Siol nan Gaidheal
Ronald MacDonald Douglas
A park bench towards the west end of Princes Street in Edinburgh bears the rather terse inscription:
"IN MEMORY OF
RONALD MACDONALD DOUGLAS
AUTHOR AND PATRIOT
The fact that Ronald MacDonald Douglas was born in 1896 and passed on in 1984 and that he was an 'author' and a 'patriot' tells something of its own story. This makes him contemporary with Wendy Wood, Tom MacDonald (Fionn MacColla), William Soutar, Christopher Grieve (Hugh MacDairmid), Roland Muirhead, Agnes Muir MacKenzie, F. Marion MacNeill, Amhlaidh MacAindreis, Douglas Young, Compton MacKenzie, Archie Lamont, R.B. Cunningham-Graham, John MacCormick and all the other people who surrendered their respectability at a time when declaring yourself for Scotland effectively excluded you from the favour of the establishment.
This was the generation which paved the way for the modern Independence Movement. This was the generation which called itself 'The Scottish Renaissance'. While it may be that we owe these people everything in terms of where we now stand, we would do well to reflect often on whether we measure up to the hopes which they invested in us. It is not enough to feel grateful to them. We have to move the cause along a little further or it will be effectively, a set back.
Among the whirlwind of well researched historical and inspired creative writing which burst forth from our country at that time, was a book by Ronald MacDonald Douglas. Never a sugary man and totally contemptuous of 'arty-farty' types of people and styles, he presented the world with his 'The Scottish Book of Lore and Folklore', in June 1935. This very practical primer in Scottishness was an attempt to redress the imbalance in Scotland by the total exclusion of Scottish content from school curricula. In such a school orientated society as Scotland, the denial of a Scottish Ethos during school life, then as now, denied credibility to the concept of Scotland in later life.
This book produced in 1935 is a sort of Scottish miscellany and brings together a widely varied selection of quotes and pieces of information which should, by right, be the basic cultural stock of any Scot. It is as relevant today as it was in 1935, and its reissue in 1949 and subsequently is a reflection of the timelessness of the need for a raising of National Consciousness, clearly expressed in Scotland and deeply felt by so many in the nineties as in the thirties.
Ronald MacDonald Douglas was not only concerned with literary work however, in the mid thirties he was putting together a secret military organisation and was using his personal fortune to purchase arms and ammunition for a planned insurrection. In 1935 the veterans of Ireland's War of Independence were still young and able and a few offered assistance, while their victory certainly inspired confidence in young Scots at the time. Ronald MacDonald Douglas knew the Scottish patriot Amhlaidh MacAindreas who had fought alongside Patrick Pearse in Dublin in 1916. These two and certain others were at the centre of a network of highly motivated Scots who were ready to fight in Scotland but whose names we will never know because their small force was infiltrated by British/English Military Intelligence and they were smashed before they had their opportunity to make history.
While in Geneva buying ordnance in late 1935, Ronald MacDonald Douglas was ambushed by British/English Agents. He was taken to a British/English 'safe house' where he was beaten up quite efficiently - that is the Germanic way, after all - and his fingers were broken. It was suggested to him that this was specifically to lessen his enthusiasm for pulling triggers. However, he was eventually released with a strong warning that for his own good, he should not return to Scotland.
Not a man to scare easily, he arrived back in Edinburgh shortly afterwards to find himself arrested and charged with High Treason. The Lord Advocate of the time, visited him in jail and suggested to him that with certain tensions building up, it would not be good for Britain/England to hang a Scottish patriot, likewise, a hanging would be unlikely to benefit Ronald MacDonald Douglas either, all said and done. Furthermore, he told Douglas that it was known that he had been approached by German agents who had been offering help to Scottish Nationalists in order to subvert a potential enemy should war break out. Ronald MacDonald Douglas was only one of the many Scottish Nationalists who rejected these Nazi advances outright. However, he was well aware of the harm which any suggestion that he might be in the pay of Nazi Germany would do to his cause.
There was only one way out for all concerned, the Lord Advocate explained. He would authorise the release of Douglas pending further investigation in his charge of High Treason. During this freedom, Douglas should proceed to The Irish Free State, there to remain forever in exile. With the gallows as alternative, this was an offer difficult to refuse and Ronald MacDonald Douglas slipped over to Ireland where he was to stay for over thirty years.
When he eventually returned it was to the hopeful West Lothian By-Election atmosphere, in which he found new scope for his literary attentions, editing "CATALYST" the magazine of the 1320 Club which he helped launch in December 1967. By this time, Winifred Ewing had won her historic epic victory in Hamilton and the modern Independence struggle had lifted off in earnest.
Ronald MacDonald Douglas had little time for the political manoeuverings of the SNP and anyway was quite unwelcome among its ranks due to his long term openly stated support for a military initiative in order to achieve Scottish Independence. He worked during the late sixties and early seventies through the medium of the 1320 Club and made his mark in the magazine articles which he wrote or edited for "Catalyst". Like every other Scot worthy of the name, he was ecstatic in 1974 when Scottish Independence seemed just around the corner, and like every other Scot worthy of the name, he was emotionally damaged by the events of 1979, from which we have only recently recovered, as a movement and as a people. This notwithstanding the political sop presented to us at this time and laughingly called The Scottish Parliament.
He was until his death in 1984, a fiery and passionate ultra-nationalist who lived only for the day when Scotland would be free and take its rightful place in the world . Strongly opinionated but never selfish, he remained first and foremost a practical and realistic man and in 1981 when he felt his strength failing, he transferred the membership and the remaining funds of The 1320 Club to the new and more vigorous Siol nan Gaidheal organisation, the first manifestation of our own Siol nan Gaidheal (now in its third manifestation).
It is known that just after the massive set-back of 1979, Douglas was approached by a group of young Scottish Nationalists who wanted him to turn over his still hidden arms cache. This he utterly refused to do as it would have been tatamount to "an old man being the cause of the untimely deaths of young men, which is the ultimate self-indulgence". This was the measure of the man. By the same token his advice to the many young Scottish Nationalists who visited him in his days was "Don't die in bed, and Scotland still unfree. That is what I am doing here and the pain, of not acting when I had the chance and when I was young and fit, is unbearable. Don't let mealy-mouthed politicians set the agenda or Scotland may never be reborn ".
But right up to the end he still would not say where his guns were.
The ultimate measure of a true patriot of real moral fibre can be detected in this philosophy of action of Ronald MacDonald Douglas in that he who would have gladly given up his own life, would not consider for an instant, encompassing the deaths of others.
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