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The Scottish Life Archive on Scran

25th April 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

The Scottish Life Archive, based at the National Museum of Scotland, offers a unique insight into many aspects of Scottish history and heritage. It aims to collect, record and preserve documentary and illustrative evidence of Scotland’s material culture & social history.

8,685 records from this fascinating collection are also available via scran.ac.uk – for example, here you see Adam Cramond & Son’s cab office at Charles Street, Edinburgh, 1912.

This cab office just off George Square was quite a large business at around that time. Broughams were often hired by doctors. They were small closed carriages drawn by one horse. Miss I. M Cramond, who was a child at the beginning of the 20th century and a member of Adam Cramond’s family, remembered that in 1904 doctors used them when they went on their rounds. At the beginning of the 20th century each firm of cab owners had a ‘stance’ where their cabs stood. Cramond’s was at Waterloo Place. The four-in-hand coaches also waited at Waterloo Place, and they would go as far afield as Roslin and the Forth Bridge.

The archive collection dates from the 1880s to the present day, but there is some material dating from 1700. You can discover old manuscripts, letters, trace your family history – the archive offers a unique insight into all aspects of Scottish life. If this interests you, archivist and curator Dorothy Kidd at the National Museum of Scotland is giving a talk all about the Scottish Life Archive and how it can be used for personal research. The event is part of Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology and further details can be found here. Of course, if you are unable to make it along to the live talk, you can continue your browsing or research online with Scran.

Images © National Museum of Scotland Licensor Scran 

Scran contributes to BBC Scotland

20th March 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

Spacehoppers

Glasgow Gorbals 1970 – The Scotsman

Eagle-eyed viewers in Scotland who saw the recent three-part BBC series called “Growing Up in Scotland: A Century of Childhood” may have noticed Scran mentioned in the credits at the end of each episode. Combining still images, film footage and contemporary interviews, the three episodes were a nostalgic look at Scottish childhood, and we were delighted to be asked to supply many images for all three programmes, including one of our all-time favourites, the two Glasgow boys with Spacehoppers.

While the standard Scran licence doesn’t allow commercial reuse of images, we’re happy to grant commercial licences on an ad-hoc basis, and anyone can do this by clicking on the “Buy” button underneath an image. Scran regularly supplies images for commercial re-use to newspapers, magazines, book publishers and film and TV companies, and if you see a TV documentary about Scotland, take a close look at the credits at the end.BBC screenshot

There’s a good chance we’ll have supplied material for the programme. Viewers outside Scotland, and anyone who missed these fascinating documentaries, can catch up on the BBC’s iPlayer service http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/b08gcxb6

Image © The Scotsman Publications Ltd Licensor Scran 

 

Stained Glass at the Scottish National War Memorial

5th March 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

Following on from the story of the creation of the Scottish National War Memorial in our previous post, Forthview Primary School P7s are going to be examining it’s interior when they visit.

The Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle houses a rich variety of artwork to honour & remember those who died in World War One.  When it was built, between 1923 & 1927, over 200 professional artists worked with the architect, Robert Lorimer, to create a suitable tribute.

Air Force window design 1924 by Douglas Strachan

The interior of the memorial expresses the tragic sense of loss felt by Scotland after WW1. Inside the building, there is a feeling of dignity, pride and a sense of peace. The artists and makers used different materials, including bronze, iron, wood, stone, paint as well as stained glassThe result is impressive.

The artworks are designed to pay respect to the individual Scots who died, both men and women in all their different roles. Animals are acknowledged too, in the much loved stone sculpture ‘Remember also those Humble Beasts‘ by Phyllis Bone.

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Certainly the most colourful element of the SNWM is the is the stained glass with light flooding in from outside. In the main Hall of Honour the windows provide a lot of information, if you look carefully. For example, there is imagery illustrating what life was like on the Home Front, such as the mobilising of troops at Waverley Station (pictured top).

At either end of the hall, there are windows dedicated to different military services; that is the army, the navy and the air force – land, sea & air. Other windows show the four seasons. Some of the windows have roundels illustrating the different jobs people did or technology used in the machinery of war.

The windows in the Shrine are different to those in the Hall of Honour. These seven windows tell a another story, they use Bible and Christian messages to describe the experience of the War. Therefore they look more familiar to many, perhaps like traditional church windows at first glance.

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The artist who made all of these stunning windows was Douglas Strachan (1875-1950). Strachan was born in Aberdeen and educated at Robert Gordon’s College. He took evening classes at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. He worked as an apprentice lithographer, a muralist, a portrait painter and then found a passion for working with stained glass. In 1909 he moved to Edinburgh to set up the crafts department of Edinburgh College of Art. He lived in Midlothian where he died in 1950. He worked on many other memorial windows, including a designs for the Peace Palace in The Hague installed in 1929.

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* To see more of the SNWM stained glass windows on Scran click here

Images © Canmore Historic Environment Scotland Licensor Scran 

 

Up Helly Aa

30th January 2017 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.

Roots

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

17th January 2017 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.

History

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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

Robert Burns

10th January 2017 by Scran | 0 comments


01850104Robert Burns is not only Scotland’s best known poet and songwriter but one of the most widely acclaimed literary figures of all time. He is held in very special affection by millions around the world, with Burns’ suppers taking place on or near his birthday on the 25th January.

Stature

02050042Burns’ stature owes much to the huge range of his songs and poems, some of which are still familiar nearly two hundred and fifty years after his birth. In fact, there would be few English speaking people who do not recognise “Auld Lang Syne” – a staple at New Year celebrations.

His popularity is also linked to his association with a brand of socialism radical for his time and timeless in its understanding of the plight of the common man. Burns would have naturally understood these issues having experienced hardships not untypical for the ordinary man of the eighteenth century.

Birth & Youth

He was born in 1759 in the village of Alloway, in Ayrshire and was the son of a small farmer, Jacobite in sympathies, who had moved from near Stonehaven in Kincardineshire. In Scots rural tradition – which Burns himself recognised in “The Man’s the Gowd for A’ that” – and probably because of his father’s support of education, Burns had a fairly extensive education. He attended several schools and was given lessons from his tutor, John Murdoch, who introduced him to Scots and other literature in the English language. The family was never wealthy, living on and scraping a bare living from poor farming land. When Burns’ father died in 1784, he and his younger brother, Gilbert, tried and failed to make a success of farming at Mossgiel, near Mauchline. Also at this time, Burns began what was to be a stormy relationship with Jean Armour whom he left and betrayed many times.

His intensity, bred of hardships, seems to have caused Burns to produce some of his finest literary achievements. With a formal educational background, supplemented by a desire to read great literature and an admiration for the work of Allan Ramsay the elder, and steeped in Scots traditional ballads and legends, Robert Burns began to create his earliest and some of his best loved poems.

Poetry & Fame

In 1785 and 1786 alone, Burns wrote, amongst other works, ‘The Address to a Mouse‘, ‘Holy Willie’s Prayer‘, ‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night‘ and ‘The Twa Dogs‘ and published his later famous Kilmarnock Edition with the intention of emigrating to Jamaica to seek a better existence. However, the popular response to his book of poems attracted him to Edinburgh to receive the adulation of the polite society of the capital, who became fascinated by the ‘ploughman poet’ and dubbed him “Caledonia’s Bard”. 3,000 copies of his Edinburgh Edition of poems were selling well at this time.

In 1787, he first visited Dumfries and was immediately made an honorary burgess. In 1788, unsure of making a living from the pen, he signed a lease on Ellisland Farm on the banks of the Nith and sought employment as an Exciseman. This was a latter day VAT man and Burns used his income to supplement his farm. His health was variable but during that time, he edited – with James Johnson – the second edition of the ‘Scots Musical Museum’. It was published in 1788 and contained 40 of his own songs. The third volume, which appeared in the following year, had 50 more.

01980173Burns asked Captain Francis Grose who was compiling a book on the antiquities of Scotland to include an illustration of Alloway Kirk. Grose agreed provided the poet would contribute a ‘witch story’ to accompany the drawing. The result was ‘Tam O’Shanter’. The poem was written in a single day on the banks of the Nith and is arguably one of his best works.

After two years, Burns gave up the farm and moved to Dumfries as a full-time Exciseman. During this time, Burns had at least one major affair and sired a daughter whom his own wife agreed to raise. Burns led an erratic lifestyle, being alternately drawn to and repelled by the bourgeois lifestyle. He wrote poems in English instead of his vernacular Scots, and flirted with ‘Clarinda’, Agnes McLehose.

00570461In May 1793 the family moved to a better quality house in Mill Street (now Burns Street). Their standard of living was good and they employed a maid servant. He was now writing songs for a new book ‘A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs’ produced by George Thomson. At the same time, some of his most lasting songs like ‘My Luve is like a Red, Red Rose‘ and others set to traditional airs, which revived the words and tales of ballads, were produced.

Ill Health & Death

The war with France was causing food shortages in Britain. In March 1796 there were serious food riots in Dumfries. Gradually, during the year, Burns’ health became poorer and in April he was unable to continue with his Excise duties. His friend Dr Maxwell mistakenly diagnosed his illness as “flying gout” and prescribed sea bathing as a cure. On the morning of Thursday 21st July he became delirious. His children were brought to see him for a last time and shortly afterwards he lapsed into unconsciousness and died. He was 37 years old.

It was the intention of friends that a biography of Burns should be written as soon as possible and the profits used to aid Mrs Burns. Dr James Currie, a Liverpool physician, who came originally from Annan, was chosen as biographer. The biography, published in 1800, was an immediate success and raised £1400. However, when Dorothy and William Wordsworth visited Dumfries in 1803 they had difficulty in even finding Burns’s grave. So, in 1813 subscriptions were sought. One of the subscribers was the Prince Regent, later George IV. On the 19th September 1815 Burns’ body was exhumed and placed in the new mausoleum. In 1823 the cenotaph on the banks of the Doon at Alloway, Burns’ birthplace, was completed at a cost of £3300. In 1844 a huge festival in his honour was held at Alloway, presided over by the Earl of Eglinton. The centenaries of his birth in 1859 and his death in 1896 saw nationwide celebrations.

Reputation

The cult of Burns rapidly rose. As the ‘National Bard’ he assumed spiritual dimensions, becoming all things to all people – admired as poet, nationalist, democrat, republican, conversationalist, womaniser, drinker, naturalist, folklorist, lyricist, Freemason and atheist to name a few. His humble origins, in particular as the ‘heaven taught ploughman’, have added to the idolatry.

Timeline

1759 January 25 Robert Burns born at Alloway
1781 Works as a flax-dresser in Irvine
1782 Returns to Lochlea after the burning of the Irvine shop
1784 Father dies. Robert moves to Mossgiel. Meets Jean Armour
1785 Birth of Elizabeth, daughter by servant Betty Paton. Writes To a Mouse. Affair with Highland Mary Margaret Campbell.
1786 Kilmarnock Poems published. Re-unites for a time with Jean Armour. Plans emigration to Jamaica. Stays in Edinburgh. Jean remains with family in Mauchline.
1787 Edinburgh Edition of Poems
1788 Ellisland Farm, Dumfries. Commissioned as exciseman. Marries Jean Armour. Writes Auld Lang Syne.
1790 Tam o’ Shanter completed
1791 Jean and Robert move to Dumfries
1792 Accused of political disaffection during revolutionary commotion in Dumfries.
1793 Second Edinburgh edition of Poems
1795 Ill with rheumatic fever
1796 July 21 Burns dies at Dumfries
1796 July 25 Son Maxwell born on day of his funeral

 

Images © Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Trustees of Burns Monument & Burns Cottage, Bayley & Ferguson Ltd| Licensor Scran 

Dunbar Bricks & Heritage Angels

5th December 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

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Mark Cranston – Heritage Angel Award Winner

Some of you may have heard about the recent Scottish Heritage Angel Awards? Here at Scran we caught wind of the fascinating work of Mark Cranston, who proceeded to win Category A for Investigating & Recording his extensive collection of bricks.

Scran has a pile of brick related content, which Mark was already familiar with, and through a series of fortunate events, we were able to contribute to his ever growing collection. East Lothian resident, Gina Williams, donated the brick which Scran then delivered to Jedburgh.

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The brick was from a Dunbar manufacturer and although he already had an example of a M.B. Sherriff brick, he had not seen this particular variation. One face on each has a shallow rectangular ‘frog’ or depression with text MB SHERRIFF/ DUNBAR and impressions of screw-heads.

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Invoice, Seafield Brick and Tile Works, 1868

Seafield Brick & Tile Works at West barns, near Dunbar, supplied the local market as well as special commissions in Scotland and abroad.  These bricks were made using deposits of surface clay; originally dark grey, the clay becomes red when fired, a change caused by the oxidation of iron contained in the clay. The Seafield brickworks operated from the early eighteen hundreds on land reclaimed from the sea between West Barns and Belhaven. Once in the hands of David France, it passed to William Brodie and then his relatives, the Sherriffs of West Barns. William Brodie, invested in new equipment and expanded the works, exporting many of the products on his own fleet of steam vessels from Dunbar Harbour.

Unusually for a Victorian industrialist, M.Brodie Sherriff  was a woman. In 1884 she purchased & re-opened the brickworks at Westbank, in Portobello, so expanding the business further.

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Seafield Brickworks, West Barns – surface clay pits

Nineteenth century East Lothian had a number of industrial scale plants producing bricks, tiles, pipes and other large scale ceramics. Seafield relied upon surface deposits of clay. Later, the abandoned clay pits were used to dump municipal waste and landfill until around 1970. Then the land was landscaped and planted; part was reserved for amenity, being integrated into the John Muir Country Park in 1976.

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You can see the full extent of Mark Cranston’s collection of bricks  http://www.scottishbrickhistory.co.uk/

download

 

 

 

Images ©  Mark Cranston, Scran & East Lothian Museums Service| Licensor Scran

Saint Andrew – Patron Saint of Scotland

28th November 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

078834 (1)The St Andrew’s flag – or the Saltire – is flown all over Scotland. Until recently, the man and his day have been often neglected. However, celebrations for St Andrew’s Day on the 30th November are growing in popularity and it is now a recommended public holiday in Scotland.

Who was St Andrew?

Andrew and his brother (Simon) Peter were fishermen from Bathsaida on the Sea of Galilee. While living in Capernaum they became disciples of John the Baptist, who introduced Andrew to Jesus of Nazareth. Andrew recognised Jesus as the Messiah and became the first Apostle. He then introduced Peter to Jesus, “Come with Me, and I will make you fishers of men”

After the crucifixion of Jesus, Andrew traveled to Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Southern Russia. He became a missionary, telling people about the life Jesus had led. While he was preaching at Patras/Pátrai in Greece he offended the Roman governor (possibly for baptising his wife). He was then tied (not nailed) to an X-shaped cross, where he continued to preach for two days before dying on the 30th of November.

The majority of his bones were taken to the Church of Holy Apostles in Constantinople around 375 AD, when it was the capital of the (Christian) Roman Empire. It was during this time that some of his remains were taken to Scotland. In 1206 they were moved to the Cathedral of St Andrew in Amalfi in Italy by Cardinal Pietro of Capua. However in 1964 they were returned to Patras by Pope Paul VI. They now lie in the Church of Saint Andrew.

What were his associations with Scotland?045335

At some point during the 730s some of St Andrew’s relics were brought to the Fife coast. This is widely credited to St Rule (Regulus). In the legend, an angel comes to St Rule in a dream, asking him to take the bones of St Andrew to the ends of the earth. He arrived on the Fife coast by boat (possibly shipwrecked) bearing a tooth, an arm bone, a kneecap, and some fingers of the Saint. A chapel was then built to house the relics, and the town of St Andrews was founded. There is however little evidence to prove the validity of this version of events.

A more plausible explanation involves Acca, the Bishop of Hexam. He was a renowned relic collector and could have bought them after they arrived in England with St Augustine. When Bishop Acca sought asylum in Scotland in 732 he took the bones with him to Kirrymont, later renamed St Andrews.

St Andrews

The bones were initially stored in St Rule’s Church, but were transferred to the cathedral in the 14th century. Twice a year the relics were carried in procession around the town. Cathedral and church bells rang and in the evening there were bonfires and fireworks.

St Andrews became the religious capital of Scotland and an important place of pilgrimage. Around the middle of the tenth century he became the patron saint of Scotland. In the 11th century, Saint Margaret, Queen Consort to Malcolm the Third, provided a free ferry across the Forth Estuary (now known as North and South Queensferry) and housing for pilgrims to the relics. The 1320 Declaration of Arbroath recognised St Andrew as Scotland’s patron saint.

On the 14th of June 1559, John Knox and his followers arrived in the City of St Andrews. They entered the cathedral and proceeded to remove all valuable items. At this point, the relics of St Andrew (along with many other important historical artefacts) were lost. This was done to aid the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. Scotland became a Protestant country in 1560, with the aid of Queen Elizabeth of England.

There are currently two relics of St Andrew in Scotland. They are kept in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh, at the National Shrine to St Andrew. The first was given as a gift from the Archbishop of Amalfi to the Archbishop of Strain in 1879, after the restoration of Catholic Emancipation in 1793. The second was given to the newly created Scottish Cardinal (the first in 400 years) Gordon Joseph Gray by Pope Paul VI in 1969.

The Saltire46

St Andrew is usually portrayed carrying an X-shaped cross. As legend would have it, St Andrew appeared in a dream to the Pictish King Angus in the 800s. In the dream, St Andrew gave him advice on the forthcoming battle of Athelstaneford against the Northumbrians. When that battle took place, the cross of St Andrew’s appeared in the sky, leading to a Scottish victory. King Angus adopted it as his flag to commemorate that day, but it was not until 1540 that the Saltire was officially adopted in the form we see today. Before that, various forms of the Saltire were used, including on military uniforms from 1385.

The St Andrew’s cross and the Cross of St George were combined to form the Union flag of Great Britain. With the addition of Northern Ireland the final Union Flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was formed.

The 30th of November

The 30th of November is a celebration of “everything that is good about Scotland”, with ceilidhs, haggis suppers, and general whisky drinking. In the town of St Andrews, a week long festival is held in celebration. However St Andrew’s day celebrations are a relatively new development. It has always been celebrated by Scots and their descendants living abroad, but a survey by Famous Grouse revealed that only 20% of Scottish residents knew when St Andrew’s Day was (compared with 64% for Burns night). The Scottish Government declared that from 2007 St Andrew’s day would be a public holiday, although not a statutory one. St Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Russia, and Romania.

Images ©  Crown Copyright Historic Scotland & Cairns Aitken  | Licensor Scran

Robert Louis Stevenson

21st November 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

02050089Robert Louis Stevenson was one of the most famous Scottish writers of the 19th century, perhaps his best known works being Treasure Island, Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Body Snatcher & Kidnapped.

Early Years

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was born on November 13 1850 in Edinburgh to parents Thomas Stevenson and Margaret Balfour. The Stevenson family were already well known as Thomas and his father, Robert Stevenson, were both famous lighthouse designers and engineers. From them, Robert Louis inherited his adventurous nature that would stimulate his imagination and spark his interest in literature. As a child Robert was severely ill due to a weakness in his lungs which he inherited from his mother. His health improved with age and after a troublesome time at Edinburgh Academy he entered Edinburgh University at the age of seventeen. Lacking the necessary approach for engineering, he instead pursued law and was called to the bar at twenty-five. This was a reserve plan to fall back on should his true passion – literature – fail.

The Traveller

rcahms1a_00998241A man who saw great romance and art in all aspects of life, Stevenson decided to travel. This was most likely in search of better health but also for adventure. As a writer, he craved stimulation for his imagination and he created notes of all he saw. His travels took him to Grez-Doiceau, Belgium and France where he visited Nemours and Paris often. A canoe trip in 1878 inspired his travelogue An Inland Voyage and later Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes. He also wrote a number of articles and essays to generate income. Two years before this, he had met Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne, an American divorcee, in France and fallen in love. A few months later she returned home and fell ill. When the news reached him, Stevenson, against the advice of his friends, departed for San Francisco. The journey from New York to California almost killed him. However, it inspired his works An Amateur Immigrant and Across the Plains. He eventually arrived in San Francisco with scarcely any money at all. By the end of winter 1879 his health declined once more. Fanny nursed him back to health.

Master of Literature

In May 1880 he and Fanny married. They would spend the next seven years seeking a suitable environment for his ever declining health. Having suffered so terribly in winter during his life, they would reside in Scotland and England during the warmer months, and spend winters in France . His greatest works were created in this period: Treasure Island, The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Kidnapped. He also published two volumes of poetry: A Child’s Garden of Verses and Underwoods. Stevenson’s father died in 1887. In June 1888 Stevenson chartered the yacht Casco and he and his family sailed around various locations. This period also saw the production of further work including: The Master of Ballantrae, The Bottle Imp and The South Seas.

The Latter Years

In 1890 Stevenson and his family mo06375482ved to the Samoan island of Upolu where he would live out his final years. He named his estate Vailima, meaning “Five Rivers”. His literary work and reputation was influential and the locals would consult him for advice. They named him the Tusitala – the Teller of Tales. His interaction with the locals led him to observe that European rule was less than benevolent and he published the highly critical A Footnote on History. Given his literary power, his work caused two officials to be recalled. As well as supporting the natives and building his estate, Stevenson published further works such as David Balfour and Ebb Tide. He also wrote the Vailima Letters in this period. With his health waning, Stevenson became depressed and concerned that his creativity was being exhausted. His spirit refused to succumb and he began his masterpiece, the Weir of Hermiston. He apparently remarked: “It’s so good that it frightens me.” He would not complete it. On December 3 1894, after working on his book, Stevenson collapsed in the company of his wife. He was 44 when he died as a result of a cerebral haemorrhage. The natives surrounded his body and carried their Tusitala upon their shoulders to a cliff top where he was buried.

Imagery © Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Historic Environment Scotland, Dundee Central Library –  Licensor Scran