The Highlands - Prehistory Pamphlet

The pamphlet “The Highlands - Prehistory" was written by I. R. Mackay © 1969 (reprinted in 1971) with illustrations by Edward Meldrum. It was printed by John G, Eccles Longman, Inverness and was published by An Comunn Gàidhealach with whose kind permission we publish it here.

These pamphlets have been scanned and therefore are large image files.

Click each link to read one page at a time




Hogmanay - New Year's Eve comes but one day a year - but the Scots like to celebrate for three! New Year's Eve, and the next two days - recognized holidays. The reason for the 2nd additional day is officially down as a Bank Holiday - but some think that Hogmanay - Scotland's own take on a New Year’s festival deserves an extra day to "sleep it off" as it were. Anyway, that's one popular thought.

Connected to the Winter Solstice, and perhaps some ancient Viking (it may indeed be of Norse origin) and other Celtic celebrations (some think that Samhain is mixed in here as well but that seems unlikely), it is a popular holiday that seizes all of Scotland.

The etymology of the name itself - a Scots word - is somewhat obscure and may be of Old French origin, but others think it may be of Norse origin as well. It's hard to pin down, though the first known written record of the word is from the early 17th century - but it almost certainly goes back much further than that.

There are massive street parties in Edinburgh and other cities which bring huge partying crowds out into the cold night air - some parts of Scotland have various, local traditional ways of celebrating (such as Stonehaven's Fireball festival, where they swing fireballs about in the night - somewhat similar to the "burning of the clavie", which while celebrated only in some small fishing villages, involves burning split casks (the clavie), hoisted in the air (though this generally happens not on the 1st day of the new year, but on January 11th (by the older Julian Calender). There are other traditions as well, some involving torchlight processions.

The traditions noted above are mostly localized, but with modern ways to communicate and popularize such traditions, it's not unreasonable to assume they might spread to other parts of Scotland in time and become part of one "big mix". Edinburgh has even taken to burning a Viking ship on Hogmanay, in clear imitation of Up Helly Aa - though Edinburgh has no such ancient tradition or connection to the Vikings - it clearly seems to be a matter of having some fun and a good excuse to burn something spectacular.

The most common way to celebrate Hogmanay is called First Footing. Neighbors visit neighbors, bringing such gifts as fruit cakes, whisky, coal and salt (though this last one doesn't seem to happen much).

Tradition in some areas says a handsome, dark haired man, who first enters a household just after midnight (with one or more of the above listed gifts) is a sign of good luck - and the man should be rewarded with a dram. The gifts of food and drink is shared - and often the group will move on to other homes and start all over again - often till the cold winter sun comes up.

Auld Lang Syne is the Scots song traditionally sung on Hogmanay, and the world over has taken up this tune - the words famously written by Robert Burns. The melody most commonly played today is slightly different from the original tune, which was long ago been supplanted by what we sing today.

In any event, it would not be a New Year's celebration without the singing of this song.