The Stirling Trades “Blue Blanket”
The Blue Blanket of the Stirling Trades is about 2 yards square, and is made up of ribbons and silk 8 inches broad sewed together, of a dingy flesh – colour and faded sky-blue, with a St. Andrew’s Cross in white silk from corner to corner.It was attached to a piece of wood, the ends of which are fixed to poles for carrying.
The above picture shows the banner in its current state having been unfurled to allow the Guild of Embroiderers to make a replica.
The Convener is provided with a sash of rich white silk 2 yards long, having a fringe 8 inches deep, and he wears an ancient sword on great occasions. He walks under the banner, the floating ends of which are held by ribbons the blanket requiring four craftsmen to bear it aloft.
The tradition is that when Mary Queen of Scots granted the charter of privilege on 16th April, 1556, to the Stirling Trades, she presented them with a banner made by herself and her maids of honour. When the banner was unfurled at the Cross in High Street it was the signal for the Trades to fly to arms and rally round the Convener, each being required to bring along with him two pecks of meat and a bag of onions for his subsistence while his services were required.
The blanket was kept in a strong oak box furnished with seven locks. Each deacon had a key, so that all had to be present before the box could be opened.
The ” airings” were considered notable occasions for ” a guzzle and a spate ” at the expense of the Incorporation.
The blanket was held up by the corners by four persons standing on chairs, while the deacons danced the Reel of Hoolachan below it. Sometimes it was fixed to the ceiling of the room. It is now too fragile to display and is kept by The Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum.
The Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum also contains the box of the Incorporated Trades. It was made in 1829 by John Fisher to replace an earlier box, but with the brass plate of the old box (engraved by John Christie , Gunsmith, 1759).
The box was to contain the Blue Blanket, the sash of the Deacon Convener and various papers.
Customs in Connection with the Blue Banner
This was the ancient banner of the trades of Edinburgh. On its appearance, not only the artificers were obliged to repair it, but all the artificers or craftsmen within Scotland were bound to follow and fight under the Convener who took charge of it.
According to an old tradition, this standard was employed in the Holy Wars by a body of crusading citizens of Edinburgh, and was the first that was planted on the walls of Jerusalem, when that city was stormed by the Christian army under the famous Godfrey de Bouillon.
It is told in connection with this standard, that James III, having been kept a prisoner for nine months in the Castle of Edinburgh, by his rebellious nobles, was freed by the citizens of Edinburgh, who raised the Blue Blanket, assaulted the Castle and took it by surprise. Out of gratitude for their seasonable loyalty, James, besides certain privileges, presented them with another banner – a blue silken pennon, with powers to display the same in defence of their King, country, and their own rights, when these were assailed. The original and more celebrated banner is, we are glad to be able to state, also still in existence, and was exhibited at the opening of St. Giles’ Church.