Scottish Wedding Theme
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February 2, 2009 08:06 - February Highland Games

In February the number of games begins to increase. If you are planning a Scottish Wedding Theme ~ or would just plain like a good dose of Scottishness, get to one of these Highland Games. At most of the events, you can find local bagpipers to hire or browse tartan sample books. There's always lots of kilts and outfits, everywhere from formal to very casual, to look at. Clan tents have information on your clan's history. The music runs from traditional to rock. And there's lots of Scottish traditions and food to sample.

  • January 14 to February 1, Glasgow, Scotland ~ Celtic Connections
  • February 7, Regina, Saskatchewan ~ Mid-Winter Celtic Festival
  • February 8, Berwick, Victoria, Australia ~ Berwick Highland Gathering
  • February 13 to 15, Savannah, Georgia ~ Savannah Irish Festival
  • February 13 to 15, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania ~ Mid-Winter Philadelphia Scottish-Irish Music Festival & Fair
  • February 14, Mt Barker near Adelaide, South Australia ~ Mt. Barker Caledonian Society Highland Games
  • February 14, Paeroa, New Zealand ~ Paeroa Highland Games and Tattoo
  • February 14 to 15, Long Beach, California ~ Queen Mary Scottish Festival
  • February 14 to 15, St. Paul, Minnesota ~ A Scottish Ramble 2009
  • February 21, Victoria, British Columbia ~ Indoor Winter Competition
  • February 21 to 22, Phoenix, Arizona ~ Arizona Scottish Gathering & Highland Games
  • February 21 to 22, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania ~ Lewisburg Celtic Days
  • February 22, Green Cove Springs, Florida ~ Northeast Florida Scottish Highland Games & Festival

For more detailed information about the listed events, go to

Coming tomorrow, continuing about a Daffodil Theme for a Scottish Wedding…

February 3, 2009 09:31 - Daffodil Wedding Theme

The daffodil is the national flower of Wales and it's traditionally worn on St. David's Day which is March 1st. Some suggest the word "daffodil" may have come from Dafydd, which is a Welsh form of David.

Somehow Davidils or Dafyddils just doesn't evoke Springtime with the same emotion! Pooh on a rose by any other name is just as sweet!

The daffodil is used to decorate for the Chinese New Year, while other countries associate the yellow daffodils with Easter. And the Scots wear daffodil boutonnieres on Tartan Day in April.

Poets have also loved the flower. William Wordsworth wrote ~

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars
that shine and twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
in such a jocund company:
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
what wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Tomorrow, more literary daffodils…

February 4, 2009 08:09 - More Literary Daffodils

e.e. comings was also enamored with the daffodil ~

In a Time of Daffodils

in time of daffodils
(who know the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why, remember how

in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so (forgetting seem)

in time of roses
(who amaze our now and here with paradise)
forgetting if, remember yes

in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek (forgetting find)

and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me, remember me

Other Daffodils
In the movie, Big Fish Edward Bloom planted a field of daffodils outside of Sandra Templeton's window in order to win her heart.
In Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, Amanda Wigfield collects a bunch of jonquils, a type of daffodil, before her gentleman friend calls. She also reminisces about when she was young and her many gentlemen callers showered her in jonquils.
Tomorrow, daffodil festivals and charitible symbols…

February 5, 2009 06:31 - Festivals & Charities That Also Like Daffodils

Daffodil Festivals
Celebrations of spring with tours, unique parades, and fun. If you're considering a daffodil theme wedding, you might glean lots of ideas.

  • U.S.A.
    Camden Daffodil Festival
    Garvan Gardens Daffodil Days
    Garvan Gardens Daffodil Tea
    Wye Mountain Daffodil Festival, near Bigelow

    Daffodil Hill, Amador County
    Ironstone Spring Obsession, Murphys
    Daffodil Festival, Fortuna

    Meriden Daffodil Festival

    Chicago Botanic Gardens
    American Daffodil Society National Convention, Chicago

    Brewster in Bloom
    Nantucket Daffodil Festival Weekend ~ hundreds of antique cars are adorned with thousands of daffodils
    Spohr Gardens Daffodil Gardens, Falmouth

    Daffodil Line at Nichols Arboretum, Ann Arbor

    New York
    Brooklyn Botanic Garden Daffodil Hill

    North Carolina
    Fremont Daffodil Festival

    Daffodil Day, Milford

    Daffodil Lawn, Oklahoma Botanic Gardens, Tulsa

    Amity Daffodil Festival, Junction tival
    The Daffodil Drive Festival, Junction City

    Rhode Island
    Blithwold Daffocil Days, Bristol

    Mrs. Lee's Daffodil Garden, Gladewater
    Daffodil Festival, Round Rock

    Daffodil Festival, Gloucester

    Skagit Valley Daffodils
    The Daffodil Festival, Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, and Orting

  • Canada
    Bradner Flower and Garden Show, Abbotsford, British Columbia

  • International
    Rome, Italy, Mostra del Narciso
    Tuscany Daffodil Festival at Villa La Pescigola, outside Fivizzano in the Lunigiana region of Northern Tuscany. They have 120,000 daffodils with 66 varieties.

On the Delmarva Peninsula, daffodils grows in abundance, and with good reason. As wives elsewhere raised chickens for 'egg money', the women on the Delmarva Pensinsula grew daffodils and harvested the bulbs to be sold elsewhere.

In the autumn, trainloads would leave for New York City. I didn't find a daffodil festival listed, but I think I've seen it advertised as you drive up the main highway.

Way back when, my family settled out there in Maryland. Could my great-great-great-whatever…grandmother have grown and sold daffodils? Having come out of the poverty and uncertainty of 17th century Scotland, via Ireland, then widowed within the year, anything is possible.

Charity symbols
Many cancer charities have the daffodil as their fundraising symbol, like the poppy on Veterans Day ~ the Cancer Societies of America, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, and Canada, plus the Marie Curie Cancer Care Society.

Tomorrow, Daffodils Blooms & Companiion Flowers…

February 6, 2009 06:40 - Daffodil Blooms

From the giving of Victorian nosegays, the daffodil has been assigned multiple meanings ~
  • joy
  • the sun is always shining when I'm with you
  • you are the only one
  • chivalry
  • respect
  • regard

It also symbolizes good fortune, which explains why the Chinese include them in their New Year celebrations. As a symbol of rebirth and new beginnings, the daffodil is virtually synonymous with Spring.

Daffodil image courtesy Clipart

Commonly called daffodils, their botanic name is narcissus. Also called jonquils, in England they're known as the "Lent Lily", because of their long association with Lent.

Lore connecting the daffodil as a sign of winter's end and a lucky emblem of future prosperity is found throughout the world. In Wales, it's said if you spot the first daffodil of the season, your next 12 months will be filled with wealth. The Chinese legend claims that if a daffodil bulb is forced to bloom during the New Year, it will bring good luck to your home.

Among birthdays and anniversaries, it's the March birthday flower and the 10th wedding anniversary flower. A gift of daffodils is said to ensure happiness…but only in a bunch, for when given as a single bloom, a daffodil can foretell misfortune.

Daffodil image courtesy Clipart

Coming Monday, daffodils with other yellow, white, and blue flowers for a Scottish theme wedding…

February 9, 2009 05:34 - Daffodil Companion Flowers

Recently I watched 'The History of the Tango'. One of the songs being translated had the phrase the rose celebrates our love. Why not think of each of the flowers for your wedding celebrating your joy with you, just like your other guests…dressed in their best, celebrating with colors, fragrances, textures, and meanings...and this guest list carefully poured over to decide who you really want at your wedding.

For the Greeks, certain flowers had symbolism and meaning. In Medieval times, painters chose flowers for very specific messages and meanings. The Victorians carried this idea to its ultimate. Every flower, and some weeds, had a hidden meaning and those combined together in a nosegay, or tussie-mussie, often told a whole story.

In keeping with the daffodil theme, the primary colors being presented are yellow, white, blue, and orange.

Yellow flowers cry out joy and lightheartedness, they also symbolize friendship, new beginnings, and happiness. White flowers are associated with innocence, humility, reverence, simple beauty, modesty, and elegance.

Blue is significant in many cultural rituals and ceremonies, with Western brides wearing something blue to symbolize faithfulness and loyalty. Other blue flower meanings are desire, love, and a striving for the infinite and unreachable. Orange flowers symbolize confidence, warmth and enthusiasm for life.

Each wedding dress color also has a tradition meaning ~ but that's a story for tomorrow…

February 10, 2009 08:33 - Daffodil Wedding Dress Colors

It's a myth that white was a sign of virginity. Instead, white was always associated with 'joy' and thought to ward off evil spirits.

In 1499, when Anne of Brittany married Louis XII of France, she wore the first known white wedding dress. Silver had been the traditional color of Royal brides.

In the 16th century, the wealthy began wearing white wedding gowns. Queen Victoria chose to be married in white, as it was her favorite color.

The following traditional rhyme offers advice on the color for a wedding dress ~

Traditional Wedding Dress Colors

Married in White, you have chosen right,
Married in Blue, your love will always be true,
Married in Pearl, you will live in a whirl,
Married in Brown, you will live in town,
Married in Red, you will wish yourself dead,
Married in Yellow, ashamed of your fellow,
Married in Green, ashamed to be seen,
Married in Pink, your spirit will sink,
Married in Grey, you will go far away,
Married in Black, you will wish yourself back.

Tradition stated that wearing a green wedding gown indicated promiscuity, reminiscent of a gown stained from rolling in grassy fields. But anyone with any Celtic background knows a green dress is a badge of pride, proclaiming heritage and ancestry. Furthermore, green is the color of nature and verdancy, signifying good fortune and health.

All these meanings have changed and today, any color goes. Red now signifies love and passion, courage and strength. Yellow no longer signifies shame. Instead it cries out joy and lightheartedness.

Other modern meanings that are less negative are pink for youthful happiness. And black has become the fashion statement of the decade, no longer restricted to funerals and mourning. Among the colors left out completely, purple makes a statement of dignity and pride, representing admiration and achievement. Lavender is the color of feminine beauty, grace, elegance, and refinement.

For the Scottish theme wedding, tartans play an important part in building a color theme. Tomorrow will bring an introduction to some daffodil tartans…

February 11, 2009 07:53 - Daffodil Tartans

Even though the original Leine shirts worn by the Celts were died saffron, yellow is a fairly rare color in tartans. Due to the extra labor needed to render yellow dyes, yellow was usually confined to narrow stripes in other colors.

Some yellow tartans have developed which can fit in well with a daffodil wedding theme.

Barclay Clan Dress WR1879

Barclay Clan Dress WR1879

Buchanan Ancient Tartan

Buchanan Ancient Tartan

Cairngorm Trade Tartan WR1314

Cairngorm Trade Tartan WR1314

Cornish National Tartan

Cornish National Tartan

Drumlanrig Heirloom Tartan

Lochcarron's Drumlanrig Heirloom Tartan

Dunbartonshire Trade Tartan WR1886

Dunbartonshire Trade Tartan WR1886

Fraser Clan Tartan WR1878

Fraser Clan Tartan WR1878

Fraser Trade Tartan WR1709

Fraser Trade Tartan WR1709

Jacobite General Tartan WR1885

Jacobite General Tartan WR1885

Jacobite Modern Tartan

Jacobite Modern Tartan

Jahore Regimental Tartan WR260 for the Sultan of Jahore

Jahore Regimental Tartan WR260

Jahore District Tartan WR1309 ~ presented to the Sultan of Jahore by Queen Victoria during his visit to Balmoral around 1890.

Jahore District Tartan WR1309

Jardine of Castlemilk Clan Tartan WR1447

Jardine of Castlemilk Clan Tartan WR1447

Jardine of Castlemilk Family Tartan WR1431

Jardine of Castlemilk Family Tartan WR1431

MacLachlan Tartan WR1277

MacLachlan Tartan WR1277

MacLaine of Lochbuie Hunting Ancient Tartan

MacLaine of Lochbuie Hunting Ancient Tartan

MacLead Tartan WR1278

MacLead Tartan WR1278

Murtaugh Tartan 2835 ~ an Irish family name meaning navigator

Murtaugh Tartan 2835

Raeburn Historical Tartan WR1275

Raeburn Historical Tartan WR1275

Rainbow 2786 Tartan

Rainbow Tartan 2786

Rainbow Tartan WR2675

Rainbow Tartan WR2675

Rainbow Tartan WR2647

Rainbow Tartan WR2647

Rainbow Waggrall Family Tartan WR1691

Waggrall Family Tartan WR1691

Thain Dress Tartan WR1256

Thain Dress Tartan WR1256

Tomorrow, Daffodils and the MacLaine Lochbuie Ancient Hunting Tartan theme…

February 12, 2009 07:34 - Daffodils & MacLaine of Lochbuie

For a sweet, youthful declaration, MacLaine of Lochbuie Hunting Ancient Tartan is a great choice.

MacLaine of Lochbuie Hunting Ancient Tartan
With daffodils and pink roses, the joyful innocence is complete. Any of the blue flowers would also compliment this tartan.

The Bachelor Buttons symbolize hope in love and delicacy. The pink roses speak of love, grace, perfect happiness.

Daffodil image courtesy Wikipedia

Peach & Pink Roses image courtesy Clip Art

Bachelor Button image courtesy Vector Graphics

During the Napoleonic Wars, Queen Louise of Prussia was fleeing Berlin. Pursued by the army, she hid her children in a field of cornflowers (bachelor's buttons). To keep them quiet, she wove wreaths for them from the flowers. Thus the cornflower became identified with Prussia and is the color of the Prussian military uniform.

Queen Louise of Prussia, painted by Joseph Grassi courtesy Wikipedia

The gold trim around the bodice could be a narrow band of the tartan. During the Empire Period, drapes and shawls were very popular. This cape, from LJ Designs, or an extended train in the MacLaine of Lochbuie tartan would be a subtle, tasteful statement of Scottish heritage. And the cape shoulder could display a nice Scottish brooch.

Ladies Cape Pop Over LJ Designs Pattern

The tiara and arm band really add a finishing touch. This look can be closely duplicated or replicas can be created by Very Merry Seamstress.

Coming tomorrow, a study of heather begins with God's Legend of the Heather…

February 13, 2009 07:11 - The Legend of the Heather

Heather played such an important role in the lives of the Highlanders…in their food, their buildings, their day-to-day life. But, first the legend of the heather…

Legend of the Heather

When God first made the world, He looked at the bare and barren hillsides and thought how nice it would be to cover them with some kind of beautiful tree or flower.

So he turned to the Giant Oak, the biggest and strongest of all of the trees he had made, and asked him if he would be willing to go up to the bare hills to help make them look more attractive. But the oak explained that he needed a good depth of soil in order to grow and that the hillsides would be far too rocky for him to take root.

So God left the oak tree and turned to the honeysuckle with its lovely yellow flower and beautiful sweet fragrance. He asked the honeysuckle if she would care to grow on the hillsides and spread her beauty and fragrance amongst the barren slopes. But the honeysuckle explained that she needed a wall or a fence or even another plant to grow against, and for that reason, it would be quite impossible for her to grow in the hills.

So God then turned to one of the sweetest and most beautiful of all the flowers - the rose. God asked the rose if she would care to grace the rugged highlands with her splendour. But the rose explained that the wind and the rain and the cold on the hills would destroy her, and so she would not be able to grow on the hills.

Disappointed with the oak, the honeysuckle and the rose, God turned away. At length, he came across a small, low lying, green shrub with a flower of tiny petals -some purple and some white. It was a heather.

God asked the heather the same question that he'd asked the others. "Will you go and grow upon the hillsides to make them more beautiful?"

The heather thought about the poor soil, the wind and the rain - and wasn't very sure that she could do a good job. But turning to God she replied that if he wanted her to do it, she would certainly give it a try.

God was very pleased. He was so pleased in fact that he decided to give the heather some gifts as a reward for her willingness to do as he had asked.

Firstly he gave her the strength of the oak tree - the bark of the heather is the strongest of any tree or shrub in the whole world. Next he gave her the fragrance of the honeysuckle - a fragrance which is frequently used to gently perfume soaps and potpourris. Finally he gave her the sweetness of the rose - so much so that heather is one of the bees favourite flowers.

And to this day, heather is renowned especially for these three God given gifts.

The legend is courtesy Electric Scotland

Tomorrow, more about the heather…

February 16, 2009 08:18 - Heather in the Home

Continuing Friday's blog on heather, it was vital and important to the Scots. So important they practiced conservation of the heather moor.

To maintain the heather, Muirburn was the common, effective management of heather on the moors. It's simply the annual burning off of the heather. This prevented shrubs and trees from over-growing the moors, necessary to thwart fox and wolf trying to approach domestic herds without being seen. The burn also encouraged edible new shoots for birds. This practice continues today, with regulations and schedules for the Muirburn.

Some varied uses of heather within the home ~

On Orkney, archeologists have found beds formed of stone boxes that were lined with heather, again dating back to 2000 B.C.

Did these heather beds give enough support? Huge drop hammers in the Sheffield Steel forges sat on beds of heather to cushion and absorb the impact of the hammers and keep the anvils from fracturing.

Brushes, Baskets & Mats

  • On Lewis, chimney sweeps still use bunched heather brushes to clean chimneys.

  • Heather doormats for the kitchen are still common. Using long, thin stems, these would be woven in patterns. The bottom side would be rough with the clipped ends, while the upper side is smooth. On Islay, these were woven of young heather, or peallagan.

  • Pot Scrubbers

  • Baskets for pack saddles that were used by horses and human to carry a variety of products.

    Scottish Wedding Dreams Wedding Traditions, The Stag and Hen Parties, Creelin' of the Bridegroom, tells of another use for one type of these baskets.

    Some creel baskets ~

    McIan Carrying Peat courtesy Scottish Wedding Dreams

    McIan Gathering Dulce Seaweed courtesy Scottish Wedding Dreams

    McIan Carrying Fern courtesy Scottish Wedding Dreams

    Inside the home, some baskets were also hung on walls for storage, while others were simply set on the floor.

    Saalt Cuddle on Shetland is a salt cellar basket hung by the fire to keep salt dry

    Mudag is a basket to hold wool before it's carded

Floor Tile
As World War II ended, wood use was restricted. The ground floor of homes were of concrete or stone. Being hard and cold, with no "give", a small factory set up beside Loch Lomond and began to produce floor tile from the woody heather stems. The heather was compressed with a bonding agent. The tile were resilient, hard wearing, and long lasting. This process has evolved into a major jewelry industry.

Also commonly known as Ling, a word meaning fire, this refers to heather being used as fuel. Even now, country people use heather to heat their homes, as well as for drying corn, brewing and baking.

If the uses for heather seem almost endless, consider that some Highlanders even packed heather inside their trousers for insulation against cold weather.

Dating back to the Middle Ages there are books on herbals and their uses, including heather. Doctor Paulus Aegineta prescribed heather in 1565. In 1543, Fuchs recommended heather for insect bites.

Other cures are for milk production in nursing mothers, ulcers, kidney stones, arthritis, exzema, and fevers. Pure heather honey is used by hay fever sufferers.

Coming tomorrow, artistic uses for heather…

February 17, 2009 04:27 - Heather and Artists

Wherever you go there are creative people, people who put a creative touch to everyday, mundane things. Scotland, with its abundance of heather, is no different.

The painter, the weaver, the jeweler, and the woodcarver have all found ways to use heather to express their unique artistry.

Then there's also the necessity of distinguishing one clan from another. And what better way to show who you are than to tuck a plant in your bonnet, with a touch of artistic flair and a declaration of who you are…thus the use of heather and other plants as clan badges.

Just looking at this array of heathers is inspiring!

Speyside Heather Garden image courtesy Electric Scotland

Dyes for Paint and Fabric
Dugald Carmichael, a retired botanist and painter started using natural pigments from plants. He used heather tops to render a specific yellow. This isn't surprising as highlanders had used heather to dye to woolen cloth for centuries. Adding indigo yielded a good green, while adding gall apples gave a moss green. Old heather tops yield purple and brown.

The basic technique for producing the floor tiles was adopted by the jewelry industry. Small blocks of heather were recessed into wood and staghorn, then formed into brooches and pendants. Later the manufacturers began to dye the stems, resulting in more colorful and interesting pieces. The 'Heather Gem' jewelry is still produced today.

Heathergems has a page showing the manufacturing process. They also offer a selection of jewelry.

Walking Sticks
The walking sticks of Scotland have become a work of art, with many artists plying their skills on this so very useful tool.

Dirk handles are sometimes carved from heather stems and roots, with Celtic knots decorating the surface.

Heather Clan Plant Badges
Dating back to the 17th century, when fresh heather is worn as a clan badge it's called heather taps. Scottish Wedding Dreams lists the various clan plant badges , including heather.

Coming tomorrow, more about the Highlanders walking sticks…

February 18, 2009 08:57 - Cromach Walking Sticks

While cromach means bandy legs, cromag means any little crooked thing, a crook, or staff. Cromac is a parliamentary division of Belfast, Ireland.

In Scotland, the walking stick is also known as a staff, cromag, or crook.

Heather walking sticks, especially from Colonsay where the soil yields ideal growing conditions, can be 4 to 6 feet tall.

This collection of cromags is on a promotional poster for St. George Island, Florida ~

Cromags image courtesy Electric Scotland

A vendor selling canes and walking sticks at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games ~

Canes & Walking Sticks image owned by Scottish Wedding Dreams

Highlanders at Home illustrates some walking sticks in use ~

McIan Fording a River courtesy Scottish Wedding Dreams

McIan Highland Shepherd courtesy Scottish Wedding Dreams

Jim Anderson , an internationally recognized woodcarver who displays his wares at the Stone Mountain Highland Games near Atlanta, Georgia. He carves cromachs, but more importantly for the bridal couple, he carves wedding plaques.

Clansmen from the Urquhart, Forrester, Anderson, McFie, and Ferguson clans displaying their cromags in the Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree Picture Gallery.

Coming tomorrow, heather thatch roofing for crofts...

February 19, 2009 08:16 - Heather Thatch

Not just for thatch, heather has been used for the ropes and pegs which held the buildings together and the roof on. Examples can be found on North Uist, the Hebridean Islands…spanning the country from Shetland in the North to Arran in the South West.

Called Heather Theekit, meaning thatched with heather, this thatch was usually found on a better class of buildings. While straw thatch had to be replaced annually, heather thatch has been known to last over 100 years and required less repairs than a slate roof.

To carry dripping rain water away from the roof and walls, a thick fringe of heather projected from under the lowest layer of divots.

Heather roots were used as nails and pegs to hang slate roofs, while the smaller twigs were shaped into pegs to hold down the heather divots in thatch.

On this croft in Sidinish, North Uist, you can see the thatching, the heather fringe to carry away the dripping rain water, and the rocks used to weight down the thatch.

Thatched Croft courtesy Electric Scotland

Tomorrow, other uses for heather outside the home…

February 20, 2009 07:31 - Using Heather Outside the Home

There's many uses for heather in farming, fishing, birding, and other pursuits ~

Agricultural and Maritime Baskets

  • Maisie is a rope panier for carrying sheaves and peat

  • Heather Cubby, woven from long straight heather stalks, is for carrying turnips to feed the cattle

  • A Sea Cubby carries fish home

  • A Heather Caissie, from Orkney, holds fish, fishing line and bait. Lobsters were sent from the Hebrides to London, packed in heather and heather caissies.

  • Heather Wuddie or Widdie, see Heather Caissie

Fencing of heather intertwined between posts can protect livestock during the winter months.

Ladders were constructed from heather ropes. These were swung over cliff sides, giving direct access to the seashore below. They were also used to collect eggs and feathers from inaccessible bird's nests on the cliff sides.

McIan Eagles Nest courtesy Scottish Wedding Dreams

The Newsroom blogs from October 9th & 10th, 2007 tell of St. Kildas and the use of ropes on the cliffs.

Roads and Paths
Due to its abundance and availability, heather was added as roadbed material for roads, tracks, and footpaths. Laid between a base of brushwood and a surface of gravel to lay tracks across the Rannoch moor.

Known since Medieval times, diggings, or useless parts of the sheep fleece, were mixed with heather to lay footpaths across the heath. In modern times, this mixture was airlifted in by the RAF to reinforce walkways of the Cairngorms Mountains and National Park.

Light soil tends to silt up. The Highlanders would place old heather tops in the bottom on trenches for a type of 'French drain'. Heather stems were also used to stabilize dunes and embankments.

Seomain fraoich, or heather rope, has been found in prehistoric villages dating back to 2000 B.C. Made from the long stems and woven by hand, this rope was used for thatch, ladders, mooring fishing boats, and to gather kelp from the sea. Iodine was rendered from the kelp and used to manufacture glass.

Salmon Fishing
Salmon Lighting is an old fishing technique. The men would tie a few kiln-dried heather bunches together and place them in a heather torch. This special basket was held down by the water's edge. Called burning the water, the flickering flames would draw the salmon from the deeper waters. As the salmon swam near they were speared with a leister, or spear. This form of fishing is no longer legal.

McIan Spearing Salmon courtesy Scottish Wedding Dreams

A famous ship builder and harbor engineer, John Mowat, saved the ship Isabella of Sunderland when she ran aground on the sands of Dunnet. When simple digging of trenches only led to them refilling with each tide, Mowat ordered men to the hills to gather heather. Knowing what he was about, the local women and children joined in the harvest. At the next low tide, the trench sides were built up with the heather and the Isabella was floated on the next high tide.

Weather Forecasting
Predicting the weather even uses heather. A really rich blossom on the heather during August and September means a severe winter. Also, a muirburn, near The Borders, "doth draw doon the rain".

Coming Monday, heather birds and varieties of heather…

February 23, 2009 06:26 - Heather Birds & Heather Varieties

Heather image courtesy Morgue File

Continuing the historical importance and impact of heather on the everyday life in Scotland, there's species of birds with heather names listed here, along with other birds that nest and shelter in the heather.

  • Black Grouse
  • Buzzard
  • Capercaillie
  • Common Snipe
  • Curlew
  • Dotterel
  • Golden Eagle
  • Golden Plover
  • Hen Harrier Lapwing (Peewit or Green Plover)
  • Heather Bird ~ Red Grouse
  • Heather Blackie ~ Ring Ouzel
  • Heather-Cheeper ~ Meadow Pipit
  • Heather-Cun-Dunk ~ Goosander or Northern Diver
  • Heather Lintie ~ Twite or Mountain Linnet
  • Heather Peeper ~ Common Sandpiper
  • Merlin
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Ptarmigan
  • Short Eared Owl.

Other Varieties of Heathers

Speyside Heather Garden image courtesy Electric Scotland
  • Bell Heather
  • Cross-leaved Heath.
  • Carline Heather, also called French Heather by older folks in Perthshire
  • Cat Heather
  • Dog Heather, Ling heather in Aberdeenshire

Coming tomorrow, Heather foods…

February 24, 2009 08:06 - Heather Foods

"Lovely to look at, delightful to know…"... from the movie Roberta, though sung to a lady, the words hold true for the heathers and the wonderful foods derived from them ~

Heather Honey
A bright golden brown honey with a distinct flavor is the premier, select choice in Scotland.

The hives are taken to the heather moors in late July or early August. Bell Heather and Cross Leaved Heath are the preferred varieties.

Heather honey, in turn, is used in many Scottish recipes, such as cranachan ~

This dessert combines cream, oats, whiskey, and heather honey.

Yield: 4 servings

4 oz. oatmeal
½ pt. whipping cream
1 Tbsp heather honey
2-3 Tbsp whiskey (or 2 tsp vanilla)
2 Tbsp raspberry jam or 1 Tbsp of créme de framboise liqueur
2 Tbsp water to dilute the jam
6 oz fresh red raspberries

Toast the oatmeal in a heavy skillet for about 5 minutes until golden brown.
Set aside to cool.
Combine red raspberry jam and water. Once softened, pass through a sieve to remove the seeds. Stir to a smooth consistency.
Whip the cream until stiff.
Fold honey and whiskey (or vanilla) into whipped cream.
Fold in toasted oatmeal.
Layer raspberries, then cream, then raspberry jam or crème de framboise in parfait or sundae glasses, beginning with raspberries and ending with the oatmeal cream.
Smooth the surface of the cranachan
Refrigerate or eat immediately.
Dust with confectioners sugar just before serving.

Roast Pheasant with Heather and Whiskey Raspberry Gravy
From Ann Willan, The Food Network

Yield 4 servings

6 to 8 sprigs heather
2 Tbsp Scotch whisky
2 pheasants
1 pint raspberries
2 Tbsp butter, softened
Salt and pepper
4 thin slices bacon
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup well-reduced veal or chicken stock
1 Tbsp red currant jelly

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Set aside 4 small sprigs of heather for decoration, and crush the rest with a rolling pin to bruise and release flavors. Pour the whisky over the heather on a plate and leave to soak.
Crush 1/2 pint of raspberries.
Spread the birds with softened butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place crushed raspberries and whisky soaked heather and place inside the pheasants. Reserve the left over whisky.
Wrap them in bacon, securing the raspberries and whisky-soaked heather inside. Tie the birds with string and set them in a small roasting pan. Pour over any reserved whisky from the heather.
Roast the birds in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes, basting them often and turning them from time to time so they brown evenly. When done they should be well browned and the legs will wiggle when pulled.
Tip raspberries from the birds into the pan. Transfer bird to a carving board and cover with foil to keep warm.

Stir flour into the pan juices and cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes until browned.
Add stock and bring the gravy to a boil, stirring to dissolve pan juices. Simmer 2 minutes or until concentrated, then strain into a small pan.
Whisk in red currant jelly and heat until melted.
Stir in remaining raspberries and cook 1 to 2 minutes until just soft.
Taste gravy and adjust the seasoning.
Using poultry shears, remove string from the pheasants and cut them in half, discarding backbone. Arrange them overlapping on a serving dish or on individual plates.
Spoon over the raspberries with a little gravy, serving the rest separately. Decorate the pheasants with remaining heather sprigs.

Tomorrow, heather drinks…

February 25, 2009 08:37 - Heather Ale ~ A Galloway Legend

For centuries heather has been a flavoring added to food and drinks. The alcoholic beverages are reported to be aromatic, heady and strong. Robert Louis Stevenson, among others, has sung praises to the heather ~

Heather Ale ~ A Galloway Legend
From the bonny bells of heather
They brewed a drink long-syne,
Was sweeter far then honey,
Was stronger far than wine.
They brewed it and they drank it,
And lay in a blessed swound
For days and days together
In their dwellings underground.

There rose a king in Scotland,
A fell man to his foes,
He smote the Picts in battle,
He hunted them like roes.
Over miles of the red mountain
He hunted as they fled,
And strewed the dwarfish bodies
Of the dying and the dead.

Summer came in the country,
Red was the heather bell;
But the manner of the brewing
Was none alive to tell.
In graves that were like children's
On many a mountain head,
The Brewsters of the Heather
Lay numbered with the dead.

The king in the red moorland
Rode on a summer's day;
And the bees hummed, and the curlews
Cried beside the way.
The king rode, and was angry,
Black was his brow and pale,
To rule in a land of heather
And lack the Heather Ale.

It fortuned that his vassals,
Riding free on the heath,
Came on a stone that was fallen
And vermin hid beneath.
Rudely plucked from their hiding,
Never a word they spoke;
A son and his aged father --
Last of the dwarfish folk.

The king sat high on his charger,
He looked on the little men;
And the dwarfish and swarthy couple
Looked at the king again.
Down by the shore he had them;
And there on the giddy brink --
"I will give you life, ye vermin,
For the secret of the drink."

There stood the son and father,
And they looked high and low;
The heather was red around them,
The sea rumbled below.
And up and spoke the father,
Shrill was his voice to hear:
"I have a word in private,
A word for the royal ear.

"Life is dear to the aged,
And honour a little thing;
I would gladly sell the secret,"
Quoth the Pict to the king.
His voice was small as a sparrow's,
And shrill and wonderful clear:
"I would gladly sell my secret,
Only my son I fear.

"For life is a little matter,
And death is nought to the young;
And I dare not sell my honour
Under the eye of my son.
Take him, O king, and bind him,
And cast him far in the deep;
And it's I will tell the secret
That I have sworn to keep."

They took the son and bound him,
Neck and heels in a thong,
And a lad took him and swung him,
And flung him far and strong,
And the sea swallowed his body,
Like that of a child of ten; --
And there on the cliff stood the father,
Last of the dwarfish men.

"True was the word I told you:
Only my son I feared;
For I doubt the sapling courage
That goes without the beard.
But now in vain is the torture,
Fire shall never avail:
Here dies in my bosom
The secret of Heather Ale."

Robert Louis Stevenson

Coming next, a variety of heather drinks…

February 26, 2009 06:31 - Varied Heather Drinks

To ruin the romance of heather, before modern production methods, heather leaves are host to an ergo fungus that contains a strong hallucinogenic. Small wonder the Celts were famous for their merry-making!

Here's a few of their beverage recipes

  • Heather Crap Ale is one of these brews ~ a very refreshing and wholesome drink with essence of heather. In 1993, a brewery began producing Heather Ale using an old recipe.
  • Heather Wine ~ made with heather tips, lemons and oranges.

  • Heather Tea which retains a light mauve color

  • Tinkers Tea ~ trout fishermen would make this tea by filling a kettle with loch water and taking it ashore, adding a sprig of heather to the tea leaves. Next they'd start a fire with old dry heather under and over the kettle. When the heather had burned away, the tea was ready.

    On the Isle of Skye, if the tea tasted too smoky from the fire, they put a sprig of heather in the cup.

  • Heather Whisky
    Some say, if you want a fine whisky, it must get some of its delicate flavor from heather. At Highland Park Distillery there's a special building, the Heather House. This is where the heather gathered in July, while in full bloom, was stored. Small bundles of heather was used on the peat fires to dry the malt and contribute a unique taste to the whisky.

    In previous eras, heather branches, called washbacks were used to cleanse fermentation stills. When new stills were added, bundles of heather would be boiled in water in the still to sweeten it before distillation began.

    Old timers used burnt heather stumps to make a smoke-less fire and avoid the taxmen.

    Tomorrow, heather words…

February 27, 2009 08:04 - Heather Words Used in Scotland

Heather image courtesy Stock Exchange

This list shows how important heather is to the Scots and what an important role this wee flower played in their everyday lives.

  • Curing Heather Cow ~ a broom made of heather twigs
  • Hather ~ heather seller
  • Hather Fesgar ~ a facing of heather fastened with boards around the outside of the house to correct leaks of rain water, also a strengthening the rim of straw or heather baskets
  • Heather-An-Dub ~ heather and daub, sometimes called spelt dab, a mud slurry used with sticks for wall construction
  • Heather Beetle
  • Heather Bill ~ the Dragon-Fly in Banffshire
  • Heather Birns ~ charred sticks of heather used as writing instruments
  • Heather Blindness ~ a disease of sheep
  • Heather Caissie ~ on Orkney, a basket to hold fish, fishing line and bait. Lobsters were sent from the Hebrides to London, packed in heather and heather caissies.
  • Heather Cat ~ the common wild cat
  • Heather Cling ~ a disease prevalent among sheep that have been grazing too long on heather
  • Heather Claw ~ a dog's dew claw, which is often cut off to prevent it's catching in the heather
  • Heather Clout or Clu ~ the horny substance protecting a horse's fetlock
  • Heather Cubby ~ woven from long straight heather stalks, a basket for carrying turnips to feed the cattle
  • Heather-fish ~ frog tadpoles in Caithness
  • Heather Gall Midge ~ an insect
  • Heather Goose ~ a dolt or ninny
  • Heather Heidit ~ heather headed, disheveled hair, a bad hair day, indicating a country or rustic background
  • Heather Ill ~ constipation of the bowels
  • Heather Jennys ~ women who sold heather goods
  • Heather Jocks ~ men who sold heather goods
  • Heather Lamp ~ a springy step common among people accustomed to walking over heathery ground
  • Heather Lamping ~ lifting feet high when walking
  • Heather Legs ~ walking with a high and wide step, as on the heather
  • Heather Lowper ~ hill dweller, countryman
  • Heather Man ~ heather seller
  • Heather Piker ~ a contemptuous name for one living in poverty or a miserly way
  • Heather Range or Reenge ~ equal lengths of heather stems bunched and firmly bound for pot scrubbers and chimney cleaning brushes
  • Heather Scratter ~ see Heather Range
  • Heather Step ~ another name for heather lamping
  • Heather Stopper ~ a Perth term for a heather lowper, a hill dweller or countryman
  • Heather Taps ~ fresh heather clan badge
  • Heather Theekit ~ thatched with heather
  • Heather Wight ~ a Highlander
  • Heather Wuddie or Widdie ~ see Heather Caissie
  • Heatherer ~ a thatcher of roofs
  • Peallagan ~ young heather used to weave doormats on Islay
  • Seomain Fraoich ~ heather rope

Coming next week, March Highland Games, then more about heather and daffodils…

January 2009 «  » March 2009


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