June 24, 2014

1112 UNITED KINGDOM (Scotland) - A Highlander piper near the Eilean Donan Castle

For centuries the inhabitants of Scotland have been building fortifications and strongholds of one kind or another, so that at one time there were over 3,000 castles, larger or smaller. Many of them are in ruins or have disappeared completely, but hundreds still remained, to remind the tumultuous history of these lands. One of the most picturesque of them is the castle located on the Eilean Donan (Island of Donnán), a small tidal island where three lochs meet, Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh, in Wester Ross.

It is possible that an early Christian monastic cell was founded on the island in the 6th or 7th century, dedicated to Donnán of Eigg, an Irish saint who was martyred on Eigg in April 617. Anyway, the name of the island comes from this saint. In the earlier 13th century was constructed a large curtain-wall castle, that enclosed much of the island, providing a strong defensive position against Norse expeditions.

At a later date, the island became a stronghold of the Mackenzies of Kintail, originally vassals of Uilleam, Earl of Ross. At this early stage, the castle is said to have been garrisoned by Macraes and Maclennans, both clans that were later closely associated with the Mackenzies. In the early 18th century the Mackenzies' involvement in the Jacobite rebellions led in 1719 to the castle's destruction by government ships. Between 1919 and 1932 the castle was rebuilt. The castle is regularly described as one of the most photographed monuments in Scotland, and is a recognised Scottish icon.

What could be more appropriate beside this castle than another symbol of Scotland, a bagpiper dressed in kilt? Bagpipes are a class of musical instrument, aerophones, using enclosed reeds fed from a constant reservoir of air in the form of a bag. Even if  bagpipes have been played for centuries throughout large parts of Europe, and not only, the Scottish and Irish Great Highland bagpipe (known in Ireland as the War pipes) and Irish Uilleann Pipes have the greatest international visibility. Though popular belief sets varying dates for the introduction of bagpipe to Scotland, it was first attested in 1396, in connection with the Battle of the North Inch of Perth. 

Male highland dress includes kilt (or trews), sporran, sgian dubh and ghillie brogues, and is often characterised by tartan patterns. The kilt (a knee-length garment with pleats at the rear) first appeared as the great kilt, the breacan or belted plaid, during the 16th century, and is Gaelic in origin. The filleadh mhòr or great kilt is a full-length garment whose upper half could be worn as a cloak draped over the shoulder, or brought up over the head. The Scottish kilt is usually worn with kilt hose (woollen socks), turned down at the knee, often with garter flashes, and a sporran (Gaelic for "purse": a type of pouch), which hangs around the waist from a chain or leather strap.

This may be plain or embossed leather, or decorated with sealskin, fur, or polished metal plating. Other common accessories include: a belt (usually with embossed buckle), a jacket, a kilt pin, a sgian dubh (Gaelic: "black knife": a small sheathed knife worn in the top of the hose), and ghillie brogues (thick soled shoes with long laces and no tongues, so the wearer's feet can dry more quickly in typically damp Scottish weather).As head dress is often worn a glengarry bonnet, made of thick-milled woollen material, frequently decorated with a rosette cockade on the left side, and with ribbons hanging down behind.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of the Countries Stamps definitive series, about which I wrote here, but with the new value, 97 pence.

Great Highland Bagpipe - Wikipedia
Highland dress - Wikipedia
Kilt - Wikipedia

Sender: Moreira Family
Sent from Dumfries and Galloway (Scotland / United Kingdom), on 09.05.2014 
Photo: Mike Guy

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