still recall hitch hiking up to Arrochar at the age of 13, something you wouldn’t dream of doing these days. It was that innocent spirit of adventure that I still embrace to this day. It feeds into every TV programme and series I’m involved in. I will never cease to be fascinated by the landscapes and the people that make up Scotland. There’s an endless amount of stories to be told. Back in my younger days Dunoon was a very different place with over four thousand US servicemen based at the naval base. I recall playing basketball and softball at school as well as shinty and football. The base has gone now and it’s all a wee bit less frenetic. My parents ran a hotel in Ardentinny and some of the guests they had would fascinate me with their stories of adventure including one larger than life character who had traversed the continent of Antarctica. All of these influences only increased my desire to go explore,” added Paul who spent much of his career directing marque TV dramas including The Bill, Casualty and Holby City.

The enchanting Scottish landscape

Holy Loch. Photo: Emma Legge.

The mean streets of Sun Hill and chaotic hospital wards of Holby were swapped a while back for a return to his roots. He describes himself on his Twitter profile as “a wanderer by trade who looks for lost horizons”. That wandering spirit has often got the better of him with countless hitch-hiking adventures across the length and breadth of Europe and numerous summits surmounted. Paul’s adventurousness has been channelled and manifested into an ever-growing list of BBC TV programmes and series about the enchanting Scottish landscape including Scotland’s Clans, Grand Tours of Scotland, Grand Tours of the Scottish Islands, Grand Tours of Scotland’s Lochs and Grand Tours of Scotland’s Rivers.

In every episode the affable Paul, with his trademark Tilley hat, effortlessly interweaves the Scottish legends, myths, people and landscapes into a rich tapestry that leaves the viewer enthralled. It’s a beguiling mixture of self-deprecation, humour and genuine interest. When it comes to his old stomping ground Paul has profiled Historic Kilmun, often described as the Rosslyn of the West, and the nearby Benmore Botanic Garden on his TV travels as well as the Lauder Monument. These are all landmarks that have a relevance that resonates far beyond their immediate geography.

Both Historic Kilmun and Benmore are popular stopping off points for coach tours with thousands of folk getting a fascinating fix of history and horticulture every year but there are so many other intriguing landmarks and people associated with this wee corner of Argyll including Ardentinny Beach, Kilmun Arboretum, Puck’s Glen and the forested tracks and trails of Glenbranter. These spots and many more are encapsulated within the ECHO (East Cowal Heritage Outdoors) Trails and all have their own stories to tell.

Special place

Paul went on “I recall Historic Kilmun, then known as St Munns church. Every day the school bus that took me to Dunoon Grammar School would stop outside. The daughter of the minister would get on. It was fair to say she was a wee bit less religious than her father! Loch Eck, just a short trek from the stunning Benmore Garden with its golden gates, is a place that will always be special. There are so many myths associated with this body of water. Stories of kelpies and other creatures abound. Loch Eck also had a big part to play in Victorian times with the arrival of the paddle steamers. It is a body of water with a lot of tales to tell as well as incredible views in the watery stillness. The hills and mountains in this part of Cowal might not be the biggest on the west coast but their steep slopes create a feeling of encasement that is rarely matched. Back in the Victorian era there were many paddle steamers shuttling up and down the Clyde towards the Holy Loch and Dunoon. The entrepreneurs of Glasgow could leave their grand villas at 7am and be at their desks by nine. It’s a bit more tricky these days!”

Benmore Botanic Garden.

There are effectively two routes into Dunoon and Cowal. There’s the passenger and car ferries from Gourock and then there’s the imposing and, occasionally unpassable, Rest and Be Thankful pass on the A83 between Arrochar and Cairndow.  “This part of the world does feel a bit like an island at times but there are so many reasons to visit and it is not just a gateway to the Highlands but a destination in its own right. It’s moulded and influenced me with its magical landscapes. I’d encourage folk to take in this special place on their own grand tours of Scotland!” concluded Paul. That spirit of wander and wonder that Paul infuses into all of his TV projects found its genesis in the hills of Cowal and Dunoon. No wonder it was a happy childhood!

The Cowal peninsula plays host to two key annual events this Autumn with the Cowalfest (Oct 12-16) walking festival making a welcome return after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic and the recent Cowal Open Studios (COS) artists’ network holding their ‘open studios weekend’ (Sep 22-25). To find out more about these two landmark weekends visit and where you can book your places on any of the scheduled Cowalfest walks and events.

Drum Major Paula Braiden-A force to be reckoned with

The Scottish Banner speaks to Paula Braiden, Senior Drum Major and founder of The Force.

-Paula, you have a family history in pipe bands and took an interest in Drum Majoring at a very young age.  Can you tell us more and how growing up in your family paved the way for you to make a life in the pipe band movement?

PB: My brother Darrell was a drummer and when my mother Eva and father William were young they were in a pipe band, so it was a very natural progression for us as a family to enter that kind of hobby. We were all very musical, so it was a guided way forward for us. When my brother became a drummer, he would head off for competitions and I would be left with my granny, who I got on with very well, and thought to myself there is something I must do to also get to these competitions. I always loved watching the Drum Majors and I wanted to give that a go. The Pipe Major at the time said I was very talented, and my arms were very flexible in the movements, so I got my very first Mace at aged seven. I used to parade up and down when the Drum Majors were doing their performances, even though I had no notion of what to do, I pretended I did. The audience would have seen this wee kid that would have been so excited and enthusiastic about Drum Majoring. I then joined Alastair Patterson’s Drum Major class and then later was taught by one of the top Drum Majors at that time in Alan McBride, who had approached my parents and told them I had great potential and offered to teach me on a one-to-one basis. I worked hard and people on the circuit began to know who I was at a very young age.

-For those that do not actually know, can you tell us what exactly the role of a Drum Major is?

PB: The role of a Drum Major is essentially the person in command of the band, they would be in charge of marching discipline, giving commands such as where they march off and where the band goes. They will also often name the tunes a band will play. In a military Drum Major role, they are the highest rank in the band, other than the Pipe Major, and work like the conductor of the band. They will give their command and move their Mace to the rhythm of the music, and even command the tempo of how the band plays the tune. Drum Majors really do play an important role, whilst they do not play an instrument, they do hold the rhythm to what is being played. So, the movement of the Mace is what ties the musicality of the performance. A Drum Major’s movements are not to be looked at just from a visual and flamboyant perspective, they are there to keep the band musically correct and in time. A highly functioning Drum Major will be able to keep the band together, even though half of them is at the very back. For example, I am quite small, so my Mace must be high enough in the air for those at the back to see my movements, but I do have a loud voice so there is no fear that those at the back of the band don’t hear that.

Paula winning her first World title Junior 1997 age 14.

-Paula you have won multiple World Championship titles as well as Scottish, British, Irish and European titles. How has competing amongst some of the best in the world shaped your passion and is there a title you are most proud of?

PB: Growing up I was taught by the best and had every best possible opportunity to succeed. For me starting at the age of seven through to my first World title at the age of fourteen, that was my steppingstone to making it. I was very young and around many top senior Drum Majors and could not wait to be that person. Because my first World title was at fourteen it was phenomenal for me, I then went on for two seasons undefeated in every championship and local contest and by the age of 18 I had a total of four World Championship titles. At that young age it was a lot of pressure, though I did not feel it at the time. The win that stands out the most for me was when I won the senior World title in 2012, prior to that for five years running I placed second at the World Championships (to a different winner every time). By then I was competing as an adult in a senior grade and all I wanted was a senior title. In 2012 I really dug deep and put in my best performance possible. Prior to that my last World title was 2001 so that eleven-year period was probably the toughest time in my career. So, the 2012 win was the most memorable for me because I remember how high I jumped and the tears coming, and though I tried to remain professional, the tears kept coming. When I collected my trophy even the officials were crying as they were all overwhelmed at the fact, I had finally done it. It really was the most triumphant I have ever felt with a win.

-Being a female Drum Major on the international circuit surely must break some glass ceilings. How important has it been for you to be recognised in quite a male dominated network and what are your hopes for young girls coming up in the pipe band movement around the world?

PB: If I look back at the young girl I was, watching those senior Drum Majors there was probably only ever one female.  So, my aim in my head was to be that one female as I grew up and be an example to future generations. For me being a female, it used to be predominately a male that has held the role, I am quite fortunate to have been so successful and the opportunity to lead massed pipes and drums. Leading a massed band onto a tattoo arena I really have to use my voice and you can hear the audiences surprise and cheers when they hear a female leading them. That inspires me more to hear that excitement, that a woman is leading the bands and the bands make me feel very welcome.

Over time I was invited to do an event in Switzerland and eventually a tour of Germany, at the time I did not understand the importance of being a woman in that position. I was so proud to lead the bands and that my younger self was doing what she had dreamed of. For me its about working hard, being patient and knowing what you want out of your passion. I am very passionate about what I do and everything I do I do to the highest of standard. For any young girl that wants to Drum Major competitively know that you have the talent and ability by putting in the hard work. It is now so accepted to be in that position and people get excited to see a female march out a huge band and give those commands, it really does get a huge amount of respect. Putting in that hard work can get you to a level where you are full of confidence to lead a band and perform in front of thousands of people. I have also taught several female champions who have gone on to win titles so there are definitely females coming up in the ranks behind me.

The precision of The Force.

-You have been a Drum Major teacher for over 20 years and helped produce five World Champion Drum Majors. What is the average age of your students and how important is it for you to pass on your knowledge to others around the world?

PB: I used to have my own teaching class called the PB Class of Drum Majors and taught from a beginner level right through to experienced level. My average age of pupils would of likely been around the fifteen to sixteen mark. The younger children would have come in at around seven, when they have the capacity to follow instructions and maintain that concentration. I have had adults and older people who want to explore it as they never had a chance earlier in life and may be looking to lead street parades or perform at band functions. I have had a seventy-year-old pupil so the ages can really differ. Predominately though I taught at a beginner level through to early twenties. To be the best competitor myself I always found that teaching was one of the best tools for me to stay at my best.

-You are now involved with The Force, a display team of champion Drum Majors. Can you tell us more?

PB: The Force has been in the making for several years now and been operating at various international military tattoos and events around the World, such as Switzerland’s Avenches Tattoo and Moscow’s Spasskaya Tower Tattoo. However, it is only now that I have launched this talented group of champion Drum Majors as The Force. We are all multiple championship title holders including World champions so whenever I offer mine and The Force’s services to an event it is an elite team of World champions, I bring with me. I produce and choreograph performances to any Tattoo/event theme which can be so synchronised you may think it is just one person. We build the structure of the performance around the event we attend and try and create something to give the audience a real spectacle. To see a standing ovation at the end of a performance is something I strive for every time. It could be choreography, production or even designing a flash mob style performance, which is a unique piece and involves multiple musical accompaniments as part of our choreographed performance, such as Pipers, Drummers, Guitarists, Vocalists, Flutists, Dancers etc. We try to create something very special and I get huge satisfaction seeing what was in my head all come together and enjoyed by thousands of people on the World stage. We have been involved with many collaborations over the years with various artists at music festivals to military tattoos, workshops or even working alongside some of the members from the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, we really do bring a wealth of experience, creativity and innovation to an event or Military Tattoo. The Force is a very unique offering to any event or Tattoo as there is nothing else quite like it on the international scene.

The next generation, Paula’s children, Pippa and Finlay.

And finally, the pipe band movement offers an incredible fraternity and comradery to those at any age. Can you tell us what you feel is so special about it and what message do you have for someone who may be considering joining a band?

PB:  It sounds really cliché, but it really is a global community and a place where everyone knows your name. I grew up in the pipe band world and it really is a big family that looks out and supports one another. For me, pipe band people have literally watched me grow up from the age of seven, now I am an RSPBA Drum Major adjudicator. People I thought were old when I was young, are actually old now, and have watched me through my career. Everyone looks out for one another, and the older ones become your uncles and your aunts. My best friends in life are the ones I have met as a Drum Major at the age of eight, so they have been with me now for thirty years. I have lifelong friends who are now family members because we met through the pipe bands, I met my husband Craig through the pipe bands as he is a piper. We are now instilling that onto our children, my son Finlay loves to pipe like his daddy and my daughter Pippa loves to Drum Major like her mummy.  If we go to a pipe band event Finlay asks why we stop every two minutes to talk to people on the field and I have to explain this is what life is like in the pipe band world, everybody knows everyone and you meet lots of friends. Being part of the pipe band scene has taught me self-belief, self-discipline and a passion for life and those fundamentals I feel are vital in being the best you can be as a person, not just a Drum Major.

The Force is a champion Drum Major Display Team who perform at various international musical military tattoos and events around the world. For more details see:

Biggest search for Nessie in 50 years concludes with hydrophone capturing loud underwater noises and several potential sightings

Hundreds of volunteers and media participated in the largest surface area search of Loch Ness in 50 years in late August, with numerous potential sightings and strange noises heard from the depths of Loch Ness. Wild weather (nicknamed ‘Nessie’s revenge’) did not put off hardy hunters who flocked along both sides of the 23-mile long loch to volunteer in the surface watch, alongside hundreds who participated online via webcams.

Looking for Nessie.

Highlights from the weekend included:

  • Four mysterious and previously unheard loud noises from the depths of the loch.
  • Possible video footage of the monster with mysterious ‘humps’ filmed on the loch moving, before disappearing.
  • An online volunteer captured a giant shadow just under the surface, moving, dipping out of sight, then returning and swimming across again.
  • Multiple submissions of potential sightings via sighting form submissions including streaks in the water.

The mysterious monster

Deepscan, named after the Operation Deepscan expedition famously carried out on the loch in 1987.

Nessie is clearly still capturing people’s imagination and interest as much today as it did 90 years ago. The mysterious monster has become so popular worldwide that Continuum Attractions (which runs award winning visitor attractions across the UK) has recently invested into the new Loch Ness Centre, giving visitors and enthusiasts the chance to take a tour and learn more about the history, view real artefacts, and see the scientific evidence. At the end of the experience guests are given the chance to debate the existence of Nessie.

Christie McLeod, who travelled to take part from Toronto, Canada, said, “I’ve been hunting the monster for nine years, but this is my first official hunt. I’ve previously hired my own boat, so this is great as it’s organised by Loch Ness Exploration with support from the Loch Ness Centre. I’ve heard lots of stories from the locals, which all contradict each other. There are two types of people in the world, Nessie believers and non-believers, and I’m not interested in the latter. I have a spiritual connection to the Loch Ness monster and think there is a portal to another dimension in the loch.”

Legendary Nessie hunter Steve Feltham, Loch Ness Exploration’s Alan Mckenna, and author Roland Watson.

Paul Nixon, General Manager of the Loch Ness Centre, said, “This excitement this weekend has proven that the ongoing hunt for the Loch Ness Monster is still very much alive and continues to draw and attract a global audience, from America, Canada, France, Italy, Japan and more. We all want the same thing, to see and find out what the Loch Ness monster is. We’ve been delighted to welcome so many people into the Loch Ness Centre for visitor centre tours and Deepscan boat trips across the weekend.”

Alan McKenna, of Loch Ness Exploration, said, “I’d like to thank all the volunteers who have supported us over the weekend, both in person and online. It’s been an exceptional weekend, with lots of potential sightings and huge interest from across the globe. We know the monster is elusive, so it is not surprising we don’t have a concrete sighting, but we’ve all had lots of fun and proven the mystery lives on. As for what happens next, watch this space…”

To book your trip to The Loch Ness Centre or a cruise tour, please visit:

Williamstown Highland Celtic Gathering comes to Melbourne

The Williamstown Highland Celtic Gathering , supported by Hobsons Bay City Council and Melbourne Highland Games & Celtic Festival, will return for a second season of fun and excitement on Saturday, October 28th, 2023. The Gathering is a celebration of all things Scottish/Celtic at the Seaworks Maritime precinct in Williamstown, featuring five hours of non-stop entertainment., including dancers, pipers, folk bands, martial arts, re-enactments and much much more.

The Gathering will also showcase the rich and diverse heritage of the Scottish and Celtic people, with Scottish Clans and Celtic community groups displaying their history and traditions. Those attending will have the opportunity to meet and interact with them and learn about their culture and customs. The day will include some demonstrations by Glen Lachlan Martial Arts, Roman Re -enactors and various activities for younger children. Popular Folk music including Blairdardie on the stage and with the Newport Bush Orchestra in the Pirates bar to
entertain in a comfortable social environment.

The Gathering will also offer a variety of vendors selling Celtic products such as apparel, jewellery, and food. Those attending can sample some delicious Scottish delicacies such as haggis, neeps, and tatties, or try some other cuisines from around thew world.

The festival will commence with an opening ceremony at 10:00am, and conclude at 3:00pm.
This event is a family-friendly activity that is suitable for all ages. Tickets are $25. For adults, $20 for concession holders and free for children under 16.
You can buy you tickets online or at the gate on the day.

This is an opportunity for all to connect with their inner Scottish/Celt and have a blast at Williamstown Highland Celtic Gathering.





The Sons of Scotland Pipe Band perform internationally

The Sons of Scotland Pipe Band from Ottawa has enjoyed some very exciting travel opportunities this summer, and they are proud to share them with you here.  The band took its annual trip to Scotland in August, and they were joined by three Highland dancing schools, and players from six countries – with two more added in for 2024, and they visited Perth, Glasgow, and played throughout Edinburgh.  They had a wonderful 10-day trip, and plans are afoot for a special journey in 2024.

Performing at the Invictus Games.

And as soon as they were home, a small group with guest players from the Princess of Wales Own Regiment Foundation Pipes and Drums from Kingston, Ontario, joined them to take a special trip to perform at the Invictus Games in Dusseldorf, Germany.  They also visited Berlin, Cologne, Ypres and Amsterdam, and had a terrific time visiting all these cities.  With so many other great performance opportunities to come, the band welcomes you to visit their website at to see how you can take part as a piper, drummer, or guest.

Crowds flock to finale of 2023 Cowal Gathering

Billed as one of Scotland’s best days out the finale of the 2023 Cowal Gathering lived up to its reputation. Thousands of people from across the world gathered in Dunoon for one of the world’s most spectacular Highland Gathering with competitors, entertainers and spectators joining forces to make sure it was an event to remember. Crowds watched as over a thousand competitors fought to secure some Cowal silverware. Dancers, pipers, heavy athletes and wrestlers were joined by entertainers including cyclists, axe throwers and musicians to ensure the Gathering’s crowds were wowed from early morning until the end of the day. The standard of competition was world class, with every athlete and competitor giving their all to leave the Stadium as a Cowal Gathering winner.

One of the highlights of the Gathering’s final day was, as always, the Cowal Pipe Band Championship.  Section and grade winners in the Cowal Pipe Band champions were:

Novice Juvenile B – Renfrewshire Schools

Novice Juvenile A – Kilbarchan Pipe Band

Grade 3 – Coalburn IOR

Grade 3 MSR – Coalburn IOR

Grade 2 – Coalburn IOR

The champion Drum Major was Campbell Gillies of Rothesay and District Pipe Band.

World Highland Dancing Championships

Then came the biggest Highland Dancing competition in the world – the World Championship finals – with dancers from Australia, Canada and the USA pitting their skills against the best the UK has to offer. In the end, it was Eilidh Gammons from Helensburgh who emerged victorious in the World Juvenile finals, followed by Maria Monk of Bearsden and Alice Gill of Melbourne, Australia.   The trophy for best Scottish Juvenile Dancer went to Eilidh Gammons and the best Overseas Juvenile Dancer was Alice Gill from Melbourne, Australia.  In the World Junior championship, Olivia Burke of Nova Scotia held off the challenge of Lily Kelman from Inverness and Lauren Abrahart of Alberta.  The best Scottish Junior Dancer was Lily Kelman of Inverness, and the trophy for the best Overseas Junior Dancer went to Oliva Burke from Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada.  The Adult World champion was Rebecca Thow from Belhelvie, followed by Michelle Gordon from Huntly, with Cameron Walker from Denny in third.  Fiona Tolley from Ontario took home the Mary McHarg Quaich for best Overseas Adult Dancer.  The cup for best Scottish Adult Dancer went to Rebecca Thow.

In the International Heavy Athletics Team competition, Team Scotland were victorious with Team Germany coming runners up. In the overall individual heavy athletics, Craig Winslow from Scotland triumphed in the men’s competition, with Daniel Carlin from Scotland in second and Martin Kuhne from Germany third. In the women’s event, Mhairi Porterfield from Scotland beat off the challenge of Christina Scheffaur from Austria (2nd) and Rachel Hunter from Scotland (3rd).

Speaking on behalf of the Cowal Gathering Board Fraser McCowan said this year’s event will go down as the best in recent times and thanked the people of Dunoon and Cowal for their continued support, as well as the Gathering’s sponsors, “On behalf of the Board of Cowal Gathering, I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this year’s event. Your hard work over, not only the last months, but years has helped ensure Cowal Gathering continue to grow and develop to be an event fit for the 21st century.  We’ve welcomed spectators not just from Argyll and Scotland, but from all corners of the UK and, of course our international visitors who have travelled many thousands of miles, just to be with us.  As well as our visitors here in the Stadium I’d like to also thank the thousands of people who joined us online through our livestream. We hope you enjoyed the competitions from wherever part of the world you were watching from. To our wonderful competitors, Cowal Gathering could not be what it is without you. This year’s levels of performance have been simply breathtaking.  I look forward to welcoming you back to the 2024 Cowal Gathering.”

A full list of the results from the 2023 Cowal Gathering can be found at:

Main photo: World Juvenile Champion Eilidh Gammons from Helensburgh, World Junior Champion Olivia Burke from Nova Scotia and World Adult Champion Rebecca Thow from Belhelvie.

Dressed to Kilt is coming to Toronto

Following a very successful sold-out 20th anniversary Dressed to Kilt (DTK) fashion show in Washington DC, DTK has been invited to hold its 2024 show in Toronto, Canada. This will be a very important show as it will be the first time that the Dressed to Kilt show has been held outside the United States. The next show is now confirmed for Saturday evening, April 6, 2024 – Tartan Day.  This day is a celebration of Scottish heritage and the cultural contributions of Scottish and Scottish-diaspora figures of history. It is not well known that Tartan Day was actually created in Canada. Founded in Nova Scotia in 1986 and then passed by the Ontario Legislature in 1991. The US Congress followed in 1998.

For those of you being introduced to Dressed to Kilt for the first time, it is the most prestigious and largest Scottish fashion show in the world. It is also one of the highest profile fashion shows in the United States in terms of press and media generation. It was co-founded in 2003 by the late Sir Sean Connery and Dr. Geoffrey Scott Carroll. Though the fashion runways of New York City are the home of Dressed to Kilt, this annual celebrity show has also performed to sold-out audiences in Los Angeles, California; Houston, Texas; and most recently Washington DC.

Dress for Adventure – From Caledonia to Canada

It is a celebrity filled evening of fashion and incredible excitement where previous runway models have included Sir Sean and Lady Connery, Brian Cox, Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly, Kiefer Sutherland, Mike Myers, Kyle McLachlan, Chris Noth (Mr. Big) , Alan Cumming, Matthew Modine, Robbie Coltrane, Rod Stewart. Joan Jett, the Victoria Secret Models, numerous Canadian and American Gold Medal Winning Olympic stars, President Trump (Scottish mother) and many more.

Scotland has had an extraordinary role in the settlement and development of Canada since its inception and Scots have been involved in every aspect of Canada’s development. Scots-Canadians have been at the forefront of the Canadian state, its government, its commerce and its public affairs. Many of Canada’s great universities bear the names of influential Scots who shaped their founding.

The theme of the Toronto fashion show will be “Dress for Adventure – From Caledonia to Canada”. This is a tribute to the fashion of the countryside and the great outdoors. The runway becomes a stage for outdoor lifestyle fashion that encompasses hunting, shooting, riding, fishing and with the Toronto show this will include skating, skiing and winter sports in general. Creativity meets innovation on the DTK platform. There is a Country Chic look that is emerging, and this movement is bringing nature back into urban environments. The influence of the countryside in urban style (tweeds, tailoring, plaid, cashmere, leather and suede) is adding warmth and softness to the city silhouettes and attitudes.

All models will walk to Scottish music, either traditional or current and there are always live Scottish performers and musicians. The show is as much a Scottish musical concert including everything from AC/DC and the Bay City Rollers to Calvin Harris and Lewis Capaldi. The attendees at the show always seem to move and rock to the beat of the runway music.

The Royal Canadian Legion

Canadian designers will also be invited to submit their designs for inclusion in the runway show. While the show highlights a number of Scotland’s premier designers, it will also invite local designers that follow the theme of the “Dress for Adventure” show or designers that showcase the quality and versatility of Scottish fabrics like Harris Tweed, tartan and cashmere. The Toronto show will also honour the late Sir Sean Connery and the late Dame Vivienne Westwood, a huge supporter of Dressed to Kilt and of tartan.

The pulsating rhythm of fashion runways usually reverberates with cutthroat competition, rapid trend evolution and insatiable hunger for novelty. Amidst this dazzling, ever-changing spectacle, Dressed to Kilt has etched a distinctive identity that goes beyond merely showcasing celebrity models in traditional kilts or stunning professional models in the latest fashion-forward attire. At the heart of this show is charity and philanthropy. The charity facet of the fashion show is well-recognized within industry corridors. Dressed to Kilt has raised millions for Veteran’s causes throughout the years, earning acclaim and extensive recognition.  The DTK Board of Directors agrees to raise funds for the Royal Canadian Legion with the Toronto show. The Royal Canadian Legion is the largest Veterans charity in Canada and it was founded by Veterans for the benefit of Veterans. They advocate for all who served Canada, regardless of where and when they served. They also provide assistance to their families at no cost. The Legion helps thousands of Veterans each year and makes positive changes in their lives.

For more details see:

All The Old 45s: Deacon Blue announce additional shows for Australia & New Zealand

Live Nation are excited to announce additional shows on the forthcoming Deacon Blue tour which sees the band in Australia and New Zealand for the first time since their highly successful shows in 2019.  With 2 shows already sold out in Perth, the band have added a new show on Friday November 24 at the Regal Theatre, and an additional show on Sunday December 10 at Auckland’s Powerstation.

A Greatest Hits show with a difference

Thirty-five years since their debut single, Dignity, and millions of record sales since, Deacon Blue are digging out all their old 45s – the Top 10s, the favourites, the sing-along rarities and touring Australia and New Zealand in November and December 2023. The band have always thrived onstage, but they’ve never played gigs quite like this. They’ll go electric for a raucous trip across their hits and play some of their favourites in an intimate acoustic section of the show. Vocalist and songwriter Ricky Ross is raring to go on this celebration of Deacon Blue’s brilliant and loyal fans, roaring the Caledonian gospel from the South Coast to the Uplands. “We’ve decided to play a Greatest Hits show with a difference,’ he says.  ‘Yes, we intend to play all (or nearly all) the old 45s, but we also want to play some songs acoustically too.  We really can’t wait to come back to Australia and New Zealand, we always love visiting these amazing countries.”

Kicking off in Perth the band then play in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane in Australia before heading to play New Zealand for shows in Auckland and Christchurch, the first time the band have played the South Island. Ross, co-vocalist Lorraine McIntosh, Dougie Vipond (drums), Jim Prime (keyboards), Gregor Philp (guitar) and Lewis Gordon (bass) will breathe new life into well-loved songs like Dignity, Loaded, Wages Day, Real Gone Kid, I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, Your Swaying Arms, Twist & Shout, Your Town, The Hipsters and City Of Love. And so many more.

Reader giveaway

The Scottish Banner is pleased to offer 5 lucky readers a chance to see Deacon Blue in their nearest capital city. Courtesy of the Live Nation we have a double pass up for grabs for the following shows: Regal Theatre, Perth-Fri, Nov 24, Hindley Street Music Hall, Adelaide Tues Nov 28, The Forum, Melbourne, Nov 30, Enmore Theatre, Sydney, Dec 2 and Fortitude Valley Music Hall, Brisbane, Dec 5. To enter simply email: [email protected], enter via our website or post (sorry no telephone entries) our Sydney office.

Please ensure you include your email/phone details and what city you are going in the draw for. Winners will be notified directly, good luck!

Tickets are now on sale. For complete tour, ticket and VIP experience information, visit: or

Rum rocks to play a key role in Mars space mission

Ancient rocks from the Isle of Rum are playing an important role in an international space mission to discover more about Mars. A group of scientists have been collecting samples of rock from the NatureScot National Nature Reserve (NNR) as part of the NASA and European Space Agency (ESA)’s Mars Sample Return Campaign. The campaign is assembling a defined set of rock samples from around the world that are comparable to rock samples from the Red Planet that are scheduled to be brought to Earth in 2033. Due to its unique geology, Rum off the west coast of Scotland has been selected as the only UK site for sampling, as some of its igneous rocks have a very similar mineral and chemical content to those that have been collected by NASA’s Perseverance Rover during its exploration of an ancient crater on Mars.

An intensive study of the rocks from Rum and other high-priority sample sites will crucially help scientists understand what methods of testing and analysis will work best in readiness for when the Martian rocks are brought to Earth. As the first samples from another world, the Mars rocks are thought to present the best opportunity to reveal clues about the early evolution of the planet, including the potential for past life. The Rum sampling is being led by Dr Lydia Hallis, a geologist and planetary scientist from the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow, and a member of the campaign’s Science Group. The field team also included Dr Luke Daly from the University of Glasgow, Professor Helen Williams and Dr Simon Matthews from the University of Cambridge, Professor John Bridges from the University of Leicester, and Dr Mariek Schmidt from Brock University in Canada.

Scotland’s world-class geology

Dr Hallis said: “These Rum rocks are an excellent comparison to a specific geologic unit on Mars – the igneous Séítah Formation within the Jezero crater – which is characterized by the mineral olivine, and which the NASA Perseverance Rover explored and sampled. Not only is the mineralogy and chemistry similar, but the two rocks appear to have a similar amount of weathering. This seems strange when we think how wet and warm Rum is compared to present day Mars, but billions of years ago when the Séítah Formation crystallised on Mars the difference in environment would not have been so pronounced. At this time Mars was much wetter and warmer, with a thicker atmosphere that may even have produced rain (though not as much as we get in Scotland!). Over time the Martian atmosphere thinned leaving the surface much dryer and colder, essentially halting any further weathering within Séítah and preserving the rocks at Jezero Crater for us to investigate today. The rocks on Rum are younger geologically than those that have been collected on Mars by Perseverance, but their exposure to the Scottish elements has produced roughly the same amount of weathering as was produced in the Séítah Formation during Mars’ early wet and warm climate. Because of all these similarities, analysis of the Rum rocks should give us a good head start and help the samples from the Red Planet achieve their full potential when they are returned to Earth.”

Lesley Watt, NatureScot’s Rum NNR reserve manager, added: “With its extinct volcanoes and dramatic mountains, Rum has always been one of the best places to discover Scotland’s world-class geology, but we didn’t quite realise that the rocks here were of interplanetary significance as well. It has been fascinating to learn more about the NASA/ESA mission, and really exciting for the island to play a small part in this truly historic endeavour to find out more about Mars. We hope it will add yet another element of interest for visitors to this special place.”

Wild Highlands-The Highland Wildlife Park

On a 260-acre expanse of land near Kingussie, Highland in the Cairngorms National Park, you’ll find a menagerie of animals ranging from small Japanese snow monkeys to colossal polar bears. Welcome to the Highland Wildlife Park, operated by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) since 1986. Established in 1972, this safari park originally featured native Highland species. But in 2007 the RZSS expanded its scope to include animals from mountainous and tundra regions around the globe. The intent was to not only attract more visitors, but also provide refuge for endangered species which would be protected in the Highlands. In the 1980s the park gained fame by becoming home to Felicity, a puma reportedly captured locally by a farmer, and several of the mysterious Scottish Kellas cats.

Endangered species from places around the world

Mercedes the polar bear at the Highland Wildlife Park. Photo: Aaron Sneddon (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Visitors can drive through the Safari Park (Main Reserve) to see bison, elk, Bactrian camels and yaks. Then in the walk-round enclosures they’ll find Scottish wildcats, wolves, red pandas (temporarily resident at the Edinburgh Zoo), wolverines, forest reindeer and others. Originally featuring native Highland animals, in 2007 the RZSS began to shift the emphasis of the park’s theme to endangered species from places around the world similar in landscape and climate to the Highlands. This move proved controversial as some locals and regular visitors to the park regarded it as a place to see native animals in their natural habitat. Some native species removed during these alterations were red foxes, Highland cattle, Soay sheep, European polecats and badgers. The park is divided into sectors which include Woodland Walk, Entrance Reserve, Wolf Wood and Drive-Through Reserve.

Bactrian camels at Highland Wildlife Park. Photo: Aaron Sneddon (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Scottish wildcats lurk in Woodland Walk, while Bactrian camels and yak roam the Entrance Reserve. A European wolf pack and herd of European reindeer inhabit Wolf Wood, and in the Drive-Through Reserve European bison and elk wander and have the right of way over vehicles. As the most northerly inhabiting primate (excepting humans), the Japanese macaque or snow monkey is ideally suited to the Highland climate. A large troop of macaques is resident at the park. This has been a successful breeding population, with five individuals born in 2020 and another in 2022. Macaques figure prominently in Buddhist folklore, including in the story The Three Wise Monkeys. The European red squirrel is the only squirrel native to Britain. But this animal is very rare now in Britain, with the vast majority of the remaining population inhabiting woodland pockets in Scotland. The red squirrel is critically endangered due to the presence of the imported grey squirrel, which takes over the territory of and spreads disease to red squirrels. Free range red squirrels roam the park’s Wolf Wood and Forest Habitat, and regularly visit the feeding station in the latter location.

Showcase tales of Scottish wildlife

A young Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata or snow monkey). Photo: “Louise.Helen” (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Other species resident at the Highland Wildlife Park includes the Amur tiger, arctic fox, Eurasian elk, Himalayan tahr, northern lynx, red deer, snow leopard, Bukhara deer and Przewalski’s wild horse. Amongst the park’s birds are Himalayan monal, great grey owl, Eurasian eagle owl and Eurasian crane.  Under construction at the park at the time of writing is Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre. Scheduled to open in spring 2024, the centre will comprise three hubs situated around the park. The primary discovery hub will use digital technology to showcase tales of Scottish wildlife from the past (such as legends about ‘Highland tigers’) to the present.

The centre’s learning hub will promote conservation via STEM, outdoor education and science as practised by private citizens. Planned to focus on Scottish wildcat conservation, the hilltop hub will offer views of the park’s Saving Wildcats breeding centre. The work will also encompass the remodelling of the park’s existing visitor centre. Situated seven miles south of Aviemore, visitors can reach the park via a combination of rail and bus. Travellers can catch regular trains from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth or London, detrain at Aviemore, then take Stagecoach bus 39/M39 to the bottom of the park’s entrance road, between Kincraig and Kingussie. There remains a half a mile walk to the park’s ticket kiosks. There are also railway stations in the area at Dalwhinnie, Carrbridge, Kingussie and Newtonmore. Kingussie is four miles away from the park.

More information and live animal cams are accessible on the park’s website:

Did you know?

The Kellas Cat

Mounted specimen of a Kellas cat found in Aberdeenshire, on display in the Zoology Museum, University of Aberdeen. Photo: Sagaciousphil (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Formerly regarded as a myth or hoax until one was caught in a snare in 1984, the Kellas cat is a hybrid of the domestic cat and Scottish wildcat. Discovered in the village of Kellas, Moray, the animal is mostly black, 61-110cm long and weighs up to 7kg. It has long rear legs ideal for swift running, and the coat is commonly flecked with white on the flanks and has a white patch on the chest or under the throat. The appearance of the Kellas cat is similar to the description of the cat-sìth, the fairy cat of Scottish folklore.

Unlike Scottish wildcats, Kellas cats have been observed hunting in pairs. Some of the sightings of reported Kellas cats are possibly of black melanistic Scottish wildcats, though the existence of the latter is disputed by some scientists and researchers. The crew of the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World TV programme succeeded in the first known live capture of a Kellas cat in spring, 1986 near Kellas. This female individual, confirmed by chromosomal analysis to be a hybrid of a wildcat and domestic cat, became an inhabitant of the Highland Wildlife Park. Mounted specimens are in the Zoology Museum of the University of Aberdeen, Elgin Museum, and Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh.

Scottish wildcats

A group of 22 Scottish wildcats born in 2022 at the Saving Wildcats breeding centre at Highland Wildlife Park were released into the Cairngorms Connect territory of the Cairngorms National Park in early June 2023. Each wildcat wears a GPS-radio collar for tracking and monitoring the animals. This programme, intended to replenish the population of this critically endangered species in Scotland, will see some 60 wildcats released over the next few years. Five more kittens were born in April 2023.

Colloquially referred to as the ‘Highland tiger’, the number of Scottish wildcats living in the wild had fallen to just a handful due to persecution, road accidents and breeding with domestic and hybrid cats.  The 22 individuals freed in June 2023 were first introduced into large enclosures where they could develop naturally and practise their survival skills, to prepare them for living in the wild. The release of this first batch of wildcats is considered a trial run. Close monitoring of these 22 individuals will provide data which will assist in subsequent releases of Scottish wildcats. If successful, the Saving Wildcats programme will result in the repopulation of Scotland’s only remaining native feline species.

Main photo: A wolf in pursuit. Photo: Charlie Marshall (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Text by: Eric Bryan.

American Scottish Foundation’s Annual Dinner and 2023 Wallace Awards

In the past 66 years, the American Scottish Foundation (ASF) has become a leading voice within our Scottish American community, supporting and amplifying our shared love of Scotland, its heritage and its culture. The Annual dinner allows people to get together, celebrate all things Scottish following the mission set out by their founder Lord Malcolm Douglas Hamilton that the American Scottish Foundation be a bridge between the United States and Scotland. This year the ASF will present the ASF Wallace Awards and the inaugural ASF Young Scots Wallace Awards.

Wallace Award for Philanthropy

This year’s Wallace Award for Philanthropy to Garreth Wood, Scottish philanthropist and advocate. Garreth, a Scottish philanthropist and businessman, founded a property company, The Speratus Group, in 2003. He then expanded into the hospitality business, eventually owning and running 11 venues across Scotland. In 2018, he and his wife Nicola sold the hospitality businesses and co-founded Kids Operating Room, a global health charity dedicated to increasing capacity for paediatric surgery in low- and middle-income countries. The charity has grown rapidly over the past 5 years and become one of Scotland’s leading children’s charities, installing 63 state-of-the-art operating rooms in 24 countries, and creating capacity for up to 100,000 life-saving operations on children.

Young Scot Wallace Award

This year, The American-Scottish Foundation presents its first ever Young Scot Wallace Award to Jamie Douglas-Hamilton, Scottish entrepreneur and adventurer. Jamie is the founder of ACTIPH Alkaline Water, a market leader in Europe and the Middle East. He is a 15x Guinness World Record holder and was the first person in history to row across the Drake Passage from South America to Antarctica. In 2022 Jamie won the Great British Entrepreneur of the year and was included in Sunday Times list of top 100 most disruptive entrepreneurs. Jamie follows in the footsteps of his Grandfather and Uncles all intrepid adventurers – and ASF founder Lord Malcolm Douglas Hamilton – great Uncle to Jamie who will be approving of this award.

The American Scottish Foundation Annual Dinner and Wallce Award’s will take place Friday, November 3, 2023 in New York City. For full details see:

New records reveal lives of lightkeepers

The employment records of more than one thousand lighthouse keepers are now available to see online for the first time on genealogy website ScotlandsPeople.  Over 2,000 new scanned images of the records of the Northern Lighthouse Board give details of over 1,300 lightkeepers working in 92 lighthouses between 1837 and 1921.

Lightkeepers had hard working lives: long days and nights maintaining light and fog signals, as well as cleaning and ensuring the upkeep of their isolated stations in harsh conditions. Many keepers lived in cramped spaces for long periods, often with only basic washing facilities or toilets. They could be isolated from family and friends while they did their crucial work maintaining the safety of shipping around the Scottish coast.

Shine a light on the working lives

The records cover all of Scotland, from Muckle Flugga near Shetland to the most southerly at Drumore, Mull of Galloway. They also include Bell Rock, the world’s oldest working sea-washed lighthouse, and the three keepers of the Flannan Isles who disappeared following a storm in 1900, presumed drowned.

Jocelyn Grant, NRS Outreach and Learning archivist, said: “The last lighthouse was automated in 1998 and these records shine a light on the working lives of over 1,300 men in a profession that has now mostly passed into history. The Northern Lighthouse Board records are frequently requested by visitors to our buildings. If your ancestor worked in a Scottish lighthouse, there’s a good chance you will find them here. This is the latest in a series of popular record sets added to the National Records of Scotland genealogy service ScotlandsPeople as part of our wider programme making more of our archive holdings accessible to people across the country and around the world.”

ScotlandsPeople is the country’s official family and social history research website. Record indexes are free to search, with charges for viewing some images. For more details see:

The Hororata Highland Games is calling

Nestled in the Canterbury foothills the tiny Hororata village is again preparing to welcome over 10,000 people to celebrate their Scottish roots. Kilts will swish, bagpipes will cry, cabers will turn and the haggis will be tamed at the 12th Hororata Highland Games to be held Saturday 11th November 2023. The Hororata Highland Games sees all the traditional Scottish competitions take place over one massive day at the Hororata Domain. The festival hosts New Zealand’s biggest one day Highland Dancing competition, top level Pipe Bands, Solo pipers and Drummers, Tug O’ War teams and of course the strong men and women competing in the Heavy events.   The Junior Warriors sees primary school aged children competing in light versions of the Heavy events while the Kilted Mile provides an opportunity for the fleet footed to gain a coveted Hororata Highland Games trophy.

Visitors don’t just sit on the side lines they can have a go at tossing cabers, hurling haggis, eating pies, Tug O’ War, running a Kilted Mile or donning on the tartan for the best dressed lad and lassie. New for 2023 there will be a massed Scottish Country Dance where everyone can join in. This dance has been especially choregraphed for Hororata and a video will be released closer to the event so people can learn it.  Once people get through the gates there is heaps of free activities to have a go at, no matter your age. Families often say it is the one event everyone right from grandparents to toddlers and even teenagers can enjoy together. There are also musical performances, Scottish story time and have a go bagpipes in amongst a huge range of quality market stalls as well as over 30 food trucks, don’t miss the haggis burgers or black pudding.

Discounted tickets for the Hororata Highland Games 11th November are on sale now, there will be no gate sales this year. Kids under 16 years are free. Held in the Hororata Domain, 45 minutes inland from Canterbury. All profits from the event are invested back into the community.

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