Edinburgh Napier University

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Scotland’s Gala Days

Scotland’s Gala Days


Scotland’s Gala Days take place in the months of May and June. A Scottish tradition of gala weeks in full swing. It’s a time for towns to get together and celebrate their history and culture. There will be sports days, horse-riding, fancy-dress. And don’t forget float parades with pipe and brass bands. And almost always there will be a gala queen who will be crowned. The queen, her maids or attendants and sometimes a king are usually chosen from primary 7 pupils. It’s seen as a rite of passage before moving on to secondary school. The queen is crowned by a lady of importance in the community such as a councillor or sometimes by the previous year’s queen. Often the homes of the queen and her entourage were decorated with colourful arches, but in recent years some families have really gone to town with their home displays!

The celebrations vary across the regions. In the central belt gala weeks were very often associated with the coal mining communities such as Newtongrange.  Gala celebrations took place to mark successful wins for workers’ rights or to raise some cheer during tough economic times. The first gala day in Scotland is thought to have been held in 1770 in Loanhead. When miners – and their children – from the Dryden Colliery were invited to a feast to celebrate the birthday of the landowner, Lord Lockhart of Carnwath. Now most have set weeks each year so as not to coincide with neighbouring towns and will have a wide range of events for all the family.

Gala Days in the borders

In the Borders towns such as Hawick and Selkirk the week is all about the common riding. This involves “ride outs” around the town borders, re-enacting the old medieval practice for the local lord or clan leader to appoint a leading townsperson. They would then ride the clan’s boundaries, or “marches”, to protect their lands and prevent reivers from stealing cattle. Today a local young man will be elected to lead the common riding. Often called the cornet lad he has a lass to accompany him. And some towns such as Lockerbie also have sports days, fancy dress competitions and of course a queen.

Gala Days on the coasts

Coastal community gala weeks (such as Newhaven and Stromness) celebrate their connections to fishing with some of the queens arriving by boat to be crowned. There will often be water-based events such as raft races as well as the usual fancy dress competitions and sports days.

Hopefully you will be able to get along to a gala week event and let’s hope for good weather for all Scotland’s gala days.

Use Library Search to find books and journal articles on events, social history and Scottish traditions.

Search on You Tube to view footage of old gala weeks, and common riding events.

Photo source Michelle Henderson

You can read more about Scottish Traditions like Burns Night

Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle

All the clues are there in the first few pages: the narcotics, the torpor, the scratching on the violin, the trusty but plodding assistant. It’s not long before we’re given a treatise on “the science of deduction and analysis” and the use of the word “elementary”. This is our first introduction to the world’s most famous consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, who made his debut in the long story, A Study in Scarlet, published in 1887.

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes caught the reading public’s attention with his cold, calculating logic, and he went on to solve many seemingly insoluble cases, always accompanied by his loyal companion, Dr Watson.

So popular is Sherlock Holmes that he has been reincarnated in film many times over, most notably by Basil Rathbone, and more recently by Robert Downey Jnr, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Doyle’s Life

But he is, of course, a fictional creation, spun from the imagination of Edinburgh doctor, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. After graduating from Edinburgh university and studying in Vienna, Conan Doyle set up his own medical practice in the south of England. It didn’t do well, and to supplement his income he turned his hand to creative writing. His Holmes adventure stories were immediately successful and ensured that Conan Doyle kept writing them until they ran into several volumes.

To Conan Doyle’s lifelong chagrin, the success of the Sherlock Holmes stories overshadowed his other literary work. Who has heard of his 14th century knight, Sir Nigel, or his Napoleonic war hero, Brigadier Gerard? History was Conan Doyle’s great passion, and he wrote many fictional and non-fiction accounts of great historical events, and published his own psychic research into spiritualism.

It’s Conan Doyle’s birthday today. A pub named after him still stands on the corner of Picardy Place, the street in which he was born. Why not pop in and raise a toast? Better still, log into LibrarySearch and discover his many stories, and the films, for yourself:


Photo source Sandip Roy


By Lesley McRobb

Have a love for reading about authors, you can read about Charles Dickens 


Aye Write

Aye Write!

It’s not often we give a shout-out to our west coast cousins, but this month we want to sing Glasgow’s praises high. Congratulations to the 2023 Aye Write festival for arranging a cracking programme of events.


What is Aye Write!

Founded in 2005, this literary festival has gone from strength to strength, and this year 175 international authors are participating in more than 120 events between 19th and 27th May, with a spinoff Wee Write festival on 3rd June for the little ones in our lives.

They’ll be speaking on topics as diverse as fiction, climate and the environment, music, politics, health issues, social activism and my own personal favourite subject – food.

There are also creative writing classes available if you fancy yourself as a budding novelist or poet. And there will be musical entertainment too, as well as an open mic poetry session.  With so many different events, there is bound to be something to appeal to anyone interested in reading, writing, and engaging with the cultural and social worlds around them.

Aye Write Festival

The festival has always been housed in the impressive Mitchell Library – a good enough reason in itself to visit Glasgow.  And this year the festival organisers have added the Royal Concert Hall as a bonus venue.




We, of course, are unbiased in our support of the festival, so we don’t want to pick out particular events or authors. Oh, all right. We can’t resist highlighting one event from the Wee Write festival. It’s never too early to get wee ones into reading and books. Indiana Bones is a magical talking dog! He’s on a perilous adventure and sounds like a very clever boy.


By Lesley McRobb

You can read more about writing posts 

Photo source Aaron Burden

King Charles III’s Coronation

King Charles III’s Coronation

On Saturday it was the coronation of King Charles III. Millions around the world will be watching the ceremony taking place at Westminster Abbey. Charles was be the 40th monarch crowned at the Abbey since 1066.

The coronation ceremony simply put is the crowning ceremony, where the St Edward’s crown will be bestowed upon Charles’s head. The crown was designed and made for King Charles II in 1661. It is made of solid gold, contains more than 444 precious stones and weighs over 2kg. The ceremony itself is more of religious importance than constitutional, with an oath to God and to the public pledge.

As millions watche the ceremony, would you like to know some interesting coronation facts? Did you know, for example, that there were monarchs that didn’t have even a coronation?

Coronation Facts

Let’s go all the way back to the beginning. Although coronations have taken place at Westminster Abbey since 1066, the first one didn’t even take place in London; it took place in the city of Bath and was the coronation of King Edgar in 975AD.

Since then,  we have had 3 monarchs that didn’t have a coronation. The first was King Edward V who,  shortly after he was named King,  was locked away in the Tower of London and eventually murdered, presumably by his uncle King Richard III. The second was Lady Jane Grey who inherited the throne from her cousin Edward VI (the son of Henry VIII).  After 9 days she was executed by Edward’s older sister Mary for high treason.  Lastly, the 3rd monarch was Edward VIII who abdicated before his coronation.

And another little fact is Queen Victoria’s coronation was referred to as a ‘botched coronation’ as so many things went wrong, including an elderly peer falling down the stairs and a bishop announcing the ceremony was over when that was not the case.

Whether or not you decided to watch the coronation we hope you had a good bank holiday weekend!

You can read more about the coronation on the BBC

Interesting in reading about history, read about our War Poets Collections

Source of photo Benjamin Elliot 

Returning borrowed items

Returning borrowed items

It’s almost the end of term and time to take a break from studies and relax. You may be planning to return home, go on holiday or do some work experience, but before you go-just a quick reminder to return the books, laptops and ergonomic equipment which you might not need to use over the summer. It’s time to return borrowed items to the library.

Information on returning borrowed items

Books and laptops can be returned even when the helpdesks are closed, as long as there is access to campus. Ergonomic equipment should be returned to the helpdesks during staffed hours.
Libraries will be open throughout the summer should you wish to bring items back later in the summer. And if you have any questions, you can always ask. 
If you have fines which you would like to query, you can submit a fine appeal form along with any supporting evidence, and you will receive an answer promptly. Information on fines and charges can be found here.
We hope you enjoy your summer break and look forward to seeing you again in September. Remember- it’s never too late to return items to us! One book was returned over a hundred years later to a San Francisco public library. And you can read about  some rather valuable late returns

Good luck with your exams and final assignments

Also, remember we have our virtual relaxation space  

Additionally, our online wellbeing area. 

Each campus library has a relaxation space and wellbeing areas too

By Vivienne Hamilton

photo source: unspash Kimberly Farmer  

National Paranormal Day

National Paranormal Day

National Paranormal Day: May 3rd 2023


There are things out there and around us we cannot explain. Stranger than fact or fiction or known to science. An eerie feeling, an unexpected sound in an empty room or building. Something you swore you saw out of the corner of your eye but isn’t there anymore. Was it just your imagination having fun or is it something other people have experienced and seen too.

Ghost Stories

Unsettling vibes, a cold chill running down your spine as your mind begins to move into hyper drive. Stories of ghosts and hauntings both benign and not so, come to mind, when angry poltergeist spirts want you gone. You take the hint and walk away whilst trying to remain composed and thinking about something else, other than the last horror movie you’ve seen. Well guess what……Shhhhh, this is between me and you, Craiglockhart campus has its own paranormal secrets too, see Ghost Stories: A spooky tale of haunted Campuses by clicking on this link below:

Ghost Stories: A spooky tale of haunted Campuses – The Library Blog (napier.ac.uk)

Or share with us your own paranormal experiences in the comments box below, just for fun, if you dare…


International Paranormal day, bringing together people who have experienced or are interested in strange unexplainable things. To share their stories and possibly shed light on how common these mysteries, we cannot quite explain through scientific or other means, are.

Read about our spooky campuses and paranormal encounters at Craiglockhart Campus

or celebrate the day with a ghost tour around Edinburgh through city of tours

photo source Florian Lidin

By Mo Almas

May Day

May Day

Ancient Europe

May Day today, the start of Summer. Celebrations can date to the Ancient Romans and Celts. The ancient Celts celebrated the 1st of May with the festival of Beltane throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Island of Man. Beltane festival was marked with bonfires to symbolise the ‘return of life and fertility’ associated with the beginning of Summer. Whilst, the Romans celebrated May Day as a five-day celebration to worship the Roman Goddess of flowers, Flora.

 Medieval Europe

The medieval times brought the tradition of the maypole dance, the exact date and place of origins of the maypole dance is not clear. However, it is still celebrated today. Like the bonfires of the Ancient Romans and Celts, the maypole symbolises fertility. It is a tall wooden pole decorated with floral garlands. And people danced around the pole with the joy that summer is returning.

The Industrial Age

Moving on May Day has become symbolic of workers’ rights which originated in the United States during the 19th century. In Chicago, in 1884, the American Federation of Labour proclaimed that the eight-hour working day would become legal after the 1st May 1886. And worker strikes and protests began for this proclamation. The US government sent in the police and the tension resulted in the Haymarket Riot. In the years after, workers around the United States and Europe demonstrated on the May 1st, in commemoration of the Haymarket riots. Later the Soviet Union would also proclaim May 1st as a workers’ holiday.


Today, perhaps May Day is less seen as either a worker’s holiday or rural festivities. However, the day is still a public holiday in some countries and some festivities continue.

You can read about May and Springtime

Photo source Kristine Tanne


Bridges update


Following our blog last year on Scotland’s Bridges we thought we update you on the latest bridge news, although this bridge is not exclusively Scottish-it is shared with our English neighbours.

Historic Bridges

Another one of Scotland’s (and England’s) historic bridges hit the headlines recently when it was re-opened after a major re-fit. The Union Chain Bridge was the longest wrought iron suspension bridge in the world when it opened in 1820 and is the world’s oldest vehicle suspension bridge. Spanning the River Tweed, it connected Scotland and England and cut out a long detour either downstream to Berwick-upon-Tweed or upstream to Coldstream.

Designed by Captain (later Sir) Samuel Brown RN, who held patents for the design of the chains, he altered the tower and abutments on the suggestion of John Rennie. Construction began in 1819 and the bridge was completed in less than a year. The opening ceremony saw 700 spectators cross the bridge. Tolls were charged until 1855.

The Future

The recent renovations aren’t the first time the bridge has had major work carried out on it. It has been strengthened and refurbished several times with the bridge deck replaced in 1871 and 1974 and cables added in 1902.

As the years passed the bridge needed yet another refurbishment and in 2013 it was expected to close. However a campaign was started to raise funds to carry out the works needed. With funding from Historic England, Scottish Borders Council, Northumberland County Council Work and the National Lottery Heritage Fund work was started in October 2020, but due to the covid-19 pandemic there were delays. Now with all parts having been removed, checked, replaced or restored the bridge was finally opened again on 17th April 2023. This historic crossing is once again carrying vehicles and pedestrians.

Watch drone footage of the works-https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-65274771

Watch the first pedestrians and vehicles cross the newly opened bridge- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXeKnjGDGp0

You can find books and articles about bridges and engineering using Library Search




Read our previous post about bridges of Scotland here

By Vivienne Hamilton

photo source Bjorn Snelders 

World Penguin Day

World Penguin Day

Whether you find them adorable, funny, and loveable for their distinct characteristics, penguins are highly adaptable aquatic animals with impressive swimming abilities. Located around the southern hemisphere, species vary in size from just 30cm tall to just over 1 metre.

These flightless birds spend a staggering three quarters of their existence at sea and can dive to depths of around 200m, whilst emperor penguins can reach 500m. Their flippers act as paddles helping them manoeuvre through the water, as their plumage helps them stay afloat and warm by trapping air. The distinctive colour of penguins prevents them from being easily spotted by predators on land, in the air or underwater.

Edinburgh Zoo

Sit back, relax and take a short break to watch Penguins live on Edinburgh Zoo’s Penguin Live cam:


Life of the Penguin 

World Penguin Day coincides with the northern migration of Antarctica’s native Adelie penguins who migrate north for the harsh winter months for better access to food and return home for the summer months to build their nest and rear their young. However, the day has been adopted as a celebration of all species of penguin.

Due to overfishing, pollution of oceans by plastics, oil spills and global warming which is changing the Antarctic landscape, the statistics from the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) provides grim reading for the future of penguins, with 10 of the 17 species  considered endangered or vulnerable and another 3 from that group considered near threatened.

Interested in knowing more about the various penguin species? See the Penguins International | World Penguin Day: Penguin Conservation Status blog.

For a lighter look at more penguin facts and perhaps a trip down memory lane, click on the link below:

Penguin Facts: With Professor Pingun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ePfY1CnGJo

You can read about other animal like for World Lion Day

or read more about Penguins 

photo source: Cornelius Ventures

By Mo Almas

Record Store Day 22nd April

Record Store Day 22nd April

April 22nd is Record Store Day celebrating the small, independent record stores that offer in-store shopping for classic and newly released vinyl records. Although we now mostly listen to music through streaming services, until the 1980’s vinyl was the preferred method. When the compact disc arrived in 1982 it spelt trouble for vinyl records. Improved sound and portability meant that purchases of vinyl records plummeted. There was still a small market for vinyl-DJs who preferred the sound and found it easier to mix tracks on vinyl, and collectors who wanted to own as many releases as possible from their favourite artist. Without the convenience of Internet shopping, collectors had to visit shops in person or use mail-order facilities if available.
Some artists persisted with vinyl. In 1983 New Order released Blue Monday on 12-inch vinyl despite the huge popularity of CDs. The track has gone on to become the best-selling 12-inch single of all time. Despite this, vinyl sales were still badly in decline. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, sales of vinyl albums tumbled from a peak of 1.1 billion worldwide in 1981 to 450 million in 1989; 109 million in 1993; and just 33 million in 1995. By 1997, they were down to 17 million, and they plunged as low as 3 million in 2006. Many independent record stores closed, but some managed to stay open thanks to their loyal customers.

Vinyl Comeback

By 2020 however, vinyl sales had taken off again with over 27.5 million sales in America. Why the rise in popularity? According to Robert Palmer of Roan Records in London:
“There is definitely something to be said for the tangibility of vinyl. Anyone can stream music any time they want, but for those looking for a deeper connection to music, you can’t match a physical record you can hold in your hands and go through the ritual of putting it on and listening.”
Then there’s the artwork. There are many iconic album covers which are often more collectable than the album itself.
As part of the resurgence of vinyl, the inaugural Record Store Day was held in 2007. It’s a day when small independent record shops celebrate their culture and role in in their communities. The shops put on special promotions such as limited editions of vinyl records by well-known and lesser-known artists in colour or 12-inch format and they may also have live music in-store. The aim is to shine a spotlight on independent record stores and hopefully increase revenue as well as try to introduce people to new music. Business students may find it interesting to note the different marketing strategies used.

Edinburgh and Records

Going along on the day is a great way to meet people and make friends with a shared interest in music, get to know some new music or begin a new hobby collecting vinyl or album artwork.
Click on the link below to find a list of Edinburgh independent record stores:
Edinburgh record stores.

We contacted local independent record stores to find out what they are doing for RSD. Here’s what the ones who replied told us:

Thorne Records  Will be open 8am-8pm and have beers, good vibes and all the releases.

Underground Solu’shn  Will be open from 8am and will have a selection of DJs and live performances in the afternoon. Will stock all the RSD releases.

Assai Records  Will be open from 8am and have most of the releases. Also hoping to have live music.

Whether it’s grunge or jazz, Britpop or hip hop we all have our go-to music to help with study, and chores or to listen to when socializing with friends. Listening to music can also have psychological benefits which can improve mental health. Click on the link below for more information:

Psychological benefits of music

Library Resources

In the library, we are promoting our Spotify playlist and in our relaxation spaces, we have posters explaining how listening to music benefits mental health and well-being.


Craiglockhart campus relaxation space has a small number of artist biographies available from Ozzy Osborne to Freddie Mercury.

You can use Library Search to find music books, music scores and CDs in the Edinburgh Napier collection.

By Vivienne Hamiliton

You can read more in our about World Music Day in this post

Image Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

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