As schools prepare to mark St Andrew's Day, Raymond Ross reports on a scheme which adds a competitive edge to the proceedings
Dear Friends! You have asked about St Andrew Day. We don't celebrate this day now. But in old days in Russia it was an important holiday, especially for young ladies. On this day they asked for fortune-telling and pray St Andrew for a good fiance."
From Russia with love, you might say. This e-mail came to the pupils of Glasgow's Richmond Park School (for children with severe physical or medical conditions). It's dated November 21 1994 and comes from the pupils of School 231 in Moscow. The e-mail was just one aspect of Richmond Park's project to celebrate St Andrew's Day on November 30.
The St Andrew Society, founded in 1907, runs an annual schools' competition, of which Richmond Park was one of the 1994 winners. Every year it sends out 3,400 packs to schools to encourage the celebration. About 200 schools take part.
Last year they sent a questionnaire to all Scottish schools and received 659 responses. Over three quarters said they marked the day in some fashion: 319 held an assembly, 142 a concert or ceilidh, and 135 did project work.
"Over the past ten years more than 1,000 schools have entered, which means that tens of thousands of pupils have taken part,'' says David Williamson, convenor of the society's projects committee.
"If there are two things the judges look out for, they are originality and raising awareness of the day in the community''.
One school which has flown the flag successfully in quite different ways is Carnock Primary in Fife. In 1994 they were overall winners when the pupils collected and published a book of traditional recipes and sold 1,000 copies locally.
In 1995 they were among the winners when the pupils built a cardboard village to remind people of the plight of the homeless while raising money for Shelter.
This year they have collected items to put in a time capsule which will be taken to a service at their local church and buried near the school.
"It's the norm in Europe and around the world for people to celebrate their national day,'' says Mr Williamson, "As a non-political organisation we will be pressing the new Scottish parliament for a national holiday on November 30 to bring us in line with the rest of the world."
It is perhaps with that in mind, that this year's competition for secondary schools offers pupils an opportunity to express their ideas on the relevance of St Andrew to contemporary Scotland and a re-established Scottish parliament. Awards will be made on artistic or literary merit.
Every participating school will receive a St Andrew's Day Certificate, the top ones will be presented with a saltire and the overall winner of each section will receive a commemorative plaque.
"This is the final year of the competition as things stand,'' says Mr Williamson. "After ten years Scottish Life is withdrawing as sponsor but the society will consider extending the competition if another is forthcoming. "
Meanwhile, in response to schools' suggestions, the society intends to create a website next year to provide a permanent source of information on the subject of St Andrew and St Andrew's Day.
Application forms from the St Andrew Society, PO Box 84, Edinburgh EH3 8LG, e-mail: St.Andrew@scran.ac.uk. Entries should be returned no later than December 15.
WINNING WAYS TO CELEBRATE
Ancrum Road Primary, Dundee,took the school orchestra into the Highgate Shopping Centre for a St Andrew's Day community concert; Avonbridge Primary, Falkirk, designed and made a banner entitled "Fishers of Men'' which was hung in the local church in a St Andrew's Day service; Panbride Primary, Angus, arranged for all the local churches to ring out their bells at noon on November 30 as a reminder that it was a special day.
Ellon Academy, Aberdeenshire, devoted the entire week up to November 30 to a programme of Scottish events involving all departments, including a Discover Scotland exhibition, lunchtime talks and a writers' workshop with Scots author Billy Kay.
Viewforth High School, Fife, offered a free meal in the dining hall to all pupils wearing national dress on St Andrew's Day.