Tartan Ribbon

Flower of Scotland Tartan info.

H I S T O R Y

As many customers do ask, we normally include a little "potted history" but the Flower of Scotland tartan is a modern tartan, so we've included a little background information instead . . .

Officially, Scotland has no national anthem of its own, as "God Save the Queen" is the only official national anthem of all the nations of the United Kingdom. A source of irritation for Scots, Welsh and the Northern Irish has always been that the "national" anthem is played for English sportsmen and women and for the England national sports teams - even when they play against another of the home nations. This confusion has led to many people assuming (incorrectly) that "God Save the Queen" is the English national anthem. 

Scotland's "official unofficial" national anthem is "Scotland the Brave" - written by Cliff Hanley. The "unoffical unofficial" anthem "Flower of Scotland" was written by Roy Williamson in 1967 and has become the nation's favourite, polling 42% of the vote in 2006 when the Royal Scottish National Orchestra put the question of what should be our national anthem to the Scottish public. Sung at international football and rugby matches, there's no doubt that more Scots know the words to "Flower of Scotland" than to either "Scotland the Brave" or Robert Burns' "Scots Wha' Hae".

"Flower of Scotland", like many nationalistic songs, centres around the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and King Robert the Bruce's victory against King Edward II of England. . .

. . . and stood against him,
Proud Edward's Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

. . . drawing parallels between this period of our emerging nation's history and the modern day, when national pride may prove the catalyst to take the younger, vibrant Scotland with its own government forward to find its place within Europe and the wider world. The third verse tries to make it clear that . . .

Those days are past now,
And in the past
They must remain,
But we can still rise now,
And be the nation again . . .

. . . in other words, Scots patriotism does not equal anti-English sentiment; it's too simplistic an argument and in our recent past we've been too quick to blame all of Scotland's ills on our Southern neighbours. This was understood and commented on by the song's author and composer, Roy Williamson, half of the folk duo "The Corries". The Corries were an immensely successful folk group but Williamson was sadly lost to Scottish music in 1990, some 15 years before his song was universally adopted by Scotland's national sports fans.

Exactly what was the "flower" of Scotland has sparked some debate . . . the flower is not, as many assume (and as our link to this page suggests), a thistle but the wild white briar rose - the flower used by the Jacobites during the 1745 uprising... after all, the House of Stewart was related to the English House of Tudor. Legend has it that Bonnie Prince Charlie picked a wild rose from a bush and pinned it to his bonnet when he raised the Jacobite standard at Glenfinnan and briar roses still grow here today, around the Glenfinnan monument.

Williamson never confirmed the exact meaning, prefering to point to a more abstract meaning - once suggesting that it perhaps meant the "youth" of Scotland - young men lost in battle fighting for their homeland and, in later generations, lost to Scotland through the highland clearances. Some have suggested it refers to Bonnie Prince Charlie in person, but this is doubtful considering the song centres on Bannockburn, some 400+ years earlier. Perhaps I could add to the argument and suggest that the "Flower of Scotland" is a symbol of the spirit of a nation - pride and patriotism, if you prefer - just as the Jacobite rose was once such a symbol. 

With its new role as our unofficial anthem, "Flower of Scotland" demands to played on the bagpipes (of course) but this poses a purely musical problem. Bagpipes rely on a special set of fingering and this, coupled with the pitch of the three drones, limits the notes which can be played. The third last note of Flower of Scotland is a flattened seventh, which is not considered to be part of the standard pipe scale. In order to hit the correct note, a 'forked fingering' must be used which less experienced players are unlikely to be familiar with. The tune was originally composed on the Northumbrian smallpipes, which have the benefit of keys on the chanter to achieve a greater range of notes.

Then again, it's unlikely that whenever you hear "Flower of Scotland" being played that you'll be able to pick out that odd sounding flattened seventh, as the voices of tens of thousands of Scots are more likely to be drowning it out!

The Flower of Scotland tartan itself was designed as a tribute to Roy Williamson and remains a firm favourite among the UK's highlandwear hire companies. Registered with the Scottish Tartans Authority in 1990, the year Williamson died, and the design rights belong to the tartan weavers The House of Edgar.

Flower of Scotland tartan ribbon has been discontinued on 20m (22yd) reels and is only now being manufactured on 100m (110yd) spools for the clothing and fashion industry. We at tartan-ribbon.com have acquired substantial stock and hope to explore the possibility of seeing this popular tartan produced on 25m reels in the not-too-distant future.

Please click here to buy Flower of Scotland tartan ribbon


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