New exhibition opens at John Gray Centre

A public exhibition – The Story of Andrew and the Saltire – has just opened in the John Gray Centre, Haddington. The exhibition, which is promoted by the Scottish Flag Trust in association with East Lothian Council Museums, will run until 30 January 2018. Admission is free. Opening hours are 10.00am to 5.00pm Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays; 10.00 to 4.00pm Saturdays; and 1.00pm to 4.00pm Sundays.

East Lothian proudly claims to be the birthplace of Scotland’s flag, the St Andrew’s Cross or Saltire, and the exhibition looks at the historical evidence to back this up. The exhibition is wide-ranging, covering events of relevance over two millennia from Roman times to the present day. For everyone wanting to learn more about this part of East Lothian’s heritage, there will be much of interest.

The initial focus is on the battle itself, which tradition says was fought near the village of Athelstaneford in 832AD, and in which the dramatic appearance above the fighting of a white saltire against a blue sky, the cross of St Andrew, inspired the Scots/Picts to victory and led to the adoption of the national flag.

The exhibition then considers why St Andrew became Scotland’s patron saint, and when his relics first arrived here. It also describes how, in the 14/15th centuries, the cathedral in St Andrews was second only to Santiago de Compostela in Spain in importance as an international pilgrim destination.

One exhibition case is devoted to a significant figure in history – Roman Emperor Constantine the Great – who, intriguingly, is shown to have links to both St Andrew and the saltire. And the exhibition concludes by examining the development of the saltire over the centuries into the flag we fly today.

Highlights of the exhibition are the various fascinating artefacts on display, on loan courtesy of National Museums Scotland, and from other collections. These include:-

  • a coin of Emperor Constantine, excavated in 1920 on Traprain Law
  • a cast of the Pictish Benvie Stone, depicting warriors of the period
  • a ceremonial copy of the Blue Blanket banner, allegedly carried at Flodden, featuring one of the earliest white saltires on a blue field.

Chairman David Williamson explained

“2017 is a milestone year for the Trust, in that it marks the 20th anniversary of the opening, in 1997, of the Flag Heritage Centre in Athelstaneford. The Trustees wanted to celebrate this by putting on an exhibition that would bring the story of St Andrew and the Saltire to as wide an audience as possible, and the John Gray Centre Gallery provides an excellent venue to fulfil this”.

Published: Tuesday, 7th November 2017