With a name like McCleary, it’s not surprising that many people assume I am Scottish. I actually come from Northern Ireland. But ancestors on both sides of my family were Scots. As a young man, I did once wear the kilt and sporran at a relative’s wedding. And I have not felt any inhibition in celebrating St. Andrew’s Day or Burns Night in the various places I have been posted around the globe over the last 40 years. In fact some of the best parties I can remember have been those celebrated by the Scots, who – like my fellow Irish – tend to be even more energetic in marking their national day when overseas than at home.
St Andrew’s Day is celebrated each year on 30 November. Andrew was one of Jesus’ apostles and brother of Simon Peter. He spent the years after the death of Jesus spreading the word and was eventually put to death for his beliefs in around 60AD, perhaps on what we now call 30 November. The Scottish flag or Saltire, a white diagonal cross on a dark blue background, is based on the cross on which St. Andrew was crucified.
There are a number of versions of how St. Andrew came to be Scotland’s patron saint. The one I like is that in the seventh century, Saint Wilfrid of York brought some of Andrew’s remains back with him from a pilgrimage. The Scots king, Angus installed them at St. Andrews to enhance the prestige of the new diocese. When King Angus faced a large invading army, he prayed for guidance. A large white cloud in the form of a saltire cross floated across the blue sky above him. Angus won a victory and declared that Andrew would be the patron saint of his country. Following Robert Bruce’s victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, the Declaration of Arbroath officially named St. Andrew as the patron saint of Scotland. The Saltire became the national flag of Scotland in 1385.
When I sit down to watch rugby internationals with colleagues proudly wearing the dark blue of Scotland (to my Irish green), it is only too evident where their passions lie. But 30 November is one day in the calendar when every Scot, rugby fan or not, wherever he or she is, celebrates their Scottishness. I am delighted to take this opportunity to wish all Scots in the BVI, and around the world, a very Happy St. Andrew’s Day.
You can read the First Minister of Scotland’s St. Andrew’s Day message here.