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Some Things Scottish

Interesting Scottish Facts

The Thistle And Scotland.

Why did such a proud people as the Scots choose what is basicaly a weed as their national emblem? The answer to this question is unknown. We were taught in our schools that a sleeping party of Scots warriors were about to be attacked by an invading band of Vikings and were only saved when one of the invaders stood on a thistle thorn in his bare feet. His sudden cry of pain alerted the sleeping Scots who were then able to defeat the invaders. In gratitude the Scots adopted the Thistle as the emblem of Scotland. It is not known whether this tale has any veracity to it or what type of thistle was involved as there are many types growing throughout Scotland and Europe. Some of these may be listed as cotton thistle, bull thistle, melancholy thistle, spear thistle, Our Lady's thistle, and musk thistle.

What is known is that the thistle has held an important place in Scottish history for over 500 years. It appeared on silver coins in 1740 during the reign of James III and was incorporated into the Royal Arms of Scotland Order of Chivalry. In 1687 The Most Ancient and Noble Order of the Thistle was established. Members of this order wear a collar chain with the links made of golden thistles and also wear a breast star which bears the thistle emblem. Its moto is Nemo Me Impune Lacessit - No-one provokes me with impunity.

The thistle is incorporated into every Past Master's Jewel at Unity Lodge and also into the design work of each Master Mason's apron.

Haggis - The National Dish.

Haggis is a dish containing sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs) minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours. Most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a casing rather than an actual stomach. Haggis is, essentially, a kind of sausage or savoury pudding cooked in a casing of sheeps intestine, as many sausages are. The 2001 English edition of Larouse Gastronomique states, "Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour".

The haggis is a traditional Scottish dish memorialised as the national dish of Scotland by Robert Burns' poem Address to a Haggis in 1787, which starts :-

"Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieften o' the puddin-race!"
A boon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm,
Weet are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

During Burns' lifetime haggis was a popular dish for the poor, as it was very cheap, being made from leftover, otherwise thrown away, parts of a sheep (the most common livestook in Scotland), yet nourishing. Unity Lodge always endeavours to try and have a haggis at our installation meeting in June each year together with piper and address to the haggis. It is the custom that the newest Member of our Lodge is afforded the honour of carrying the haggis as it is piped in. It is then customary for the incoming Master and some Past Masters to toast the haggis with a wee dram after it has "been addressed".

The Tartan.

Tartan remains popular with Scots both at home and abroard, whilst its bright colours and attractive appearance continues to fascinate the peoples of other nations. So what is tartan? It is a woven material, generally of wool, having strips of different colours and varying in breadth. The arrangement of colours is alike in length and breadth giving the appearance of a number of squares intersected by stripes which cross each other. These patterns are called "sets" and a length of tartan is made by repeating the pattern, or sett, over and over again.

The use of the different patterns and colours of a tartan to identify different families and clans is a contentious one amongst historians and this practice may only date back to the early 19th. Century.

The earliest written mention of tartan was in a report of the treasurer to King James lll in 1471 which mentions that tartan was purchased for the use of the King and Queen. James v's Lord Treasurer in 1538 records an order for a bale of cloth of 'Heland tartane'. After the battle of Culloden in 1746 the Government passed an act of parliament banning the wearing of tartan and making it a penal offence. The ban was eventually lifted in 1782. By this time many of the old weavers had died and many of the old patterns and skills were lost.

The Kilt.

The feile-beg, or little kilt, is now universally used as modern Highland dress, and consists of the lower part of the bheacan-feile (great kilt), which rarely exceeds thirty inches (seventy-five centimeters) wide and seven to eight yards (six and a half to seven point three meters) long. It is pleated and sewn with sufficent cloth being left plain at both ends which is crossed in front of the body. This is somtimes fastened by a belt around the waist, although a strap and buckle are most common. A silver pin is fastened at the opening on the side a few inches above the lower edge of the kilt.

For ordinary wear the kilt is made of tartan or tweed and may be box-pleated or knife-pleated. The kilt should be worn with the lower edges reaching not lower than the centre of the knee-cap.

Although Unity Lodge workings are to a Scottish Ritual the kilt does not form part of our Lodge dress code. The carousel below shows some ancient kilts followed by some modern and tartans as worn by women.

© 2017 - Unity Lodge No. 300 U.G.L.Q.
Webmaster R.W. Bro. Beresford Whyte.
This page was last updated on 14th. June, 2020.