The Saltire, the oldest flag in the British Commonwealth, has its origins in a battle which took place at Athelstaneford in East Lothian, some twelve miles east of Edinburgh. In the early ninth century at the site of the village, a large army led by Saxon king Athelstan met a force of Scots/Picts led by King Angus.
Seeing he was outnumbered Angus prayed to St Andrew, and just before the armies clashed a saltire appeared created by clouds which formed a cross against the blue sky. Angus realised this represented the cross on which St Andrew had been crucified, and took it as a sign that his forces would be victorious. With renewed heart, Angus and his men took to battle and a great victory followed.
In addition to being the birthplace of Scotland’s flag, Athelstaneford is home to Scotland’s oldest church, the original having been built in 1176. The village is important academically, too. Sir David Lyndsay, writer of the “Three Estates” was born in nearby Garleton Castle. Adam Skirving (1719-1803) East Garleton Farm, wrote the Lyric: “Hey Johnnie Cope” and the “Ballad of Prestonpans”. Two of its Ministers Robert Blair (1730-45) wrote the poem “The Grave” and John Home (1745-57) wrote the dramatic Play: “The Douglas Tragedy”.
Athelstaneford also has important links in military history. Sir John Hepburn, born in the village in 1598, founded the First or Royal Scots Regiment, of which he became its Colonel, before being made a Field-Marshal of France in 1636.
Such is the legendary origin of the Scottish flag. A memorial stands in the churchyard at Athelstaneford, East Lothian, and there the flag of St Andrew, “azure, a saltire argent”. flies permanently. Armorial of Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount 1542St Andrew was probably the patron of Scotland by the year 1000. In 1286, the Seal of the Guardians of Scotland already bears, on the obverse, a representation of St Andrew on his X-shaped cross, with the Latin inscription “ANDREA SCOTIS DUX ESTO COMPATRIOTIS” (St Andrew be leader of the compatriot Scots). In I 390, St Andrew was used as a national symbol on a coin of the realm, the five-shilling piece minted in the reign of Robert Ill. In 1385, as the Scots made preparations to invade England, the Scots Parliament decreed that “every man shall have a sign before and behind, namely a white St Andrew’s Cross, and if his coat is white he shall bear the same white cross on a piece of black cloth”