The great annual rugby celebration is approaching! The Six Nations Rugby Championship, that has been taking place in various forms since 1883, and organised under its present title since 2000. Nowadays, the participants of the games are Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy. It began as The Home Nations Championship, and was played by the national teams of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, before later becoming the first international rugby union tournament. The history of the countries participation is quite intricate – for example, the inclusion of Ireland as one nation means that both Republic of Ireland and Northern Irish players take to the field together on the same team, France was once expelled from the tournament, and Italy joined just 15 years ago, which is when we began to call it the Six Nations tournament.
This year’s Scottish squad was announced on January 20th 2015. The information was long awaited, as the first match of the Scottish team is scheduled for February 7th with France – only a couple of weeks from now! The match will take place at the Stade de France, located in Saint-Denis in the northern suburbs of Paris. The match will certainly be an interesting one – we hope it will be a beautiful comeback after last years’ defeat… and all the past defeats – as the Scottish team has managed to win against France only once in our last fifteen games with them!
The other matches for Scotland are scheduled for February 15th (versus Wales), February 28th (versus Italy), March 14th (versus England) and March 21st (versus Ireland). The Scottish team seems to be somehow unlucky during the Championship – the only country we have beaten more than we have lost to is Italy. The situation isn’t dramatic – but there is nothing to be proud of either. During the 120 tournaments Scotland has taken part in so far, our team has won 14 times (England and Wales – both 26 times), had 3 Grand Slams (England – 12), 10 Triple Crowns (England – 24) and… 32 Wooden Spoons (meaning that Scotland was beaten in every single game they played during the tournament). But don’t worry, Ireland has “won” more Wooden Spoons than even us, with a whopping 36!
The statistics are not in Scotland’s favour, but the team seems to be ambitious and determined. The squad, announced January 20th 2015, as quoted by The Guardian, is:
Forwards: Hugh Blake (Edinburgh), Fraser Brown (Glasgow), Blair Cowan (London Irish), Geoff Cross (London Irish), David Denton, Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Glasgow), Richie Gray (Castres), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Jim Hamilton (Saracens), Rob Harley (Glasgow), Euan Murray (Glasgow Warriors), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Jon Welsh (Glasgow).
Backs: Mark Bennett (Glasgow), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh), Alex Dunbar, (Glasgow) Dougie Fife (Edinburgh), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow), Peter Horne (Glasgow) Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester, captain), Sean Lamont (Glasgow), Sean Maitland (Glasgow), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow), Finn Russell (Glasgow), Matt Scott (Edinburgh), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow), Greig Tonks (Edinburgh), Tim Visser (Edinburgh).
Scottish Rugby Team LogoThe players like Hidalgo-Clyne, Toolis, Blake and Watson are quite young – all under the age of 25 – but, as the coach has emphasised, are persistent and have a will to fight for the best score possible. It might be a difficult task, as 4 of the opponent teams are higher in the league rankings than Scotland, but in sport the impossible is nothing. The squad might surprise us yet – and Dan Parks (a former Rugby Union player) thinks that the team has a strong chance to be in the top three this year. As some of the usual, experienced players won’t be present on the field, the young blood might be a breath of fresh air and guide the squad to victory. These other players were ruled out because they didn’t have impressive achievements last season or are recovering from injuries and surgeries. As the commentators underline, the young players have done much during last year’s games to be selected to the squad. The omission of certain players, such as Kelly Brown, John Barclay and Johnnie Beattie, is hard to understand, as they are considered to be reliable and very good on the field, but the coach seems to be betting on youth and determination.
All we should do right now is keep our fingers crossed and support Scotland during the tournament! We wish the players lots of luck and determination, and, of course – the title of champions!
The 25th of January is a special day for every Scot! It is the anniversary of Robert Burns’, probably the most famous Scottish poet, birth! Rabbie Burns, The Bard of Ayrshire, Robden of Solway Firth or simply Scotland’s favourite son – is undoubtedly a national hero to many, and one of the most important figures in Scottish history.
Burns Suppers are a tradition with many possible aspects – they might be extremely formal and elegant celebrations of literature, but may also take the form of wild parties with whisky flowing! Whichever seems more appealing or appalling, the supper has some highlights that can’t be omitted – and that includes both poems and victuals. The first event of this kind was established after the poet’s death and was celebrated by his friends in Ayrshire. Originally the commemoration date was 21st July – the anniversary of Burns’ death. A few years later, when the first Burns Club (once a men-only club formed to cherish the poet’s memory and Scottish culture in general, nowadays women are also welcomed in most of them) came into being, its members decided to organise a festive supper on the day of Scotland’s favourite son’s birthday. The first few birthday suppers took place on the 29th of January, but after the discovery of documents in Burns’ hometown parish the correct date turned out to be January 25th, and that’s the date Burns Suppers have been held ever since.
Read more about Ayrshire, Robert Burns’ hometown
So, what are the essential ingredients? The most important one is probably you and your friends, but you’ll also need a piper (or some recordings of Scottish music), haggis, Scottish whisky, neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes) and – of course – some Rabbie Burns poems! There is a certain schedule that this event traditionally follows, and several very interesting traditions that are kept. The Burns Supper should have an official opening, with a speech from a host, and the guests will say Grace before eating, usually The Selkirk Grace in the Scots language. When the main course is ready to be served there will be The Piping of the Haggis, which is the ceremonial presentation of a haggis to the table accompanied by bagpipe music and a recitation of Burns’ poem Address to a Haggis. During the recitation of specific verses the host sharpens the knife, and cuts the haggis open from one side to another. This is the most important moment of the evening, although the whole ceremony is still far from its end. After the meal, while guests sip coffee (or, more likely, Scotch whisky!), the next speaker gives a talk about the life and
poetry of Burns (for even though newcomers might have the impression that it’s all about the haggis, this is not the case and the poet is still in the spotlight!). There will be a round of toasts made, and a discussion afterwards. The first toast is made to Burns himself, and followed by a Toast to the Lassies, made by one of the male guests. This toast was originally intended to thank the women who had prepared the supper but were not permitted to attend it, but now, as women also take part in the suppers (and do not necessarily prepare the meal), the speech has become an entertaining summary of the speaker’s views on women. It is usually followed by a Response to the Laddies, which is made by a female guest in the same spirit as the Toast to the Lassies. Afterwards, the guests are invited to perform Scottish songs as solo performances or in groups. Popular choices include Tam O’Shanter, and others – especially if the words are written in the Scots language. Later, when the supper comes to an end, there is a closing ceremony which includes a thank-you speech made to the host and a rendition of Burn’s national classic Auld Lang Syne with all the attendees dancing and embracing one another.
Read more about Scottish Whisky
When it comes to the dishes besides haggis, neeps and tatties – what else should you serve? Haggis is of course essential, but it can take some getting used to for modern palates and you might wish to only have small taster plates of this dish as a starter for your first Burns Supper. When looking for inspiration for traditional alternatives, you can’t go wrong in considering a warming Scottish soup. Cock-a-leekie soup or Scotch broth are two of the most popular choices and are very easy to learn to make. The choice of the main course is up to you, but we recommend something with a Scottish twist to avoid a lack of cohesion in the menu. We personally advise a roasted turkey (also known as a Roastit Bubbly-Jock) using a traditional Scottish stuffing recipe, or a recipe using Scottish haddock or langoustines such as Cullen Skink. For dessert, again this will depend on what you anticipate as the needs of your guests. For a light and creamy sweet consider Raspberry Cranachan with it’s delicious toasted porridge oats and tart raspberries setting off the whipped cream to perfection. Or if you think they’ll need something more substantial to soak up all the whisky, you may find your answer in a dense and rich Clootie Dumpling, packed with dried fruit and served with thick homemade custard!
The above is the most traditional schedule, which of course is loosely adapted by the Scots all over the country and overseas. Nowadays it has become quite popular to dine out in restaurants – not everyone has the time or skills to prepare such a special meal on their own. If you prefer a less formal atmosphere and Scottish music with a modern twist – there are plenty of concerts and events commemorating Robert Burns in a relaxed atmosphere. The biggest celebrations are held in Dumfries, which was the hometown of the poet, in Edinburgh and, surprisingly, in London. Whichever option you may choose – we raise a glass of Scotch with you to celebrate the memory of Rabbie Burns and we wish you a wonderful night!
It’s been a while since 2015 started; which means the party has fully begun! We hope that you’re going to have lots of fun this year – same as we plan – and we’d like to encourage you to emphasise your Scottishness every night you can! Don’t worry; you don’t have to wear a full Prince Charlie Outfit with a fly plaid, which would probably ruin the evening for you. The elegant 5-yard and 8-yard kilts aren’t always the best choice either, due to the limited comfort of wearing these traditional but heavy garments. Jackets, waistcoats and formal shirts are also not always required – you can enjoy your Highland charm without any restrictions thanks to the marvellous party kilt, a Scottish innovation growing in popularity.
Don’t think of party kilts as a cheaper version of the traditional ones, the garments are in a completely different class from one another, and their usage is not only a matter of comfort, but also of etiquette – you have to follow some savoir-vivre rules. The party kilt and casual kilt are lighter and more easy-to-wear, and this has some consequences. Firstly, as indicated by the name – they are only appropriate for parties, sporting events and everyday casual wear – but absolutely not for a wedding, or other occasions where formal attire is required. The “light kilts” are made with less fabric of a lighter weight, so as a result give less warmth, the “swing” is less impressive and they also have shallower pleating. Moreover, they are cut more or less at the same waistline of trousers, while traditional kilts raise a couple of inches above the hips. This is the price you have to pay (uh, well, they are financially much cheaper…) for the freedom of cool comfort and movement during the party of your life.
Which to choose? The selection, as you may suspect, is broad. Nevertheless, as these kilts are considered to be a cheaper option, it’s easy to get fooled by a dishonest seller and get a product of poor quality and even poorer finish. Remember – this is still a kilt, not a skirt! And it has to be done properly. You might have also a problem with choosing a tartan – and as the party kilts are usually manufactured only in a limited range of patterns, you may find that your clan tartan is not available. There is a solution to this – choose from the vast array of universal tartans which may be worn by all the people of Scottish descent. The ones that you may consider, among the others, are Black Watch, Jacobite, Scottish National and Pride of Scotland. We especially recommend the Heritage of Scotland and World Peace tartans. Generally Royal and Balmoral Tartans have restrictions and can’t be worn by everyone, but tartans such as Royal Stewart and Earl of St Andrews have no such limitations. There is also a range of so called district tartans which refer to specific districts or cities. They are usually worn by those who want to underline their place of origin, or their local identity.
Read how to make a kilt
Thinking about appropriate accessories? As we mentioned above, a party kilt is not formal attire, so the finish of the outfit should be casual too. Probably the best pick for a Scottish styled top would be a ghillie shirt. Some wear the party kilt along with a simple t-shirt, or even a wool jumper for daytime wear, but as it is a matter of taste, we leave it up to you. More traditional accessories such as casual leather sporrans and tammy hats are also absolutely acceptable. Hose looks perfect, although there are many options and variations that you may consider here – not necessarily the traditional one with flashes. The popular choice of heavy boots and some warm, longer socks might not appeal to everyone aesthetically, but if done with taste can look stylish and “cool” – certainly better than grubby trainers or out-of-place overly formal footwear. As this is the party version, don’t hesitate to try to stand out in the crowd and make some innovations –good taste is your only limit here! Additional accessories such as dirks and sgian dubhs can stay at home – you don’t want to hurt yourself or, even worse, someone else! We also strongly advise to abandon the idea of wearing a fly plaid along with a party or casual kilt. Firstly, it really doesn’t look that nice with informal attire, secondly – it swings, slides and can be very annoying, so if you value comfort it’s better to go to the party without it.
Read about worldwide influences on kilts and tartan
Whatever you choose to wear, the most important thing is to be yourself and to feel comfortable. We wish you all best for 2015, and hope you have a wonderful time at all the parties this year is sure to bring – wear the kilts with pride!