Discovering the Shinty Trail

By: Nick Drainey

The sport of shinty looks brutal when viewed from the side of the field. Players wielding long sticks called camans swoop on the ball with a fierceness not usually seen in hockey, or even in hurling, which is more closely related and played in Ireland. But the game is more than a competition between two sides, it is part of the culture and heritage of Highland Scotland and still brings communities together, hundreds of years after it was first played.

The Cairngorms National Park has developed an online Shinty Trail, telling the story of the ancient sport, based around Badenoch where the two big teams of Kingussie and Newtonmore play. The trail also illustrates the strong ties which the Gaelic language has within the history of the sport. Gaelic song and verse was often composed about the game, where music and dance was also a crucial aspect of match-day activities in days gone by. According to the Camanachd Association, the governing body, it is likely a sport called camanachd was played in the fifth sixth and seventh centuries and it is thought the game came to Scotland from Ireland, where hurling was popular. In recognition of a shared history, a team of Scottish shinty players and Irish hurling players have often played an annual game against each other, using a composite set of rules.  

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The Royal Mint celebrates the 250th Anniversary of Sir Walter Scott on official UK coin

The Royal Mint, the Original Maker of UK coins, has launched a commemorative £2 coin to honour the late Sir Walter Scott, 250 years after the great writer’s birth.

One of the most influential Scots in history, Sir Walter Scott is renowned for his contribution to literature with his novels and poems, many of which remain literary classics to this day. Marking the 250th anniversary of his birth, Scott’s legacy has been celebrated for the first time on an official UK coin. Available in gold, silver and brilliant uncirculated, the commemorative keepsake was first unveiled in the 2021 Annual Set and has launched as an individual collectors’ item at The Royal Mint. Sir Walter Scott was a prolific and talented writer and is renowned for popularising historical fiction. His poetry transformed a landscape perceived as wild and mysterious into something truly sublime; a picturesque Scotland graced with magnificent glens and beautiful lochs. He then turned his hand to writing novels, where he weaved history with fiction to create an array of bestsellers that includes Ivanhoe, Waverley, Rob Roy, The Heart of Mid-Lothian and The Bride of Lammermoor.

Novelist, Historian and Poet

Designed by textual artist Stephen Raw, the coin was inspired by the artist’s visit to Abbotsford, the famous home of Sir Walter Scott. On the canvas of a £2 coin, the words Sir Walter Scott and Novelist, Historian and Poet are inscribed in the same calligraphy seen at Abbotsford’s grand entrance and chapel. The design also includes Scott’s portrait modelled on the Scott Monument – one of Edinburgh’s most iconic landmarks. To celebrate the launch, the Original Maker collaborated with Scott’s Abbotsford home and Trustee and direct descendant, Matthew Maxwell Scott – the great, great, great, great grandson of the famous writer.

Clare Maclennan The Royal Mint’s Divisional Director of Commemorative Coin said: “Sir Walter Scott’s status as one of Great Britain’s greatest writers endures 250 years after his birth and the anniversary celebration is a wonderful occasion to commemorate his legacy on a £2 coin. The exquisite design, with the inscription Novelist, Historian and Poet, reminds us of the wide-reaching influence of his work. What a treat is has been to reveal this collectable piece of art in collaboration with his great, great, great, great grandson Matthew Maxwell Scott and the fantastic team at Abbotsford, the famous home of Walter Scott, as part of their Anniversary celebrations.”

One of Scotland’s most influential sons

Matthew Maxwell Scott, Trustee at Abbotsford, said: “I’m extremely proud to see my ancestor recognised on a very special coin from The Royal Mint – a fitting tribute during a year of 250th birthday celebrations. It is a beautiful coin. Sir Walter was a collector of beautiful things and I think he would have loved to have this coin in his collection among the many treasures at Abbotsford.”

Giles Ingram, CEO at Abbotsford, said: “This year we are commemorating the 250th Anniversary of Sir Walter Scott, which is a great occasion to look at Scott’s work and legacy. At Abbotsford, we were delighted to be approached by The Royal Mint to collaborate with them on this beautiful coin. Recognising Scott as Novelist, Historian and Poet, 250 years after his birth on, such a beautiful coin and packaging, truly marks Scott as one of the world’s most famous writer’s and one of Scotland’s most influential sons.”

Speaking of the design, Stephen Raw, who also designed the Sherlock Holmes coin in 2019 and the First World War Armistice coin in 2018, said: “Sir Walter Scott was such a fascinating character, there were so many routes that you could explore. Being a textual artist, I’m fascinated by lettering and I chose a combination of distinctive Gothic lettering from the chapel at Abbotsford alongside some lettering used by Scott in the magnificent entrance to his home. As for the portrait, I used the wonderful sculpture of Scott that sits within his monument on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. I hope that collectors enjoy the design and that when people see the coin, they might be encouraged to visit Abbotsford and the Scott Monument – the second largest such memorial to a writer in the world they say.”

More information about the coin, in a range of precious metals, can be found at The Royal Mint:

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Conservation success as beaver numbers double in Scotland

The number of beavers has more than doubled in Scotland in the last three years to around 1000 animals, according to a NatureScot survey published. The new population survey has not only found that beaver numbers have increased, but that the population is in a rapid expansion phase as beavers spread out from Tayside, with territory numbers also more than doubling to 251.

That population now ranges from Glen Isla to Dundee and Stirling, Forfar to Crianlarich, and is likely to expand into Loch Lomond in the future.

Beavers play a vital role

Robbie Kernahan, Director of Sustainable Growth, said: “Wildlife is declining in Scotland so this extensive survey which reveals an increasing beaver population is great news for nature in Scotland.  Beavers play a vital role in creating and restoring wetlands where other species can thrive, reducing downstream flooding and improving water quality. We also hope that many people in Scotland will enjoy spotting these sometimes elusive but fascinating animals, as they become more common.”

The survey, carried out last winter, is the largest, most comprehensive and authoritative survey of beaver numbers and their range ever conducted in Britain. It gathered detailed and up-to-date information on the locations of active beaver territories, as well as assessing the health and spread of the overall population, to help inform future beaver work. Beavers became a protected species in Scotland two years ago.

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ScotsInUs Podcast from The American Scottish Foundation

The American Scottish Foundation (ASF), national 501C3 organization, offers a bridge between the US and Scotland by strengthening and preserving cultural and heritage ties. ScotsInUs is hosted by Jamie McGeechan and the podcast will shine a light of focus on the ASF and their diaspora partners, events and initiatives taking place in the community.

Scotland and the American Scottish diaspora

It features a range of conversations, news and music all with a focus on Scotland and the American Scottish diaspora. New Episodes launch the first and third Monday of the month. Listen to #ScotsinUS podcast now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor, or watch with video on YouTube.

For more information you can get in touch with the ASF at: [email protected] or

Work begins to uncover secrets of Viking burial site

Archaeologists working in Orkney

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is funding post-excavation analysis on two recently discovered Viking graves that may form part of a previously unknown cemetery uncovered in Orkney, to unlock stories of Viking life in Scotland over a thousand years ago. In 2015, human remains were discovered on the northeast coast of Papa Westray, Orkney. Further investigation determined that these discoveries were in fact the remains of Viking Age burials. Excavations revealed a number of significant finds, including evidence of a rare Viking boat burial, and a second grave richly furnished with weapons including a sword. Similarities with the type of burials and grave furnishings to those previously uncovered suggest the Papa Westray graves may be those of first-generation Norwegian settlers on Orkney.

Archaeologists from AOC Archaeology are now working to analyse the discovery using a range of cutting-edge scientific techniques, with the hope of gaining new insights into the life and death of the Viking community in Orkney during the 10th century. The project will include a detailed programme of osteological work (bone analysis) and radiocarbon dating to help determine the age of the remains, as well as expert conservation and analysis of the grave artefacts that were unearthed.

HES will also be working with the Ancient Genome Project to undertake genetic analysis of the discoveries to determine further information about the individuals in the graves, including genetic ancestry and sex, as well as to gain information on their diet and mobility.

Viking heritage of Orkney

Still from a 3D model showing the excavation of Mayback III, a pagan Norse grave. © AOC Archaeology.

Dr Kirsty Owen, Deputy Head of Archaeology at HES, said: “We are delighted to be funding the work on this exciting project with AOC Archaeology, which we hope will shed new light on the Viking communities in Orkney during the 10th century. Many of the Viking burial sites we know of in Orkney were excavated in the late 19th and early 20th century. This is a rare opportunity to investigate this discovery with the cutting-edge methods and techniques available to us today. We look forward to sharing our findings as the analysis continues, which we hope will enhance our understanding of the rich Viking heritage of Orkney and reveal more about the people who lived on these islands over one thousand years ago.”

Dr Ciara Clarke, Deputy Managing Director of AOC Archaeology, said: “We are excited to be embarking on this project and look forward to working with HES, and an enthusiastic team of experts including Dr Stephen Harrison of Glasgow University, to record, study and analyse the evidence contained in these Viking Age burials. The programme will help us to understand these individuals, their lives and their culture, telling us more about life in Orkney during the 10th century. We will be able to compare and contrast the evidence to other Scottish examples, as well as to similar sites from across the wider Viking world.”

HES will be updating on progress and results regularly throughout the year as the work continues.

Straight from the Sagas: The Vikings’ own guide to Orkney

By: David C. Weinczok

My guidebook on a recent week-long trip to Orkney was 800 years old. A little out of date when it comes to the more practical aspects of travel, sure, yet I could not have hoped for a better companion as I sought out historic sites around the archipelago. Orkneyinga Saga tells of Orkney’s Norse inhabitants from the ninth century to the start of the thirteenth. It is the only medieval chronicle centred on Orkney, with the action fanning out to Norway, Ireland, the Hebrides, and even the Holy Land. No one knows the name of its Icelandic author. The historical individuals it includes come and go like passing seasons; their days are filled with intrigue, farming, spiritual concerns, raiding, and poetry. For five centuries Norse customs, language, and politics dominated Orkney and Shetland, and Orkneyinga Saga provides an invaluable – if not wholly accurate – insight into that period.  

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Glencoe creel house construction underway

The reconstruction of a 17th century creel house using traditional methods is now underway in Scotland’s most famous glen. Led by the National Trust for Scotland, a team of heritage building craftspeople has broken ground and raised the house’s 6m-high timber cruck frame. Two triangular ‘crucks’, which span the width and height of the building, were raised without power tools using an old-fashioned gin pole and hand-winch. This involved the team pulling hard on guy ropes and straps to lift the structure into place. The crucks were then locked together with a horizontal ridge beam, secured with hand-cut joints and pegs. It took eight people two days, plus a lot of skill and physical strength, to complete the task. The frame’s Scots pine and birch timbers have been sourced from Trust’s woodlands at Glencoe and Mar Lodge Estate, carefully chosen from trees with a natural curve to give the cruck its shape. The project’s lead carpenter, Chas Heath, prepared the rough logs in advance to remove the bark, hew them to size with a hand-axe and crafted each triangular cruck with traditional mortice and tenon joints and wooden pegs. More than 2,000 hand-cut pegs are required for the building’s sturdy timber frame.

A glimpse into how people lived                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

A team of heritage craftspeople raise the wooden frame in Glencoe.

The replica creel house is sited next to the Glencoe Visitor Centre, but the building’s design has been informed by a long-lost dwelling discovered by archaeologists during excavations beneath the towering Aonach Eagach ridge in the heart of the glen. It will offer visitors a glimpse into how people once lived in Glencoe around the time of the infamous massacre of 1692. No local buildings survive from that era and creel houses have been completely lost from Scotland’s architectural landscape, but they would have dominated in rural communities in the West Highlands until the 19th century.

The public will be able to witness the next stage of construction which involves the creation of a basket-like ‘creel’ internal framework, woven from freshly cut green wood, and thick, insulating external walls built from blocks of turf. The final stage will be the addition of a roof made from a layer of thinner turf below heather thatch. Support for this innovative project came from donors at home and across the world, who enable the Trust to bring alive Scotland’s heritage by carrying out projects like this.

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:

Conservation coos at Culloden

Rocket, one of Culloden’s newest recruits. Photo: Alison White.

Meet the new conservation team helping to preserve and maintain the moorland at Culloden Battlefield. The latest recruits come from a great conservation pedigree and join 12 Shetland cattle, 6 primitive goats and 2 Highland ponies, who all take part in conservation grazing on the battlefield site. Working to control the scrub and create a healthy moorland, these animals play a crucial role in maintaining the landscape to showcase what Culloden Battlefield would have looked like in 1746. The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) relies on the herd to provide continuous work on the moorland to protect the archaeology of the land as well as the natural flora and fauna.

The appeal of cattle at Culloden is truly global. In particular, generous supporters in the US have been known to donate and name new additions to the herd. Some of the new cows and calves give a little nod to Culloden’s past, with Flora and Lady Anne named after strong Jacobite women who assisted the Bonnie Prince during, and in the wake of, the 1745 Rising. Others have more quirky names, including our stellar new calf, Rocket.

One of the most pivotal moments in Scotland’s history

Culloden Battlefield is the site of one of the most pivotal moments in Scotland’s history, where the 1745 Jacobite Rising came to a tragic and brutal end. It’s a place of great cultural significance and therefore it’s essential that the NTS protects it now, and for future generations. A key part of this lies with the cattle and the conservation grazing they have introduced here. It is this essential work on the battlefield, where a variety of livestock, including goats, Highland ponies and Highland cows, graze all year round. They’re an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to ensure scrub tree growth doesn’t encroach onto the battlefield. The battlefield is now regarded as a war grave, a place where more than 1,300 men lost their lives and where many of them are buried. For many visitors, the site is a place of pilgrimage, a place linked to their family history.

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 Silver Chanter

Angus MacColl. Photographs by Derek Maxwell.

The 55th Silver Chanter competition, held at the National Piping Centre Glasgow was won this year by Angus MacColl of Benderloch. The 55th annual MacCrimmon Piobaireachd competition saw six top pipers compete playing some of the most well-known piobaireachd.

This event was established in 1967 by Dame Flora MacLeod of Dunvegan Castle and all the tunes played have a MacCrimmon connection. Angus played Lament for Mary MacLeod. Also playing were Stuart Liddell (Lament for the Only Son), Iain Speirs (Lament for MacLeod of Colbecks), Finlay Johnston (Lament for the Children), Callum Beaumont (Lament for The Earl of Antrim) and Glenn Brown (Rory MacLeod’s Lament).

This prestigious event is sponsored by The William Grant Foundation.

Armadale set to deliver another authentic Highland Gathering

A pipe band competition, highland dancers, a medieval joust, heavy events and a mass pipe band haggis are all part of the Armadale Highland Gathering and the Perth Kilt Run being held on Sunday 3 October at Minnawarra Park in Perth’s south-eastern suburb. Amongst the big players of the day will be Pipe Bands WA who has been part of the Armadale Highland Gathering since its inception.  “One memorable moment from our many years of involvement was 2016, when a piper and a bass drummer both played their instruments while running in the Kilt Run. We are absolutely delighted to be back competing and performing at the 2021 Armadale Highland Gathering. With pandemic lock-downs all over the world, we are very grateful to be living in Western Australia and able to entertain crowds without restrictions,” said Stuart Bradford, Chairman of Pipe Bands WA.

Attempt for the largest Kilt Run in the world

The event also features a Meet and Greet with Scottish Dogs, the Clan Village, live entertainment and a range of food and beverage stalls, as well as a Scottish inspired tavern, so there really is something for everyone. If you fancy getting fit before the event starts, the event begins with the Perth Kilt Run, with 2.5 and 5km routes available, with runners donning a kilt to embrace their inner Scotsman and work towards the record attempt for the largest Kilt Run in the world! Registrations for the Perth Kilt Run are now open. 

The Armadale Highland Gathering and the Perth Kilt Run are hosted by the City of Armadale. 

For all the details visit

Dressed to Kilt debuts Sir Sean Connery Tartan in a stunning tribute show

Kilts, craftsmanship, and love for Sir Sean Connery were on full display at this year’s Dressed to Kilt (DTK) after taking a hiatus due to COVID. The hugely popular Dressed to Kilt Scottish fashion show was held on Long Island, New York in July and the Sir Sean Connery Tartan was revealed to the public for the first time, modelled by his granddaughters in a stunning tribute.

Sir Sean Connery Tartan

Natasha Connery and Samara Connery debut the Sir Sean Connery Tartan. Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images.

The show featured an array of Scottish, Native American and Country Lifestyle clothing with the Sir Sean Connery Tartan unveiled as the show’s finale. Beautiful frocks made from the Tartan were modelled by Sir Sean’s granddaughters, Natasha and Samara Connery, and kilt was modelled by event co-founder Peter Morris. The tartan was designed by well-known Scottish tartan designer Mark Gibson working together with Sir Sean’s family; Lady Connery, Stephan Connery his son, and his granddaughters as a tribute to his life and Scottish heritage. It featured red, blue, and yellow hues as a tribute to Connery’s love for Scotland, the Bahamas, and France, where his wife is from. The audience was deeply touched by many of the personal anecdotes and memories from shows past with Sir Sean by show orators and Dressed to Kilt chairs, Dr. Geoffrey Scott Carroll and Peter Morris.

The Dressed to Kilt show is known as the media darling of Tartan Week in the United States. It was originally co-founded by the late Sir Sean Connery and in his honour, event chair and DTK co-founder, Dr. Geoffrey Scott Carroll arranged to have a new tartan designed for Sir Sean with input from his family. The Sir Sean Connery tartan was be debuted on the catwalk in a kilt produced by Glenisla Kilts and a bespoke coat and dress designed by Totty Rocks of Edinburgh.

The largest and most prestigious Scottish fashion event in the world

The show was held at the Mill Neck Manor Estate perched atop a rolling hill, about 25 miles outside of New York City.  The theme of the show was “Country Lifestyle Fashion,” everything from Downton Abbey to the Dakotas. The runway show celebrated Scottish, Native American, and Outdoor Lifestyle and culture with extra exuberance after the hardship endured over the last year.

The show and event raised funds for the Navy SEAL Foundation. Notable models and attendees included Ann Coulter, Buck Sexton, Grace Dove, Ashley Callingbull, Lea Gabrielle, Taya Kyle, and several former Navy SEALS.

From its genesis in 2003, DTK is now the largest and most prestigious Scottish fashion event in the world, and one of the highest profile fashion shows in the United States. We believe that fashion without the enrichment of diverse cultures become hollow. The show is produced by the Friends of Scotland charity which was co-founded by Sir Sean Connery in 2002. In addition to supermodels, this show highlights very accomplished men and women on the runway and it is also filled with A-List celebrities and athletes from both sides of the Atlantic. In recent shows Sir Sean Connery, Gerard Butler, Kiefer Sutherland, Kyle MacLachlan, Billy Connolly, Brian Cox, Martin Compston, Chris “Mr. Big” Noth, Mike Myers and Craig Ferguson have all walked the runway. The charity has raised significant sums for veterans and their families on both sides of the Atlantic. 

For more information, please visit:

Floral clock blooms in honour for the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s 350th anniversary

Work has finished to complete this year’s design on the world’s oldest Floral Clock in Edinburgh’s West Princes Street Gardens. For 2021, the hugely popular landmark will celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), postponed from 2020 where it was decided with support from RBGE to dedicate the floral clock to NHS and key workers as a message of thanks from the city.

Edinburgh’s Lord Provost Frank Ross was joined by Simon Milne MBE, Regius Keeper of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, RBGE horticulturists and Council parks staff responsible for creating the clock. Together they officially unveiled this year’s intricate design.

A team of three gardeners took seven weeks to plant over 35,000 flowers and plants used to create the clock, which will be in bloom until October. There are over 15 different plants included in this year’s design including many donated by RBGE such as Agave kerchovei and Agave sebastiana, various species of Echevaria and Cyanotis somaliensis: all of them are integral to the RBGE Living Collection of plants. The two teams had worked closely on the design and creation of this year’s display, with the Council’s Floral Clock experts advising on colours and choice of plants and how best to present the RBGE logo. The logo is representative of the Sibbaldia procumbens, a creeping plant in the rose family, that was named after the Garden’s co-founder, Sir Robert Sibbald.

Oldest of its kind in the world

Edinburgh’s Lord Provost Frank Ross, who spoke at the official dedication said: “I am delighted to once again see the city’s beautiful floral clock completed, which I know will be enjoyed by everyone who passes by it this summer. Much like the city’s floral clock, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is iconic to Edinburgh’s past and present and this year’s design celebrates 350 years. As always, I am delighted to officially unveil this striking and much-loved creation and I’d like to congratulate our dedicated and creative parks team who have put together the design and we can all now enjoy their realised vision.”

Simon Milne MBE, Regius Keeper, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, said: “It’s wonderful to see our 350th anniversary celebrated in such magnificent floral fashion, reflecting the four centuries of friendship between the City of Edinburgh and the Botanics. The Floral Clock is a particularly apt way of celebrating the work of the Garden. At a time when 40 percent of plant species are at risk of extinction, our research and conservation work, supported by our visionary Edinburgh Biomes project, has never been more vital. We are grateful as always for the interest and support of the people and city of Edinburgh.”

The Floral Clock was first created in 1903 by then Edinburgh Parks Superintendent, John McHattie, and is the oldest of its kind in the world. It initially operated with just an hour hand, with a minute hand added in 1904, followed by a cuckoo clock in 1952. Until 1972 the clock was operated mechanically and had to be wound daily. Since 1946 it has been designed in honour of various organisations and individuals, including the Girl Guides Association, Robert Louis Stevenson and the Queen, for her Golden Jubilee. In the clock’s centenary year in 2003 it won a Gold medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Jason Baines smashes the caber toss world record at the 45th annual Montreal Highland Games

Jason Baines (centre) and the MHG athletes team.

Sunday, August 1 was a cool and misty day in Montreal, reminiscent of the Highlands of Scotland and perfect weather for tossing a caber. Despite the COVID health guidelines that prevented the gathering of the usual 5000 plus spectators, the Montreal Highland Games (MHG) went ahead with a unique virtual event that went off without a hitch thanks to advance planning, dedicated volunteers, and meticulous marching orders.  The Games are thrilled to announce that Canadian champion Highland Heavy athlete Jason Baines beat the Guinness World Record for the number of cabers tossed in one hour! In a moment filled with drama and excitement, he blew past the previous record of 122 tosses, eventually reaching a phenomenal new record of 161 tosses.  Thanks to the kind generosity of our friends and viewers, over $6,000 was raised for the Douglas Hospital Foundation. The Douglas Hospital (founded by Scots) is a world-class mental health treatment and research facility, and we are proud to support its important work in the community. Donations continue to poor in daily as more people are made aware of Jason Baines and his world record and his goal to raise awareness of the need for mental health support via the Building Hope Movement of the Douglas Foundation.

Historic occasion

Photos: Peter Matulina

Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this historic occasion: the athletics team who supported Jason and kept the cabers moving (no small feat), the pipers and dancers who shared their art, the frontline workers amongst who shared their stories, presenter Kelly Alexander, and the dedicated team of volunteers whose hard work made this all possible. The Games especially thank our fans, for their enthusiastic participation! The event video has reached 2,000 views and continues to climb.

If you missed the live event or would like to re-experience the drama, you can watch it again on the Montreal Highland Games YouTube channel.

MHG look forward to seeing you next year on July 31, 2022, on the grounds of the Douglas Hospital in Verdun, Quebec for the Montreal Highland Games live and in person.

To watch the video or for more information see:

Cowal’s Virtual Gathering poised to leap into action

The countdown is well and truly on as one of Scotland’s top family friendly events prepares to step back onto the virtual stage for the second time as Cowal Highland Gathering welcomes people from across the world to gather online and celebrate the 127-year-old event.

Cowal’s Virtual Gathering was first held in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the world in its tracks. The event proved so popular that, when the 2021 event had to be cancelled due to continued uncertainty over large-scale events, organisers immediately started planning a second virtual event for Gathering fans across the world.

Running over what would have been the Cowal Highland Gathering weekend from Thursday 26 – Saturday 28 August the three-day event includes something for everyone.

The Cowal 5K is back and invites anyone to take part, wherever they are in the world. A special exhibition competition, filmed under COVID conditions, will see some of the Gathering’s favourite Scottish heavy athletes compete against each other. A new and exclusive choreographed dance, featuring Highland dancers from across the world will be unveiled and, of course, we’ll have something for pipe band fans as well as an opportunity to take your partners for a Cowal ceilidh with the Inverhooley Ceilidh Band.

Showcase of traditional Scottish culture

Cowal Highland Gathering’s Chairman Ronnie Cairns is looking forward to this year’s Virtual Gathering saying: “We had a phenomenal response to last year’s Virtual Gathering and while we didn’t expect to be hosting a second virtual event this year, I’m looking forward to sharing what we’ve been working on over the last few months. Like last year we’re inviting people to interact with us, sending us their photos of how they’re celebrating with us. Whether that means putting on their trainers and running or walking in our Virtual 5K, getting on the floor for dance with our ceilidh band or competing in their own highland games events, we want to share their stories. None of this would be possible with the support of EventScotland who have helped us fund Cowal’s Virtual Gathering and ensure it reflects the essence of the Gathering.”

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: “EventScotland is delighted to be supporting the Cowal Virtual Gathering. Scotland is the perfect stage for events and while we are not ale to welcome audiences to the Cowal Highland Gathering in person again this year, the Virtual Gathering will be a wonderful showcase of traditional Scottish culture for fans around the world to enjoy over the three days.”

Cowal’s Virtual Gathering will run on Cowal Highland Gathering’s Facebook page and YouTube channel from 26 August – 28 August 2021. For more details email [email protected] or visit

Help the Sons help the Tattoo

The Sons of Scotland Pipe Band from Ottawa, Canada, has been patiently waiting, kilted and untuned, for the great opportunity to go somewhere and share their music. That time has come, and the band would love your support. This is the best way to mark the pipe band’s 125th anniversary year, and you can be part of it. The Estes Park International Military Tattoo is taking place in Estes Park, Colorado, in September, and the Sons of Scotland are bringing their music to the Tattoo.

They are looking for support for travel to Colorado from Ottawa. 100% of funds raised will get us to the Tattoo, and anything extra will be used for travel to Europe next May for VE Day events in the Netherlands – they love Canadians there eh – and the band are hoping you might want to be part of this effort. As a thank you for your donation, Pipe Major Bethany Bisaillion will be composing a special tune for the Tattoo, performing it there for the first time, and you will get a copy of it and bragging rights that you’re a part owner of the tune. Your kind support will ensure the Tattoo’s continued support, and truly help them bring their music to many, and help them be part of the international pipe band community. The band said: “We are all in this together, and the band love our kindred ken along on this journey with us.”

You can see more on the Sons of Scotland Pipe Band at and the tune will be sent directly to donors, so be sure to include your details. The Learned Kindred of Currie, as part of their commitment to the Scottish arts, has graciously offered to accept online donations from US donors and will issue tax receipts to US donors. Funds raised will be put directly towards this initiative. You can donate here or directly with them at

£1million project to bring Walter Scott’s poetry to new audiences

A million-pound project will enable the publication of a complete edition of Walter Scott’s poetry and help to make it accessible to new audiences. Researchers at the University of Aberdeen have been awarded funding to revisit the original manuscripts of the author, who transformed Scottish literary culture, and create a new edition of his poems. Scott has been credited with popularising tartan, saving the Scottish banknote, and rediscovering the nation’s Crown Jewels. His string of best-selling books dominated the 19th century, changing how the world saw Scotland and Scotland saw itself. But the speed of publishing driven by an unquenchable thirst for his work – combined with his notoriously spidery handwriting – meant that many errors occurred during the printing process.

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen’s Walter Scott Research Centre will be able to return his poetry to a form which more closely reflects his original intentions and to create five volumes of what will eventually be a complete 10-volume edition of his verse published by Edinburgh University Press. They will also bring to life the extensive notes that Scott added to his poems to offer readers a deeper insight and understanding of the meaning behind them. Few of these notes survive in modern editions but Scott used them to provide fascinating pieces of background information for his poems.

Rich legacy

The project will be led by Professor Alison Lumsden who said: “Unlike Walter Scott’s novels, which have never been out of publication since they were released, there are very few editions of his poetry and those which do exist are severely compromised by 19th century editing practices. Scott was a prolific writer and as well as the poems themselves, he produced long notes which are almost like alternative stories. He is such an important part of our cultural heritage, and this project will ensure that his legacy is preserved with the accuracy and detail it deserves.”

In addition to Scott’s own notes, the research team will also provide their own detailed explanations to support the modern reader and to help open up his work to new audiences. They will work with staff at Scott’s home, Abbotsford, now a living museum, to create teaching materials for schools which will introduce pupils to the stories in Scott’s poetry and the rich legacy they provide for Scotland.

Scotland’s Castle Corridor

By: David C. Weinczok

There is a place on the west coast of Scotland where the driving forces of history are condensed into a single voyage. For the vast majority of human history waterways have served not as barriers but as connectors, linking communities across distances both near and vast. Imagine, for a moment, a Scotland without rail lines, motorways, or airports. Doing so flips our understanding of movement entirely on its head; suddenly, the easiest and safest way to get from one place to another – say, from Inverness to Dumfries or from Kirkwall to Edinburgh – is not by going overland, but by taking to the seas. Places of power were built to control these seaborne superhighways, and cultures rich with lore grew out of their opportunities and perils. Few areas instil this understanding more deeply than the Castle Corridor.  

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Treasured 16th century manuscript secured for the nation

The National Library of Scotland was successful in securing the manuscript known as the Chronicle of Fortingall at auction recently. Scribes compiled the manuscript between 1554 and 1579 at Fortingall in Highland Perthshire, which contains contemporary annals, poetry and other short texts in Latin, Scots and Gaelic. The scribes belonged to the MacGregor family who also compiled the slightly earlier Book of the Dean of Lismore, the earliest surviving collection of Gaelic poetry compiled in Scotland. Scholarly research and evidence shows the two manuscripts were almost certainly compiled by members of the same family.

The Library’s single most important Gaelic manuscript

Manuscripts Curator Dr Ulrike Hogg said: “We consider the Chronicle of Fortingall a partner volume to the Book of the Dean of Lismore, the Library’s single most important Gaelic manuscript and one of our greatest treasures. The two manuscripts are so closely connected that it’s difficult to describe one without reference to the other. It’s a great privilege for us to be able to bring the manuscripts together again after their compilation some 450 years ago. The Gaelic contents of the Chronicle of Fortingall make a significant addition to our Scottish Gaelic manuscripts collection, which is the largest in the world. And securing the manuscript for the national collections means we can make the contents publicly accessible and ensure its professional preservation.”

Senior Lecturer in Scottish History at the University of Glasgow, Dr Martin MacGregor, welcomed the acquisition and said: “It is a relief that the National Library was successful in securing the Chronicle of Fortingall, especially as they hold the companion volume, the Book of the Dean of Lismore. The Chronicle of Fortingall is a highly significant manuscript which provides insight into public life in the Highlands in the later Middle Ages. It is an important source for the history of the Highlands – social, political, cultural, economic and religious. It also has great linguistic importance as it embodies the interplay of Latin, Scots and Gaelic as written languages in then Gaelic-speaking Scotland.”

Breadalbane Muniments

The manuscript was compiled at Fortingall, at the mouth of Glen Lyon in Highland Perthshire, near the eastern end of Loch Tay. It is written in several hands. Compilation took place between 1554 and 1579, although it may have begun earlier. One of the compilers records that he said his first mass in 1531, began to serve the cure at the church of Fortingall in 1532, and acknowledged the chief of the MacGregors. He may be the principal compiler, and further identified with Dubhghall (Dougall) MacGregor, on record as vicar of Fortingall in 1544. The authorial perspective reveals continuing Catholic allegiance, and hostility to the Scottish Reformation brought into law in 1560.

The item is the manuscript named The Chronicle of Fortirgall by Cosmo Innes, and published by him under that name in The Black Book of Taymouth: with other papers from the Breadalbane Charter Room (T. Constable: Edinburgh 1855). At that time, it belonged with the private family papers of the Earls of Breadalbane, held at Taymouth Castle by Kenmore, at the east end of Loch Tay in Highland Perthshire. When at various points during the 20th century these papers were transferred to what is now the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh, where they are catalogued as the Breadalbane Muniments, this manuscript was not among them. It is supposed it remained with the family until now.

Did you know?

The contents of the manuscript include:

-Lists of kings of Scots and notes on their reigns in Latin.

-A list of battles from Bannockburn (1314) to Flodden (1513), also in Latin.

-A chronicle recording the deaths of prominent men and women within the Highlands from 1390–1579, written in Latin and Scots.

-A Gaelic poem written in a writing system based on Middle Scots.

-Poetry in Middle Scots by Robert Henryson and William Dunbar.

-Verses, proverbs and aphorisms in Latin.

-Miscellaneous short prose texts in Latin and Scots covering everything from the size and divisions of Ireland to medicine and cures, religion and belief, and commentary against women and inebriation.

Townsville Tartan Day 2021

Chief of Clan Henderson and his wife Audrey. I just loved the beaming smiles. Both of pride and happiness to be a part of the day said photographer: Laurell Bourne.

Townsville Tartan Day (TTD) was held on Sunday 13th June after a break last year due to Covid 19 restrictions, attracting an estimated crowd of 7,000 people between 8.00am and 1.00pm. 

All sectors of the Townsville Scottish Community came together with great enthusiasm including Townsville and Mackay pipe bands, visiting musicians and vocalist from Brisbane, displays of Highland and Scottish Country Dancing, the TTD Stones (heavy event), family history searches, the Dogs of Scottish Breeds and many clan representatives. 

Celtic Cousins. Photo: Amanda Stephenson.
TTD 2021 Strongest Woman; and Brad, TTD 2021 Strongest Man. Photo: Jess Bowie.

The Honoured Clan was Henderson, and the special guest was Alistair Henderson of Fordell, Chief of the Name and Arms of Henderson and his wife Madame Audrey Henderson. A main feature of Townsville Tartan Day is the clan parade which was lead by the Townsville City Council representative, Councillor Kurt Rehbein and the Chief of Clan Henderson and the Clan Henderson contingent which looked resplendent with the Chief’s Standard flying in the morning breeze

Two Macs & two collies. Photo: Lisa McDougall.
I loved the joy in their faces. They were having a great time with the dance and enjoying a laugh said photographer Laurell Bourne.

A further 56 clans were represented in the parade, some with more than one clan banner which made a spectacular sight.  Each Dog of Scottish Breed also has its own banner to help the public become aware of the Scottish origin of very familiar dogs such as the Border Collie and Golden Retriever and to recognise some lesser known dogs such as the Cairn Terrier. 

The reflection of the drum was perfect to capture the piper next to him said photographer Laurell Bourne.
Just a wee Gordon lassie listening to the pipes of home…  Ellie the Westie at Townsville Tartan Day. Photo: Keta Roseby.

Townsville Tartan Day is now the feature event in what has become the Townsville Tartan Weekend, starting with a Meet & Greet on Friday evening, the Tartan Social (Scottish Country Dancing) and Clansmen’s Ceilidh on Saturday and Scottish Music Workshops on Sunday afternoon and evening.  This variety of events spread across three days makes it appealing to those who like to travel to attend a Scottish gathering and we hope to entice others to mark it on their calendar for June 2022.

Scottish heavy events-A show of strength

By: Nick Drainey

In a summer which has seen many of the Highland Games across Scotland ruled out because of Covid restrictions, Tom Stoltman has kept the profile of traditional “heavy” events high. With iconic meetings such as the Braemar Gathering cancelled, Tom took the top honour in the World’s Strongest Man competition in Sacramento, California. The 6ft 8in, 397lb athlete from Invergordon went one better than his runner-up spot last year. He told the Scottish Banner: “I put the second-place trophy straight into my dad’s house – I didn’t want to be happy with it. If you go into a sport saying you don’t want to be the best, you are lying.”

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Queensland Pops Orchestra present Celtic Spectacular

The Celtic vibe comes alive in 2021. Think River Dance, Scottish kilts and pipes, Irish whistles and fiddles, tender love lilts … not to  mention all those moving reminiscences on windswept moors and craggy hills across the great Celtic musical landscape. Watch Musical Director Patrick Pickett (a true ‘Lord of The Dance’!) swirl his baton as he works the rich seam of Celtic classics in one of the Queensland Pops’ most requested series concerts. Hear the legends, the fables, the humour, the melancholy and the euphoria all come to life with some of Australia’s best-loved singers and traditional instrumentalists and dancers. A warm welcome back to special guest stars Gregory Moore and Sarah Calderwood, who will combine the very best elements of Celtic music into one unforgettable package.

Top Celtic performers

Gregory Moore has donned many a kilt since his first Scotland The Brave in 1998. His stage credits are numerous and colourful: an original member of the Ten Tenors, world tours of the acclaimed Australian production Scotland The Brave, a Musical Events Producer for the Brisbane City Council, and a regular star on international cruise ships. Sarah is an ARIA-nominated performer, uniting classic and contemporary folk music as a singer, storyteller, composer, and flute and tin whistle player. Her silvery voice is organically pure yet laced with steel – and she has been described as passionate, enigmatic, lyrically brilliant and richly musical. Returning to showcase his traditional Irish music talents is Kevin Higgins, who plays the concert wooden flute and is a master of the Uilleann Pipes, both of which he plays extensively as soloist and in bands throughout Australia and overseas. Savour the spectacular precision of the all-star line-up of dancers, who will be the crowning glory of this Celtic spectacular: the Watkins Academy of Irish Dance, the OzScot Highland Dancers and the glorious strains of the BBC Pipes & Drums, all of which promise to awaken the ancient spirits and leave you spellbound.

Celtic Spectacular takes place on Saturday 9, October 2:30 & 7:30pm, Concert Hall QPAC. Tickets on sale now:  or phone 136 246.

The Middle Tennessee Highland Games & Celtic Festival

The Scottish Banner spoke to the Middle Tennessee Highland Games & Celtic Festival committee on this year’s event, taking place next month.

SB: Tell us about Middle Tennessee Highland Games and Celtic Festival, what are this year’s dates, where are you located, event times, etc?

MTHG: Date is Sept 11, 2021, at Percy Warner Park, in the Belle Meade neighborhood of Nashville, Tennessee.  Festival times are 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

SB: What is the history behind your event, how long has it been going on?

MTHG: This will be our 6th year in Nashville Tennessee.  We had to cancel in 2020 because of Covid and so we are very hopeful for our return in 2021.  We have scaled down this year’s event to one day, but the enthusiasm shown by everyone to return to highland games leads us to believe that we will have a great crowd and a successful return.

SB: Who is performing at this year’s event? How many stages?

MTHG: We will have two stages of music and one stage for dancers and young people’s music. The music this year consists of three local Nashville Celtic bands: Doon the Brae, NoseyFlynn and The Secret Commonwealth. Two national touring bands: Seven Nations and Tuatha Dea, and the Scottish Bard from Glasgow Colin Grant Adams. An intimate acoustic stage and a rocking beer garden stage – chose your style or enjoy both. Irish step dancers and Highland dancers perform near the children’s zone and have many performances planned along with the Kid’s Ceilidh Band. Our three pipe and drum bands from Nashville and Knoxville will perform while roving through the festival grounds.

SB: What Games will be at this year’s event?

MTHG: We will have amateur heavy Scottish athletics for men and women in Classes, A, B, and masters.  Events will include weight throws, hammer throw, weight over bar, sheaf toss, and of course caber toss. We have 40 athletes registered to compete.

SB: What is different this year than from years past?

MTHG: We have had to closely watch the pandemic’s progress in our community and had to try to plan accordingly.  Fortunately, we have a great team that has been able to pull together all the pieces of a multi-faceted festival.  We are now looking forward to a Highland Games and Festival will all the ceremony and fun we all enjoy. Our tag line for 2021 is “The Year of Recovery”.

SB: What can one expect when attending your event?

MTHG: We think of it as a three-ring circus of Celtic Culture.  The anchor to the event is the Heavy Scottish Athletic competition.  It is supported by a Scottish Clan village of over 45 Scottish clans and societies. We have over 40 vendors of Celtic products, and yummy foods, plus 2 tents of soft and alcoholic beverages, We have a large Kids Zone, and demonstrations in Highland and Irish dance, tartan weaving, and Birds of Prey.  And of course, we will have numerous bagpipe and drum teams and a solo bagpipe competition.  At noon we will have a special Opening Ceremony and Tartan Parade to honor 911.  It should be a very full and fun day for the entire family.

SB: What is your favorite aspect of Scottish culture?

MTHG: The goosebumps we get when hearing the pipe and drums come across the field, the cheers when the caber fly’s through the air, the love, and pride we see when a grandfather in a kilt shares a story of the ‘old country’ with a child and the warmth of a dram of good whisky.

SB: What are you most looking forward to about this year’s Games and Festival?

MTHG:  Thousands of people having a great and safe time getting back together, celebrating a great culture.

The Middle Tennessee Highland Games & Celtic Festival takes place on Saturday, September 11th, 2021 at Nashville’s Percy Warner Park. For further details see:

Castles of the Black Douglases

By: Dr Callum Watson

James Douglas – The Black Douglas – was Robert the Bruce’s right hand man. Follow the fates and fortunes of his family as we explore the castles of the Black Douglases with Dr Callum Watson.

The Black Douglases were one of the most powerful and dangerous noble families in Scotland. They rose to prominence through service to the Scottish crown during a series of conflicts with England in the fourteenth-century. Unfortunately for the Douglases, fundamental changes in the make-up of Scottish aristocratic society in the fifteenth-century led to their downfall. At the height of their power, the family controlled a string of castles all over the kingdom. This article will look at six sites now under the care of Historic Environment Scotland that help us chart the rise and fall of this tremendously important noble dynasty.

Rising Stars – Melrose Abbey

The ruins of Melrose Abbey.

The Black Douglases owed their rise to power to the activities of ‘the Good’ Sir James Douglas. He was a vigorous and successful war leader and a counsellor of Robert the Bruce. When Bruce died in 1329 Douglas was chosen to take the king’s heart on crusade to Spain. When Douglas was killed carrying it into battle the heart was brought back to Scotland for burial at Melrose Abbey. This began a long association between Melrose and the Douglases, who sought to present themselves as the ‘special protectors’ of the abbey. The Douglases even adopted the ‘bludy hart’ of Bruce on their coat of arms, which can be seen around many of the sites mentioned below.

Top of the Tree – Bothwell Castle

The Black Douglases may have risen to prominence with ‘the Good’ Sir James, but his son Archibald ‘the Grim’ cemented that power. Archibald was technically illegitimate and so was initially a minor figure in the Douglas family. However, in the 1360s King David II began to promote Archibald’s interests. In part, this was done to destabilise the influence of Archibald’s cousin William, 1st Earl of Douglas. In 1362 David arranged for Archibald to marry Joanna Murray. Murray was a wealthy heiress who owned a number of castles around Scotland. Of all of these, Bothwell Castle seems to have been Archibald’s favourite. It became his primary residence for the rest of his life. Archibald refortified Bothwell for use as a base from which to bring the fractious kindreds of Galloway under royal control. King David rewarded him for this service by making him Lord of Galloway in 1369.

It was at Bothwell in 1399 that Archibald’s daughter Mary married King Robert III’s son David, Duke of Rothesay. The marriage cemented Archibald’s position as one of the most important people in the kingdom and provoked his local rival the Earl of March to leave Scotland altogether! Archibald died, probably at Bothwell, around Christmas 1400 but the castle remained one of the most important Black Douglas residences. Archibald’s son – Archibald, 4th Earl of Douglas – was an influential figure both within Scotland and abroad, and he turned Bothwell into a palatial dwelling in keeping with his ambitions.

Trendsetters – Lincluden Collegiate Church

Archibald the Grim was quite a trendsetter. In 1389 he petitioned the pope to allow him to turn the nunnery at Lincluden into a collegiate church. He claimed that the nuns were living in sin with ‘very evil men’. The pope approved Archibald’s petition and Archibald removed the nuns by force.

Collegiate churches became very popular among the Scottish nobility in the years afterwards, with thirteen – including one beside Crichton Castle – being established in the fifteenth-century. Many of the early adopters of this trend – such as the Crichtons, the Hamiltons and the Douglases of Dalkeith – were kinsmen or allies of the Black Douglases. The rise in popularity of collegiate churches after 1400 may partly reflect a desire to emulate the family’s power and prestige.

Troublemakers – Lochleven Castle

The Black Douglases owed their prominence to the faithful service of ‘the Good’ Sir James and Archibald the Grim to King Robert I and King David II. However, at the beginning of the fifteenth-century Scottish society was changing. King James I of Scotland was distrustful of the ability of great magnates like the Black Douglases to maintain huge regional followings using the wealth generated by their enormous landholdings. Instead, James encouraged lesser noblemen to look directly to the crown for patronage and leadership. This gave him greater control in the localities.

In 1430 James briefly had his nephew Archibald, 5th earl of Douglas, imprisoned at Lochleven Castle. This was in an effort to prevent the earl from interfering in the local politics of Carrick in south-west Scotland.

The Black Sheep – Balvenie Castle

Family drama also weakened the Black Douglases in the early fifteenth-century. Archibald the Grim had two legitimate sons, Archibald (who succeeded him as the fourth earl) and James ‘the Gross’ (so called because he was so overweight in later life). The fourth earl granted Balvenie Castle to his brother – James the Gross – in 1408. Balvenie was one of the castles that came to the family through Archibald the Grim’s marriage to Joanna Murray. He had hoped giving his son this northern castle would keep James out of the his business in the south. However, James continued to pursue a successful career as a royal courtier.

In 1440, James’s great-nephews William, 6th Earl of Douglas, and David Douglas were arrested at Edinburgh Castle, tried on flimsy treason charges, and executed. This gruesome event, known as the ‘Black Dinner’, was also certainly orchestrated with James’s knowledge, and perhaps even his assistance. As a result of the Black Dinner James became the seventh earl of Douglas. James’s sons used Balvenie Castle as a base from which to expand Black Douglas influence in north-east Scotland. To facilitate this, his son William, 8th earl of Douglas, made a deal of some kind with the other powerful magnates in that region – the earl of Ross and the earl of Crawford. This would ultimately sour relations between the Black Douglases and the Crown.

King James II was deeply suspicious of Ross and Crawford. When William refused to break the deal in 1452, King James personally stabbed the earl to death at Stirling Castle! This began three years of intermittent conflict that ended with the Black Douglases being driven from Scotland altogether.

The Harder They Fall – Threave Castle

Threave Castle had been built by Archibald the Grim to cement his position as Lord of Galloway after 1369.b The tower-house design was unusual in Scotland at the time but started a fashion among Scottish castle builders that continued well into the sixteen-century. Galloway was crucial to maintaining Black Douglas power. In the fifteenth-century it played a significant role in the efforts of the Scottish crown to limit the family’s influence.

In 1426 James I granted Galloway to his sister Margaret Stewart (Archibald the Grim’s daughter-in-law) for life. This was partly to undermine her son the fifth earl (King James’s nephew). From 1426 until around 1447 Margaret administered Galloway from Threave and did her best to do right by both her Douglas and Stewart relatives, despite the efforts of her Douglas kinsmen to wrestle the lordship back from her. When she died she was buried at her father-in-law’s foundation, Lincluden Collegiate Church.

William, 8th Earl of Douglas, eventually managed to recover Galloway and he or his brother the ninth earl undertook serious building work at Threave. Impressive and high-tech artillery fortifications were added at the base of their grandfather’s tower-house. This was likely intended to display Black Douglas power and prestige. However, it may also have been in anticipation of future conflict between the crown and the Black Douglases. When that final confrontation occurred in 1455, Threave held out longer than any other Black Douglas stronghold. However, the typically conservative Scottish political community had by now come to support the king over the Black Douglases. The garrison at Threave surrendered to save their own lives.

Digging into the Douglas story

Between 1974 and 1978, Historic Scotland conducted archaeological work at Threave. It identified a series of out-buildings that were once clustered around the tower-house. The dig also revealed some wooden platters and bowls, each marked with the ‘bludy hart’. The prominence of the heart on these objects is a reminder that during a period when Scottish noble families generally wanted to emphasise how ancient their lineage was, the Douglases were eager to emphasise the fact that they owed their prominence to vigorous and faithful service to the Scottish crown in war. Their links to Robert the Bruce could not protect them from the changes happening in Scottish society in the fifteenth-century. However, it did ensure the family left an indelible mark on our perception of aristocratic life in medieval Scotland.

The Black Douglas was a firm favourite among fans of the film Outlaw King. Check out the Historic Scotland Robert the Bruce Trail to go behind the scenes and visit the filming locations of Outlaw King and discover the real story of Robert the Bruce.

Historic Environment Scotland is the lead public body established to investigate, care for and promote Scotland’s historic environment. For more details see:

Stirling Highland Games (August 21) Launches Virtual Event Programme

Traditional heavyweight competitions, a pipe band and cookery demonstrations are among the online events showcased at Stirling Highland Games this month.

Organisers have unveiled an exciting programme of virtual activities to entertain families, food-lovers, history buffs and Highland Games competition fans from home and abroad on Saturday August 21.

Spectators can watch competitors take part in hammer throwing, shot put and tossing the caber via a dedicated video channel.

They can also tune into the gruelling Bruce Challenge, unique to the Stirling Games, which sees strongmen carrying two boulders weighing over 164kg as far as they can.

The Games also includes a new adaptive competition, featuring the Wounded Highlanders, and an online food and drink experience headlined by celebrity chef Tony Singh.

The popular annual gathering was originally due to take place in-person at Stirling Games Village but was replaced with a virtual programme because of Covid safety concerns.

It is one of just a handful of Scottish Highland Games going ahead in any format this year and President Matt McGrandles hopes spectators will support Stirling’s event by spending £5 on tickets to view the action through an on-demand Vimeo channel.

He said: “We really wanted our gathering to happen in-person this year but in the interests of safety we had to adapt our plans and have instead produced a cracking line up of events for people to enjoy.

“The committee worked hard to come up with something special and we’re proud to be one of just a handful of Scottish Highland Games events taking place during 2021.

“What we need now is for the people of Stirling – and the thousands of overseas visitors who usually travel to see us – to support us virtually by tuning in to a day of fun and competition.

“More than 140,000 viewers watched last year’s virtual event and we have even more to offer our fans this year.

“We’re looking forward to a fantastic day while the online ticket sales will boost our plans to come back bigger and better when we return to our traditional live event in August 2022.”

Tickets can be pre-ordered now – via – and the Games can be watched anytime from 12 noon on August 21.

The packed programme begins with the heavyweight competition which sees five invited athletes competing against each other in hammer tossing, weight over the bar and other demanding events before taking on the Bruce Challenge.

One of the competitors is Falkirk strongman Kyle Randalls who found fame in Netflix series `Home Game’ featuring unusual sports from around the world.

He said: “I usually compete in around 35-40 Highland Games every year but they are few and far between just now so it’s great that Stirling has gone ahead with a virtual event and given us the chance to compete again.

“Stirling Highland Games is very close to my heart and I hope everyone will support the 2021 virtual show as we look forward to getting back to live events next year.”

The heavyweight contest is followed by an adaptive event with six competitors – all injured military veterans.

The five men and one woman demonstrate their strength in a series of challenges – smashing seven world records in the process.

There is music from the Balaklava Pipes and Drums, the band of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regimental Association, before the focus switches to the food and drink show beginning with a cookery demonstration by Tony Singh.

Stirling Highland Games has become famous for its food and drink offering which Mr McGrandles has built up and expanded since the social enterprise he founded, Ceangail CIC, took ownership of the Games in 2013.

This year’s event captures award-winning food and drink producers from across Scotland on film and showcases them in an episode which also includes clips from a variety of Scottish restaurants and a feature on where to enjoy the best burgers in Stirling.

The final section is a creative event which presents a talk on Stirling’s Heroes and Villains from well-known historian Dr Murray Cook and a performance from Stirling Gaelic Choir.

The 2021 Highland Games has been sponsored and grant-funded by various organisations including Active Stirling, EventScotland, Scotland Food and Drink and Forth Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Long-term supporters Specsavers Stirling sponsor the Heavyweight and Bruce Challenge events and Retail Director Susanne Akil is looking forward to the day.

She said: “We’ve a longstanding relationship with Stirling Highland Games and as part of Stirling’s community, we are keen to support important local events.

“The Games is a great day which brings people into Stirling and is very much a part of the city’s heritage and I look forward to watching it online this year.”

For more details on the Games, visit

The Queen and The Duke of Cambridge visit AG Barr

HM Queen Elizabeth visits the AG Barr plant at Cumbernauld where the company makes its world famous Irn Bru drink.

Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn travelled to AG Barr’s factory in Cumbernauld where Her Majesty officially opened their new process facility. Established over 140 years ago in Scotland, AG Barr has since created a portfolio of successful drinks including the iconic IRN-BRU drink, which launched in 1901. IRN-BRU is a carbonated soft drink made to an original secret recipe, which contains 32 flavours. Other popular drinks manufactured by AG Barr include Rubicon fruit and juice drinks and Strathmore Still Spring Water.

Royal Week

The Duke of Cambridge, The Earl of Strathearn, at the AG Barr plant at Cumbernauld.

During the visit, Her Majesty and The Earl of Strathearn were given an overview of the history of the company before meeting employees to learn about the company’s place in local community life. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also viewed products created at the factory before signing their visitor’s book.

The Queen was in Scotland for Royal Week where she will be undertaking a range of engagements celebrating community, innovation and history. The Queen also visited businesses, charities and cultural institutions that highlight the pioneering work taking place to further community engagement, education, technology and efforts to combat climate change.

Tartan Day celebrations in Adelaide

The Adelaide Scottish community celebrated Tartan Day with events which celebrated Scottish heritage and culture in July. A Tartan Day anniversary concert was held in the Burnside Council ballroom and was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Burnside, Mrs Anne Monceaux. Due to Covid rules a traditional haggis was not allowed to be used and shared for the Address to the Haggis was not permitted, instead a painted rubber balloon was used to mimic a haggis and was deflated by Sam Mathers who used his dirk to cut the ‘haggis’ at the appropriate moment.

The Kirkin’ of the Tartan church service took place at the Wesley Uniting Church, Kent Town and this service was attended by the South Australian Governor, His Excellency, the Hon Hieu Van Le AC and his wife Mrs Lan Le. The service included Clan bearers, Scottish dancers from the Garrick School of Highland Dancing and pipes and drums.

The planned Tartan Day Anniversary March of massed pipe bands which was to be held on the afternoon of 4th July through the city of Adelaide was cancelled due to the Covid situation in South Australia.

Braemar Castle Raising the Standard with major fundraising campaign featuring Drystane Dyking and a world record attempt

The UK’s only community run castle, the 17th century fairytale concoction has played witness to 400 years of turbulent Scottish history, now Braemar Castle launches world record attempt calling for over 1500 people to dance their socks off for the Castle’s future.

It was the place where James VIII was declared King of Scotland and James III of England as part of a failed Jacobite rising, it was torched by the Black Colonel in 1689, and used as a garrison for Hanoverian soldiers after the rebel Jacobite defeat at the Battle of Culloden, but now Braemar Castle is set to play a positive role at the heart of the future sustainability of its local community in and around Braemar. An iconic landmark in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, the Earl of Mar’s castle is a fairytale concoction of battlemented towers and turrets, a star shaped curtain wall and a bottle necked dungeon, the future of which rests with the small community of Braemar, a village of just 500 residents.  The only castle in Scotland/UK under community management, for the last 14 years the village has been preparing it to be a 5 star visitor attraction, while also creating a new community programme so that the Castle contributes to the future welfare of the whole region by providing opportunities for charities, schools and individuals to grow through creative and communal activities.

World record attempt

As it works towards an ambitious re-imagining of its role, setting out to realise its social and educational potential and make a transformative impact locally and in communities throughout the north-east of Scotland, Braemar Community Limited announces a series of summer events which celebrate traditional aspects of the local culture, educate and preserve fading craft skills, and seek to reach those far and wide interested in supporting the Castle’s future. Catriona Skene, events coordinator at Braemar Castle is hoping to break a world record attempt for most people performing a choreographed dance online, using the accessibility of Zoom to bring those with ancestral links to the area, and those who enjoy Scottish heritage together with a band and dance callers online to perform a Military Two Step. Whether based in LA or Tokyo dancers can join in the fun and support the community’s ambitions for the Castle by paying £5 per person to take part. The previous record is 500, but the record for the world’s largest Scottish country dance is 1,453 and the hope is to exceed both of these targets and go down in history with 2,000.

Raising the Standard

Drystane Dyking is a dying art, so familiar across the Scottish countryside, intrinsic to many a famous photo of its landscape but only five craftspeople now have the skills required to maintain and build these beautiful features of our countryside. A small number of people will get the opportunity to try their hands and develop their skills on weekends through to September in the Castle grounds. This summer Alan Breck’s Jacobite and Redcoat armies undertake their training at Braemar Castle. This year Breck’s a highly anticipated book, by local historian, Maureen Kelly of the Braemar Local History group, on the Jacobites of Upper Deeside will be launched alongside the annual spectacle. Other events over the summer include the Braemar Castle Scramble golf tournament, and an ongoing series of coffee talks on the history of the Castle, Clan Farquharson, the Jacobites and the war among other fascinating topics.


Any money made through these activities will be put towards the community charity’s campaign Raising the Standard, which will fund the £1.6m conservation and re-development project planned for completion in 2023.  It has already received generous support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Castle team is well advanced in raising £600,000 in gifts from individuals, trusts and companies.  Raising the Standard will re-define the role that Braemar Castle plays in the wider community. Having always drawn in visitors and worked with schools and community groups on site, it has now developed a vastly more ambitious vision for community engagement and learning. In future, the Castle team will welcome greater numbers to Braemar for a more diverse programme of activities. It will also look outwards and engage more broadly with communities and groups in Aberdeenshire.

Find out more about Braemar Castle, the Castle Community Trust and its plans see:

Canmore Highland Games tickets go on sale

This Labour Day long weekend, Canmore Highland Games (CHG) will roll out its 30th annual festival.  They are committed to creating a safe, fun environment for all to enjoy Celtic Culture at its finest. After a great deal of anticipation, CHG are excited to announce the 2021 program of events. Saturday evening, the Taste of the Highlands Food and Drink Festival will feature regional wine, beer, and scotch whisky vendors in The Wild Rose Festival Tent.  On Sunday, there will be no Highland Dance competition, however, there will be dance demonstrations throughout the day and a Massed Fling on the center field in the afternoon. Regional Pipes and Drums Bands will perform exhibition-style throughout the day. New for this year, we will be offering a Drum Major Workshop, and a couple of select participants will have the honour of joining the bands for the closing ceremonies. Heavy Sports will be competition as usual, with regional athletes battling for the top spot.

The Games will see a British Car and Motorcycle Show and Sheep Dog Demonstrations, and a Tug o’ War contest. Guests will shop at the Celtic Market, meet Clan representatives, and sample a wide array of delicious food from local vendors. Celtic bands Fraid Knot and Cabot’s Crossing will grace the stage through the day punctuated by the ever-popular Scotch Tasting presented by The Famous Grouse.  On Sunday evening, CHG throw a Ceilidh for the record books with Canadian Celtic rock band The Arcana Kings. The Canmore Highland Games welcomes everyone to join us in a celebration this September.  After a long period of collective struggle and sacrifice, it is time to raise a toast to our freedom. 

The 30th Annual Canmore Highland Games will take place September 4-5, in Canmore, Alberta. For details see:

Sir Walter Scott Steamship sends out an urgent SOS call

The future of this national historic maritime treasure is under threat.

The charitable trust that looks after the 121-year-old Sir Walter Scott Steamship has launched an urgent appeal to preserve the iconic steamship and get her back sailing on Loch Katrine. The SOS appeal to ‘Save our Steamship’ seeks to raise £500,000 to restore the historic steamer, which requires a new boiler and other significant repairs. These funds will have to be secured by the end of this year to allow work to begin in time to allow her to resume sailing during summer 2022 and to avoid further deterioration. She has not sailed since the annual inspection in January 2020 which revealed hairline cracks in the boiler which led to it being condemned.

Launched away back in 1900, Sir Walter Scott Steamship is named after the novelist and poet, born exactly 250 years ago, whose Lady of the Lake poem, published in 1810 put Loch Katrine and the Trossachs on the map, resulting in it becoming the ‘Birthplace of Scottish Tourism’. Crowds have continued to flock to Loch Katrine to sail on the Steamship and enjoy this special part of Scotland in the heart of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park which is also the source of Glasgow’s main water supply.

National maritime heritage treasure

James Fraser, Trustee and CEO of the Steamship Trust, said: ‘’Our efforts to restore the Steamship have been severely hampered by the impact of Covid 19 lockdowns which meant we have not been able to generate enough trading income to repair and restore the steamship to full sailing. Sadly, as a result of the prolonged cessation of sailings the Steamship has rapidly deteriorated and this is a situation we are anxious to reverse quickly as there is a real danger of us losing the boat permanently. Many generations of visitors have had enormous pleasure sailing on the historic Sir Water Scott Steamship. We have to act now to make sure that current and future generations will be able to enjoy cruises on this national maritime heritage treasure.’’

The Steamship plays an important role in supporting the fragile Trossachs rural economy and is a significant local employer, with many additional indirect jobs dependent on the Steamship being in operation.  As well as providing much needed transport links on the loch for sightseers, cyclists and walkers, the vessel can carry 220 passengers and is accessible for all levels of mobility and sensory needs. When restored the Steamship will also be a leading example of an eco-friendly water transport visitor experience in Scotland with low carbon emissions due to a ground-breaking hydrogen-based fuel mix that it is planned to use.

Financial support for help to save this important national maritime heritage asset which brings so much pleasure to so many people can be made on site at Loch Katrine or via the SOS appeal website:

Sir Walter Scott Steamship-Did you know?

-Sir Walter Scott was launched in 1900. She was Loch Katrine’s fourth steamer. The first being Gypsy, introduced in 1843, providing competition to ‘Water Witch’, an eight-oared wooden galley. Gypsy was to sink under mysterious circumstances just a week later, allegedly by the ferrymen who thought the steamer’s arrival threatened their jobs. Rob Roy and then Rob Roy II steamers followed until 1900, when Sir Walter Scott was introduced.

-Sir Walter Scott was commissioned to replace the ‘Rob Roy II’, which was reaching its end life. She was built at Denny’s Yard in Dumbarton on the River Clyde. After completing her trials on the Clyde, she was dismantled for transportation to Loch Katrine.

-Nearly half of the £4,269 purchase price was the delivery charge. This is understandable considering that she was transported in sections by barge up the River Leven and Loch Lomond to Inversnaid. From there, teams of horses lugged the steamship up the steep hills to Stronachlachar; there she was reconstructed and launched for the first time into Loch Katrine in 1900.

-In 1900 the newly launched Sir Walter Scott shared sailings in her first year with Rob Roy II. The first master of the steamship was Captain John McKinnon.

-The original steam plant remains intact, with a pump that draws feedwater from the loch for the boiler. In 2007 the operation and ownership of the steamship moved to an independent charitable trust.

-In 2008 she moved from coal power to biodiesel and was soon joined by another cruiser ‘The Lady of the Lake, named after Sir Walter Scott’s famous poem and this year by ‘Rob Roy III’.

-2020 was set to be a high-profile year for the Sir Walter Scott Steamship, marking the 120th year of sailing on Loch Katrine. Sadly, the double blow of Covid-19 restrictions and boiler issues meant that not only was she unable to sail in her celebration year, but her long-term future is under serious threat.

-The Steamship has kept with the times, adapting over the years to use more environmentally friendly fuels. Green biofuel will be used when the Steamship is back sailing, which will substantially reduce carbon emissions.

-The Steamship sails through Great Trossachs Forest, the second largest National Nature Reserve in Britain, with a new forest of 2.5 million native trees.

-In 1859 23.5 miles of new aqueducts and tunnels opened linking Loch Katrine and Glasgow. Opened by Queen Victoria, this feat of Victorian engineering provided clean water to the city of Glasgow for the first time. Its arrival transformed the health of a vast population and is still in operation today. Up to 120 million gallons per day can be extracted from the loch via the gravity operated network of tunnels and aqueducts. The famous Tennant’s lager is brewed with water from the loch.

65th Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

All images courtesy of: James J Shaffer.

The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games (GMHG) was held July 8 to July 11, 2021 at MacRae Meadows in Linville, North Carolina.  The crowds were tremendous each day, and the prevailing sentiment was “We are so happy to be here!”.  Games organanizers held the event minus any of the usual indoor activities as part of Covid management, and were pleased with the response to the many pleas made for attendees to get vaccinated.  GMHG President Stephen Quillin said “I think we proved we are back, and that we are back in a safe way.  I am very proud of how everyone pulled together to make it happen.  Given the difficulties of the past year and a half, our 65th anniversary Games may well have been our best effort.”

The Games featured a fantastic display of Clans, entertainment, heavy events and athletics, Scottish dance, a Torch Light Ceremony and more.

Clan Morrison

Even the weather cooperated, beginning with the rainbow ahead of the Thursday Torchlight Ceremony to the rain shower that held off till Sunday’s closing.   The GMHG owes a great debt to Alasdair Morrison, Chief of Clan Morrison, and Andrew Morrison, Viscount Dunrossil.  Alasdair and Andrew gladly came running to help when the Chieftain of the Games, Alexander Matheson of Matheson was unable to obtain entry to the US.  The Clan Matheson turned out in great numbers and held a strong and enthusiastic Gathering, of which Alexander would have been very proud.

The Clan Morrison Society of North America held its Annual Meeting at the Grandfather Mountain Games. It will be the first official appearance of the new chief, Alasdair Morrison, Morrison of Ruchdi, following the untimely death of his father, Dr. J. Ruairaidh Morrison last November. Alasdair is the youngest chief eligible to serve on the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.

Congratulations to all involved.  Grandfather Mountain is looking forward to a normal 2022 and the 66th anniversary.

For more information on the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games see:

Dumfries and Galloway celebrated at the Royal Highland Showcase

Honorary RHASS president Fiona Armstrong.

Dumfries and Galloway is celebrating the success of its drive to highlight all that’s best about Scotland’s south west at the Royal Highland Showcase. Each year the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) invites a different region to act as “host”, allowing it to celebrate the best of its rural economy. This year it was the turn of Dumfries and Galloway which prides itself on its thriving creative community. The Royal Highland Showcase in partnership with Royal Bank of Scotland, ran during June, and replaced the annual Royal Highland Show which could not take place due to COVID-19 restrictions. While many of the classes were still the same, and featured the best of Scottish agriculture and rural life, it all took place behind closed doors, but was livestreamed for free worldwide.

The spirit of the Galloway hills

Dumfries and Galloway took full advantage of these opportunities with a series of arts and cultural initiatives. The artworks projects were led by Cathy Agnew on behalf of Fiona Armstrong, honorary president of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS), and her President’s Initiative.

The bull was made by willow artist and sculptor Trevor Leat, whose figures are familiar from Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations, the Wickerman music festivals and a variety of National Trust for Scotland properties. Trevor, who is based in a small village workshop in Auchencairn, said: “This was a wonderful project to take part in. What I wanted to capture was the character of these truly iconic cattle – the strength, muscle, power and energy of the bull – but also something of the spirit of the Galloway hills where they are bred and which are their homes.”

Fiona Armstrong, honorary RHASS president and Scottish Banner columnist, said: “We are delighted that we’ve been able to play our part in helping to put Dumfries and Galloway further on the map. There might not have been the usual crowds at Ingliston, but the virtual Royal Highland Showcase sent the show worldwide. It went global – and we were part of that. Trevor Leat’s spectacular giant Beltie was the star – but so many others – our farmers, the Stewartry Young Farmers, the Dumfries Veterans’ Garden, Dumfries College, our graphic designers and filmmakers – even our Beltie cake makers! They’ve all played their part in showing what our region has to offer. Food, farming, coast, countryside, tourism and culture. In a rural area like ours, they’re all linked. Thanks to the Royal Highland Showcase, we’ve been able to tell the world that we are Dumfries and Galloway and we are Growing Together.”

For further information about The Royal Highland Show see:

Her Majesty The Queen formally opens £4m museum transformation at Stirling Castle

Photo: Colonel (Retd) A K M Miller CBE, Chairman of the Museum Trust escorts Her Majesty around the new museum in Stirling Castle.

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum at Stirling Castle has reopened its doors to the public, after being officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen. The museum embarked on a lengthy transformation and renovation project in September 2018 to ensure its historic military legacy was preserved for future generations. Now, for the first time in almost three years, staff have opened the doors allowing a stunning look at the new-look museum.

To mark the completion of the redevelopment project, Her Majesty The Queen formally opened the new-look Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum at Stirling Castle. The Queen, who was granted Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment on her 21st birthday in 1947, was welcomed by nearly 100 veterans of the Highlanders, who travelled from across Scotland and England and was presented with the keys to Stirling Castle. The Queen also unveiled a plaque to commemorate the museum and taken on a tour to see just some of the military artefacts and documents.

A wealth of military treasures and artefacts

Home to a wealth of military treasures and artefacts, the museum brings the rich culture and heritage of one of Scotland’s great Highland regiments to life. The museum weaves a rich tapestry, connecting the Regiment to the local communities around Scotland from where its soldiers and their families came from.

Through its thematic approach, the museum aims to engage with audiences of all ages and knowledge, offering something for everyone. With over 5,000 objects in the Museum’s collection, many of the artefacts and displays cover the fascinating history of the Regiment. From its involvement in numerous global conflicts and insight into what life was like as a serving soldier and its impact on family life, to incredible personal items donated to the museum – some with astonishing and poignant stories. All renovation work has been carried out with meticulous care to protect, conserve and compliment the archaeology of the King’s Old Building which dates from the late 14th century and is believed to be one of the oldest structures still standing at Stirling Castle.

Work has included opening up the original vaults on the ground floor, creating a new floor to house museum displays and improved access via a new central stairway. The galleries have been created with engaging storyboards and displays to show off the nationally recognised collection of artefacts, silver and original artwork, together with fascinating audio-visual displays. Conservation standard display cases and eco-friendly lighting have been installed to meet modern museum standards.

Scotland’s proud military and cultural heritage

Colonel A K Miller, Project Director, said: “This project has taken nine years to plan and deliver. With the loss of Scotland’s historic regiments, it is important to ensure this unique element of our history is not lost. Throughout their tour, visitors will find themselves immersed in Scotland’s proud military and cultural heritage.”

The Museum operates as part of a partnership agreement with Historic Environment Scotland, who run Stirling Castle and have supported the refurbishment through grant funding and conservation work to help upgrade the site and visitor offer, as well as providing additional support in areas such as educational activities and on-site interpretation. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum is located in Stirling Castle which was the Argylls’ depot from 1873 to 1964 and remains the Regiment’s spiritual home. The Museum exists to preserve, display and interpret for all time the historical records and material culture of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in order to perpetuate the memory of the deeds and men of the Regiment.

Richard Hickson, CEO of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum, said: “We approach an incredibly important achievement as we prepare to reopen our doors after almost three years of hard work. Setting itself against the broader history of Scotland, our museum tells a fascinating story covering significant periods in Scottish history. From the Highland Clearances and the industrialisation of West-Central Scotland to shipbuilding and engineering on Clydeside, we have brought to life the activities of the Regiment’s soldiers and their families, both in Scotland and across the globe.”

For more information on The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum see:

VIT honored WWII veterans in only major Tattoo held worldwide in 2021

The Virginia International Tattoo (VIT) became the only major Tattoo scheduled to take place in the world in 2021 when the Edinburgh Tattoo announced that it was not holding its annual event.  With this year’s theme—A Salute to the Greatest Generation—the VIT had WWII veterans present and honored at every performance, as well as WWII aircraft from the Military Aviation Museum for flyovers each night. Aircraft included the most famous fighter plane from the war, the British Supermarine “Spitfire,” which performed brilliantly during the Battle of Britain from July to October 1940 while matched in countless dogfights with German Messerschmitts.

A Salute to the Greatest Generation

This year’s VIT A Salute to the Greatest Generation honored WWII veterans. Even as we celebrated all WWII veterans, it was a special treat to welcome 11 veterans who attended in person.  Honorees in attendance were:  1LT Helen Kowalczyk Blassingham, US Army Nurse Corps; LCDR Jack Cassell, US Navy; SSG Robert DeHaven, US Army Air Corps; LCDR Leo Dormon, US Navy; COL Walter Graves, US Army; Chief Quartermaster Felix Maurizio, US Navy; MG Charles McGinnis, US Army Corps of Engineers; SGT Harry Quinton, US Army Air Corps; LTC Butler Redd Jr., US Army; BM Julius Shoulars, US Navy and SGT Andrew Valero, US Army. “We honored the Greatest Generation,” said J. Scott Jackson, producer and director of the Virginia International Tattoo. “We refused to give up, and we made a statement about who we are and where we come from. That is why we Tattoo.”

The world’s only Tattoo in 2021

A few other notable highlights from this year’s VIT include:

-Our final performance on Sunday, June 6, included a flyover from two WWII era planes from the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and a Grumman FM-2 Wildcat.

-Before the pandemic, there were 12 major Tattoo events held worldwide annually.

-The 2021 VIT was the largest event held in Norfolk since March, 2020. 

J. Scott Jackson  added: “The days after the Virginia International Tattoo ends are the hardest days of the year. When I wake up, I won’t be tying my tie twice because I want to look squared away when I greet members of the Greatest Generation joining us for the show. I won’t be heading to rehearsals and performances to work with the greatest Tattoo performers and team in the world, and I won’t feel the electricity that accompanies all live performance. But every day, when it’s time to cheer myself up, I will remember: We put on the world’s only Tattoo in 2021!” 

The Virginia International Tattoo, a signature event of the Virginia Arts Festival, has brought a spirit of patriotism, pride, and friendship to Hampton Roads for more than two decades. 

The Virginia International Tattoo will return to its original location in the SCOPE Arena, April 28 – May 1, 2022. Next year will be the Tattoo’s Silver 25th Anniversary Celebration. Tickets are on sale now at or by phone through the Virginia Arts Festival Ticket Office at 757-282-2822.

Royal Mail marks the 70th anniversary of Beano’s Dennis with special stamps

Royal Mail have announced the launch of a new set of stamps celebrating 70 years of the British comic character Dennis. Six stamps look back at Dennis through the ages; from his first ever black-and-white comic strip in 1951, to important events in his life, including meeting his baby sister, Bea, adopting Gnasher, and even finding out that his dad is a grown-up version of Dennis from the 1980s. These stamps are based on original strips from Beano comics of the time.

A further four stamps, exclusively illustrated by the current Dennis artist, Nigel Parkinson, show the culmination of an exclusive comic strip. The strip, written especially for Royal Mail is featured in the Presentation Pack. The story focuses on Dennis’s birthday celebrations and includes a brief ‘history of Menaces’. The light-hearted episodes end with a birthday surprise, with the final comic strip frame revealing the four new stamps.

Dennis spirit

Natasha Ayivor, Royal Mail said: ”For seven decades Dennis has been entertaining children by getting into all manner of mischief and mayhem. Generations have experienced the excitement and anticipation of reading about Dennis’s latest prank. Royal Mail is delighted to be honouring Dennis and Gnasher with a set of stamps as the ultimate birthday present.”

Royal Mail collaborated with Beano Studios on selecting all the stamps and associated imagery featured in the issue. Mike Stirling, Editorial Director of Beano Studios said: “Dennis has stamped his personality across first class laughs and mischief for generations of children. We believe everyone has a little bit of the Dennis spirit within them, so can’t wait for fans big and small to take delivery of this amazing piece of Dennis history. This incredible stamp collection really pushes the envelope of philately flattery for our hero.”

The stamps and range of collectible products are available from:

Full programme for Piping Live! unveiled as tickets for in-person shows go on sale

The full suite of programmed activity for Glasgow’s Piping Live! festival has been unveiled, with a number of exciting in-person shows confirmed to go ahead as part of the nine-day event.

The world’s biggest piping festival will take a hybrid approach for 2021, combining performances at The National Piping Centre alongside a rich programme of online concerts.

Now in its 18th year and taking place from 7th – 15th August 2021, Piping Live! will be a celebration of piping, packed full of world-class performances, music sessions, recitals, competitions, book launches and workshops.

With thanks to Glasgow Life and EventScotland for their continued support, Piping Live! offers its unique mix of Scottish and international performances. Tickets for both online and in-person shows start at £5, up to £17.50, while online festival passes are now available for £65.

The ticketed concerts will be seated and socially distanced. The venue will undergo extensive cleaning and ongoing COVID safety checks, with enhanced hygiene measures in place in strict adherence to government guidelines.

In-person concerts include the majority of evening shows including the iconic 55th Annual Silver Chanter Event on Saturday 7th August. The Silver Chanter will see six top players – Stuart Liddell (2020 Silver Chanter Winner), Iain Speirs, Finlay Johnston, Glenn Brown, Callum Beaumont and Angus MacColl – perform MacCrimmon Piobaireachd for this black tie concert.

The popular Lunchtime Recital Series returns with performances from Angus Nicolson, Dr Angus MacDonald, James MacKenzie and Fred Morrison, while sessions from emerging talent will take place on four afternoons involving Bradley Parker, Dougal McKiggan, Alastair MacLean and Malin Lewis, in collaboration with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Piobaireachd of the Day recitals, sponsored by the Piobaireachd Society, will welcome Dr Jack Taylor, Robert Wallace, Capt Stuart Samson and William Geddes to perform and discuss interpretation and delivery of this great music.

Evening performances from the Lowland & Borders Pipers’ Society on Sunday 8th August, and the multi-instrumental duo of Mairearad Green & Anna Massie and Scottish supergroup Mànran on Monday 9th August, will be available to watch in person for a lucky limited number.

A Scottish Pipe Band Showcase, featuring a combination of quartets and pipe and drum duos from five Grade 1 pipe bands, will take place on Tuesday 10th August. While the Pipe Major Alasdair Gillies Memorial Piping Competition, will see five top soloists perform a medley of their favourite tunes in a 25-minute set on Thursday 12th August.

The Masters Solo Piping Competition will take place throughout the day on Wednesday 11th August in front of audiences in Glasgow and streamed globally. This prestigious competition is a qualifying event for the Glenfiddich Piping Championship which will take place in October this year.

Folkie Friday, supported by PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund, will see the TRYST pipers premiere five brand-new pieces of music from top composers Donald Shaw, Martin Green, Patsy Reid, Rachel Newton and Mike Vass. Kinnaris Quintet, who draw on an array of Irish, Scottish and bluegrass influences, will join TRYST for Friday’s festivities. Finishing the nine-day festival in style on Sunday 15th August will be traditional music trio Hecla and neo-trad trio Project Smok.

There are also a raft of exclusive, online only content through the week. On Sunday 8th August there will be a showcase from piping students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Programmed and produced by the outgoing fourth year students, it will feature sets from each year group, with an emphasis on music sourced from different era’s in the history of piping.

On Monday 9th August learners will have the opportunity to play along at home with a Come & Try Pipes online session, while four piping book launches will also be available to watch online.

Sessions will be back on the menu thanks to Karafolkie. Curated by Jenn Butterworth, these lively pre-recorded sessions will give people the chance to play along with some of the best musicians on the Scottish music scene. Ross Ainslie and Adam Sutherland will kick off on Monday, followed up by a session from Bradley Parker and Brianna Wilson on Tuesday. Thursday will be one to remember from Finlay MacDonald and Marie Fielding.

Piping Live! prides itself on being at the centre of the international piping community and year on year it extends a hand of musical friendship to artists and audiences across the world. The line-up for this year’s international showcases will include exclusive performances from Breton multi-instrumentalist Enora Morice, acclaimed Canadian piper Matt MacIsaac, the inimitable Irish trio of Mick O’Brien, Emer Mayock and Aoife Ní Bhriain and Estonia’s Torupilli Jussi Trio.

On Saturday 15th August The National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland’s pre-recorded event will demonstrate the exciting and novel ways in which this young group has adapted their practice over the past year.

While the festival will close in spectacular style with the internationally renowned Gordon Duncan Memorial Competition on Sunday 15th August. This unique event continues to celebrate the late-great Gordon’s links to Scotland, Ireland and Brittany and for the first time this year will be extended to a piper from the rest of the world.

Ross Ainslie, Scotland, Scott Wallace,Northern Ireland, Xavier Boderiou.Brittany and Lincoln Hilton, Australia, will each play sets of Scottish, Irish and Breton music. They will be judged by an international panel, with the overall winner named the best player of all three musical styles.

The festival’s Street Café will move inside for 2021, giving people the chance to sample some great Scottish food and drink including Brew Dog beer, while an outdoor bar will allow people to drop in for a drink.

The educational element of the festival, Learn @ Live! will host a series of workshops and masterclasses through the week, with sessions from top names such as Roddy MacLeod, Colin MacLellan, John Mulhearn and Andrea Gobbi, Donald MacPhee and many more.

Finlay MacDonald, Artistic Director for Piping Live!, said: “This year we’ve adapted and innovated, responding to the world around us to ensure we can continue to provide a platform for the world’s best pipers and other traditional artists. We will also welcome audiences at home and around the globe online to enjoy this year’s Piping Live!.

“We have a fantastic mix performances, competitions, sessions, book launches, learning opportunities and international collaborations on offer over the nine days and it will be a joy to bring this to life safely. Thanks to everyone who continues to support Piping Live! – our supporters, the musicians we work with and our loyal audiences – we can’t wait to see you all either in person or online this August.”

Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life and Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council said: “For many people, starved of watching music performances in person for so long, the programme for Piping Live offers them the chance to get back to enjoying something they love. The opportunity to hear live performances in Glasgow or experience the events virtually offers piping fans the best of both worlds. The quality of the festival programme is a strong reminder of why Glasgow is the place to enjoy piping in August and I expect will be hugely appreciated and enjoyed in the venues and online.”

Annually welcoming over 30,000 attendees to Glasgow, organisers of Piping Live! hope the festival’s hybrid offering will appeal to the international audience they would usually see attending the festival will giving some people closer to open the chance to experience live piping music again. Online shows will be available to view for one week after they are first streamed.

Piping Live! will run from Saturday 7th – Sunday 15th August 2021. View the full programme now at

World record attempt at the 2021 Montreal Highland Games

The Montreal Highland Games 2021 virtual event will host a Guinness World Record attempt at the most caber tosses, while raising funds to support the Building Hope movement at the Douglas Hospital Foundation.

On August 1, 2021, the Montreal Highland Games are counting on history happening. Montreal-born Jason Baines will attempt to smash the world record for the most caber tosses in 60 minutes. The current record stands at 122 tosses by fellow Canadian Kevin Fast. To qualify as a successful toss, the caber must be thrown up in the air at such an angle that the top end hits the ground, allowing the caber to flip end over end. A caber must be a minimum of 14 feet 7 inches in length and weigh at least 55 pounds.

Brian MacKenzie, President of the Montreal Highland Games, says, “Our theme this year is ‘See US in 2021—see YOU in 2022!’ Given the uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, we sadly cannot host a live event this year. Instead, we will be broadcasting Montreal’s very own Jason Baines’s attempt to beat the current Guinness World Record for tossing the most cabers in one hour!” The event will also include an online demonstration from some of our local Highland dancers, a limited competition for three levels of bagpipe contestants to be judged by Bob Worrall, a traditional Address to the Haggis, and more. Kelly Alexander of Virgin Radio’s The Kelly Alexander Show will be emceeing the event. Montreal Highland Games are partnering with the Burgundy Lion pub, located in Montreal’s Little Burgundy, to provide Scottish-themed dinners for purchase and pickup.

Join for an hour of Scottish fun LIVE on August 1, 2021 at 6 p.m. This event is FREE and will be streamed live on the Montreal Highland Games YouTube channel (

The 2021 Bonnie Wingham Scottish Festival

After a long break between events the Bonnie Wingham Scottish Festival returned in June to Wingham, New South Wales. Thousands of people came out to enjoy a full day of entertainment and activities for the whole family. This year’s honoured Clan was Clan MacPherson and the Chieftain, was Col. John Macpherson. This years event was a great success with crowds coming from across NSW to enjoy this free community event and again connect with the Scottish community at a day of pipe bands, musicians, Clans, re-enactors, stalls and more.

Wingham is a small township 20min drive west of Taree on the beautiful mid-north coast of New South Wales. It is situated on the banks of the Manning River and represents the furthest navigational point of the river. Wingham has had a long history of Scottish influence, beginning with the settling of Scottish immigrants in the early 1800s.

The next Bonnie Wingham Scottish Festival will take place in June, 2022. For details see:

Amateur Archaeologists shine a light on 10,000 years of Dumfries & Galloway’s history

Participants in a community archaeology project have made discoveries that tell a story of people living on what is now the Threave Estate near Castle Douglas, 10,000 years ago in the Mesolithic period, a time when hunter-gatherers roamed and Scotland’s flora and fauna were flourishing again following the last Ice Age. The Galloway Glens community archaeology project Can You Dig It carried out a ten-day dig on the National Trust for Scotland’s Threave Garden and Estate in the summer of 2019. They unearthed many finds at the time, including a lead shot from the 16th to 18th century and some flints from the late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age.

Mesolithic period

Can You Dig It volunteers enjoying their work at Threave in 2019.

However, since then, some of the carbonised material recovered has been sent away for radiocarbon dating at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC), and the dates they have revealed are fascinating.  It has long been known that Little Wood Hill on the National Trust for Scotland’s Threave Estate is the location of a significant archaeological site, with the remains of a D-shaped enclosure on top of the hill first recognised on aerial photographs taken in the late 1940s.

It wasn’t until work carried out under Derek Alexander, Head of Archaeology for the National Trust for Scotland, on a Thistle Camp in 2014 that the enclosure was revealed to date back to the Iron Age. The Can You Dig It excavation sought to build on this work, while at the same time transferring key technical skills to volunteers.  A sample recovered by the volunteers from the end of the ditch, where it marked the eastern side of an entranceway, has now been dated to between AD 75 to 214 – firmly within the Iron Age. This confirms the date recovered by the Thistle Camp, which has been recalibrated using the most recent program (IntCal20) to between 41 BC and AD 125.

What our Iron Age ancestors would have used the enclosure for is still a mystery – it may have been a small farmstead, a livestock enclosure or a defensive position within the landscape. Whatever the site’s purpose, its expansive views over the flatlands of the Threave Estate, and its links to the outer world guaranteed by the passing river, makes the site of Little Wood Hill an excellent choice for any Iron Age settler. However, the Can You Dig It volunteers also unearthed a tiny burnt hazelnut shell. This has been dated to between 8,547 and 8,312 BC – evidence of human activity on the Threave Estate from the Mesolithic period.

Derek Alexander, Head of Archaeology for the National Trust for Scotland, said: “Over the years we have gradually built up an understanding of past human activity at Threave throughout prehistory and history. This radiocarbon date for Mesolithic activity is really exciting, as it is the first evidence we have from this time and is the earliest date recovered at Threave so far. It’s great that the Thistle Camp and Can You Dig It volunteers have been able to be part of this process of delivery too.”

Loch Lomond Stadial

Discovered on prehistoric sites across the country, hazelnuts have long been established as a favourite snack of the Mesolithic people. The people of Galloway at that time would have lived nomadically, moving between water and food sources as they became available.

Traces of human habitation within Scotland go back to around 12,000 BC, within the Upper Palaeolithic, but a period known as the ‘Loch Lomond Stadial’ saw a dramatic climatic downturn in Scotland around 10,900 BC. This abrupt return to severe cold conditions, which caused the regrowth of glaciers and likely caused a complete depopulation of Scotland during this time.  By around 9,700 BC, however, the glaciers and ice-sheets had receded and human life began to return to Scotland.  It is possible that the people who burnt this nutshell at Threave could have been amongst the first to re-populate the country.

Claire Williamson of Rathmell Archaeology, who is delivering Can You Dig It for the Galloway Glens said: “The results from these two dates continue to add to the surprises that have already come from this little-known site. Having the Iron Age date of the enclosure confirmed was what we were hoping for, but to also have this small indication of Mesolithic life on the estate is amazing. This could not have been possible without the hard work of the volunteers, who’s enthusiasm for the archaeology never faltered, even in high winds! It’s great to see how, even at this stage, the results of their hard work continue to add to our archaeological knowledge of the area.”

Can You Dig It is managed by Helen Keron, the Galloway Glens Education & Community Engagement Officer. Helen added: “Even as a non-archaeologist, the importance of these finds is clear to me. They show the unbroken line from our modern society right back to the very beginnings of human residence in Galloway. Even the tiniest traces give us an insight into how life was for our ancestors, and that’s a big part of what Can You Dig It is all about.”

Dr Samuel Gallacher, Operations Manager for the National Trust for Scotland’s Threave Garden and Estate, said: “We love to surprise our many visitors with unexpected discoveries and stories at Threave and finding out about this new evidence of our very ancient history will no doubt fascinate many.  We always want to inspire people with the thought of what is still out there to be discovered, and with such great partnerships as we have with the Galloway Glens Scheme’s Can You Dig It initiative, who knows what we’ll unearth next!”

Former Cold War Bunker in Edinburgh gets A Listed

A former RAF Caledonian Sector Operations Centre at Barnton Quarry has been awarded Category-A listed building status by Historic Environment Scotland (HES). The site was nominated by The Barnton Quarry Restoration Project, a community group involved in restoring the building as a unique piece of cold war history in the heart of Edinburgh. Category-A listed building status is awarded to buildings of special architectural or historical interest which are outstanding examples of a particular period, style or building type.

The buildings are a well-preserved physical reminder of two significant global periods of conflict that helped define the 20th century (World War II and the Cold War), and in both cases many of their contemporary related structures have been either heavily altered or demolished, further adding to the significance of these surviving examples. The site was highly fortified by design with 10ft (3m) thick concrete walls and roof to provide protection for the occupants against Soviet fighter-bomber attack.

Philp Robertson, Deputy Head of Designations at Historic Environment Scotland (HES) said: “We are delighted to list the Cold War Rotor Radar System bunker in Barnton after the nomination by The Barnton Quarry Restoration Project, the local community group restoring the building. Listing at Category A recognises the special architectural and historic interest of this building. As one of only four purpose-built radar system headquarters of its type in the UK, the Barnton building is a very rare survival from the Cold War.”

Eden Project signs agreement for preferred Dundee site

The Eden Project has signed a memorandum of understanding with the owners of its preferred site for Eden Project Dundee and released the first image of how it might look. The agreement between Eden, National Grid and SGN will kick off a period in which the partners will explore the practicalities of converting the former Dundee Gasworks on East Dock Street into the Eden Project’s home in Scotland.

The site is set back from the Dundee waterfront on the bank of the River Tay. It has good public transport links, the potential for a new pedestrian connection to the city centre and is less than a mile away from V&A Dundee and the train station.

The existing tall brick walls on the site suggested to the Eden team the potential to create walled gardens, making for a striking contrast to the industrial heritage of the Gasworks. Eden envisages this as a powerful symbol of regeneration, echoing the project’s home in Cornwall which is located in a former clay quarry. Building Eden Project Dundee in this location would also provide an eastern anchor for the Dundee Waterfront regeneration project. Eden Project Dundee will draw on the history of the city’s Nine Incorporated Trades and is themed around nine new “Guilds” – of Healers, Growers, Navigators, Myth-Makers, Noticers, Alchemists, Celebrators, Menders and “Re-Sourcerors”.

Scottish home

David Harland, Eden Project International Chief Executive, said: “This is a really exciting moment for the Eden Project and the City of Dundee. The former Dundee Gasworks site is by far the best location for our Scottish home and we’re delighted to have a formal agreement in place to start working on a detailed plan. The feasibility study was like nothing we’ve ever worked on before, coming as it did during lockdown. Against all the odds, the hard work and dedication of our partners in Dundee shone through – even when we could only talk to them through a computer screen, their passion for the project, their city and country was palpable. Alongside the generous engagement of local businesses and community groups, this has come together, such that we now have a project with genuine air under its wings.”

Eden Project Dundee is one of a sisterhood of UK projects Eden Project International is developing, with plans well advanced for Morecambe (Eden Project North), and others proposed in Derry/Londonderry and Portland. Eden’s global portfolio of projects includes developments in China, Australia, New Zealand and Costa Rica.

Like every Eden Project around the world, Eden Project Dundee will be transformational and regenerative with an overarching theme of humanity’s connection to the natural world. Eden predicts that the project will create 200 jobs (with an additional 300 indirectly created) and contribute £27m per year to the regional economy.