Humans is ainimals like ony ither in that we eat, sleep, muive about an dae the auld hochmagandie. But, at the same time, we arenae the same as ither ainimals, pairtly acause we are the anerly species that can unnerstaund whit A’m scrievin. We are the anerly species that haes gane fae bein an endangert species in an East African glen tae bein the anerly species tae bide on thairsels on aw the continents; the last ane, Antarctica, designtly, an it isnae even acause it haes onything tae eat on it. An we’re the anerly species tae transmogrify the face o a feck o the globe. An even the anerly species tae send itsel an its companions intae space. Hou is that humans did that an no ony ither species? Whit gars us homo sapiens sae sonsie?
A few thochts tae stert wi wad be weel-kent phýsical attributes includin strang opposable thumbs an a muckler brain. A muckler brain wad seem a help, inspecially confeerance wi ither primates, but wir brains haes scrinkit ’ithin the past twinty thousand year.
As for opposable thumbs, there is a few definítions o whit that constitutes but thay aw involve bringin yer thumb the conter side o yer ither fingers. It is a potential aspect o human beins that expleens hou we got sae sonsie. It’s wi opposable thumbs that we can mak aw wir technology. This capacity can be found in ither primates an aw: aw the great apes, mony lesser apes; even Auld Warld monkeys like the macaques.
An it isnae even restrictit tae primates aither, even gif the ither tetrapods wi sic haudin haunds dinnae uise thaim sae weel as primates: pandas, opossums, koalas an some tree puddocks like the waxy monkey leaf frog hae the same distinctive gresp that we associate wi wir ain species. But human opposable thumbs is obviously the best anes acause thay’re mair advanced acause the thumb is faurer fae the ither fingers an can turn aw the wey round on the ithers.
The technology we uise wir opposable thumbs for tae create isnae specífic tae humans itsel, aither: while the technology o humans is och that bit mair spectacular, ither ainimals can uise technology an aw. Ither mammals, inspecially primates, an birds (inspecially craws) an octopuses is amang the ainimals that can uise technology. Housomiver, there is major differs acqueesh human technology an maist ither ainimal technology in that humans fashion thair ain, an wir technology is perqueer an ever-chyngin.
The ever-chyngin naitur o human technolgoy is due tae wir creatívity. Creatívity is a new-fangle o the Homo genus, wirsels an wir naurmaist forbears. Humans is that innovative that, fae aichty thousand year syne on, chynge haes become ordinar in humans. Creatívity is connectit wi adaptabílity an humans is maistlike the maist adaptable species, capable o bidin in mony different environments atour the warld, pairtly due tae wir ingenious development o technology. We can even gang intae caulder environments nor whit wir Neanderthal cousins war uised wi, an thay war uised wi the geal. This new-fangle an creatívity can be seen in airt, whilk can anerly be conclusively seen in humans.
Airt isnae the anerly cultural activíty that appluises the naitur o humanity: cultur itsel is anither thing that could be seen as specífic tae humans. It haes been uphauden that Japanese macaques haes cultur: lair an pratticks passt doun throu the generations. Resairchers commune yet anent whither thir behaviours is culturalor no.
A major aspect o human cultur is leids. Language is wir creative cultural capacity for communication. A say it’s creative acause wirds can be uised in new-fangelt weys thereby expandin the realm o the leid; ainimal noises cannae be uised in new-fangelt weys like the noises o us humans can. An the cultural aspect o leids is partícular important acause humans haes different leids dependin on the kintra, or whiles even the clachan. This is in contrast tae ither ainimals wha aften haes the same caw ower several continents. This cultural an linguistic diversity is therefore pairt o wir skeels specífic tae wir species an something tae uphaud.
Anither contrast we can mak wi ither species is that thay can communicate but no in a abstract mainer. Wirds itsel is specífically human: the wey we structure wir communication intae discrete units isnae something we can see in ither inhabitants o the planet Yird. Polysemy is a notably human characteristic, as is uisin different sounds ’ithout waitin on a stimulus for thaim. The wey we pit sentences thegither uisin the wirds is unique an aw: we can produce a infinite nummer o utterances, unalike ither ainimals that haes a fixed set o cries.
Anither human characteristic that isnae found in ither species is the wey fowk spik specífically for tae spik; it isnae juist a rackless eftercome o anither behaviour. This means that this is a central aspect o wir behaviour; it isnae juist a wee extra on the tap. We communicate for tae communicate.
The meanin o wirds isnae relatit tae the form. This can be seen in some bird caws an aw, but birds lack ither chairactertistics o human language, like productivity. Likewise, whan bees dance, thay shaw that thay communicate anent events that isnae thare.
Wir leids is uised for tae interact in society an we humans is gey an sociable. Wir sociabílity is ane o the vicks that distinguishes us fae wir naur relatives, the Neanderthals. An it enables divíson o labour, something that allous fowk tae focus on specífic tasks, preferably tasks that we’re better at an we’re greeshochie about.
The foresaid social skeels includes cooperation an skarin, naitural human skeels that even bairns daes. Whit we skare isnae juist objects, but thochts an aw, enablin thochts tae spreid fae ae body tae anither. Anither o the social skeels that distinguishes us is wir cognitive empathy, the abílity tae unnerstaund whit ither fowk is thinkin, is forby specífic tae humanity, an fair helpfu for haein meaninfu interactions.
A wad hypothesise that, for tae empathise wi ithers, we wad need tae uise abstract thocht. Abstract thocht, thinkin on things that isnae here the nou, is a important aspect o the human essence, that distinguishes us fae wir primate maiks. This can be linkit wi language in that wirds is specífically human, but abstract wirds like ‘freedom’ an ‘equality’ is even faurer remuived fae the capacities o ither ainimals. There is different degrees o abstraction an aw: dates seem abstract for a bairn, but quantum phýsics is even mair abstract.
This abstract thinkin is manifest in the wey we can think aheid o time an back in time. Baith reminiscin an imaiginin is ane o the maist fundamental humanvicks. An the connection acqueesh wir thinkin anent the futur an anent the past is stranger nor we realise acause we big wir ideas anent the futur wi wir mindins o the past. We uise mair or less the same pairts o the brain for thinkin anent the past as for the futur an, gif we forget wir mindins, we lose wir capacity tae imaigine wir futur an aw. An, imperfect as human memory is, humans haes a spectacular memory ower a lifetime whan compared wi ither ainimals. This gies us a richt guid advantage ower ither species acause we can plan for the futur an be better prepared for it.
Sae Jock Tamson’s bairns is bairns that spik leids, an sicweys we communicate in multiple iver-chyngin new-fangelt abstract weys. In the communication sýstems, we can descrive no juist whit we see, whit we hae seen an whit we will see, but even things that we could niver ken even gif thay could exist. An aw the vicks can be seen in the behaviour o wir species in ither weys an aw. Jock Tamson’s bairns wirks thegither, cooperatin an skarin mair nor ony ither species on the Yird. We are forby creative an innovative, wir society chyngin ilka day acause o wir ain thochts. Abstract thocht, thinkin anent the futur an the past, is forby a vick that gars us humans a lanerly species, as is wir capacity for adaption. Leids is tharefore the kythin o several o humanity’s heichmaist capacities. Sae lat’s haud on bein the cooperative, creative-thinkin, adaptive ainimals we are.
James McDonald is a Scots polyglot steyin in Réunion. He is keen on different leids, inspecially local leids, an thair forderin, whether it’s Scots, Gaelic, Réunion Creole or ither leids. He wirks in schuils, helpin bairns wi thair hamewirk an giein chess lessons. Ye can contact him on jmcd89 [AT] googlemail [DOT] com.
A I; acqueesh between; anent about; anerly only; appluises makes available to; atour all over; big build; caw call; clachan village; confeerance wi in comparison with; descrive describe; designtly deliberately; eftercome effect; feck large proportion; gars makes; geal extreme coldness; gif if; greeshochie enthusiastic; haud on carry on; hochmagandie fornication; housomiver nevertheless; kythin manifestation; lair learning,knowledge; lanerly exceptional, unique; leid language; maiks relatives; mindins recollections,memories; perqueer skilfully made; pratticks habits, customs; rackless accidental; scrinkit shrunken, shrivelled; sicweys thus; skarin sharing; sonsie successful; vicks traits; whiles sometimes; Yird Earth
Social media ímage: Girl with a Book by José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior
Whither in Italy, Germany, France or England, muisic bi gate o court an kirk wis flourishin aw ower Europe i the Renaissance an Baroque periods. But what o Scotland? Wis it aw juist bagpipes, reels an fowk sangs? I pit on my speirer’s bunnet an haed a bit leuk . . .
Atween c1430 an c1750 — a time that comprehends twa muisical eras scholars caws the Renaissance an Baroque periods — Europe’s kirks an royal courts wis the patrons o ‘airt’ (or ‘clessical’) muisic. Tak, for instance, the liturgical muisic o the Renaissance, like the Masses an motets o Italy’s Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c1525–94). Or, efter in Germany, the fouthie outpit o J. S. Bach (1685–1750), that’s kent as the heidmaist componer o the Baroque period. Siccan dargs couldna hae been wrocht without the siller o the estaiblishment.
For maist o the time period we’re concernt wi Scotland wis yet a free-staundin kintra, an for about hauf o it haed a royal court steidit in Edinburgh. It gart me wunner (as a body that lang syne did a bit study o early European airt muisic) what wis gaun on in Scotland at yon time. The subject o liturgical or court muisic in our airt o the warld haed niver kythed i the year I studied the muisic o the period, an — I maun admít — I’d niver thocht tae leuk intil it afore nou.
Fasherie an raivelment
The naitur o events that mak up Scotland’s history — the mixtur-maxtur o polítical, relígious an social dree — haes meant the extant lave o muisical ongauns frae earlier times isna ower fouthie. The 14t century wis a time whan Scotland wis fechtin for its independence. Than the Protestant Reformation hauf-gates throu the 16t century gied us a dour national kirk that haedna muckle time for sic joys as muisic. An o course in 1603 the union o the crouns gart the Scots court flit south tae Lunnon, takkin wi it cultural daeins an airtin. Aw this did nae favours tae the haudin gaun an development o Scots cultur, muisic includit.
But what daes survive o, an what div we ken in general anent, early Scots airt muisic?
In Scotland the earliest scrievit muisic that survives belangs the 13t century, durin a time muisic scholars caws the Medieval period. The Saunt Andras Muisic Beuk is a muckle cairn o kirk muisic manuscripts copied some time around 1230–50. It haes intil’t a guid feck o muisic frae Nostre Dame in Pairis, an a nummer o warks jaloused tae be bi (unkent) Scots componers. As we’ll see, the wark o French componers wis tae influence the muisic o Scotland outthrou the Renaissance. Atour frae the 13t century, the’re a hymn i the Laitin tae celebrate Princess Margaret’s waddin tae Kíng Eric o Norrowa in 1281. It’s thocht tae hae been written bi a Friar Maurice that steyed in Norrowa an that wis likely a Scot. But nocht mair nor that haes survived.
Siclike, no muckle is kent about aither court or saucrit muisic i the 14t an 15t centuries. Doutless some liturgical blads wad hae been tint tae war wi England (the Border abbeys, for example, wis connacht an re-biggit i the course o the wars). Ae manuscript we div hae is the Inchcolm Antiphoner frae the 14t century, that comprises muisic o the Celtic kirk. A bittie efter, it’s kent that Jeames I (rang 1406–1437) invitit scholars frae England an Flanders tae gie wysins i the airts til his court. We ken, tae, that muisic played a central pairt in chaipel services i the newly-foundit universities o Saunt Andras, Glesca an Aiberdeen i the 15t century. But binna the antrin scart an a puckle scrieved-on sclates frae Paisley Abbey, the’re naething o the period that survives.
Aw in aw, while no muckle is extant pre-16t century, we can jalouse there maun hae been some kind o national compositional tradítion in Scotland that wad hae providit a found for later componers tae big on.
It wis i the late-15t an intae the 16t centuries that Scotland’s medieval Makars wis tae the fore in Scots cultural life. Poyets sic as Robert Henryson, William Dunbar an Gavin Douglas wrate the maist weel-regairdit verse that — awtho tae modren lugs no sae kenspeckle as the warks o Robert Burns — is still kent an in prent the day. Daes Scotland hae a muisicial outpit that can staund proudly alangside the byordinar quairs o the Makars?
Weel, happily we ken a bittie mair anent the muisic o Scotland i the 16t century nor we dae about earlier times. Maist namely amang componers o this period is Robert Carver (c1484–c1568). The Carver Choirbeuk, that comprehends his extant warks, is a byous pose o muisic that wis less or mair forgotten till fairly recent-like.
20t century scholars sic as Kenneth Elliott haes brocht Carver’s Masses an motets out frae the mirk an tae the tent o praisent-day clessical muisic listeners. It’s clear til us nou that Carver’s wark is o the heichmaist calibre, an compares brawly wi the warks o his mair weel-kent contemporars in continental Europe. In his entry anent Renaissance an Reformation muisic i The Oxford Companion to Scottish History, Jamie Reid Baxter raings Carver’s genius alangside that o his Makar contemporars Henryson, Dunbar an Douglas. An in his 1993 beuk Musick Fyne muisicologist D. James Ross threaps that Carver’s Mass Dum sacrum mysterium micht be the aesome maist byous achievement o Scots Renaissance cultur. Strang wirds. Thocht tae hae been compone’t in 1506 whan Carver wis juist 22 year auld, the said ten-vyce wark is unco in its scale an skeeliness. (Ye can hear it in full i the Spotify playlist linkit til at the fit o this post, as weel as on YouTube.)
Carver wis i the employ o the court o Jeames IV (rang 1488–1513), himsel a clarsach, keybuird an lute player. The ring o Jeames V (frae 1513 till 1542) wis siclike a sonsie time for Scots court muisic. His royal court mintit tae emulate that o Henry VIII an Leezabeth I in England, an a nummer o professional muisicians an componers wis keepit on haund. Like his faither, Jeames played the lute, an he wis a fine sicht-reader at the singin an aw. He on twa occasions mairit French princesses — the seicont bein Marie de Guise, mither o Mary, Queen o Scots — an at the time French cultur wis weel seen in Scotland. Componers sic as John Fethy wrate sangs that wis inspire’t bi the French chanson an motet styles.
Queen Mary (rang 1542–1567) wis hersel a muisician, bein a player o the lute an virginals, an a bonnie sangster as weel. Mary wis born in Lithgae but spent the stairt o her ring in France, an didna retour tae Scotland till 1561, bringin wi her mair French muisical influence. Mary haed a nummer o muisicians in her employ, includin a group o ‘sangsteris’ an ‘violaris,’ an muisicians frae England an Italy wad frequent the court. A nummer o componers wis actíve durin Mary’s ring, includin Andro Blackhall, John Black, Andro Kemp an the forementiont John Fethy. A nummer o anonymous sangs haes survived, tae, an ye can lug intae them on Spotify.
Mary’s muisical servitor wis Jeames Lauder (c1535–c1592), a componer o guid repute. The only extant wark we can say is his for shuir is the fine My Lord of Marche Paven (1584). He wis a fríend o the poyet Alexander Montgomerie, an wad likely hae been a memmer (alang wi Montomerie) o Jeames VI’s ‘Castalian Band’ o poyets an muisicians. He micht weel hae been the componer o settins o a wheen Montgomerie poyems sic as In throu the windoes of myn ees.
Richt sair opprest
The Reformation cam til a heid in Scotland in 1560, an the reformt Kirk haedna the time for muisic they regairdit as ower fantoush. The style kenspeckle in contemporar Catholic worship is what’s cawed in muisical terms ‘polyphonic’; that is, comprisin twa or mair independent (vyce) pairts (an kent at the time bi the name o ‘musick fyne’). The reformers wis haein nane o it, derogatin the style as “prophaine” an “filthie.” Muisical instruments — maist o aw the kirk organ — wis thocht on as bein associate wi the Deil, an a stap wis pitten tae the prentin o secular muisic. An for tae win at their braider polítical ettles, the reformers set about wrackin Scotland’s muisical cultur an infrastructur, includin the connachin o kirk biggins an the manuscripts an prentit muisic they housed.
This wis the selsame time that Palestrina in Italy wis componin byous warks that is unco weel-regairdit the day (sic as his maist weel-kent Mass Missa Papae Marcelli, thocht tae hae been written in 1562). Ane o the affcomes o aw the Reformation stour in Scotland is that the day we hae comparatively little i the wey o interestin muisic frae the time: juist a curn sangs, a wheen dances an a haundfu o instrumental warks. Awmaist the hale o the byordinar muisic líbrar o the Chaipel Royal (a important choral group steidit in Stirlin) is tint til us. The líbrar held fower antiphoners an mony ither cairns o manuscripts an prentit muisic. It’s a ferlie the Carver beuk haes survived.
Bi aw accounts the Reformation wis a disaster for Scots cultur. Houiver, it’s no like there wisna ony saucrit muisic efter John Knox an his reformers haed born the gree: the Kirk did mak uiss o Lutheran chorale melodies an psalm tuins frae France an England, an ye haed a nummer o componers — sic as Andro Kemp, David Peebles an John Angus — that teuk on the darg o settin thir melodies, alang wi new anes, in a semple, chordal wey, conform tae the contemporar European prattick. The ettle wis tae mak them easy for the kirk-fowk tae unnerstaund an sing alang til. The douce an mim arrangements, houiver, wis a warld awa frae the quirkie an airtfu polyphony o the pre-Reformation Kirk.
It follaes that i the dreich post-1560 environs there wisna the demand for skeely sangsters an polyphonic componers ony mair. Mony o the bigger Scots kirks haed lang haen ‘Sang Schules’ that learnt laddies skeels sic as organ-playin, pairt-singin an componin, an efter the Reformation the scuils suffert. The dwynin o muisic makkin i thir post-Reformation years wisna a state o affairs that could be thole’t for lang, tho, an Jeames VI (rang 1567–1625) declare’t in 1579: “[T]he art of musik and singing … is almaist decayit and sall schortly decay without tymous remeid be providit.” This royal decree ettelt at rebiggin the disjaskit sang scuils, an follaein its passin in Pairlament, the scuils, nou unner the owerance o the burghs, gaed on tae win back a guid bit tint grund. Ae wark we hae frae the time is The Art of Music, Collecit Out of all Ancient Doctours of Music (1580). It’s a treatise that is mintit at teachin students the airt o componin. Ither warks that haes survived frae Jeames VI’s time include the outpit o William Kinloch. Aw his extant warks is for the keybuird, an ye can check them out on Spotify.
In maugre o Jeames VI’s ettles, houiver, the fundamentalist naitur o the Scots reformers yet límitit the scowth o componers. They warna able tae flourish as did their contemporars Thomas Tallis an William Byrd in England, aft-times findin themsels fouterin wi psalm tuins insteid o winnin forrit wi their airt. Ower a hunder psalms, hermonised bi a sweirt David Peebles, is collectit i the Wode Pairtbeuks, that we’re chancy eneuch tae hae in our possession the day. The pairtbeuks — pitten thegither bi Tammas Wode, vicar o Saunt Andras — haes intil them warks bi a nummer o componers, an includes motets an ither saucrit warks i the Hie Renaissance style.
Union o the crouns
Jeames VI becam Jeames I o England in 1603 an the royal court flittit frae Edinburgh tae Lunnon, lea’in muisicians in Scotland in a swither as tae the wey forrit. While the loss o sic a important patron wis a stamagaster, the muisical tradítion, as weel as a puckle sang scuils, did haud gaun for a while. At the Glesca sang scuil, for example, componer Duncan Burnett scrieved a nummer o warks for keybuird that’s extant the day. Aw in aw, tho, efter the loss o the court, hamelt composition in Scotland dwyne’t for the time bein.
Ae muisician durin the Baroque period wi guid potential wis John Clerk o Penicuik (1676–1755). He spent time as a student o the weel-kent Italian violin player an componer Arcangelo Corelli (1653–1713), an produced a wheen warks early on in his career. The scriever o Clerk’s entry i the Grove pits forrit the cantata Odo di mesto intorno as Clerk’s best. The first performance o it wis led bi nane ither than Corelli himsel in 1698. At the hinder end, tho, Clerk’s potential as a componer wis tae be left unfulfilt, as he gaed intae politics in his mid-20s.
The end o an auld sang
Scotland tint its pairlament an its independence in 1707 wi the passin o the Union wi England Act. The Union brocht wi it social an economic stabílity that helpit forder muisical daeins in society, includin composition: muisicians sic as William McGibbon, Jeames Oswald an Chairles McLean produced sonatas, symphonies an ither warks i the contemporar international style. But it wis a sair fecht tae haud gaun what wi the want o siller an Scotland nae langer haein the international identity it haed i the 15t an 16t centuries. Fowk muisic — raither nor airt muisic — wad prevail, aiblins in pairt born out o the antisyzygetic identity in post-Union Scotland, whaur fowk muisic wis thocht on as bein ‘mair Scots.’
An sae the day we hae a state o affairs whaur the airt muisic o Renaissance an Baroque Scotland haes been forgotten. I the een o the warld, Scots cultur haes come tae be thocht on as couthie, happit in tartan, the bellum o massed bagpipes drounin out maist aw else. Juist as we maunna forget the warks o Makars like Dunbar an Douglas, sae we should tak braider tent o Scotland’s muisical history. As I’v learnt i the course o my speirins, the muisic produced here i the Renaissance an Baroque periods is gey aften gallus, furthie, an firmly steidit i the cosmopolitan European context. An frae it we can learn muckle about Scotland’s bygane, baith airtistic an polítical. Ay, it’s sad no a hale lot o it survived the Reformation, but what we div hae is weel wirth luggin intil.
Jamie Smith is a componer, pianae player, occasional scriever, an the founder an editor o the praisent blog. He’s a wab developer tae tred. Find out mair at jamiesmith.scot an follae him on Twitter @jamieonkeys.
I’v pitten thegither a Spotify playlist o muisic bi the Scots Renaissance an Baroque componers mentiont abuin. Listen here (Spotify account require’t).
An here’s a interactive timeline that pits events, componers an ithers in historical context, that I uised tae help keep me richt while speirin an scrievin. (Dates is whiles approximate.)
ae one; aesome single; affcomes outcomes; aiblins perhaps; airt part; airtin direction; anent about, concerning; atour additionally; at the hinder end ultimately; bellum din; binna except, apart from; blads manuscripts, papers; born the gree truimphed; brawly finely; bygane past; byordinar extraordinary; byous exceptional, wonderful; cairn collection; chancy lucky; componer composer; comprehend include; connacht destroyed; couthie inoffensive; curn small number; daeins activity; darg the product of a given endeavour, or a piece of work, a job; derogatin decrying, disparaging; disjaskit dilapidated; douce sedate; dour severe, dull; dree trouble, struggle; dreich dreary, dull; dwynin waning; een eyes; ettle aim; fantoush flashy, fancy; fasherie trouble; ferlie wonder; flit move location; found (‘foon(d)’) foundation; fouterin wasting time on; fouthie abundant; furthie hospitable to outside influences; gallus bold; gart made, compelled; gey very; guid feck o good number of; richt sair opprest grievously oppressed; happit wrapped, covered; haudin gaun continuation; in maugre o in spite of; jaloused surmised, thought; kenspeckle well known, recognisable; kirk-fowk congregation; kythe come up, appear; lave what is left over, the remainder; lug in listen; maun must; maunna must not; mim restrained; mintit aimed; mirk darkness; muckle much; nocht nothing; nor than; ongauns goings-on; outthrou throughout; owerance control, oversight; pose cache, valuable collection; puckle few; quairs written works; quirkie complex; raings rates; raivelment disorder, confusion; re-biggit rebuilt; ring reign; a sair fecht tae haud gaun a struggle to keep going; sangster singer; saucrit sacred; scart scrap; sclates slates; scowth scope, freedom to express oneself; scrievit written; siccan such; siclike similarly; siller money; skeely skilled; skeeliness skillfulness, accomplishment; speirer researcher; speirins research; stamagaster great disappointment, unpleasant surprise; steidit based; stour strife, conflict; sweirt reluctant; swither fluster, state of uncertainty; tent notice; thole’t put up with, endured; threaps contends; tint lost; unco remarkable; wheen few; wrocht made, worked; wysins guidance
Baxter, Jamie Reid. Music, ecclesiastical. The Oxford Companion to Scottish History (Oxford University Press, 2001; online, 2007). Accessed Mey 2018.
Baxter, Jamie Reid. Culture. The Oxford Companion to Scottish History (Oxford University Press, 2001; online, 2007). Accessed Mey 2018.
‘Whaur we cam fae’ is a tryptych explorin the history an explodin the myths o the last twa thousand years o Scotland. Tae ken whaur we are gaein ye maun ken whaur we’v been.
The Pechts war warriors, fermers an airtists that ruled ower maist o Scotland throu the first millenia AD. They war the distinct fowk that emerged whan aa the hunners o wee clans in verra early Derk Age Scotland gaithert thegither. They spreid ae appearently homogenous cultur out fae their hertlaunds in the saxt century, an suin Pechtland raxed ower maist o Scotland. Their name an the ends o their muckle launds are commemoratit in the Pentland Hills, south o Embra, an the Pentland Firth aff John O’ Groats, wi Pent bein anither name for Pecht. There’s a guid amount o haivers spak about the Pechts, an little truith. Lat’s here ging on a wee journey throu the story o the Pechts an sort out whit’s kent fae whit’s keech.
The Pechts war, in a sense, inventit bi the Romans. The Romans didnae get faur north o Hadrian’s Waa in ony permanent sense, but they did big a dizzen or mair wee mairchin camps an wad send thousands o sodgers north tae fouter about near the Hieland Line. Wee rammies, sporadic fechts an occasional trade went on atween the fowk north o the Waa an the Roman sodgers gairdin it. Nou an again these Romans wad stravaig about Scotland wi immunity atween their mairchin camps, makkin maps an leukin out for resources. Nou an again they wad be gien a sair lesson. The kenspeckle 9t Legion o Romans, wha haed shed bluid aa ower the Roman Empire, mairchit intae Scotland fae their base south o Hadrian’s Waa tae pit doun a Scottish rebellion. They disappeared. Naeb’dy kens tae this day whaur their bodies lie, but maist fowk credit the idea o a Roman massacre, cairied out bi the indigenous peoples. Roman historians screivit tales o the northren barbarians, an the people becam a bogle uised tae mak bairns aa ower the Empire feart at nicht.
The Romans biggit up the idea that Pechts war a fowk fae lang ago that haed aa the nobility an savagery o the barbarian. They stotted about in the scud in their cauld launds, baws aye hingin in the snell nor’lin wind wi naething but their tattoos tae protect them. They war uised tae fleg the general Roman population, or else uised as a handy frontier, ower which they could breenge gin ae emperor or anither wantit tae shaw hou big an strang he wis bi blouterin intae some enemy.
The Pechts seem tae hae gaithert thegither unner the banner o ‘Rome’s Enemies’. They raidit south ower the Waa, an cam round the coast bi boat tae pit the fear o God intae puir sowels bidin in the lea o the Roman camps. The Pechts developed as a cívilisation strang eneuch tae be gey unwalcome neebours. They war mebbe ower thirled tae a mairtial wey o life at this stage, an archaeologically they didnae lea’ us muckle.
Whan the Roman Empire fell apairt we see Pictish cultur suddenly flourish. The muckle fort at Burgheid on the Moray coast wis biggit, wi ramparts fifty fit abuin the sea, an a deep well for ceremonial, or mebbe sacrifícial, uiss wis dug out o the law. The relígious centres an pouer centres at Rhynie, at Rosemarkie an ither places shaw a confident fermin an fishin fowk wha traded wi aa o Europe an beyond.
Archeology in airts sic as Rhynie gie us insichts intae the complex heirarchies at play, an the buirit troves o siller jewellery fund in Fife gar us tak tent o the great airtistic cultur that becam the hert o the Pictish warld. There’s guid evidence that the famous Beuk o Kells wis screivit an illustratit in a Pecht monastery.
But really, gin ye want tae see ae wee skelf o the warld as the Pechts seen it, an hou they altered an interactit wi their warld, ye maun vísit some o their staundin stanes. Nae ither fowk in Europe hae lea’d us sic a fouth o carvit stanes. Around twa hunner o them exist, in ilka airt fae Gallawa tae Skye an Shetland. They uised a series o sýmbols, wha’s literal meanin is tint tae us nou, that are unifrom ower their hail domain, indicatin a shared cultur an unnerstaundin fae south tae north.
Nae lang syne I made ma wey tae the maist Nor-Westerly o aa the mainland Pictish staudin stanes. The Farr Stane staunds in a kirkyaird at the mouth o the fertile strath in Sutherland, whaur the saumon-rich river Naver oscillates its wey tae the sea. It staunds heicher nor ma ain hicht, an leuks proudly out ower this bonnie pairt o the warld. It haes a muckle cross carvit intae its face, an proclaims its Christianity — an thereby its connection wi the wider European cultur an fashion o their day — out tae sea, as if projectin its ain beliefs north tae the pagan wilds o the Viking nations. Here, wi the wind blawin ower the ragged heather, the collapsed brochs, the tuim ferm biggins, ye get a sense o whit the Pechts war aa about. The laund here is rich, the Naver floods nou an again, makkin great dumps o alluvial soil. Whiles it’s mebbe a bit plowterie, but the Bens tae the west tak the warst o the stottin rain. The river is fouthie wi braw saumon, the sea accessible thanks tae a lang, safe naitural herbour.
The Pechts pit doun roots in the maist bonnie an conducive-tae-life airt they could find in the north, an merkit it wi a stane as a declaration o cívilisation. This paittern ye find in ilka airt whaur the Pechts haed a serious base. Guid fishin, guid fermin an relative safety.
There’s a wheen blethers ye hear about the Pechts fae time tae time. Some claim they bade unnergrund. Ithers that they war about fower fit tall. The Declaration o Arbroath, ane o the great documents o Scottish history, even claims that the Scots “utterly destroyed” the Pechts whan the time cam. Aa’hing here haes ae fit in truith an anither in fiction. The Pechts, or at least their immediate forbears, dug out hunners o unnergrund barrows an earth-houses (also kent as Souterrains). These war uised tae store fuid in the caller air aneath the earth, no tae bide in. The idea that Pechts war tiny wee fowk also is pairtially true. The first account o Pechts bein wee is fae a Norse scriever, wha merely suggestit they war a bittie on the smaa side. Nae dout they war, compared wi the lang-shankit Norse fowk. This myth, alangside the ane about them bidin in earth houses, led tae the idea that they war totty wee bairnie-sized fowk. Dinnae you believe it.
Thon lest idea, that the Scots utterly destroyed the Pechts, haes been the maist damagin ane tae their legacy. It haes gied us the idea that the Pechts war in somewey wiped aff the earth in ae muckle genocide as the Scots, their heids an claes droukit wi the bluid o the natives, swept aa afore them. This wisnae the case at aa. The Pechts an Scots wirkit thegither an, ower hunners o years o intermairiage o elites, airtisitic, mairtial an economic pairtnership, they amalgamatit intae ae people. Bi cuttin aff the legacy o the Pechts wi the foundation o Scotland we cut oursels aff fae our ain Derk Age past. The Pechts ruled ower much o whit is nou Scotland, estaiblisht trade an traivel routes we still uise the day an gied our laund mony o its names an featurs. As outlined abuin, the Pechts gied us a kist o riches in terms o archeology, airt, jewellery an history. The few damagin myths around them are the sneckit lock on this kist. Unsneck it, open it up an tak pleisur in explorin the aulder history o Scotland.
Alistair Heather wirks wi the Elphinstone Institute at the University o Aiberdeen, heezin up Scots in the North-East throu impruivin its vísibility in the media an tourism, an estaiblishin Scots in ilka pairt o the education sýstem, fae bairnheid tae unnergraduate. He also maks Scots Radio, alangside Frieda Morrison, an Scots Radio TV. He scrieves for The National, The Herald an aab’dy else wha’ll pit him in prent. Gie him yer chat @Historic_Ally an via Alistair [DOT] heather [AT] hotmail.com.
Nae ower lang syne, there wis an outcry on social media. Cancer Research UK haed juist release’t new advertisin, fit wis intendit tae mak a verra clear pynt. The ímage clearly read: “Obesity is a cause of cancer.” Ae quine wisna too impressed wi this idea, an cried on Twitter that it wis ‘fat-shamin’ an that the chairity should tak it doun. Than, aa o a sudden, a haundfu o trolls pop up (at least hauf o them wi eggs for profile picturs) gaun on about foo “fat fowk juist need tae get a grip an gang on a diet.” Nou, ‘at’s fit got me rile’t up. The UK is the maist obese kintra in Europe. Nae ane o the maist, but the maist. Aye, it’s aafu, but it’s nae wird o a lee aither. Tae really pit ‘at statistic intae perspective, Cancer Research UK maks it pretty clear on their wabsite that obesity can cause thirteen types o cancer aathegither, sic as kindey cancer, breist cancer, intestine cancer an oesophagus cancer. Sae foo can we improve the state o our population’s health an tak the pressure aff our NHS? Foo can we pit a stap tae the cancer epidemic that could be comin if we dinna dae something about the astoundin rate o obesity? Ah dinna think bullyin owerwecht fowk online is the wey tae dae it.
First an foremaist, aab’dy haes tae tak intae consíderation that there’s hunners o reasons fit wey some fowk are owerwecht. It can quite aften be the case that an obese person juist haesna got the energy, motivation or confidence tae get out o their bed fan it’s still pitch black outside an heid tae the gym tae dae an hour o cardio at 5am ivery mornin. But, dinna forget that there’s countless ither causes an aa. Ane o the biggest causes is haein ither health issues which can lead tae wecht gain. Ah, masel, hiv gaed fae bein a fit an healthy black belt, trainin in mairtial airts fower times a week, tae nou, some days nae bein able tae climb a set o stairs, since developin pernicious anemia fower ‘ear ago. There’s fowk fa struggle wi wecht gain because o thyroid problems, fowk fa mebbe arena sae able tae gang tae the gym efter becomin injure’t at wark, or in a caur accident. A study bi the NHS also fund that 58 per cent o fowk fa suffer fae depression are at a higher risk o becomin obese. O course, it’s a vícious cycle consíderin that bein obese can be fit causes some mental illnesses in the first place. Fowk fa are über fit an healthy can sometimes be aafu quick tae judge, but obesity is something aafu personal, an aafu complex. There’s nae juist ae wey tae tackle it, especially fan it’s caused bi unnerlyin health issues.
Juist a few weeks past the sugar tax cam intae play. There’s been plenty o argiments for an agin it (especially fae Irn Bru fans), but will it really help? Aye, mebbe taxin sugar-filled products will reduce the nummer o puir fowk fa are obese, but nae the rich anes. Onybody fa can afford tae continue tae pey for fit they crave, be it a bottle o fizzy juice or a bag o skittles, will dae so. Ye can see this easily fan ye compare the Canary Islands wi Scotland, for example. Out on islands sic as Gran Canaria an Lanzarote ye’ll see packets o cigarettes lyin about in ivery shop imaiginable, an a jumbo pack o 200 will set ye back about €19. In Aiberdeen, for the same brand ye’ll pey upwards o a tenner, for a pack o 20. ’At’s 90 per cent less cigarettes for mair than hauf o the price. Yet still, 20 per cent o Scotland’s population arena pit aff bi the high taxes an continue tae pey the comparably high price tae be smokers. If onything, a tax on sugary products will only prevent them fa live in poverty fae bein able tae indulge in a treat fan they fancy ane, an will therefore dae nae verra much except for braidenin class divísions even mair. If a sae-caad ‘solution’ causes a bigger social gap in ma kintra, than tae me it’s niver really gaun tae be an effective ane. Taxin aabody’s sugary treats isna the sweetest o ideas; there’s better anes.
Obligatory fuid education in primary scuils is a must. Teachin younger generations aa about fit healthy fuid an drinks are an foo tae prepare them is the best wey tae mak the futur brichter, an less obese. Scotland is a kintra rich in agriculture, so it’s even mair imperative an aa that our bairns unnerstaund far the produce that they eat is comin fae. They need tae ken that fish fingers come fae the North Sea an that chocolate milk disna come fae broun cous. Bairns also need tae be taucht foo tae enjoy treats like sweeties ’ithout gaun ower the score: a better idea o fit calories are, an foo they wirk, is ’ithout a dout something ah wish that ah haed learnt at the scuil. This could gang haund in haund wi mair obvious nutritional information on sweetie papers etc. Ah’m nae sayin that packagin o sweeties should follae the fitsteps o cigarettes an be completely colourless wi naething but ímages o fowk on their deith beds, but if fowk are taucht tae unnerstaund the meanin ahint nutritional information, an it’s made a lot mair prominent on aa fuid packagin, it wad nae dout mak an aafu difference.
It must be said that tellin an obese person tae “juist lose wecht” is nae far aff tellin a depressed person tae “juist be happy.” It’s juist daft! Obesity is an aafu problem for those fa are lívin throu it, an for our NHS, but scare-mongerin fowk isna the wey tae fix it. The idea ahint the sugar tax is nae a bad ane, but there’s far better weys o achievin lower levels o obesity. It’s time tae stairt thinkin about educatin young bairns mair about fuid sae that the nixt generations arena faced wi the same epidemic.
Antonia Uri is a twinty-ane year auld Doric-spikkin student o Modren Furrin Leids at Aiberdeen University. She is currently the Alba Eiditor at The Gaudie, an a scriever for The National. Claik awa wi her on Twitter @teuchtertoni.
A feck o democratic Catalan politícians haes polítical captions agin thaim. The Spainish government is forfendin yet again the process o the Catalan pairlament. In October, it wis acause o the wanthirldom referendum. An nou it’s the jylin o politícians for polítical causes. Thay are socht for ‘rebellion’ an ‘embezzlement’. The definítion o ‘rebeliòn’ in the Spainish constitution actually haes specífically adae wi bangstrie, something that Puidgemont, Ponsati or ither Catalan independentists haes niver promuived. An the referendum wis for the public guid, sae it cannae be embezzlement.
A ‘mids’ postur o mair autonomy for Catalonie, as propone’t by Claus Hecking in Der Spiegel, juist isnae tenable ony mair: the Catalan population haes awready votit on the question o mair autonomy an it wis approbate by thareabout aichty per cent o the population, but than pairtly annult by the Spainish Heich Court.
Gif the Spainish government wants tae be raisonable an trulins be a democratic state, it anerly haes ae option: exeem the polítical prísoners an pit in place a wanthirldom referendum.
Jakob Augstein, in the Spiegel itsel, is richt whan he says Germany sudnae haund Puidgement ower tae the Spainish government. He’s forby richt whan he says that Puidgemont’s bein liftit is a shame for Spainie, Europe an Germany. For kintras that pride thairsels on bein democratic, thay cannae pit fowk in jyle juist for organisin a vote that wis pairt o the polítical programme that buir the gree.
This is hou it is richt tae raise the question o whit we expect o a state. Dae we expect that a state wad oppone democracy? Och naw! We sud expect an demand o governments that thay are free, an become free-er. Thay say thay are democracies. We can assume that, but thay sud pruive that thay are, by applýin democratic principles. An thare is room for chynge in the Spainish estaiblishment.
Acause freedom isnae juist gien an than it’s thare for aye acause it wis gien tae ye. Freedoms an richts is like muscles: thay mouter awa gif ye dinnae uise thaim.
The fact that fowk stoups Ponsati wis shawn in the wey she pit thegither mair nor twa hunner thousand pund in legal upkeep in juist a few days.
Kevin McKenna is richt an aw tae say that we sud say that the Spainish state haes commit authoritarian actions, raither than bein authoritarian. Acause pairt o that expectation is the expectation that fowk can chynge, that things can impruive. Obviously, it isnae inevitable. But we sud certainly evite the cynical attitude o “things is keech” acause the anerly wey for things tae git ony better is for fowk tae imaigine the forrit an ayont an mak steps taewart that futur.
It’s the same wi individuals: gif we want fowk tae impruive, we can juist say “ye’re a dunnerheid” an lea’ it at that. Aw ye daen thare is create unfríendship. It’s a fair feck better tae say “this thing is wrang; here’s hou it can be better.”
A richt free state is ane whaur ye can say whit ye want ’ithout ony bather fae the government. A free state is ane whaur ye can chuise yer leaders, an thay implement the programme ye votit for. Or in even free-er societies, ye dinnae need the middle man; ye juist vote or decide on the policies straucht-like.
An a richt free state is ane that uphauds the richt tae sel-determination; ane whaur a fowk can decide its ain futur. It’s the fowk that needs tae be in the heft. An that includes fowks that disnae yet hae thair ain kintra.12 An that includes the richt tae lea’ the kintra thay are awready in acause ense it’s like ye’re jyle’t ’ithin the state, a Hotel California version o democracy. Ye can gie somebody aw the polítical richts ye want (an ye sud) as pairt o anither unit. Ye can dae the same for cívil richts an aw. But ’ithout the richt sel-determination, thay’re still boxt in.
An democracy is about the laws in place representin the will o the demos, the fowk. Gif ye dinnae hae a demos, ye cannae hae a democracy. An, gif the identity o the people concernt by the polítical entity disnae correspond wi the polítical entity in question, the polítical entity is lackin in its democratic capacity tae represent a demos. Sae, for tae hae a fou democracy, whit recks is creatin a polítical entity that by lattin the fowk that isnae pairt o the demos form thair ain state, gif that is whit thay want.
This richt sud be applíed equal-aqual an richt-like tae aw fowks in the warld. But, for the maument, the anerly kintras that is sonsie in thair quest for freedom is kintras that haes support fae muckle pouers. Nou, consíderin the feck o the muckle pouers is democracies, thay sud be uphaudin aw ettles at wanthirldom.3
The richt tae sel-determination is estaiblisht as a principle o law applicable tae aw fowks at the Unitit Nations. The oríginal definítion o fowk is that fowks is ony group occupýin a sindry aurie.
This richt is contrastit wi the concep o ‘territorial integrity’. This concep applíes anerly in case o democracies that grant richts tae aw thair cítizens.4
We can argie that, in the ensaumple o Catalonie, the Spainish government haes gien unequal representation tae the different autonomist communities acause it haes lat Andalucía guide policy auries that it wadnae allou tae Catalonie.
An, by ma wey o it, the richt wey tae balance the twa richts wad be tae uphaud anerly agin threits fae outwi’ the state mairches. That wey, it wad gie fou richts tae sel-law ‘ithout lattin the feckfu kintras mismaggle the affairs o the ither kintras.
In Statehood and the Law of Self-Determination, it is statit that the criteria for the formation o a state, an the criteria for the onhaudin o a state isnae the same: the onhaudin o a state is assumed, whaur the formation is needin tae fulfil specífic criteria.5 This creates inertia whaurby the sítuation steys lang the same whan it could chynge for tae create a jonicker sítuation, mair representative o the wills o the fowks o the warld. It can forby create víolent sítuations o war that wad hinderly be wannecessar gif states wad juist recognise the wills o the fowks tae stert wi.
Sae we can see that Catalonia is unner a government that committit actions that wisnae richt in fauvours o freedom. A say this acause the Spainish government hisnae yet lea’d the Catalans git the government thay votit on an thay hinnae lea’d the Catalans vote thairsels out o Spainie an intae a new Catalonia.
An that this isnae whit we sud expect tae see, consíderin Spainie is a democracy, even gif it isnae a republic. This is a fundamental pairt o a wirkin democracy: tae lea’ fowk the richt tae sae we’ll dae wir ain thing wirsels.
An this richt sud applý tae aw fowks the warld ower, even in kintras that is itherwise free. An thare is mony ensaumples o kintras; we hivnae even leukit at the case o Kurdistan, the Iraq-rung pairt o whilk votit for its ain wanthirldom wi a clear majority an a muckle participation rate. Acause the ultimate richt is tae sae “we’ll decide things by wirsels.”
An like for ony ither richt, we sud haud thaim tae account. Whither it’s protestin, votin, petítions, be clear on whit kin o society ye want tae be lívin in, an fecht for it.
James McDonald is a Scots polyglot steyin in Réunion. He is keen on different leids, inspecially local leids, an thair forderin, whether it’s Scots, Gaelic, Réunion Creole or ither leids. He wirks in schuils, helpin bairns wi thair hamewirk an giein chess lessons. Ye can contact him on jmcd89 [AT] googlemail [DOT] com.
I wis watchin a bonnie cock pheasant makkin his wey alang the road aside ma hous; in his ain guid time, o course, as thair kind are wint tae dae, an regairdless o the caurs fleein close by. His heid an tail war up, birse puffit out an shimmerin in the sun. Tae see sic gledsome beauty in aw its glory is aye a sicht for sair een. But I wis mair than delichtit whan he sprackelt awa fae the road an throu the fence intae a field. Lívin in the Lawlands, near tae a sportin estate, it’s likely I see thae bonnie birdies gaein about mair nor maist. It’s aye vexin tae find ane deid on the road, but the thing that mair maks ma hert sink is the sound o gunfire, for I ken the wee craiturs are bein forced tae tak wing anely tae be a target for sae-cawed sportsmen.
I’v been agin field sports aw ma days, an whiles I ken it’s big business, an about makkin siller, I hae tae say, I will niver unnerstaund hou onybody could tak pairt in sic delíberate destruction an cry it sport. But thare’s a hale industry dedicatit tae it; the shootin estates e’en proscribin tae thirsels whit ither craiturs alangside thair sportin targets should be allou’t tae live or dee. Sae it’s aye guid whan sic muckle pouer gets cawed tae account; brocht intae the licht for a bit o closer scrutiny as happent in the last week or twa, wi a video makkit on the fly in Januar on the grouse muirs an gied tae the BBC by an ainimal richts chairity.
Onybody wi e’en the tottiest bit o compassion couldnae help but be scunnert at the film shawin the sýstematic killin in muckle nummers o our ain muntain hares. Craiturs wha belangt tae Scotland; native tae the land for thousands o years. Yet the film shaws thaim bein hairrit an harassit by teams o gemmkeepers fae the private estates out at nicht on the bens whan the craiturs are gaitherin for shelter or tae scrape awa the snaw tae feed on the heather an gress. The keepers organisin thairsels in thair muckle aw-terrain caurs in sic a relentless wey as tae clear aw the wee feart beasts aff the hillside an daein it like sodgers on a military operation. The puir wee hares, frantic, wi nae wey tae get awa, bein drivin richt intae an ambush o mair gemmkeepers juist waitin tae shoot thaim deid. An if that’s no callous eneuch, settin thair dugs on the woundit anes tae fínish thaim aff. The corps gaithert up an piled intae a truck. Sic hellish destruction, an aw duin in the name o ‘estate management’. It’s hert-rendin juist tae think on it.
I’m gled tae sae thare’s been a muckle stramash ower the film, wi the scenes bein describit in the Scots Pairlament as ‘sickening slaughter’ an the First Mínister shawin she wisnae at aw happy about sic ill-farrant gaeins on, promisin tae leuk at aw the options includin a licensin scheme tae pit a stap tae sic actívities. Her wirds hae pit the wind up the gemmkeepers fae the video. Scrievin thay haed duin naething wrang nor on the fly an invitin baith the First Mínister an the Environment Secretar tae thair grund whaur thay can tak tent o hou hares are ‘managed’. Whiles weel-kent TV naituralist Chris Packham gied a warnin the beasts could be wipit out in the Southren Uplands acause o dulefu culls o this naitur. Thare’s nae dout the laund-owners will no be wantin ony chynges tae the rules sin thay can mair or less dae whit thay like the nou, bein allou’t tae shoot the hares wi’out a licence fae August tae Februar wi nae restrictions. But fowk agin it jalouse the true aim o the estates is tae hae nae hares at aw on thair managed grouse muirs.
O course the laund-owners wad claim it’s about protectin the rid grouse fae disease; ticks an the like cairit by hares, an that thay maun keepit the nummer o hares doun. Yet, the verra craiturs that by naitur wad dae juist that — the tods an futrets as weel as craws, buzzards, hen harriers, eagles an mair — are bein trappit an shot on thae estates as weel. The gemmkeepers micht want tae deny it wi regairds birds o prey like hen harriers or eagles, but as it happens aw thae craiturs are predators o rid grouse. An fine thay ken: the hen harrier is the maist persecutit o aw the raptors. An further mair, juist like the hares, grouse feed on heather an gress. Sae it leuks tae me like outside o the season whan thay get blastit out o the lift by peyin sportsmen, it’s the grouse wha maun be the ower-protectit species. Anent thay ither beasts wha bide on the estates, it’s an aw-round killin spree wi man, thair maist deidly predator.
Whit a sad state o affairs.
Elizabeth is an Edinburgh-born airtist drawin an paintin maistly animals an birds. Forby that, she is pairt o the organisation Hands Up For Trad wha wirk tae increase the profile an visibílity o Scottish tradítional muisic an cultur throu information, education an advocacy. www.elizabeththoumire.com
Social media thumbnail ímage: pentin by Elizabeth Thoumire