Celebrating International Women’s Day in Scotland, we thought it might be nice to pay homage to some incredible Scottish women both alive and sadly gone. We can only fit in a few here so if you are interested in learning more, why not look up some more information at librarysearch.napier.ac.uk
Source: Heriot Watt University
One little know Scottish woman whose story deserves to be better remembered is Christina Miller. Despite being born female and hearing impaired in 1899, and later losing her sight in one eye, she battled against the norms of the time to become a respected analytical chemist. In addition, she was an inspirational teacher and mentor to generations of students.
Miller was awarded the Keith Prize by the Royal Society of Edinburgh for her scientific paper on phosphorus trioxide. She became one of the first 5 women to be elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. There is even a building at the University of Edinburgh named after her.
Source: British Library
An all-round amazing person, Mukami McCrum has lived in Scotland most of her life. Mukami fights for women’s rights, in particular BAME and LGBT women who need support from domestic abuse. Furthermore, she is one of the founders of Shakti Women’s Aid and campaigns to end Female Genital Mutilation.
She was the chief executive of Central Scotland Racial Equality Council and has brought her deep commitment to race and gender justice to many organisations, including Akina Mama wa Afrika, World Council of Churches, and Responding to Conflict Trust. She has an MBE for her community and human rights work.
It’s world Lego day today. Lego is one of those toys that is ubiquitous with childhood. Anyone growing up in the West will know immediately what you mean when you mention it. It is the joy of Children everywhere, and the thing that drives most parents mad. Is there anything more painful to stand on!?!
In fact, people who have regularly experienced walking on hot coals and broken glass say Lego is by far the worst thing to walk on (source). Feeling brave? You always have a go at the Lego Firewalk. Personally, I’d rather walk on glass or coals!
It was in Denmark, at Ole Kirk Christiansen’s workshop where Lego was firstborn. In 1934 it became called Lego after the Danish phrase leg godt. They were originally called Automatic Binding Bricks, but less originally they were based on the Kiddicraft Self-Locking Bricks, already patented in the UK.
Over time Lego has grown to become the biggest toy company in the world and is not only used as toys but as movies, artworks and they even made an amusement park you can visit.
Lego is no longer just for children; in fact, they have many Lego sets dedicated to adults. There is some fascinating research connected to mindfulness about how doing Lego can help our mental health. We actually keep a Lego set behind each Library Help Desk you can borrow for free. Why not check one out next time you visit…if the library staff aren’t already playing with them that is!
We have a fascinating and diverse range of materials for you to read on Lego, from issues with Dentistry (teeth and Lego are a bad mix it seems!) to build your own Lego Robots. Check out Librarysearch.napier.ac.uk.. Just type in the word “Lego” and start reading!
Burns Night is a traditional celebration of Scotland’s national bard, or poet, Robert Burns. It is held on 25th January, Burns’s birthday, when Burns suppers are held. They consist of a meal, poetry recitals and songs. The first supper was held at Burns Cottage by his friends on 21st July 1801, the fifth anniversary of his death.
If you think that you don’t know any of Burns’s work, ask yourself if you have ever sung Auld Lang Syne on Hogmanay/New Year’s Eve or used the lines “My love is like a red, red rose” on a Valentine card. If you have then you are familiar with some of his best-known work. Burns wrote his first poem aged 15 and in his short life wrote a vast number of songs and poems that can be accessed here. He wrote in a light Scots dialect which was easier for those outside Scotland to understand and often wrote about very humble subjects, for example, his poem “To a Mouse” is inspired by the field mice Burns saw while ploughing on his farm.
The Life of Robert Burns
Burns was born on 25th January 1759 in Alloway south of Ayr, the son of poor tenant farmers. He received little regular schooling, but his father taught him to read and write along with arithmetic, history and geography. He was also taught Latin, French and maths by John Murdoch.
For much of his life Burns, like his father, was a tenant farmer, all the while writing poetry and songs. But he struggled to make a living from farming and when he was offered a position on a plantation in Jamaica, he decided to emigrate. He could not afford the passage and a friend suggested he try to publish some of his work to raise the funds. In 1786 Poems in the Scottish Dialect was published and became an immediate success. Later that year Burns left for Edinburgh to publish a second edition which again was successful and earned him a substantial sum of money. He was well received in Edinburgh, often a guest of aristocracy, and made many friends, some becoming sponsors.
In 1787 Burns returned to southwest Scotland taking a lease on a farm in Dumfriesshire, but he also trained as an exciseman in case the farm was unsuccessful. He gave up farming in 1791 and moved to Dumfries where he made contributions to several volumes of songs, sometimes adding his own lyrics to traditional folk melodies and composing his own melodies from fragments of tunes. He continued to write poetry too, some advocating reform such as “The Slaves Lament”.
He continued to work as an exciseman, often making long journeys on horseback in all weathers and this may have contributed to his ill-health at a rather young age for the time. On 21st July 1796 Burns died aged just 37. His body lies in the Burns Mausoleum is St. Michael’s Kirkyard, Dumfries along with that of his wife at the time, Jean Armour.
Burns is renowned for having had many romantic relationships which resulted in several children being born, although not all survived infancy. Today over 900 people worldwide claim to be descendants of Burns.
Host your own Burns Night
Due to covid-19 restrictions, many Burn’s suppers will be cancelled this year, but you could host your own with your household.
Need some inspiration to host your own Burns Supper? Why not try out some Burns Night recipes here. Penguin books have a guide on how to run your night and for inspiration, you can listen to or read some of Burns’s work through our Library.
By Vivienne Hamilton
Learn about other World traditions on our blog by reading:
An old Scottish New Year tradition was First Footing – all you had to do was grab a lump of coal and a bottle of whisky and visit your neighbour to “see in” the New Year. This tradition is thought to date back to the Viking times and is quite quaint and sedate, but in modern times some of our New Year traditions have become a little bit crazy…..
This spectacular display takes place in the town of Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire. Roughly 40 people take part and at the stroke of midnight, the fireballs are lit and are whirled around by those brave enough to take part in the procession along the High Street. The balls are made from wood and fabric soaked in paraffin and then enclosed in wire mesh. The procession takes around half an hour and the balls are hurled into the sea at the end. The origins of the tradition are unclear, but it has now become a popular tourist attraction. If you can’t attend the procession, there has been a webcam allowing remote viewing in the past which will hopefully be running again this year and the link is here. You can check out previous processions online-just click here.
The Ba’, Kirkwall, Orkney
The game begins at 1pm on New Year’s Day when the Ba’ is thrown up from the Mercat Cross outside St. Magnus Cathedral. Two teams, Uppies and Doonies try to get the Ba’- a leather ball filled with cork handmade by local craftsmen- to their respective home goals. For Uppies it’s at the far end of the main street opposite the catholic church, and for Doonies it’s Kirkwall Harbour. If the Ba’ “gaas doon” then the players are expected to jump into the harbour. It’s a contest of scrums, pushing, shoving, fast sprints and sneaky smuggles. Where your allegiance lies used to depend on where you were born with Uppies being born south of the cathedral and Doonies born north of it. Now with many women being sent to Aberdeen to give birth, most men play on the side their father or grandfather played on. The game mostly takes place on the town’s main streets with businesses and homes boarding up their properties to prevent damage.
There are no rules, and a game can last for many hours with little movement of the scrum. Only when a team member manages to get the Ba’ to the outer players can a fast break or smuggle (up a player’s jumper) take place. It is then chaotic with those in possession of the Ba’ trying to get as close as possible to their goal whilst throwing the opposition off the trail by using the winding lanes in Kirkwall’s streets.
Once the winning team has reached their goal, the Ba’ is presented to a member of the team-usually someone who has participated for many years. It’s a lot easier to watch than take part in-click here to watch the Ba’ from a previous year.
The Loony Dook, South Queensferry
Held on New Year’s Day, The Loony Dook is a charity event requiring the participants to dip into the freezing cold waters of the Firth of Forth. The name comes from two Scots words, loony (a crazy person) and dook (to bathe or take a dip).
The first Loony Dook took place in 1986 when some friends suggested it would be a good hangover cure. The following year it became a charity event with proceeds going to local charities such as RNLI Queensferry. Over the years the event grew to include a fancy dress parade and became so large it had to become an organized event. Each year thousands of onlookers come to watch participants who are greeted by pipers and offered hot porridge before taking the plunge.
The event has caught on in other Scottish seaside towns along the Firth such as North Berwick, Kirkcaldy and St. Andrews so if you can’t make it to South Queensferry, then you may be able to catch the action at a different venue. If you prefer to stay warm and dry at New Year then click here to view a previous Loony Dook from the comfort of your home!
A lump of coal just won’t cut it anymore. I need a more carbon-neutral gift to take to my neighbours at New Year, and you don’t get much more carbon-laden than a lump of coal. I started to wonder if there were any tips I could pick up from revellers around the world. My research didn’t offer up any gifts, but I did find some interesting traditions – some quite quirky – that I may adopt.
Let’s start in the land of the rising sun. Joya-no-kane is the ancient Japanese tradition of ringing temple bells. The bell is typically rung 107 times on 31st December and once more when the clock strikes midnight. According to Buddhist philosophy, 108 is a holy number, representing as it does the 108 material desires that humans experience throughout the course of their lives. When the bell is struck for the 108th time, it is believed it rings away the problems and worries from the previous year. Many temples attract huge crowds of worshippers on these occasions. The Chion-in temple in Kyoto and Nara’s Todaiji temple are famous for their gigantic bells, the ringing of which requires the efforts of more than a dozen monks.
Down in Brazil a rowdier, yet no less spiritual tradition, is unfolding as the goddess Iemanjá, Queen of the Ocean, rises out of the sea in Rio de Janeiro (in the form of a human representative). Revellers flock to the beach as fireworks explode overhead and samba music fills the air. Up to 2 million people, typically wearing white as a sign of peace, place white flowers and floating candles on the shore and send them out as offerings to the goddess, hoping that she’ll grant their wishes in the new year. But beware – if your offer is washed back to you, Iemanjá is not pleased and may not grant your wish.
Moving north, and those Costa Ricans really know how to celebrate. You’re welcome to join in as they feast all night and party on the beach. Make sure you dress for the occasion, though – and that means wearing yellow underwear for good luck. Oh, and don’t forget to throw a pan of water – containing all your worries – over your shoulder. The most endearing Costa Rican tradition, in my opinion, is the practice of taking a suitcase for a walk around the neighbourhood to ensure plenty of travel opportunities in the year to come. In these Covid-restricted times, however, it may be best to park the suitcase for the time being. Maybe next year!
Back in Europe, and the Greeks take a belts-and-braces approach to luck – letting out the bad and welcoming in the good. It’s customary for Greeks to hang an onion on their front doors as a sign of prosperity and regrowth. And on the stroke of midnight, Greeks open all their windows to release those pesky evil spirits, the kallikantzaroi. Try doing that during a Scottish Hogmanay hoolie!
Speaking of Scotland. Here we celebrate New Year’s in a big way. The Scots call New Year Hogmanay and it’s used as an excuse for big parties such as Ceilidhs, usually involving large amounts of traditional Scottish food and drink. Once Midnight arrives it is traditional to sing Robert Burns‘ “Auld Lang Syne” whilst holding hands in a circle.
Another Scottish tradition still common is “First footing”. This involves being the first person over the threshold of another’s home bringing a symbolic gift for good luck. If you are being truly traditional it should be a dark-haired male, and he should bring with him symbolic pieces of coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and a wee dram of whisky. The dark-haired male bit is believed to be a throwback to the Viking days, when a big blonde stranger arriving on your doorstep with a big axe meant big trouble, and probably not a very happy New Year! (source)
But it’s those northerners, the Danes, who have a really smashing tradition. On New Year’s eve in Denmark, it’s time to gather up all your old broken and chipped crockery and smash it against your friends’ doors. They claim it’s a sign of lifelong friendship, and who am I to argue? After all that exertion, you reward yourself with a slice of kransekage, a huge cake made of layered marzipan. Pity there’s no plate left to serve it on.
However you celebrate, wherever you are, we wish you a very happy New Year, Akemashite Omedetou, Feliz Ano Novo, Feliz Año Nuevo, ευτυχισμένος ο καινούριος χρόνος, Godt Nytår.
If it’s your first Winter in Edinburgh: you’re in for a treat! Edinburgh tends to get crisp and cold between December and February (ok, sometimes wet, and dreich too…) but there’s plenty going on and our city is buzzing over Christmas and the New Year.
If you’re willing to wrap up warm, why not take a walk around Arthur’s seat? Arthur’s seat is an extinct volcano in the centre of Edinburgh, near to coffee shops on the Royal Mile if you need a gingerbread latte to warm up afterwards.
Another lovely place to go in the frost or snow is Dalkeith country park – there are festive events on too! There are many trails to walk in this beautiful park, set over 1,000 acres. The park has a rich history, having been in the Buccleuch family for over 300 years. The site dates back to the Roman times.
Another option is to head up Calton hill for a panoramic view of the city lit up in full Christmas mode – it’s not a difficult walk up the steps. You can also see the National Monument and Nelson monument. This is a popular spot on Hogmanay to take in the fireworks too.
A little further afield but worth a trip is the lovely Roslin Glen. You can see the ruin of what was once Scotland’s largest gunpowder mill. You can also see the impressive and partly ruined Roslin Castle. A short walk through the glen takes you to the famous Rosslyn Chapel, founded in 1446 by Sir William St Clair. In the New Year, you might see the snowdrops starting to come out in the Glen.
Finally, another bracing walk in the wintertime is a walk along the promenade at Cramond. If you so desire, you can walk from Silverknowes along to Cramond and if you’re feeling adventurous and have checked the tide times , you can walk over to Cramond island. According to the Cramond Association, Cramond is the oldest known site of human habitation in Scotland.
If you’re looking to soak up some festive illuminations, there are a number of options in Edinburgh!
At the west end of Princes Street garden, you’ll find Santaland, with a festive family funfair.
George Street also boasts Christmas lights and an enormous Christmas tree which can be seen at the top of the mound – apparently this tree has a history, and is a gift from Norway each year. This tradition dates back to WW2.
Looking for more lights? The Botanic Gardens hosts a light trail each year, which is pretty spectacular, and you couldn’t ask for a nicer backdrop. Have a look at Christmas at the Botanics for more information.
Another light spectacular to take in this winter is Edinburgh Castle’s ‘Castle of Light’. This involves projecting light onto the castle’s walls and ramparts and a historical walking tour.
Last but not least, Edinburgh is well known for its Hogmanay celebrations, and in 2022 Edinburgh will host its giant street party once again. For the uninitiated, Hogmanay is the Scottish word for New Year’s Eve.
The celebrations also include live music and a huge fireworks display at midnight. Lots of kissing, hugging, and dancing ensues!
Looking for something quieter?
If you’re looking for a cosy corner to curl up in when it’s cold and snowy, come to one of our campus libraries. You can check our festive opening hours here.
You can borrow Library items from Friday 9 December 2022, and you won’t need to return them before Monday 16 January 2023. Full details can be found here.
Remember, we’re always here online too – you can continue to access ebooks, ejournals and databases usingLibrarySearch, even if physical libraries are closed.
According to market research Company Mintel, in 2018 UK consumers spent £316m celebrating the event variously called, `Bonfire Night’, ‘Fireworks Night’ or `Guy Fawkes Night’. The majority of that money literally went up in smoke, having been spent on fireworks and bonfires. Fireworks displays were recorded as the most popular way of marking the night, with up to 38% of the population attending some form of event.
The Gunpowder Plot
This peculiarly British annual entertainment can be traced directly to the aftermath of a 17th Century religious and political event. The Gunpowder Plot was a failed conspiracy by a group of English Catholics. Led by Robert Catesby, they planned to blow up the Protestant King James, and his government, at the State Opening of Parliament on November 6th 1605. (Catesby had been involved in a previously failed rebellion against Queen Elizabeth from which he extricated himself only at the cost in today’s money of £6 million.)
This was to be the prelude to a revolt that would replace James with a Catholic head of state. Ending the persecution suffered by many Catholics following the split with the Roman Church over half a century previously.
Though we now principally associate the name of Guy Fawkes with the plot, he was a minor player in the conspiracy. He was, however, literally left holding ‘the baby’ or in this case 36 barrels of gunpowder when, following an anonymous tip-off, the authorities searched the cellars of the Palace of Westminster and discovered the explosive cache.
Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyrood and Greyfriar’s Bobby statue are some of the most popular attractions for visitors to Edinburgh. However, there are lots of other attractions which are less well-known but just as interesting and pleasant to visit. Here are a few of them:
Museum of Childhood
This can be found on the Royal Mile but is often overlooked by guidebooks. A treasure trove of old children’s toys, games, clothes and playthings.
The People’s Story
Housed in the Canongate Tolbooth at the bottom of the Royal Mile it houses collections which tell the stories of the working-class people of Edinburgh from the late 18th century to the present day using oral history, reminiscence and written sources.
The Pentland Hills Regional Park
Just south of Edinburgh these hills are the highest points around the city and are often covered in snow in the winter. There are many walks over the hills with an abundance of wildlife. There is also a dry ski slope should you want to try out a new pastime. Easily accessible on public transport.
Situated five minutes away from Princes Street, visitors can find the Dean Village, a beautiful oasis right by the Water of Leith. In the past the village housed mills of various kinds, and the remnants of the industry can still be seen today. Look out for mill stones and carved stone plaques with baked bread and pies. Follow the walkway along the Water of Leith and you will come to the impressive Dean Bridge designed by Thomas Telford, and the classical temple of St Bernard’s Well.
Surgeon’s Hall Museums
Just a short walk from the Royal Mile, the Surgeon’s Hall Museums are a unique collection. Full of surgical tools, fascinating paintings and more than a few body parts in jars. Learn about the evolution of surgery throughout the ages and find how great Scottish minds brought us some of the medical breakthroughs we take for granted today. The present Surgeon’s Hall was designed by William Henry Playfair and completed in 1832. It is a category A listed building.
Gardens – Dr. Neil’s Garden
This is located beside Duddingston Kirk on the lower slopes of Arthur’s Seat. Created from a wilderness by Drs Nancy and Andrew Neil. Two features of particular interest are the physic garden, which grows medicinal plants, and Thomson’s Tower. It was constructed in 1825 and was originally built for the Duddingston Curling Society. This was back when frozen lochs were the grounds for curling and other winter sports.
Kyoto Friendship Garden
This Japanese garden can be found in the grounds of Lauriston Castle in the Edinburgh suburb of Cramond. With bamboo shelters to picnic in, breath-taking views over Cramond Island to the Firth of Forth, avenues of blossom trees and calming water features. It’s no surprise that it is rated one of the top three Japanese gardens in Britain. The garden was created to celebrate the twinning of the towns of Edinburgh and the prefecture of Kyoto in Japan. It was opened in 2002. Its official name is ‘Castle Garden to Water and Beyond’. Continue reading
Awareness of the importance of defibrillators has become much more prevalent in our society. So much so that they have been placed around the country in useful places. The university has Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) available on all our campuses.
Why have AEDs?
Portable AEDs are lightweight devices that are relatively easy to operate and are intended for use in emergency situations. They can be used when a casualty has a serious cardiac rhythm disturbance causing unconsciousness, such as a heart attack. AEDs are not effective for all cardiac emergencies, but they are of benefit in a small proportion of acute emergencies.
An AED acts to correct abnormal heart rhythms by applying an electric shock to the chest. It detects the electrical activity of the heart and gives automated instructions to the operator on what to do. The automatic diagnostic sequence ensures that they will only operate under appropriate circumstances thus preventing their incorrect use. The quicker lifesaving first aid and a defibrillator are used on a casualty, the better the outlook for survival. The Resuscitation Council (UK) guidelines strongly promote the availability of AEDs and the fact they can be operated by any person is widely publicised.
Is an AED difficult to use?
The type of AED installed by the University has been chosen as a type that is suitable for any person to use. It will not apply an electric shock to a casualty unless it is appropriate. At every stage the equipment talks to the user, instructing them on what to do. Whilst many First Aiders have also received additional training in the use of AEDs, training is not a pre-requisite for use.
Do you know where they are situated?
AEDs are provided by the University at the following points:
Merchiston Campus: adjacent to disabled toilets – bottom of stairs
Sighthill Campus: left of reception outside lift
Craiglockhart Campus: left of the reception desk
In addition to the above locations, AEDs are also located in several other areas throughout the University.
[EN]GAGE, Sports Centre, Sighthill Campus – located behind the reception desk
School of Applied Sciences, Sighthill Campus – outside room 3.C.13
School of Applied Sciences, Sports Centre, Sighthill Campus – 0.F.07
Should an emergency occur and you are using the AED, ask someone else to contact (0131) 455 4444 (Security Control available 24/7) giving precise details of the location – building, floor and room number and they will call for an ambulance. If you are alone with the casualty, you will need to do this yourself.
If you wish to familiarize yourself with some common first aid techniques, there are books available in the library for you to read:
Libraries Week is an annual event held to celebrate the best that libraries have to offer. This year, Libraries Week takes place between the 3rd and 9th of October and will focus on the vital role libraries play in supporting individuals of all ages to access lifelong learning.
As part of Libraries Week, Edinburgh Napier Libraries and the University’s Special Collections are offering tours of the War Poets Collection led by our Special Collections Curator, Laura Cooijmans-Keizer.
War Poets Collection
It was at Craiglockhart War Hospital during the First World War, that Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) and Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) first met and where some of their greatest poetry was inspired and written. As a tribute to these and other WWI poets, the University established the War Poets Collection in 1988, on the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice. Since then, the collection has grown to include other histories, incorporating items from the building’s first establishment as a Hydropathic – the predecessor of a modern Spa – up to its current use as a campus of Edinburgh Napier University.
If you’d like to come along and learn more about this fascinating collection, Laura will be providing 30-minute tours of the War Poets Exhibition at Edinburgh Napier University’s Craiglockhart campus on the 6th and 7th of October. The exhibition provides a glimpse into the daily lives of the poets, patients, and medical staff at Craiglockhart during the time when the building was used as a war hospital. The collection features contemporary photographs, books, film, audio, and memorabilia, and offers visitors a unique insight into the important personal, social, and medical achievements that occurred within the walls of Craiglockhart War Hospital.