Run throu the jungle

Telt tae me by ma grandfaither, Andra Coogan. He haed been sent tae Malaya in Warld War II.

I haed escaped the Japanese at first wi a gang o Sikhs. It wis deep in the Malay jungle, an the British sodgers, o which I wis a memmer, haed been telt that it wis tae be “ivery man for hissel”. An here I am, a lad fae the Gorbals wi nae rifle, nae wappen at aa, nae map an juist ma sax weeks’ basic trainin, fechtin throu the jungle wi the Japs ahint us.

The Sikhs an masel war fashed wi the midgies soukin oor bluid, an skin infections sae sair that we raxed wirsels close tae the bane. Oor lives war pure hell. Ilka step wis haurd whan ye’re as howpless as I wis.

Muckle rivers cuttit throu the jungle, an blocked oor gate. They war a deil tae cross for maist o us. Aa the brigs haed been dinged doun tae stap the Japs.

Ane o the lads retreatin wi us wis a Scot wha didnae ken hou tae swim. We haed been helpin him ower the watter ae wey or anither, passin him fae haund tae haund like a bairn or white’er. But ae time we cam tae a river in spate that wis ower wide for us tae help him tae gang across it.

“Ah’m duin for, lads. Ah’ll hae tae gie masel up tae the Japs,” says Dumfy — his wis cryed Dumfy — sittin doun by the bank fit tae greet. I didnae ken whit tae dae wi him.

The Sikh lads spraffed amang theirsels for a mínit, than sterted takin aff their turbans. They snorlt aa the cloots thegither tae mak a rope. Ae Sikh swam the river an tied ae end o the turban rope ticht tae a tree. That gied us puir swimmers a chance tae pou wirsels ower the rushin burn an awa fae the Japanese. Dumfy wis weel frichtit by that hale occasion. He wad dee nae lang efter the Japs catcht us.

Somehou I wis separatit fae the main body o these lads. Suin I wis stravaigin the jungle on ma tod. I wis merchin for Singapore, an it wis easy tae ken whit wey tae gang. The lift wis stappit fou wi Jap planes breengin owerheid, makin for Singapore. Aa I haed tae dae wis follae them.

Efter a few mile I wis drouthy. Efter hauf a day I wis near deid wi thirst. I swat sae muckle that ma claes hummed an war as ticht tae us as ma ain skin. Aathing in that steamin jungle wis weet, but there wisnae a burn fit tae drink fae. Aa the watter wis clarty.

I wis fit tae faa whaur I stood whan I cam across an unco sicht.

In a clearin in this hellish jungle wis an ornamental fishpond. Twa-three dozen deuks paddled aboot in its clear, caller watter. A white pole rase fae the centre o it tae the hicht o aboot fower fit.

I near faintit wi relief. I hirpelt forrit an douked ma hale heid — plash! — richt intae the watter an gulpit deep an lang. I’v ne’er kent relief like it. Tae this day ye can keep yer lemonades an yer fancy juices. Ye cannae beat a glass o pure clean watter. I wis collapsed by the bank o this pond, wabbit fae ma days spent feart an tyned in a jungle.

I wis shakit awauk by an auld Chinese chiel wi wispy white hair. He wis the keeper o the deuks an the pond. He brocht us intae his wee widdin bothy in the clearin an gied us a pillae carvit fae wid. It didnae leuk ower comfy tae me, but as suin as ma heid wis on it I wis oot like a licht.

As I slept on the fluir o this auld Chinese lad’s bothy, he fillt ma watter bottle, an wrappit three muckle deuk’s eggs intae a hankerchief for us tae tak wi me. Whan I’d slept a guid few oors, I waukent up, an this auld Chinese lad wis makkin us a genuine pot o Chinese tea! I haed a swallae o this tea. It wis ayont braw. Whit rare, oot there in aa that horror, sic a dose o cívilisation atween twa strangers!

I wantit tae stey, but I kent fine that if the Japs caucht us they’d kill us baith. I got masel up, thankit him as best I coud, an than merchit aff sooth taewart Singapore.

Sic wis the unco heat oot there in the jungle that afore lang ma watter bottle wis tuim ance mair, an ma lips war parched. The rat-a-tat o gunfire ahint us kept us merchin, or else I wad hae thrown in the touel. Whit happened neist wis ane o the queerest ’hings I’v seen in ma hunner years on earth.

Staundin afore us in the middle o a jungle war a black-skinned midget couple. They war in the skud, completely naked except for a bittie bark tied aboot their waists tae hide their privates. They coudnae be bigger than bairns, but war as auld as me, aulder mebbe. They war whit’s cried ‘Pygmy’ fowk. They leuked feart o us, the lassie stertit cooryin intae her man’s shouder, an he leuked ready tae spring aff intae the trees. But I needit their help.

I poued oot ma ration biscuit fae ma pooch an bit a bit aff. The twa black bairnfowk stared, stamagastert. Efter chowin a wee bit biscuit, I haundit it ower tae them tae try. Nervously, the lad chowed a bit aff an swallaed it. Neist he passed it tae his wife wha took a bit in her mou. They baith broke oot in huge smiles. I smiled. It wis a great moment. I shawed them ma tuim watter bottle an mimed drinkin. Ah’m needin watter, I wis tellin them. The fella took us by the haund an led us throu the trees. They brocht us tae a burn o clear watter an we aa gluggit muckle gowpins fae it.

I fund oot much later that these wee fowk are sort o like stane-age people wha bade intae the jungle. Deid nice they war.

Nae lang efter I fund mair Scots lads heidit sooth in their ragged duds. Me an a lad cryed Ginger walked intae Singapore thegither. We maun hae leuked some state: a muckle ginger lad an his wee pal, droukit wi sweat an coatit wi mosquito plouks, hirplin intae the British Colony o Singapore.

The first hoose we seen wis a white colonial ane, wi perfect green gairdens. Mair nor thon: a sprinkler wis on, gushin pure watter ower the plants! Me an Ginger flew ower tae it, tore the hose aff the sprinkler an startit gluggin the watter, sprayin the bluid, sweat an clart aff wir claes, an lauchin!

A posh vyce fae the hoose cried oot “Get out of here, what on earth do you think you’re doing? This is private property!”

The posh wallahs wha we haed juist been fechtin the Japs for didnae want us in their gairden!

Ma pal Ginger gied them baith barrels. “Mind you be a bit mair fuckin polite tae the Japs! They’ll be here afore lang!”

The Chinese lad, the Pygmies fae the stane age haed helpit us. But the fowk we’d been sent tae protect? They wadnae lat us in their gairden tae drink the watter meant for their grass. Bastards.

Alistair HeatherAlistair Heather is the Scots Editor at Bella Caledonia. He studies History an French at Aiberdeen University, an wirks wi the Elphinstone Institute promotin the cultur o the North-East. Gie him yer chat @historic_ally on Twitter.


Scots English
caller cool
cooryin snuggling
deuk duck
duds clothes
feart afraid
gowpin two handfuls
hirpelt limped
plouks spots
spate flood
stamagaster surprise
tyned lost

Toodily-doo, Flanderinos!

It stairts like this. Ye’re on yer traivels somewhaur — Malta, coud be, or Spain. Weel, mebbe no Spain. But whauriver. Somewhaur warm. Touristy. Nice, but no too nice. Say, Turkey. An ye’re in a bar. This daurk wee howff for fowk wha cannae staund the heat. Weel, there’s a queue in this bar, an here’s you, staundin in it. Fower places back fae the front, an there’s nae twa people in the place speak the same leid as ony ither twa. This micht tak a while.

It daes, o coorse. But at lang an last ye’re yin awa fae the bar, an prayin that the chiel in front o ye’s o a mind tae keep it simple. Peely-wally fellae. Sunglesses. He raises his haund, flashes up the wee peace sign.

“Twa mair beer,” he says.

Yer jaw draps. Gin ye’d a drink in yer haund, ye’d be wipin it aff the fluir. O aw the gin joints in aw the warld..! Ye’v heard it aw, bi nou; the Serbo-Croat for can ah hae a Black Russian, Mai-Tais magicked up in Madeira Portuguese. Yet wha’d hiv thocht? The wunner o them aw! A Bud Light speirt for in guid braid Border Scots! Ye sidle on up tae the bar wi a smile. The boy shoots ye kind o a leuk. But that’s awricht. He disnae ken that ye ken.

“Awricht, mun?” ye say. “Far aboots are ye fae?”

The far is a bit o an affectation — ye dinnae actually speak Doric — but the occasion seems tae warrant something a pickle oot o the ordinar, a wee bit pruif o yer ootstaundin credentials. The chiel glences ower at ye, obviously impressed, an clinks up his bottles bi their green gless necks.

“Flanders,” he mutters, an scleushes aff oot the door.

A mínit passes. Forgettin yer drinks, ye daunder oot intae the sunlicht as in a daze. Flanders, ye think tae yersel. But fit wey… Ah mean, whit fur wis he speakin in Scots? An than it hits ye, like a blockbuster twist. He wisnae speakin in Scots at aw. He wis speakin in Flanders… ese?

Flemish. Awricht, whitiver. Pynt is. Suddently, oot o naewhaur, yer leid is nae langer some evolutionary deid end, a doomed aff-brand Betamax affshoot o a faur superior product. Yer leid, ye see, haes got connections. It’s in wi the boys; it’s pairt o the scheme o things. This leid o yours, man, it’s gaun places. It wad be missed gin owt wis tae happen tae it.

Because — let’s face it — even the maist enlichtened views o Scots still hae it doun as a failed experiment, a foustie graft ontae a gowsterous tree. It’s Poundland English, uised anely bi the puir oot o necessity an the enthusiasts oot o thrawnness. Scots beirs the same relation tae its paurent tongue that phonographs dae tae Spotify, or Grease 2 daes tae the oríginal. Some fowk micht prefer it, but ye’v tae wunner at their motives.

It’s no juist tae dae wi langage, like. Oor pairtnership wi England haes dominatit us, linguistically, polítically an in aw ither weys, tae the extent that ye juist cannae speak o Scotland wi’oot reference tae oor soothren sibs. Throu nae partícular faut o onybody’s, the exclusivity o that relationship haes lang preventit us explorin oor relationships wi ithers. That’s a loss felt richt across the buird. But oor associations wi ither kintras are vital tae the story o Scots, if for nae ither raison than that they explain hou the leid we speak the day isnae juist Swamp Thing English.

We’re trippin ower oorsels richt nou tae link airms wi the Kurds or the Basques or the Catalans or ony ither polítical minority wi a faintly romantic cast. Awricht — guid. But oor historical affinity wi the fowk o Flanders is as lang an strang as ony ither. Like oorsels, Flanders haes its ain pairlament, langage, an independence muivement — but the relationship atween us rins deeper as that. In 1154, whan Henry II shawed England’s Flemish population the door, it wis tae Scotland that mony o them neist brocht their talents. The naitur o their national skillsets — weaving, seafaring, an tred — transformed the local economy, turnin Scotland fae a mere producer o raw guids intae a major processor o them. Nearlins a thoosand years efter, thae chynges can still be witnessed in the mills an ports o the eastern coast, whaur the Flemish mainly sattlt.

But haud on, tho. That’s no the hauf o it. Tak a keek at a map o oor principal Flemish sattlements. The lang straik rinnin up the hale eastern lenth. The three prongs, like a backarties E, stickin oot intae the tap, middle an bottom. Gin ye’re no seein owt, set it neist tae a linguistic map o Scotland, an staund richt back. It micht tak a mínit, but it’s wirth it. It’ll be like ye’re the polis chief at the end o ‘The Usual Suspects’. Kobayashi. Guatemala. Awthing stairts makkin sense.

Sae keep diggin. Scots, Flemish, 1154, whan the influx fae Flanders arrives in Scotland. Whit else is gaun on? Weel, for the Scots leid, no an awfy lot. It haesnae really got up an rinnin yet. But gin ye wantit tae pit a date on it, the pynt at which Scots begins tae branch awa fae English an become a leid in its ain richt… Och, ah widnae want tae haggle ye doun tae the exact mínit. But gin ye jaloused in the region o the 12t century, ye’d certes be in greeance wi the bouk o the evidence.

Aye, awricht, ah ken, ah ken. Post hoc ergo propter hoc an aw that. Ah’m no staundin here sayin that the Flemish inventit Scots. There’s a bit mair tae it as that. But the quaisten is, whit happens at the fork in the road whaur yin langage stairts tae become anither? Whan a tongue taks on an identity o its ain? Weel, ane o the maist important things that’s gaun on is that yin variant o that langage is developin its ain distinct lexicon. Simply — Scots becomes Scots whan it haes different wirds for things fae English. An the principal soorce for this chynge in vocabular is borrowins fae ither leids.

The langages o the Law Kintras hae contríbuted mair tae Scots than mebbes ony ither tongue ootside o English. A puckle wirds, still in common uiss, that we pauchelt aff the Flemish: callant, scone, craig, howff. No bad for a day’s wark. Some o these treisurs were shiny eneuch that the English than stole them aff us in turn: golf, lambkin, masterpiece. There’s a wheen mair, some o which hae syne fawen oot o uiss. We dinnae really need wirds tae descrive the individual pairts o a crossbow nou, or the partícular riggins o a ship. But gin we iver did, it wad be cantie tae think we micht yinst again leuk tae Flanders or Holland for oor borrowins insteid o juist turnin up aye at the OED, a nuisance neibour cadgin for a cup o sugar.

Still, wha needs new wirds whan we’v awready loads? There’s plenty o fowk wha’d like tae see Scots pit in permanent stasis; nae mair borrowins, nae mair neologisms, naethin like that. Juist guid auld-farrant Scots the wey yon Gavin Douglas scrievit it. But a leid is like ony ither livin thing; it wants stimulation tae thrive. An for Scots richt nou, that’s no forthcomin throu commerce wi ither tongues, the wey it shoud be. Wi’oot fresh wirds comin in, fresh ideas, Scots, as a langage, is mairchin on stairvation rations. Oor leid is dyin o cultural malnutrition, an it’s anely shapin up tae get warse.

Sae, the European Union is naebody’s flavour o the month at the mínit. Shoudnae be. But resistin Brexit wis niver aboot oor affinity wi Guy Verhofstadt or Donald Tusk. It wis aboot oor relationship wi oor sister cítizens an brither culturs on the Continent. Keepin thae links alive haes aye been hard eneuch — Scottish playdates wi ither kintras bein sae vigorously chaperoned — but in the wake o Brexit, oor límitit cultural commerce wi ither nations will dwyne awa tae nearly naething. GDP, halth care indexes, unemployment rates — aye, we shoud be wirrit, awricht. But these are aw figures that can be meisured an (possibly) managed. The cost tae oor cultur, on the ither haund, o a stagnant, narrae nationalism, driven bi the politics o isolation, is ayont ony reckonin.

Efter Catalonia, ah dug oot ‘The Napoleon of Notting Hill’ again, G.K. Chesterton’s auld yarn aboot a Lunnon borough turnt brakawa nation. Ye can read it, gin ye’v a mind tae, as a satire on parochialism an secessionist politics; a cantankerous auld bugger like Chesterton coudnae help but gie ye that option. His wis a pint-stowp that wis niver hauf-gates full. But whan it cam tae bress tacks, an he’d tae speir hissel — whit if a kintra haed juist niver existit? — even yon age-auld cynic, in the end, turnt saft in hert an heid:

“The same that would have happened to the world and all the starry systems if an apple-tree grew six apples instead of seven; something would have been eternally lost.”

Och, dry yer een, eh, big man; we’re no there yet. But we’re on the road. The loss o a kintra, the extinction o a nation, is no a thing that happens on the signin o a treaty, or at the business end o a gun. It isnae the stickin o a Union Jack on a pund o Ayrshire tatties. The deith o a kintra is no a chynge. It’s the lang, protractit absence o chynge, the weirin oot o tired seimbols, the dullin o a deid flag in the gradual sun. This is whit the Brexit voters dinnae unnerstaund — that ye can hae a gurly nationalism, or ye can hae an actual nation, but ye cannae ultimately hae baith. A kintra is juist an idea like ony ither, an tae reclaim an idea disnae mean tae wheech it aff the shelves. It means tae circulate it, tae get it oot there. The Magna Carta, the Bill o Rights, the Constitution o the Unitit States; these are no items for a private collection. They belang, as a great man yinst said, in a museum. They belang tae awbody.

Oh wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us, etc. But than, hou we see oorsels haes ayeweys been the problem. A quick typology o staundart Twitter metaphors for Scotland’s relationship wi England: battert hoosewife, neglectit wean, underappreciatit scuddler-for-hire. The stories ye tell yersel, eh? But the futur narrative ah’m descryin for the UK ootside o Europe is something muckle less blythesome. Scrievit in French, bi an Irish carle lívin in Paris — hou else? — it involves twa auld hobos wi naething tae say tae themsels or ilk ither, sittin on a bench bi the side o the road, spraffin awa aboot killin theirsels. Waitin for something tae happen. But naething iver happens. It niver will. It’s awfy. Naebody comes, naebody gans. There’s naethin tae be duin.

Thomas ClarkThomas Clark is a makar an scriever fae the Scottish Borders. He is praisently eiditor o Scots at Bella Caledonia, an poet-in-residence at Selkirk FC. He gabs awa at an on Twitter: @clashcityclarky.


(Ye can translate ony wird atween Scots an English at the Online Scots Dictionar.)

Scots English
ayont beyond
bouk bulk
cadgin hawking or peddling wares
cantie nice, pleasant
carle old man
certes certainly, assuredly
descryin seeing, envisioning
foustie in a decayed state or smell
gowsterous hearty and healthy
greeance agreement
jaloused guessed
pint stowp pint glass
scleushes walks clumsily
scrievit written
scuddler scullion
spraffin col. talking
straik a long and narrow strip of land
tred trade

Scots as a leid o eddication

In this airticle, we’ll leuk at the faisibility o the uiss o Scots in eddication. Syne whan haes it been uised in eddication? In whilk wey it is uised in eddication? An is it siclike wi ither leids?

For tae answer thae quaistens, we can leuk at the history o Scots an its uiss in eddication . . .

Fae the middle o the nineteent hunneryear till the end o the twintiet hunneryear, Scots wisnae gien a place in Scots schuils ava; it wis whiles doun-hauden even.1

On the ither haund, Scots wis a fair feck mair uised in Scots schuils afore the 18t hunneryear, as we can see fae this quote fae The Register o the Privy Seal o Scotland:2

“Ane instructioun for bairnis to be lernit in Scotis and Latene…” (1559)

Maist ferlie amang the legal mentions o Scots in eddication airticles is the legislation estaiblishin schuilin ootthrou Scotland. Schuils in ilka pairish, ’ithin the means o the local cooncil, wis fordert by the 1616 law. This wis follaed by the 1646 law whaur the cooncil wis ootricht obligate tae big an mainteen the schuils. The last o the 17t hunneryear laws wis the 1696 act3 that stuid on the record beuks till 1872.4

We can see that, contínuin on fae the 1559 statement, the leids uised in the air Scots schuils wis Scots an Laitin:5

“Mr. Adame . . . takis . . . vpone him the charge of ane scoolemaister . . . for learning of Scottis and Latine;” (1646 quote fae the Minute beuks o the Burgh o Kirkcudbright)

This law wis byordinar important for eddication history, as it wis the first law that estaiblisht schuils outthrou a kintra.6 The law meant that Scotland coud be amang the first kintras in the warld whaur maist fowk wis leeterate.7 This is forby thocht o as bein a catalyst for the Scots Enlichtenment. An it’s throu thir laws that the Scots eddication seistem, richt eneuch, gained a nameliheid o bein democratic, in the sense that it wis appen tae aw the fowk, an no juist the hie heid anes.8

This law wis a skaith an aw, housomeiver: the 1616 law wis misfortunate for Scots Gaelic as the law disnae forder the Gaelic, anither hamelt leid o Scotland. The law wis e’en designtly cockit at the Gaelic, ettlin at its eradication.9

Gaelic is the extant leid that haes been uised in Scotland for the langest time. Gaelic, like ony leid, pits ower thochts in different weys fae whit ither leids dae, an produces the associations o thochts that ither leids disnae.10

Sae, on the ae haund, the air Scots eddication laws wis innovative legislation producin a nation hunneryears afore ithers, an pruif o the fact that the writers didnae denigrate thair ain leid. On the ither haund, it is misfortunate pruif that the writers o the selsame laws denigrate a hamelt leid an cultur o the kintra. It can e’en be hypothesised that it wis this skaithin attitude taewart a pairt o Scots cultur that hinderly remuived Scots fae Scots schuils.

Sicweys we can see that the place o Scots in the Scots eddication seistem haes chynged ’ithin the past hunneryears syne the pittin in place o the first kintra-wide eddication seistem till bein pairtly re-introduced in this hunneryear.

It’s faur fae impossible tae see Scots as a leid o eddication, gien its place at the springheid o Scots eddication.

It haes its relation wi sociolinguistic phenomena an polítical decísions, like the decísion anent in whilk leid bairns will be eddicate. It can occur acause o sociolinguistic phenomena whaur fowk is rewairdit for giein up the leid o thair mithers an faithers. Whither it’s throu the eddication seistem or legal seistem, Scots haes been affroadit. An economic incentives wis gien tae ‘speak proper’.11

There is mony ither leids whaur tendencies can be estaiblisht atweesh the population that speaks the doun-hauden leid an the unnercless, the doun-hauden clesses.

As can be read in Hagège’s Halte à la mort des langues (‘Reest the deith o leids’), uiss o a leid in schuils is ane o the factors that mean it can contína existin, an even floorishin. Likeweys, the doun-dingin o the uiss in schuils can be a factor in connachin the leid.12

Onywey, ony leid can be uised in eddication.

Even gif theoretically the wirds is missin, we can find thaim. Leids can be developit for tae conteen the wirds thay need: we can see this process in ither leids. Ae ensaumple is the Icelandic, whaur thay invent new wirds aften for tae fit in wi the phonological, lexical an grammatical contex that exists awready. French an English wisnae leids uised in eddication in the air Middle Ages aither. An, efter, screivers in English an French haes taen wirds fae Laitin, bigit new wirds wi hamelt material amang ither techniques for giein a leid a haund. An wirds is bein inventit thir days in English an aw: ‘blog’, for ensaumple, wisnae kent a few year syne. But thae leids were developit; thair growth wis fordert.

An, as Du Bellay says in his Défense et illustration de la Langue française, that is mibbe the main thing that lats a leid be uised in a partícular contex: whether its uiss is fordert.13

Scots is a leid that, while it can be associate wi a lack o eddication thir days, is nae less suitit tae sítiations o eddication. Acause ony leid can be uised for eddication, nae leid is wirth less. An it isnae juist a leid that can theoreticly be uised for eddication, but it wis ane o the twa leids uised in the first modren nationwide eddication seistem. This is a fact that can be uised tae shaw that Scots haed its place in the Scots eddication seistem, syne the air laws anent eddication in the Middle Ages. It can forby be uised tae shaw that Scots misfortunately haed its place in the cultural displacement o the Hielands. The lang an the short o it is that Scots can be uised in a eddication seistem nae less nor ony ither leid.

James McDonaldJames 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.


Scots English
affroadit discouraged
air early
atweesh between
byordinar extraordinary
connachin destroying
designtly deliberately
doun-hauden oppressed
ettlin endeavouring, trying
forder(t) promote(d), drive(n) forward, help(ed) on
hamelt native
hinderly eventually
housomeiver notwithstanding, nevertheless
hunneryear century
leid language
nameliheid reputation
nor than
reest bring to a halt
selsame very same
skaithin harmful, damaging
springheid source, origin
syne then, ago, since

The porage revolution: Hou porage cam tae mak Scotland habitable

Five thoosand year syne the human warld birlt aboot a different axis. Doun in Egypt the Pharos war biggin their muckle pyramidal kists, drawin their pouer fae the fertile launds abuin the Nile. The great Sphinx wis appearin oot fae ashlars o sandstane the size o hooses. Naebody speirt efter wha buir the gree in terms o humanity in thae days; it wis clear. The Egyptians, ane o the great cívilisations, haed taen their place as the heid o the species on earth. They kent wha the Gods war, whit their leid wis, an generally kent wha wis wha an whit wis whit brawly. The rest o us sprauchelt, heid doun, throu the dub an mire, up tae wir oxsters in ignorance.

Ye can think o Egypt as the epicentre o human development o the day, an aa ither human actívity bein ripples oot fae thon soorce. The tottie wee wave o humanity that raxed ower the continent tae exhaust itsel on Scotland’s strands wis minor indeed. Than mair nor iver we war the pure ends o the earth.

It wisnae lang syne afore that Scotland haed been scaured by three miles o hyper-cranreuch in the Ice Age. Maist o Europe haed been in lockdoun as fowk tyned the means tae live in the freezin climate o the day. As the ice meltit an life cam back tae the laund, an as the fowk o Europe keekit oot o their cave shelters in the Pyrenees, it wis anely the bampots, zoomers an gowks that fund theirsels stravaigin sae far north as oor frozen shores.

The ticht glens o the sooth Scotland borderlands war guid for the “drive an sett” huntin tactics o wir ancestors. A wheen o hunters wad yowl and screich loudly an breenge doun the glen, garin aa the herds o beasts flee flichtit afore them. At the fit o the glen the chiels wi the spears wad hunker doun in cover an wait, an they’d pick aff the animals as they scuddit by.

These fowk haed a roch time o it. The population o Scotland wis tiny. Nae mair nor a puckle o lairge faimily groups gangin aboot gaitherin berries an huntin boar. The laund in thae days wisnae exactly conducive tae a lang an couthie life. The diet wis healthy eneuch, but it pit a stap tae ony population growth, for ae guid reason. The berries, nuts an meat wis ower muckle for a bairn tae eat. Therefore, bairns haed tae feed on their mither’s milk till the age o fower. Lassies arenae sae likely tae hae anither bairn aucht them gin they’re feedin fae the breist. The life expectancy o a lassie in thae days seems tae hae been nae mair nor twinty-fower year or thereaboots. Sae gin they maun hae spent fower year raisin ilka bairn, they cannae hae mair nor three bairns afore they dee theirsels. Add tae that a heich rate o premature bairn deith an ye ken that e’en sae muckle as uphaudin the population at its low level wis a sair fecht.

Life went on in siclike a fashion for ower a thoosand year an mair. Humanity tried tae impose itsel ontae the Scots landscape but aye fund itsel deid aamaist afore it wis alive, like a body ettlin tae fill a bath wi the plug oot. Survival wis aa that fowk coud aspire tae, leave alane developin airt or cívilisation.

As the Egyptians slaikit their drouthy thrapples wi reid wine an furnished their hooses wi gowd, the tribes ablo the northren lift in Scotland war thirlt tae a tuim-wamed, short existence.

The revolution that gied thae few faimlies the chance tae growe an pit doun real roots in their hame cam fae the Fertile Crescent. The launds kent the day as Syria, Jordan, Egypt an the rest war pairt o a braid agricultural cívilisation whaur wild gresses war cultivatit an stertit tae gie furth the calorific cereals. That ae development chynged aathing, especially for launds ootwith the Fertile Crescent, especially for Scotland.

Ideas o cereal hairsts spread ower Europe. Fowk wha haed been thirlt tae an aye-flittin life o hunter-gaitherin suddenly fund that they coud settle an area. Thae barleys coud be grund doun tae a paste an gied tae bairns as porage. Mithers coud stap giein them breistmilk at the age o twa, giein them the chance tae get back oot gaitherin, or tae hae mair bairns.

It wis this revolution that gied the puir shiverin craiturs wha bade here the chance tae upbig their populations, big wee widdin hooses an stert tae ferm efter a fashion. Huntin wis certainly a guid soorce o calorific meat, but it wis cereals that gied them the foondation o society.

Than it aa explodit. Fae this base, fermin grew mair complex, cívilisation stertit tae appear. Excess wis produced. Fowk haed free time for the first time in Scottish history. They uised the time tae humph muckle stanes thegither intae stane circles. They also ettled at unnerstaunnin the birlin o the heivenly bodies abuin their heids. It gied fowk a chance tae experiment wi airt an for heirarchies tae emerge.

Suin Scotland wis hame tae complex clan seistems, whiles fechtin, whiles wirkin thegither. Sodgers an wee kings emerged, aa on the foondation o cereal. The early stane-age fowk developit intae the North-Sea traders o the Pictish kíngdom, wha skelpit the Roman airmies, sendin them sooth tae think again. They did the same for the English in the early days, strikin oot fae their ain fertile crescent atween Caithness, throu Aiberdeen an doun tae Embra. They jyned up wi the Scots o the wast an thegither they made the kíngdom o Scotland as we ken it.

Whan ye glower oot ower a bare cairngorm glen, or the icy plashin watter o some lawland burn an ye speir at hou fowk coud bide here in thae lang syne days, mind aye that it wis humble porage that made it possible.

Alistair HeatherAlistair Heather is the Scots Editor at Bella Caledonia. He studies History an French at Aiberdeen University, an wirks wi the Elphinstone Institute promotin the cultur o the North-East. Gie him yer chat @historic_ally on Twitter.


Scots English
craitur lamentable person
sprauchle move laboriously
skelp strike
lang syne long ago
to ettle to attempt
hairst harvest

Surfeit Uiss o Digital Technology

Technology, an the mair by taiken digital technology, haes baith positive an negative eftercomes. Technology can hecht possibílities we wadnae itherwise hae. On the yin haund, technology in general can help us redd up problems: technology can allou us tae dae mony things fae the maist basic huntin gibbles tae space shuttles. On the ither haund, technology can cause hashery for the feck o humanity, whether it’s technology that’s uised for killin fowk (like nuclear wappens) or connachin wir environs (like fossil fuels), or connachin wir brain cells, like whit we’ll see efter in this airticle.

Digital technology is a fair guid ensaumple o the foresaid general description o technology: wi it, we can communicate wi fowk the ither side o the warld. An that’s braw; A wadnae can write this airticle itherwise. We can keep in touch wi fríends an faimily on the ither side o the warld. But, at the same time, digital technology can distrack us fae actual real life human traffeck that we war born for. For wir psychological growthe, as weel as ither aspecks o wir halth, digital communication micht get yer wirds throu tae the ither body, but it’s sae sib tae real life communication as Jackie Stuart is tae the heir o the Jacobites.

Haud on readin . . . “Surfeit Uiss o Digital Technology”