Saltire’s birthplace is flying flag once more

Bob Downie, Richard Carter and Charlie Blair
Bob Downie, Richard Carter and Charlie Blair
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A SALTIRE is flying again over the birthplace of the Scottish flag – after an engineering firm read about the plight in the Evening News.

The cross of St Andrew was blown to the ground in severe weather in January, meaning it no longer fluttered in the village of Athelstaneford for the first time in half a century.

But after reading our coverage about the difficulties faced in repairing the damage, an East Lothian engineering firm has come to the rescue to carry out the work for free.

The flag, in the grounds of Athelstaneford Kirk, attracts 5000 visitors a year.

The organisation tasked with its upkeep was concerned many of those – who come from all across the world to the site – would leave disappointed.

Following a battle in the year 832 a white cross over a blue sky egged Pict fighters on to victory over invading Angles, meaning it has been known ever since as the Saltire’s birthplace.

Convener of the Scottish Flag Trust, Dave Williamson, who launched the appeal for help two weeks ago, said the flagpole was harder to fix because of the stone memorial surrounding it, and the fact there was no vehicular access.

He said: “It’s great to get this all fixed before tourist season starts on April 1.

“After the media coverage in the Evening News we had quite a few offers from East Lothian and Edinburgh. It’s a relief to get it all sorted out so quickly.”

The work was carried out by Dunbar firm UBAS Access Equipment International Ltd, whose director Bob Downie went out with a team yesterday afternoon to erect the flag, days after taking it down to carry out necessary repairs to the pole.

He said: “I saw the story and wanted to help. You can’t not have a flag at Athelstaneford, it’s not allowed.”

They were preparing to use rope equipment to scale the 30-metre pole, but managed to take the bolts out of the historic monument to which it’s fixed.

“It was relatively straightforward in the end,” Mr Downie added. “I think the main issue for the organisation was they’d never had to deal with something like this before.

“But when I read it I thought to myself, there is no way a flagpole should cause this much hassle.”

Mr Williamson added that a new Saltire would be placed at the top of the mast.

“We like to replace them every year,” he said. “They get a bit of a beating up there throughout the year, though nothing like what we saw in January.

“UBAS are doing this as a charitable act, even though we offered to pay them, so we’re incredibly grateful.”

amorris@edinburghnews.com