Sounds o the kirk an court: early airt muisic in Scotland

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.

A page frae the Inchcolm Antiphoner, c1340, ane o the earliest blads o Scots muisic we hae. Ímage credit: Edinburgh University (CC BY 3.0).

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.

Muisic Makars?

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.

A page frae the Carver Choirbeuk
A page frae the Carver Choirbeuk, a fouthie cairn o vocal polyphony bi Robert Carver an ithers.

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.)

The openin o Robert Carver’s motet, ‘O bone Jesu’
The openin o Robert Carver’s motet, O bone Jesu. Ímage taen frae Musick Fyne bi D. James Ross

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.

A page frae the Art of Music
A page frae The Art of Music, Collecit Out of all Ancient Doctours of Music (1580). The treatise wis ettelt at teachin students the airt o componin. Ímage taen frae Musick Fyne bi D. James Ross.

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.

Kíng Jeames VI (richt) an his mither Mary
Kíng Jeames VI (richt) an his mither, Mary. Jeames’ royal decree o 1579 — anent the awfu state o muisic makkin in Scotland — declare’t: “[T]he art of musik and singing … is almaist decayit and sall schortly decay without tymous remeid be providit.”
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.

Psalm 150 frae the Wode Pairtbeuk
The tenor pairt o Psalm 150 frae the Wode Pairtbeuks. The pairtbeuks comprises 16t century muisic frae Scotland, England an continental Europe, includin 106 psalm settins an ither warks bi David Peebles. Ímage credit: Edinburgh University.

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 SmithJamie 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 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.)

Scots-til-English glossar

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


Whaur we cam fae: the Pechts

‘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.

Pechtish dice spiel
This bonnie wee dice spiel is inscrievit wi “The Pechts are defeatit, play in safety”. It wis fund in ane o the Empire’s Germanic states, shawin that the reputation o the Pechts wis international

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.

The Beuk o Kells
The Beuk o Kells, nou pairt o a public collection in Dublin, shares mony design featurs wi the airt o the Pechts. Experts ’hink that it’s mebbe a relic fae the wheen monasteries that ance dottit the launds o the Pechts.

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 HeatherAlistair 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]

The Scots leid in Australian líteratur

Onybody that kens anent the Scots leid kens that Scots is spoken in Scotland, whaur the leid first upbiggit. Fowk will like eneuch ken that Scots exists in anither pairt: thare the Ulster Scots, the Scots spik o Northren Ireland. But whit isnae sae weel kent is the Scots uised in Australie.

It’s kenable that the main leids o Australie for hunneryears wis the aborigine leids, Dyirbal an Warlpiri amang ithers. An thae leids is gey an interestin thairsels. R.M.W. Dixon an Kenneth L. Hale amang ither linguists haes written beuks anent thae leids that is orra unalike fae ither leids in the warld. Amang thair partícularities is coverbs, whaur the verb is for common formed fae a coverb an the main verb, coverb specifeein the main verb. Thare is forby the mony places o articulation o consonants (distinction acqueish sounds produced at different pairts o the gab). An thay aften uise the selsame wird for an object an anither object that could potentially become it, for ensaumple ‘ainimal’ an ‘meat’.1

For thair nummers, it is upcast thare wis thareabout 250 aboriginal leids in 1788. The feck o thaim is misfortunately endangert or weedit awa, wi anerly 130 bein uised in ilkaday life, an nae mair nor twinty bein leart by bairns.2

Thir days the leid that’s the maist spoken in the southren continent is the Southspik. But thare is forby ither leids that haes come tae Australie by recent immigrants, the main anes thir days bein Mandarin, Italians an Arabic. But Scots wis amang thaim, inspecially in the nineteent hunneryear.

Haud on readin . . . “The Scots leid in Australian líteratur”

The Body Snatchers

Nae ower lang syne there wis a scientific revolution in Europe. Doun south ye haed Newton gettin skelpit on the heid aff an aipple, an extrapolatin out fae that aa the laws o motion on earth. Up here in bonnie Scotland we haed a wheen inventors in mony fields makkin muckle steps forrit, biggin up a comprehensive kennin o baith naitur an the universe.

But ae field o science couldnae mak ony advancement at aa: the science o medicine. Young doctors couldnae get ony cadavers tae hack open an keek intae. It wis thocht tae be unco un-christian tae gie yer body tae science efter ye’d dee’d. Fowk thocht that God wad be ragin wi thaim. Maist fowk in Scotland at the time still creditit aa thae havers anent God an Auld Nick an aa that. Ae pairt o this auld-farrant belief sýstem wis that the body wis a haly ’hing, biggit by God, an tae tamper wi it wad be a desecration o His wark. Whiles, mebbe ance a year, the council wad gie the local university the corp o some puir craitur that’d been hangit in the mercat square for ae crime or anither, an wha’s faimily didnae claim thaim. But ae corp ilka twal month wisnae gaun’ae gang faur at the medical colleges. Naw, students couldnae get a shottie o a real deid cheil for aa the siller they haed.

Haud on readin . . . “The Body Snatchers”

Widney’s Fuil

Fa’s fuil are you?

Out o an aafu wee village, cam an aafu big chairacter. At first glance, Langside is juist a kintra village aside Peterheid, wi nae much gaun on. Wi a population o less than a thousand, fowk can even sometimes forget that the placie exists. But, ‘at disna mean that great things, an fowk, hinna cam fae there, an nae lang ago ah wis lat in on the story o a great Langsider — the story o Widney’s fuil.

Sae, come on than, “fa wis he?”, ye ask. Weel, some puir bugger wis wunnerin the same thing fan he says tae Jamie Fleeman, “Are you the Laird of Udny’s Fule?”, tae whilk the Doric spikkin loun shairply replied, wi his best kent wirds: “Aye, an fa’s feel are you?”

Born in Langside in 1713, Fleeman went on tae be ane o the very last o the faimily jesters in Scotland, whilk in itsel maks him staund out. Fit really made Widney’s fuil spécial, tho, wis the fact that he wisna really a fuil at aa. Aye, he wis a chiel wi a sense o humour, fa enjoyed naething better than kickin about the kintra. He even conformed tae the stereotypical glaiket-leukin appearance o fuils. Houiver, aa o the anecdotes o his life suggest that he wis faur fae stupit. In fact, Fleeman wis sic a signíficant chairacter in Scots history that he’s haen a beuk — The Life and Death of Jamie Fleeman — written about his life, an wis even mentiont in Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories.

Haud on readin . . . “Widney’s Fuil”

Fift declaration o a Catalan republic

On the 27t October 2017, the Catalonie government o Carlos Puidgemont declared wanthirldom as a republic. This is the fift time that the Catalonie government haes declared the existence o a Catalan republic. In this airticle, we can leuk at the weys the muivement haes been born, an reborn, an developit ower the hunneryears.

The first declaration o Catalan wanthirldom wis in 1641 by Pau Claris, a priest that wis preses o the Disputacio (the Catalan legal an polítical institution). The wanthirldom wis keepit juist for a week durin the Fraunco-Spainish war, a war that happent acqueish 1635 an 1659. The impetus for this declaration wis the ‘Union o Airms’. The Union o Airms wis a plan that the Spainish government pit intae place for tae obteen mair sodgers an tax fae Aragon (that Catalonie wis pairt o), an Portingal. The Catalonie government refused, justifýin thair opposítion by sayin that thay were sendin ower mony sodgers, an that anerly the Catalan Courts should can send Catalan sodgers outwith Catalonie. Haud on readin . . . “Fift declaration o a Catalan republic”