The Scottish Thistle
If you pay attention to Google Trends, you’ll see that people search for some off-the-wall things. One of the top searches for Wednesday, October 21st, was for Scottish Thistle. The Scottish Thistle means several things, in different contexts. It’s a plant, and an equally revered and hated species depending on who you talk to, and it’s also an important cultural symbol to the people of Scotland, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Onopordum acanthium, or the Scottish Thistle or Cotton Thistle, is a hardy plant, known for both a deep root structure and a plethora of spines, making it unpleasant to handle. Anyone who has had one of these plants in a garden, lawn, or pasture, knows how bothersome they can be to remove and would give quick cash to get rid of them altogether. The species is native to Europe, and has been transplanted to every other continent as an invasive species. It’s part of the daisy or sunflower family, and produces large hairy leaves, spikes, and a distinctive purple flower.
The Flower of Scotland
The cotton thistle is known as the Flower of Scotland, and is a national symbol of the Scottish Nation. According to legend, an invading contingent of Vikings were sneaking up on a Scottish encampment at night, and when a Viking warrior stepped on a thistle without shoes and cried out in pain, their approach and position were given away, and then they were routed and the Vikings driven out of Scotland soon after. The legend dates back to sometime around the 12th and 13th centuries, and has been a cultural symbol ever since.
The Flower of Scotland is also a song, significant to many Scots, written in 1965 by Roy Williamson and Peter Dodds McCormick. It was adopted as a sporting anthem of Scottish teams of several sports. It is sung at Scottish Association Football (association football = soccer) international matches, but it was first popularized by Scottish rugby players on the 1974 British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa. The British and Irish Lions, for those who don’t know, are a touring team comprised of the top rugby players of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The 1974 tour is the stuff of legend, famed for a rough South African team, bench clearing brawls, and players of legend, such as Willie John McBride of Ireland, Phil Bennett and JPR Williams of Wales, Ian McGeechan of Scotland who coached the 1997 and 2007 Lions tours of South Africa, and Fran “Mudman” Cotton, the legendary English prop forward. It has been since adopted as the unofficial anthem of the Scottish national rugby union team; much like Waltzing Matilda for the Wallabies. (The Wallabies, for the low and uninitiated, are the Australian National Rugby Union team. If you couldn’t gather that from it being Waltzing Matilda…here’s your sign.)
Trends turns up some stuff out of left field
Google Trends showcases some interesting searches, and this is one of them. So there you go, you lucky devils that read this site – you get a little bit of knowledge about interesting trivia for free – no need for a cash advance for an encyclopedia set or anything to find out stuff about the Scottish Thistle, the Flower of Scotland.