Pressing Scottish questions given some answers

Scotland has many questions that are regularly asked of it.

And there’s plenty of questions to be asked about Scots and their inventions and successes too.

Here, we endeavour to answer some of those.

Q What is elephant polo?

A Polo, but played riding atop an elephant instead of a horse. Invented by Scotsman James Manclark in 1983, Scots have been world champions eleven times, including an all-female team from East Lothian in 2014. Competing nations include Nepal, India, Thailand and Sri Lanka – all countries to which elephants are native.

Q Why is Scotland’s official animal the unicorn?

A The unicorn is believed to be the natural enemy of the lion – a symbol that the English royals adopted around a hundred years before Scotland. This perfectly represented the continuous conflict between the two countries. King Robert III, king at the time, is said to have found great comfort in the purity and strength of the mythical creature.

Q Which Scot invented the pedal bicycle?

A In 1839 blacksmith Kirkpatrick Macmillan, of Keir in Dumfriesshire, named his new machine the ‘pedal bicycle’. In 1842 a ‘gentleman from Dumfriesshire … bestride a velocipede of ingenious design’ knocked over a pedestrian in the Gorbals and was fined five shillings. In 1842 Macmillan cycled his new contraption 68 miles to Glasgow.


Q Is the Loch Ness monster the only legendary creature in Scotland?

A No. Hiding deep in the waters of Loch Morar in the Scottish Highlands lives the Morag Monster. This fearsome beast is claimed to be a large snake-like creature about 30 feet (nine metres) long.

Q Which city was home to the first ever fire brigade?

A In 1824 the first ever fire brigade in the United Kingdom was established in Edinburgh. This new addition to the city was Scotland’s reply to the Great Fire of Edinburgh that occurred earlier that year.

Q When was the world’s first infant school opened?

A The world’s first infant school (ages 4-7) was opened by philosopher and pedagogue Robert Owen in New Lanark in 1816. This was followed two years later by an infant school in Westminster, opened under the charge of James Buchanan, who was also a Scot.


Q Why is Fife also known as ‘The Kingdom of Fife’?

A It goes back to Pictish time when Pictland (Caledonia) was split into several kingdoms north of the Forth/Clyde line. Fife was one of those kingdoms and the name has stuck ever since.

Q Who was the first person to walk on the moon with Scottish ancestry?

A The first man to walk on the moon was in fact an American of Scottish descent. Astronaut Neil Armstrong is undoubtedly of the best known astronauts of all time, but his family can trace their roots back to
the Borders of Scotland and the year 1247. Armstrong took huge pride in his Scottish ancestry and took a swatch of Armstrong tartan with him on the Apollo 11 mission he undertook in July 1969 with fellow moon-walker Buzz Aldrin. At Armstrong’s memorial service a Borders-born piper wearing the Armstrong clan tartan piped the Armstrong family into the church, a token of respect arranged by the Scottish Government on behalf of the Scottish people.