Back in the 18th century there were TWO SCOTLAND’S then too
After Scotland lost its political government in 1707, there was TWO Scotland’s too – the one that was wealthy and supported the new Union – the other of the ordinary folk who protested on the streets then as now and who remembered when Scotland was free.
(1) The first was the Scotland of the people which was expressed by poets such as Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson and of course Robert or Robbie Burns. At Ellisland, in 1794 when he was 35, an after he had travelled across Scotland, Burns wrote a song, “which was based on “an old song and tune which has often thrilled thro’ my soul. I may have felt Revolution-mad – instead I turned to an old song ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ ‘Light be the turf on the breast of the heaven-inspired Poet who composed this glorious Fragment! There is more of the fire of nature genius in it, than in half a dozen of modern English Bacchanalians.”
He took his own writings and wove them into the old ballads and felt it was very important task to collect and re-work all these traditional old songs. On his travels over Scotland when he first heard an old man sing this song and was moved to tears by it.
This song spoke to Burns - “of the old days – before the Union of Parliament – celebrating an older, politically independent Stuart Scotland. It also spoke of the of old friendships I had lost. The ancient Scottish nation was ‘bold, independent, unconquered and free, Caledonia is ‘immortal”
(2) The second was the Scottish Wealthy Elite, who were given a New Town of Georgian homes.
There was a female poet Lady Anne Bernard. She was from a noble family of Fife Scotland, born 1750 and wrote the well known ballad ‘Auld Robin Gray’. She lived in Georgian society during the Scottish enlightenment. To reward the nobility of Edinburgh a grand new town was built.
The Scottish aristocracy sold out. Her family were the Lindsay’s of Balcarres and these families carried the Union flag around the globe and helped to shape Britain’s empire. Her father said, “You were born after the Union, Scotland is no more and never likely to revive.” Was it so great though? Of her eight brothers, four entered the army and two went to sea and one joined the East India co. Three died in different corners of the world and a fourth spent years in a Mysore dungeon. Eventually Lady Anne moved to London, married at 42 and went to live in the Cape of Good Hope.
Unionists and Royalists have tried to take over the legacy of Burns.
Professor Robert Crawford in his Robert Burns biography entitled The Bard sought to rescue ‘Burns and radicalism from the many monarchists, imperialists and staunch British unionist supporters and others over the centuries have controlled – and sometimes still seek to control - his posthumous reputation.” Crawford based his eminently readable biography of our national poet on ‘The Poems and Songs of Robert Buns’’ by James Kinsley (1968 Clarendon Press Oxford). There is great deal of lore, legend and misinformation around Burns’ legacy. He writes that when he thought to start his biography in 2006, he found none in Scottish book shops strangely.
Later Burns would also write a song about how Scotland was bought and sold for English gold, in the song
‘Parcel of Rogues to the Nation.’
‘Parcel of Rogues to the Nation.’
Fareweel to a' our Scottish fame,
Fareweel our ancient glory;
Fareweel ev'n to the Scottish name,
Sae fam'd in martial story.
Now Sark rins over Solway sands,
An' Tweed rins to the ocean,
To mark where England's province stands-
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!