Words by Jessica Peace

The Scots have loved the thistle since at least 1263 and so they should; apparently when the barefooted Norsemen (natch) invaded, it was the painful spike of the thistle on a naked Norwegian toe that sent out the alarm during the Battle of Largs and let the Scots get ready to defeat the enemy.

Art Nouveau design king Charles Rennie Mackintosh spun the thistle into many of his abstract designs including two of his most famous buildings: The Herald Offices, completed in 1895 and Scotland Street School completed in 1906.

‘—But a’ its growth ’ll never fil / The hole it’s turned my life intill! …’ Written in Scots,  the Germanic language of the Scottish Lowlands, Hugh MacDiarmid’s 1926 poem, ‘A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle’ has his lashed narrator reflecting on thistles, sex and the General Strike of the same year.

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