Caley On Tour

Malcolm Kerr reports on The Caley Saltire’s upcoming visit to Arran and from where this Saltire has come. Featured image shows the Caley at Stirling Brig.

The Caley Saltire will visit Arran on the weekend of 4th/5th September. Saturday 4th at the Ormidale Park, Brodick from 1.00pm to 3.00pm, then Brodick Beach. And North Sannox Picnic Area 11.30am Sunday 5th, followed by Lochranza Castle, at around 3pm. For further details seeYes Scotland Arran’ on Facebook.

As we come to learn to live with Covid, the big problems for Scotland, and the world, are re-emerging for us: separation from Europe, climate change, nuclear weapons proliferation, environmental degradation, challenges to democracy, economic and health disparities. In these difficult times, the St Andrew’s Flag has come to represent solidarity, hope and inspiration for many people in Scotland otherwise weighed down by the perceived failure of our politicians to make progress on things that are important.

We tend to think of the Saltire and St Andrew’s Cross as being synonymous. But what is a ‘saltire’ anyway? In heraldry, a saltire is a diagonal cross, the ‘crux decussata’, ie a cross in the shape of an ‘X’. It is derived from ‘Saltatoria’ in Latin (and the French ‘sautoir’) meaning a stirrup. From medieval times, the saltire was originally a field sign, for communication in battle. But then became incorporated into a number of flags. For example, the flags of Burgundy, the American Confederate States, and Jamaica. A saltire was used as the ensign of the Russian Navy in the 18th century. And, of course, Scotland.

So, what’s so special about the Caley? Well, its size, for a start. At 62 x 23 feet it is one of the biggest flags in the country. A spectacle. An installation worth seeing.

The manufacture of the Caley

The Caley was made on Lewis by a local man – whose interest and absorbing hobby is the manufacture of large flags. Named after a Stornoway Hotel (and surely there’s a story there!) the Caley is one of four huge saltire flags owned by Outer Hebrides for Independence, but now, from time to time, touring the country. It took 40 hours to make on a domestic Toyota sewing machine between July and September 2020, weighs 22 kilos, and made a first public appearance at Stornoway’s impressive gothic-revival Lews Castle on May 1st this year.

The Caley at Lews Castle, Stornoway, earlier this year

The visit to Arran is hosted by Yes Arran. Arran voted ‘Yes’ for independence by a margin of 60/40 in 2014, tipping the Ardrossan and Arran council ward into being the only yes-voting locality in North Ayrshire. Following the pandemic lockdowns, Yes Arran is gearing up for some awareness raising, and making the case for independence. This is a project to bring activists and enthusiasts together in anticipation of an Independence Referendum in 2023. Let’s get talking!

By the way, does anyone have a 100 foot pole in their garage? We expect not!! However with the great spell of weather expected to continue to the weekend, it is hoped to get some spectacular aerial photos and drone footage in iconic Arran locations. Come and see for yourself, help with some interesting logistics. And there will be teas, coffees, home baking and chat at the Ormidale Pavilion from 1.00pm on Saturday. Contact Yes Arran via ‘Yes Scotland Arran’ on Facebook or Jenny on: jennywarren70@hotmail com

Malcolm Kerr
30th August 2021