March 13, 2022

Scotland and its History (The Bagpipes).

The Piob Mhor, or the Great Highland Bagpipes by Ben Johnson How bagpipes arrived in Scotland is somewhat of a mystery. Some historians believe that bagpipes originate from ancient Egypt and were brought to Scotland by invading Roman Legions. Others maintain that the instrument was brought over the water by the colonizing Scots tribes from Ireland.

Ancient Egypt does appear to have prior claim to the instrument, however; from as early as 400 BC the ‘pipers of Thebes are reported to have been blowing pipes made from dog skin with chanters of bone. And several hundred years later, one of the most famous exponents of the pipes is said to have been the great Roman Emperor Nero, who may well have been piping rather than fiddling whilst Rome burned.

What is certain however is that bagpipes have existed in various forms in many places around the world. In each country, the construction of the basic instrument comprises the same component parts; an air supply, a bag with a chanter and one or more drones.

By far the most common method of supplying air to the bag is by blowing with the mouth, although some early innovations included the use of bellows. The bag, commonly made from animal skin, is simply an airtight reservoir to hold the air and regulate its flow, thus allowing the piper to breathe and maintain a continuous sound, both at the same time. The chanter is the melody pipe, usually played by one or two hands. Generally comprising two or more sliding parts, the drone allows the pitch of the pipes to be altered.

Whilst historians can only speculate on the actual origins of the piob mhor, or great Highland bagpipe, it was the Highlanders themselves that developed the instrument to its current form, establishing it as their national musical instrument both in times of war and peace.

The original Highland pipes probably comprised a single drone with the second drone being added in the mid to late 1500’s. The third, or the great drone, came into use sometime in the early 1700s.

In the Scottish Lowlands, pipers were part of the travelling minstrel class, performing at weddings, feasts and fairs throughout the Border country, playing song and dance music. Highland pipers, on the other hand, appear to have been more strongly influenced by their Celtic background and occupied a high and honoured position. It is considered that by the 1700s the piper had started to replace the harpist as the prime Celtic musician of choice within the Clan system.

As a musical instrument of war, the first mention of the bagpipes appears to date from 1549 at the Battle of Pinkie, when the pipes replaced trumpets to help inspire the Highlanders into battle. It is said that the shrill and penetrating sound worked well in the roar of battle and that the pipes could be heard at distances of up to 10 miles away.

Due to their inspirational influence, bagpipes were classified as instruments of war during the Highland uprisings of the early 1700s, and following the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, the government in London attempted to crush the rebellious clan system. An Act of Parliament was passed which made the carrying of weapons, such as those vicious bagpipes, and the wearing of kilts a penal offence.

Although the Act was eventually repealed in 1785, it was the expansion of the British Empire that spread the fame of the great Highland bagpipes world-wide. Often spearheading the various campaigns of the British Army would be one of the famous Highland regiments, the ‘Devils in Skirts’, and at the head of each regiment would be the unarmed solitary piper leading the troops into and beyond the ‘jaws of death’.

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Scottish Mysteries. Marion Gilchrist.

The Murder of Marion Gilchrist.

The case of Oscar Slater still remains a giant black eye for the Scottish legal system, even now, a hundred years later. It is one of the country’s most egregious miscarriages of justice, fueled by prejudice, xenophobia, and antisemitism.

In 1909, a German Jewish immigrant named Oscar Slater was convicted of the murder of Marion Gilchrist, a wealthy 83-year-old spinster. Somebody had entered Gilchrist’s house while her maid was out, beaten her to death with a hammer and began rifling through her drawers. A neighbor heard the noise and checked in on the old woman, forcing the killer to flee with only a brooch. 

A few days after the crime, Oscar Slater left for America, after having recently sold a brooch to a pawn shop. This was all the evidence police had to go on to arrest him. Never mind the fact that Slater had scheduled his trip before the old woman was murdered. Never mind the fact that his brooch turned out to be a different one which belonged to his girlfriend, or that he had an alibi.

Slater was charged, convicted and sentenced to death, but later commuted to life in prison. His trial had been rife with prejudice, and his defenders pointed out all the flaws in the prosecution’s case, with one whistleblower even alleging that evidence in his favor had been purposely hidden. At one point, even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got involved, publishing in 1912 a pamphlet arguing for Slater’s innocence. 

Slater was eventually released after almost two decades in prison, receiving £6,000 compensation from the government. His case became rather notorious, but one aspect that tends to be left out is the actual murder – the true killer of Marion Gilchrist has never been identified.

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Scottish foods-Drinks. The breakfast Roll.

In fact, Scottish food has long come under criticism for being fatty, beige and lacking in nutrition, with naughty-but-nice staples such as haggis, tablet and deep-fried Mars Bars giving us a bad reputation.

But like them or loathe them, Scotland’s foodie traditions continue to tempt – and boggle the minds of – curious visitors.

So when you’re visiting Scotland, make sure to pack a pair of trousers with an elasticated waistband and prepare to eat yourself around the country with our pick of the best Scottish foods to try.

Breakfast roll.

If you need breakfast on the go, but still want a little taste of a fry-up, then a breakfast roll is exactly what you need.

A soft, buttery, floury breakfast roll sets the perfect foundation. The filling, however, is entirely up to you.

With items such as bacon, sausage, fried egg, tattie scones and more on offer, 

Why not try a bacon roll with lashings of nippy broon (brown sauce)?

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Scottish Architecture. Clyde Arc.

The Clyde Arc (known locally as the Squinty Bridge) is a road bridge spanning the River Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland, connecting Finnieston near the Clyde Auditorium and SEC with Pacific Quay and Glasgow Science Centre in Govan. A prominent feature of the bridge is its innovative curved design and the way that it crosses the river at an angle. The Arc is the first city centre traffic crossing over the river built since the Kingston Bridge was opened to traffic in 1970.

The bridge was named the “Clyde Arc” upon its official opening on 18 September 2006. It has been previously known as the “Finnieston Bridge” or the “Squinty Bridge”.


The bridge was designed by the Halcrow Group and built by Kilsyth-based civil engineering company Edmund Nuttall. Glasgow City Council instigated the project in conjunction with Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government. Piling works for the bridge were carried out from a large floating barge on the Clyde, whilst the bridge superstructure was fabricated offsite. The bridge-deck concrete-slab units were cast at an onsite pre-casting yard. Planning permission was granted in 2003 and construction of the bridge began in May 2005. It was structurally completed in April 2006. The bridge project cost an estimated £20.3M.The Bridge is designed to last 120 years.[3]

By Jonathan – Glasgow Squinty Bridge, CC BY 2.0,

The bridge has a main span of 96 m (315 ft) with two end spans of 36.5 m (120 ft), resulting in a total span of 169 m (554 ft). The design of the main span features a steel arch. The supports for the main span are located within the river with the abutments located behind the existing quay walls. The central navigation height at mean water height is 5.4 m (18 ft).

It was officially opened on 18 September 2006 by Glasgow City Council leader Steven Purcell, although pedestrians were allowed to walk across it the previous two days as part of Glasgow’s annual “Doors Open” Weekend.

The bridge connects Finnieston Street on the north bank of the river to Govan Road on the southern bank. The bridge takes four lanes of traffic, two of which are dedicated to public transport and two for private and commercial traffic. There are also pedestrian and cycle paths. The new bridge was built to provide better access to Pacific Quay and allow better access to regeneration areas on both banks of the Clyde. The bridge has been designed to cope with a possible light rapid transit system (light railway scheme) or even a tram system.

The bridge is the first part of several development projects planned to regenerate Glasgow. The £40M Tradeston Bridge was also completed (a further proposed pedestrian bridge linking Springfield Quay with Lancefield Quay was not). The canting basin and Govan Graving Docks [de] next to Pacific Quay are subject to development along with Tradeston and Laurieston. A derelict area of Dalmarnock was used as the ‘athletes’ village’ for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Support hanger failure.

The bridge was closed between 14 January and 28 June 2008 due to the failure of one support hanger, and cracks found in a second.

On the night of 14 January 2008 the connecting fork on one of the bridge’s 14 hangers (supporting cables that transfer the weight of the roadway to the bridge’s arch) snapped; Strathclyde Police quickly closed the bridge to traffic. Robert Booth, a spokesman for Glasgow City Council said:

We don’t believe the integrity of the bridge is affected. The Clyde Arc is designed to allow for the removal of one of the bridge supports at a time for repair and maintenance without affecting its operation. However, our number one priority is public safety and until we are completely satisfied the bridge is safe to use, it will remain closed.

A detailed inspection on 24 January found a stress fracture in a second support cable stay, like the one which had failed previously. Engineers determined that all of these connectors would have to be replaced; rather than a brief closure the bridge would have to remain closed for six months. In addition traffic on the river below was also halted. In March Nuttall began installing five temporary saddle frames atop the bridge’s arch; these allowed the weight of the bridge to be supported without the hangers. This allowed them to replace defective fork connectors at the top and bottom of each hanger.

The bridge recommenced on 28 June 2008 with just two of its four lanes in use, having had all the cast steel connectors replaced with milled steel connectors. Once reopened, Glasgow City Council estimated that 6,500 crossings will be made every day using the bridge.

On 8 January 2009, New Civil Engineer reported that subcontractor Watson Steel was suing Macalloy, the supplier of the suspect connectors, for £1.8 million.According to reports, Watson alleges steel obtained from Macalloy did not meet British Standards or their own specifications; parts were inadequately manufactured, and did not tally with test certificates provided by the firm.

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Scottish Antiques-Collectables. (stag)

This stunning Stag and Thistle whisky decanter has a beautiful celtic design featuring the Stag and Thistle.
This specific design consists of a beautiful Stag and Thistle design clinging to the decanter. It makes a beautiful addition to any dinner party or gathering and will definitely get people talking!
Made from pewter and 24% lead crystal glass. Holds 60 cl. Perfect for serving your favourite tipple.
Measures 7cm x 15cm x 27cm. Approx 2.5kg

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Scottish Battles. Auldearn.

The Battle of Auldearn

was an engagement of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It took place on 9 May 1645, in and around the village of Auldearn in Nairnshire. It resulted in a victory for the royalists, led by the Marquess of Montrose and Alasdair MacColla, over Sir John Urry and an army raised by the Covenanter-dominated Scottish government.

The pibroch Blár Allt Earrann commemorates the battle. The battlefield has been included in the Inventory of Historic Battlefields in Scotland and is protected by Historic Scotland under the Historic Environment (Amendment) Act 2011.

In mid-1644, after the Scottish Committee of Estates took the decision to intervene in the First English Civil War on the Parliamentarian side, Montrose had been given a commission by King Charles I to command his forces in Scotland. After initial setbacks, he was able to raise an army consisting partly of Highlanders and partly of professional troops sent by Confederate Ireland at the instigation of the Marquess of Antrim. Most of the Covenanter army had been sent into England, and Montrose began to threaten Covenanter control over the Highlands.

On 2 February 1645, Montrose won a complete victory over the pro-Covenanter Clan Campbell and its leader, the Earl of Argyll, at the Battle of Inverlochy. He then attempted to attack the Covenanter forces in the Lowlands, but found that many of his Highlanders were drifting home with plunder and the Covenanters were too strong. He fell back to the northeast, hoping to recruit more forces. In particular, he needed the support of Clan Gordon, who could provide at least some cavalry.

The Covenanters divided their forces. While Lieutenant General William Baillie remained based in Perth, he sent a detachment commanded by Sir John Urry to the north. Urry was an experienced soldier who had deserted the English Parliamentarians to join the Royalists in 1643, but had changed sides once again to join the Covenanters after their success at the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644.

Montrose, meanwhile, had made a couple of feints towards the Lowlands, but was unable to challenge Baillie’s large army. On 18 April, he heard that Urry’s army was threatening the Gordon lands. Montrose marched north to Skene, where he was rejoined on 30 April by Alasdair MacColla, who had been recruiting fresh forces in the western Highlands, and several contingents of Gordons. From Skene, Montrose advanced against Urry, who was near Elgin.


As the area about Elgin was Covenanter in sympathy, Urry had plenty of information about Montrose’s approach. He withdrew westwards, hoping to lure Montrose into a position where he could launch a surprise counter-attack. His army consisted of four regiments of foot commanded by Colonels Loudoun, Lothian, Buchanan and Sir Mungo Campbell of Lawers, the Mackenzies under the Earl of Seaforth, the levies of the Earl of Sutherland, 800 other local levies and 400 cavalry.

Hearing late on 8 May that Montrose had encamped at Auldearn, which was then a small hamlet, Urry advanced, hoping to catch the Royalists unawares at dawn. In his attempt to achieve surprise, he left his artillery some distance behind. Unfortunately for Urry, some of his men discharged their muskets to clear damp powder charges, thereby alerting the Royalists. Thus warned, Montrose hastily deployed his forces to counter-attack Urry.

On Montrose’s right flank, Alastair MacColla commanded one Irish regiment and some Gordon infantry totalling about 500 men. They were deployed in some enclosures in front of Auldearn, and the Royal Standard was prominently displayed among them to convince Urry that the entire Royalist force was in this position. Montrose’s main force was concealed in a hollow on MacColla’s left flank. There were two Irish regiments and some Gordons fighting on foot (totalling about 800 musketeers and clansmen), and 200 Gordon horsemen led by Lord Aboyne and his younger brother, Lord Lewis Gordon.

Urry’s four regular regiments of infantry advanced against the obvious position defended by Alasdair MacColla, while a small body of 50 cavalry attempted to outflank what they believed to be the Royalist left. The various levies and Urry’s remaining cavalry remained in reserve. The impatient MacColla led an advance against the Covenanters but was forced back. Montrose rode up to the Gordon cavalry, who could hear the noise of battle but could not see what was going on, and claimed that the Macdonalds were driving all before them and were likely to claim all the glory. The Gordon horsemen charged out of the hollow. The small body of Covenanter cavalry trying to outflank MacColla was taken by surprise while trying to negotiate a bog and fled. Montrose’s infantry followed his cavalry and advanced against the right flank of Urry’s four infantry regiments, which broke under attack from all sides. Urry’s three bodies of levies and his remaining cavalry fled the field.

The only part of Urry’s army to make a stand was Clan MacLennan, styled the “Bannermen of Kintail”, who, as standard bearers to Seaforth, chief of Clan Mackenzie, remained isolated during the Covenanters’ flight. They refused to retreat and stood their ground in the face of the Royalist onslaught, refusing to give up the standard of the Mackenzies, the “Cabar Feidh.” Offered no quarter by the Gordon cavalry, Ruairidh Mac Gille Fhinnein, chief of his name, and his clansmen, together with some MacRaes and Mathesons, were all cut down.

As with most of Montrose’s victories, many of the casualties were inflicted after the Covenanter army broke and fled, in a merciless pursuit which was continued for 14 miles (23 km).


Montrose had destroyed half the Covenanter forces arrayed against him. Urry later turned his coat once again and joined Montrose.

A pub/restaurant, named “The Covenanter” in commemoration of the battle, stands on part of the old battlefield at the end of Auldearn.

The battle and the Royalist campaign of 1644-1645 in general feature in the 1937 novel And No Quarter by Irish writer Maurice Walsh, told from the perspective of two members of O’Cahan’s Regiment.

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