Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Wave that Saltire

The 30th November is St. Andrew’s Day in Scotland

Nowadays not much happens in Scotland that’s unusual on St. Andrew’s day. People go to work, children to school, and life goes on as normal. There has been some recent campaigning to have it deemed a public holiday in Scotland and used to encourage tourist traffic. That’s not happened yet- some people think Scottish weather too unpredictable and they would be right about that! Today has dawned clear and blue in my part of Scotland; the slightest of frosts having melted quickly.

(BUT today is not a usual St. Andrew’s day. Public Sector workers are on strike over changes to their pension rights…and other issues. So, schools are affected, and public administration is halted, or also interrupted.)

Had it been a normal St. Andrew’s Day some primary school classes might be finding out what the Saltire, or St. Andrew’s flag, is all about.

There have been various versions of the tale and I give you only one here.

The Patron Saint of Scotland is St. Andrew. Andrew was one of the Twelve Apostles, a disciple of Jesus. Like Jesus was nailed to a cross to die so, too, was Andrew. It is said Andrew did not think himself worthy of being on the same shape of cross as Jesus, who had an upright (plus) cross. Andrew’s was a ‘multiplication sign’ cross. After his death Andrew’s remains were buried in Greece, in Patrae.

By almost 400 AD the Roman Emperor of the time, Constantius, declared Patrae was not a suitable place for the relics to lie and ordered the remains to be brought to his capital city of Constantinople.

At that time the keeper of the remains was Regulus. Regulus had a dream where an angel told him that instead of Constantinople the remains should be taken to the edge of the world, at the time known as Caledonia.

After a hazardous journey with the casket Regulus arrived at Mukros, on the east coast of Scotland. He buried the remains there and set up a church. The English translation for Regulus is ‘rule’ and to this day there is a stone tower at St. Andrews, in Fife, called Saint Rule’s Tower. It lies next to the ruined cathedral in St. Andrews. It is said the stone tower replaced Regulus’s original wood, mud and turf church and the bones of St. Andrew lie buried beneath it.

We then skip on to the year 761AD when the kingdom of the Picts (then only a part of what we know of as Scotland today) was battling against the Anglo-Saxons (northern England of today). The two armies were encamped near each other ready to do battle when Angus, king of the Picts, had a dream. He saw St. Andrew come towards him bearing a silver cross (saltire) which shone out against the blue of the sky. The next day the Picts won the bloody battle and henceforth the saltire was adopted as the badge of the Picts.

Many years later the badge of St. Andrew was adopted as the standard for the whole unified Scotland, the land of Scotland as we know it today.

And so, it is said, the saltire cross came to represent Scotland.

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