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The Battle of Flodden

6th September 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

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One of the worst military disasters in Scotland’s history

On the 9th of September 1513, an invading Scottish army under King James IV fought an English army under Catherine of Aragon, fighting on behalf of her husband King Henry VIII of England. 

The two sides met at Flodden Hill, Northumberland.  The defeat was catastrophic for Scotland’s leadership, claiming the lives of the King as well as many leading nobles.

In 1513 the relationships between England and Scotland were fractious. James IV, King of Scots, was an ambitious, determined and powerful figure in his kingdom, and keen to make Scotland a player in the European theatre of politics. Henry VIII, King of England, had been ruling his kingdom for some four years, and similarly had grand ambitions, claiming overlordship of both Scotland and large parts of France.

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James IV of Scotland

 

A chance for James IV to assert his position in Europe emerged when rivalries between city-states (including the Papal States) in Italy came to a head, spilling into a wider European conflict. England had sided with Pope Julius II in a war against France, using the pretence of loyalty to the Pope in order to expand English control in France. James IV, though technically at peace with England, had been angered by Henry VIII’s claims in Scotland. The ‘Auld Alliance’ between Scotland and France had been dormant for some years, but Henry VIII’s departure for France in April of 1513 presented the opportunity James IV desired, to revive the alliance with France and attack England.

 

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Henry VIII (1491-1547)

Setting off in mid-August, James IV brought his army of 30,000, as well as artillery including the Mons Meg cannon, to the river Tweed, which he crossed on the 24th of August. Besieging and destroying several castles in England, James IV made progress south. In keeping with the tradition of chivalry, James IV had notified Queen Catherine of his intention to invade a full month before the invasion took place. As a result, the English managed to prepare an army and supplies ahead of James’ arrival.

Meeting at Flodden

The two armies met at Branxton village in Northumberland. The Scottish army had been stationed at Flodden hill, but under threat of a flanking manoeuvre by the English, moved to another hill near the village. In this movement, the Scottish army was not able to properly set up its artillery; the English army, however, was able to begin an extensive and destructive bombardment of the Scottish infantry on the hill from their position lower down.

Unwilling to sustain any more losses, the Scottish infantry moved at pace down the hill towards the English line. Initially maintaining the compact ‘sheltron’ formation with long spears, the Scottish infantry began to lose its shape as the ground was uneven and muddy. Upon reaching the English, the infantry were unable to reform. In the face of the shorter, more flexible English weapons (the ‘bill’, a spear with hooks), the Scottish army was massacred. Among the casualties were King James IV himself, along with dozens of Scottish nobles and leading Churchmen.

The Aftermath & Legacy of the Battle

After the battle, the English army pressed north into Scotland. The state of chaos following King James’ death meant that no formal defence was organised. In this of this, towns in the Borders region of Scotland took to creating their own militia to defend themselves from the English pillagers; these groups of armed townsmen with no formal military training were called Common Riding. Though existing before the battle of Flodden, these organisations are recognised today for the role they played in the aftermath of the defeat.

Several towns in southern Scotland also hastily constructed walls around their urban settlements to allow for improved defence against English pillagers. The Flodden Wall in Edinburgh is one such example, though this fulfilled an economic as well as military function, allowing for more control over the entrances to the medieval burgh.

Image & Audio © National Museums Scotland, University of Glasgow / Francis James Child, National Galleries of Scotland, Lennoxlove House LtdLicensor Scran

Social Climbing with Scran

23rd August 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

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‘The art of the milliner’ 1909

We have become dedicated followers of fashion here at Scran. Not only do we share our wit & wisdom through diverse collections on Twitter @Scranlife, we now have a presence on the ubiquitous Facebook @Scranlife too!

We’ll be bringing the best of our content out of the closet & giving it a good airing online. With almost half a million items in our care, we should be able to stay on trend, like our Parisian models. Whatever your social media leanings, we hope to address your needs with a bespoke social service – through culture, heritage & learning.

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‘Morning walk’ 1911

So, more about this fashion illustration – it’s from La Nouvelle Mode, a weekly fashion journal published in Paris. Dated 1909, the above plate is from the journal, compiled in a ‘Book of Fashion Plates from La Nouvelle Mode: Fashions 1908-1911′ and is signed by the artist ‘Drian’ – who also produced many plates for the French publication ‘Gazette du Bon Ton‘. The French title of this plate translates as ‘The art of the milliner‘.

From 1900-10, hats were often large and elaborately trimmed with feathers, flowers and ribbons. Hair was bouffant and arranged off the face and was often worn padded. It could also be worn in Marcel waves – a series of even waves put in the hair with a curling iron invented by the early 20th century French hairdresser, Marcel Grateau.

Image © National Museums Scotland Licensor Scran

 

John Duncan

22nd August 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

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Saint Bride, 1913

John Duncan was born in Dundee in 1866, and began his career at the Art School at the age of 11. He went to London and Germany and spent four years as Professor of Fine Art in America. It has been said of some of Duncan’s work that it is “transportation from the land of fairy fancy“.

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The Evergreen, illustrated 1896

 

 

 

Duncan was one of the most eclectic and idiosyncratic Scottish artists associated with the Celtic Revival movement which encompassed both visual arts and literature during the 1890s and in Edinburgh derived its guiding inspiration from the philosophy and aesthetics of Sir Patrick Geddes.  Duncan believed that art would and should play a part in shaping national identity.

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Joan of Arc & her Scots Guards

 

Steeped in the study of early Italian fresco painting, Duncan familiarised himself with experimental techniques of tempera then widely practised by his own contemporaries among the mural painters of France. He amalgamated the flattened linear forms of the Renaissance and the modern tradition with the spirals and interlaces of Celtic design to create a distinctive style which was deliberately dreamlike and otherworldly.

9Although known for his painting & illustration he is also responsible for the Witches Well at the Esplanade,  Edinburgh Castle. This ornately designed bronze well was made in 1896 and erected in 1912, following a suggestion by Patrick Geddes. It commemorates the witches and warlocks who were burned at the stake on the Castle Hill from 1479 to 1722. It is believed that no fewer than 300 were dragged up to the spot, tied to a stake, and burnt.

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The plaque inscription reads: ” This fountain, designed by John Duncan, RSA is near the site on which many witches were burned at the stake. The wicked head and the serene head signify that some used their exceptional knowledge for evil purposes, while others were misunderstood and wished their kind nothing but good. The serpent has the dual significance of evil and wisdom. The foxglove spray further emphasise the dual purpose of common objects.”5 (1)

 

 

 

 

 

He died in Edinburgh in 1945.

Image © National Galleries of Scotland, Mike Small, Estate of John Duncan, Historic Environment Scotland  Licensor Scran

The Battle of the Somme

29th June 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

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‘The Eve of the Battle of the Somme’ by Sir H.J.Gunn

The Battle of the Somme was a joint operation between French and British forces during World War One. It took place between July and November 1916 on either side of the River Somme, France. The plan was to bombard the German trenches for eight days before launching the offensive, thereby destroying German artillery and making it easy for allied troops to break through enemy lines. Unfortunately, the German trenches had concrete bunkers to shelter troops. This meant that when the advance began on 1st July, German artillery was able to slaughter the advancing troops. The first day of the Battle saw the worst casualties in the history of the British Army. Nearly 60,000 men were wounded and 20,000 men died.

 

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Royal Engineers clearing the way on the Somme

When the Great War started, the Allied army was still using tactics based on massed lines of soldiers and cavalry attacks, much like the tactics used at Culloden in 1746. Original plans for the Battle of the Somme included a final cavalry charge. This was cancelled after the slaughter of thousands of troops by the newly developed machine gun. Trenches were dug for the first time in this war and offered a degree of protection for soldiers . However, once a trench was breached, the defending soldiers would find themselves trapped in narrow gullies having to fight hand to hand using bayonets and rifles. Tanks were also used at Somme.

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Trench Map of the Beaumont-Hamel

 

The battle for Mametz Wood took place early on in the Somme offensive.
The 38th Welsh Division took heavy casualties as they advanced uphill towards German positions. They were successful in capturing the wood. The Battle of Ancre was the last stage of the Somme offensive and saw the destruction of the last German outposts near the allied trenches.

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Allied troops clearing German trenches

By the end of the offensive in the winter of 1916, the German and Allied armies suffered over one million casualties and neither side made any major gains.

Images © National Museums Scotland, Cloe Gunn via Bridgeman Art Library / Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation, National Library of Scotland,  Licensor Scran

Books for All

14th June 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

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Antiquarian Books Edinburgh Castle © Historic Environment Scotland

Did you know that Books for All is powered by Scran? Accessible Curriculum Materials for Students with ASN. 

So, what is BfA about? – Books for All is about making accessible learning materials available in alternative formats, for people who have difficulty reading traditional printed books. In Scotland, Books for All provides books in accessible formats for pupils who have difficulty with ordinary printed text, including those with dyslexia, who have a physical disability or who are blind or partially sighted.

downloadWhere does Scran fit in? – Scran supports the Books for All service by providing the background database system which hosts the reading materials and online content, This is regularly added to and updated.For example, within the last month new study materials from Hodder have been uploaded; National 4 Physics and Higher for CFE Business Management SQA papers. Also, recorded narration of “Heiroglyphics” by Anne Donovan – as well as books by Iain Crichton Smith; “The Red Door“, “The Telegram” and “Mother and Son” in MP3 format. As you can see there is quite a range on offer.

These resources are Accessible Copies of copyright books and works. They are shared under the terms and conditions of the CLA Print Disability licence.

It’s easy to get your digital hands on all of the above, login here. Alternatively, if you are a teacher in Scotland, you can find both Books for All & Scran in the Glow App Library, where you can add them your Glow Launch Pad. If you have any further questions, you can also contact us

Images © Historic Environment Scotland & Books for All| Licensor Scran

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Excessive golfing dwarfs the intellect…’

7th June 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

canmore_1439121Tom Morris known as ‘Old’ Tom Morris is a Scottish golfing legend and famous golf course designer.

In recognition of his achievements, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club House in St Andrews permanently displays his portrait. Born and bred in St Andrews, at age eighteen, Tom Morris was apprenticed to Allan Robertson (1815-1859) the greatest player of his time. Tom Morris was a golf ball and club maker before turning to professional play. In 1862 he won the British Open by 13 strokes and this margin of victory still stands as a record. He won the Open Championship four times. In 1867 Morris won his final Open.

 

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The Tom Morris 27 1/2 gutta percha golf ball

‘Old’ Tom and his son ‘Young’ Tom became the only father and son to hold successive open titles when ‘Old’ Tom became the oldest player to win a title, aged 46 years and 99 days, in 1867. ‘Young’ Tom won in 1868 and in the following year he won again and his father finished second. ‘Old’ Tom later became custodian of the links at St Andrews. As a renowned as a club and ball maker, he established his own club-making firm and designed many famous Scottish golf courses.

 

02290129‘Young’ Tom Morris (1851-75) was outright winner of the Open Golf Championship at St Andrews 1868-1870, when he claimed the Challenge Belt as his own after the hat trick. ‘Young’ Tom Morris has the distinction of being its youngest ever winner. There was no Open Championship in 1871. He won the 1872 Open and was awarded the new Claret Jug trophy. Young Tom died at the age of 24, just three months after the death of his wife. His grave is in the grounds of St Andrews Cathedral, beside that of his father, Old Tom Morris; a memorial stone is set in the old priory wall.

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The origins of golf are a matter of controversy. Only from the mid 18th century, when the first golf clubs were formed, do records appear which give a more detailed account of the game. Golf was almost exclusively a sport for the Scots until the second half of the 19th century, and it was played by a limited number of people. It expanded quickly, particularly after 1880 and was taken up by the English and by women. The game became increasingly popular, leading not only to the creation of new golf courses, but also to an outpouring of golf literature. This is apparent in the appearance of books of instruction in golf, such as this, histories of clubs, anthologies of golfing prose and verse, and journals devoted entirely to the sport.

 

07570131Sir Walter Simpson’s 1887 book, ‘The Art of Golf’, was the first to feature photographs and is informative as well as humorous. Discussing the mental qualities needed to be a good golfer, he famously wrote, Excessive golfing dwarfs the intellect. Nor is this to be wondered at when we consider that the more fatuously vacant the mind is, the better for play. It has been observed that absolute idiots play the steadiest!

Images © Historic Environment Scotland, National Library of Scotland, St Andrews University Library| Licensor Scran

The Battle of Jutland

24th May 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

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Cartoon ‘Jutland – A Narrow Shave’

2016 is the centenary of the Battle of Jutland also called Battle of the Skagerrak. It was the only major confrontation between the British Navy and German High Seas Fleet during World War One.

In May 1916, the German High Seas Fleet under the command of the Vice Admiral Reinhard von Scheer, took to the seas intent on attacking allied shipping off the Norwegian coast. The German fleet comprised of 16 dreadnoughts, 6 pre-dreadnoughts, 5 battle cruisers, 11 light cruisers and 61 torpedo boats.

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HMS Shannon

 

 

The British Navy in the North Sea was based in Rosyth, Cromarty and Scapa Flow. Here it could protect the central and northern areas of the North Sea and stop the German High Seas Fleet from getting into the Atlantic where it could cause huge problems for Britain’s merchant fleet.

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British Admiral Sir John Jellicoe

Admiral Scheer planned to avoid the bulk of the British Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. However, British Naval intelligence had broken the German naval code and was aware of Scheer’s plan. In response the British Grand Fleet, under Admiral Sir John Jellicoe in Rosyth, left port to search for the enemy.

 

 

 

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North Sea Movements The British Grand Fleet 1914-18

 

 

On the 31st May at around 4pm British Fast Cruisers came into contact with the enemy off the coast of Denmark. The British came under heavy fire, losing three ships before the eventual arrival of the Admiral Jellicoe’s main fleet. On Jellicoe’s arrival Scheer ordered his ships to withdraw. Fearing he was being led into a trap, Jellicoe ordered his fleet not to pursue. The British instead headed Southeast with the intention of cutting off the enemy as it turned to return to port. Scheer anticipated the British plan and under the cover of darkness broke through the rear of the Grand Fleet and successfully returned to port.

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Both sides declared the encounter a victory. The German Navy inflicted significantly more damage on the Royal Navy, sinking 14 ships with casualties numbering 6,094. In comparison the German Navy lost 11 smaller ships with 2,551 causalities. The German fleet had failed to deal a decisive blow to the British. Admiral Jellicoe was heavily criticised for failing to capitalise on the German retreat. He was able to claim the strategic victory. The German Navy was no longer a threat, and remained in port for the duration of War.

 

Images © National Library of Scotland, Scottish Life Archive, Falkirk Museums, Orkney Islands Council Licensor Scran

Shackleton & Endurance

17th May 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

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Chart of South Polar Regions © Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

Sir Ernest Shackleton, British explorer, is best known for his Antarctic expeditions, particularly his trip on the ‘Endurance’.

He famously underwent a gruelling journey to rescue his crew after his ship was crushed in the ice in the Weddell Sea in October 1915. Shackleton had had significant polar exploration experience and was respected in the field. He had been the Secretary of the RSGS Royal Scottish Geographical Society when the ‘Scotia’ succeeded on the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition in 1904.

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‘Scotia’

In 1916, South Georgia was where Shackleton eventually found help after the ‘Endurance’ had been crushed. He led his party some 180 miles to the safety of Elephant Island, and from there he made an 800 mile long voyage in a small lifeboat with five companions. The men then had to cross from one side of the South Georgia island to the other, across the mountain range before finally walking into Stromness on May 20th 1916.

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Ernest Shackleton’s Arrival © Shetland Museum & Archives.

It was a most remarkable feat, in truly terrible conditions, and of the 28 crew members not one man lost his life. Shackleton arrived at Stromness, accompanied by Frank Worsley and Tom Crean after an epic trek of 30 miles from King Haakon Bay – where they had left three comrades with the lifeboat ‘James Caird’. It was their first contact with the outside world for seventeen months.

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Shackleton’s Gravestone © Shetland Museum & Archives

On his final expedition aboard the ‘Quest’, Shackleton subsequently died on South Georgia on 5th January 1922. His body was buried in a whalers’ cemetery there, at Grytviken. For years a rough cross marked the grave, and a carved gravestone was later put up. On the back of the gravestone is a quote from the poem ‘The Statue and the Bust’ by Robert Browning, I hold that man should strive to the uttermost, for his life’s set prize.

At the top of the stone is a nine pointed star; supposedly this was Shackleton’s own particular symbol throughout his lifetime. He was quite a superstitious man, and noted that the figure 9 recurred strangely in his life. He adopted the nine pointed star as his particular emblem, and had a silver figure 9 made, which he fastened to the door of his cabin on the ‘Quest’.

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Adelie Penguins, South Georgia © Shetland Museum & Archives

South Georgia is an island near Antarctica where several whaling stations were based from the 1900s to the 1960s. Thousands of men worked at the Antarctic whaling during the summer season, and each whaling station became its own little community. The conditions were harsh though, even in summer time. The island is rugged and barren with glacier covered mountains. The near proximity of Antarctica, and the permanent ice-field of the Weddell Sea keeps the temperatures permanently low, the annual mean is only a degree or two above freezing. The prevailing westerly winds are strong and steady.

Images © Royal Scottish Geographical Society, Shetland Museum & Archives Licensor Scran

Anyone for Afternoon Tea?

4th May 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

Tea Plate features in Scran Top Ten00981120 (1)

It’s always interesting for us to see what’s trending in the Scran search box, and today this plate is proving popular amongst our users. Made in Greenock,  the transfer-printed earthenware tea plate was made by the Clyde Pottery Company  in Renfrewshire. It dates from between 1863 and 1900, measures 25 mm H x 210 mm rim D and is marked ‘C.P. Co.’

The pattern is called ‘Mayflower’.  A sailing ship can be seen in a small circle in the centre of the plate and in three others around the border. J. & M.P. Bell & Company of Glasgow also produced a pattern with this title.

A pottery at Greenock was established in 1815 under the title of ‘The Clyde Pottery Company’. It was run by Thomas Shirley & Co from the 1840s until 1857. Thereafter, it continued as the Clyde Pottery Company Ltd until 1863. From then until 1900 it was known as the Clyde Pottery Company and from 1900 until its closure in 1905, it reverted back to Clyde Pottery Company Ltd.

Image © National Museums Scotland Licensor Scran

Beltane Festival & May Day

25th April 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

The term Beltane is thought to mean bright fire. The festival’s origins lie in Scotland’s distant past when people lived by herding animals. They marked the seasons with community celebrations. Beltane signified the transition from Spring to Summer.

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Before banks had holidays or even the advent of Christianity, there has been a festival held at the start of May to celebrate the first day of summer. Early agricultural peoples across Europe used seasonal indicators like the flowering hawthorn to mark the start of the summer in northern Europe. For the early farmers, summer was a time of warmth and plenty of food between the winter and before the hard harvest work, a great excuse for a party.

Paganism Plagiarism

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Minister conducting a May Day service, Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

When the first Christians arrived in Britain to spread their faith, they used many of the existing customs as a foundation. Major Christian festivals like Christmas and Easter fall near important dates on the solar calendar like winter solstice and spring equinox. By incorporating familiar holidays and symbols, Christian missionaries could encourage piety without asking their converts to stop their fun or completely change their society. Even today, services are held at the top of Arthur’s Seat as the sun comes up over Edinburgh on May 1st. Images of the pagan symbol of rebirth and renewal, like the Green Man who is particularly associated with Beltane, have been included in Christian gravestones for centuries.

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Green Man screaming in panic

Bring Back the Best Bits

This basic need for a holiday still holds true today. In our increasingly hectic world, people are becoming more curious about their ancient ancestors and customs. Revivals of pagan celebrations of the seasons are becoming popular, and sometimes spectacular events.

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Green Man in the Great Hall at Edinburgh Castle

In Edinburgh, a contemporary Beltane Fire Festival is held on Calton Hill on the evening before 1st May to mark the beginning of summer. This variant of the Beltane festival was started in 1988 by enthusiasts, with academic support from the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Since then it has become an immensely popular event in the city’s calendar, drawing on a variety of historical, mythological and literary influences including the Green Man and the May Queen.

Beltane celebrates fertility and the earth’s ripe abundance. Various rites were performed to ensure the fertility of nature and the fires were believed to purify and protect against plague and epidemics. Modern day Beltane festivals are mainly for public entertainment.

The Victorians

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Peebles First Beltane Queen – Friday 23rd June 1899

The Victorians also realised the value of a celebration for the whole community and began ‘reviving’ local customs in towns across Britain, like the Riding of Marches in Peebles to define the town’s boundaries. Here the Beltane originally celebrated the advent of the Summer Solstice in May and in folklore was a Celtic festival devoted to Baal, the God of Fire.

The modern celebration, marking midsummer, is primarily a children’s festival and incorporates the Riding of the Marches. In 1899, the first Beltane Queen was crowned with all due pomp and ceremony, moving the celebration to mid June. The Peebles Beltane Festival continues into the 21st century bringing tourism to the town.

Images © Scottish Media Group, National Museums Scotland,  Beltane Fire Society & Gerry McCann, Historic Environment Scotland, Collection of Bert Robb & Eric Stevenson  Licensor Scran