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Culture in Northumberland & Scottish Borders

Other posts by  |  Steve Smith on Google+ |  August 11, 2012 | 0 Comments
Northumbrian pipes

The Northumbrian smallpipes, visitnorthumberland.com

An age-old frontier may separate Northumberland and The Borders, but there is much these two geographical areas share in common.

The political border has shifted many times over the centuries. But the inhabitants have always shared similar customs, habits, a dialect and a common outlook. This is mostly because of the region’s history, which has at times been turbulent and dramatic, but always filled with ideas and innovation.

You can read about the events and forces which shaped the culture in different parts of this site and in particular in the History and Explore sections. The legacy is rich and gives Northumberland and The Scottish Borders its unique forms of music, craft, art, drama and language.

The music is both timeless and beautiful. Northumbrian folk ballads are usually accompanied by the  traditional Northumbrian smallpipes, played by pipers dressed in traditional Northumberland Tartan.

Northumbrian tartan

Northumbrian tartan

The Northumberland Tartan is a tight black and white check which dates back thousands of years. It was originally woven by hill shepherds who only had access to the basic black and white wool from their flock. This tartan provides the basis for the Scottish Estate Tartans of today. See the pattern here at the Northumberland Tartan Company.

Many of the words found in the area’s folk songs and used today are Northumbrian. This dialect reflects many influences – Viking, Norse, Gaelic, German and French.

You’ll either know Northumbrian/Border words because you live here, or you’ve heard them in films and TV shows. Words such as canny (pleasant, good); muckle (big); clart (mud); tetties (potatoes); bairn (child); and deek (look at) are from this part of the world.

Lesser known is the fact that two well-known words, blackmail and bereaved, originated in the Borders. Blackmail was originally a fee paid by locals for protection from pillage, while bereaved is said to come from ‘be reived’, a term that originally applied to the victims of the infamous Border Reivers raids and has now come to mean to suffer a personal loss.

Scotland's flag

Scotland’s flag

Northumberland flag

Northumberland’s flag

Northumberland has its own flag, the red and gold banner which some claim is the oldest known flag design in Britain.

The design comes from the regal banner of gold and purple which was draped over the tomb of St Oswald, the 7th Century King of Northumbria.

Today, Northumberland/Borders cultural heritage is celebrated in unique,diverse museums and galleries and at festivals throughout the region.

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Category: Features

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