On Being Hurt 117

I am aware that this post will cause some to laugh at me. I am aware that it may make me look pompous and self-seeking, and that my small hurts are nothing compared to what is happening to people in Libya. I am also aware it is impolitic to expose vulnerability when you are involved in internet debate.

What prompts me to write about a longstanding disappointment is this phrase from Chris Floyd yesterday:

Thus Craig Murray was not jumped in an alleyway, or killed in an obscure and ambiguous “accident” of some sort, as might have happened in imperiums of old. He was simply shunted to the sidelines and rendered “unserious” by official disapproval.

Which played on feelings that had been re-awakened by a post on Subrosa a couple of weeks ago, on whether Scotland should have its own honours system.

I could never be accused of craving honours. I have turned down three, the highest of which was Commander of the Royal Victorian Order. When I refused that one, I was given instead by the queen a letter rack hand made by Viscount Linley – and made extremely well. I donated it last month to the auction to meet Julian Assange’s legal fees, and it raised £500 (there is supposed to be a second part to this auction where the items now go on ebay to see if there are higher online bidders. That hasn’t happened yet because of Paypal’s blocking of Wikileaks).

I turned down British honours because it would be hypocritical to accept them for two reasons: I believe in Scottish independence, and I don’t believe in the monarchy. I was actually asked my reason by the queen in Warsaw, and I admit I stressed the Scottish nationalist bit more than the republican bit. She was not in the least put out by it.

With this background, you may be surprised to hear that what has hurt me so much is becoming perhaps the only Rector of a Scottish university in hundreds of years not to be awarded an honorary degree. (At Dundee I am not sure about Tony Slattery, whose rectorship never really started because of health issues).

The university senate debated a year ago whether I should be awarded an honorary degree and decided, with the strongest of steers from the university administration, that I was neither “respectable” nor “distinguished” enough. The matter was brought back again to the university senate by Dundee University Students Association, and again rejected. At university court, the current Rector, Brian Cox, formally minuted his dissent.

As to being distinguished, apart from being a British Ambassador and bestselling author, I have a first class MA (Hons) from Dundee University, was twice elected President of Dundee University Students Association and became Rector of Dundee University. If that is undistinguished, then Dundee University has a remarkably low opinion of itself.

I also find it rather curious that I am “undistinguished” but my two immediate predecessors as Rector, Lorraine Kelly and Fred Macaulay, were evidently “distinguished” enough. I should love to know the criteria.

It is not to do with the job done as Rector, because I attended many more committee meetings than my recent predecessors. This of course is exactly what the university administration did not want me to do. I argued strongly against cuts in university departments and student provision, against tuition fees, against allowing the special branch on campus, and tried to revive the notion of a democratically run academic community. I also attended regular meetings of other rectors, and with the Scottish parliament.

An academic from another university saw me in Edinburgh last week and out of the blue congratulated me on my rectorial installation address. I put a lot of effort into that speech, and it is surprising how often people do read and refer to it – I have been congratulated on it by Charlie Kennedy and Elaine C Smith, for example. But plainly a Rector able to make an interesting contribution on the philosophy of higher education is not what the university administration – which is just itching to bring in high tuition fees for all students – wants.

In a life which has spurned honours, I am hurt because I really care about Dundee University. I spent seven years of my life there plus three as an active Rector. If you sliced me, Dundee University runs through me like a stick of rock. That is why, on being spurned for an honorary degree, I feel emotionally like I have indeed been sliced. This really has hurt me.

Here comes the ridicule…

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117 thoughts on “On Being Hurt

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  • Dick the Prick

    Flip it, like Groucho Marx; don’t be a member of any club that has Lorraine Kelly as a member!

  • Suhayl Saadi

    My version: It’s par for the course: Fuck ’em.

    Spielberg version: You are the Rector of Our University, Craig. [Cue music, child and large dog].

  • Yvonne Ridley

    I’m surprised you react to such an asswipe in the first place – to misquote Dennis Healey, being criticised or sneered at from lloyd is a bit like being savaged by a dead sheep.

  • writeon

    Dear Craig,

    Your emotional reaction to such a petty and unecessary snub is perfectly understandable and normal. I think it’s disgusting, but not unexpected. That you express sadness and shock at your treatment does you credit, it shows that you still, despite everything, believe in decency, truth, and right. Alas none of these qualities are the ‘gold-standard’ in contemporary life, at least not if one wants to make a career for oneself inside the ‘golden circle.’

    I cringed when I heard you shout out at a public meeting a couple of years ago that ‘Zionism is bullshit’ I thought, he must be nuts, absolutely, incontrovertably, right; but he’s signed his own ‘death warrent’, for that alone he will never be forgiven.

    But one can look at things from a different perspective. That the more you are snubbed by the establishment and sidelined as a looney or loose cannon, someone who went ‘native’, the more and better human being you have become. That you should wear every snub, jibe, and attack, as badges of honour, with pride. You can hold your head up high and look yourself in the mirror of truth and not want to vomit at the reflection you see, and many lesser men, in our dishonourable and criminal age, can do that?

  • Ian

    Never underestimate the vindictiveness of certain parts of the establishment. That having been said the support of the students union & current Rector is, in my opinion, a fitting accolade.
    As for the value of such things, well Kissinger seems to have collected any number of honorary this & thats………………..

  • angrysoba

    I turned down British honours because it would be hypocritical to accept them for two reasons: I believe in Scottish independence, and I don’t believe in the monarchy. I was actually asked my reason by the queen in Warsaw, and I admit I stressed the Scottish nationalist bit more than the republican bit. She was not in the least put out by it.

    I hope you don’t take this as ridicule but did the Queen quip back, “Blame James VI!” or something much wittier.
    I’m a republican myself, but you have to love the old dear Liz.
    By the way, what happened to Clark? I hope he’s okay because he hasn’t commented here for a while and had been a very regular commenter. I don’t agree with him most of the time but would hate to think that my disagreements with him have caused him to not comment any more as he seemed to suggest before.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Exclusion from the gilded halls is a sign that you are saying, writing and doing something right. You are a rational dissident. Take it as a compliment. Millions of us know that they are shite and you are diamond. Diamond cuts through shite.

  • DougtheDug

    Lorraine Kelly and Fred MacAulay are popular Scottish entertainers who are safely British Establishment and not controversial at all. Anodyne and family friendly would be good words to describe them.

    When Dundee University said not “respectable” and “distinguished” enough what they meant was not “establishment” enough and not respectful enough to the Labour party. That’s the criteria.

  • Donny Darko

    Nothing for it Craig, but to drown your sorrows at Frew’s and have a fish supper from the Deep Sea.All your cares will melt away with the bouquet of the malt vinegar.
    I’m sure Dundee remembers you.

  • craig Post author

    Donnie Darko

    More a Mennies man. Used to live above the Deep Sea – it closes whenever you might be hungry!

  • Jon

    Craig: a refreshing and honest post, and one that certainly should not come replete with apologies. This is what makes you very readable, and I wonder if some of us would love to be open enough to exercise such candour and vulnerability on the internet. Perhaps one day I will give it a go!

  • Parky

    With such hallowed media personalities as Lorraine Kelly and Fred MacAulay to conjure with, they must be scraping the barrel a bit anyway and they now need populist figures to give ‘uni’, as they like to call it, street cred to sell it to the kids and get away from the crusty outdated academic image that universities had when they were free and admitted only the academically gifted. They certainly don’t want intellectuals and judging by the latest exam results fiesta they won’t be getting many coming through the doors.

  • wendy

    why does/would anyone covet an honorary degree ?
    doesnt make sense to me.
    unless one is looking for approval, or to be loved
    but then one doesnt need an honorary degree to achieve that accolade.
    funny how the system bribes one, freezes the mind, and directs ones emotions.

  • Rich

    These petty small minded bureaucrats might have got their rocks off by denying you an honorary degree but you’ll always have this blog reader’s – and I suspect many others – profound respect and admiration.

  • mike cobley

    It is perfectly natural to feel a slight on being passed over in the dishing out of such minor gongs – so long as you keep it in perspective. A couple of my books have made it onto the long lists for SF/fantasy awards, only to see my hopes cruelly dashed when, wouldja believe it, I miss the cut for the short leet. Ho, and indeed, hum.

  • Gumptree

    Craig – if getting an honorary degree was your goal in being Rector, you went about it totally the wrong way. Telling the Principal you outranked him and rubbing his nose in it at your inaugural speech was loadsa fun but hardly ingratiating.
    Like Wendy says, if you did to receive honours, like the other media monkeys, that’d be self-serving and contemptible. Your refusal to suck up to the organ-grinders suggested you’re neither. Why spoil it now?
    Their reluctance is totally predictable – a sign of a job well done – you shouldn’t be hurt by it. Not a bit.

  • Steve

    To be shunned by the ruling class must mean you’re doing something right! Why would you want to be honoured anyway? These awards thingies are more about the givers than the recipients.

  • Craig W

    Macaualy and Kelly. Cox has some gravitas but that might just be how he comes across as an actor, not sure what he is like in life and principle. Students at Scottish universities have also elected people like Ross Kemp. When it comes to rectoring, you are the rose in the dungheap.

    If it helps, remember that the recently deceased Jimmy Reid was not considered biddable enough to stand for Labour. There is little appetite in officialdom for prophets or whistleblowers.

  • Craig W

    Can I take back the bit about Reid? He did stand for Labour in Dundee but was unsuccessful. Nothing like spouting off ignorantly before doing your research…

  • jagsman


    Only “discovered” you and your blog a couple of months ago. Your outpouring above ably shows

    1. the humanity that always shines through the expression of your opinions and

    2. the absolute necessity for you to continue to stand up to “them”.

    We think it. You get up and say it and do it: please do not let your hurt deflect you one scintilla.

  • Roger

    There was something a bit hyposcritical in a Scottish republican having a job as a diplomat for the United Kingdom.

  • Nextus

    “My offence is that I have not kept silent upon the lessons I have learned from life; I have scorned what most men cherish—money-making and the administration of their property, military command and mob-leadership, and all the various political offices, cabals and backstairs intrigue.” (Plato, The Apology of Socrates, p. 56)

  • Herbie

    Sounds to me as though you’ve distinguished yourself in not being “honoured”.
    You’re the exception that proves a rule. A tawdry rule as it turns out.
    Dundee have simply been foolish in highlighting this rule. It’s an error petty and vindictive people often make and it’ll taint them as long as they exist as an institution.
    Reminds me of the Professor Norman Finkelstein case at DePaul.

  • Wizard of Oz

    From the rock-bound coast of Maine to the Sun…. oh – oh, no — — ah – Well, be that as it may. Back where I come from we have universities, seats of great learning — where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts — and with no more brains than you have…. But!, they haven`t got one thing you have…An immortal soul.
    Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Universitatus Committeeatum e plurbis unum, I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of Th.H. Yeah — that…that`s Dr. of Humanity.

  • Wizard of Oz

    and…conduct, extraordinary valor, conspicuous bravery against wicked witches, I award you the Triple Cross.
    You are now a member of the Legion of Courage!.

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