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Mary Queen of Scots “From Castle to Palace”

18th February 2019 by Scran | 0 comments

City of Edinburgh, Canongate on the Roy Map, 1747-55

Mary Queen of Scots (1542-87)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This guest post comes from Sally Chalmers, the HES Learning Officer at Edinburgh Castle who has used Scran records to tell the story “From Castle to Palace”.

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Mary, Queen of Scots, finally returned home to Scotland in August 1561. After years of living in France she was used to elaborate celebrations, so the arrival back to a haar and the bustle of Leith docks may have been disappointing. Her unusually fast crossing resulted in a lacklustre welcome.  A few weeks later however, Mary was ready to make her real entrance to Scotland. In September 1561, she led a magnificent procession down the Royal Mile, beginning at Edinburgh Castle she proceeded to her residence at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Castell of Edenborrowgh 1649 – features gallows where witches were executed

Today, school visitors to Edinburgh Castle can walk in Mary’s footsteps using a trail developed by HES in partnership with Royal Collections Trust. The trail follows the length of the Royal Mile highlighting sites and landmarks which would have been there in 1561.

We are invited to cast our minds back and imagine walking the route by Mary’s side as she took in her old home and her new country.

 

 

Erected in 1912 following a suggestion by Patrick Geddes

Witches Well at the Royal Mile end of the Esplanade marks the site where over 300 witches and warlocks, mostly women, were victims of burnings from 1479 to 1722. Though it wasn’t there in Mary’s time, her son James took particular interest in witches, even questioning suspects of witchcraft himself during the infamous North Berwick witch trials.

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.”

 

Gladstone’s Land on the Lawnmarket C19th engraving

Gladstone’s Land  now cared for by the National Trust, in Mary’s time this building would have belonged to a wealthy merchant. The merchant and other wealthy tenants would have lived in grand apartments on the upper floors, while the lower floors would be used as a shop and to house smellier residents, pigs! Today, you can still visit a shop but there are no longer any pigs.

 

 

 

 

 

Riddle’s Court

Riddle’s Court was built in the 1590s by merchant, Bailie John McMorran, reputedly the richest merchant of his time. It sits just off the main street away from the noise and smells of the crowded tenements of the Royal Mile. Aristocratic people would rent rooms here and use it as a meeting space. Mary’s son, James VI, attended a lavish banquet here.

It is named after George Riddell, who rebuilt it in 1726.

 

 

 

 

St Giles & the Old Tollbooth

Outside St.Giles’ Cathedral you can find a heart shape on the cobbles. In Mary’s time this was the site of the tollbooth – a court & prison. The heart marks the spot of the cell where prisoners would await execution.

Walking around the right side of the cathedral to the car park you’ll see a plaque in parking spot 23. This marks the grave of John Knox, a famous Scottish minister and one of Mary’s most vocal opponents.

 

The Mercat Cross is associated with state proclamations inc. Darnley 1565

The Mercat Cross showed that Edinburgh had the right to hold a regular market. It was also a site of public executions and formal proclamations (like the announcement of a new Queen). In Mary’s time, the Cross stood a little further down the street. You may be able to spot the cobbles that mark its previous position.

 

 

 

 

 

Luckenbooths were timber fronted, 4 storeyed tenements

Site of the Luckenbooths In Mary’s time, tall tenement buildings stood beside St Giles. They were known as luckenbooths because on the ground level they had locked booths which housed shops. Imagine what sights and smells Mary must have experienced as she travelled past the bustling Luckenbooths.

 

 

Etching of John Knox House & Mowbray House by Frank W Simon c1885

John Knox House is now home to the Scottish Storytelling Centre, the building known as John Knox’s house is one of the oldest houses in Edinburgh. It is believed that John Knox did live there for a while but it was also home to James Mossman, Mary’s goldsmith and keeper of the royal mint. Mary, Knox and Mossman feature on the wooden panels on the front of the house.

 

 

 

 

World’s End Close photographed early 1960s

The World’s End Walking along the mile you may spot a pub called the World’s End. This area was known as World’s End as it separated the Canongate (the lower Royal Mile) from the original city of Edinburgh. In Mary’s time, there would have been a gatehouse here. Sometime the gate here was used to display the heads of executed prisoners, perhaps there were some on display when Mary passed by, not knowing they foreshadowed her own eventual fate…

 

Originally three burgage tenements converted into one house in 1517

Today Huntly House is home the Museum of Edinburgh, it is typical of the type of housing in Mary’s time. It would have originally been made of wood but had to be rebuilt after being damaged during the Rough Wooing.

 

 

 

Murder of David Rizzio painting by Sir William Allan c.1833

Canongate Kirk & David Rizzio’s Grave  To the right of Canongate Kirk, you will find the plaque said to mark David Rizzio’s grave. Rizzio had been secretary to Mary and close confidant but he was brutally murdered in front of Mary, by a band of nobles including Mary’s own husband in 1566.

 

White Horse Close lies to the bottom of the Canongate

White Horse Close was the site of the royal mews or stable, where Mary kept her prized white horse, hence its name. Mary loved sports like riding and hunting, so her horses were important to her. The close became rather decayed and it was restored as modern housing in the 1960s.

 

 

 

 

Engraving by James Gordon 1649

Finally, we arrive at Mary’s destination The Royal Palace of holy rood hous.

This view shows Holyrood as it would have appeared at the time of Mary, Queen of Scots and before the fire during Cromwell’s occupation in 1650 when much of the building was destroyed.

Here we conclude the Castle to Palace trail.

Images © The British Library, Historic Environment Scotland, National Museums Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland,  City of Edinburgh Libraries & Alan Daiches  | Licensor Scran

Up Helly Aa

29th January 2019 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

16th January 2019 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

The Christmas Card Phenomenon

23rd December 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

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Christmas greetings cards have become a regular feature of the traditional British Christmas with billions changing hands within the UK each year, but where did this tradition begin and why did it continue to thrive?

Humble Beginnings?

The first Christmas card is thought to have been designed by British artist John Calcott Horsley in 1840. With the invention of the telephone still over 30 years away, sending hand-written letters by mail was the primary means of communication. Faced with the tedious task of writing to all his friends and family members with Christmas greetings, a friend of Horsley, civil servant Henry Cole, conceived the idea of a printed card bearing a suitable message which could be signed and sent to one and all. Horsley embraced the idea and produced a design which was published in 1843. Cole had 1000 of the cards printed and placed on sale at the rather princely sum of 1 shilling each. Little did he realise just how popular his idea would become!

National Mania

09230757Times have changed since Henry Cole’s moment of inspired laziness: mail is no longer the mainstay of communication. The telephone network has joined up the remotest corners of the world and the cheap, paperless, instantaneous communication afforded by e-mail has threatened to make ‘snail mail’ altogether obsolete. The Christmas card, however, goes marching on, and in no small way.

We are still crazy enough about Christmas cards to cause enormous disruption to the postal system every December. This year, postboxes will be stuffed with an estimated 2 billion cards and on the busiest day the national mailbag will contain almost double its usual 84 million items. Such is the congestion that Royal Mail recommend posting second class seasonal dispatches 8 days in advance to guarantee arrival in time for the big day.

Conscientious Choice

06712561Two billion cards amounts to a lot of paper and a lot of spending. Many consumers are now looking for more conscientious ways to enjoy the tradition. Each year, around a quarter of shoppers will choose charity cards in the hope that good causes can benefit from their seasonal spending. However, the percentage of proceeds finding their way to good causes varies widely. Research by the Charities Advisory Trust suggests that some charity cards are just not all that charitable after all: the most miserly example they uncovered passed only 0.3% of proceeds to the named good cause. Others will aim for a more ethical celebration by boycotting Christmas cards altogether, feeling that their seasonal goodwill is better expressed by not contributing to the tonnes of paper waste generated from cards each year.

‘Tis the Season to Recycle?

  • 06710368An estimated 1 billion Christmas cards and 83 sq km of wrapping paper will end up in our bins this year
  • We bought around 7.5 million Christmas trees in 2001: at least 1.1 million were recycled
  • 20 – 30% more glass and cans will be collected for recycling over the festive period

Christianity back into Christmas?

Horsley’s original card had its opponents too, but for different reasons. It bore an image of a family raising their glasses to Christmas which incited fury amongst Puritans of the time. In what was still very much a Christian state the uproar was caused by the association of the evils of alcohol with the sanctity of the feast of Christmas. It is interesting to note that, while scenes of the Nativity and other connected imagery went on to become regular features in the design of Christmas cards, the genuine article was quite secular in its design.

Controversy about the presence or absence of Christianity in Christmas traditions rages in Britain to this day with many Christians bemoaning the seeming transformation of the feast from a religious event into an orgy of consumerism. Others would praise the fact that in our modern British society, one characterized by a far more diverse range of religion and cultural traditions than the Victorians would have recognised, the goodwill of Christmas is now often shared across faiths and cultures. The disagreement reaches beyond the UK too. In 2005 the president of the USA received angry feedback about the official White House Christmas card: the secular design of the card horrified some recipients (it featured two of the head of state’s pet dogs frolicking in the snow on the White House Lawn).

Question of Taste

The official White House card illustrates how the sending of Christmas cards has become protocol in the USA. The same is true in Britain: businesses are careful not forget their customers, and refuse collectors all over the country will receive cards from perfect strangers during the season. Is a Christmas card from the paperboy evidence of lasting Christmas spirit or just a hint that a tip might be in order?

A wide variety of designs have evolved to suit these myriad purposes. Horsley’s original design showed a scene of Christmas cheer. Cards like this are still popular, alongside Nativity scenes and informal cartoons. When the Christmas card was still a relatively new idea the Victorians became very fond of elaborately engineered pop-up and trick cards. Nowadays, hand-making cards is a popular hobby and parents everywhere are still best pleased with the lovingly prepared designs in glitter and glue brought home by their sticky-fingered schoolchildren.

What makes a good Christmas card? Can a piece of stationery really embody the Christmas spirit? Why not try making a Scran card to find out? Search for an image and click Create to make a greetings card in a few easy steps and see if you can make someone’s Christmas!

Images © Scottish Life Archive, The Scotsman Publications Ltd | Licensor Scran

Armistice & the Scottish National War Memorial

1st November 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

SNWM Crown Square

Following World War One the first day of remembrance conducted in Britain and the Commonwealth was held in 1919, it was called Armistice Day. Following World War Two, Armistice Day became known as Remembrance Day to include all those who had died in defence of their countries in the two World Wars. The official time and date of remembrance is 11am on 11 November.

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1927 SNWM Postcard

The Scottish National War Memorial was created to honour the dead of the Great War, and is found in Crown Square within Edinburgh Castle. In 1917 before the War had even ended, the idea for the memorial was suggested by John George Stewart Murray – the 8th Duke of Atholl.

His idea caused a lot discussion and debate, not everyone agreed with his vision. Some people were worried it would focus too much on the military, rather than all Scots involved in the War effort. Also, after the site at Edinburgh Castle had been chosen, others were concerned it would look out of place – because of these challenges, early plans for the memorial were changed.

 

Robert Lorimer

Between 1924-7, the building was designed by the architect Robert Lorimer. He suggested an existing building could be changed and altered to form a remembrance hall. Previously the building had been used as a barracks to house soldiers. The architect worked with over 200 Scottish artists to transform the barracks into the remembrance hall & create a shrine.

 

SNWM Fundraising 1920

The memorial was estimated to cost £250,000. Therefore a lot of money that had to be raised, events like Thistle Day took place and fundraising started – for example commemorative postage stamps were issued. The public donated large sums of money in support. In August 1922 the money needed was finally raised, so construction could begin.

 

SNWM Shrine reconstruction 1924

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Architectural Drawings

Inside the building, the long hall has short wings and a central entrance gives the plan the form of the letter E.

The central shrine holds a large casket, which contains the Rolls of Honour. These are lists of over 150,000 names of those who lost their lives.

Space didn’t allow the names of the dead to be carved in stone, so they were inscribed in books of remembrance. Today visitors can still view these books, listing the names of all Scottish casualties of World War One, World War Two & all conflicts since.

 

It took ten years of determined work, however the Scottish National War Memorial was officially opened by The Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VIII, on 14th July 1927.

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Images © St.Andrews University Library, Historic Environment Scotland, National Museums of Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, National Library of Scotland – Moving Image Archive Licensor Scran 

Possible discussion questions for school visitors:

  • Why do you think the Duke of Atholl felt it was important for Scotland to have a National Memorial?
  • What impression do you get from the Memorial?
  • How does it make you feel?
  • Why is it important that we remember?

1791 ‘Currie Powder’ Recipe

23rd October 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

07560042We thought we might whet your appetite for National Curry Week!

This page has been taken from recipe books written by Stephana Malcolm & it dates from 1791. This is one of five recipes for curry powder which she included in her recipe books. Ready-mixed curry powder was available in Britain at this period, but either Stephana Malcolm found it hard to get or she simply enjoyed making her own. Several Malcolm family members lived and worked in India and their influence is seen in the many Indian-inspired dishes in the recipe books from Burnfoot.

Stephana Malcolm clearly had curried dishes often enough that it was worth making powder in bulk. In this recipe she advises storing it in bottles and adding the wet ingredients, such as lemon juice and garlic, just before use. The National Library of Scotland holds a fascinating and valuable series of seven recipe books which survive from the Malcolm family. The earliest was started by Margaret Malcolm in 1782, several were then written by her daughter Stephana and her daughter-in-law Clementina, and the last in the series was written by Margaret’s great granddaughter, Mary Malcolm.

Image © National Library of Scotland | Licensor Scran

MacFarlane Lang Biscuits

29th May 2018 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

 

 

Beltane Festival & May Day

30th April 2018 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

IWD – International Women’s Day

2nd March 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

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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

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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 

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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.

Education

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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”.

Suffrage

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.

Employment

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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

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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 

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