Tuesday, 30 June 2020

The Poems of Ossian

Macpherson’s poems of Ossian translations from the Gaelic traditions – had a profound influence on many painters, poets and writers. And his books were read internationally. The poet MacDiarmid lamented for Scotia’s lost music. 

Professor Alan Raich writes in his National articles - Immense, deep ... and surprisingly rich: The legacy of Ossian
By Alan Riach Professor of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University

“The poems of Ossian had a profound influence but the idea that Macpherson perpetrated a “hoax” persists. This is unjust and inadequate. In Fiona Stafford’s words, Macpherson’s Ossian is “pre-eminently a text of the margins – not in the sense that it is peripheral to serious literary study but because it inhabits the margins of contrasting, oppositional cultures.

For Macpherson’s ‘translations’ involved acts of interpretation not only between Gaelic and English, but also between the oral culture of the depressed rural communities of the Scottish Highlands, and the prosperous urban centres of Lowland Britain, where the printed word was increasingly dominant.”

In this context, they are “less the work of an inexpert linguist, or an unscrupulous ‘Scotsman on the make’ than a sophisticated attempt to mediate between two apparently irreconcilable cultures.”

The legacy of Ossian, beyond Macpherson’s actual works, is immense, deep and surprisingly rich. Images of Ossian have perennially been a subject for the visual arts. 
“To remember the great music and to look
At Scotland and the world today is to hear
An Barr Buadh again where there are none to answer
And to feel like Oisin d’ éis na Féine or like Christ.”

And it is not only paintings and drawings. The literary influence is there, too, and was felt early. Wordsworth (1770-1850), in “Glen-Almain; or, the Narrow Glen” (1803), a result of his tour in Scotland, writes:
“In this still place, remote from men,
Sleeps Ossian, in the NARROW GLEN;
In this still place, where murmurs on
But one meek streamlet, only one:”

Ghosts and graves and windy hills and caves are an essential parts of the story - 
as in the short, haunting poem
 Ossian’s Grave” by the Russian writer Mikhail Lermontov (1814-41), here given in my own translation:
“In the Highlands of Scotland I love, 
Storm clouds curve down on the dark fields and strands,
With icy grey mist closing in from above –
Here Ossian’s grave still stands.
In dreams my heart races to be there,
To deeply breathe in its native air –
And from this long-forgotten shrine
Take its second life as mine.

** The Gaelic phrases relate to this. In footnotes, MacDiarmid explains “An Barr Buadh” is “somewhat in a state between existence and non-existence.”
And “d’ éis na Féine” is:  “A withered babbling old man, ‘Oisin after the Fianna’ (ie when his love for Ireland made him return to it from Tir-na-nog) in that immortal phrase which has in it more than Virgilian tears.”

In other words, the evocation of Ossian “after the Fianna” –
after his father and family and companions of high youth, health and vigour, have all gone into the past, leaving him old, blind and alone – delivers a permanent image of tragic and irrecoverable loss, encompassing and predating other ancient religions and civilisations.
And there is no fraud or hoax involved in that. Its permanence is also Ossian’s legacy.

Scots Top Ten!

According to the Sunday Times recently - 

Top Ten Films
Local Hero
Gregory’s girl
Whisky Galore
Prime o miss Jean Brodie
Wicker Man
Shallow Grave
Restless Heart
Del Amitri

Top Ten bands 
Simple minds
Deacon Blue
The Blue Nile
The Waterboys
Belle & Sebastian
Del Amitri
Iain Banks & Alex Salmond
William MclLivanney
Top Ten authors
Robert Louis Stevenson
JK Rowling
Walter Scott
Iain Banks
William MclLivanney
Muriel Sparks
Irvine Welsh
Alasdair Gray
John Buchan
Lewis Grassic Gibbons
Top Ten Artists
Charles Rennie Macintosh
Henry Raeburn
SJ Peploe
JD Fergusson
Joan Eardley
Jack Vitrianno
Eduardo Paolozzi
Alison Watt
Margaret Macdonald
John Lawrie Morrison

Top Ten Scots Songwriters
Robert Burns
Gerry Rafferty
Annie Lennox
Lewis Capaldi
Ricky Ross
Fran Healy

Who Would I Honour with a statue?

Who would I honour with  a statue?  This is a list of writer and others that I particularly admire.: The names that come to mind are – Robert Burns,  Thomas Paine, Orpah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Rembrant, Michelangelo, Mozart, Bob Dylan, Bach, Mary Somerville, Thomas Muir, Elsie Inglis, Constable.
Recently people threw the statue of slave trader Edward Calston, into the river. 

I’m glad to see a statue to James Clerk Maxwell, the great physicist in Edinburgh’s George St. 
I attend Edinburgh book festival each year and one of the great aspects of this festival is that merit it accorded to those who achieve rather than to any empty celebrity. 

Recently I watched a tv program about the mega rich and their massive yachts. I wondered about the French revolution – when they over threw a greedy aristocracy – but they simply escaped and instead of stately mansions set up massive yachts. 

Kevin Pringle argues we should have dynamic, on going debate on whether any statue in a civic space, continues to be relevant to todays world. That society is not static or unchanging. Also that the Edward Colston statue removed Bristol was no longer relevant. He suggested in 2003, that the Duke of Wellingtons statues in Edinburgh’s Princes St, should make way for one of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns.

In a recent survey Burns was voted as Scotland’s no 1 hero. I was surprised to realise his Edina statue is down the bottom of Leith walk, removed from the city centre. There are more statues to Burns in America than of any other writer and he is honoured and respected world wide from Russia to Canada. (Mind you maybe Burns would rather stare up from the coast!)

In Belgium, statues of the tyrant Leopold II are being removed. Pringle writes of the diplomat Roger Casement “who was knighted for exposing atrocities 1904 in the Congo and was later hanged by Britain for championing Irish insurrection. People are complicated, and no statues can ever capture that.”

                                  **Who Would I Honour with a statue?

Thomas Paine -  English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary. He authored the two most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution and inspired the patriots in 1776. 
Robert Burns  – Scotland National Bard
Yes he was a flawed man – but he also put his creativity and egalitarian views, and collecting Scotland’s tradition of song and ballads, as his main creative genius.  

Thomas Muir - Great reformer of the Friends of the People.,
Scots lawyer Muir defended many others until he found himself a wanted man. He was arrested on landing at Portparick. and taken in chains through Gatehouse of Fleet to Dumfries and on to Edinburgh, where he was tried for sedition. He was found guilty and sent to Botany Bay. Later he escaped and made it over to Vancouver island and Monterrey bay – then on to Mexico and got caught up with a naval fight in Cadiz harbour, where he ahd half his face blown off. He died near Paris, aged only 

Women of colours and women of today I most admire - 
Oprah Winfrey
Toni Morrison
Maya Angelou
Mary Somerville

Pandemic 2020

The pink blossom and yellow daffodils are now out: the days are longer, brighter and hopeful of renewal. Spring opens and warmer breezes fill the air. As if by some strange irony, the world news is filled with a deepening gloom with this coronavirus - with lockdowns, deserted streets, death tolls, empty shelves. People must now work from home. And I worry for our frontline medical workers and that the NHS will be unable to cope.

We were fooled believing somehow we were protected, when in our interconnected world disease spreads even faster. France, Italy and Spain are now in lockdown in this fast moving situation. Many businesses  will be hit – first tourism: flights, hotels, restaurants, bars;  retail; culture and the arts, with theatre, museums, cinema, festivals, concerts - all closing. While some businesses are essential and will keep going – food, medical, drugs, energy.
Young people and children may mostly be okay, so life will continue. For those over 60, they must work at home and self–isolate. Why were the UK schools kept open so long as a babysitting service, when most other countries have closed schools? Children may not be getting as ill, but schools are major places of spreading viruses. Many school staff and children have been staying away, so schools weren’t functioning properly.

There is an eerie, unfamiliar silence, as people prepare for the worst of times ahead, with oddly empty shelves, grounded aircraft, silent airports and train stations and quiet city streets. I’m glad on Monday that the UK government changed its tac after Imperial College London advised them that their “washing hands and carry on” policy advice of last week wasn't enough.

My two older children are frontline hospital doctors, so I won't be able to see them. I'm worried too about what they are going to have to deal with soon. It makes us all realise who the important workers really are - and many are women and the carers. Can we have a rethink about what capitalism is really all about? It all feels like being in one of those catastrophic movies that we might have foreseen. I’ve heard odd things being said on the tv - one BBC commentator said, "its not often we see health emergencies like this!"

Now is the time to think urgently about planning Scotland’s supplies. Most of our food and more comes via long trucks that trundle all the way over from Dover, and then on long haul motorways all the way through England. How can we gain practical independence this way? Scotland used to have many busy ports to the Americas, Ireland and Europe – via the shipping ports of Ayr, Irvine, Glasgow Leith, now all silted up. If we depend on food from England, we cannot be truly independent.

When we see what is happening in Italy, where the over worked doctors are unable to cope and its likely the scenes in Italy will repeat here. The English have this odd sense that somehow they are protected, that they are uniquely special. I fear we in the UK have learnt no lessons and are acting far too slowly. On the news last night people in London were packing themselves into shops and tube trains: one lady even claimed she was out and about because she wasn’t going to let this virus defeat her! Sorry but this virus has never heard of the Dunkirk spirit! Clearly some people pay no attention to any news items. Britain may be an island but in todays interconnected world we will not be immune.

Thank goodness for the internet and being able to keep in touch! How was life before? Among it all the Italians continue to sing. Life will never be the same again.

Friday, 19 June 2020

Save our Scottish Venues

 **An online music festival featuring some of the biggest names in Scottish music has been organised to help save struggling venues amid the coronavirus crisis. **

“Save Our Scottish Venues festival”, organised by the Music Venues Trust (MVT) has pulled together performances from

 KT Tunstall, Wet Wet Wet, Fatherson, Honeyblood and Be Charlotte. 
The event is taking place this Friday 19th June across three 'stages' and will be streamed live. 
Money raised through ticket sales will go towards helping venues including the Glad Cafe, Audio, Slay and Ivory Blacks in Glasgow. Curated by Music Venue Trust through the #SaveOurVenues campaign.
Ticket buyers will be directed to a streaming link to watch the performance.  DONATE: 100% of the donations will be divided equally amongst Scottish Venues!! You can donate here >>

£5 for access to the live event, including hopping between stages. It is £8 for access to all of the sets for an extra 48 hours after the festival ends:  - www.universe.com/events/save-our-scottish-venues-tickets-edinburgh-307Q9X
You can also purchase tickets through crowdfunder which will mean that we do not have to pay an admin fee: -  www.crowdfunder.co.uk/saveourvenuesscotland


Joe Smillie, creative director of The Glad Cafe, says he has ‘no idea’ where the venue would be without help from MVT.
Speaking to Glasgow Live , he said: “It’s hard to think about the future right now while things are uncertain. “How are we supposed to open safely without extra support from the government? If we are to maintain social distancing, this obviously reduces our capacity thus massively affecting our bottom line which was already on a tightrope. How do we balance our incomings and outgoings with significantly reduced capacity?

“If we are asked to implement one way or traffic light systems, screens, soap stations, etc. how can we, as a cash-poor business, be expected to fork out for this in time for reopening and when we are supposed to start paying our staff’s wages again? “I feel that for such a financially wealthy country, the UK has really made a lot of money from the arts while neglecting its artists and venues and it is about time they did something to help them.”
For now, the venue is considering taking its events program online and reopening the café and restaurant while the rest is figured out.
“We’ve been applying to every grant that is supposedly on offer so we can reopen safely. We’ve also tried to stay engaged with our customers. We’ve held a six-week online course in Ableton Live - a music-making computer programme - with a grant we received from Creative Scotland.
“Our very popular open mic night that runs once a month has gone online too and they’ve run three very successful virtual events that have been live-streamed. These are all on our YouTube page.
"All the while we’ve been running Crowdfunder pages, meeting regularly with our board of directors and staff and attending webinars run by Creative Scotland, Music Venues Trust and the government. Zoom fatigue is real.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Where am I now?

I continue to explore the poets Bob Dylan and Robert Burns (the latter inspired the former) – Dylan named Burn’s love poem ‘Red Red Rose’ as his major influence.
I’ve been reading MoJo: The Collectors Series: Bob Dylan, which includes some of their best article and images.

I so enjoy the live performances by Dylan on YouTube. Both poets collected and explored other writers and artists. In fact its not widely recognised, but Burns was greatly inspired by English poets – such as Alexander Pope. 


I have met so many famous people at Edinburgh book festival and at Celtic Connections. Its a very strange experience to meet a well kent face. 
Ian Bell

Seamus Heaney

Edna O'Brien

Liz Lochend

The Edinburgh Book festival hosts a wide range of writers, artists and scientists, politicians, musicians, athletes, novelists, poets, explorers, broadcasters, journalists, children’s authors, illustrators, historians. I’ve met – Nile Rogers, Alex Salmond, Seamus Heaney, Tom Devine, Fintan O’Toole, Dougie MacLean, Dick Gaughan, Karen Matheson, Donald Shaw, Rab Noakes, George RR Martin, Joyce Carole Oates, Edna O’Brien, ... many more! 

I need to follow my other projects. The journey of being an artists or writer is on going, there is always so much to discover and challenge. 

Its inspirational also to meet famous people we admire.

We must have REAL Scots history our Historic sites

**Can the Scottish Government do more to protect the "REAL Scots history" at our many historic sites?
I read with interest the letter from Rory Bulloch, National 14th May, on how badly Scots history is told at our historic sites.
On a trip last autumn to the Scottish north coast, we stopped at the eerie sight of Culloden moors, which were covered in a layer of crisp snow. I thought of the battlefield sights we’ve lost – where is the real Bannockburn? And I hope there will not be houses built here when Scotland has plenty of land.

One of the guys in his red jacket and blue bonnet was explaining the battle to me, he said kilts we worn on both sides  - he didn't seem to be aware this important Culloden battle was a "religious battle". Or of the Thirty Years religious wars that were raging in Europe at the time etc. etc. There were German, French and Irish troops involved too in this battle. After this crucial battle, prisoners were violently murdered, and the Highland way of life and culture was completely crushed by English redcoats from their huge 18th century Fort George, which is still used as a fortress today, at the entrance to the Moray Firth north of Inverness. They learnt from this how to subjugate the natives for future imperial suppressions. 
To my surprise there were no Professor Tom Devine history books in their bookshop either – and clearly a sanitized version told here by The National Trust for Scotland. PLUS Historic Dunkeld is covered in plaques - we were told by a local that they were put there by one guy and that most of them are historically untrue! 

History is not simply about the past – it informs our present and future and crucially shapes who we are and how we see ourselves. Its important to realise the extent that the British nationalists seek to suppress Scots heritage, which began in earnest after the ’45 and after the union 1707. I strongly dislike calling this supposed partnership a union, because it came about under great duress, riots and blood. 

As professor Alan Raich writes, National May 16, in his article on the works of the poet James MacPherson, ‘Unlocking Ossian’. In 1760 MacPherson travelled north to recover the epic tales of the ancient Gaels where he met local tradition-bearers. He spoke Gaelic and was educated at Aberdeen university. His Ossian works are described as a fraud by British critics. “This itself has been a long-standing hoax of the British establishment, always opposed to the notion of an ancient Scottish Gaelic civilisation predating its own. As always priority is power.”…A reclamation of Gaelic cultural authority writing from antiquity was effectively a Scottish cultural counterpoint to the post Culloden military and social devastation.” 

As a highlander, MacPherson understood the Gaelic traditions and as university educated he aimed to appeal to Hanoverian Britain: and he needed to appeal to his wealthy patrons (as did Burns). He promoted the Gaelic world to international readers. He died 1795 on his estate in the highlands. I read a different story though, at the Uist museum, of their enforced emigration to Canada. 

As I was taught practically no Scots history at school Edinburgh, to my great regret, I am now teaching myself. I have attended three lectures by Professor Tom Devine on the Scottish Enlightenment, the Darien Project and the Lowland Clearances. I have read several of his books – the Scottish Nation: A Modern History, The lowland Clearances and Independence or Union. 

**Can the Scottish Government do more to protect the "REAL Scots history" at our many historic sites? And crucially stop this sanitized whitewash! But rather promote the true Scots history as told by real Scottish Historians such as Professor Tom Devine, linguist Stuart McHardy, lyricist Robert Burns, Professor Alan Raich, or poet Ian Crichton Smith. And not the falsehoods peddled by historical fiction writer John Prebble or archaeologist Neil Oliver. Its well past time all this changed.

 Ossian books – 
1. Fragments of Ancient Poetry (1760)
2.  Fingal, an Ancient Epic poem (1761)
3. Temora, an Ancient poem (1763) 
Plus Collected Edition, Works of Ossian, the son of Fingal (1765)

MUSIC in Pandemic times

Music in the UK is a 5 billion industry, with 1 billion in live music. Music supports 200K jobs – who will need longer term support.

For concerts to return – we must protect the workforce along with medical advice. There is a risk of loosing small venues. If we loose small venues, we will loose the talent pipelines. Glasgow boast world beating small venues, I hope they can survive – King Tuts, Barrowlands, Oran Mor, more.

Yet we are listening to more and more music.
Online concerts, sometimes from venues are happening.
Also drive in concerts!

Music Broth -  Is delivering musical instruments and repairing instruments: to give access to music for many who would no be able to afford to. Plus repairing second hand instruments. 

Music Broth is Scotland’s Musical Instrument and Equipment Library. Our mission is to make music more accessible to all. We do this through sharing our 1000+ item library of musical instruments and equipment accessible to anyone seeking support for your musical ventures and adventures! We support individuals, bands, families, and organisations. 

Music is an act of self-care. To keep in touch with creative abilities and skills. To express ourselves and communicate.

" People expressing themselves will be there long after the Covid crisis is over."