As some of you may know, ScotlandShop HQ or Tartan Towers as we like to call it, is located near the town of Duns in the Scottish Borders. Many of our readers may not be familiar with the Scottish Borders, but thanks to a new BBC Scotland series, that is all about to change!
Naturally we at ScotlandShop are very proud of coming from Duns
, we have one of the best town mottoes around – Duns Dings A – and if you stick around to the end, I’ll let you know what that means. As proud as we are of Duns, no town is an Island (except all those ones that are, Venice, now that I think of it, is definitely island based) and we cannot view ourselves as isolated from the wider community in which it is based. In Duns we are lucky that our wider community is the beautiful, yet often overlooked, Scottish Borders
. Lots of visitors to Scotland fly over us or zoom through on the train to Edinburgh missing some amazing countryside and fabulous local specialties.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Scottish Borders, BBC Scotland
will be airing a new six part series all about this beautiful part of the world and the communities that live here. Unfortunately, the series will only be shown in Scotland but will be available throughout the UK on BBC’s iPlayer
. For those of you living outside the UK, you might just have to come over and visit the region for yourself, it is definitely worth it. The borders has an immensely rich history, being in such close contact with the English has caused not a little friction over the years especially thanks to the actions of the Reivers
Reivers were those riotous families of raiders who terrorised both sides of the Border….. One of the most notable families of Reivers were the Bells. Originally from Annandale, the Bells eventually moved to Kelso
where the last chief died, ending the family line. The Bells ceased their reiving activities, much to the relief of those on either side of the border, and distinguished themselves in fields ranging from law to medicine as well as invention – the telephone anyone?
What makes the Bells even more interesting, for me at least, is their tartan. There are three official Bell tartans but by far and away the most popular is Bell of the Borders
. This tartan was designed to reflect the beauty and nature of the Scottish Borders and the people that live there. I like to think of the blue base of this tartan as representing the River Tweed which runs through the region and historically marks the border between England and Scotland. The accents of green and yellow could allude to the fertile agriculture of the area which along with the famous river sustains many of the inhabitants of this area. Then again I could be reading too much into it all and perhaps it was just designed to be pretty.
Speaking of design, this particular tartan was commissioned in 1984 by Col William Bell, a native of California and President Emeritus of Clan Bell
International Ltd, the tartan itself was designed by Bob Martin. The more research I do into the history of Scottish Clans and their associated tartans, the more I come to see that Scottish identity cannot be viewed in an isolationist manner, Scotland’s history and heritage do not stop south of the Tweed. Bell of the Borders tartan does not only stand as an emblem for Clan Bell nor simply as a tribute to the beautiful area from which they hail but for me, this tartan shows the best of Scottish heritage; the ability to weave together our collective history and the wider global setting in which it sits.
Duns Dings A'
Oh yeah, I almost forgot, I promised to tell you the meaning of Duns Dings A’, didn’t I? Well the first part is obvious enough, Duns is the name of the town of course, and A’ here means all.
That’s two thirds of the motto dealt with, leaving only the dinging to deal with. The story goes that in the fourteenth century an English contingent of troops were camping in Duns in an attempt to conquer the area. Unfortunately for these Englishmen they hadn’t counted on the plucky nature of the locals. It was a local custom to use rattles to scare away predators which threatened their herds, the aforementioned locals used these rattles while the English were sleeping and scared the living daylights out of their horses. Amid the chaos, the locals set upon the English with great ferocity, causing them (the English) to retreat back over the border. To Ding, as a verb it most certainly is, means to defeat or batter (not like a Mars Bar but you know, with fists etc) which makes Duns Dings A’ translate roughly to Duns Defeats All, not bad eh?
BBC Scotland’s The River
airs tonight on BBC One at 7:30. Why not give it a watch and let us know what you think of it? Or, if you have been lucky enough to visit this area of Scotland, feel free to drop us a line and share your experiences of Border life. If you are a member of Clan Bell, or simply love the look of this tartan, we stock an extensive array of products in Bell of the Borders tartan for you to look at.