Stories are the oral traditions we tell each other and pass on. The songs and poems we sing. The crafts and the images we create and paint. Our memories and past inform who we are and where we see our future. Like the monuments raised, our names, the names of places.
**Each January in Glasgow Celtic Connections celebrates musical connections and traditions between Scotland, Ireland, England, America, Canada and Brittany traditions. These are the traditions that have been passed down and also travelled continents. I am not sure how anyone can dispute these connections exist. There are many similarities between the country music of the Smokies and Irish and Scottish reels. This was never meant to be about one race of people, but rather about the grassroots traditions and stories, collaborations and beautifully hand made instruments.
Written history however can confuse us - it depends on who won and who then wrote the story. Renowned historian Stuart McHardy writes that is why the oral tradition and stories expressed in our arts and culture matter a great deal. They often tell us more than the printed historical texts.
Scottish folklorists such as Hamish Henderson, Margaret Bennett and Dick Gaughan and also our national poet Robert Burns two centuries ago, travelled and collected the old songs and poems, many that had never been written down before - songs such a Auld Lang Syne. Burns was a great reader of many diverse voices and languages - he knew Scots, English, French and Latin - even though he never attended university. He was taught by a young Mr Murdoch, his father and was also self taught. He was also a great listener and reader and he learnt of the rights of everyman and the impact of rhythm and song. He went on to write some of our best loved songs and poems.
In 2015 a new exhibition at the British museum - "Celts; Arts and Identity" surprisingly claims the Celts have never existed. Well they exist in people's art, song and imagination. The exhibit claims the Celts were not a pure race and rather an 'idea'. Perhaps all those outside the 'empire' and outside big Business?
Writing in the Sunday Times magazine, arts critic Waldemar Januszczak, claims that only in the mind do the Celts exist. What on earth can he mean by this? Does he mean that those in the Hebrides and in Ireland don’t have a separate and unique identity? It is all propaganda.
The Romans only mention those 'people' outside their walls as Gauls - of course Roman history is written from a Roman perspective. What does this all mean? Were the Romans or Vikings pure races? Centuries ago these races travelled and mixed with other races.
Britain’s stories of empire building are of the past. Some UK writers today over use the term ‘British’ – Britain only came into existence after the Union of the Parliament in 1707. Do these people when aboard call themselves ‘British? Really” Do they not tell foreigners that they are English. I always call myself Scottish. I have little, If any idea of the stories, art or music that Britain stands for. There is a union flag and the songs of Empire building like Rule Britannia. I believe Empire building like the Romans, have had their day and are of the past – or I hope so. Empire building means someone has to pay a price.
I believe in a progressive, healthier future and one of the grassroots. The voices of respect for all and valuing our local stories and traditions. We are shaped by our landscapes and I believe Scotland has a special and unique story to tell with it’s rough often wild landscapes and ever changing seasons.
Scotland was never ruled by Rome or the Normans and kept her clans and she has a very different story to tell than Ireland or England. Scotland has never been a part of England and never will be a region. no matter how much some Lords might wish it.
Scotland has always been outward looking and had it's bridge of boats. We travelled by sea and most of our towns lie on the coast. ( just as also the Viking and Romans looked outward)
Scotland has for centuries had unique stories - the kilt, bagpipes, golf, whisky, Clans, Burns song, mountain and heathers, wild weather…..Of course there are pipes worldwide – that doesn’t mean that the Scottish pipes don’t have a totally distinctive and unique sound to them.