Fire brands

Before we moved over to metal torches and torch balls, the old kind of torch was made by taking a length of wood - a bit over a metre, usually, and not too thick - and wrapping about 20-40cm of the "head" end in tinfoil (to stop it burning through). Then wind on lots and lots of cotton strips (we used to get pre-shredded cotton, but eventually we ended up having to shred our own), taking care to leave some wood exposed at the top, until the torch is the right size (ask someone who's made one before, or compare with pictures from a previous Beltane).

Now cut a piece of chickenwire large enough to wrap round the torch head (this is to stop bits of burning cotton flying off into the crowd) and staple it firmly in place.

You will need gloves for the bits involving chickenwire, but you'll find that they're too clumsy, so you'll take them off. And get wee cuts, and put them back on and.... etc.

I'm glad we've the new torches, me....

Burn time: depends on size, but approximately 40 minutes or even longer for a large one - before we got the metal torches, I think we had two changes of torch during the procession: the first lot would last from the Acropolis (yes, I know) to just before Water Point?, where they would be doused/collected, and new ones issued and lit as we left Fire Point?. These would take us to the Stage? or thereabouts, and we'd get a final torch there that took us to the Bower?.

(It was discovered at Talamh in 2003 that a brand that has gone out could be re-ignited for another 10-20 minutes or so by swinging it around vigorously so that the remaining paraffin rushed to the surface. This is not recommended for use on Calton Hill - even if you are quite far from the crowd!)