Current Events, Special Days and Historic Anniversaries Brought to Life by Teddy Bears, Pandas and Other Cuddly Creatures


by Elspeth

Today is Saint Andrew’s Day when Scots, at home and overseas, are supposed to celebrate their patron saint’s special day.  Although it normally passes by virtually unnoticed in Ayr, four years ago, the town’s streets were awash with blue and white as the day also marked the end of Homecoming Scotland 2009.  As well as bedecking the High Street with strings of flags, South Ayrshire Council distributed Saltires, balloons and bunting to local shops and businesses and it was good to see so many making the effort to decorate their windows for this special weekend.  Another nice touch was that the St. Andrew’s flag was beamed on to the Town Hall and the Wallace Tower. Saint Andrew, one of the twelve disciples, was a fisherman in Galilee.  After Jesus was crucified, Andrew preached the word of God, travelling huge distances in the process.  For a while, he stayed in Patras in Greece, where he healed many sick people, including Maximillia, the wife of the Roman Governor.  As a result, she converted to Christianity which infuriated her husband so much that he sentenced Andrew to death.  The execution took place on 30th November, the method used, crucifixion on a cross in the shape of the letter ‘x’, thereafter known as the St. Andrew’s cross.  There are various legends about what happened to Andrew’s relics.  One is that a monk called St. Rule was told by an angel to take them to the ‘ends of the earth’.  For some reason, he’s supposed to have taken them to Scotland, coming ashore at a place we now know as St. Andrews.    This possible association with Saint Andrew is well known, but it’s probably a less well known fact that East Lothian is the birthplace of the Saltire, Scotland’s national flag.  Legend has it that in 832 AD, on the eve of a battle against much larger English forces, King Angus of Scotland prayed to Saint Andrew.  The following morning, a white-cross formation appeared in the clear blue sky near the village of Athelstaneford.  Angus, taking this as a sign that he had Saint Andrew’s support, vowed that, if he won the battle, the St. Andrew’s cross would be adopted as the flag of Scotland and, of course, he did. Incidentally, did you know that Andrew is also the patron saint of the Ukraine, Russia, Sicily, Romania, the Philippines, Amalfi, Luqa (Malta), fishermen and fishmongers, golfers, gout, performers, ropemakers, singers, spinsters and sore throats? Scotland’s national flower is the thistle, said to have been adopted in 1263 when we were at war with Denmark.  The Danes, attempting to mount a surprise attack on the Scots under the cover of darkness, were thwarted when a soldier stepped on a thistle, his howl of pain alerting the Scots to the imminent danger!  Thus, the Scots had good reason to be thankful to the prickly plant. Though I’m proud of my Scottish heritage (like most expatriates, I was more patriotic when I lived overseas), I always associate St. Andrew’s Day, not with Saltires, Scottish music and thistles, but with jewel-coloured anemones.  This is because when my aunt and uncle were married on 30th November 1940, my mother, who was my aunt’s bridesmaid, carried a large bouquet of anemones.  The year my mother died and every year thereafter, a close friend gave my aunt some anemones on her wedding anniversary and, when she died, I carried on the tradition until my aunt’s death in 1991. Four years ago, The Bears in the Windows’ St. Andrew’s Day windows were amongst their most eye-catching to date as all four were a sea of blue and white with a sprinkling of tartan.  Although, since then, Ayr’s festivities for Scotland’s national day have been much more low key, the Bears in the Windows have continued to pay a colourful tribute to Scotland’s patron saint. Last year, I don’t know whether Edinburgh Zoo’s pandas Yang Guang and Tian Tian, celebrated their first Saint Andrew’s day in this country, but their cuddly lookalikes, dressed in Edinburgh Zoo’s very own tartan, did!  This year, with so many special anniversaries to mark, there was only room for one window which featured both bears and pandas.  The bears keep asking me if there’s a patron saint of teddy bears, but the only name I’ve been able to come up with is St. Edward!  Any ideas?  

Sadly, today’s celebrations have been marred by the tragic news that a police helicopter had crashed into The Clutha pub in Glasgow late yesterday evening killing the three people on board and another 6 on the ground.  Our thoughts are with the families of those who died or who were badly injured.

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