Tuesday 24 May 2016

Cultural Revolutions: To forge a future for Scotland

Hugh MacDiarmid
To forge a future for Scotland
In the 20th century Scottish culture was fast disappearing –
After WW1 theatres, variety and musical hall were hugely popular – a peoples theatre. The shows though were a dumbing down and a caricature, unreal version of Scotland – with figures of fun such as Tommy Lorne and comic Harry Lauder .
This marginalization of Scottish culture was part of an Anglicisation of Scotland. Scottish literature of the time was parochial and presented a sentimental and religious country - such as the author Ian MacLaren.

Significantly before the war Home Rule Bills were passed for both Ireland and Scotland but were put aside during the war – what was Home Rule anyway – and why has it been ignored for 100 years?

Up in Montrose, Kinross, was a young reporter called Christopher Grieve, who later chose a Celtic name to write under - Hugh MacDiarmid  - along with his wife Peggy.
Hugh wrote of the gulf between this sentimental Scotland and the reality of its economic suppression. Hugh wanted to write of an authentic Scottish voice.

The writers in Montrose were inspired by a new cultural confidence and by Irish voices of the time such as Joyce and Yeats. At this time in 1918 the Irish over threw English imperial rule. It was sad they had to fight so hard and many civilians died.
(Meanwhile the BBCs John Reith aspired to have everyone speaking correct English and English elocution lessons were popular at that time.

MacDiarmid found a friend and neighbour in Violet Jacob, who became a socialist and also wrote in Scots and English and she was deeply affected by her 20 year old sons death in the war.
Celtic warrior Hugh MacDiarmid understood that the Scots language would help build an Independent Scotland and to forge a true and real future identity for Scotland – a Scottish Renaissance , a blueprint for a modern Scotland.

Later he went away to seclusion to write his most famous poem – The Drunk man Looks at a Thistle – he wrote about his definition of what is Scotland; Russian poetry and scarps of songs.
The aim was to structure the world to suit the people who live there and not a culture imposed from elsewhere.

There has to be a social and cultural revolution too.  Hugh retreated to the very edge of Scotland, to the Shetlands from Orkney it is a 8 hour crossing …..and his ideas spread….
(Scotland: The Promised Land)
Lewis Grassic Gibbon
** Montrose artists and writers movement inspired each other.
1920 Montrose was the cultural capital of Scotland. MacDiarmid Total confidence that independent Scotland can work for the advantage of the people that live here.
Violet Jacob – lost her son at WW1 at 20. She became a socialist and also wrote poems in bot Scottish and English.
William Lamb sculptor.
Wiila Muir – Radical, novelist and translator. Women: An Inquiry is a book-length  feminist essay.
Edwin Muir – Poet,
Edward Baird; 
Tom McDonald.
Helen Cruikshanks – The movement spread to St Andrews and to Costorphine Edinburgh, , where writers and artists now gathered. Helen rekindled the Scottish cultural scene.
Hamish Henderson, Poet and songwriter, who wrote the song Freedom Come All Ye.
James Leslie Mitchell – 1932 Sunset Song (Lewis Grassic Gibbon) partly written in Scots of crafting community of Angus and the Mearns – the breakthrough novel of the Renaissance. and the New York Times book of the week.
Mitchell became great friends with Hugh, and they published an anthology together. – Scottish scene.

MacDiarmid’s aim was to have confidence in a modern Scotland – who are we? He stood on the shoulders of those who fought for Scotland’s voice.