Scots Self-Hating Myths 109


200px-Georgemurray

This is Lord George Murray, painted in 1745. He is wearing a kilt.

GrantPiper_by_Waitt

This is the piper of Clan Grant in 1714. He is too.

Tartan type designs go back thousands of years among Celtic tribes, becoming more complex over time as technique developed. The kilt evolved from the belted plaid. Kilting – the sewing in of the pleats rather than gathering them under the belt – was an obvious convenience for people who could afford a separate blanket and apparel. Lord George’s 1745 costume is certainly kilted. The appearance of the small kilt – cutting off the piece over the back and shoulders – came in from about 1700.

Yet generations of Scots had it drummed into them that the kilt is not real at all, it is an entirely phoney Victorian invention dreamed up by the Prince Regent and Walter Scott. This denial of their own culture comes out viscerally, as in the reaction to the uniforms for the Commonwealth Games. Take Kevin McKenna in the Guardian:

“The modern kilt is a fey and ridiculous representation of the robust Highland dress in which the Jacobites went into battle against the Hanoverians”.

That is simply not true. Here is a light article on the kilt I wrote for the Independent a few years ago. If you look at the comments underneath, people simply spluttered and asserted the same denigrations they had been told. Scottish culture never existed. Bagpipes and kilts were Victorian inventions for shortbread packets.

Does it matter? Well, yes. It matters because it is a small part of a long term mis-education of a people about their own history and culture. It is of a piece with the absolutely untrue, but widely held belief, that there were more Scots on the English than Scottish side at Culloden (the real ratio was over 4 Jacobite Scots to every Hanoverian Scot in the battle), that the Jacobites were Catholic (less than 25%), that Charles Edward Stuart believed in the Divine Right of Kings (he explicitly did not). Most pernicious of all has been the airbrushing from history of the avowed aim of Scottish independence of the large majority of both the leaders and followers of the 45, including Lord George Murray.

I do not want you to misunderstand me. I have no yen for the Stewarts – my concern is how to get rid of the monarchy. But the generations of denigration of Scotland’s history, its reshaping to suit a Unionist agenda where the backwards and benighted Scots were brought in to the political and economic glories of the Union and British Empire, underlies so many of the attitudes to Scottish Independence today. Every culture has a right to reference its roots and history without ridicule – and the denial of the authenticity of genuine popular cultural heritage is a particularly pernicious form of ridicule, especially when it is built on lies drummed home in schoolrooms over centuries.


109 thoughts on “Scots Self-Hating Myths

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  • Vronsky

    @bugger (the panda)

    Indeed Traquair House is open for visitors. But I believe the main gates (the ‘Bear’ Gates) remain closed as required by tradition.

  • Jives

    What do you call 60 bagpipes in the Clyde?

    A start….

    Boom-tish!

    I jest of course,i love bagpipes 🙂

  • Anon

    @Rhisiart Gwilym 2:38 pm

    What a pretentious bore! Perhaps you can share with us an “Alert” from “the Editors” and we’ll all fall asleep, leaving the blog entirely to you.

  • fred

    “I think there’s a huge difference between disenfranchisement and serfdom”

    They are similar in that neither of them apply to the people of Scotland.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !

    Vronsky

    You mentioned Ancient Greece and so I suppose you know that the bagpipes are still played in some parts of modern Greece (by the Vlachs, in Epiros…etc)?

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    David Mellor, along with Geoffrey Howe, George Younger and a few others, helped get rid of that terrible ‘Iron Lady’, spilling the beans on the Government’s treatment of Captain Simon Hayward as if he were worse than some kind of Palestinian terrorist after he had been set up in Sweden as a drug runner during the fallout of the still unsolved assassination of Sweden’s Olof Palme

  • Juteman

    Scotland will be independent between the hours of 7am and 10pm on the 18th of September. The choice is between giving that away, or keeping it. For those 12 hours we are neither serfs nor disenfranchised.
    Courtesy of Jim Sillars.

  • fred

    Scots are neither serfs nor disenfranchised now.

    That’s just one of those “Scots Self-Hating Myths”.

  • Ken

    “Yet more regurgitation of the same untruths. You really are both stupid and tiresome.”

    Temper Temper, Craig, entertaining though your outburst was. If you want to post an image from the 18C and claim that all other accounts of how life was in the Edinburgh of that time are false, then that’s fine.

    To be fair, Scotland today is the creation of the 19C factory system, and the people who will decide her future live in the great cities in the central belt. I see more than a few men in silly costumes in Princess Street, but very few in Leith or Muirhouse where the football shirt and/or tracksuit are more the typical dress.

    Appealing to them via fantasies of the distant past is probably not a winner.

  • Stevenson

    You made the mistake Craig of writing about the kilt and giving Englishmen the opportunity to indulge in their favourite pastime, which is to ridicule and debunk the history of other peoples, especially those with whom they share the archipelago. The serious point in your article is that ‘British’ history is entirely anglocentric and describes a stately process whereby ‘failed states’ and ‘lesser breeds’ from the Irish and Scots to the Moghuls were brought under the ‘ Mother of Parliaments’, airbrushing their identity and achievements from the picture. I was, along with many others, fed the nonsense that Scotland was backward throughout my education. We have an opportunity now to leave that behind and celebrate our own history.

  • Hector

    “…between the hours of 7am and 10pm… For those 12 hours… ”

    Independent or not, the Scottish education system needs some work doing to it.

  • fred

    @Stevenson

    My problem is the people Craig has put forward as representing Scottish culture.

    Lord George Murray and the president of the Royal Bank of Scotland dressed up in their fineries to have their portraits painted do not, in my opinion, truly represent the people, or probably the customary dress, of Scotland.

  • fred

    “Manfred Max Neef the bare foot economist can explain better than I can why land rights and equality are important to Human well being”

    Oh I don’t doubt that, I don’t doubt that at all.

  • Resident Dissident

    Stevenson

    Absolutely right Edinburgh belongs to Northumbria not the Picts.

  • Herbie

    “David Mellor was the last decent man in the FCO.”

    Yeah. He wasn’t exactly a friend of Israel. Remember that public bollocking he gave the IDF border goons.

    Then he was set up by Max Clifford and others. One of Max’s early efforts.

    Lost his political career, but still managed to make another.

    Well rounded chap on the old intellectual front certainly, but without the resources to ever fully become his own man.

  • kathy

    Fred

    “My problem is the people Craig has put forward as representing Scottish culture.

    Lord George Murray and the president of the Royal Bank of Scotland dressed up in their fineries to have their portraits painted do not, in my opinion, truly represent the people, or probably the customary dress, of Scotland.”

    Craig was showing these people as evidence that tartan and kilts were not an invention of the Victorians. What is your problem? Tartan and kilts are part of the culture of Scotland and go a long way back. The fact that the elite chose to wear them for their portraits only confirms that.

  • Jives

    The real paradox is that nobody understands the Scots like The Westminster archivists over centuries.

    They saw and knew how much Scotland was being stiffed but kept schtum.

    Or else all the files were water damaged…:.)

  • Jives

    David Mellor was the last decent man in Westminster who sucked a call-girl’s toes whilst sharing her with Andrew Neil and a host of others is more acccurate…

    You’d have to ask Max Clifford about the Chelsea strip but he’s in prison now for even darker stuff so he might not talk.

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    Jives 14 Jul, 2014 – 1:51 am

    “David Mellor was the last decent man in Westminster who sucked a call-girl’s toes whilst sharing her with Andrew Neil and a host of others is more acccurate…”

    Yes Jives, I remember all that too, he was made a laughing stock and drummed out of government over the affair. I remember thinking how he came over as a real sleazeball, and good riddance, but ….

    ….but I wasn’t much interested in politics then and I wasn’t aware he had used his position in the Foreign Office to make strong statements in support of Palestine. Now I am reviewing the incident in the light of what I’ve learned since – that any politician who criticises Israel will pay for it in career prospects. A series of downward promotions began within months (how long did Robin Cook last as Foreign Secretary after he declared his ethical foreign policy). I wonder if his fall from grace didn’t reflect the fact that he was a decent politician rather than the reverse. The final straw was calling for reforms of the press. He was out on his arse six months later.

    Compared to what we now know was going on in Westminster around that time, a bit of toe licking seem positively wholesome, although wearing a Chelsea strip was and still is a bit perverted. In retrospect, he was hounded out of office by the press for doing nothing illegal whilst the same press protected the crooks, paedophiles and agents of foreign powers which filled the rest of the cabinet.

    When all’s said and done, I’d rather have an MP who licks prostitutes’ toes than Zionist arses.

  • John Edwards

    On the question of bagpipes is there any serious scholarship that links them to celtic culture? A lot of origin theories have been shown to be wishful thinking and folklore studies have until recently been bedevilled with it. I am genuinely interested.

  • craig Post author

    Node

    If he didn’t support Palestine, do you think all that about the prostitute would have come out in the tabloids?

    I see nothing morally reprehensible in the prostitute incident anyway.

  • craig Post author

    Fred,

    This is a difficult concept for you, but photos hadn’t been invented, and ordinary people couldn’t afford portrait painters. That is why the portraits of kilts are of posh people – not because only they wore them.

  • Ba'al Zevul (With Gaza)

    On the question of bagpipes is there any serious scholarship that links them to celtic culture? A lot of origin theories have been shown to be wishful thinking and folklore studies have until recently been bedevilled with it. I am genuinely interested.

    My researches indicate that the bagpipes were developed by the thrifty Scots in order to recycle haggis pelts.

    I love the pipes, btw. Great for marching to, and absolutely crap for accompanying saccharine lyrics. But a bonfire of the accordions would be good.

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    craig 14 Jul, 2014 – 9:15 am

    “Node
    If he didn’t support Palestine, do you think all that about the prostitute would have come out in the tabloids?”

    That was going to be my point when I began writing my comment, but then I discovered that he had also committed the other cardinal sin, threatening the tabloids with legislation. Up until then, I think the powers behind government were content to demonstrate the folly of criticising Israel through a drawn-out public demotion process. He survived for 4 years after his attack on Israel, but the Antonia de Sancha story hit the headlines within months of his telling the tabloids they were in the “Last chance Saloon”.
    You’ve convinced me he was a decent politician, though. He was his own man.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Mellor

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