Just to reassure Sheona before she corrects me. I know that is not the toast.
It is, of course, ‘Here’s tae us. Wha’s like us? Damn few and they’re a’ deid.’ A typically modest, unassuming, totally correct and utterly justifiable sentiment used when we foregather to celebrate our good fortune in being Scots. But, it would seem that the title version of this post might be the right one for some of those not so blessed.
To explain, I have been brushing up on my Scottishness in order to confound and confuse those rabid Nats who insist that anybody voting ‘No’ must be ashamed of said Scottishness. I’m not, and I believe that we are just like everybody else. No better and no worse. For the avoidance of doubt, I also believe that we are definitely better when joined together in one Country with our English, Welsh and Northern Irish kith and kin.
My latest source material has been ‘The Mark of the Scots’ by Duncan A Bruce. His Scots ancestors diasporated to the USA. He is a native of Pittsburgh but yields to none in his admiration of our sterling qualities and of our many achievements in nearly every field of human endeavour and in most parts of the globe.
I’m not going to call him a liar but I do sometimes feel that we are talking tenuous. Take Philosophy. I knew about David Hume, Jamie MacNab and Adam Smith* but I did not realise that Immanuel Kant (grandfather ‘Cant’, an emigrant to Prussia), John Stuart Mill (Dad a ‘Milne’ who moved to London) and Bertrand Russell (allegedly proud of his descent from Robert the Bruce and with a Scottish grandmother, Countess Russell, who was one of his strongest childhood influences) could also be elected to the Caledonian Hall of Philosophical Fame. I’m now just wondering if Renee Descartes’ ancestors came from the banks of the River Cart in Weegieland.
Och, it’s a grand telling of our glorious history. It fair makes your chest puff out with pride when you read about that well-known Jock, Richard Milhouse Nixon (descended from the Armstrongs of Dumfriesshire, apparently) chatting away to his kinsman Neil on the Moon using the telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell whilst the world’s millions watched on the televisions which John Logie Baird had a hand in creating. There’s a lot more in the same vein.
And yet and yet. Despite the roll of honour that David A Bruce unfolds, there’s an undercurrent that even he records. As background history, Scots had little chance of making it in England until Jamie Sax rolled south in 1603 taking a few hard-working fellow countrymen with him who successfully managed to get right up Sassenach noses in short order.
Not that the Southrons had been our fans before then. Witness the boy WS in ‘Henry V’:-
‘But there’s a saying very old and true,
‘If that you will France win,
Then with Scotland first begin:’
For once the eagle England being in prey,
To her unguarded nest the weasel Scot
Comes sneaking and so sucks her princely eggs,
Playing the mouse in absence of the cat,
To tear and havoc more than she can eat.’
Fair enough, in my opinion. We were, after all, allies of the French and we had had to dig their sorry arses out of the mud of their defeat at Agincourt by sending our finest to France to shore them up.
Not that they thanked us. Until we knocked off Hal’s brother, Clarence, at Bauge, their main complaint was that we spent our time eating all their meat and drinking all their wine. And MaidofOrleans has never thanked me for the fact that Joan of Arc would never have got to Orleans to relieve the defenders (led by the Scots Bishop Carmichael) had it not been for her Scots bodyguard who accompanied her because the Frogs were too feart.
Anyhow, even after 1603, we could not properly upset the English by being better than them because they barred us from their trade and their colonies. It was only after the Act of Union in 1707, when they could no longer bar us, that we were able to really rile them. So, we spent the time until then, if Mr Bruce is to be believed, sailing off to other nations and upsetting them with our work ethic and our business acumen.
I do worry if the EU will let us in after Independence, given Mr Bruce’s reporting of our track record of hacking off the Danes, the Poles, the French, the Dutch and the Germans in times past.
Of which more in due course.
* Mea culpa for the original omission and thanks to Janus.