St Andrew's Day

A day of Scottish life and culture

| 2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 |


Presenters and officials gather beforehand. Left to right: Jamie Jauncey, Pete Wishart MP, Professor Robert Duck, PBC Vice President Joe Giacopazzi and Doctor Ian Spring. Regular piper Martin Bristow missed out due to the death of his mother.

Perth's main celebration of St Andrew's Day, the eighteenth Perth Burns Club's annual Day of Scottish Life and Culture, was held in the Soutar Theatre at the A. K. Bell Library, York Place, Perth on Saturday, December 2nd, 2023.

As ever, the event maintained its reputation for high quality, and the audience was treated to a thoroughly entertaining and diverse programme.

joe gGiacopazzi

Joe Giacopazzi

pete wishart

Pete Wishart MP

The audience was welcomed by vice-president and chair for the day, Joe Giacopazzi, who was standing in for our hospitalised president Alan Telfer. Joe welcomed PBC members, visitors and speakers, and looked forward to maintaining the high quality of information and entertainment provided by the event. Joe called upon local MP Pete Wishart to open the proceedings.

Pete was delighted to return after 10 years and welcomed the audience who had chosen to be here rather than attend the opening of Perth's Christmas Lights. In 2024, Pete will have served as MP for 24 years, edging past Nicholas Fairbairn's record stint. Pete spoke about his work on the Scottish Affairs committee, which promotes Scotland worldwide, and which he believes could do more to celebrate St Andrew's Day and Burns' Night across the globe.

Principal Speakers

prof robert duck

Professor Robert Duck

Robert is Emeritus Professor at Dundee University, specialising in Energy Environment and Society. The River Tay and its estuary was the subject of his talk, particularly in relation to climate change.

The Tay has been modified by human intervention over the centuries, including the introduction of reed beds by farmers to counter erosion, which produced thatch and fertiliser products until 1839. A major initiative was to dredge shipping channels up to Perth to circumvent delays when tides were low. Stevenson's Civil Engineers were the main contractor, and a proposal to bridge over Mugdrum Island was dropped as a result. Icebergs were common in the Tay from the early 1800s to the mid-1900s.

As Dundee expanded and railways were introduced, parts of the estuary were reclaimed e.g. Invergowrie Bay which had side-effects - no-one knows whether toic materials were dumped in, but the infilling has contributed to sea-level rises and more storminess. Sea defences have been built, but their drainage channels are not being cleaned due to labour costs!

Dundee may have to release previously reclaimed land to allow for sea uplift (e.g. reed beds). By end 2100, the sea level is expected to rise by 25cm. At present the Tay is the UK's highest outflowing river - at Perth, the average flow is 175 cubic metres per second.

Professor Duck's talk provoked a lengthy Q&A session and was much appreciated by his audience.

dr ian spring

Dr Ian Spring

Dr Kylie Murray, who was to have presented on St Andrew, was taken ill at the last minute, and we were very grateful to Dr Ian Spring (who had arrived to run his bookstall) who offered to fill in with a presentation on St Kilda. Our best wishes to Kylie for a speedy recovery!

St Kilda is now a World Heritage site, maintained by the NTS. The popular depictions of island life are still nurtured to a large extent - an idealised, utopian society where the 'St Kilda parliament' made its own laws; where the menfolk were cragsmen and hunted fulmars on the cliff faces; George Washington Wilson's famous photograph of the main street, and so on.

Reference sources include Calmac's film 'Britain's Loneliest Isle', Tom Steel's book 'Life and Death of St Kilda' and Bill Brydon's 'Ill Fares the Land', plus many YouTube offerings are all available, and tend to the romantic, though are often contradictory.

In practice, the islanders were employed by the McLeods of Stornoway and farmed sheep and cattle as well as fishing and fowling. Children often died youg as tetanus was endemic. Not everything was home-made as links to Glasgow shops were made via ferries. The islanders had tried tourism in the 1920s prior to their decision to leave for good.

Ian had interviewed Lachlan Macdonald, an islander who had relocated to Glen Nevis after the 1930 evacuation. He describes most narratives as romantic but contradictory - which still applies to many current tourist trips, publications and music tapes (not all of which are authentic).

Ian's presentation, especially at such short notice, was much appreciated by his audience.

jamie jauncey

Jamie Jauncey

Our final speaker was Jamie Jauncey, a writer who has a colourful family history. His great-great-uncle, Robert Bontine Cunnighame Graham (Don Roberto), was the subject of his talk, and by the end of it the audience wished it could have lasted for a lot longer!

The young Don Roberto left Liverpool for Montevideo in 1870 hoping to farm in Argentina but civil war put paid to his plans. He travelled in Uruguay, Paraguay abd Brazil trying tea planting, horse-trading, and stock raising with local gauchos. Business ventures were not successful, but he fought against the exploitation of natives by Europeans before returning to the family home in SW Scotland.

His Whig leanings saw him enter politics as a Liberal MP. Involved in riots in London, he was imprisoned in 1887 for 6 weeks and met William Morris. He declared himself a Socialist MP and formed the Scottish Labour Party with Keir Hardie, campaigning for an 8-hour working day, and spoke for an anti-Imperialist agenda. In the 1870s, he became disenchanted by Labour, especially over them dropping Home Rule for Scotland. He helped to form the National Party of Scotland in 1934. Latterly he travelled on horseback through Morocco.

He died in Buenos Aires in 1936, and his funeral procession bore him to the docks and home to Scotland where he was buried on Inchmaholm.

Robert was flamboyant, vain and flawed, but inspirational, radical and patriotic. He battled against inhumanity, and lived the family motto 'For Right and Reason' to the full. He loathed racism, imperialism and colonialism for their brutality and materialism.

Past president and committee member Ian Bett brought a super afternoon to a close with a big vote of thanks for the organisers, the speakers, those who stood in at short notice for the indisposed, and a most appreciative and participative audience.

All photographs courtesy of Elliott Boyle, Perth Burns Club.
Email Elliott if you'd like a copy of a photograph.