Siol nan Gaidheal
Michael Strathern was born in Rutherglen, Glasgow and was educated in Gourock and Dundee, he joined the Merchant Navy at nineteen, and in 1943 he was seconded to the Free French Merchant Navy. After twelve years at sea, visiting 45 countries and thrice circumnavigating the world, he concluded that "man's destiny was not to bob around the ocean in a tin can", and finally took up residency of a croft in Benderloch, Argyll, where, as well as growing his own potatoes, he hoped to blend and develop his two obsessions - A passionate love of his native land and a total commitment to world peace.
Michael was convinced that Scots must make an early decision - either to terminate their history and be absorbed by their numerically superior neighbour or "to be a Nation again". Strathern was unimpressed by the argument that although self-government is an accepted way of life for every other nation in Europe, it is somehow morally wrong for the Scottish people.
Michael was a strong supporter of the first Siol nan Gaidheal Movement and frequently spoke in their defence or on their behalf during the War-of-Words between themselves and the Scottish National Party. Michael did in fact elect to become a member of "Siol" and was involved until he found himself becoming more and more at odds with the militant wing emerging from the ranks of SnG and who were at that time clamouring for more "Direct Action".
Even when Michael Strathern left 1st Siol nan Gaidheal, such was his popularity that Nationalists of all types still sought his advice and guidance. Michael had more than his fair share of attention from the "Firm" (Special Branch), he was questioned on numerous occasions by officers from this department, and was utterly convinced that his telephone was "tapped". When the brass "Eagle Lectern" was covertly returned from "over the border", Michael was questioned about the identity of the perpetrators and of its whereabouts, Strathern was fond of telling the story of the "anonymous" phone call made to S.B. Headquarters, informing them that "The Eagle has Landed and is buried in Strathern's field". Michael relates his surprise "on arising one morning to discover a gang of 'workmen' digging up his field for an unspecified drainage problem". After they had given up their fruitless search, Michael thanked them for their work, and asked if it would be alright now to plant his potatoes in the newly furrowed field. Michael has great difficulty in remembering their exact reply, except to mention their fine grasp of the anglo-saxon vernacular.
Michael was able to relate this and many other stories like it, always emphising the humour of each episode rather than dwell on the intrusion of his privacy, the verbal abuse and the many other minor humiliations he endured from government appointee's and their minions, all because of his nationalist belief's and involvement in the cause.
When Michael was approached by members of the 2nd Siol nan Gaidheal movement, he had no hesitation in pledging himself to their organisation, and later, proudly accepted the position of Honorary President. To Michael, this was no empty appointment, he immediately applied his experience, insight, knowledge and determination to the task at hand. It would be an understatement to say that Siol nan Gaidheal benefitted from his adherence, his energy, although in his seventies, put many a younger member to shame.
Michael proved himself as the most able spokesperson within the organisation, and when dealing with the many journalists, was always genuine in his approach. Although the very picture of a Highland crofter with his soft sibilent voice, any member of the press who mistakenly thought they were dealing with an old guy in his dotage, were very quick to discover that in fact, they were crossing swords with a very astute and worldly man who possessed a vast arsenal of quips that could cut you to the bone.
Over the last decade or so, it would have been almost impossible to read any article on the murder of Willie McRae without a reference to Michael Strathern. Prior to his murder, Willie and Michael were close friends with much in common, particularly in the field of Scottish Independence, those involved, and how best to achieve this goal. When Willie McRae was murdered, Michael and other friends founded (because of the frustration arising from the authorities determination to cover-up the true details of the death) the Willie McRae Society. Their remit was to uncover and expose those involved in the very obvious conspiracy and actual murder of one of the most prominent, able and active Scottish nationalists of the time. Michael spent much of his later life, writing to prominent public figures, urging them to support the growing demand for a public inquiry into Willie' death Michael also gave numerous interviews to pressmen from newspapers and magazines from around the world, in his determination to expose the sleazy details of the governments attempts to cover up the events of that period. The farcical outcome of the Lord Advocate's "findings", only served to increase Michael's determination to get at the truth. Michael Strathern remained true to the memory of Willie McRae right up until his own death a couple of years ago.
At the Siol nan Gaidheal "Ard-Fheis" (A.G.M.) Michael, having given his own contribution on stage, attended practically every "workshop" and helped with everything else, from catering to working in the creche, spending what was left of the evening, talking to the large number of young ultra-nationals in attendance. Michael began with a short Scottish history lesson, went on to politics and ended with a discourse on what it meant to be a member of Siol nan Gaidheal.
Michael Strathern had the ability to "get through" to anyone despite the age difference, and could assume the mantle of an Old Testament prophet, thundering on about Scotland, as easily as he could assume the role of a benign grandfather, telling his grandchildren stories of William Wallace and The Bruce. Michael's belief in the need for Scottish independence was total, at times, almost fanatical, he could easily infuse his listeners with the same enthusiasm.
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