Saturday, October 1, 2011

Auld Songs for Scottish Studies: Fichead Bliadhna


Surely it is a human right for children to be educated about their own nation and culture, especially if part of their indigenous culture is a marginalised one. I have long wished for Scottish education to come up with something like 'Scottish Studies', if only to counteract the ignorance that regularly surfaces in our media regarding Scotland and her history and culture. This naked and shameless ignorance was this week displayed by two of our politicians - one a Tory and the other claiming to be a Scottish nationalist.

Gaelic was never spoken here...
Jackson Carlaw, a candidate for the leadership of the Toxic Party in Scotland and SNP MSP Paul Wheelhouse - that's him above with more hair than historical accuracy - both claimed that Gaelic was 'never' spoken in the south of Scotland. No evidence was offered for this probably because all evidence points to Gaelic being spoken throughout the Lowlands at one point or another. For example it was spoken in parts of Galloway until the 1700s with the last Gaelic speaker of Carrick reputed to be a Margaret McMurray who lived until the time of Robert Burns' birth. It survived on Lomondside, Stirlingshire, Aberdeenshire and Perthshire until recent decades. Despite this Wheelhouse oiled the wheels of the Scottish-cringe bandwagon and Carlaw gleefully hauled his rotund frame aboard with his usual baggage of ignorance and bigotry to deride Scotrail for having the nerve to put Scottish language on their station signs. And all this... in Scotland!

Can't these tax-paying rebellious Scots be crushed or something? Or else, could some lackey burn down their houses again and hoof them off to Canada? Certainly, Carlaw is regarded as something of a 'loose cannon', even amongst Tories, and has form on the racist front.

...nor here.
Whatever, its a topic that's been oft covered here. Most of the opposition to Scottish kids learning about Scotland has unsurprisingly come from Labour and Tory. Is the 'Union' so worth saving that it means that ordinary Scots will be impoverished because of tribal party loyalty? Paul Wheelhouse proves though that ignorance and stupidity is not the preserve of one party.

This auld sang is very apt. Runrig again. It lays bare the attitudes of the Anglicised education system in Scotland until at least the 1970s. The process that started in the 1600s when Inglis was renamed 'Scots' and Scottish as 'Gaelic' reached its nadir during a century of clearance aimed primarily at the Celtic or 'Erse' speaking population. The bitterness of those in power towards the 'barbarity' of the indigenous Scots language and its speakers continued after the Clearances with Gaelic speaking children variously having skulls hung around their necks, being belted or caned or just being ridiculed. As a policy, it was very effective. Even in areas of Scotland that were Gaelic speaking within the past century, some locals will confidently tell you that 'Gaelic was not spoken here'. Even some older Gaels still wonder at why people would actually want to learn Gaelic.

This was Runrig's 'Another Brick in the Wall' and it was born of first-hand experience. Even to some Scots, we are just Porridge Wogs. Fichead Bliadhna...
Ruith's a mhonadh
Ruith nam beann
'S mar sin dhan sgoil aig deireadh samhraidh
'Nar clann
Aig coig bliadhna dh'aois
'S gun facal Beurla 'nar ceann

Seo do leabhar
Sea do pheann
"Dean do leasan," thuirt iad riumsa
" 'S gunn eirich sibh suas anns an t-saoghal
'S gheibh sibh an adhart ann

Fichead bliadhna'airson firinn
B'fheudar dhomh feitheamh
'S b'fheudar dhomh lorg
Fichead bliadhn' de bhreugan
Thug iad eachdraidh air falbh bhuainn

Dh'ionnsaich sinn a leithid ann
Canan's bardachd, bardachd Bheurla
Ceol na Gearmailt
Eachdraidh na Spainnt
'S b'e sin an eachdraidh mheallt

Bhon sgoil do'n oilthigh chaidh sinn ann
A' leantail foghlum, tuilleadh foghlum
Mar amadan air deiradh streang
Seorsa de dh'fhoghlum 'nam cheann

Fichead bliadhna'airson firinn
B'fheudar dhomh feitheamh
'S b'fheudar dhomh lorg
Fichead bliadhn' de bhreugan
Thug iad eachdraidh air falbh bhuainn

Ach dh'eirich mi suas anns an t-saoghal
Fhuair mi deise, 's fhuair mi leine
Fhuair mi aite ann an suilean dhaoin
Fada bhon mhonadh mi'n drasd

Carson a chùm iad eadchraidh bhuainn
Innsidh mi dhut, tha iad gealltach
Mas èirich clann nan Gaidheal suas
Le ceistean sireach is cruaidh

Fichead bliadhna'airson firinn
B'fheudar dhomh feitheamh
'S b'fheudar dhomh lorg
Fichead bliadhn' de bhreugan
Thug iad eachdraidh air falbh bhuainn

Nuair a thoisich mi air lorg
Cha do chreid mi mo shuilean
Obair olc

Freedom of the moor
Freedom of the hill
And then to school at the end of summer
Children,
Five years of age,
Without many words of English

"Here is your book
Here is your pen”
Study hard that's what they told me
"And you will rise up in the world
You will achieve"

Twenty years for the truth
I had to wait
I had to search
Twenty years of deceit
They denied me knowledge of myself

I learned many things
The English language, the poetry of England
The music of Germany
The history of Spain
And even that was a misleading history

Then on to further education
Following education, more education
Like puppets on the end of a string
Our heads filled with a sort of learning

Twenty years for the truth
I had to wait
I had to search
Twenty years of deceit
They denied me knowledge of myself

And I did rise in the world
I found my suit, I found my shirt
I found a place in the eyes of men
Well away from the freedom of the moor

But why did they keep our history from us?
I'll tell you they are frightened
In case the children of Gaeldom awaken
With searching and penetrating questions

Twenty years for the truth
I had to wait
I had to search
Twenty years of deceit
They denied me knowledge of myself
"Many a thing I have seen in my own day and generation. I have seen the townships swept, and the holdings being made of them. The people being driven out of the countryside to the streets of Glasgow and to the wilds of Canada, such as them that did not die of hunger and plague and smallpox while going across the ocean. I have seen the women putting the children in the carts which were being sent from Benbecula and the Iochdar to Loch Boisdale, while their husbands lay bound in the pen and were weeping beside them, without power to give them a helping hand, though the women themselves were crying aloud and their little children wailing like to break their hearts. I have seen the big strong men, the champions of the countryside, the stalwarts of the world, being bound on Loch Boisdale quay and cast into the ships as would be done to a batch of horses or cattle in the boat. The bailiffs and the constable and the policemen gathered behind them in pursuit of them. The God of life and He only knows all the loathsome work of men on that day."


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