Siol nan Gaidheal


The Scottish Brits - Argument 3

Several centuries ago, an English writer complained of the English invaders of Ireland that they had become Hiberniores Hibernicis Ipsis, and there may have been an element of truth in what he wrote; but recognising all humour for what it is worth, no-one today may become more Irish than the Irish.

A foreigner may write of Ireland - and, since the foreigner who writes of Ireland is usually an Englishman, the result is not too happy from the Irishman's point of view. I know the feeling; for the Scot, to, has suffered, and continues to suffer, from the Englishman's "charming" insolence and "well-meaning" patronage. Regard the weighty G.K.Chesterton.

"I am quite certain", says Chesterton, in his 'All Things Considered', "that all our success with Scotland has been due to the fact that we have in spirit treated it as a nation."

After that little exhibition of English charm and tolerance towards England's northern province, Chesterton goes on to explain that he is certain that Ireland is a nation; he is also certain that nationality is the key to Ireland - whatever that may mean; and he is quite certain that all England's failure in Ireland arose from the fact that the English would not in spirit treat Ireland as a nation. But his heftiest, and his most squashy, pat on the back he extends to the Scots: "It is not," he says, "that we (the English) have encouraged a Scotchman to be rich; it is not that we have encouraged a Scotchman to be active; it is not that we have encouraged a Scotchman to be free. It is that we have quite definitely encouraged a Scotchman to be Scotch."
And that's that!

And that's the sort of thing that goes by the name of English friendliness. That is also the sort of thing that drives an Irishman to cleaning his gun, and a Scotsman to - clearing his throat! Anyhow, I for one don't need Chesterton or any other Sasunnach to encourage me towards freedom, or to encourage me to be a Scot.

However, I have only used Chesterton to show where the patriotic Scot stands in his relationship with Ireland. The English government has done its damnedest to keep us apart, particularly by the deliberate use of Scottish-uniformed troops in Ireland - especially now in the north-east. Anyhow, if the Englishman is a foreigner in Ireland, the Scot is not - and that for far more reasons than that once Ireland rocked the ancient cradle of his race. For far too long the related but severed people of Ireland and Scotland have remained apart. Fundamentally the fault lies not with ourselves. The fault lies with those who for centuries split and re-split Ireland, as split still she is; with those who perpetuate the lie of the so-called "Highland Line" in Scotland, whereby the Irish, and the outer world, and we ourselves, are led to believe that the Scots are a divided people. Unfortunately we are; but the division does not rest on a racial basis, any more than the division of Ireland rests entirely on a religious one. What division there is in Scotland is due mainly to our own stupidity in that we are ready to swallow any and every lie that we are told. The Irish are not far behind us in that. The Celts are a guileless people. But at last a few of us are beginning to wake up. The Fingalians are on their elbows: another blast on the horn and they may be on their feet.

In the meantime, we are still being told in Scotland - although we are slowly beginning to see the drift of the lying argument - that north of an arbitrarily drawn line there are wild and lazy Gaels, and south of it there are douce and industrious Saxons - not that they have much to be industrious about nowadays when all our industry is being deliberately ruined to fill England's insatiable maw. In the same way, most of the people of north-east Ulster still believe that they and the people of the rest of Ireland are alien to each other.

A great game it is, and long has it lasted. On this topic, the Irish historian, Alice Stopford Green, has a trenchant passage of considerable interest. In "The Old Irish World" she wrote:

"The new school of American-Irish, who under the influence of the 'Anglo-Saxon' enthusiasm, or with a desire to be on the winning side, lay claim to a 'Scotch' descent, ignore the historical meaning of the word 'Scot', or the origin of the name 'Scotland'. In vain for them authentic history may tell of the ceaseless wanderings of the Gaelic people across the narrow seas. From Ireland the Scots in early times spread over the Hebrides and Western Highlands, and carried their settlements and speech over the Lowlands of the Picts… leaving the western and middle Lowlands the most Celtic region of Scotland. Irish folk settled freely in Scotland… Inter-marriage was very frequent at all times. Back to Ireland again came streams of immigrants from the 'Scot' or Irish settlements across the water. The mingled race of Celts and Norse from the Hebrides and the Highlands, all alike talking Irish and claiming Irish descent, poured colonies into Ireland without ceasing from 1250 to 1600, fore-fathers of hundreds of thousands today of Irish family. The western and middle Lowlands (along with the 'Highlands') sent from 1600 the main body of settlers of the Irish Plantation, chiefly of Picto-Celtic stock; most of the first settlers must have been bi-lingual, speaking not only 'Broad Scots' but their native Gaelic, which in 1589 was still the chief language of Galloway. Scots and Irish were the same to Henry VIII, whose servant Alen protested in 1549 against any ''liberty' for the Irish, which, he said was "the only thing that Scots and wild Irish constantly clamoured for…". In 1630 the scholar Bedell included Irish and Scots in one single group… The old Irish of Ulster in 1641 excepted the Scots from their hostile measures as being of their own race, and this only a generation after the Plantation, when most of the evicted Irish must have been still alive. Jeremy Taylor in 1667 describes the Scots and Irish of north-east Ulster as 'populus unius labii and unmingled with others'. Over whole districts, where half the population at least were Presbyterian descendants of Scottish immigrants, the speech of the people even in the eighteenth century was Gaelic. For some fourteen centuries, indeed, common schools of learning, a common literature, common national festivals, maintained the unbroken tradition of unity of race."

I have not quoted Mrs Stopford Green merely in order to confirm what everyone should know of the close racial relationship between the Irish and the Scots. I have quoted her, for one thing, to ram home to that bigoted and disgruntled minority in Scotland who, under English influence, shout so loudly at intervals of the Irish 'problem' and the Irish 'menace' in the south-west, that maybe Irish has a 'Scottish' problem and a 'Scottish' menace in the north-east; and to show them that they had better shut up - unless, of course, they are looking for another suaip!

I have also quoted Mrs Stopford Green for what she has to say about the western and middle 'Lowlands' of Scotland being the most Celtic region in the country. I am forever arguing this point in an endeavour to ram the lie about the "Highland Line" down the throats of our English 'divide and conquer' propagandists. These gentry know quite well that the three main constituent races of Scotland - the Picts and the Scots (both Celts) and the Scandinavians (a small minority) - mingled and mixed centuries ago; but it does not suit their book to admit it. Certainly there are still areas of particular racial densities, but for all practical purposes the people of Scotland are by now one racial whole.

And if these "Highland Liners" base their argument on the fact that Gaelic is the language of none but the Scoto-Scandinavians of the north-west, I can only ask how it is that so many of the place-names and personal names of the south-east and the Borders are of Gaelic origin, while nearly all the place-names, if not all the personal names, of the Islands and the north-west are not only of Scandinavian origin, but are still most definitely nothing but Scandinavian? I know the answer; so, too, do the "Highland Liners". Local language under any form of imperialism is no criterion of racial origin. There were Romanised Brythons who spoke nothing but Latin; Breton is moribund in Brittany; Celtic Cornwall is English-speaking to a man; there are still Kerry Irishmen who speak nothing but English; and, if it comes to that, there are Indians in Goa who speak only Portuguese. And is the English-speaking full-blooded African of the Louisiana plantations an Englishman?

The "Highland Liners" can't have it all ways - or even both ways; and as Mrs Stopford Green points out, the Gaelic was the chief language of Galloway right up until, she says, nearly the end of the sixteenth century. It is only on that date that I will quarrel with her, for, as a matter of strict fact, pure Gaelic was spoken in Galloway and Ayr - right in the south of Scotland - far into the seventeenth century, and in a debased form it was spoken until the middle of the eighteenth century; indeed, in an extreme and deeply debased form it is still - or was until just before the last war - spoken all over Scotland in those areas from which the true Gaelic has receded. What is the fabric of the so-called "Broad Scots" that is now, or was until very recently, spoken from Galloway to Moray - and that to a certain extent is spoken in Ulster? If it is an Old English-Gothic mixture in the warp, it is Gaelic in the woof: forty per cent of its words are of Gaelic origin. And if the heather mixture that it is was woven on an English-made loom, then it was woven by a drunken piper who knew far more of Gaelic music than he did of English mechanics - or phonetics.

Ronald MacDonald Douglas, 1992
These arguments are, in the main, derived from some of the author's articles which appeared originally in 'Catalyst' Magazine (The 1320 Club, Edinburgh) and 'The Irish Book' (Talbot Press, Dublin) and reprinted from the Siol nan Gaidheal magazine, 1992.


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