Celtic Culture & heritage

Ailsa Craig - Natures Granite Masterpiece

Ailsa Craig

Ailsa Craig (Scottish Gaelic: Creag Ealasaid or Aillse Creag) rises out of the seas of the outer Firth of Clyde like a magnificent monster emerging from the deep. Climbing to a height of 1,109 ft (338 m) it lies nine miles offshore from the coast of South Ayrshire (Scottish Gaelic: Siorrachd Inbhir Àir a Deas) in the west of Scotland. Ailsa Craig geologically is all that remains of a volcanic plug from an extinct volcano and is 2.5 miles (4 km) in circumference.

It lies approximately halfway between Glasgow (Scottish Gaelic: Glaschu) and Belfast (Irish: Béal Feirste). This rock stood as an important milestone for those Irish who emigrated to Scotland in the nineteenth century looking for work. Ailsa Craig is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Protection Area because it supports 73,000 breeding seabirds and is now a bird sanctuary, leased by the RSPB until 2050. Now offering a home and protection to birds, in the past it had also acted as a haven for Roman Catholics during the Scottish Reformation in the sixteenth century.

Celebrating Scotland's Patron Saint On St Andrews Day Monday 30 November 2015

St Andrew

St. Andrew's Day (Scottish Gaelic: Là Naomh Aindrea) is Scotland's official national day. Who was St Andrew and why is he Scotland's Patron Saint?

St Andrew has been the patron saint of Scotland from at least the mid tenth century and legend says long before. He was born in the village of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee in the early 1st century and is the brother of St Peter. According to the Gospel of St John, Andrew was a follower of the preacher John the Baptist and then became a disciple of Jesus who he recognised as the Messiah. A messiah is associated with Abrahamic religions which originate in the Middle East. Christianity is one of these religions and Jesus Christ in that religion is seen as the son of god. Andrew was one of the twelve apostles who was present at the Last Supper. Interestingly his name, Andrew, is not Hebrew in origin as might be expected, but Greek. St Andrew is thought to have died in the mid to late 1st century and was said to have been crucified on a diagonal or X-shaped cross which is now known as St Andrew’s cross.

The spread of Christianity to Scotland mainly came from Ireland in the fifth century. The national flag of Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Bratach na h-Alba) is a white cross against a blue background. It is known as the Saltire and legend dates its origins back to King  Óengus mac Fergusa (Óengus II) who defeated a force of invading Angles in the ninth century. The legend is that in 832 AD the Scottish King prayed to St Andrew for help to defeat the English.  Against the blue sky the diagonal white cross appeared and it was on such a cross that St Andrew had been martyred.  The English were beaten and honouring his promise prior to the great victory Óengus made St Andrew the patron saint of Scotland. The association of St Andrew with Scotland goes back further than the reign of King Óengus II to Óengus I who was King from 732 to 761 AD. Legend also says that relics of St Andrew were brought from Constantinople in about the middle of the tenth century to the place where the town of St Andrew’s (Scottish Gaelic: Cill Rìmhinn) now stands.

A tale of old Redruth, Cornwall - The men overseas for mining work, their wives left behind in poverty

Lower Fore Street, Redruth, Cornwall in 1907

My maternal Great Granny Eliza Goldsworthy, whose maiden name was Hicks with her family originating from the Isles of Scilly, was herself born in North Country, Redruth in 1880. Her many younger brothers all died during the Spanish ‘flu epidemic of 1919 during which time the ground was too hard and frozen to bury them. They were laid out in the house pending a thaw to allow for their internment.

Co-op Stores, Falmouth Road, Redruth as it is today - built over the site of Great Granny's cottage

When Great Granny Goldsworthy first married in the latter years of the nineteenth century she moved with her husband John to a cottage in Falmouth Road, Redruth. This was situated on the spot now occupied by Lanyon House, previously a garage, and the now Co-op stores.

John’s father was landlord of the Feather’s Public House just by St. Euny Church and then the King’s Head Public House situated where the Regal Cinema now stands. His father’s cousin was landlord of the Trefusis Arms at Southgate, Redruth.

Author of Quatermass Series Remembered at Manx LitFest

Matthew Kneale

Nigel Kneale is remembered locally for being the Island's most successful radio, television and film script writer, and more broadly for writing groundbreaking screenplays for the cult 1950s BBCTV science fiction series, Quatermass. But his son, Matthew Kneale, (also a published author) was invited to speak at this year's Manx LitFest, when he made two very successful appearances in Douglas and Peel to talk of his own work and that of his father.

The Natural Wonder of the Manx Glens

Tholt

The Isle of Man is well known for its many glens. Glen is a word from the Celtic Goidelic language (gleann in Scottish and Irish Gaelic, glion in Manx).  There are many mountain and coastal glens spread around the Isle of Man (Manx Gaelic: Mannin), as many as 120. These beautiful ‘V’ and ‘U’-shaped and often wood sided valleys have been carved over millions of years by glacial erosion and the water that constantly flows toward the sea from the Manx mountains and hills. A series of these glens are known as the Manx National Glens that are preserved and maintained by a department of the Manx government; access is free to everyone. They are noted havens of peace and tranquillity with tumbling waterfalls, deep swirling rock pools and abundant vegetation. Particularly in the 19th century, paths were laid, bridges built, and extensive tree planting carried out that enhanced the natural beauty and gave easier access to those who visited these remarkable places.

Return Home of The Viking Lewis Chessmen

Lewis Chessmen

In 1831 a Viking hoard was discovered by Malcolm Macleod near Uig, Lewis (Scottish Gaelic: Leòdin) in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Leòdhas, Na h-Eileanan Siar, Alba) . This hoard contained 93 carvings: one buckle, 14 pieces of a game called tables and 78 medieval chess pieces. The chess pieces were found in a sand dune where they seem to have been placed in a small, drystone chamber. The Norse beautifully crafted chess pieces, found in near pristine condition except for some discolouration, were made from walrus tusks and whale teeth and date from sometime between 1150-1200 AD. There is some discussion about whether the set was made in Norway or Iceland.

Isle of Lewis

Nobody knows how the pieces came to be buried in the sand in the Isle of Lewis. However, we do know that at the approximate time the chessmen were made the Isle of Lewis belonged to the Kingdom of Norway. The Viking interventions in this area began in the 8th century AD. The Islands of Scotland and the Isle of Man formed the Northern and Southern Isles. The Northern Isles of Shetland and Orkney were known to the Norse as Norðreyjar. The Southern Isles forming the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles (sometimes known as The Kingdom of the Isles) consisting of the Hebrides, the islands in the Firth of Clyde and the Isle of Man were known as Suðreyjar. Lewis was part of this Kingdom of Mann and the Isles and so the Lewis chessmen date from the time of Viking rule.

Redruth International Mining and Pasty Festival 2015

Redruth International Mining and Pasty Festival

The old Cornish mining town of Redruth in Cornwall once again celebrates its ever popular Mining and Pasty Festival with celebrations taking place from Friday 11th September until Sunday 13th September, 2015.

The Mining and Pasty Festival is a three day event celebrating the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Redruth through pasties, mining and music.  The event is focussed around the town centre and is completely free to attend.

Friday 11th, which is Miners’ Day, sees Murdoch House opened, the home of the Scottish engineer and inventor William Murdoch (21 August 1754 – 15 November 1839) with themed displays touching on Redruth’s close links with Real del Monte in Mexico where many Cornish miners made their home in search of mining work and with research material made available by the Cornish Global Migration Project.

Kresen Kernow - The Cornish Studies Centre is hosting events staged by the Trevithick Society highlighting the industrial trailblazers of Redruth and including a tour of the new multi million pound Cornish National Library and Archive Centre development currently under construction whilst the town centre will be alive with music and tales from the past including one of a miner who auctioned off his wife and emigrated!

Lughnasa - The Celtic Harvest Festival

Celtic Symbol

The last Celtic Feast day of the year is Lughnasa, the harvest festival named after the Celtic God Lugh. God of the sun, light and harvests, Lugh was a great warrior. According to the Ulster Cycle he fathered the legendary Cú Chulainn and is linked to a number of sites in Ireland. Lugh spent part of his childhood in the Isle of Man where he was trained by Manannán mac Lir, said to be first ruler of the Isle of Man. Legend has it that Lir fostered and trained Lugh on Man before Lugh was sent back to Ireland. Lugh is always portrayed as youthful, handsome and athletic.

Traditionally celebrated on the first of August, Lughnasa is the fourth and last of the Feast days of the Celtic year. The three Celtic Feast days preceding Lughnasa include the Celtic New Year of Samhain (Halloween) on November 1st, Imbolg on February 1st which has become the Feast Day of St. Brigid but was originally the day of devotion to the Celtic Goddess of the same name and Beltane celebrated on 1st of May. Beltane is viewed by most scholars as being unique amongst the Celtic feast days in that Beltane observances have survived in essentially archaic form in to modern times due in part to its simplicity in that the celebrations historically included the lighting of bonfires.

Lughnasa is the least known of the four feast days and is described by James MacKillop in his “Dictionary of Celtic Mythology" as follows:

Lughnasa may be the least perceptible in the industrial, secular society, but we know more about its ancient roots than any of the other three. The significance of Lughnasa began to fade and the date on which the shadows of the ancient harvest festival was celebrated began to be moved to suit its connection with modern, often Christian, celebrations observed at about the same time of year. The Christian Church did not oppose the continuation of the festival marking the beginning of the harvest…..but the different names applied to it obscured its pagan origin.

The Isle of Man and Cornwall join forces for major presentation in Brittany this August

Festival Interceltique poster

Press Release from Culture Vannin:

It's a huge year for the Isle of Man at Europe’s largest Celtic festival, Festival Interceltique Lorient in Brittany this August. Sharing the status of ‘honoured nations’ with fellow Celtic nation, Cornwall, this is the first time that the Isle of Man has been the main focus of the 45 year old festival. Isle of Man volunteer delegate, Ealee Sheard, has been working with the main financial supporter on the Island, Culture Vannin, to prepare an impressive showcase of all things Manx. IOM Arts Council has also provided a grant to ensure that the presentation is of the highest quality. The majority of the funding for the performers is coming from the Festival’s own budget and the whole presentation is a partnership between the Isle of Man and Cornwall.

A delegation of over 100 musicians & dancers will represent the Isle of Man, including Barrule, Ny Fennee, Ruth Keggin, Rushen Silver Band, Caarjyn Cooidjagh, Russell Gilmour, Strengyn, Mec Lir and many others. Attracting over 800,000 visitors and 325 journalists from all over Europe, the 2015 festival will centre around a pavilion and stage presented by the Isle of Man and Cornwall. Key events are televised to millions across France. Peter Young from Event Management Solutions is managing the pavilion presentation for Culture Vannin, and has been working with the Cornish delegation to design a venue which will represent both the unique and shared qualities of our two nations through food and drink, culture, heritage, language, arts and crafts, and tourist information. The pavilion stage will have a packed schedule of Manx and Cornish acts, some of which will also be involved in officially programmed performances in other festival venues. There will be two major Manx/Cornish gala events in the Grand Theatre and Espace Marine, and a featured segment within the popular Nuits Interceltiques – an extravaganza of music, dance, film and fireworks. The Festival committee has also planned a TT themed event, which will attract riders from the region, so a really broad cross-section of Manx culture will be promoted. Angela Byrne, Head of Tourism, visited the festival last year:

Just walking around the festival, it’s the energy, it’s the whole eclectic mix of so many different nations that have come together under a common theme – it’s fantastic, I’ve never been to anything like it!

Glen Innes 2015 Australian Celtic Festival Resounding Success

Emmanuel College Pipe Band

This year saw the 23rd Australian Celtic Festival at Glen Innes. Record numbers flocked to the New South Wales town of Glen Innes to experience this very unique festival celebrating the music, song, dance and culture of all the Celtic Nations. The main events of the festival took place between the 30th April to 3rd May. Glen Innes is a town known for its friendly people and welcoming atmosphere. Celts from all over Australia celebrated along with locals and tourists from abroad. A street parade, concerts and events taking place all over Glen Innes demonstrate how much this warm hearted town has embraced this wonderful festival of all things Celtic. Each year there is a featured Celtic Nation and this year it was Wales (Cymru). Next year 2016 will celebrate the Isle of Man (Mannin).

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