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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 

Up Helly Aa

30th January 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

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

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 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

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

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

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

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

 

 

“Puire Fatherless Bairnes”

27th June 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

Heriot’s Hospital Boys Edinburgh 29 June 1880

I’m Theo Smith, over the past week I have been doing work experience with Historic Environment Scotland. Part of my work experience has been working with Scran. I was tasked with writing a blog post inspired by my discoveries on scran.ac.uk. After a bit of research I decided to see what I could find about my school and its founder George Heriot. I decided on this topic because even though I already know a bit about my school’s history, I wanted to find out more. When looking through Scran I found some really interesting information and images – here is what I found out.”

George Heriot – Founder of the School (1563-1624)

George Heriot was born in 1593 to a father of the same name. His father was a goldsmith and was descended from the Heriots of Traboun, an old and well known family in East Lothian. In 1588 George Heriot became a member of the Corporation of Goldsmiths, continuing his father’s work. He was so good at his work that in 1597 he became the goldsmith to Queen Anne, which led to him becoming the jeweler and goldsmith to King James VI only four years later. When King James became King of England, Heriot followed him to London and lived there until he died on the 12th February 1624 at the age of 60. He died a very rich man and those riches would go into building a school for the upbringing and education of the “puire fatherless bairnes” of Edinburgh. It would be named Heriot’s Hospital.

Inside the Quadrangle – 1953

The building of the school was taken on by the royal master mason William Wallace. He was a well known in Scotland as an expert for these kinds of buildings as he already had a number of notable structures to his name. He also was the main mason on the King’s Lodgings at Edinburgh Castle. But Wallace died before he could finish and the job was taken up by his apprentice William Aytoun who had assisted him on various other projects. Aytoun almost completed the building however he died at the end of the 1640’s. In 1693 Robert Mylne presented drawings to build the large octagonal clock tower. He also added a statue of George Heriot inside the quadrangle. In the early 19th century the well known architect William H Playfair added a gatehouse on Lauriston Place.

The gatehouse at Lauriston Place

He also added a terrace around the base of the main building of the school. The interior of the chapel in the south side of the main building was done by Scottish architect James Gillespie Graham in 1837.

When the main building of the school was complete in 1650 it was occupied by the injured and sick troops of Oliver Cromwell until 1658 when he died. The school opened its gates to 30 more boys. This increased the number of boys living at the school to 150. In 1837 the school opened 10 ‘free schools’ across Edinburgh which educated several thousand children however they closed in 1885. A year later Heriot’s Hospital was renamed to George Heriot’s School which it has remained ever since. In the 1870’s the school paid for an institution, which would later merge with the Watt institution, to form Heriot-Watt College, a technical college, which would later become the Heriot-Watt University.

The Brannan Sisters arrive in August 1979

In 1979 three Brannan sisters from Dalkeith became the first girls to attend the school. There are a number of children in the school, those who meet the financial and residential criteria, who still receive help from the school which offers full coverage of the costs to attend. This shows that George Heriots legacy still continues and may continue for a long time to come.

 

 

 

 

Images: © The Scotsman, Edinburgh City Libraries, Newsquest (Herald & Times), National Museums Scotland & Edinburgh College of Art  Licensor www.scran.ac.uk

Learning about the Scottish National War Memorial

5th March 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

SNWM Crown Square

Just now we’re busy working with Forthview Primary School & our Historic Environment Scotland colleagues at Edinburgh Castle. Together we are exploring the topic of World War One  with Primary 7. During our investigations we’ll be looking closely at the Scottish National War Memorial.

 

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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:

  • 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?

Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots

8th February 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

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“Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots” by Robert Herdman, 1867

Mary, Queen of Scots is one of Scotland’s best known monarchs. She is also renowned for her involvement in plots and murder. Elizabeth I had Mary beheaded for treason on Wednesday, 8th February 1587.

Born on 2nd December 1542 at Linlithgow, she came to the throne as an infant, ruled France when only 16, lost her husband at 18, married two men who helped murder their rivals and came close to ruling all of Britain 35 years before her son, James VI of Scotland, was also crowned King James I of England on Elizabeth I’s death.

Turbulent Times

During the 16th century, Scotland witnessed great religious, political, social and economic change in the form of the religious Reformation and frequent power struggles between rival political factions. Mary had ascended to the Scottish throne when she was six days old but in 1548 was sent to France as the prospective bride of the French Dauphin, Francis, whom she married in 1558. She returned to Scotland to resume control in 1561, after Francis’s death. Mary’s reign was beset by plots and religious struggles. Although Mary had stated she had no particular wish to rule how her subjects should worship, she came under considerable attack from John Knox – the religious reformer.

Murderous Intent

The Catholic nobleman Lord Darnley, Mary’s cousin and second husband, was involved in the murder of her private secretary David Rizzio and was then strangled at Kirk o’ Field in 1567 by the Queen’s favourite James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. They also blew up the house he was staying in.

Open Rebellion

Bothwell and Mary were married in a Protestant ceremony in 1567, an act which turned Scottish noblemen against her and led to open rebellion. Mary’s troops were defeated at Carberry Hill in June 1567 and she was forced to surrender, abdicating in favour of her son, James VI, who was crowned at Stirling. She escaped from her prison at Lochleven in May 1568 and gathered an army of 6,000 but was defeated again at Langside.

To England

Fleeing, Mary crossed the Solway Firth seeking refuge at the court of her cousin Queen Elizabeth I. She hoped for asylum and assistance from her cousin, but she was mistaken. In 1568, in York and Westminster, Mary’s representatives and opponents, debating her alleged complicity in Darnley’s murder, failed to reach a formal decision as to whether she should be restored to the Scottish throne. Elizabeth did not find in Mary’s favour. Mary was detained in England for 19 years before her execution on 8 February 1587. She feared that Mary would be a focus for catholic rebellion, especially after the Pope declared that if a catholic murdered Elizabeth, they would not be guilty of any sin.

049446More Plots

At first her imprisonment was relatively easy, but the continued plotting of catholic sympathisers forced Elizabeth to act. The more frequent the plots against Elizabeth, the greater the pressure on her to act against Mary. She was arrested for being involved in her page Babbington’s plot to murder Elizabeth I, which would have led to her becoming Queen of England, being next in line to that throne. Mary was tried and found guilty of treason by conspiring against the English queen in 1586. But Elizabeth still hesitated to sign Mary’s death warrant.

Final Days

Elizabeth was persuaded by Parliament and her councillors to do so on 1 February 1587.

Mary had been told of her execution on the afternoon of 7 February. Her last letter was completed at two o’clock in the morning on Wednesday, 8 February 1587, six hours before her execution at Fotheringhay Castle. It was to Henri III, her former brother-in-law, then King of France. In it Mary states that she is being put to death for her Catholic religion and her right to the English crown. She also asks him to take care of her servants.

Beheading

Mary was beheaded at Fotheringay Castle at 8.00am on Wednesday 8 February 1587, aged 44. At the Execution, Mary was heard to intone ‘Into thy Hands O Lord, do I commit my Spirit’. In the presence of the Commissioners and Ministers of Queen Elizabeth the executioner struck Mary with his axe, and after a first and second blow by which she was barbarously wounded, he cut off her head with the third stroke. She was first interred in Peterborough Cathedral, but later, in 1612, James VI had her remains removed and entombed in Westminster Abbey.

Lots more for teachers via this attachment Investigating Mary Queen of Scots.

 

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