Sunday, November 29, 2015

St Andrews, The Lion Rampant and the Flower of Scotland

The feast of Andrew is observed on 30 November in both the Eastern and Western churches, and is the national day of Scotland. St Andrew’s patronage extends to fishmongers, gout, singers, sore throats, spinsters, maidens, old maids and women wishing to become mothers.

Andrew the Apostle (or Saint Andrew) was the brother of Saint Peter. Prior to becoming disciples, the brothers were Galilean fishermen working in the Black Sea. Andrew derives from the Greek word for brave and was martyred at Patras in Greece, bound, (not nailed), to an X shaped cross or saltire (crux decussata). Legend has it a Greek monk called St Rule or St Regulus was ordered in a vision to take relics of Andrew (a tooth, a kneecap, and arm and finger bones) to the ‘ends of the earth’ for safe keeping. He set off on a sea journey and eventually came ashore on the Fife coast at a settlement which would become the modern town of St Andrews.

According to legend, in 832 AD, Óengus II (Angus) led an army of Picts and Scots into battle where they were heavily outnumbered. The night before the battle Óengus prayed to St Andrew for help. In the morning a white cloud formed an X in the sky and after the battle Óengus honoured his pledge and duly appointed Saint Andrew as the Patron Saint of Scotland. Andrew was first recognised as an official patron saint of Scotland in 1320 at the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath an appeal to the Pope by Scottish noblemen asserting Scotland’s independence from England. The white saltire set against a celestial blue background was eventually adopted as the flag of Scotland with the earliest use of the saltire as a flag traced to 1542.The original colour of the saltire cross was silver (Argent), but in heraldry white stands for silver.

There were several advantages having Saint Andrew as Scotland's Patron. Early Picts and Scots Christian converts modelled themselves on Saint Andrew which, in turn, carried favour with the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. In the event of conflict between England and Scotland, the Scots could now appeal to the Pope for protection.

A local superstition was to use the cross of Saint Andrew as a hex sign on the fireplaces in northern England and Scotland to prevent witches from flying down the chimney and entering the house to do mischief. By placing the St Andrew's cross on one of the fireplace posts or lintels, witches are prevented from entering through this opening.

The Confederate flag also features a saltire commonly referred to as a St Andrew's cross, although the designer, William Porcher Miles, said he changed it from an upright cross to a saltire so that it would not be a religious symbol but merely a heraldic device.

The Lion Rampant

The Royal Standard of Scotland (Banner of the King of Scots) is the Scottish Royal Banner of Arms used historically by the King of Scots. The flag historically, and legally, belongs to the monarchy and since there has not been a Scottish Regent since the 17th Century, it now belongs to Queen Elizabeth II. The earliest recorded use of the Lion rampant was by Alexander II in 1222. Later a double border set with lilies was added to the standard during the reign of Alexander III (1249–1286). Following the Union of the Crowns of England, Ireland and Scotland in 1603, the Royal Standard of Scotland was incorporated into the royal standards of successive Scottish then, following the Acts of Union in 1707, British monarchs.

The Royal Banner of Scotland is used officially at the Scottish royal residences of the Palace of Holyrood House, Edinburgh, and Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, when The Queen is not in residence. The Royal Standard of the United Kingdom used in Scotland is flown when the Sovereign is present.

According to an Act of Parliament, passed in 1672, it is an offense for any private citizen or corporate body to fly or wave this flag. In 1935, King George V gave permission for Lion Rampant flags to be waived by the public during his Silver Jubilee celebrations. Ever since the Lion Rampant is seen in public at many football matches and other events.

The Scottish Thistle

This is the oldest recorded 'National Flower' and one of the most well-known, and easily recognized symbols of Scotland. The prickly-leaved, pink or purple-flowered ‘Scotch’ thistle is a weed which may seem a strange choice for a national flower. This proud and regal plant grows to a height of five feet with vicious spines to protect it like a porcupine. It has no natural enemies.

For hundreds of years much of Scotland was part of the Kingdom of Norway. By the 13th century Norway seemed to have lost interest in their former territory. King Alexander III proposed to buy back the Western Isles and Kintyre from the Norse King Haakon IV (Haakon the Elder). He played the King of Norway for a fool, laying claim to the Western Isles and then stringing out negotiations until the Norwegian king lost patience. In 1263 King Haakon of Norway decided to conquer the Scots and sent a large fleet of longships. Storms forced the armada onto the beach at Largs in Ayrshire and the Norwegians were forced to land. Legend has it a sleeping party of Scots warriors were saved from ambush by the invaders when one of the attackers trod on a thistle with his bare feet. His cries raised the alarm and roused the Scots who duly defeated them. Many believe the thistle was adopted thereafter as the symbol of Scotland.

In Scotland there are several types of thistle and it is not clear which one was trod upon. Many believe it may have been the Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare) as it is an abundant native species in Scotland.

Whilst the Cotton Thistle (Onopordum acanthium) is by far the most imposing thistle with extremely sharp thorns, it is unlikely to have been a native of Scotland at that time.

The first use of the thistle as a royal symbol of Scotland was on silver coins issued by James III in 1470. It is said that the Order of the Thistle, the highest honour in Scotland, was founded in 1540 by King James V who, after being honoured with the Order of the Garter from his uncle King Henry VIII of England and with the Golden Fleece from the Emperor of France, felt a little left out. He resolved the issue by creating the royal title of Order of the Thistle for himself and twelve of his knights. He set up the arms and badges of the order over the gate of his palace at Linlithgow. The common badge worn over the left breast by the knights is a cross surmounted by a star of four silver points, and over this a green circle bordered and lettered with gold, containing the motto "Nemo me impune lacessit", "No-one harms me without punishment" but more commonly translated in Scots as "Wha daurs meddle wi me", in the centre is the thistle.

Hugh MacDiarmid ‘s A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle was published in 1926, and remains one of the most famous works by a Scottish poet.

Flower of Scotland

Flower of Scotland is a Scottish song, used frequently at special occasions and sporting events. Although there is no official national anthem of Scotland, Flower of Scotland is one of a number of songs which unofficially fulfil this role. Written by Roy Williamson (1936- 1990) of the folk group, The Corries in 1967 it refers to the victory of the Scots, led by Robert the Bruce (1274-1329) known, over King Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The tune was originally composed on the Northumbrian smallpipes, which play in D and have the benefit of keys on the chanter to achieve a greater range of notes. The music is actually somewhat older, and was composed by Peter Dodds McCormick (c1834-1916) who emigrated to Australia as a young man, and composed the National Anthem of Australia, "Advance Australia Fair".

When sung at sporting events, crowds will often call back after certain lines: after the words "and stood against him", you may hear "(a)gainst who"; and after the words "and sent him homewards", you may hear "whit fur?" ("what for?").

The Flower of Scotland

O flower of Scotland
When will we see
Your like again
That fought and died for
Your wee bit hill and glen
And stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again

The hills are bare now
And autumn leaves lie thick and still
O'er land that is lost now
Which those so dearly held
And stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again

Those days are passed now
And in the past they must remain
But we can still rise now
And be the nation again
That stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

New Balance Launches First 3D-Printed Running Shoe

New Balance just announced that, in collaboration with 3D Systems, they’ll be launching a limited edition running shoe, with a 3D printed midsole in April 2016.