scottish history

Scottish Independence Podcast 169 – Thomas Muir Lecture 2018 by Gerda Stevenson

Thomas-Muir-Memorial-Lecture-1“I have devoted myself to the cause of the people. It is a good cause. It shall ultimately prevail. It shall finally triumph.” – Thomas Muir’s speech from the dock, Edinburgh, August 1793.

Courtesy of Phantom Power, the 169th episode of The Scottish Independence Podcast features the Thomas Muir lecture for 2018, which was given by Gerda Stevenson with

gerda_radioAs well as being an actress and a musician, Gerda Stevenson is the author of Quines: Poems in tribute to women of Scotland and in the lecture you can find out which Scottish woman was an inspiration to Walt Whitman and Mary Shelley, and which Scottish woman is known in Serbia as “Our Mother from Scotland”?

That and much more.

First up however, is an introduction by Murray Armstrong, author of The Liberty Tree, who explains who Thomas Muir was, and why it is important to remember him.

Hope you enjoy.

You can download the show directly if you click THIS LINK.

You can listen online at the show’s spreaker webpage, or you can subscribe with itunes. We can also be found on youtube and on facebook.

These podcasts are independently minded and independently funded, you can help to keep them going by making a donation.

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The Scottish Independence Podcast 139 – Billy Kay

dfVeu1g_.jpegDid you know that it isn’t only Scotland that has “the cringe”? They have it in other places too, it just goes by a different name.

For the 139th (sort of) episode of the Scottish Independence Podcast I spoke with Billy Kay, and the above is only one of the subjects we talked about.

Billy has for years been writing, broadcasting and producing material on Scottish Culture and Scots language, for the BBC and internationally, and is often to be seen giving talks around the country. He also currently has a show you can listen to on the iplayer… Scotland’s Black History.

I asked him to come on because he is one of the best qualified people to talk about the importance of building confidence in Scottish culture, and how that plays into the campaign for Scottish Indepence.

At the end of the episode there is also a little Robert-the-Brucie bonus, which regards this.

Hope you enjoy.

You can download here if you click THIS LINK .

You can listen online via the spreaker webpage, or you can subscribe with itunes. We can also be found on youtube and on facebook.

Scotland’s Missing Histories – Episode 3 – The 45 (with Maggie Craig)

mcbrolly1forwebsiteWhat do you know about the 45? Not the 45% of people who voted yes, I mean the events of 1745.

We’ve almost been conditioned to believe that a gang of highlanders/catholics (referred to as Bare-arsed Banditti) were led on a fools’ errand by an effete Italian buffoon and that the whole thing ended  in a sort of Scottish civil war at Culloden.

As happens so often in history, the well-worn narrative that we all know doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter.

51ipLr4QmtL._AC_UL320_SR194,320_.jpgTo get a better picture of the events of 1745 I spoke with Maggie Craig, who is the author of two books on the subject. Firstly she wrote Damn Rebel Bitches, about the women of the 45, and then she followed that up with Bare-arsed Banditti, about the men of the 45.

I think after this half hour you’ll have changed your views on those events.

Hope you enjoy…

You can download here if you right click THIS LINK and “save as”

You can listen to the show online at its web page or you can subscribe with itunes. We can alse be found on youtube and on facebook too.

1739221._UY400_SS400_These podcasts are independently minded and independently funded, you can help to keep them going by making a donation.

If there is any story from Scottish history that you feel people need to know more about, leave a note in the comments or email me and I will try to put something together.

Scotland’s Missing Histories – Episode 2 – Mairi Mhor nan Oran (with Liz MacRae Shaw)

Maira_Mhor_nan_OranAnd when I am in the boards
my words will be a prophecy.
They will return, the stock of the crofters
Who were driven over the sea.

And the aristocratic ‘beggars’
will be routed as they (the crofters) were.
Deer and sheep will be carted away
and the glens will be tilled;

A time of sowing and a time of reaping,
and a time to reward the robbers.
And the cold ruined houses
will be built up by our kin

Over the years I have had many conversations in which there has been the complaint that large chunks of Scottish history, both events and people, have been left out of our education.

I therefore thought that, in addition to our other shows,  it was about time that some of these stories and people should get some more publicity, and so here is the second in a new series of podcasts- Scotland’s Missing Histories.

For the second episode I spoke with author Liz MacRae Shaw about the life of a woman so remarkable that they named her several times – Mairi Mhor nan Oran, Mairi Mhor, Big Mary of the Songs, Mary MacPherson and others.

Liz wrote a biography of a woman who lived through and fought against, and then to reverse the highland clearances. Mary also went to prison despite very possibly being innocent, and did something that Beyoncè et al tend to do these days long before it was normal, Mhairi’s was not a normal life.

Mairi Mhor 1

Hope you enjoy…

You can download here if you right click THIS LINK and “save as”

You can listen to the show online at its web page or you can subscribe with itunes. We can alse be found on youtube and on facebook too.

These podcasts are independently minded and independently funded, you can help to keep them going by making a donation.

If there is any story from Scottish history that you feel people need to know more about, leave a note in the comments or email me and I will try to put something together.

The Scottish Independence Podcast 40 – Stewart Bremner

BaaadKTCYAAFB2-.jpg largeFor the 40th episode of The Scottish Independence Podcast I spoke with Stewart Bremner, who is a graphic artist, illustrator and designer. You can find him on twitter here.

He’s been involved in the Scottish independence debate in a number of ways, making posters for Bella Caledonia, making an excellent short video called When I Was A Child (it’s at the start of the podcast too).

We talked about his work  and why they don’t often stress the historical and cultural angles in the debate.

We also talked about the political poster as an art form. Has it had its day?

Hope you enjoy…

This is the direct download link (right click and save as)

You can listen to the show online at its web page

Or you can subscribe with itunes

We are also now to be found on youtube

P.S. If you’d like to help this and the other podcasts keep going, please go here.

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Sincerely Not Yours

I recently downloaded A Short History of Scotland by Andrew Lang (free audio book version, get it here).

monty-python-holy-grail-clip-clop-300wThere are a few things I could say about the book, as much of it is surely contentious.

Firstly, there are definitely many things in there that the modern historian would take issue with in terms of how it is framed. Secondly, it is an outdated style in the subject, in that large sections, particularly in the early parts, tend just to be names of rulers, dates, treaties and so on and how titles changed hands over the years. This makes it somewhat dry. Thirdly, when the traditional story or legend played a part in the story this is just given as fact without analysis e.g. (though I’m paraphrasing a touch) “…and then this miracle happened with St Thingummy and consequently this next thing happened.”

However, given the recent discussion about the differing legal points of view on the actual existence of Scotland, there was a little passage I found rather interesting that I’ve decided to show you…

In 924 the first claim by an English king, Edward, to the over-lordship of Scotland appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The entry contains a manifest error, and the topic causes war between modern historians, English and Scottish. In fact, there are several such entries of Scottish acceptance of English suzerainty under Constantine II, and later, but they all end in the statement, “this held not long.” The “submission” of Malcolm I to Edmund (945) is not a submission but an alliance; the old English word for “fellow-worker,” or “ally,” designates Malcolm as fellow-worker with Edward of England.

This word (midwyrhta) was translated fidelis (one who gives fealty) in the Latin of English chroniclers two centuries later, but Malcolm I held Cumberland as an ally, not as a subject prince of England. In 1092 an English chronicle represents Malcolm III as holding Cumberland “by conquest.”

I am pointing all this out not to claim that Lang or other historians are right or wrong on the matter, but rather to show that legal jiggery-pokery and the importance of defining terms is not a new thing in the history of the struggles between Scotland and England.

Maybe Salmond was right when he said the Edinburgh Agreement is a very important document because it sets out certain rules that must be adhered to both before and after the referendum.

Then again, if they lose, the UK state might just ignore or reinterpret it however the hell they want, as is the norm for aggressor states in these circumstances.


In the pub down the road from me ( the Lios Mor) , if you go to the toilet there are three names on the urinal. You are invited to show what you think of the people whose names are there by doing exactly what you normally do at a urinal.

There is an explanation of why they are there written on the urinal but as I didn’t particularly want to stand writing it down next to people doing their business I thought I would give you some other information about them…

Two of those names are Patrick Sellars and George Granville Leveson-Gower (the 1st duke of Sutherland).

This is to do with the highland clearances. For those not in the know about Scottish history, the highland clearances was the forced removal of the population of the Scottish highlands from their land to make way for grazing animals. This was done in a particularly brutal way. It was done at the behest of rich English and Scottish landowners.

Many of the displaced people moved to Glasgow or elsewhere in southern Scotland but many went abroad. If you are in the USA or Canada and have Scottish ancestry it is highly probable that your ancestors left Scotland because of the highland clearances.

 The duke is infamous for in large part initiating the highland clearances. Patrick Sellar was the butcher-in-chief. Of course, like most murderers and tyrants he claimed he was doing it in the name of civilisation…

… a man who became a byword for brutality and inhumanity while carrying out his instructions. That man was Patrick Sellar. He and his compatriot, James Loch were ruthless but efficient buisnessmen. The name of Patrick Sellar is perhaps the most hated name in this woeful tale. Sellar wrote of Lord and Lady Stafford:“Lord and Lady Stafford were pleased humanely to order the new arrangement of this country. That the interior should be possessed by Cheviot sheperds, and the people brought down to the coast and placed in lots of less than three acres, sufficient for the maintenance of an industrious family, pinched enough to cause them to turn their attention to the fishing. [of herring] A most benevolent action, to put these barbarous Highlanders into a position where they could better associate together, apply themsleves to industry, educate their children, and advance in civilisation.” In 1807, the Most Noble Marquess began evicting his Scottish Highland tenants beginning with a trifling ninety families: men, women and children. This can be seen as a learning experience.

In 1814 during the clearance of Strathnaver, Patrick Sellar ensured his place in history. His methods – on the order of his employers – was reminiscent of the ‘Butcher’ Cumberland. Tenants were ordered out of their homes which were then set ablaze. If anyone was slow getting out or went back for possessions, the fire was started with them inside. All possessions, including furniture were burnt. Women, children, old men and animals stood in huddled, fightened groups whilst the savage work went on. To make the land more suitable for the Sheep, the burned homes were levelled so the Cheviots could browse with ease. This also made it impossible for the tenant to rebuild or take refuge in the remains of their homes. The land was to be devoid of all human habitation as not to intrude upon the grazing sheep.

The evicted lost all their possessions, their clothes and cooking utensils, not to mention their dignity and sometimes their lives. Now they had no place to go, and nobody thought (or cared) to provide them with one. They were, as was said at the time, “driven out like dogs.”

In one incident, a woman of perhaps more than ninety years old, was to old and weak to be moved from her home. The neighbours pleaded for Patrick Sellar, the agent, to show mercy for the old woman. Sellar responded,

“Damn her, the old witch. She has lived too long. Let her burn.”

Her house was put to the torch, even the sheets on her bed were set ablaze. Local clansmen and clanswomen tried to rescue her by taking her burned body to a nearby barn, but she died five days later in agony, as surely murdered as anybody could be.

One of those burned out of Grummore was ninety year old William MacKay. He remembered the Jacobite days and had already been evicted once. His wife, Janet, died as a result. When he was evicted again from Grummore he went to the churchyard and stood over her grave and said “Well, Janet, the Countess will never filt (evict) you again.” He turned and walked, alone, to Wick where he died alone and unmourned.

An elderly woman, who was partially paralyzed and in absolute pain if moved or if she tried to walk, was ordered out of her home by Lord Stafford’s agent (Sellar). She could only sit in a motionless chair. Sellar told the neighbours she must immediately be removed by her friends or the constables (Lowland sheperds) would be ordered to do it. Her family lifted her from the chair, and four boys of the township cried as they carried her out in a blanket. As she was taken towards the coast,

Sellar was eventually put on trial but

the trial was delayed for nearly a year. The forty witnesses against him had been interviewed by a sheriff-Substitute McKid, but only 15 were called to give evidence. There were nine witnesses on Sellar’s behalf, all of them his own men.

The Judge, in summing up to the Jury, lent heavily on the low character of the chief prosecution witness, a tinker, William Chisholm, who had seen his mother-in-law die during the evictions. The middle-class jury brought back a Not Guilty verdict in just 15 minutes. The Jury had been bought; bribed by the rich and powerful Lord and Lady Sutherland, although this could not be proven at the time. The Sheriff-Substitute was driven from office, and even sued by Sellar, and simply disappeared. Sellar was a free man.

No compensation was paid in respect of homes destroyed, far less the personal possessions destroyed. Lord Stafford could have easily cleared his estates in a far more humane way, for his possessions were vast. Perhaps they could have been given the time to resettle on the coasts, although that land might have been useless, at least it would have been an attempt. No attempt appears to have ever been made, one wasn’t needed for these savage ‘Highland barbarians’.

The fact is that, even though Patrick Sellar was brought to trial, even though it was a both a travesty and a miscarriage of justice, he was not the prime mover. His employers should have been in the dock with him. They should also – all of them- been found guilty – of multiple counts of murder.

So you now know what you need to do the next time you go for a piss.