Thistle,Gems,Saltire,Lion Rampant,Stone of Scone,Nessie,Bagpipes,Scotch Whisky
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Articles about the following Scottish emblems and icons have been assembled from the association's newsletters, newspaper articles and general history.


- condensed from The Scottish Banner, October '98

The thistle seems to have emerged as a Scottish emblem through a Danish invasion. In those days it was considered unwarlike to attack an enemy at night. The Danish invaders, however, decided to attack barefooted and under the cloak of darkness to silently approach the unsuspecting Scots. One soldier, stepping on a thistle, cried out and alerted the Scots. In the ensuing battle, the Danes were routed. The grateful Scots adopted the thistle as a symbol of their nation.

The thistle inspired Scotland's own order of knighthood - The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle. Tradition has it that the order was founded in 809 by Achaiuys, King of the Scots, to honour St. Andrew. Having fallen out of use, the order was given new life by King James V in 1540.

During the Revolution of 1688, when James VII was ousted from the throne, the order again lapsed, to be revived by his daughter Queen Anne in 1703. Its intent was to give Scotland an order of chivalry comparable with the English Order of the Garter. It is awarded to Scots for exceptional service to the throne and candidates are personally selected by the monarch.

Today the number of Knights of the Thistle is still limited to sixteen, with Queen Elizabeth II as Sovereign of the Order. The Secretary of the Order is the Lord Lyon King of Arms, Sir Malcolm Innes. There is one Lady of the Thistle, HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

One of the most popular tourist attractions at St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh is the chapel of the Knights of the Thistle. It is decorated with the shields and crested helmets of the Knights, and the royal window bears a portrait of St. Andrew in blue mantle.
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- condensed from the July, 1998 issue of The Scottish Banner

GARNET: Of the quartz family, the garnet found in Scotland is most commonly red, brownish-red or black. To be regarded as "gems", garnets should be blood red or the colour of wine. Among the Persians, it was the royal stone.

AGATE: Common in many districts, its multi-coloured layers are sometimes wavy or banded. If you keep one in your mouth, it will appease a raging thirst. It bestows great strength and a glowing complexion. Wearers are eloquent and graceful, gaining the favours of both heaven and earth.

SAPPHIRE: The gemstone of St. Andrew, but not found in the Highlands. A talisman to avert danger and ensure wealth and honour. "Heavenly blue in colour".

ONYX: Two or more opaque layers of chalcedonic quartz, found in Perthshire, in contrasting black, green or dark red with white. It brings evil to the wearer, particularly lawsuits.

CAIRNGORM: A smoky type of quartz found in the Cairngorm Mountains of the Grampian Range. It is deep orange or brown with a beautiful luster.

MOR ION: Charcoal-black or brown-black specimens of transparent quartz.

BERYL: Some are colourless, blue or yellow, but the finest are sea green. "Looking through it one sees what was previously invisible."

TOPAZ: Often yellow, with some pale blue specimens. Generally occurs in granite such as that found in the Highlands.
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(an excerpt from an article about the Scottish saltire in the Sunday Herald - March 19, 2000)

The origins of the St. Andrew's Cross are, like most aspects of Scottish history, shrouded in obscurity. Legend has it that the saltire flag has its origins in a battle near Athelstaneford in East Lothian, about 832 AD when Angus mac Fergus, King of the Picts, defeated the army of Athelstane, King of Northumbria.

The night before the battle, the Scots saw a cross formation of clouds in the sky resembling a St. Andrew's cross - the patron saint. They took this sign as an omen and indeed they were successful in battle the next day. Thus the colours in the flag are white to represent the clouds and azure for the evening sky.

"There is no reason why the colour of the saltire should not have changed about the 15th century," said Lynch. While St. Andrew was long adopted as the patron saint of the Scottish nation, it was not until the 15th century that he began to become a royal saint.

While Scotland's pink heritage may be disputed by historians and flagwavers the length and breadth of the land, all agree that the present correct colour for the cross is azure. Sky blue is not the right colour; it is too light, and not a pretty enough colour anyway.

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The editor of the Winter 1995 Issue of the Clan Ross Association of Canada newsletter noted that the St. Andrews Cross or Saltire is the correct flag to use when representing Scotland or Scots and not the Lion Rampant which is the sole property of the Scottish sovereign. The Lion Rampant should be flown only when the Queen or her representative is present. Flying it at any other time is an offence against the Parliamentary law of Scotland as well as being a piece of heraldic bad taste.

The September 1994 issue of The Scottish Banner further advises (per the Lord Lyon's Court) that the only acceptable representative is one of Her "Great Lieutenants in Scotland", which does not include Canada's Governor General or any provincial Lieutenant Governor. They have their own Banners of State. We mere mortals can use the Saltire or Thistle.

The Fall '94 issue of a certain Clan Newsletter in the U.S.A. (which will remain unnamed) states that the Lion Rampant is technically known as the Royal Standard (Banner of Arms) of Scotland. It advises that in 1934, to address concerns about use of the banner with Her Majesty not present, a Royal Warrant was issued stating "There is no objection to the display of this banner by Her Majesty's subjects as a mark of loyalty to the throne". This contradicts the first two sources, but may be a little suspect given that in 1934 the monarch was most definitely not female.

If anyone has definitive information please comment. Those of us, who have been flying the Lion Rampant on our flagpole, have been using the defence that we want to be well-prepared should Her Majesty unexpectedly be marooned in the neighbourhood and need to use the camp cot or the Hide-a-Bed. In the meantime, perhaps we should switch to the Canadian Flag on our flagpole, just in case any passing Beefeater or Chelsea Pensioner turns us in. [Editor: Ian M. Ross]

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- J. Douglas Ross

Some Dalriadan patrons of the legend-makers, while under the affluence of incahol ... either Irish "whiskey" or "whiskie" imported from some obscure distillery in the USA (not to mention my 18-year-old, going on 19, Single Highland Rare Malt Scotch Whisky) ... must have encouraged the following story about the origins of the Stone of Scone condensed from "The Highways and Byways of Central Scotland" by Seton Gordon (b. 1886).

Was the Stone of Scone the same one used by Jacob as a pillow at Bethel? According to Jewish tradition, some say that Jacob anointed it with oil and that, later, the stone became a pedestal of the Holy Ark of the Covenant. Supposedly the oblong block of red sandstone was brought from Syria to Egypt by Gathelus, who was directed by Moses to sail up the Nile with it and travel to Spain with his wife to avoid the plague. According to the tale, Gathelus delivered the stone to Eire when he invaded that land, and it was later brought to the historic Abbey of Scone a wee distance upriver from Perth.

On March 30, 1296, King Edward I of England over-ran Berwick-upon-Tweed. The Scots were defeated by the English defenders of Dunbar Castle at Battle of Dunbar in April, and on August 28, 1296, Edward I of England held a parliament at Berwick to which he summoned all Scottish landholders to sign the "Ragman Roll". As a further attempt to emasculate the barbaric Scots north of the border, King Edward stole the Stone of Destiny and eventually it was placed in Westminster Abbey. [Or did he steal a fake stone? Did the monks of Scone remove the real stone and replace it with one of similar size and shape from the Annety Burn?]

On Christmas Day of 1950, a group of patriotic Glasgow University students nicked the "Stone of Destiny" from Westminster Abbey, avoided the border patrols, placed it on the bar of the Arlington Pub, calmly downed a few pints and left the stone in Arbroath Abbey a couple of weeks later. [Or did they? Was Scotland's Coronation Stone recovered from Arbroath Abbey? Some claim this was a copy, and that the original remained in Scotland. ] The "Stone of Destiny" measures 660.4 mm X 406.4 mm X 279.4 mm (26"X16"X11") and weighs 152 kg (336 lb).

On November 18, 1996, Prince Andrew returned to Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh with the Stone of Destiny. It was not delivered to Scone Palace because that continues to be the residence of the Earl of Mansfield. Instead, on November 30 (St. Andrews Day), as the Union Jack fluttered from the highest point of Edinburgh Castle where Scotland's Crown Jewels and other Honours of Scotland are kept, it was placed for public display on an oak table. Thus, the property, stolen seven hundred years earlier, was returned to Scotland. [Or is the real stone actually on the Isle of Iona?] [CHUCKLE]

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- J. Douglas Ross

The biographer to Saint Columba of Iona, Adamnan, reported that Pictish King Bridei (554-584), the 36th monarch in the Pictish Chronicle, was an exceptionally powerful ruler, whose court was then located near Loch Ness (instead of Scone). On this occasion in 565 AD, the Irish saint required translators to preach to the king. [Adamnan also recorded that King Bridei defeated the Scots under their King Gabran and drove them back to the western shores of Argyll.]

According to the written account by Adamnan, the saint was on his way to this Pictish King Bridei's court, when he learned of a man who had been recently murdered by the huge monster of the loch. Saint Columba rowed out to the middle of the loch, where he delivered an order to the beast never again to repeat this misdeed. Ever since that day, Nessie has ceased to feast upon local inhabitants.

Since Nessie was first covered in 1933 newspaper reports, searches have included lochside vigils, sonar expeditions and mini-sub searches. Only the 16 mm movie sequence on April 23, 1960, by Tim Dinsdale has been judged by photoanalysis experts of the RAF's Joint Aerial Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre as representing "an animate object" 12 - 16 feet wide and 5 feet high, but not a boat. In 1978, on the strength of computer-enhanced photographs, Sir Peter Scott gave Nessie the scientific name, Nessiteras rhombopteryx, meaning "Ness wonder with a diamond fin".

Nessie is believed to be in no way related to Ogopogo (Basilosaurus cetoides) of Lake Okanagan in British Columbia, Canada. That lake monster was first reported in a 1926 issue of the Vancouver Sun by Roy W. Brown. After a further sighting in 1989 by hunting guide, Ernie Giroux and his wife, both swore that what they had witnessed "was definitely not a beaver".
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- from the Clan Ross Association of Canada, Inc., Spring/Summer Newsletter, 1997

Bagpipes have been found from the Atlantic coast of Europe to as far east as the Volga River in Russia and outside of Europe from Tunisia to India. In each particular country they take on their own form. Those inflated by mouth piece include:

· Great Highland Bagpipe of Scotland (Piobaireachd)
· Old Irish Bagpipe
· Cornemuse of Belgium, Holland and France
· Sackpipa of Sweden
· Dudelsack of Germany
· Biniou Koz of Brittany
· Gaita of Spain

Those inflated by bellows include:
· Northumbrian Small and Halflong Pipes
· Scottish Lowland Small and Border Pipes
· Pastoral Pipes of the Scotland/England Borders
· Uilleann (Union) Pipes of Ireland
· French Musette Bechonnet and Musette du Cour

                    - from Celtic Heritage, Alan Jones, April/May 1997 

... The definition of a Scottish Gentleman is someone who knows how to play the bagpipes, but refrains from doing so.

			- Anonymous

... A piper is being taken to court for practising on Hampstead Heath which has a bylaw forbidding music. Mr. Brooks, the bagpiper, has denied the charge, citing that bagpipes were declared to be instruments of war by an Act of Parliament after 1746. Mr. Brooks claims he was practising a weapon!

 			- from the Radiocaster, Autumn 1996 

... [There is a] similarity between the bag of the bagpipe and the haggis. They are the same shape --- and the same taste.

 			- Allan Fotheringham, McLean's Magazine 

... Clan Ross has produced a number of excellent pipers. William Ross of Ross-Shire published a book which has become a standard of Highland bagpipe music. It includes the march "The Ross-Shire Volunteers". The distinctive pipe music of Clan Ross is "The Earl of Ross's March - Spaid searachd Iarla Rois".

 			- The Great Clan Ross, Dr. John R. Ross 

[The April 1999 CRA-Canada Newsletter notes that research by Doug Ross discovered that there are at least two versions for the Earl of Ross's March:
1. "Spaidsearachd Iarla Ross", the preferred version, by Donald Mor MacCrimmon, dating back to about 1600, when there were no Earls of Ross.
2. "Ceann Na Deise" (Heads of Corn) by Simon and Harry Fraser. The title refers to the need to feed on corn, rather than regular provisions, during a war in England.]
Note: "Salute to the Earl of Ross" was also written by MacCrimmon.

... "I don't know what effect these men will have upon the enemy but, by God, they terrify me."

 			- The Duke of Wellington, on military pipers

- quoted from the internet in the CRA of Canada Newsletter of January, 1999

Q. How do you get two bagpipers to play in perfect unison?
A. Shoot one.

Q. What's the difference between a bagpipe and an onion?
A. Nobody cries when you cut up a bagpipe.

Q. What's the difference between a bagpipe and a trampoline?
A. You take off your shoes when you jump on a trampoline.

Q. How can you tell a bagpiper with perfect pitch?
A. He can throw a set into the middle of a pond and not hit any of the ducks.

Q. How is playing a bagpipe like throwing a javelin while blindfolded?
A. You don't have to be very good to get people's attention.

Q. What's the difference between a lawnmower and a bagpipe?
A. You can tune the lawnmower.

Q. What's the range of a bagpipe?
A. Twenty Yards if you have a good arm.

Q. Why do bagpipers walk when they play?
A1. To get away from the sound.
A2. Moving targets are harder to hit.
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- blended and distilled by J. Douglas Ross

Never order a "Scotch" or a "whisky" in a bar or restaurant without specifying what kind you want. There are many different kinds and characteristics of Scotch whisky ... perhaps more than exist among various kinds of wine. [Those of us in the GTA manage to quaff at least a Kilderkin of this delightful beverage per week (if you were to listen to the experts). Deoch slainte!] Here are some facts ...

Whisky is made from malted barley which is soaked in water until it germinates. The grain is then dried over peat fires, the smoke rising up through a perforated, metal floor. The dried grain is then ground up and mixed with warm water in huge vats to make a mush called wort. Yeast is added for the fermentation stage, which lasts 36 - 40 hours, making an alcohol-containing liquid called the wash. This "beer-like" liquid is heated in great, copper kettles; and the vapor is distilled by passing it through coils of cooled, copper pipe. After the liquor undergoes a double distillation, it is tested for quality, and water is added as necessary to achieve the correct alcohol content (usually 43 percent by volume for the North American market). That basic manufacturing process is universal. [The "single malts" are products of a single distillery. It is a fallacy to believe that every "single malt" is superior to any blended product. Another misconception is that, like some wines, whisky improves with age after it has been bottled; however, storing a bottle of fine spirit in the cellar does not enhance its quality one whit.]

Special characteristic features of each whisky are the result of precise, closely-guarded formulae (as old as the cobwebs in the still house). The spirit is stored in huge, oak barrels of 180 litres, or hogsheads of 250 litres, or 500 litre butts in bonded warehouses to mature -- for no less than 3 years by the Scotch Whisky Act of 1988. Most well known brands are matured anywhere from 8 to 16 years, but a few may be casked for 30 years or more. The longer the time in the cask, the more mellow the liquor -- and the higher its retail price. The tannins and wood sugars in the oak play a major role in maturing the spirit. Used oak sherry casks from Spain or France are still employed, but cheaper empty bourbon containers from the USA are to be found in today's distilleries. [As the wooden barrels are recycled, an "X" is painted on the end until a maximum of three "X's" is reached.]

Scotch whiskies vary according to the characteristics of water and peat which is associated with the different geographic regions of Scotland. Western spirits tend to have heavier, sharper flavour due to the smoke of the peat fires augmented by iodine content of seaweed, and some are only enjoyed by those with an acquired taste.

The Eastern varieties, by contrast, are generally more delicate and complex. Almost anyone can distinguish between the two regions in a blind taste test. Brand names like Cragganmore, Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, Glen Grant, Cardhu and dozens of others from the Speyside region are known for their smooth flavor and high quality. Glenmorangie, from Tain in the County of Ross, contrasts with the west coast products by being less robust and more mellow. Many whiskies of the Strathspey district of eastern Scotland, south of the Moray Firth, are world famous for their complex tastes and aromas.

Lowland malts with their somewhat "fruitier" aroma are said (by Highlanders) to be designed for little, old ladies ... but there must be some adherents who would dispute this.

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