30 June 2008

Celtophile Monday

Welcome back to Celtophile Monday! All sources credited. Enjoy!

Homecoming 2009
First Minister Alex Salmond this week unveiled the nationwide programme for "Homecoming 2009" which will include over 100 events to celebrate Scotland's first ever year of Homecoming. Inspired by the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's national bard, Robert Burns, Homecoming 2009 will be a celebration of the great contributions Scotland has made to the world. It's also a chance for Scots around the globe to reconnect and engage with their heritage. The programme of events has been organised around five main themes - the Bard himself, Whisky, Golf, Great Scottish Minds and Innovations and Scotland's culture and heritage. Highlights include a Burns 250th anniversary weekend, including a campaign to create the world's biggest "virtual Burns Supper" celebration. For more information, visit the Homecoming Scotland 2009 web site.

Looking for a Job? Hit the Highlands!
Recruitment agencies in the north of Scotland are reporting a looming employment crisis as the number of migrant workers seeking jobs there has fallen dramatically. Last year, 2,000 people from east European countries registered for work in the Highlands; this year, the numbers are down to below 1,500. There are reports of a 60% drop in the number of agricultural workers from Eastern Europe seeking work in the area. A combination of factors has led to the fall in numbers - the falling value of the pound and improved employment prospects and wages in Eastern Europe. The exchange rate between sterling and Polish zlotys, for example, has moved from six to the pound to four. This has discouraged migrant workers from coming here and encouraged those who are here to return home. The cost of living in the Highlands, particularly travel costs, has also acted as a deterrent. Even the poor weather is being blamed, with less sunshine here than on the continent.

£17 Million Burns Heritage Revamp
The project to refurbish the thatched cottage where Robert Burns was born in 1759 and create a modern museum to Scotland's national poet took a step forward this week with the announcement of a £5.8 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.The Scottish Government has already pledged £5.5 million and South Ayrshire Council has provided land worth £2.8 million. But the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) is still looking for funding to plug a £5 million gap in the finances. NTS was asked to take over the project when an earlier £7 million project to save the cottage and museum in Alloway collapsed in January 2005. Since then, costs have soared to a total of £17 million. It is hoped to have the cottage and some related projects will be finished in time for the Homecoming 2009 celebrations next year, when the 250th anniversary of the birth of Burns is a major pillar. But the work will not be finished in time for the actual anniversary in January 2009. And a new "world-clas" museum building at Alloway will not be completed until 2010.

I'll Drink to That!
A boom in exports of British food and drink is being led by Scotch whisky with the value of exports now over £2.8 billion. Distribution hubs such as Singapore (whisky exports up by 84% last year, supplying emerging south-east Asia markets) and Germany (up 62% supplying central and eastern Europe) led the way. Poland has emerged as another major market, partly due to rising wages and living standards and partly due to Poles who have worked here returning to their homeland with a taste for British food and drink products.

Sea Eagles
13 white-tailed sea eagles arrived at Edinburgh Airport this week from Norway - and were met by the Scottish Government's Environment Minister, Mike Russell. This was the second batch of birds being brought in as part of a five-year East Scotland Sea Eagles (Esse) introduction project. Esse is a partnership between the bird protection organisation RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland to reintroduce sea eagles to eastern Scotland. The species was wiped out in Scotland in Victorian times, due to persecution by humans. Europe's largest bird of prey with an 8 feet wingspan, has been successfully reintroduced into the west coast of Scotland since the 1970s. The first batch of fifteen birds were released in the east of Scotland in 2007, of which 11 have survived so far.

Dry Weather Affects Whisky Production
The dry weather in May might not have continued to quite the same extent in June but the lack of rain and the driest spring for 20 years has had an impact on some of the remoter areas of the country. Residents on the 17,500 Knoydart estate in the north-west are having power supplies rationed due to low water levels in a loch that supplies hydro-electric power. The electricity is being cut off from 11pm to 7am each day. That is affecting fridges and freezers and many other household equipment from electric alarm clocks to computers. Meanwhile, on the whisky-producing island of Islay, whisky production had to close down for a spell due to a lack of water from local rivers and streams. During the disruption to that essential ingredient, distilleries used the time to schedule maintenance work rather than produce whisky.

Stone of Destiny a Forgery?
First Minister Alex Salmond has voiced his support for the theory that the stone which was surrendered to King Edward I in 1296 was not the real Stone of Destiny (used at the coronations of Scottish monarchs since the 9th century). Instead Edward took off to Westminster Abbey a fake and Scotland's iconic symbol was kept in Scotland - location unknown. The First Minister has reignited the debate by supporting the view that the Abbot of Scone (where the stone was located at that time) had passed off a forgery. The stone was placed under the throne in London - and English and then United Kingdom monarchs have been crowned since then while sitting above it. The First Minister rejected the idea of seeing if science could resolve the issue, saying it would be better to leave the mystery unsolved. One thing is sure, the Stone of Destiny currently displayed at Scone (seen here) is a replica!

Battle Flags Found at Abbottsford
Trustees who have taken over responsibility for Sir Walter Scott's home at Abbotsford in the Scottish Borders, have uncovered flags from the battlefield of Waterloo which the novelist brought from the scene in 1815 after hearing of Napoleon's defeat and rushing to the scene. The rare banners are very fragile and had been rolled up in paper. It is hoped, however, to put them on display. There are three French and one British banner, some with bullet holes in them. Scott, who wrote many historical novels. was an inveterate collector of military memorabilia. Abbotsford has Rob Roy's gun and Montrose's sword among many others on display. (Carolan's note: Been there! Seen those!)

Scottish Historical Events
July 1 1505 - Seal granted by Edinburgh Town Council to the Incorporation of Barbers and Surgeons to practise their craft. The organisation is now known as the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
July 1 1782 - Proscription Act Repealed, thus allowing again the wearing of tartan and the carrying of weapons (banned as a result of the 1745 Uprising in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie).
July 2 1266 - Treaty of Perth, Norway renounces claim on the Hebrides.
July 2 1908 - Dumfries reached a temperature of 32.8C (91F), the highest recorded - so far.
July 3 1928 - John Logie Baird transmitted first colour television.
July 4 1892 - Lanarkshire-born James Keir Hardie became the first socialist to win a seat in the UK Parliament.
July 5 1847 - Final run of the Edinburgh to London mail coach (trains had taken over).
July 6 1747 - John Paul Jones, hero of the US Navy, born Kirkbean, Dumfries.
July 7 1559 - John Knox became the first Protestant minister appointed in Edinburgh.
July 8 1249 - King Alexander II died on Isle of Kerrara, Oban Bay.
July 9 1867 - Queen's Park Football Club, first senior football (soccer) club in Scotland formed.
July 10 1451 - King James III born at Stirling.
July 11 1274 - Robert the Bruce born (possibly at Turnberry Castle).
July 12 1698 - Darien expedition left Leith for Panama.

Top Scottish Movies of All Time
A survey of cinema-goers asked to name their favourite Scottish film of all time put Mel Gibson's 1995 production "Braveheart" into top spot (of course). The black comedy "Trainspotting" was in second place. Perhaps surprisingly, as the respondents would include many of the younger cinema-goers, it was the 1940 black and white comedy "Whisky Galore" (known as "Tight Little Island" in the US) which came in third. Other films in the top ten were the sentimental story of Greyfriars Bobby and "Mrs Brown" which covered the relationship between Queen Victoria and her Highland servant John Brown. "Gregory's Girl" about an awkward schoolboy and his relationship with a football-playing girl was 7th.

Great Places to Eat
The Giffnock Ivy has opened in an area (just over the boundary with Glasgow) where there is a lot of competition from other good restaurants. But its attention to detail, eye-catching, fresh food which delights the taste buds should ensure that it is a great success. Best of all, although the food and its presentation are of such a high standard, its prices give excellent value for money.

Encyclopedia of New Zealand - The Scots
This is an extensive history of Scots in New Zealand beginning with the sailors and missionaries before 1840, through the organised settlements of 1840-1852, the settlement at Otago, a surge of Scots 1853-1870, the ebbs and flows of 1900-1945 and immigration after 1945. There are sections on the influence of Scottish culture, education and Scots in public life and the New Zealand economy, plus lots of facts and figures. The site has lots of images, audio and video, a biographies gallery and sources of further information. See Encyclopedia of New Zealand - The Scots.

All the above are from the Rampant Scotland.com newsletter.

Scotland Outdoors!
July Activities for the outdoor enthusiast! Games, hikes, runs, walks, wild times!

Island Blogging
This week's featured blog: Ruthodanort

Police Stripogram Repeat Offender Arrested
A stripogram in a police uniform, who was cleared by a sheriff of having an offensive weapon in a public place, was arrested again on Saturday. Stuart Kennedy, 24, who is known as Sergeant Eros, was detained in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire. It is thought the student was charged with obstructing a police officer. Previous charges were dropped when appeal judges backed a sheriff's ruling that stripogram work amounted to a reasonable excuse to carry a truncheon. Mr Kennedy, from Aberdeen, was originally questioned and later charged by Grampian Police after performing at a bar in the city last year. Read more

Charlotte Church and Husband Christen Baby Girl
Charlotte Church and Gavin Henson's daughter Ruby has been christened in a service in Cardiff. The service was held at St Mary of the Angels Church in the Canton area of the city on Saturday afternoon. Church gave birth to Ruby nine months ago at the couple's home in the Vale of Glamorgan. The couple recently announced they were expecting their second child together which is due to be born in January. Church said she wants six children. Ruby Megan Henson was brought into the church in a carry-cot covered with a white blanket. Read more

Irish Web Site of the Week: Wildwatch, the website of the Irish Wildlife Trust

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