Songs of praise for Flodden

PEACE and reconciliation is the theme for churches on both sides of the border as they look to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden in 2013.

Working together on a number of events, the churches hope to persuade the BBC’s Songs of Praise to the Borders in 2013. An application has been submitted with a proposal to feature multiple churches on both sides of the border rather than concentrating on just one, to emphasise how the communities now live in relative harmony 500 years after one of the bloodiest battles between England and Scotland that left over 10-14,000 dead in just a matter of hours and Scotland without a king and few noblemen.

Another sign of reconciliation is two “very significant church services” taking place the day after the actual date of the battle, September 10.

On the morning of September 10, Cardinal O’Brien, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, will celebrate a Requiem Mass in the English Anglican parish church of St Cuthbert’s, Norham, for all those who died as a result of the Battle of Flodden.

In the afternoon Cardinal O’Brien will be joined at a service of remembrance in a marquee in Branxton near the battlefield by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, the president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and representatives of the United Reformed and other churches.

One of the lasting, and most poignant poems written about the Battle of Flodden is Jean Elliot’s ‘Flowers o’ the Forest’ lamenting the loss of Scotland’s brave young men who fought and died on Flodden field.

‘Dool and wae for the order sent oor lads tae the Border!

The English for ance, by guile wan the day,

The Flooers o’ the Forest, that fought aye the foremost,

The pride o’ oor land lie cauld in the clay.’

Flowers will play a part throughout the anniversary with a series of flower festivals planned. If funding allows there will also be a small travelling exhibition about the Battle of Flodden, focusing on peace, reconciliation and remembrance. Dates suggested so far are: Ford St Michael and All Angels (April 13-15); Norham St. Cuthbert (June); Branxton, St Pauls (September 8-10); Coldstream, St Mary and All Souls (October 26-28); with Ladykirk Church and Crookham RC to be decided.

Coldstream Parish Church is the possible venue for a concert featuring the Yetholm Sinfonia, and a choir of local voices. There are also discussions with the mid Northumberland Chorus and the choirs of Durham and Newcastle cathedrals about other concerts.

Northumbria Community, an ecumenical international Christian organisation, is in the process of planning a pilgrimage and they hope to have two groups – one setting out from Edinburgh and the other from Durham. The pilgrims will each journey for three days and then meet near the battlefield – possibly in late July 2013.