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John Muir – Conservation’s Father

April 21, 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

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Scottish-born American naturalist, explorer & writer c.1900

John Muir is possibly better known in North America, where he is recognised as the ‘father of the National Parks’ of the United States. He was the first person to call for practical action to cherish the world’s wild places. He became a founding father of the world conservation movement, and devoted his life to safeguarding the world’s landscapes for future generations. His birthday, April 21, is celebrated as ‘John Muir Day’ across the U.S.

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John Muir lookalikes celebrate, Dunbar 2014

Born in 1838 in Dunbar, he was the third of eight children of Daniel Muir, a ‘corn dealer’. In 1849, his father who had become a convert to a religious sect called the ‘Disciples of Christ’, made the decision to emigrate. The Muir family arrived at the time of the Gold Rush and set up home at Kingston in Columbia County, Wisconsin. Life was harsh, with land to be cleared for the planting of crops. In 1861, he enrolled in the University of Wisconsin and picked his way through subjects haphazardly. It was a fellow student, Milton Griswold who introduced him to Botany and, in doing so, shaped Muir’s future and that of the landscape of the United States.

To Canada & the Travels Begin

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‘Protector of the Wilds’

In 1863, Muir fled to Canada to escape being drafted into the American Civil War. From there his travels began, including in 1867 his famous ‘Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf of Mexico’, the expedition that changed his life. With him, Muir, characteristically, took a New Testament and a copy of the poems of Robert Burns. From the Gulf, he moved on to Yosemite and viewed the Sierra Nevada mountain range and was committed to a life of exploration, writing and campaigning for conservation. His travels enjoyed none of the “luxuries” of modern day explorers. He travelled lightly in every day clothes and he did not carry a tent or a coat. In icy conditions, he simply hammered nails through his boots. It is unsurprising that he became a hero of the American West. He wrote and published, ‘My First Summer in the Sierra’ which propounded theories on the formation of the range in ‘New York Tribune’ articles and by 1871 was visited by the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson who was a lifelong influence on him.

The First National Park

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Cathedral Rocks tower above Yosemite Valley, California

Marriage in 1880, to Louie Strentzel, did not keep him at home. He travelled by ship to Alaska where he was adopted, with the name of ‘Great Ice Chief’ by a native American tribe. His interest in California also continued and, in 1889, he proposed the establishment of Yosemite Valley as a National Park. Congress ratified this and in 1890 the first National Park was created, followed quickly by the first forest reserves. In 1892 Muir was instrumental in setting up what was arguably, his most famous creation of all, the ‘Sierra Club’. Muir knew that attitudes rather than laws were most important in protecting Nature. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt camped with Muir in Yosemite and became an admirer and ally of the Scot. During Roosevelt’s term, National Forest land in the United States increased to almost 150 million acres. Included in this area were the Mariposa Grove of Sequoia trees and the Grand Canyon.

Lasting Testament

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John Muir Country Park coastal landscape

Muir died in 1914 from pneumonia, but the unified control which he believed necessary was achieved in 1916 when United States Congress passed a bill to create a National Parks Service, a model for this field throughout the world. The Sierra Club still exists as one of the major preservation organisations across the world. In Britain, the ‘John Muir Trust’ has, since its inception in 1983, adopted a policy of acquiring and managing wild land according to his ideals. In Dunbar, John Muir’s Birthplace has become a museum and the John Muir Country Park encompasses a variety of coastal habitats in East Lothian.

3659_24759_005-000-012-375-R_2014-05-06_15-35-05In 2014 Scotland’s then First Minister, Alex Salmond, opened the coast to coast pathway in Muir’s hometown of Dunbar on 21 April. Crowds enjoyed celebratory art, music and performance. John Muir lookalikes provided entertainment and thought-provoking quotes from his writings. Walkers, runners and cyclists participated by carrying flags, designed by local children, along the route. This was the first leg of a relay, ‘A Flag For John Muir’. On 26 April, the flags reached the other end of the John Muir Way, in Helensburgh. This is where the 11 year old John Muir and his family set sail for their new life in America, 1849.

Images © Hulton Getty, Abingdon Press, James Gardiner,
East Lothian Museums
 | Licensor Scran

April 15, 2016
by Scran
0 comments

Battle of Culloden

The battle at Culloden was fought on the 16th April 1746 and was the last major battle to be fought on British soil. It is commonly believed to have been a battle between the Scottish and the English, but in … Continue reading

A Day Trip to Dunoon

March 21, 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

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1950s booklet © Argyll & Bute Library Service

Scran paid a visit to Dunoon & it was a grand day out!

The purpsose of our visit was to meet the team of volunteers working with Dunoon Burgh Hall Trust as part of their Pop Up Programme. The Trust is in the midst of an exciting project to reclaim what is one of the town’s most important civic buildings. The 1873 Hall, listed on the Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland,  is currently undergoing a major refurbishment and restoration programme. If you are curious to see the before pictures, there are 99 images available via Historic Environment Scotland on Canmore.

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Zoomorphic figure at main entrance © Crown Copyright: HES

Meanwhile the volunteers are not letting the dust settle – they are investigating local heritage and all things relating to the history of this seaside town & the wider Dunoon community. During our visit we were able to show everyone how to access Scran, free of charge using their Argyll & Bute library cards. Together we looked at and discussed a host of collections material, including the day the Waverley ran aground – seen below in 1977. Some of the volunteers remembered it clearly & memories were exchanged. There were other reminiscences too, relating to more controversial events in 1984 when different peace demonstrations took place in Dunoon.

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The Waverley 1977 © The Scotsman

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Pop Up Scran! 2016 © Dunoon Burgh Hall Trust

Of course the relationship between Dunoon Burgh Hall Trust & Scran pre-dates this visit. The Trust previously contributed film footage from Holy Loch Heritage – the American Presence a project which aimed to bring to life the 30 year period when the American Naval Base was sited at nearby Holy Loch. We are delighted to say our partnership is set to extend into 2016, when we look forward to sharing more Dunoon ephemera surfacing from the restoration works. To see what’s been lurking under their floorboards, watch this space.

Images © Argyll & Bute Library Information Service, Historic Environment Scotland, The Scotsman, Dunoon Burgh Hall TrustLicensor Scran 

Burns Supper

January 18, 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

Around January 25th, Burns’ Clubs, and 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

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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

December 9, 2015 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

Saint Andrew – Patron Saint of Scotland

November 26, 2015 by Scran | 0 comments

078834 (1)The St Andrew’s flag – or the Saltire – is flown all over Scotland. Until recently, the man and his day have been often neglected. However, celebrations for St Andrew’s Day on the 30th November are growing in popularity and it is now a recommended public holiday in Scotland.

Who was St Andrew?

Andrew and his brother (Simon) Peter were fishermen from Bathsaida on the Sea of Galilee. While living in Capernaum they became disciples of John the Baptist, who introduced Andrew to Jesus of Nazareth. Andrew recognised Jesus as the Messiah and became the first Apostle. He then introduced Peter to Jesus, “Come with Me, and I will make you fishers of men”

After the crucifixion of Jesus, Andrew traveled to Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Southern Russia. He became a missionary, telling people about the life Jesus had led. While he was preaching at Patras/Pátrai in Greece he offended the Roman governor (possibly for baptising his wife). He was then tied (not nailed) to an X-shaped cross, where he continued to preach for two days before dying on the 30th of November.

The majority of his bones were taken to the Church of Holy Apostles in Constantinople around 375 AD, when it was the capital of the (Christian) Roman Empire. It was during this time that some of his remains were taken to Scotland. In 1206 they were moved to the Cathedral of St Andrew in Amalfi in Italy by Cardinal Pietro of Capua. However in 1964 they were returned to Patras by Pope Paul VI. They now lie in the Church of Saint Andrew.

What were his associations with Scotland?045335

At some point during the 730s some of St Andrew’s relics were brought to the Fife coast. This is widely credited to St Rule (Regulus). In the legend, an angel comes to St Rule in a dream, asking him to take the bones of St Andrew to the ends of the earth. He arrived on the Fife coast by boat (possibly shipwrecked) bearing a tooth, an arm bone, a kneecap, and some fingers of the Saint. A chapel was then built to house the relics, and the town of St Andrews was founded. There is however little evidence to prove the validity of this version of events.

A more plausible explanation involves Acca, the Bishop of Hexam. He was a renowned relic collector and could have bought them after they arrived in England with St Augustine. When Bishop Acca sought asylum in Scotland in 732 he took the bones with him to Kirrymont, later renamed St Andrews.

St Andrews

The bones were initially stored in St Rule’s Church, but were transferred to the cathedral in the 14th century. Twice a year the relics were carried in procession around the town. Cathedral and church bells rang and in the evening there were bonfires and fireworks.

St Andrews became the religious capital of Scotland and an important place of pilgrimage. Around the middle of the tenth century he became the patron saint of Scotland. In the 11th century, Saint Margaret, Queen Consort to Malcolm the Third, provided a free ferry across the Forth Estuary (now known as North and South Queensferry) and housing for pilgrims to the relics. The 1320 Declaration of Arbroath recognised St Andrew as Scotland’s patron saint.

On the 14th of June 1559, John Knox and his followers arrived in the City of St Andrews. They entered the cathedral and proceeded to remove all valuable items. At this point, the relics of St Andrew (along with many other important historical artefacts) were lost. This was done to aid the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. Scotland became a Protestant country in 1560, with the aid of Queen Elizabeth of England.

There are currently two relics of St Andrew in Scotland. They are kept in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh, at the National Shrine to St Andrew. The first was given as a gift from the Archbishop of Amalfi to the Archbishop of Strain in 1879, after the restoration of Catholic Emancipation in 1793. The second was given to the newly created Scottish Cardinal (the first in 400 years) Gordon Joseph Gray by Pope Paul VI in 1969.

The Saltire46

St Andrew is usually portrayed carrying an X-shaped cross. As legend would have it, St Andrew appeared in a dream to the Pictish King Angus in the 800s. In the dream, St Andrew gave him advice on the forthcoming battle of Athelstaneford against the Northumbrians. When that battle took place, the cross of St Andrew’s appeared in the sky, leading to a Scottish victory. King Angus adopted it as his flag to commemorate that day, but it was not until 1540 that the Saltire was officially adopted in the form we see today. Before that, various forms of the Saltire were used, including on military uniforms from 1385.

The St Andrew’s cross and the Cross of St George were combined to form the Union flag of Great Britain. With the addition of Northern Ireland the final Union Flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was formed.

The 30th of November

The 30th of November is a celebration of “everything that is good about Scotland”, with ceilidhs, haggis suppers, and general whisky drinking. In the town of St Andrews, a week long festival is held in celebration. However St Andrew’s day celebrations are a relatively new development. It has always been celebrated by Scots and their descendants living abroad, but a survey by Famous Grouse revealed that only 20% of Scottish residents knew when St Andrew’s Day was (compared with 64% for Burns night). The Scottish Government declared that from 2007 St Andrew’s day would be a public holiday, although not a statutory one. St Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Russia, and Romania.

Images ©  Crown Copyright Historic Scotland & Cairns Aitken  | Licensor Scran

Democracy, Migration & Nationalism

September 2, 2015 by Scran | 0 comments

It’s all happening in Highland this week at Culloden Academy.  Scran has been invited to work with senior pupils studying the SQA Higher History syllabus. The focus will 'SS Marloch' setting sail for Canada 1924 be on accessing resources and records related to the three main topics for the year;

  • Migration & Empire 1830-1939
  • Growth of Democracy 1850-1950    inc. the Suffragettes 
  • Growth of Nationalism, Germany 1815-1939

Besides learning how to use Scran as a research tool, the Culloden students will also be thinking about digital assets, copyright how to attribute their sources appropriately.

This “Good Luck” image is a firm favourite in the Scran office and you can find it amongst our records on emigration. It shows five well-dressed ladies posing with the Captain on board ‘SS Marloch’, before setting sail for Canada in 1924.

After school, the Social Subjects & RMPS staff will have to knuckle down too. The twilight session is part of our ongoing schools CPD and CLPL offer.

Image © Newsquest (Herald & Times), Setting Sail for Canada, 1924.  Licensor www.scran.ac.uk

From Dunbar to Durham

September 2, 2015 by Scran | 0 comments

With the recent archaeological discoveries in Durham of Scottish soldiers in a mass grave, you might be curious to learn more about what happened at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650.

Today Dunbar is affectionately known as Sunny Dunny by locals, however it has a much bloodier past. Cromwell invaded Scotland in July 1650, after the Scots had ignored his appeal for support and had proclaimed Charles II King. Cromwell crossed the border and attempted to meet up with his fleet at Leith and again at Queensferry, but without success.

He retreated to Dunbar where, in September of 1650, he was faced with a Covenanting army of over 20,000, led by David Leslie. To find out more see our dedicated Pathfinder: The Battle of Dunbar, it includes this medal, re-enactment imagery and an illustrated map of the event too.

Image © The Trustees of the British Museum, Military Award for the Battle of Dunbar, featuring Cromwell.  Licensor www.scran.ac.uk

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