September 18, 2014

Ye'll take the Aye road and I'll take the No road?

The Act of Union 1707 was all about the money. As the incomparable Robbie Burns put it when he joined Steeleye Span in 1973 -  the drumming on this is a joy,  the voices climb and fall to die for, and the whole is worthy of the lyric - high praise: 

Culloden was about the passion.


(Culloden 1746)

Hear it here 
and live at the Wolf Folk Club, Wolferton on Sep 18

So this is how it ends, Silent and Slow,

Upended in these Marshes, Letting Go.

The Pain twists red but greys into the Sky

And soon will fade, like Life’s Brief Mist, and Die.

The Way I’m fleeing no MacDonald harrows,

No claymore in my Scarlet Target burrows.

I Retreat, without Regret, from this Life

Leaving daughters, an Unprotected Wife,

A Mother: ‘Son you’re all I have’ she said,

‘It’s hard to Let You Go’ and still I’m dead.

The April Blows hard, the hills stream with Song,

My gorsed Path keeps going, but I am Gone.

I fought for a Country, though not to stay

And maybe for Duke, but mostly for Pay.

The Ape who struck off my Name from the Roll

Does it for Clan-Chief and with his Whole Soul,

For Soil in which all his Tribe will be laid

While I enjoy a Private Grave.

Keen as Thistle, they hunt Us like Game

Then, drunk with Victory, go Home again;

Yet they break the first Rule, cardinal Sin:

Never Give Combat Unless You Can Win.

And Die by One Law, One Protestant Line;

One Uniform Road to run Unchanging

Over my Body, through Heather and Fens,

Prehistoric Stones and Scotch-misted Glens

And all Ancient Haunts of kilted Clansmen:

A Race gone West, and my Spirit with them.

             Wherever you go, it’s still you,

                The wind maun blaw the same.

             This Scottish moon must mourn my bones,

                Her nightingale my name.

And now?  Ae fond kiss and then we sever?
I wrote Scotch Mist' in the hateful 80s and published it in 'Coming Home' in 1991. The introduction I've always given it is as follows - 'An English soldier is killed at Culloden, the victory/defeat that decisively settled the future of Britain  The close-knit tribal society of the Highland Scots, Romantic and attractive in many ways, was defeated by a mercenary one, organised around capital and paid labour, that would soon be imposing itself on colonies all over the world.' Well, after three centuries that 'decisive' context has utterly shifted- nothing lasts forever. Now I must add 'so far' to the sentence about the future of Britain and read the whole text in a different accent.

I'm one of the millions of English/Welsh/Ulster Britons who can't vote in this vote on the future of Britain, but for me it comes down to - who do you trust with your identity, your money, your economy, your society, your welfare, your heritage, your sport, your culture, your essential greatness of soul -  Brown or Salmond? And I don't trust Salmond with any of them. Brown,  warts and all,  represents to me where we have progressed together towards a civilised state out of that brutal capitalist-feudal showdown on 1746, and it's worth having. In my humble unfranchised British opinion. Anyone who keeps faith with Raith can't be that bad.


BUT A BIG YES IN GLASGOW, DUNDEE AND NORTH LANARKSHIRE. A COUNTRY CHANGED, and certainly a reversed landscape to the days of Culloden.


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