WEEK EIGHT – The Saltire/The Lion Rampant

>> The Saltire

The Lion Rampant <<

Saltire                      lion_rampant2


Few flags could be as contrasting as the national and the royal flags of Scotland, and yet both are seen as uniquely representative of the country. While the Lion Rampant is officially restricted to use by only a few officers of state who represent the Queen in Scotland, it can frequently be found decorating tourist items of dubious provenance and taste. Popularly identified as the Scottish flag until well on in the last century, it has only been supplanted in this role by the Saltire in relatively recent times. The Saltire, or St Andrews Cross, as the national flag of Scotland is now commonly seen flying in numerous public places as well as being draped over the shoulders of sports fans and painted on the faces of Scots revellers worldwide. It even appears woven into the pattern of modern-style kilts!  While the origins of both flags date back to distant times, with much detail lost in legend and supposition, both appear in the historical record by the 13th century.


The Saltire
by Lydia Robb

Stour has settled in the camphor grooves
of my grandmother’s old kist.
I prise the sprung padlock from its moorings,

reveal many years of hoarding,
indulge in what my mother called a reenge,
unearthing objects long forgotten.

The conch shell with the sea trapped in its ears,
a rain-stick purchased after too much wine,
sepia snaps of relatives, all gone.

And in an unfamiliar cardboard box,
I find what I’ve been searching for;
a startling blue and white St Andrews cross,

the scent of jute and resin in its folds.
I feel the warp and weft of it in my hands
and as the dark creeps in to fill your empty shoes,

I’m minded of the promise I made you.
The day will dawn, the flag unfurled. I pause,
reflect on the alchemy of memory and love.

The Lion Rampant
by Sheena Blackhall

We Scots are a free reenge breed
See the diaspora? Like thrissle seeds in a gale
We’re aawye, ony wee crack or neuk’ll dae
Fur us tae sattle, trailin oor reets
Like navel towes, tied tae Mither Caledonia

Stirling, Bannockburn, Falkirk,
Otterburn, Flodden,  Culloden
The bluid o a warrior tribe rins ben oor veins
Bratach rìoghail na h-Alba’s
The sail that steers oor boatie.

Hector MacKay in Quebec weirs
The Lion rampant on his t-shirt,
Proodly on Hogmanay

Elroy Zanzibar-Farquharson in Jamaicay
Has stukken a lion magnet on his fridge
‘Och ay the noo’ he says
As he cracks open anither tinnie

Felicity Menzies jogs aroon New York
Wi a lion rampant frontin the peak o her cap
She ains twa cds o the Glesga polis pipe band

In Majorca, Rab C. Buchan
Dichts the san frae his taes
Wi a Lion rampant tool

Thon lion gaes aawye
Pencils, shortbreid tinnies, car stickers
It’s aa tae dae wi attitude
Nemo me impune lacessit
Mess wi me an I’ll batter ye.




lydia robbLydia Robb’s writing is inspired by the Angus countryside where she lived for many years.  Awarded a Scottish Arts Council Bursary in 1998, she’s the recipient of a number of literary prizes. She writes poetry and prose in English and Scots, and her work appears in a number of anthologies. Her collection of poetry, Last Tango with Magritte, was published by Chapman.


Sheena Blackhall is a poet, short story writer, novelist and  illustrator. She is also a sheena blackhalltraditional ballad singer and registered storyteller, who lives in the North East of Scotland. From 1998-2003 she was Creative Writing Fellow in Scots at Aberdeen University’s Elphinstone Institute, and in 2007 was Creative Writing Tutor with the Institute for Irish and Scottish Studies at Aberdeen University. She has published four Scots novellas, ten short story collections and well over 100 poetry collections. Recently she translated The Guffalo into Doric. She has also published two books for bairns in one in Scots, Millie, and Apardion, a fun history of Aberdeen through the eyes of a mythical  leopard.

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