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Issue 50 - A land of Inspiration

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 50
April 2010


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A land of Inspiration

Our line up of Scottish inspirations.

The Life of Sir William Wallace (15th Century) This epic poem by ‘Blind Harry’ inspired Robert Burns to write Scots Wha’ Hae.

Monarch of the Glen (1941) Compton Mackenzie’s comical approach provided a refreshing view of Scottish manners while reinventing the Tartan Myth for an international audience.

Camhanaich (Dawn) Sorley MacLean’s poetry uses a long history of Gaelic verse to combine Scots themes with 20th Century politics and events.

The Underground City (1877) By Jules Verne is a work of science fiction with occasional unnerving accuracy about the ‘future’, set beneath the Trossachs.

Waverley (1814) Sir Walter Scott’s first novel created an identity for Scotland while depicting the Scots through times of upheaval.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) Echoes of Scotland’s turbulent history and complex character can be found in this dark tale of doubles and opposites.

Scots Wha’ Hae (Scots who have) Written by Robert Burns as an imagined address by King Robert ‘the Bruce’ to his troops at Bannockburn, and a tribute to William Wallace. Today it is often touted as the new National Anthem.

The Lady of the Lake (1810) Was Sir Walter Scott’s first popular poem, captivating readers with his passionate and romantic view of his Scottish ancestry.

Charles Darwin His life and work were influenced by a number of Scottish-born or educated scientists. He studied at the University of Edinburgh and later returned to Scotland on a three week geological field trip in 1838.

Music Bagpipes Internationally recognisable as one of Scotland’s foremost cultural emblems, bagpipes are present throughout Scottish life, among clans, community bands, the military and at schools.

Sir Patrick Spens In true Scottish ballad tradition, the story being told is one of conflict, danger and woe.

The sailor, Sir Patrick, bitterly laments that he must go to sea and face probable death.

Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns The New Year anthem sung around the world, appealing to a universal love of sad farewells, fellowship and a hope of reunion.

Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802).

Sir Walter Scott influenced so many facets of Scottish society, but he in turn took his inspiration from the stories and ballads he had grown up with.

Dance Ceilidh Originating from the Gaelic word for ‘visit’, the modern Ceilidh can be an informal dance or a concert, ranging from a small gettogether to a huge party.

Highland Dancing Traditionally for men only, having come from warriors’ celebrations of victory and tests of stamina and agility.

Theatre and Opera Macbeth Shakespeare’s ever popular Scottish play began with historical fact and an attempt at authenticity but artistic licence has led to all sorts of new interpretations and settings for the play, making it forever vibrant and relevant to its audience.

La donna del lago by Rossini Inspired by Sir Walter Scott’s romantic narrative poem, The Lady of the Lake.

Scottish influence is surprisingly common in European opera.

Paintings Wandering Shadows (1878) Peter Graham’s dramatic landscapes capture perfectly the movement of clouds and their shadows on the mountains and valleys, with men and animals just another passing addition to the vast terrain.

William McTaggart’s A long painting career began with depictions of people and later focused on archetypal Scottish land and seascapes.

The Glasgow Boys A group of rebellious young painters in the late 19th Century, representing everyday Scottish subjects in stark contrast to the romantic and sentimental Victorian art of their time.

Architecture Castles Scotland is peppered with them, many designed primarily with defence in mind.

Fine examples include Tantallon Castle with towering cliffs on three sides and Castle Stalker on an island in Loch Laich, an inlet of Loch Linnhe.

Scots Baronial style.

Another of Sir Walter Scott’s areas of influence, the baronial style was part of the Gothic revival, drawing on a romantic notion of Scotland’s heroic past.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh Best known for his largest project, the Glasgow School of Art, built in two stages so the earlier part reflects his roots in the Scots Baronial style, and the later part a more mature modern style.

Sport The Highland Games A culturally rich and clamorous celebration of talent, agility and strength, now formalised but originally inspired by warrior trials among the clans.

Crafts Boat-building Remains an important Scottish craft, having grown from the country’s proud seafaring and fishing heritage. It is celebrated every summer in Portsoy at the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival.

Iron-working The craft of the traditional blacksmith is not dead in Scotland, with artists such as Stan Pike working for 20 years with both old and new techniques to create high quality decorative wrought iron pieces.

Ceramics and Glass Starfish Ceramics The Isle of Mull continues to inspire a new generation of contemporary ceramicists, adding vibrant colour to functional forms.

Ceri White Studios Perthshire. Scotland’s urban and domestic character can be as much an inspiration as its landscapes. Traditional techniques are used to create unique interior tiles and accessories.

Caithness Glass Specialises in paperweights, using colours drawn from the Scottish landscape – golden sunsets, dusky heather and the grey-blue of the lochs.

Textiles Rowan Scottish Tweed A pure wool yarn from the Outer Hebrides.

Its colours and patterns are inspired by the colours of the landscape and the work traditions of the islands.

Tartan That most Scottish of fabrics, communicating clan allegiance and wider cultural identity, though today’s versions are largely a 19th Century invention.

Knitting As traditional a Scottish craft as weaving.

Some of the softest and most beautiful examples can be found in Shetland, including intricate Fair Isle patterns and shawls so fine that they can be passed through a wedding ring.

Films Braveheart (1995) Directed by an Australian and filmed mostly in Ireland, nonetheless Braveheart was an international hit that brought Scotland to the attention of the rest of the world.

Rob Roy (1995) Overshadowed by Braveheart but ultimately preferred by many, Rob Roy is gripping from beginning to end, set amid the great lochs and glens of Scotland, with stunning performances by all the lead actors.

Mrs Brown (1997) Billy Connolly’s performance as Queen Victoria’s stalwart Highland ghillie won him great critical acclaim in this poignant film.

Trainspotting (1996) Did not speak of Scotland’s heroic or warring past, but took its inspiration from the rougher aspects of 1990s Edinburgh, uncompromising and unashamed to the end.

Food BBC Good Food Show Scotland Celebrating great Scottish recipes and produce, this year’s Show runs 22-24 October 2010 at Glasgow SECC.

Tom Kitchin There are many great chefs in Scotland. Tom Kitchin is one of its shiniest stars in recent years, with his restaurant slogan ‘from nature to plate’.

Weddings Scottish wedding traditions In many cases have their roots in the superstition of ages past. Dance the Lang Reel, engage a wedding piper to play at the church doors, or place a silver coin in the shoe of the bride.

Lindsay Fleming Specialises in Celtic, medieval and vintage wedding dresses, harking back to historical periods of romance, glamour and chivalry.

Home and Garden Driftwood Scotland Provides exactly what the name suggests: a piece of Scotland’s heritage, crafted by nature. Each sculpture is unique and intrinsically Scottish.

Fairlie Furniture Works also work with native Scottish timber, using kiln-dried hardwood and traditional skills to produce beautiful bespoke furniture.

Speyside Timber Products Add an extra bit of interest and heritage value to their oak barrel water features, tubs, planters and other garden products by using casks from nearby distilleries and cooperages.

Politics and Economics John Law A brilliant economist but also a gambler, murderer and international playboy. He was part of a strong Scottish banking tradition that introduced the world to the overdraft and double-sided banknotes among other things.

Social justice Important to the Scots, coming out of a history of injustice, discontent and a passionate love of the land. The good fight has being going on for centuries and continues to this day.

Villains and Heros Deacon Brodie Said to be the inspiration for Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, having played the double act of respectable businessman and master thief in 18th Century Edinburgh.

Sherlock Holmes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character was based on a real Edinburgh doctor, Dr Joseph Bell, who worked at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary.

Jewellery Celtic jewellery Sold around the world, featuring traditional knot patterns, clan crests and designs both bold and intricate.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh Inspired generations of jewellery-makers with his love of clean lines and simple, elegant ‘art nouveau’ form.

Clan jewellery Another way to express your allegiance and identity without going to the extreme of wearing full tartan dress!