Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

July 2016 (Vol. 40, Number 1)

The Banner Says…

40 years on!

The front page of this issue of the Scottish Banner, is one I never thought I would see. It announces it is the 40th Anniversary of this publication. When first we started publishing I never would have dreamed we would have continued to see such a long anniversary!

The first edition

I recall when printing our first edition back in 1976. Well! Just printing that issue seemed to take almost half a year. Living in Canada at the time, as I did, I thought starting such a publication for ex-pat Scots should first be presented at a Scottish event. A rather big Scottish event. But where? In those days we were just a Canadian distribution, so my choices were smaller than they would be today, distributing across Canada, U.S., as well as Australia and New Zealand. While choosing where to first distribute the publication, I compared the time of year (summertime). What happens then? Highland Games, of course.

The launch

The next question was – which one? After a quick study of those available to me, I decided Fergus Highland Games was one of the largest in Ontario and was also close to Toronto. Prior to making a final decision on this location, I called staff at the Fergus Highland Games to ensure I had their approval. Pleased with their answer I made plans accordingly. After a long and arduous press time, and with that first July edition finally printed, the morning of Fergus Highland Games gates opened up with myself at the entry gate handing complimentary Scottish Banner’s out to those arriving inside the Games area. Of course, nobody had ever seen a Scottish newspaper in Ontario – unless it was imported, and so everyone had the same question. “What’s this?” they asked. When told it was a newspaper for ex-pat Scots, they looked at me scornfully. “No such thing”, they said. “Maybe for the English. Not for us Scots”. I responded by urging them to take a copy to see for themselves. After looking at the Banner for a moment they walked away quietly. It was simply that- all day long. When it was over I knew it was too early to see how it had really gone. For that I would have to wait and see. Fortunately my answer was not long in coming back to me.

The Scottish Banner takes flight

Monday morning the phone in the office started ringing before 7am – unusually early for us. It continued all day long reminding myself to order more than the two lines I currently used. I also needed help to answer phones, as I was overwhelmed with the amount of activity in the office that day. These calls were mainly subscription requests, advertising enquiries were very popular also, certainly two things I needed. I was taken by surprise by the activity of the office after only one Highland games – yet, I reminded myself, I planned on attending many more -and so I had to be ready. Driving home from the Games that Saturday night I was both elated and exhausted. I thought the day had been a success and after meeting more people than I ever imagined possible, had many positive comments on the publication, I felt the Scottish Banner had won the day. Yet, in spite of the success of that memorable day, new concerns were already being considered. A second issue now had to be worked on. Distributors had to be met. Writers needed to know deadlines for the next issue. Also, unlike before, the phones in the office were now ringing off the hook-not only from subscribers, but also advertisers and, just simply, curiosity seekers. Suddenly the office had come ‘alive’, and I was increasingly concerned about how the next issue would ever get to press. On time? Yes, of course it did. As have hundreds of other issues ever since.

Those early days

Those early days were full of surprises. I could never have dreamed how many people I would meet, either physically, by telephone, or through the mail after being introduced through the Banner. To my amazement some of these were very famous names, while others were well-wishers who simply wanted the Banner to succeed. Letters came from across Canada, U.S.A and Scotland itself. I particularly recall one letter from Scotland not long after we first started printing. The writer informed us that he had just discovered the Scottish Banner, which he enjoyed greatly. He also wondered if we would be interested in an article from him? I continued reading through the letter. When I read the name of the writer I was shocked. It was none other than Nigel Tranter. I held the letter thoughtfully, while looking at his name. I reminded myself this man’s name has gone down in Scottish writing history – where it will remain for many years to come. Of course, I was thrilled to respond positively to his suggestion. Shortly thereafter Nigel was writing a monthly column for the Scottish Banner, which was very happily received by both myself and our readers. Sadly this great man left our world in the year 2000. Yet while he was here, we were proud to call him a Banner writer. He was a man who, through his many novels ‘lived’ the lives of all the kings of Scotland, as well as notables including William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, and others. When speaking to me one time Nigel advised, “The problem is the next stage”. When I questioned this he responded by saying, “Well, that is when I will meet the people I have been writing about. They will question me by asking ‘What is that you wrote about me, eh?…..” Nigel was more than a gifted writer, he was one of Scotland’s finest sons, and is missed today not only by us, but many thousands around the world. Who recalls that old radio programme Life with the Lyons, back in the 50’s. As the Scots maid in the Lyons family, Molly Weir delighted listeners with her weekly programmes about a Scot living life with an American family while in the U.K. Molly also became a Scottish Banner writer later, whose articles were a great success with readers.

Today’s Scottish Banner writers

Today we have still other wonderful writers. A true and good friend for many years Lady Fiona MacGregor has blessed our pages with interesting articles for some time. As I write I understand she and husband Sir Malcolm are currently in Australia. My good wishes go to them on their journey. In spite of living in Australia, Jim Stoddart brings his many years of Scottish upbringing into the Banner pages each month, and is much appreciated. I must also mention What’s In A Name columnist, Ron Dempsey, who is the longest running columnist of all. We are fortunate to have contributions from across three continents giving a true Scottish global outlook from a diverse range of writers and media partners. Yes, my forty years with the Banner has given me an interesting and varied way of life, meeting many interesting and famous people many of whom I might otherwise never met. Royalty seems to have visited Ontario in the mid-70’s more so than today. I recall visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia and chatting with the Queen while on board. I found Her Majesty such a warm, genuine, and comfortable lady to speak to, that when she spoke so highly of her Scottish grandmother, I had to remind myself that she was actually speaking of Queen Victoria. Of course there have been many, many, deadlines, with many (but not all), having been met.

A world class publication

When my son, Sean graduated from university, many years ago he toured the world to decide where he wanted to live. I was thrilled when he took the Scottish Banner to Australasia for distribution there. In doing so he has become a huge help to me here in North America. The Banner helps us keep a little closer – in spite of many miles between us. My thanks to you – our readers, advertisers and friends for bearing with us for these many years. Today you are more than Scottish Banner readers – you, like Sean, are family we visit once a month, and just like other family we know you are always there – as part of us.
Finally, I would like to thank the many people who have sent us congratulatory messages on page 3 and 15 and helping to celebrate this anniversary. They include many close friends and warm memories, thank you all.

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

June 2016 (Vol. 39, Number 12)

The Banner Says…

Like many Scottish Banner readers I also am an immigrant, arriving in Canada as I did, with my parents many years ago. For me it was a very difficult and unhappy experience. Why? At the time I was leaving my friends-and in particular my boyfriend, who made my life in the U.K, a very happy place to be. Of course our family had discussed the ‘big move’ many times, and yes, at the time I too thought it was a good decision. But as the time went by and I realised the importance of ‘leaving my friends’, so soon, things changed a little.
I arrived in Canada missing both my British lifestyle and my friends. That was way back in the 50’s, and as we all know, as we grow older, things change greatly in life. Today I am happily both as a U.S., as well as a Canadian citizen. And I love both. Yet I was particularly interested in an article in a recent Scottish newspaper about a Glasgow primary school. An article which I felt I had a lot in common with.

The school in the article was the Annette Street Primary School, situated in Govan, Glasgow, Scotland, and the ethnic profile of the students attending this school may not include a single child born to conventional white Scottish parents. Yet the children who populate the diverse roll, many who were born on these shores, are keenly aware of the culture of their city, country, homeland and heritage, as well as those of their classmates. The school is in an area with a proud history of migration where many migrants of Irish or Polish families once settled in their search for a new life. The teachers are from Scotland, England, Europe and Pakistan – probably reflecting on the birth countries of their students. The schools 129 year old walls are filled with a multi-lingual diaspora and prides itself on the colourful studies on many Scottish subjects along with a corridor of stairs decorated with projects on the life and legacy of Robert Burn, there are pictures of Hebridean island life – signed by each pupil. The teacher, who is also a former pupil will end her association with the school, which stretches back five decades when she retires at the end of this academic year Her classes, pupils from Ben Nevis are striving to out-do each other in a race to name as many lochs as possible. Safwan, an 11 -year old Celtic supporter from Pakistan, and Hamreeb, a Rangers supporter of the same age from Glasgow, are part of a group of boys discussing the legend of the Scottish Kelpie. “It’s a hybrid of a fish and a horse”, offers one.

Eco-Schools

Another classmate, 10-year old Daniela, from Brazil, can recount the mythology behind the ree, the fish and the bird on the bell a feat many a born and bred Glaswegian might struggle with. She then tells how she went to Hampden to see Scotland play Denmark in March, singing the national anthem on the way – causing one Glasgow wife to tears. In her office – with the door bearing the words “Head Teacher” in nine different languages – Shirley has just waved a bus-load of kids off on an outing to Finlaystone Country Estate in Renfrewshire, on a language and environmental trip. Another group are on a litter-picking mission, collecting rubbish from the nearby streets. Cambuslang Park is looking better after its spring clean.

The school was the first in Glasgow to earn a Green Flag for Eco-Schools environmentalism (Eco-Schools is an international initiative designed to encourage whole-school action on sustainable development education issues). It currently has six. Shirley said, “We have children who are Scottish Pakistani, we have Roma children who were born in Scotland, and although their families might originate in Slovakia, Romania or elsewhere, we very much view them as Scottish. But to me, it’s actually not important which children were born in Scotland. We do a lot of work in the school about Scotland and Glasgow. We get the kids out and around Glasgow, we teach them about their city, their country. We educate them about Scottish culture and traditions but not at the expense of their own. There’s a commonality of language used in the school. We look for ways to develop them in all sorts of ways. Citizenship is a huge part of that. Our children take small steps and make huge achievements with them”.

Despite the right-wing sneering, the crowdfunding is on target to raise more than six thousand pounds in a week. There will be more playground equipment and more educational trips. Unlike some Scots, these kids can sing all three verses of Flower of Scotland. They sing our-their-national anthem with obvious pride. Theirs is the voice of a modern country. Wherever they go, Scotland will be a part of their story. And they are a welcome part of ours.

Dundee

In this issue we are also highlighting in our series of Scottish cities and regions, Dundee. One of Scotland’s (and the UK’s) fastest changing places. A new creative hub and an amazing waterfront development is being created. The project is being led by Dundee City Council, Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government. The success of this long-term project, which commenced in 2001, is already starting to show with new buildings and businesses emerging and major attractions, such as V&A Dundee, promising great potential for the future. Dundee was long known for the three J’s- jam, jute and journalism. Today the city of discovery and design is a forward thinking city on the move and we are excited to watch Dundee reinvent itself and play its role in the story of Scotland.

For more information or to help with the Annette Street Primary School Crowdfunding Project: see: www.annettestreet-pri.glasgow.sch.uk.

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

May 2016 (Vol. 39, Number 11)

The Banner Says…

Scotland’s icons

Scotland is known for many iconic things from bagpipes, castles, history, great inventors, music, its people and great scenery to name just a few. Few however will think of Scotland without kilts and tartan. Tartan Day has just been celebrated across North America and plans are under way for celebrations in the Southern Hemisphere on July 1st, the cloth of our nation continues to be popular across the world. Whilst whisky is enjoyed by millions around the world and is another icon of Scotland and her people and this month Whisky Month is being celebrated across Scotland and World Whisky Day is seeing people raise a glass on May 21st.

Tartan-The cloth of a nation

Tartan, what beauty this fabric exudes. Of all national symbols tartan is probably the world’s most widely recognized and acceptable of fabrics. It can be fashioned into clothing, including a wide range of traditional garments both worldwide and at home. Tartan is a very useful Scottish cloth. In Gaelic it is known as “braecan” meaning a particolored or speckled, otherwise coarse fabric or wool, linen or cotton. It is composed of different coloured wools woven into a distinctive patterns known as a ‘sett’. Few Scots, or those of Scottish descent, fail to be stirred by tartan. This cloth is made of varying coloured wools, woven into a distinctive pattern of stripes and checks – also known as a sett. It is a symbol of patriotism which few Scots or those of Scottish descent, fail to be stirred by. Ever since the 1500’s, and to this day, British royalty still like to be seen wearing tartan on appropriate occasions. Very soon the Braemar Gathering, taking place each September, and which the Royal Family like to attend, usually wearing the Balmoral tartan at the event. This tartan was designed around 1848 by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort. Another tartan, the Royal Stewart, is said to be exclusive to the British sovereign, although eight other Scottish families are entitled to wear other variations of it.

Historical factors

The present popularity tartan enjoys, is due to a number of historical factors. One of these is when Bonnie Prince Charlie made his aborted bid for the British throne in 1745. This is also when a legendary figure was born. He caught the attention of Brits worldwide, he helped Scots became ‘fashionable’ – even romantic! Soon a tailor from Edinburgh, decided to advertise “Tartans in the newest patterns”. This enterprise swelled the ranks of tartans setts from fifty-five in 1831, to more than a thousand today. Queen Victoria fell in love with both the country of Scotland and the tartan itself, when she visited there in 1855. Shortly after that Prince Albert’s Balmoral Castle was resplendent with tartan carpets, sofas, and chairs. It was during that time, tartan became the fabric of choice for many crinolines. Today tartan is an accepted form of dress, not only in Scotland, but in other parts of the world also. Men don the kilt and women wear tartan sashes, secured by brooches over their shoulder. The most popular tartan has been for many years, and still is the Black Watch. Strictly speaking, tartan of any kind can only be worn by those who claim the historical right or ‘belong’ to a particular Scottish clan. Yet tartan is a proud and sturdy link between Sots. There’s a colour a sett, and a tale, behind each and every one. Few countries can carry signs of their birthright on their clothing, and yet Scots can. Many family names are connected to their own tartan. Its part of being Scottish and part of showing pride in their heritage. Watch this space for some exciting news from us here at the Scottish Banner regarding tartan in an upcoming issue.

Water of life

Another Scottish icon we cannot forget is whisky, also known as the water of life (or uisge beatha in Gaelic). May in Scotland is Whisky Month and many people will also be celebrating World Whisky Day on May 21st. In this issue we have literally poured you a “whisky flavoured” edition highlighting the drop that has made Scotland famous. Whisky is big business for Scotland and as the nation spends this month celebrating you can raise your glass to whisky, which is produced and right across Scotland and enjoyed around the world. Whisky is part of Scotland’s business, social and tourism footprint and includes such a special history for Scotland. We hope you enjoy learning more about World Whisky Day, Whisky Month and the great architecture which blends together in celebration of Scotland’s spirit.

Celebrating 40 years

And finally it is hard to believe but we here at the Scottish Banner will soon be celebrating 40 years of monthly publication this July. Since 1976 thousands of ex-pat Scots and those of Scottish descent have been getting the Scottish Banner in order to connect with home and one another. So much has changed in since we began and the Scottish Banner family is certainly wider now than when we began. We would like any readers who have a Scottish Banner story to tell to share with us. Where did you first find the Banner? Has the paper helped you connect with anyone? Have you found a recipe for a favourite family dish in our pages? Have you celebrated your Scottish heritage or attended a Scottish event listed in our pages? We would love to hear from readers on how the Scottish Banner has helped you or been a part of your life. Please share your thoughts with us either via our web site or email or post your nearest office and together let’s celebrate 40 years!

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

April 2016 (Vol. 39, Number 10)

The Banner Says…

Highland games-A celebration of Scotland

Having email has made the world a much smaller place and we are able to communicate quite freely with those close to us, wherever in the world they may be, providing of course they have electronics and electricity to ‘plug in’ to. Yet while we happily use our up to date devices in our homes and offices, we do continue to enjoy many of our older traditions. In this particular situation I refer to the old Scots tradition of highland games.

Started by clan chiefs

It is believed these festivals were started by clan chiefs in Scotland who held athletic competitions to support claims of superiority between Scottish clans, each chief claiming his men were stronger and faster than that of his rival.  This fierce rivalry has been traced all the way back to King Malcolm Canmore’s reign-as far back as the 11th century. In those long ago days the king would be in attendance at all athletic highland games competitions. Those found to be the strongest would eventually become the king’s messengers. Highland games hill races go all the way back to King Malcom’s reign. Although written documentation cannot be found, stories shared over the centuries indicate that these first races may have been held to determine the most fit to act as couriers for the King. Since the traditional Highlander cannot be traced back farther than the 14th century, one could surmise that the first highland games foot races were between area peasants with clansmen simply in attendance.

The Braemar Gathering

Legend also tells us that there were quite a few clans at these highland gatherings. One in particular was called the Braemar Gathering, which was a particularly special highland event for a couple of reasons. One was the location! It is well suited for being a hunting ground, therefore allowing hunting to be part of the event. Plus it was located in the hills, an excellent place for gathering locals. Braemar Gathering itself has the added attraction of having The Chieftain of the Braemar Gathering as Her Majesty the Queen, and for this very special Chieftain Her Majesty ensures the highland games are highly attended each year. International athletes will be among those taking part in the heavy and track events. Today those of us connected to highland games in any way are very aware of the name Braemar as it has become a special place in Scottish highland games and culture even today.

 

Contests between Scottish clans

There are also those who believe that these initial highland games were no more than simple contests between Scottish clans. They were more a ‘rite of passage’. Some of some of these which the heavy events competitors added, such as caber tossing. Highland games have been held regularly for hundreds of years, from their inception in the 11th century. With the defeat of the Jacobite uprising, the British imposed the Act of Proscription, essentially outlawing the Scots culture, music and way of life. Even the kilt was banned during that time. Upon being held hostage by an oppressive British regime, many Scots immigrated to the colonies, either voluntarily or by force. This resulted in the traditions of highland games being spread to other British colonies including North America and Australasia. It was in the year 1819 in the Canadian town of Maxville, Ontario, the first highland games took place in the Americas.  In pre-civil war in America, Highland Games were routinely held in four locations only – they being Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Newark, N.J.  In those early American highland games days there were just between twelve and twenty events to be watched during the festival. Some of them can still be seen even today, such as, hammer throw, caber toss and highland dancing. Detroit holds the title today of the oldest continuous games in North America, whilst in Australia Victoria’s Maryborough Highland Gathering has been conducted each New Year since its formation in 1857 and on New Zealand’s North Island the Turakina Highland Games began in 1864.

Scottish heavy events

Soon after the Games were started in North America money became a factor. Cash prizes were being offered to winners of competitions. The Scottish heavy events have always been one of the most watched events at highland games, but the heavy events athletes had to be paid in order to attract more attendees to the event.  This resulted in the games having to charge admission.  Highland athletes soon spread throughout the west coast. Today Pleasanton, California hosts its own highland games as well as the US Caber Tossing Championships, the Heavy Events Championships, and several other highland games related competitions. This month will also see heavy events put to the test at the Brigadoon Challenge which will take place at the Bundanoon Highland Gathering in the NSW Southern Highlands of Australia.

The heavy events that make up most highland games, include the Scottish hammer throw and the 56 pound weight throw. The caber toss may be the most fascinating of the highland games events as it is both simple and demanding. Its origins can likely be traced back to Scottish loggers. While some believe that the event can be traced back to the loggers need to flip trees for their work. Other suggest that this activity had nothing to do with work related tasks, but was rather simply a measure to brute strength and a test of manliness. Either way, spectator’s fascination with this event is undeniable, and one could easily consider the highland games to be the best of Scottish sports and a sort of heavy event Olympics. Today highland games events are held across Scotland and the world some time or another. Scottish Banner readers can see our events page for a plethora of Scottish events such as highland games taking place both near and far. We hope readers make plans to attend these fantastic family events and support the great work these events do for the Scottish community.

Tartan Day

This month across North America on April 6th Tartan Day will be celebrated and we encourage everyone to wear some tartan on this day. This is the 30th anniversary of this fantastic event which has its roots in Nova Scotia, Canada. Started by Jean MacKaracher-Watson and her husband Andrew the event has grown to be celebrated across North America and acknowledged by parliament for the great achievements Scots have had on the development of Canada and the USA. Our Australian and New Zealand readers can of course wear some tartan on April 6th but they will celebrate Tartan Day on July 1st. April also sees Outlander return to screens across the world and you will find some great Outlander content in this issue including our interview with Outlander star Sam Heughan. April certainly is looking to be another great month to celebrate Scotland!

 

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

March 2016 (Vol. 39, Number 9)March 2016 (Vol. 39, Number 9)

The Banner Says…

Celebrating our Celtic cousins

What an amazing month March is, just as we are getting over St Andrew’s Day in November, then Robert Burns events in January-suddenly here we are in March-with not one but two special days to acknowledge and celebrate!

St David

The first one comes very soon in the month. March 1st to be exact, for it is on this day that St David’s Day is celebrated. Who was St David and what exactly does he stand for? Well might you ask, as while he is the patron Saint of Wales, St David is not quite as well-known as another Saint who becomes very popular on the 17th of this month, St Patrick of Ireland. However, we do have some information on St David, one of these being the fact that he was born in Cardiganshire, and later became renowned as both a teacher and a preacher. He also became known as one who founded monastic settlements and churches in both Wales and Brittany. St David stands on the site of the monastery he founded in the Glyn Rhosyn valley of Pembrokeshire. St David, like many other Saints, also performed miracles. The best known of these seemingly, took place while he was preaching in the middle of a large crowd in a Welsh village. While doing this, a white dove suddenly flew down and settled on his shoulder, a spectacle felt by his followers to be “conceived as a miracle”.

After this St David used a white dove as his emblem. Yet St David lived a simple life, his monastic rule prescribed that monks should pull the plough themselves without draught animals. They should also drink only water and eat only bread with salt and herbs. Further, they should spend their evenings in prayer, while also reading or writing. No personal possessions were allowed. Even to say “my book” was considered an offence. St David also taught his followers to refrain from eating meat or drinking beer. His symbol also is the same as Wales, the leek. Referenced further from Shakespeare’s Henry V, Act V scene, when a Welshman addressed the King as follows: “The Welshmen did good service in a garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps, which we know is an honourable badge of service and we take no scorn to wear the leek upon Saint Tavy’s day.” King Henry responded likewise, “I wear it for a memorable honour, for I am Welsh, you know good countrymen”. David lived for over 100 years and died on March 1st, now known as St David’s Day.

St Patrick

If the thought of a blustery, windswept March (for those in the Northern Hemisphere), doesn’t make you think of St Patrick’s Day, then the stores certainly will. From as early as mid-February, shamrocks, greeting cards, and “Erin Go Bragh” buttons will adorn store shelves, reminding us that our Irish celebration is just around the corner. On March 17th green beer will be sold in restaurants, green lines painted in the centre of streets, and Irish tunes played on the radio. It is indeed a great day for the Irish. But to look beyond the frivolity of St. Patrick’s Day, is to open a veritable Pandora’s box on the ancient Celtic culture, for it was during the Celt’s time that this day began. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, was born in Scotland of a British mother and Roman father. Later on he went to Ireland to teach Christianity to the pagan Irish. In doing so, he liked to use the shamrock with its three separate leaves coming from one spine as a symbol of the Holy Trinity.

Patrick died on March 17th, 493, but to this day his name is closely associated with the little green shamrock. When Patrick first arrived in Ireland, the Celts were rather wild people. They roamed throughout Britain and Europe, spreading their customs wherever they went. History has told us that these were a strange people who, on the one hand were savage warriors, but on the other loved to adorn themselves in life, as well as in death, with ornaments. Much of their ancient jewellery has been retrieved from old graves and are now, virtually priceless pieces in museums across Britain and Europe.

Some of their matrimonial laws might be as acceptable in today’s society as they were at the dawn of civilization. For instance, if a woman were richer than the man she married, she automatically ran the household herself. But if the marriage broke up the woman was allowed to take her property and riches with her, without any interference from her spouse. The women were recognized as equal to men, even at war where they could fight alongside them if they so wished, the ancient Queen Boadicea stands testimony to this.

The Celts

In spite of their reputation as barbaric fighters, the Celts were terribly afraid of some of their beliefs. Fairies, witches, warlocks and wizards were enough to strike fear into the most savage of Celtic hearts. Thus the night of Hallowe’en was by far the most sinister night of the Celtic year. For it was widely believed that this was the night the sun descended into darkness, fairy hills opened up and dead spirits roamed the earth casting evil where they may. It was indeed, a night to stay home. And yet not all of their beliefs were fearful, for it was the Celts who gave us the custom of kissing under the mistletoe. It is also due to the Celts that we have the festival ‘Midsummers Eve’, which is still celebrated in many parts of Britain today. The Celts themselves have long ago gone from this world. But they have left us much to remember them by. These include their ancient monuments Stonehenge being the most famous of all. It was during these days of the Celts, in another Ireland, that the first meaning and name of St Patrick’s Day arose.

Clydebank Blitz

Crossing over the years, as is so easy to do in print, we are reminded of yet another special happening in the past, the 75th anniversary of which takes place this month. I mention this as whilst it is by no means as holy as the forerunner of this article, it is however still something which today many people may still remember. The situation of which I speak is the Clydebank Blitz. Although it was a long time ago, I still believe there are those who can recall that terrible time in ours and Scotland’s life time. We revisit that terrible time in Scotland’s history in this edition and honour those impacted by those terrible events of March 1941.While I am certain those days were terrifying to millions of people, perhaps we should remind ourselves of the horror of war and pray together that we never experience that kind of horror again.

May we all enjoy another March with its two special days and thank you St Patrick and St David, two names from the past who we continue to honour today.

Are you celebrating St David’s Day or St Patrick’s Day? How do you think they compare with Scotland’s St Andrews Day? Tell us about your link to these great Celtic celebrations.

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

February 2016 (Vol. 39, Number 08)

The Banner Says…

Gretna Green-Scotland’s home of love

With Valentine’s Day almost here,  we take a look at the next step, Gretna Green!

The month of February brings with it a very special day-one that is full of warm feelings and love. That day of course, is the 14th, St Valentine’s Day. I well recall as a young girl, waking up that morning, and as our mail man usually delivered the mail prior to anybody getting out of bed, (remember those days?),  I would look down the stairs from my bedroom, and there, sure enough, were a handful of card size envelopes, which I hoped (and thought) may be Valentines cards. I bounded down the stairs and seized the envelopes, before running back up to my bedroom where I carefully opened each and every envelope to see who had taken the time to surprise me, on this, the most romantic of days with a Valentines card.

Of course, as I grew older, there were fewer cards as relationships occurred in those days which were more ‘one on one’, being a natural change from the school age relationships when numerous dates -none of which were serious, to those that came later. However, as we age, relationships continue to change. Life ‘happens’ and things often change whether or not we want them to. Others lives change, as well as our own be it due to health issues or simply just a move to another location.

The idyllic Scottish Borders

Yet as we are approaching this, the  most  romantic time of the year, let us spend a little time thinking about romance and other important issues of the heart.  Somewhat surprisingly, one of the main romantic locations happens to be in Scotland itself! I refer to the millions of runaway marriages over the years, not only from across the U.K.,  but also from across other parts of the world. This romantic and most unique part of the marital world is Gretna Green.

Why did Gretna Green become the worlds’ most romantic and favourite place for those wishing so  fervently  to marry – yet were unable to do so? Perhaps due  to parental feelings  (quite possibly the bride’s father), who would not give his daughter the permission she so badly wanted from him to marry her new loved one. In the 18th century English law lords approved new laws which tightened marriage arrangements quite considerably. This also meant that couples had to reach the age of 21 before they could marry without parental consent. Another big step for many was the fact that in those days marriages had to take place within a church.

Scottish laws however, were quite different and much more simple. They made many English couples decide that marrying at Gretna Green in the idyllic Scottish Borders, would allow them to marry on the spot, in a simple ‘marriage by declaration’ or ‘handfasting ceremony’. This ceremony required only two witnesses as well as assurances from the couple involved that they were both over the age of 16, (unlike the English and Welsh law which stated the age of 18).  With such a relaxed arrangement, and particularly with Gretna Green being within such easy reach of England, as it is the first village in Scotland.  Further, it was also conveniently located on a main route from London going directly into Scotland. There was no other place to compete with it. Gretna Green was the perfect location to take advantage of simpler marriage laws of the two varying countries.

Blacksmith Priests

Sometimes there was also a feeling of haste in the marriage. This might have been partly to do with an angry father of the bride not wanting his daughter to marry the person she had chosen, or perhaps as some other reason.  There were often family feuds about marriage, causing some couples to runaway prior to the rest of the family knowing their plans and therefore try to prevent the marriage itself. If this was the case, as soon as they reached Scottish soil at Gretna Green, the romantic duo could find a place of security where they were able to marry in haste, before angry family members could catch up with them stopping them from what their romantic hearts so badly wanted to do- unite! Yet still more locations have evolved in this very romantic and historic part of the world. Today the Old Blacksmith Shop is associated and best known for Gretna Green Weddings. This has  become an enduring symbol of the romance of the area, with certain ‘Blacksmith Priests’  sometimes, somewhat flamboyant characters who conducted ceremonies in the Famous Blacksmiths Shop, where couples have gone to marry since 1754 still stands there. A modern day blacksmiths shop was created as recently as 1939,  shortly after which came another new idea, that being the ‘Anvil’ blessings. These blessings caused more cash flow to the organisers and were strongly suggested to follow a registrar wedding.

One of the most romantic places on earth

Gretna Green has certainly made its reputation across the world as being one of the most romantic places on earth. Even today thousands of couples are still attracted by its reputation and continue to travel to “The Gateway to Scotland” for their own victuals. The town of Gretna was planned during the First World War. It provided homes for 30,000 employees of a munitions factory that was the biggest in the world,  being an incredible nine miles long. A story was made of the factory at ‘The Devil’s Porridge’ in Eastriggs. Gretna Green itself became famous for being  the ‘marriage capital’ of the UK. It is believed that around 5,000 couples decide to  get married there each year.

Gretna Green marriage

In common law, a “Gretna Green marriage” came to mean, in general, a marriage transacted in a jurisdiction that was not the residence of the parties that were being married, to avoid restrictions or procedures imposed by the parties jurisdiction. In 1856 Scottish law was changed to require 21 days’ residence for marriage, and a further law change was made in 1940. The residential requirement was lifted in 1977. Other Scottish border villages used for such marriages were named Coldstream Bridge, Lamberton, Mordington and Paxton Toll.  Yet still Gretna Green is the one that stand out as the most exciting and romantic part of Scotland. Many thousands of young girls plan a romantic wedding at Gretna, however, as they mature a little, many of them decide to have the original wedding, with her husband to be at her side, being ‘given away’ by her father(usually with a tear in his eye, plenty of loving  family to watch). Its’ a little more ‘acceptable’ way of becoming married in a church. Gretna’s status as the ultimate wedding destination remains still today as the village with a population of just 2,700 , hosts almost two weddings per person per year, following the many thousands who have said “ I do” at Gretna since 1754.

This month we also continue our look at the 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design with a focus on Scotland’s ancient capital, Edinburgh. Regardless of who or what you love, I hope it you enjoy your February.

Have you been to Gretna Green or perhaps wed there yourself? Tell us about your Gretna Green story.

 

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

January 2016 (Vol. 39, Number 07)

The Banner Says…

A time for reflection

If Christmas is full of hustle and bustle, New Year is a time of parties, yes but more than that, it is a time of reflection.  Just look around and think for a moment about those who touch your life, not just during the holiday season, but all year round. Think of the difference they make just by being ‘there’. Sadly, we are unaware sometimes how much they mean to us, until they are no longer, often leaving a void which is both painful and difficult for us to accept. After a discussion on this very subject during the holiday season, I took some time to think about those who affect my everyday life, bringing with them pleasure and often lighten an otherwise busy or stressful day. At the same time I reflected on those who have helped so much in bygone days bringing their own talents to the Scottish Banner, thus helping overseas Scots forge a link and voice their opinions with others. These have often become good personal friends, both now and in times past. Some are still with us, but others have now gone, leaving pleasant memories and the shadow of a warm smile.

Looking back

Some years ago I met Scots author and actress Molly Weir. A well-known and delightful lady, Molly and I soon became firm friends. Molly never had a computer they were hardly known when she wrote for the Banner.  Instead we received long typewritten pages, which in turn had to be re-typed into our computers upon receiving them.  Always, there was a very long private to letter to me tucked in the envelope telling me what was happening in her life, etc. Eventually these letters, brought more and more news  of her husband Sandy’s sickness, and finally his death. I knew her heart was broken through her last letters and eventually the letters, and the columns, stopped altogether. My dear friend Molly had gone to be with her Sandy, which is where I knew she wanted to be. I still miss ‘our Molly.’

Author Nigel Tranter, was perhaps the most well known and most loved writer to ever come out of Scotland. He wrote many famous books as well as numerous prolific articles about Scottish history for the Banner – which he seemed to know like the back of his hand. These were often  accompanied by the same warm and friendly letters.  I was astounded and very surprised when he first offered to write articles for us, and of course, agreed with his offer. Nigel did continue to write for us, until he could no longer when he departed this earth. There are still dozens of Nigel’s’ private letters to us in files here at the Scottish Banner office. They can never be discarded as they are his words, written just for the Banner. Upon his death his daughter inherited all copyright to his works.  She knew her father held the Scottish Banner in high regard and shortly after his passing, gave us permission to use his articles in future issues. A most generous and cherished legacy, and for which I am still most grateful. Yet I still miss Nigel himself and am very proud to have known such a man of his calibre.

Charlie Mill who also wrote for the Banner was not a famous man, but for us he was a true hero, coming through as he did, with many interesting articles each month. We cherished him greatly and although we knew he had health problems, it was a terrible and tragic  blow when we heard from his daughter that he  had passed away. He did so leaving us with lovely memories of his views on Scottish life. But this is not meant to be about those who have gone before. There are others whose names we are proud to have in these pages, and who have been there for a long time, and who we hope will continue be there for a much longer time to come.

Looking forward

My dear friend and fellow writer, Ron Dempsey is one of these. Ron brings us an enlightening column on Scottish names each month and is an important part of the Scottish Banner team. Ron has a loyal and strong readership who would probably revolt were he to miss a month! Lady Fiona MacGregor whose friendship I have treasured  for many years, continues to write wonderful articles from the across Scotland. Using her pen the way an artist uses brushes, she paints a veritable picture of life in her part of the world every month.  We are also so fortunate to have some other great contributors such as Angus Whitson, Dr Ken B Moody, Marieke McBean, Joyce Milne D’Auria , David McVey and Jim Stoddart, all who help us make the Scottish Banner what it is today as we go into our 40th year of publication. These are just a few of those who come to mind when I think of those whose lives not only touch on mine, but also reach out across the miles with their words touching readers around the world.  I say this knowing how many wonderful comments they receive here at the Banner.

Our wishes for 2016

At this New Year, I would also like to recognise our readers, without whom there be no Scottish Banner.  At these offices we will continue bringing you news and views of Scotland, both from today and yesterday. From all of us on the Banner team both here in North America and from our offices in Australia, so ably handled by my son Sean, may we wish all of our readers, contributors, advertisers and friends, a happy and healthy 2016.  This year also sees the Scottish Banner reach the incredible milestone of 40 continuous years of monthly publication in July. In Scotland January starts The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016 which you can read about in this and future editions throughout the year, this month we start with a focus on Glasgow.

The best small country in the world

To Scotland, the best small country in the world, long may she flourish and may the fire never dim within the hearts of her sons and daughters, no matter where in this world they have settled. And last but by no means least, to this amazing world we all share. May we continue to live in peace, freedom and happiness along with others we share it with. May we have pride in our hearts when we consider where we live and how fortunate we are in so many ways. God bless 2016