Coming up on Friday 30 November Scotland celebrates St Andrew’s Day.
It’s not as big a deal as Burn’s Day, when Scot’s adopt traditional dress and attend Burns Suppers to eat haggis, neeps and tatties, drink whisky and recite Burns poetry with great passion. And perhaps this explains why so few Scots know the story of St Andrew and how he came to be our patron saint.
Andrew was, like his brother Simon Peter a fisherman from Galilee and both became disciples of Jesus. He was with Jesus at the feeding of the 5,000 and according to the gospel of John, told Jesus about the boy with his five loaves and two fish.
Following the crucifixion of Jesus, Andrew preached all around the Black Sea before travelling to Greece where he was martyred in Patras. Feeling himself unworthy of the fate of the Messiah, at his request he was crucified on a diagonal (Saltire), cross. And there he remained entombed for 300 years until Saint Regulus (St Rule), a Greek monk, acting on divine instruction transported Andrew’s relics; a tooth, an arm bone and a knee cap to the ‘ends of the earth’ for safe keeping.
At this time the ‘ends of the earth’ were the Pictish lands north of Hadrien’s Wall and when Saint Regulus was ship wrecked at a small Pict settlement named Kilrymont he interpreted his fate as a sign that this was the safe resting place he had been sent to. He built a small chapel on the site, which was later rebuilt as the Cathedral of St Andrews in 1160.
Legend has it that Saint Andrew was adopted as patron saint of Scotland as a result of battle in 832 AD. The Pict King, Angus mac Fergus met the Angle warrior Athelstan in battle, near the village of Athelstaneford in present day East Lothian. At the time the lands were Northumbrian territory and the Pict army were on a raid from the north. The Picts were greatly outnumbered so Angus prayed for deliverance and was duly rewarded by the sight of a white Saltire cross on a blue sky. He took this as a sign from Saint Andrew and vowed that should he gain victory Saint Andrew would become the patron saint of Scotland.
The battle was fought and won by King Angus but it was not until the lands of the Picts and the Scots were united by his grandson Kenneth mac Alpin in 860 AD, that Saint Andrew was officially adopted as Scotland’s patron saint, and the oldest flag in Europe was born.
Today the story of the Saltire and the history of Saint Andrew are marked by a week long celebration of events in East Lothian. The highlight of this year’s celebrations is a concert by Barbara Dickson in St Mary’s Kirk, Haddington.
Don’t forget your kilt, if you’re stepping out to celebrate St Andrew’s Day. A Hume offers a made to measure service for kilts and tartan trousers and sell all the accompanying accessories. In addition, we offer a very high quality kilt and formal wear hire service.
We can make kilts and tartan trousers in over 500 different tartans and can help choose the correct tartan for your family name.