Culture Heritage Learning

IWD – International Women’s Day

2nd March 2018 by Scran | 0 comments


Glasgow munitions workers WW1 © Glasgow Caledonian University Library

International Women’s Day (IWD) emerged at the turn of the twentieth century in Europe and North America. It originated in labour movements and was initially linked to the causes of women workers and suffragists. Since 1913 it has been celebrated annually in various countries on the 8th of March. It has become a day for raising worldwide awareness of the need for women’s equality in the workplace, in education, politics and in the social sphere.

History of IWD

06450301 (1)

Munitionettes pose with a cairn terrier 1917 © Falkirk Museums

What is now referred to as International Women’s Day started off as the National Women’s Day in 1908 in the US. 15,000 female garment workers marched through New York on strike, demanding better working conditions and the right to vote. In the following year, the US Socialist Party established the women’s day as an annual national celebration.

At the Socialist International meeting in Copenhagen in 1910, over 100 women from 17 countries attended. They agreed to establish Women’s Day as an occasion for speaking out against social, political and economic discrimination towards women.

World War One 


VAD Voluntary Aid Detachment, France, WW1 © National Library of Scotland

In Russia, IWD has been held on every last Sunday in February since 1913. On IWD, in the war-ridden year of 1917, Russian women started a mass-demonstration for ‘Bread and Peace’. After four days the Czar abdicated and Russian women were given the right to vote. In the Gregorian calendar this Sunday fell on the 8th of March. It has been the date for the IWD in the rest of Europe ever since, although initially it was mainly celebrated in communist countries. Even though conditions were harsh and most female employees were paid less than their male counterparts, World War I provided an employment opportunity for women on a large societal scale. Most men were away fighting in the war so industries were reliant on the female workforce. Since women needed to make ends meet in the absence of their men, they worked, developed vocational skills and learned to handle financial matters independently.



Girls’ Science Class, Portobello High, Edinburgh, 1914 © The City of Edinburgh Council

Even though women from privileged backgrounds had limited access to university education in Britain from the 1870s onwards, it was several decades until it became more common for women to attend universities and also to be taught science subjects at school. The University of Edinburgh was the first university nationwide to admit women to study medicine (12 November 1862). Yet female students were initially not allowed to graduate and faced much opposition and discriminating regulations. This meant women could not work as professional doctors, with some remarkable exceptions, until decades later.

Cambridge University established two colleges for women in 1869 (Girton College) and 1872 (Newnham College). However, it took until 1947 for women to be accepted as full members of Cambridge university. The first university to admit female students on the same terms as male students was the University College of London in 1878. In the 1960s and 1970s, the second wave feminist movement in the UK addressed issues of gender inequality with a special focus on education. The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 rendered unlawful the unfavourable treatment of women (or men) based on sex or marriage, at the workplace, in education or training. It had the function “of working towards the elimination of such discrimination and promoting equality of opportunity between men and women”.


Since the 1890s the suffrage movement in Britain had stood up for women’s right to vote. Following the movement’s activities, the Representation of the People Act in 1918 granted electoral rights to women of property, aged 30 years or older. (The Act also meant that men of any social standing were now in a position to vote.) In addition women were officially allowed to stand for parliament. Nancy Astor was the first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons in 1919. Only in 1958, following the Life Peerages Act of that year, were the first women appointed to the House of Lords. In 1928, under the Equal Franchise Act, the right to vote was extended to women of any social standing, aged 21 years and older. Men and women in Britain had finally gained equal electoral rights.



Jennie Lee, MP in 1947 © Hulton Getty

With increasing opportunities for vocational training and university learning in the 20th century, women have gained wider access to a range of occupations. (eg film director Jill Craigie.) The issue of equal pay for men and women has been addressed by equal rights campaigners since the 1940s (eg politician Jennie Lee) and increasingly so from the 1960s onwards.

Creating opportunities for women to enter a wider range of occupations as well as high level positions in the professional world is still an ongoing topic. To an extent, the objectives of women’s rights campaigners are somewhat in accord with those of the growing gender equality and Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Bisexual (LGBT) movement. (See also Discrimination – Sexuality.)

International Sport

In the world of international sport, such as the Olympics or Commonwealth Games, women (unlike men) were initially allowed to only participate in a limited number of sport contests. It was not until 1976 that the range of sports offered to women in the Olympics began to increase significantly. Images of female athletes and professional sportswomen then began to become more frequent in the media.

IWD more recently


Scottish Women’s Banner 1996 © The City of Edinburgh Council

In the 1970s the United Nations began organising global IWD events to raise awareness of gender inequality issues. Since then, International Women’s Day has become a more widely-known event to promote female rights in many countries. Governments and women’s organisations worldwide, in the developing and the developed world, now use the day to run training, information and celebratory events.

In Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Georgia, Mongolia, Russia, Uganda, the Ukraine, Zambia, and several other countries, IWD is celebrated as a public holiday.

Images © Glasgow Caledonian University Library, Falkirk Museums, Hulton Getty,  The City of Edinburgh Council | Licensor Scran 

Chrystal Macmillan- suffragist, feminist, peace activist, barrister

6th February 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

Chrystal Macmillan, barristerScran has been part of the Audacious Women’s Festival and, as a result of some fortuitous meetings, we were delighted to learn about Chrystal Macmillan. We were aware that there is a Chrystal Macmillan Building at Edinburgh University, but were blissfully ignorant of her achievements; there was certainly very little mention of her on Scran before this February. Luckily, we crossed paths with Helen Kay who thought we might be interested in some digitised archive materials that were in the care of the Macmillan family. To cut a long story short, we were very interested, and these materials are now on Scran. Many thanks to Helen for bringing these images to our attention, and to John Herdman and Iain Macmillan for kindly allowing us to share them with our users.

Chrystal Macmillan was a a suffragist, a feminist, a peace activist and barrister. She was educated at St Andrews and the University of Edinburgh, where she was the first woman to graduate from the science faculty in 1896 with a first class honours degree in mathematics and natural philosophy. She became active in feminist causes, joining the Edinburgh National Society for Women’s Suffrage and later becoming an executive committee member of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).

In 1908 presented her case to the House of Lords that female university graduates should be given the right to vote, later becoming secretary of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. With the outbreak of World War I she turned her attention to peace activism, and following the Armistice she was an envoy from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) to the Paris Peace Conference, which was held in 1919. She went on to become a barrister in 1924.

You can read more of her story, see her family portraits and school life at

Image © John HerdmanLicensor Scran 


Up Helly Aa

30th January 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

Up Helly Aa celebrations take place on the last Tuesday of January . They are one of the United Kingdom’s most spectacular winter festivals. The festival, centred in Lerwick on the Shetland Islands, takes a year to plan and spans two days.


The modern version of Up Helly Aa – meaning “end of holidays” – has its origins around 1815 when young men returned from the Napoleonic war where they had experienced the banging of drums, fires, and guns. Out of such excitement came a desire to create an event which would enliven the long dark winter months. Early activities, particularly tar-barrelling where lit barrels of tar were pulled along the narrow street towards rival gangs, gave way to a more organised festival and by the 1950s the modern Up Helly Aa had evolved.02090271 The Festival is based around both the legends of Norse mythology and the very real links between Shetland and Norway which go back more than 1000 years. In the old Norse calendar Up Helly Aa was the last day of the winter festival and was celebrated on the 24th day following Yule. Shetland’s Up Helly Aa is held on the last Tuesday in January and concludes with the burning of a replica Viking long boat.

Guizers & the Jarl

02102225Each year, a Guizer Jarl or leader is nominated and the whole community work for some considerable time building and naming a new galley. Costumes and 1000 torches are prepared and arrangements are made for a series of parties. The Guizer Jarl (Head Viking) will have nominated himself to the Up Helly Aa committee 15 years in advance. It is therefore a long wait to fulfil the role. Preparation includes the selection of a squad of around 50 men who will form the squad. Direct debits will be set up over 15 years to pay for each costly suit (around £1,000) and other event costs. Being part of the Jarl squad is an honour and men spend long hours preparing their costumes and rehearsing.


Blazing Long Ship

02498940On Up Helly Aa morning the Jarl Squad meets, accompanied by the local brass band. All march to the Lerwick Legion where they receive their first dram of the day. Waiting outside are crowds of school children, locals and tourists – and, of course, the new galley, especially named for the day. The Guizer Jarl – wearing traditional Viking apparel – hoists his axe aloft aboard his long ship and calls on his Jarl Squad to begin the Festival. The Squad then processes through the town centre led by the Jarl. They carry banners and weapons as though on a raid.

The Proclamation

At this stage they deliver their “Proclamation” to the town – a light hearted document – which is displayed at the Market Cross in the town centre. Many folk stop to read and have a laugh as they read it. The proclamation (or bill) is erected as a large billboard which has been skilfully painted by local artists. The text includes local political topics and personal jokes. The Jarl squad spend the rest of the day visiting schools, hospitals, houses and the local museum.

The Last Rites

At 7.30pm, the leaders use crimson flares, or maroons, to signal the lighting of the torches and the start of the procession. Torches are wooden stakes, the size of fence posts, dipped in a combustable resin. They resemble giant matches. Lit by torchlight, the procession makes its way along King Erik Street and the Galley makes her last journey to the special burning site. Guizers, the Jarl’s men, wear specially made costumes inspired by mythological creatures such as serpents, double-headed eagles, and dragons. At the “Last Rites”, the procession reaches the burning site. The Galley is positioned as a centrepiece and the glowing torches are thrown into the boat. The flames engulf the galley reminiscent of a Viking leader’s burial. Only then are the feasting halls opened to receive squads. Those not involved in the procession have prepared food and set up parties. As dictated by tradition, the squad tour as many halls as they can. And the festivities last till morning.

For more pictures of Up Helly Aa including some stunning Hulton Getty photographs visit Scran.

Images © The Scotsman Publications Ltd., National Museums Scotland, Newsquest (Herald & Times), Scottish Media Group | Licensor Scran 

Burns Supper

16th January 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

Around January 25th, Burns’ Clubs & other lovers of the poet, arrange Burns Suppers. Burns has always attracted massive support.

01980093This painting, by an unknown artist, depicts the 1844 Burns Festival. The procession, which started in Ayr, is shown passing over the new and old brigs o’ Doon and entering the festival site at the Burns Monument, where Burns’ three surviving sons were guests of honour. The event attracted over 100,000 participants and involved the construction of a banqueting marquee for 1400 invited guests, seen to the right of the picture. A platform was constructed in front of the Monument to enable the guests of honour to be seen by the crowds and to deliver the speeches.



Newton Stewart Burns’ Club dinner, 1904

Greenock enthusiasts founded the earliest Burns’ Club on 21st July 1801 and had their first supper on 29th January 1802; which at that time was mistakenly thought to be the anniversary of his birth. Following close on their heels were clubs at Paisley, Kilmarnock and Dunfermline. Throughout the century more and more clubs sprang up either in Scotland or wherever Scots met. One of the earliest in England was the Bristol Caledonian Society founded in 1820. By 1885 there were so many Burns’ Clubs in existence that an international Federation of clubs was instituted.

Format of Burns’ Supper

Welcome & Grace 00981150 (1)

A few welcoming words start the evening & the meal commences with the Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat and cannot eat.
Some cannot eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

Piping in the Haggis – Before the Haggis appears, one should hear the skirl of the bagpipes and the company should stand to receive the haggis. A piper then leads the chef, carrying the haggis to the top table. The guests accompany this with a slow rhythmic hand clap.

06710548Address to the Haggis – The chairman or invited guest then recites Burns’ famous poem To A Haggis. When he reaches the line “an cut you up wi’ ready slight”, he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife. The company applauds the speaker and then are asked by their host to stand and toast the haggis with a glass of whisky. The meal is then served.

The Immortal Memory – An invited guest is asked to give a short speech on Burns. There are many different types of Immortal Memory speeches, from light-hearted to literary, but the aim is the same – to outline the greatness and relevance of the poet today.

Toast to the Lasses – The main speech is followed by a more light-hearted address to the women in the audience. Originally this was a thank you to the ladies for preparing the food and a time to toast the ‘lasses’ in Burns’ life. The tone should be witty, but never offensive, and should always end on a friendly note.

Response – The turn of the lasses to detail men’s foibles. Again, this should be humorous but not insulting.

Poems & Songs

Once the speeches are complete the evening continues with songs and poems. The evening will culminate with the company standing, linking hands and singing Auld Lang Syne to conclude the programme.

Food Served

06320052The food varies according to custom and locality but, in general, the meal should feature a Haggis. The usual accompaniment is Tatties [potatoes] and Neeps [turnips or swedes]. Other components might include a soup such as Scotch Broth or Cock-a- Leekie and there may be Atholl Brose or cheese and bannocks [oatcakes].

Images © Trustees of Burns Monument & Burns Cottage, National Museums Scotland, Whithorn Photographic Group  & Scottish Life Archive and an Unknown | Licensor Scran

MacFarlane Lang Biscuits

1st December 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

“Butter Bar Biscuits are really delightful – Try Them!”  Perhaps an unsubtle advertising slogan by today’s standards, but no doubt a success for the Macfarlane Lang & Co Biscuit Factory in Glasgow.

Beginning its life as a bread bakery as far back as the year 1817 in the Gallowgate by Mr James Lang, the premises then consisted of a small shop with bakery attached. Soon after the joining of Mr John Macfarlane, in 1860 the company found the need to move into larger premises in Calton. It was here that Macfarlane was joined by his two sons and it was soon decided to erect premises specially adapted to the trade. Opened in 1880, the large factory ensured the continuing prosperity of the firm. It was in 1885, that they decided to manufacture of biscuits as well.

At its extent, the Victoria Bread & Biscuit Works complex at 30 Wesleyan Street, Bridgeton, Glasgow covered an area of seven thousand square yards. A five-storeyed building plus attic block was built in 1895 to designs by J M Monro, architect. The bread and cake part of the business continued to operate on this site, and by 1967 was owned by the Milanda Bread Co Ltd. That bakery operated until 1974, but has since been demolished.

Meanwhile the Victoria Biscuit Works (Macfarlane Lang & Co Biscuit Factory) at 35 Clydeford Drive, Tollcross, Glasgow was built in the 1920s, to replace their first factory.

This one was laid out horizontally rather than vertically, very much in the style of the era. Behind a rather plain façade was a large area of workshops, housing bakery and finishing facilities. When the works was built the packing was all done manually. Amongst others, this is where the production of Rich Tea, Gypsy Cream and Cream cracker biscuits took place – ready for dispatch to all parts of the  world.

At the same time, owner John W. Macfarlane, purchased Villa ‘Norwood’ in 1920s Bearsden. The Biscuit business must have been booming.

In 1948 Macfarlane Lang & Co merged with McVitie & Price. Macfarlane Lang & Co were the largest of the Glasgow biscuit bakers. They were, by 1967, part of the United Biscuits group, an amalgamation of several firms put together by Canadian entrepreneur Gary Weston. The brand name has not survived.


Images © University of Strathclyde, National Library of Scotland, East Dunbartonshire Council, Scottish Motor Museum Trust & Historic Environment Scotland Licensor Scran



WW1 South African Native Labour Corps

7th November 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

Original caption reads ‘At the window of one of their huts’

Amongst the many thousands of photographs from the National Library of Scotland to be found on Scran, there is a collection called Images of War. These were taken by official War Office photographers during World War One and form part of the Haig Papers. This astounding and often arresting war photography contains a small set of 21 images, which tells the story of the South African Native Labour Corps, referred to as the SANLC.

Some 20,000 South Africans worked in the SANLC and took part in World War One, however due to South Africa’s segregationist policy, black South Africans were restricted to non-combatant roles. The SANLC were discriminated against because of the racist attitudes of the period which meant that black South Africans were not enlisted as combat troops, but only in the Labour Corps. They laboured in the docks, in salvage, supply, burial and other non-military jobs. They were used as cheap manual labour but were denied the right to serve in the army or to be given any recognition of the role they played. In part this was due to the South African government’s fear of the native claims for land.

Labourers display shell damaged radiator to the camera

When the SANLC were recruited, the units tended to be organised on the basis of their homeland tribe or region. In part this was to avoid problems from traditional tribal feuds, but it also reflects the fear of the South African government that the different native groups would combine against the existing white rule.

Although the SANLC were not meant to be deployed in combat zones, there were inevitable deaths when the docks or transport lines on which they worked were bombed. The greatest tragedy was the sinking of the troopship SS Mendi on 21 February 1917, when 617 members of the SANLC were drowned in the English Channel. The SANLC had operated in the fight against the Germans in South West Africa since September 1916, but the Labour Corps for the Western Front was established and camps set up in 1917.

Original caption reads ‘Smiling and Warm’

The various Labour Corps included many non-European groups such as the South Africans (SANLC), Egyptians, Chinese, Cape Coloured and Indian Corps. They were not only restricted from contact with white Europeans but were also segregated into different racially-determined Corps. Unlike some of the other labour contingents, the SANLC were not awarded any medals after the war.

World War One saw the development of a system of ‘official’ reporting by professionals especially recruited into the forces. Several of the SANLC series of photographs have been attributed to photographers John Warwick Brooke and Ernest Brooks.

SANLC dancers performing a traditional war dance

Initially reluctant to allow cameras near the fighting, it took some time for authorities to appreciate the propaganda and recording potential of photography. The cheerful appearance of the SANLC men is possibly deliberate propaganda on the part of the photographer, to counterbalance the reports of strikes and unrest among the various nationalities of Labour Corps, when they felt their conditions were unreasonable, or their original contracts had been broken. These photographs provide us with an invaluable record of how the Government and Military wanted the war perceived. 

Images © National Library of Scotland Licensor Scran



New Barns-Graham Archive Opens

3rd November 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

Scran was lucky enough to be invited to the opening of the new Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust headquarters in Edinburgh on Wednesday night, and we were blown away by the sheer scale of the archive there. The artist, known as “Willie” to her friends and colleagues, was based for many years at Balmungo House near St. Andrews in Fife, until her death in 2004. Balmungo House was the Trust’s headquarters throughout the 2010s, but was recently sold, with the proceeds being used to fund the Trust’s charitable works. As well as curating the artist’s legacy, the Trust provides scholarships and bursaries to students, and funds a number of artist-in-residence programs.

The move from Fife to Edinburgh should result in an increased awareness of Willie’s works and influence, and the new building, an old ambulance station just off Leith Walk, provides an ideal showcase for her legacy. A temperature-controlled storage facility ensures that valuable artworks can be stored under optimum conditions, while her library of books and collection of Cornish pottery is on display in another part of the building. Scholars, students, researchers and others are encouraged to make an appointment to visit.


Scran has had an association with the Trust for a number of years; they kindly licensed a selection of Willie’s digitised works to our database in 2012, and you can find them here. The Trust is at 77 Brunswick Street, Edinburgh EH7 5HS, and can be contacted by email at or by telephone: 0131 209 7870.


Happy Finnish

13th October 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

One of the many strengths of Scran, we feel, is the diversity of our collections, the happy by-product of having such a diverse range of contributors. A picture of an 18th century cottage? It’s on Scran. David Bowie at Murrayfield? Yep, it’s on Scran. A Degas painting? Yes, we’ve got that too. In fact, we cover most subjects under the sun. Which is why, when I got a chance to go to Finland and take images of and learn about forests, I jumped at the chance.

This development opportunity was created by ARCH, a Scottish body promoting cultural and heritage links between this country and the rest of Europe. My Scottish colleagues on the trip were from cultural and environmental organisations including Scotland’s Natural Heritage, Loch Lomond & The Trossach’s National Park and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. In the space of 6 days, I learned a lot about how forests are developed and managed for the benefit of wildlife, visitors, land owners and the Finnish economy; we also met with staff from Finland’s National Parks, from its hunting agency, staff from two forestry colleges and more. Through talking to my colleagues on the trip, I was able to compare and contrast forestry in Scotland with forestry in Finland; one noticeable difference between the two countries even to my untrained eye is just the sheer amount of forestry in Finland- you’re surrounded by trees, mostly pine, spruce and birch, even in cities- we visited an urban forest just outside Tampere and the forest was, literally, just outside the gardens in the suburban homes.

So what, you may be asking, does this have to do with Scran? Well, we already have some forestry-related information on Scran; the Forestry Commission Scotland is one of our contributors. We also have agricultural and botanical subscribers, and many of our subscribing colleges offer vocational courses in agriculture and arboreal subjects. The photos I took in Finland will be uploaded to Scran in the coming weeks, and I’m sure that these will be useful to many of our subscribers.


Heritage Arts Award in Stirling

26th September 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

Stirling Townscape, Valentines postcard 1878 – University of St Andrews Library

Guest blog by Sarah Longfield, all about our new project.

Our partnership project led by See Think Make CIC & Scran part of Historic Environment Scotland, will take place during Year of Young People, 2018.

* * *

Arts Award is a series of qualifications for children and young people accredited by Trinity College London. Heritage is very much seen as part of the arts world and young people can focus on any traditional craft or more broadly heritage based creative roles, such as curating as part of their Arts Award Portfolio.

To date, there have not been many heritage organisations in Scotland taking up Arts Award. However, at the Museum Association Conference at the SEC last Autumn, we were blown away by the amount of interest in the awards and by the open friendliness of all the creative learning professionals we encountered.

So, we decided the best way to promote Arts Award’s potential in the heritage sector was to put our money where our mouth is and go out there and deliver a fabulous project. We found Jackie at Scran who was enthusiastic about working in collaboration and also hooked up with Fiona from Scotland’s Urban Past. From there we talked with lots of partners in Stirling, including The Stirling Smith Museum & Art GalleryThe Engine Shed, St.Modan’s High SchoolStirling Castle, Forth Valley College, Culture Stirling and the project started to take shape.

At the beginning of this month, we heard we had got a grant from Heritage Lottery’s Young Roots fund so we’re now getting ready to launch!

So what is the project?

Map of Stirling 1820

To start with, a group of around fifteen 15-25 year olds will come together to use the heritage of Stirling as inspiration and resource for a Silver Arts Award.

Silver Arts Award encourages young people to develop their artistic practice (any art form), delve further into the world of the arts in the locality and to work together on a leadership project.

The group will have the opportunity to work with a range of artists and heritage experts including the outreach team at Scotland’s Urban Past and take part in a traditional arts workshop at the Engine Shed.

Then, next April, the group’s leadership project will be to devise a creative virtual and/or physical heritage trail for other young people. This trail will involve arts activity, discovering artists and some way for those taking part to share what they have created/discovered. All young people who have completed the trail will receive a Discover Arts Award.

The young people will chart their progress in a digital Arts Award portfolio, culminating in achieving the Silver (equivalent to level 5 on the SCQF). More details on the awards can be found at or for Scottish specific case studies:





Images © National Library of Scotland & University of St Andrews Library Collections Licensor Scran