Living To See It
I just needed to get it out of my system
I want to live to see my country stand on both feet and link arms with all the other free nations of this world.
My Dad didn’t have that luxury. He died, aged 54, as a result of Margaret Thatcher’s inexorable struggle with Working Man. You think I’m overstating the case? My dad worked for the National Coal Board. He rose every morning; rain or shine, well or wabbit. He had two grand passions – Scotland and his family. He didn’t much care for the Unions, although they scored far higher than the Tories. Yet here’s the thing: he recognised that his future rested with his own kind, whilst his destruction was plotted in Westminster. Working was his life. Providing for his family. Then they said, ‘Sorry, Jimmy, no work for you. No work for any of us.’ Heart-weary, cynically abused, and in despair of a future for his family, he slipped neath the surface.
He was always in favour of our independence. He had grown up during the time of the Scottish Covenant. He was aware of the forgotten Home Rule Bill of 1913, shelved for the duration of the Great War. He was one of 2,000,000 Scots who signed the Covenant, out of a population of 5.1 million. Can you imagine that? 40% of our country took the time and trouble to sign a Covenant asking for change. Asking for a Federal solution which PM Herbert Asquith felt was the proper road twenty years earlier. In 1979 my Dad thought his dream fulfilled. Scotland voted, by a fairly narrow majority, to have its own government. Dad’s dream wasn’t realised. The cynical and knowing conditions imposed on the Referendum were that we had to achieve 40% of the vote. Lethargy and inaction saw a voting turnout of 64%. The strength of my father’s desire to live till we were free did not match his poor physical condition. Hell hold you in its tight grasp Margaret Thatcher.
Dad signed that Covenant, though he was never politically active. My maw was the patriot. Dad indulged her. He enjoyed the songs, the stories. He revelled, as did I, in tales of The Bruce. Black Agnes; William Wallace; Black Douglas. She gave us her version of Gaelic Mouth music. Her passing fine impersonation of Harry Lauder and of course, those peerless Burns’ songs and poetry. It was immersion therapy; culture imbibed, absorbed through the skin, engraved on my youthful heart. Pretty much what Robert Burns said: ‘The story of Wallace poured a Scottish prejudice in my veins which will boil along there till the flood-gates of life shut in eternal rest.’. We are all one people, says Teresa May. One People? My painted, Pictish backside, Prime Minister…
We are the new Children of Israel;
the twelfth tribe,
far from the land of Canaan.
Let our People go.
Working with simple straw and mud
we built a once far-flung Empire.
Holding to our own Gods
we spurned the unholy cow
who birthed this decade’s Golden Calf.
Let our People go.
Stiff-necked, proud and unrepentant
we eat the bitter herbs
of what has become our Passover.
Slaves to an Old Etonian Pharaoh;
the long lost tribe of Europe.
Let our People go.
Yet mark my words, 0′ Egypt;
this Union is not written in Stone.
These pyramids we wrought for you
will stand to mark Scotia’s Exodus.
‘O Lord, next year in Jerusalem.’
And me? I missed all the turbulence. 23 years in the Navy, under the illusion I was serving my country. I came late to the understanding that I gave and received loyalty to, and from my shipmates. I lived with Irishmen, Englishmen, Ulstermen, men of Malta and Hong Kong. We didn’t pay heed to Nationality. We didn’t pay heed to politics, to be sure. But I didn’t believe in Monarchy, and I did believe that I was different from my mates. That difference was written in my DNA, in those complex strands that laymen call tribal memory. Well? why should we be different from the animals? I’m a Celt. I’d do anything for my Naval brethren, but I don’t want them to govern me unless they are Scots like me. I know that now. I always did I think, I simply held it deep inside. I did what I could for Mum and Dad during the strikes. What I didn’t do was share his dream. I hope he knows now that I willingly shoulder the weight of all our expectations.
The longing is biblical in me. Mum won’t now see our freedom either. It’s up tae me tae pit ma heid doon, an trudge this uncompromising highway. But they’re there still… And on that great ‘Come and Get It’ day, when Scotland’s rebirth is posted on the steps of Bute House, I’ll see my folks again..
Jock Tamson’s Bairns
Itinerant Scots, those vital sons of optimism,
Made our world a smaller, safer place.
The life’s blood of the Bloody British Empire,
Such an ethnic aberration for a Jock.
We gave birth to countless smaller nations.
Pulled them to their feet and left them standing tall.
It’s a source of pride, tae bide amang their children.
For we’re all of us Jock’s Bairns underneath.
We’ve the head for trade, the head for heights,
and hands to guide a ploughshare.
The eyes to see injustice,
and the drive to set men free.
And it’s true we cry when singing of our country.
So our neighbour thinks we’re decadent and weak.
Haven’t got the wealth, yet wrote “The Wealth of Nations”.
Haven’t got the strength, yet won’t kneel in defeat.
And we boast the pen that made us mankind’s brother.
One another, that’s the Guinea stamp; not Coin.