Friday, December 1, 2023

Andrew, Ken and Robert.


Caravaggio's St Andrew on the cross.

It was St Andrews Day yesterday.  He was Andrew the Apostle, the one depicted with long white hair, a long beard, holding a scroll, usually with a saltire and a fishing net.

Yesterday was his feast day but all that really happens is the kids get a day off school.

He is the patron of many lands including Scotland – Ukraine, Greece, Russia, Romania and Barbados to name a few. He is the protector of fishermen and fishmongers, of rope-makers and farm workers.

He was killed by crucifixion on a cross of the form called crux decussata, an x-shaped cross, or "saltire", now commonly known as a "Saint Andrew's Cross". This was done at his own request as he deemed himself unworthy to be killed on a cross that was the same shape as that which Jesus had been crucified upon.

Obviously, the Saltire is our national flag. There are several stories of how the bones of St Andrew made their way to the east coast of Scotland, to a small town where St Andrews  is today.

Here’s an account from Wiki

“According to legendary accounts given in 16th-century historiography, Óengus II in AD 832 led an army of Picts and Scots into battle against the Angles, led by Æthelstan, near modern-day Athelstaneford, East Lothian. The legend states that he was heavily outnumbered and hence whilst engaged in prayer on the eve of battle, Óengus vowed that if granted victory he would appoint Andrew as the patron saint of Scotland. On the morning of battle white clouds forming an X shape in the sky were said to have appeared. Óengus and his combined force, emboldened by this apparent divine intervention, took to the field and despite being inferior in numbers were victorious. Having interpreted the cloud phenomenon as representing the crux decussata upon which Andrew was crucified, Óengus honoured his pre-battle pledge and duly appointed Andrew as the patron saint of Scotland. The white saltire set against a celestial blue background is said to have been adopted as the design of the flag of Scotland on the basis of this legend. However, there is evidence that Andrew was venerated in Scotland before this.”

So there you go, like everything else in Scottish history, the English and the Scots were fighting about something.

We were in St Andrews on Tuesday. To drive coast to coast took one hour forty five minutes.  A dear friend’s father, Kenneth Bruce, had passed away aged 94 and we made our way to say our final goodbye.

He was a fine man.

He smiled constantly. He was a marine engineer, those skills honed on the Clyde took him all over the world. Like his son, he was always up for a laugh and a giggle.  We had to phone his son once because we drove past Ken’s house and saw Ken up a ladder cutting his hedge. With a chain saw. He was 91 and half blind at the time. We got together and made an intervention.

It was our job during lockdown to get him his favourite whisky and smuggle it into his garden so he could collect it. We were not  in his bubble. We were in the bubble of his neighbour hence it was technically legal. Sort of.  Ken would sneak out in the cover of darkness with the two wee Westies, Toby and Rosie, to claim his prize while Joy kept watch from the patio doors incase the nosey neighbour on the other side reported them.

Anyway the point of all that was to celebrate the life well loved of one Scotsman, by using the words of another while in the place of the Saint.

Here’s the poem by Robert Burns, that was recited at the  funeral.  I think it says it all.

 “Epitaph on my own Friend”


An honest man here lies at rest,

As e’er God with His image blest:

The friend of man, the friend of truth;

The friend of age, and guide of youth:

Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d,

Few heads with knowledge so inform’d:

If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;

If there is none, he made the best of this.