The Saltire, Scotland's National Flag, by Iain Laird

(from e-mail on Tartan Day, 2003)

The Saltire has its darker colour when forming part of the Union Flag (often referred to as the "Union Jack" popularly, but incorrect technically; the "Jack" is the flag in naval use, as it was flown from the Jack Staff).

It is perhaps worth remembering the origin of the Saltire this Tartan Day.

"The Saltire,
Scotland's National Flag is so-called because its cross resembles the simplest form of horse jump of crossed poles, and comes from the French, "sauteur".  However its origins are much older.  The village of Athelstaneford in East Lothian flies a Saltire with its explanation: it was during a battle there in 832 AD between the Picts and Scots against the invading Angles lead by Athelstan of Northumbria.  The odds were against the defenders.  Their King, Angus mac Fergus, High King of Alba (the ancient name for Scotland) prayed for victory.  At that moment two clouds made the form of the cross on which Saint Andrew was crucified.  Despite their smaller number, victory went to the Picts and Scots, and so, Saint Andrew was adopted as Scotland's Patron Saint, and his cross as Scotland's Flag, just as it was seen that day, a white Cross against a sky blue background.

471 years later the Saltire would deliver another Scots victory at the Battle of Roslin,
24th February 1303, when 8,000 Scots defeated a superior English army in three separate engagements.  The Scots were encouraged by the sight of a Saltire erected by Monks at the highest point in the Pentlands, celebrated in the "Ballad of the Battle of Roslin"."

I have the full text and a photograph of The Declaration of Arbroath on my website at:

Happy Tartan Day to all!

Yours aye

Iain Laird, 2003/04/06, E-mail:



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