From Ayam Goreng to Boeuf Bourguignon

30 Apr 2015
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St Andrew's Day is celebrated far and wide, with the spirit of Scotland reaching from the east to west. Read on to find out what happens in Paris and Kuala Lumpur to mark the day of our patron saint from year to year.

Our view from France comes from Roisin Murphy, who is part of the Global Issues team in the British Embassy, Paris where she works on transport and environmental issues. Roisin moved to Paris in 1979 when her father was sent over on assignment. She helped set up the French Global Friends of Scotland network in 2003.

France: Qui est St André?

In France, St André is known for two things. First of all, he is the patron saint of fish and fishing and is therefore an extremely important saint in France (fresh fish and seafood are essential ingredients for French gourmets). But his other claim to fame is even more vital. St André is the patron saint of Burgundy and we all know how essential Burgundy is for the Gallic diet, which explains why there are so many villages called St André in the region.

But although he is closely linked to French tastebuds and stomachs, the French do not celebrate St Andrew's Day in any great way. Some small fishing ports do hold festivities on 30 November and that in Burgundy there are small, local, events too, but nothing quite like our national celebrations in Scotland.

The Scottish community in France, however, is very active and here and there are always dinners and speeches throughout the country on 30 November. Scottish associations all over France have organised events. The Franco-Scottish Alliance in Bordeaux hold a St Andrew's Day dinner annually. As always, the Scottish network is very active in Paris, with events by both the Franco-Scottish Association and the Caledonian Society organised regularly. There are of course raucous festivities in the Scottish bars of Paris (e.g. the Auld Alliance and the Harp Bar) as 'any excuse for a party' goes without saying over here.

Celebrating St Andrew in Selangor

As elsewhere in the world Scots and friends gather in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to celebrate the feast of St Andrew's each year.

Founded in 1887, the Selangor St Andrew's Society is one of the older surviving associations of any kind in Malaysia and possibly one of the older St Andrew's Societies world-wide. There use to be Societies in other states such as Perak, Penang, Johore and so on, but Selangor is the sole surviving Society and is thus the main association for all Scots in Malaysia.

The Scots have a long and distinguished history here firstly as adventurers and administrators, latterly as soldiers, teachers, doctors and especially as planters and there was a time when to be Chieftain of the Society was to be anointed as one of the great and good of the local establishment. Our patron is still the Sultan of Selangor and the Scots community in KL keep things ticking over. 'The Annual Celebration' in November is the night when we put on a show for ourselves and our guests.

The main ballroom of the best hotel in town is booked some two years in advance (!) and a long cycle of planning and preparation ensues, with the committee working increasingly feverishly to procure pipers, ceilidh band, speakers, dancers, tartans, drapes, shields and all the other paraphernalia needed to create a suitably Caledonian ambience for the night. In recent years we have had repeat visits from the Marian Anderson band and pipe bands from Glasgow & Strathclyde University OTC, Boghall & Bathgate, the Merlion band from Singapore and this year from Strathallan School, near Perth.

The Ball is typically attended by 300-400 and begins with pre-dinner drinks and the entrance of the top table party which in 2003 comprised HRH the Sultan of Selangor, the British High Commissioner and representatives of the other British and Loyal Societies including Australia and New Zealand. After that it is fairly solid Scots ceremonial and entertainment with pipe band music, dance displays, speeches, toasts to the Queen, The Sultan, the Agong (Malaysia's King), St Andrew - all helped along with traditional lubrication. The dancing begins about 10.30pm and this ball is probably unique amongst black-tie events in KL in that we do not have the inevitable disco or hotel lobby band closing out all possible conversation well before midnight. It is ceilidh music all night long and the ball seldom finishes much before dawn.

It is in its way an impossibly exotic evening in one of the most attractive cities in the tropics and it has been held without fail every year (except the war years) for about 120 years.

For more information about the Selangor St Andrew's Society, log on to the website.

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