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Issue 62 - The Other Diamond Jubilee

Scotland Magazine Issue 62
April 2012


This article is 6 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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The Other Diamond Jubilee

Ruth A. Symes looks at how Scotland celebrated Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897

This year is only the second time in history a British monarch has celebrated a Diamond Jubilee.

Queen Victoria – the first monarch in recent times to establish a deep and loving relationship with her subjects North of the border – enjoyed extravagant festivities to mark her six decades on the throne. The Glasgow Herald reported that the Diamond Jubilee was essentially ‘a people’s day’ during which ‘the entire industrial population were set free from toil.’ If your ancestors hail from Scotland (whether they were Highland crofters, city merchants or men of the military), it is likely that they will have shared to some degree in the heady celebrations of Tuesday 22nd June 1897. To find out more about what your own family members might have been doing in villages, towns and islands up and down the country, you could take a look at some of the contemporary newspaper coverage of the event which was extensive. See, for example, the archive of The Scotsman at or the records of many other Scottish newspapers including: The Aberdeen Journal, The Falkirk Herald, The Dundee Courier, The Edinburgh Evening News and The Glasgow Herald at the www.britishnewspaperarchive. Both these online newspaper sites can be searched (for free) by date and keyword and then read properly for a reasonable fee.

If your ancestors were children at the time of the Diamond Jubilee, you may find out more about exactly what they were doing on the day on the Jubilee from the log books of their local school.

Many schools were closed for the day but the log books sometimes record, in retrospect, the processions and picnics attended by their pupils.

The location of relevant school log books can be determined by searching at the Scottish Archive Network at Some school log books have been transcribed and the contents are online.

Edinburgh and Glasgow Exactly how your ancestors in Scotland’s capital celebrated depends very much on their station in life. A civic dinner was held in Edinburgh in the Music Hall at lunchtime to entertain notable local dignitaries. Meanwhile, the poor (5000 adults and the same number of children) congregated in Waverley market at intervals to be fed. Residents of all kinds gathered in the city parks in the late afternoon and there were many carefully-timed firework displays with bonfires being lit on all the surrounding hilltops starting, as might be expected, at Arthur’s Seat.

The tone of the proceedings in Scotland’s second city, Glasgow, appears to have been slightly less formal with much being made of the ‘spontaneous and enthusiastic action of the citizens’. The decorations were perhaps not as lavish as they had been when the Queen herself last visited the city (since they were not aided ‘by the corporate purse’), but nevertheless, there was ‘no want of sincerity in the affectionate loyalty and pride’ shown by the display of homemade red banners and flags.

Glasgow’s celebrations certainly had some splendour. In the morning, 2000 officers and men paraded in St George’s Square and were watched by an estimated crowd of 10,000. Later there was a military display in Queen’s Park in which soldiers gave a royal salute and everyone assembled sang the National Anthem. In the evening, a huge banquet was held for the great and the good in the City Chambers. Glasgow did not forget its poor.

5000 were treated to a dinner in various public halls around the city and another 3,500 were supplied with dinner in their own homes. In the pictures Small Towns Small towns across Scotland brought their own distinctive traditions to bear on the proceedings but the pattern of events was broadly similar. In Forres, Morayshire there was a lavish display of public buildings, erection of ceremonial arches, firing of cannons and ringing of bells. A procession of 60 cyclists, together with 1,000 children, made its way through the streets to the town’s Cross where an address was given to the Queen and the National Anthem sung. The rain that started to fall in the afternoon did not deter the locals from attending a fete in the park followed by a horse parade and a free concert. The celebrations were no less flamboyant in towns on the islands. In Kirkwall, Orkney, for instance, the volunteers fired a Royal salute of 21 guns after which the National Anthem was sung. Tradesmen and other societies also paraded through the streets.

Patriotic, extravagant, merry and traditional by turns, the Queen’s forthcoming Diamond Jubilee will provide an ideal opportunity to remember and connect with our Scottish forebears.