S is for…..Scotland

24th August 2020

My family came from Scotland with strong roots on both my mother’s and father’s side. I didn’t get to know it well before I died last year, but I visited a few times.

Much of it, perhaps most of it, is very beautiful, really stunning when the weather’s clear.  My wife and I climbed Goatfell on the Isle of Arran, the highest mountain on the Island. We took the ferry from Ardrossan early in a summer morning.

We could see across to the Paps of Dura in the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Bute in the Clyde, and across to the Southern Uplands. It was a simple walk up, much stone paved, but going down towards The Saddle the going was very poor and we took much longer than anticipated.

The path had been heavily eroded, and is in any event steep. We came back down the valley and only just made the last ferry back to the mainland where we were staying in a B & B.

It was August 2014, just before the Scottish independence referendum, brought on by the SNP or Scottish National Party.

I think I will continue on this theme under S is for…..SNP as this deserves more thought.

So instead let’s look at the meaning of Scotland. Well, Wikipedia says

“Oman derives it from Scuit, proposing a meaning of ‘a man cut off’, suggesting that a Scuit was not a Gael as such but one of a renegade band settled in the part of Ulster which became the kingdom of Dál Riata [4] but ‘Scuit’ only exists in Old Irish as ‘buffoon/laughing-stock’ ” see link below for more info.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etymology_of_Scotland

Scot is a tax, so getting off Scot-free means paying no taxes. Unlike present day Scots who have to pay rather more than most. Don’t think you are getting value for money myself.

Related words are ‘scut’ meaning amongst other things, distasteful work. Or ‘scat’ meaning animal dropping.

None of which improves matters regarding Scotland.

But it has been called Caledonia in the past. It looks like this means ‘Hard ones’, with makes sense of their fierce warlike nature, ‘red-headed and long limbed’. That’s better than animal dropping or if you will excuse the word ‘Shit’. Shitland, land of the brave, land of the shits.

The ‘Alba’ of the Gaelic name for the SNP certainly means ‘White’, like Albion. And Gaelic is what is spoken in Scotland, at least by some. It is obvious what Gaelic means. Windy. Scotland is the land of the Gaels, or gales. Just swap 2 letters round and you have it.

And there is a lot of wind in Scotland, which is why wind power is so prevalent. However, I think that rather than peppering the land with unsightly turbines they should stick them outside that monstrosity called the Scottish Parliament Building. Plenty of wind emanating from there.

I say ‘monstrosity’. To be fair it looks ok if it was a series of blocks of flats. But it is all very well having a building that looks good, but it must be functional too.

It is referred to as a complex. Just plain complicated would do. My past experience as a building surveyor tells me it will be expensive to maintain just by looking at it. The internet tells me that is the case.

And the records on line outline a catalogue of errors and overspend. It doesn’t look as though it will last that long. That’s a relief. Might suit a dry continental climate, but not the wet and windy Scottish one, even if on the dryer eastern side of the country.

But it’s in Edinburgh, and Edinburgh is otherwise typically beautiful and well laid out. Lovely Georgian buildings in superb sandstone. The Royal Mile and its castle on its igneous plug (presumably to stop the water draining away).

National Galleries with excellent art. Arthur’s seat to climb and take in the view. I like this website which has some very good descriptions and photographs of the owner’s choice of best views around the city.

https://www.thechaoticscot.com/best-views-edinburgh/

There is so much to see in Scotland. My image of Scotland has been very much coloured by the black and white films of Ealing Studios. There’s an oxymoron for you!

What about ‘The Maggie’? A Clyde Puffer boat, a small cargo vessel that plied the west coast. A wonderful cast including Tommy Kearins as Dougie, the wee boy.

Or ‘Whiskey Galore’ about the shipwreck of a consignment of whiskey during World War Two, which the inhabitants of the fictitious Hebridean Island ‘rescue’. Captian Waggett, the local Home Guard commander, wants to protect the cargo.

It is a very funny film. I liked it when George Campbell, played by Gordon Jackson, stands up his mother and insists he will marry his sweetheart.

Alexander Mackendrick, the director apparently said the following as recorded in Wikipedia.

“I began to realise that the most Scottish character in Whisky Galore! is Waggett the Englishman. He is the only Calvinist, puritan figure – and all the other characters aren’t Scots at all: they’re Irish!”

Well, I liked whiskey, or whisky, called ‘Water of life’ or ‘uisge beatha’ in the Gaelic. But not all whisky. That is I found Glenmorangie much to my liking. Each to his own I suppose.

Not that I would want to get drunk on it, or any alcohol for that matter. I might fall off my Cloud. It’s a long way down you know. Still, the angels would catch me I’m sure.

There is one further film I would mention. ‘I Know Where I’m Going!’ with Roger Livesey and Wendy Hiller. You can, as always, look it up. I recommend watching it. Wonderfully romantic. I am an old softy at heart.

Roger Livesey plays Torquil MacNeil, the Laird of Kiloran. There is a curse on the Lairds of Kiloran because of something an ancestor did.

The ending just pulls at your heart strings and stirs the emotions. The curse is  ‘if a MacNeil of Kiloran dares step over the threshold of Moy, he shall be chained to a woman to the end of his days, “and will die in his chains”’.

It reminds me of Jesus Christ and His bride, His people. He died that they might be free. But God raised Him up, resurrected Him with a new body. And new bodies will be given to His people too.

He is coming back, and He won’t be leaving again. He will be in the midst of His people and in a sense, chained to them. But with chains of love.

And Scotland, Bonnie Scotland as it can be called (from the French ‘Bon’ meaning good), will be free from all that spoils it.

Of course, Bonnie Scotland is technically another oxymoron, based on the meaning of Scot.

So perhaps it might be worth coming up with a name worthy of its beauty.

Any ideas?