CFP: AHRC sponsored one day conference, 21st October 2014, Research Beehive, Newcastle University.

With a keynote address from Dr Gary West
'Understanding Scotland Musically: Do we? Can we?’

Scottish traditional music has been through a successful revival and has now entered a professionalized and public space. Devolution in the UK, and the rapid expansion of the New Europe have led to a rise of importance of regional and national identities within the context of globalization of musical communities. What was once considered kitsch tartanry has been re-mythologized and now hybrid sounds from Scottish musicians portray a newer, emergent sense of national identity. Increasingly, musicians are performing deterritorialized and commodified music which is shifting attention away from musical provenance and authentic ideology towards more transient sonic identities and blurring established musical genres. This conference seeks to explore how contemporary traditional music performs Scottishness at this crucial moment in the public life of an increasingly (dis)United Kingdom. We are interested in papers that deal with the relationship(s) between Scottish traditional music (or Scottish folk music) and: the musical politics of identity; public policy for the arts, tourism and their policy makers; education; the Scottish and UK media; alternative public conceptions of Scottishness; the wider Scottish traditional arts; the independence referendum; other creative practices and their audiences. We hope to take forward a selection of papers from this conference for publication as a book edited by Dr Simon McKerrell (Newcastle University) and Dr Gary West. (Edinburgh University).

Conference host: Dr Simon McKerrell

Papers will be 20 minutes plus 10 minutes for discussion. In addition to individual papers, suggestions for panel topics are welcome. Panels exploring a particular issue around the theme are encouraged, and these would receive one hour including paper presentations and discussion.

The deadline for submissions is Friday the 2nd May 2014.

Please submit your abstract(s) for consideration (max 300 words) to Simon McKerrell ( For panel submissions, please submit both an abstract for the whole panel and abstracts for each individual paper. The conference is supported by the AHRC and is free for presenters. To register as a non-presenting delegate (£20), please email

For more information please see: musical meaning

This conference is sponsored by The Arts and Humanities Research Council and Newcastle University.



The Story of Tartan - Pamphlet

Discover the fascinating history of the Setts of the Scottish Tartans. Explore the dyes, colors and patterns. Learn the warp and weft.

The pamphlet “The Story of Tartan” was written by Lt.Col. I.B. Cameron Taylor and flower illustrations by M.E. Pullar Thompson © 1967. It was printed by It was printed by Caithness Books, 1 Bank Street Thurso, Caithness 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


The Night Sky in 2014: 11 Must-See Celestial Events

Since we have now had our solar equinox and are into spring, we arrive at one of the odder holidays of the year – April Fool’s Day. The origins of this craziness are not well understood, but the idea of a rather lighthearted day during the year seems to be rather wide spread. Perhaps it is associated with the coming of spring and the general lightening up of the world after a period of darkness.

There is also something to be said about the nature of fools as being wise. Jesters or fools often are able to assume the role of the fool to point out things that might otherwise get them into all sorts of trouble or hot water.

The customs surrounding April Fool's Day vary from country to country.

"Gowk Day", is an old term used in Scotland for the day – gowk refers to a cuckoo or foolish person. Among the more common pranks is one that has to do with delivering as sealed message which asks for help. One prank that has been reported is something akin to a chain letter. There arrives a letter that says "Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile" The person who got the letter explains to the bearer that help is available only if another person is contacted, and so the person delivering the message is instructed to take it to yet another person and so on.

It is interesting to notice how many of our holidays are related to celestial events – the solstices (when the sun appears to stop in its northern and southern movement thereby giving us the longest and shortest days of the year) and the equinoxes (when the sun crosses the celestial equator and days and nights are of equal length. Even the midway points between the solstices and the equinoxes are often marked. It is very clear that in the time before there were the kinds of clocks we use today that the movement of the heavenly bodies were far more important and noticed by many people. The term “ethnoastronomy” has been coined to describe the conceptions of the universe and the uses made of the sky by people in different cultures. “Archaeoastronomy” is a similar term used to describe the same kinds of things, except in this case, the conceptions and uses are derived from surviving artifacts (such as stone circles) rather than by talking to people who still use their own observations of the sky.

In the West in general, the sky picture – that is the names of the constellations – are largely derived from classical Greek and Roman mythology. It is certain however that such “sky pictures” usually made by “connecting the dots” of the stars vary from culture to culture and that the ancient Celtic cultures must have had somewhat different organizations of the stars as well as stories about their daily and annual movements. The planets or “wanderers” would have also most likely had their own names and stories. Meteors, the Milky Way, the moon and all other astronomical (outside the atmosphere) and meteorological (within the atmosphere) phenomenon would also have likely had their own explanations and stories.

In recent times, there has been something of a resurgence of Celtic materials in this area, and people are becoming more aware of the sky as it was organized by Celtic peoples. Gwyn and Gwyrthur, the sons of Greidawl who seek the hand of the lady in red, Creudyladd are the people seen in the sky where we traditional sky maps show Gemini, the twins – Castor and Pollux. Hu Gadarn, who first linked ox and plow together, is also memorialized in the sky where the Greek constellations of Bootes (the bear driver) and Auriga (the Charioteer) are seen.

So it might behoove us a bit to go out and look once again at the regular events, as well as the unexpected events which are occurring the sky. As a little assistance, here is a bit giving information about some of the things you might watch for this year.

Major sky events of 2014 are listed.
Source All about our solar system, outer space and exploration.

Find a nice dark area with little or no "light pollution" and look up.

This link to is a nod to an acquaintance of mine who lives way up North (like Orkney) Scotland. Bill Eaves programs an astronomy program for Amiga 4 OS called Digital Universe. He has lots of experience with a wide open clear sky for viewing stars.