Siol nan Gaidheal
Observations and Remembrances:
The Scottish Diaspora
An article contributed by various of our forum guests from the U.S.A. and Canada
LET NO ONE think to narrow cast our people to those living within Scotland's ancient borders. We, as a race, are spread far and wide and at once bound in immutable commonality.
At this time it is not possible to put a number on how many in the Diaspora favour independence. Pose the question and your response is most often positive and emphatic. There is great support in the international Scots community for home rule. In our opinion, this will manifest itself as international recognition for Scotland come the declaration. We the authors of this article (with the possible exception of the Anglo-Saxon contribution) without reservation, favour the notion of a free and independent Scotland. Further to the article, it is our hope that this work will bring our cousins at home closer to the experience of millions of Scots outwith their native land.
Devolution and the Scots in Toronto, Canada Excerpts from:The Michael Corin Show, CFRB 1010 AM Radio Toronto, Canada Air date: Monday, Sept. 21, 1997 Re: Christina Blizzard column in Toronto (Sunday) Sun Sept., 20, 1997 Subject: On Scots, Scotland and devolution.
Editor's note: Michael Corin and Christina Blizzard are "colonials" according to those who would limit input into the debate on Scottish independence. While no one would suggest that they don't have the right to voice their opinion's there are those who would wish to silence pro independence "colonials" and "damn Yanks". This is the reason (and to highlight that feelings differ little with geography) their words were included.
Michael Corin: What's all this, I mean, you know, attacking their beards and kilts and talking, and the Scots, are you anti-Scottish?
Christina Blizzard: No, I'm not, I'm not really anti-Scottish. I'm just getting a little bit insulted by the vigour with which they are celebrating devolution. It's not as if the English, it's not as if they are sharing an island with Saddam Hussein or Idi Amin. This is the cradle of parliamentary democracy. Ah, union, union was forged on the equal basis between England and Scotland and Northern Ireland and Wales, its not something that was forced on them by, ah, by dictators.
Michael Corin: Christina Blizzard, ah, is with us. She wrote a column yesterday in the Toronto Sun about Scotland and um, said a few pretty hard and harsh things about Scotland. But I think many of them have a foundation in truth. Certainly there has been, I believe, a rewriting of history.
Gathering Song: Over the Water (Excerpts from a poem by Diane M. Bliss)
But do those Falls run red from the hunt?
Do they curtain the game's hiding home cave
from the screams of Culloden's nameless children?
The ashes of emptied roofs cover stone
houses that crumble from fear, and lonely
the bloodstone that protects you, the stone
of the hollowed mountain;
pile if you pass this way, the stone.
You are not stone hard cold tears
wetting walls never left, stone heart's cave.
The Falls runs white like the soul of a sail.
An American of Scottish descent
Yesterday there was a funeral on the hill. There, next to a Celtic cross, another casket waited to be lowered into the earth of this rocky ground. The piper had played "Amazing Grace", for that is almost always required...and he began to circle the new grave sun-wise, moving over the uneven ground of the hillside in his soft leather, high-laced leg moccasins which came to below his knee and the swaying hunting tartan kilt . Everyone stood in deep respect and a sad, but proud awe of the very ancient tradition as he made his three circuits, after which he nodded his head reverently and backed away to receive the grateful hug and kiss from one of the mourning daughters. We have been in this new land a very long time, we are still Scots. The Piper had played "We Shall Return Home to Kintail". Will we ever go back to that beautiful land of the Five Sisters? Oh, yes.... and we have done so, yet it is with a passport in the pocket and the knowledge that we are not expected to stay. We are aliens now, outcasts, the dispossessed from the land of our ancestors. The English couple who run the B&B down in Ardelve are not aliens, but we, whose ancestors once carried the germ of our being in their bodies as they walked those same paths so long ago, we are foreigners. We carry the customs and the speech of those forebears, and I sometimes fear that a bit of the sadness and anger which comes upon us when we are in the clan country, after the initial elation has worn off, might also be a part of what we have inherited.
We are told that the folk who first came out from Scotland never spoke of their own lives there. They gave us their outlooks and customs, saw us to the pipes, the dancing and some of the songs and old stories, but they never shared stories of their own lives or what had happened to them as individuals and families. We were always left to piece that part of the whole together for ourselves. Of course it was not easy for them. Those men and women who came out of the land of stone and seawater into the forests, the ice and snow of Canada or the Mohawk Valley or the Adirondacks had many a hard row to hoe. The men used to wrap their feet in pieces of old blanket or carpet material lashed about their ankles with cord, or put newspaper around their feet inside of their boots to keep from frost-bite. Some of them got work for the Hudson Bay Company as traders, for the Red Indian seemed somehow to be more trusting of the Scots, and especially the Highlanders whom they saw to have ideas very similar to their own. One of my great uncles is buried on an holy burial island among the native people there. As for the women, it would be impossible to praise them enough. Almost every one of them had followed more than one child's coffin to the burial ground, and they worked constantly. There were children and husbands to doctor and get back on their feet, soap to be made from their own wood-ashes and saved fat or tallow. They taught the value of contentment and the good feeling which one feels in a house that is filled with the smells of stew on the fire, baked bread, scones and bannocks. They found time to read to the children and ask riddles of them to keep their minds sharp. Outside of the house, the snow could be drifting and the wind howling, but those women knew how to create an island of warmth and security in the midst of a very hostile climate.
In late summer they would gather berries and would set a bowl of berries before each family member at the evening meal along with a pitcher of milk, and the woman would perhaps say, " Now what king or queen could sit down to see a bowl of jewels more beautiful than these?" As a result, there are many of our folk who still do these things. The forests are cleared for fields now, but there is still firewood to cut, fences to mend and plenty of hard work. The kitchens still smell of baking bread and of something good on the fire.... and as it has always been there is always plenty to share with the unexpected person to come through the door. " Have you had your dinner? Well, sit down there and be quiet! We have more than enough!" (We are still Scots.)
We gathered at the house of the mourning family after the funeral and everyone had a bite to eat from the vast quantity of food that had been brought by friends and we had a glass or two as well: "Slainte!" as the glasses touched. Across the lawn from the house stretched the new seeding of the neighbour lad who loves the land but who works at computer problem solving for a wage supplement. He also cuts and sells some firewood, but has to go away for awhile to a Technical College to sharpen his skills He says that he will not move to a city, for he likes the clan lifestyle and feels that he could not bear to be away from these folk. (We are not Scots?).
Soon we will be celebrating St. Andrews Day with a Ceilidh. It's an annual event, one at which we still drink a dram after toasting over a bowl of water. We still honour the Royal House of Stewart. But there is another toast immediately afterward..." God Bless America.... where we have been allowed to be Scots!" Oh, Yes! We are still Scots! Let no one say otherwise!
(Devolution excerpts cont.)
Michael Corin: "Giddy Scots, slavering into their unkempt beards, um, the only freedom a large number of beer swilling revellers have exercised is their right to show bad fashion sense." You talk about welfare checks, I mean it's all, it's a bit nasty.
Christina Blizzard: Well, I mean, what are they getting from devolution? If you look at this, um, their own legislature and a limited right to taxation. Well, you know, I'm surprised that the Scots actually voted to be taxed.
The Seed of Our Fathers - An open letter
With anticipation a young family glimpses the land they will soon call home. Packed amongst the modest possessions are those that speak to their past. Family portraits that date to photography's earliest days, a prized object, coveted for once belonging to an ancestor, kilts and bagpipes and other assorted icons of culture. With the future at hand, the past is never far behind.
Good Scots will raise their children as good Scots. When the physical reminders of home are broken or lost, families continue to pass down their stories, genealogies and superstitions and always the reminder "Remember, you are of Scottish extraction." From time to time in antique shops, you may encounter objects that came across with the earliest migrants. Part of a stained glass window bearing the chiefly arms of MacDonell of Glengarry, dessert spoons engraved with the Duke of Hamilton's crest and dating from 1794, the peculiarly Scottish rams horn snuff mull. If you attend one of the numerous highland games around North America you will encounter the offspring of those migrants (more often than not sporting a kilt). There is no need to remind anyone here that they are of Scottish extraction.
My immigrant parents spent their most productive forty-five years in Canada. Carefully accumulated wages now allowing them some security in decline. By their own measure, three sons and six grandchildren present life's greatest satisfaction. We remain the children of "the children of the mist".
Living apart from the land of my parents, the odd notion of being somehow incomplete has been with me for every remembered millisecond of my life. The graves in which the earthly remains of my ancestors lay to a man or woman, remain remote and inaccessible. The shared experiences of generations, each in turn a ward of the land that nurtured his fathers. The legions of cousins who are familiar strangers, while I now live in a land of strangers. It's the price every immigrant family will pay, put simply; I need no reminder that I am of Scottish extraction.
(Devolution excerpts cont.)
Christina Blizzard: Well I, I mean, don't, don't you think that after a while when you've been picked on for so long you finally get tired of it and say look, let's just ah, ah you know, take a look around and see what's really happened. Um and, you know, the whole history is being portrayed in this bizarre, this bizarre fashion. Union, the union of, um of, that formed the United Kingdom was based on um, on equal partnerships, a it, ah Scotland benefited economically great, ah very greatly from Union. There's always been ah, ah, you know, until, until recent movies and this sort of um, romantic, romanticism of history ah, there's always been a fairly cordial um, you know, ah, friendship between England and Scotland um, James the 1st of course was Scottish, he was, he was James the 6th. of Scotland.
Christina Blizzard: I mean I don't see this as being racist, I don't really view the Scots as being a particularly different race. From, ah, ah, you know, I just don't consider this a racial issue. I do, I do think that I'm, that the English have put up with an awful lot frankly.
The Home Fire
In the home of my uncle, as a young lad, I remember the sound of his voice and the rich Scot's accent he had, as he showed me pictures of the Scottish castles and landscapes in his collection and the history behind them, from the kitchen the smell of shortbread baking, the best I ever had.
I remember my father showing me maps of Scotland and telling me stories about Nessie, I remember going to gatherings and hearing the sounds of the pipe bands.
I am a Scot, born in America and raised in Scottish households. I have never been truly comfortable with being called an American, for in my chest beats the heart of a Scot.
Older now by many years, I still go to the gatherings now called games, to listen to the pipes, to talk with old friends and hear the sound of the Gaelic being spoken and sung. My heart is young again as the taste of fresh shortbread comes to me. My family is gone now but they left in me a love for my heritage and it's rich culture, one that has stood the relentless beating of time but still stands tall and proud!
(Devolution excerpts cont.)
Christina Blizzard: But, but, yea but the fact is the Scots do wear kilts. I mean, it's, it's, you know, are they, can we not criticise them for their bad fashion sense. I don't think its racism to, to, ah, to say look, you know, kilts went out five, ah you know, five hundred years ago um. We're on to trews and bellbottoms and that, ah, kind of thing, you know, I don't think that's, um, I don't think that that's racist. I think, um, ah it, I think that's just an observation. I don't really view Scots, I mean um, there are Scots of any number of different races, I am sure, but I don't really consider them to be um, you know, a separate racial group.
There have arisen in the last two and a half centuries two Scottish cultures, one being seated in the ancestral land, the other something less able to define, 'though thoroughly Scottish', in the lands and the hearts of the sons and daughters overseas.
The point is that much of what is Scottish has very little to do with the kilts that we wear, the pipes or the dancing and a great deal more with the way in which we see the world and other folk whom we meet. Of course these outward signs are terribly important and we're not about to give them up. This has always been Scotland's strength. This is why Scots have made their way in the world and are well thought of... our unique culture, but also our unique ability to see the good in others and with-hold judgement. We see what this has done for us and how it has enabled us to make tremendous contributions to mankind. All that is required is a level playing field. Canada gave us that as did the United States, Australia and New Zealand. The world needs Scotland. It needs a small determined nation to light a new path into this new age. No nation is better suited, Scotland's sons and daughters have proven that on every continent, under every circumstance. While empires and super-powers consume themselves a free Scotland will begin a new era in which smaller can mean better.
Now listen, child voices sound like streams singing
down the mountain
Your children dance naked along the pond's shore.
By firelight these old songs sound from spirit-tuned drones,
and at Locustbrae we gather, we gather love-bound hearts
to Locustbrae, our glasses raised to life
that has not died,
has not died,
has not died.
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