In the 70s I lived in a student flat, on a street off The Meadows. Not all of the people who lived there at different times were students – some worked in the Inland Revenue, which at the time was reckoned to be the most stressful part of the Civil Service, and some others were teachers. I worked in the Inland Reveue one summer myself, and didn’t find it stressful, but some of the LPs (I think they were called that, anyway, for London Provincial) were worse than others. At the one I was based in for a few weeks, everyone stopped working as soon as the boss went out the door, which seemed a bit pointless. I remember one day being allocated a particular job, which involved checking a printout for exceptions and I finished it the next day. This rather showed up the person who traditionally took a week to do the same job, and didn’t go down too well.
Anyway, one of the lads in the flat who had a job didn’t manage to get to work one Monday due to a late night, and went to the doctor’s surgery to get a line. When he came back, he told the rest of us that he’d been signed off for three weeks. Three weeks! But there was nothing wrong with him. What did the line say? He looked at it and finally managed to decipher the doctor’s handwriting. “It says I’ve got something called ‘general malaise'”
Wow. We all signed up for that doctor for future possible reference. He was a fair enough doctor, if a bit generous with the sickies, though he did once nearly gas me when he forgot to light his wee fire in his surgery.
At the present time, I’m suffering from general malaise as a result of what is almost certainly a kidney infection. I’ve had several of those in the past, along with kidney stones that are sometimes the cause, so I know the symptoms. I just want to doze, or lay down and do nothing except read, my lower back is very stiff, and there’s a slight fever. Here’s a list of possible symptoms for a kidney infection.
I don’t need a line, because I don’t have a job, but I’ll see about getting some treatment at the medical centre tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m getting through a bundle of books.
One of them is titled: Toppling the Duke: Outrage on Ben Bhraggie? by Rob Gibson. It’s more of a booklet, being only 57 A4 pages. I wouldn’t recommend it, because the author has an inaccurate perspective on history, citing rubbish by John Prebble as an authority on the Clearances, and he is obviously very biased in reporting on the subject of the booklet, which is about the shenanigans of some SNP councillors who tried to get the monument to the Duke of Gordon, which sits atop Ben Bhraggie, dismantled in the mid 1990s. The usual false history about the Clearances in Sutherland is once more set out. Of interest is the fact that most of the local people (the SNP councillors were not from the area) wanted to keep the monument, and advised the SNP councillors to leave them alone.
Of interest, also, is the following quote: “Down to this day the issue of the Clearances twists the knife in Scotland’s troubled national psyche.”
If we can’t get history right, and this booklet along with those SNP councillors obviously get it wrong, then how can we expect to get ideas about the future right?
The various historic myths that help to make up ‘Scotland’s troubled national psyche’, which I’ve hinted at in a couple of posts to this blog in the past, are that the nasty English were the cause of the failure of the Darien Scheme (they weren’t – the Scheme failed because of the poor location, and attacks by the Spanish), and that the ensuing bankruptcy of the country meant that Scotland was forced, against the wishes of most of the Scots, to join the Union. A few high-ranking landowners were paid-off – hence Burns wrote “We’re bought and sold for English Gold, Sic a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation.” I won’t go into that just now.
The myths continue that the Union was unpopular, hence a series of Jacobite Risings which finally ended in the Battle of Culloden in 1745, after which the nasty English decimated the highlands under the leadership of ‘Butcher’ Cumberland. Well, there’s a lot that could be said about that part of Scottish history. There were Jacobite risings in 1708 (aided by 6000 French troops in nearly 30 ships of the French navy), in 1715, in 1719 (this time aided by the Spanish), a failed invasion attempt from France aided by some Jacobites in 1744, and the big one ‘The Forty-Five’ in 1745.
These rebellions were not simply Scots against the English, and neither were they simply Highlanders against the rest, though the vast majority of Prince Charlie’s supporters came from the north. As an aside, us MacLeods covered all angles – some stayed at home, some fought for the Jacobites, and some fought for Cumberland.
Anyway, after so many rebellions, and especially in the face of the failure of appeasement after the ’15, it is understandable that a far harder line was taken in the north after Culloden. No quarter was given. No quarter would have been given by the Jacobites, if they had succeeded with their plan to catch Cumberland’s forces asleep in their tents, before the actual battle.
Cumberland’s victory at Culloden was actually cheered in the Glasgow pubs, and he received an honorary degree from the University of Glasgow. This certainly shows that the Jacobites did not receive universal support throughout the country – far from it. Here’s a good quote from Wikipedia:
“Success at Prestonpans had not, as is often claimed, left the rebels in control of Scotland, for the great bulk of the population remained bitterly hostile to the absolutist Stuarts who, prior to their expulsion in a popular revolution, had presided over the notorious persecutions known as Scotland’s ‘Killing Times‘. Many Scottish burghs offered burgess status to any man who would volunteer to fight against the Jacobites and, when the rebels passed near the town of Ecclefechan in Dumfriesshire, local loyalists mounted a raid on their baggage train.”
Another aside – the Battle of Culloden was the only major battle that Prince Charlie ever lost, and the only major battle that Cumberland ever won.
Culloden certainly had an effect on Highland feudal society, and many of the old ties were broken. You could, at a stretch, equate the Jacobites of 1745 with the Taliban of today. Both from highland areas, extremely religious, semi-feudal, wild, fighting traditions, etc, etc. It’s ironic that the descendants of the Jacobites are today fighting the Taliban (“The Highland Regiments, which forged the great military victories of the expanding Empire restored our self respect as a kilted and warrior race, and still fight fiercely on our behalf, as the Taliban are finding out to their cost!” The Jacobite, No.133, Summer 2010).
The myths, though, continue that, somehow, despite the passing of 70 years, the Clearances were a pretty direct follow-on to the failed Jacobite rebellions. Don’t ask me how this is supposed to be the case. Once again, so the myths go, it was the nasty English who cleared the highlanders off their land. Well, as I’ve written before, most of the clearing was done by other highlanders, and it would probably not have been possible had Scots Law not been retained at the time of the Union.
According to the myths, it was not until the Crofters’ Holdings (Scotland) Act, of 1886, that things started to get on an even keel, as it were, and people were granted a legal right to their own land. Well, even with that Act and others that followed, there are some who would say that they have had a negative effect on economic development in the Highlands.
The thing about all of these myths is that they are still current today, and can sometimes have an effect on the ‘national psyche’, troubled or not as may be the case. If, however, you get the history right, you’re in a far better position to think reasonably about the future.