Educational Siphonaptera

A long while back I began a blog-post thus:

How Jonathan Swift well understood right-wing bloggers.

The vermin only teaze and pinch
Their foes superior by an inch.
So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite ’em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.

Somehow, some when, that was contracted down to:

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.

In truth, the slim-line version was courtesy of Augustus de Morgan, the twice-coined professor of mathematics at the newly-minted London University: a great man who was ineligible for Oxbridge tenure because of his atheism — though he went the same way as Willie Yeats, seduced into spiritualism by the love for a good woman. Correction there: since the Yeatsian seduction was via that Surrey minx, Edith Maud Gonne, and de Morgan married Sophia Frend, that should read “the love for a better woman”

Critics may observe I entitled that post “Syphonaptera”. Homer nodded. However, it allows me to use the correct spelling above. And I cannot bring myself to forgo the dig at WB Yeats.

Today the Department for Education has “updated” (a late twentieth-century expressed in British English — so much more efficient and concise than “brought up-to-date” or “modified” or “changed” ) an important document:

DfE

Work-load is going to be reduced — wait for it! it’s a good’un! — by setting up three review groups, to consider the “workload challenge”. As a further result there will be:

  • tracking teacher workload by running a large-scale survey every 2 years – in February 2016, we invited a representative sample of schools to take part in the first survey, which will run from 29 February 2016

So, dear Ms Bloggs, we know you’re already frazzled by the burdens our bureaucracy imposes on you, but we ask you to postpone any relaxation while we go through a check-list with you. Will 4 p.m. on Friday do?

It all reminds me that I once complained at a senior staff meeting of the proliferation of hateful meetings. All seemed to require an extended Powerpoint presentation (much more trendy and ego-inflating than circulating a memo), breaking up into groups to discuss it, and then reassembling for a “plenary”.

The result was:

  • a meeting to discuss whether we were having too many meetings;
  • a further meeting to schedule further meetings …

I guess my early retirement intervened around then, so the process may yet be replicating itself.

Here’s a question for Mrs Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education, one of her six under-strapper ministers, her three SpAds, or her fourteen “board members”, her 45 “communications staff” (i.e. PR types) and 3840 other staff:

How many review groups are needed to change a light-bulb?

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Filed under Conservative family values, education, human waste, politics, schools, Tories.

Conundrum of the day.

This was all kicked off by Steve Baker accusing Europe Minister, David Lidlington (who always strikes me as a bit herbivorous):

Mr Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): This in-at-all-costs deal looks and smells funny. It might be superficially shiny on the outside, but poke it and it is soft in the middle. Will my right hon. Friend admit to the House that he has been reduced to polishing poo?

Mr Lidington: No, and I rather suspect that, whatever kind of statement or response to a question that I or any of my colleagues delivered from the Dispatch Box, my hon. Friend was polishing that particular question many days ago.

Baker must have refined his cloacal knowledge in the RAF training scheme, in Lehman Brothers, or in the St Cross College for unattached mature students. One suspects, though, the expression was sweated to fly as close to Erskine May as possible.

Yet, “poo” is just so naff.

So I approved Paul Waugh, this morning:

Steve Baker caught the headlines with his ‘poo’ jibe yesterday. I’m not sure why is ‘poo’ was deemed Parliamentary language but ‘turd’ — the original line is ‘you can’t polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter’ — isn’t. No matter, the leading backbench Euroscep summed up the main case of many of the PM’s critics: that this not the great deal Cameron claims.

Waugh managed to pack “manure to be lobbed” and “the poo won’t stick” into proximity.

Where I differ is I’m not convinced “you can’t polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter” is “the original line”. It certainly appears here:

I reckon the conceit goes far further back, in the Glaswegian expression “a polished jobbie”.

quite_ugly_UK_pb_200Look what just happened there!

This opinionated Mac predictive-spellcheck “corrected” to bobbie.

Which is instructive, in a way, because I was reckoning to find “polished jobbie” (did it again! and again!) in the works of Christopher Brookmyre. I thought I remembered it from the first chapter of his Quite Ugly One Morning, which I rate as one of the best, and funniest openers in any ‘teccie.

Wrong, Malcolm!

boiling_frog_UK_hb_200You’ll find it in Boiling a Frog (at least three times, including):

there was only so much that news management could achieve, and brainwashing wasn’t part of it. People had to be receptive to a certain point of view in the first place: otherwise you weren’t so much spinning as polishing a jobbie.

Your memory misled you from the back end of Chapter 1 of Quite Ugly One Morning.

Inspector McGregor has arrived at the puke-skating scene of the crime:

There was dried and drying sick all over the hot radiator and down the wall behind it, which went some way towards explaining the overpowering stench that filled the room. But as pyjama man was only a few hours cold, his decay couldn’t be responsible for the other eye-watering odour that permeated the atmosphere.
McGregor gripped the mantelpiece and was leaning over to offer Callaghan a hand up over the upturned chair when he saw it, just edging the outskirts of his peripheral vision. He turned his head very slowly until he found himself three inches away from it at eye level, and hoped his discovery was demonstrative enough to prevent anyone from remarking on it.
Too late.
‘Heh, there’s a big keech on the mantelpiece, sir,’ announced Skinner joyfully, having wandered up to the doorway.
For Gow it was just one human waste-product too many. As the chaotic room swam dizzily before him, he fleetingly considered that he wouldn’t complain about policing the Huns’ next visit if this particular chalice could be taken from his hands. McGregor caught his appealing and slightly scared look and glanced irritably at the door by way of excusing him, the Inspector reckoning that an alimentary contribution from the constabulary was pretty far down the list of things this situation needed right now.
They watched their white-faced colleague make an unsteady but fleet-footed exit and returned their gazes to the fireplace.
The turd was enormous. An unhealthy, evil black colour like a huge rum truffle with too much cocoa powder in the mixture. It sat proudly in the middle of the mantelpiece like a favourite ornament, an appropriate monarch of what it surveyed. Now that they had seen it, it seemed incredible that they could all have missed it at first, but in mitigation there were a few distractions about the place.
‘Jesus, it’s some size of loaf right enough,’ remarked Callaghan, in tones that Dalziel found just the wrong side of admiring.
‘Aye, it must have been a wrench for the proud father to leave it behind,’ she said acidly.
‘I suppose we’ll need a sample,’ Callaghan observed. ‘There’s a lab up at the RVI that can tell all sorts of stuff from just a wee lump of shite.’
‘Maybe we should send Skinner there then,’ muttered Dalziel. ‘See what they can tell from him.’
‘I heard that.’
‘Naw, seriously,’ Callaghan went on. ‘They could even tell you what he had to eat.’
‘We can tell what he had to eat from your sleeve,’ Skinner observed.
‘But we don’t know which one’s sick this is,’ Callaghan retorted.
‘We don’t know which one’s keech it is either.’
‘Well I’d hardly imagine the deid bloke was in the habit of shiting on his own mantelpiece.’
‘That’s enough,’ said McGregor, holding a hand up. ‘We will need to get it examined. And the sick.’
‘Bags not breaking this one to forensics,’ said Dalziel.
‘It’ll be my pleasure,’ said the Inspector, delighted at the thought of seeing someone else’s day ruined as well.
‘Forensics can lift the sample then,’ said Callaghan.
‘No, no,’ said McGregor, smiling grimly to himself. ‘I think a specimen as magnificent as this one should be preserved intact. Skinner,’ he barked, turning round. ‘This jobbie is state evidence and is officially under the jurisdiction of Lothian and Borders Police. Remove it, bag it and tag it.’

To conclude:

Frans Boas is the source for the (arguable) belief that the Inuit have fifty words for snow. From my (excessive?) study of modern Scottish fiction, I begin to feel Glaswegians can manage similar  for “taking a dump”.

Mr Steve Baker needs to up his game.

 

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Filed under Christopher Brookmyre, Conservative family values, Detective fiction, EU referendum, politics, Quotations, reading, Scotland, Tories.

Class-y MPs (and MSPs?)

This was prompted (once again) by James Kelly’s scotgoespop blog.

He argues, and — coming from such a factional source — understandably: it’s important to have an overall SNP majority, and not just a pro-independence majority.

Except I remembered, and have managed to dig out, a piece by John McDermott for the Financial Times: What are the new SNP candidates like?

In “The British General Election of 2010”, edited by Dennis Kavanagh and Philip Cowley, the academic Byron Criddle analysed the primary occupations of MPs before they entered parliament. Mr Criddle estimated that a quarter of MPs from the three biggest parties worked in “business”, a field including finance workers, company executives and management consultants. Viewed this way, about one-quarter of the SNP cohort has a business background, a higher share than the 2010 Liberal Democrat (19 per cent) and Labour MPs (8 per cent), but a smaller fraction than for the Conservatives (41 per cent).

Those SNP candidates are now, of course, all but two of Scotland’s entire Westminster cohort.

When “anonymous” (there are several of them) comments Scottish independence is all about socialism, I can only respond: would that it were so.

The SNP describes itself as a “left of centre, social democratic and progressive party”. I cannot see “socialist” or “socialism” featuring as a #SNP self-description. Alex Salmond’s “social democratic” credentials were honed in the Scottish Office’s Ag&Fish section, and then a long stint at RBS. Nicola Sturgeon’s brief brush (all of about four years) with time as a trainee and then as a solicitor seems to be a mere bread-butterer while she prepared for a career of professional politics.

There were many things not-quite-proper about Scottish Labour (and things still to be corrected), but it did mean that many of its elected representatives came from “working-class” backgrounds, and had experience of grime and grease under the finger-nails.

My theses here:

  • It’s A-OK for the SNP to brag that “46 per cent [of the 2016 Holyrood nominees] are female”. That doesn’t necessarily suggest a balanced slate.
  • The 2015 SNP MPs elected to Westminster clearly lacked proper “due diligence” in selection. Two already have gang aglay. A third experienced a near-miss. A couple more have had close squeaks. Despite a rigorous insistence on zipped mouths, too many dodgy utterances still escape.
  • Scotland may not be quite the “one-party state” some critics claim, but the SNP is far too uniform a tendency to be healthy.

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Filed under blogging, Scotland, Scottish Parliament, SNP, social class

Further matter arising: 1320 — 1776

No, I hadn’t forgotten (see previous). Small crises (stinky drain, untidy kitchen, laundry, etc) delaying not-s0-great thoughts. And we’ll come to him (below) in due course.

David_Hume (by Alan Ramsay)

It’s another ScotNat fantasy, maintained in a weekend tweet from  (after his Trump-for-Prez declaration, he has subsequently shown his Dover street-cred on “immigration”). Allegedly, as they say, in the best circles, and this Mr Lawrie maintains, the American Declaration of Independence was inspired by the Declaration of Arbroath.

Of the two Declarations, we’ve all heard of the former, but the latter is a bit less well-known. In fact, like Magna Carta before it was re-discovered and re-invented by Sir Edward Coke (and which I considered a while back), the Declaration has had a Lazarus-like resuscitation. Since William Wallace was executed in 1305,  scriptwriter Randall Wallace couldn’t quite stick words from the Declaration into Mel Gibson’s mouth. He just went as close as he could.

Compare and contrast Braveheart with the key bit of the Declaration, now an incantation among Scot Nats of my acquaintance.

… quamdiu Centum ex nobis viui remanserint, nuncquam Anglorum dominio aliquatenus volumus subiugari. Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit.

Sorry! That gets gussied up and dumbed down as:

… as long as a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

So, who is making this ringing pledge?

The pen was possibly in the hand of Abbot Bernard of Kilwinning, Chancellor of Scotland, though more convincingly the drafting was by Alexander de Kininmund (a more seasoned church diplomat, with experience of the papal court).

The primary context was not “independence”, but clouds of excommunication, hanging over Robert Brus for killing of John Comyn on holy ground. Brus was rounding up all the support he could muster (this was his third appeal). I doubt if the hard-headed feudal nobility of lowland Scotland expected any miraculous help from Avignon, but papal endorsement does little harm (Cf: Stadtholder Willem at the Boyne).

The Pope addressed by the Arbroath Declaration was Jacques Duèze, John XXII, second of the Avignon popes, a creature of Philip V of France, provoker (in large part) of the  Guelph and Ghibelline civil wars, an efficient administrator who filled those Avignon cellars with specie.

Then we come to the signatories of this document:

Duncan, Earl of Fife, Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, Lord of Man and of Annandale, Patrick Dunbar, Earl of March, Malise, Earl of Strathearn, Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, William, Earl of Ross, Magnus, Earl of Caithness and Orkney, and William, Earl of Sutherland; Walter, Steward of Scotland, William Soules, Butler of Scotland, James, Lord of Douglas, Roger Mowbray, David, Lord of Brechin, David Graham, Ingram Umfraville, John Menteith, guardian of the earldom of Menteith, Alexander Fraser, Gilbert Hay, Constable of Scotland, Robert Keith, Marischal of Scotland, Henry Sinclair, John Graham, David Lindsay, William Oliphant, Patrick Graham, John Fenton, William Abernethy, David Wemyss, William Mushet, Fergus of Ardrossan, Eustace Maxwell, William Ramsay, William Mowat, Alan Murray, Donald Campbell, John Cameron, Reginald Cheyne, Alexander Seton, Andrew Leslie and Alexander Straiton, and the other barons and freeholders …

Spot there a peasant, a serf,  of the whole community of the realm of Scotland, in whose name these grandees felt free to speak. Note, too, the Anglo-Norman names, and the titles imported by Dauíd mac Maíl Choluim (David I) to shore up his feudal imposition. And all in the name of “freedom”?

The American connection?

NTD2013_banner4

As far as I can see, this comes from Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi (at the third attempt), reading into the Senate record his motion for U.S. Senate Resolution 155 to inaugurate “National Tartan Day”:

Whereas April 6 has a special significance for all Americans, and especially those Americans of Scottish descent, because the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Declaration of Independence, was signed on April 6, 1320 and the American Declaration of Independence was modelled on that inspirational document…

This historic event therefore goes all the way back to … 1998.

It is fair enough to make a link from the foundation of the American nation-state to Scots. It goes slightly awry when the Resolution propounds:

almost half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Scottish descent … Governors of nine of the original thirteen States were of Scottish ancestry

That would be less impressive were we deduct the “Scotch-Irish”, whose connection is more with Ulster.

A better connection

Set aside the Declaration of Arbroath.

Scottish influence on the 1776 Declaration was more recent, more immediate, more philosophical, more potent.

It was the philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment, and in particular of the titan that was David Hume.

Read, mark and inwardly digest The Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth (1752).

It’s all there.

And it’s a far prouder claim that any nonsense dredged from the early fourteenth-century.

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Filed under History, Scotland, SNP, United States, US politics

Matters arising

After those two post I recon we still need to muse on:

  • the uncomfortable historic link between Fascism and Scottish Nationalism;
  • that thing about the Declaration of Arbroath.

51x4fwYd8KL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_For the former, Gavin Bowd (as right) has done the business.

That was then …

Scotland was no less caught in the rising fascist tide than anywhere else. South of the Border, Mosley had his Blackshirts, and the support of the owner of the Daily Mail. In Ireland, O’Duffy (sacked as police commissioner by de Valera) was a long-term admirer of Mussolini and set about moulding the Army Comrades Association (i.e. Free Staters) into his National Guard (better known as the Blueshirts).

Mosley had his small coterie in Scotland: 3,000 mustered at Dumfries Drill Hall for a BUF rally in April 1934. another rally, later in the same year, at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall ended in a major punch-up. One reason why Mosley failed to get traction was because any natural support, among the Orangemen, rejected the admiration of Mussolini and his papal links.

Far more dangerous was Alexander Ratcliffe’s Scottish Protestant League in Glasgow and John Cormack’s Protestant Action in Edinburgh. Protestant Action gained 24% of the vote in local elections in 1935, rising to 32% the following year. Cormack had his “Kaledonian Klan” (geddit?) street-fighting in the Irish-Catholic slums.

Added to which, there was the seduction of the intellectuals. “Hugh MacDiarmid” and or his alter-ego, Christopher Murray Grieve, had signed up for a “Scottish fascism” in the 1920s, and hardly resiled from that stance. In 1940 we find him writing to Sorley Maclean asserting Nazism was a lesser enemy than the French and British bourgeoisie. Once upon a distant time, I had a passing interest in MacDiarmid’s verse, and I still have as a legacy Alan Bold’s anthology: in it I won’t find this, from June 1940:

Now when London is threatened
With destruction from the air
I realise, horror atrophying me,
That I hardly care.

John Manson includes that as a “rediscovered” poem. One can see why it remained unpublished for another 60+ years.

MacDiarmid was in good company: Douglas Young (who would be leader of the SNP in the later War years) writes in 1939:

If Hitler could neatly remove our imperial breeks somehow and thus dissipate the mirage of imperial partnership with England he would do a great service to Scottish Nationalism.

Fascist-symps were numerous in the cream of Scottish society (“the rich and the thick”, or at least the effete). Patrick Boyle, Earl of Glasgow, had organised the British Fascisti, buggered off to France when his debts became pressing, and returned to help finance Mosley and the Anglo-German Fellowship. Jocelyn Hay, Earl of Errol (later shot in the Kenyan “Happy Valley” debacle) was another BUP stalwart, to the extent of flaunting a swastika. Montagu Douglas Scott, Duke of Buccleuch was an appeaser, consorting with von Ribbentrop in London, and so pro-German George VI “resigned” him as Lord Steward. When Rudolf Hess flew to Scotland in 1941, it was to meet with  Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, the Duke of Hamilton, another Ribbentrop associate, a visitor to the Berlin Olympics where he met Hitler. Nor should we glide over Archibald Ramsay, MP for Peebles, rabid anti-semite, pillar of the Right Club, and the only MP interned during the War.

Several lesser lights glimmered in Nazi circles: a coiffeuse from Dundee ran a letter-box for spies, and spent the War years in prison. Derrick Grant, who had offered his services to the Reich earlier, arranged his German “holiday” to coincide with the outbreak of War, and was recruited to be Radio Caledonia. At the top of this midden was Norman Baillie-Stewart, Anglo-Irish with no direct Scottish connection, but cashiered out of the Seaforth Highlanders when he was found guilty of spying for the Nazis. going on to be the “Sinister Sam” of “Germany Calling”, and later “The Man in the Tower”.

Other names in the frame

It would be wrong to draw a direct line from the Nationalists of the 1930s to the SNP of today.

So let’s not over-egg Arthur Donaldson‘s pudding. Donaldson was drummed out of the SNP in 1940, and ran his own Nazi-infiltrated United Scotland. His other achievement was the Nationalist Mutual Aid Society, to spirit don’t-wannabes into the Highlands and avoid National Service. He was arrested in 1941 and briefly detained until the Nationalists reclaimed their own, made him into a campaign. He prided himself as the Scottish Quisling (but Archibald Ramsay claimed he was first choice). Donaldson was leader of the SNP from 1960 to 1969.

Another briefly-detained was anti-conscription Ronald MacDonald Douglas, who betook himself to Ireland for the duration. Douglas is more significant as the link between Rosheen Napier, a major SNP financier, and the literary circle around MacDiarmid. The salacious can speculate on the ménage à trois of Douglas, Napier, and Marjorie Brock: the former two met when Douglas, keeping out of circulation in Dublin, already shacked up with Brock, fell in with the ex-convent girlie. Douglas was the epicentre of the 1320 Club (that number is explained later) which dedicated itself to the armed struggle, “total independence from England through violent means if necessary”. Whether Douglas was a fantasist or not, he muttered about importing arms from Switzerland and claimed to have met Hess.

… and this is now

This is the easy bit.

It is wrong to draw a direct line from the pre-War to here, though the right-wing of the SNP, still carrying a yen for the principles of the Scottish Party of 1932-4, is a latent force. There’s a prospect for the future, once the “social democratic” tendency of Salmond and Sturgeon loses its gloss.

The Daily Mail, or — to be more precise — Dominic Lawson went ape over a bit of casual vandalism:

The Scottish Nasty Party and how its growing intimidation and intolerance of dissent reeks of fascism

The windows of the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party offices in Aberdeen have been spray-painted with the word ‘scum’ and the unmistakable sign of the swastika.

The front door has been similarly defaced with a giant letter Q, for Quisling: that is, traitor. Labour Party offices half a mile away were also daubed with similar abuse.

A local Conservative councillor, Ross Thomson, described this as ‘the ugly face of nationalism’. This showed restraint on his part. 

In his place, I might have pointed out that the political party that actually used the swastika as its emblem was the Nazi party: short for National Socialist.

That induced predictable rushes-of-blood-to-the-keyboard on Facebook.

The takes-the-cake, though, came from Damian Thompson in the Telegraph:

Alex Salmond, the SNP and ‘fascist Scotland’

If Scotland votes for independence, will its government confiscate the estates of English landowners? The SNP is talking about a tenants’ “right to buy” – three such innocuous little words! – even if the landowners don’t want to sell. As my colleague Charles Moore pointed out in The Spectator, “one great independence leader who played this issue politically was Robert Mugabe”.

Cue shrieks from cybernats, the digital wing of the SNP, masters of coordinated outrage. They always go bananas if anyone compares Alex Salmond to a dictator. Which happens a lot these days. There’s an authoritarian streak in the Scottish government that is making people nervous.

Alex Massie shot that little lot down in flames (actually aiming at Simon Winder in Standpoint):

Independence is not ipso facto an absurdity. It may be a cause sparked by emotion and identity but it is one also built on reason. This is an argument between competing but equally legitimate patriotisms in which neither side has a monopoly on either truth or virtue but in which each base their arguments, for the most part, on a sincere and peaceful different calculation of the national interest. As these things go, this one is going pretty well.

Finally, I would only observe that this hysterical – in every sense of the term – broadside against the enemy within plus the suggestion Britain has been betrayed by a decadent and feeble elite at Westminster is so infused with ressentiment that it comes closer to being authentically fascist – at least in worldview – than anything [Winder] has found in the Scotland he so feverishly imagines exists but which bears precious little relation to the Scotland most of us actually inhabit.

Enough, already.

And I still need to get from Arbroath in 1320 to Independence Hall in 1776. Leave that till tomorrow.

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Filed under Fascists, History, Literature, Scotland, SNP

A stirr’d turd stinks (2)

Back to Twitter.

A certain  (who is a declared enthusiast for Donald Trump as leader of the free world!)  took offence at — of all liberal souls — The Guardian‘s Michael White. Mr Lawrie essential grief was:

slavery always illegal Scotland. Unlike England who enslaved & murdered millions.

This was repeated several times, never with any justification, and lead on to other excesses:

  • slaves in confederate states higher standard living than British working class.
  • Scotland has an elite; called the British establishment.
  • slavery illegal under scots law. Why no slaves landed in scots ports. Not so England.
  • not troll. Is fact. Scotland never had mass slave trade. Unlike England. Accept truth here.
  • not one African slave was landed in Scotland. Because it was illegal under scots law.
  • slavery was illegal in Scotland under scots law. Doesn’t contradict
  • scaremongering self loathing rubbish as though Indy scot would unleash 4th reich.
  • The SNP did not have Nazi sympathisers. You’re promoting an offensive lie.

Those may not be in the correct order

Not to forget — a gem among gems — that somehow the US Declaration of Independence sprang from the Declaration of Arbroath.

In all that there are three items worth considering:

  1. Scotland and slavery (which what I address in this post);
  2. the uncomfortable historic link between Fascism and Scottish Nationalism;
  3. that thing about the Declaration of Arbroath.

Scotland and slavery

The Battle of Dunbar (1650) lumbered Cromwell with 10,000 (his own count) Scottish Covenanters and Royalists as prisoners. He reported he had discharge half that number as “starved, sick or wounded”. The Royalist Sir Edward Walker reckoned on 6,000 prisoners, of whom 1,000 were dismissed.

Either way, that leaves 5,000 to be route-marched south. About 3,000 were alive to be incarcerated by Arthur Heslerig at Durham Cathedral. Further deaths (the bodies were found post-WW2 in a trench on the north side of the Cathedral) reduced that to just 1,4oo.  In 1651 these were despatched as indentured labour to the American colonies.

In 1666 the City worthies of Edinburgh took Cromwell’s example, and employed Captain James Gibson. With his ship, the Phoenix of Leith, Gibson contracted to take beggars, vagabonds and others not fitt to stay in the kingdome to Virginia.

Few of these transports would have survived the seven-year indenture in the plantations. The few who did became the overseers for the cheaper, more durable, black slaves. Here, then, is one reason for all those Scottish names among the descendants of the slaves.

The Royal African Company, founded in London in 1672, soon had this new trade in humans organised. The Scots merchants, like those of Bristol and Liverpool, found themselves outside the loop. In November 1692 the Leith magistrates consigned 50 lewd women, and a further 30 street-walkers by ship to (ahem!) Virginia. In 1706 Two Brothers of Leith reported a profit on a slaving voyage.

We don’t know how many slaving voyages originated from the Clyde: the Port Books before 1742 are lost, so Scots moralists can claim barely a dozen such voyages start from Scotland. What is unquestionable is that slave-produced raw cotton, sugar, and tobacco were being imported to Greenock. By no coincidence, Abram Lyle, as in Tate & Lyle, was a Greenock man. By the start of the 19th century, a third of the Jamaican sugar plantations were Scottish owned. By the 1730s Ricard Oswald, son of the Dunnet, Caithness, manse was the factor for his cousins’ trade in tobacco, sugar and wine, and traveling the American south and Caribbean. He became a government-contractor and war-profiteer (first a small killing in the War of the Austrian Succession, then £125,000 from the Seven Years’ War), and with this bought 1,566 acres of four Caribbean plantations, and 30,000 acres in East Florida.

Hard lives and (progressively) harder decisions

The comings-and-goings of Scottish traders meant some brought back their black servants: some seventy are recorded in Scotland during the 18th century. Therein Mr Lawrie’s defence of Scottish innocence totally collapses. Several cases came before Scottish courts where black servants had to plead for release from their servitude:

  • Robert Shedden brought “Shanker” to Scotland, to apprentice him to  joiner, and so improve his price back in Virginia. In April 1756, at Beith, “Shanker’ had himself baptised as James Montgomery. Shodden took the hump, and dragged him back to Port Glasgow to be sent back to Virginia. Montgomery escaped to Edinburgh, and sought his freedom. He was clapped in gaol while the magistrates had extended deliberations, and died before a decision.
  • Dr David Dalrymple brought “Black Tom”, a slave, born in West Africa,  from Grenada to Methyl in Fife. In September 1769 “Black Tom” was baptised as David Spens at Wemyss. Spend now told his former master “I am now by the Christian Religion liberate and set at freedom from my yoke, bondage, and slavery”. Dalrymple had him arrested, and local lawyers  — financed by collections from miners and salters (more of that in a while) — issued writs for wrongful arrest. Before the case could be decided, Dalrymple died.

Next: the Somerset Case. An English matter, but this is in all the schoolbooks as the definitive one: after this no slaves in England. Nope: another example of how textbooks systematically simplify to the point of lies.

  • Charles Stewart had brought the enslaved James Somerset from Boston. Somerset made a break for it, was recaptured, and consigned back to Jamaica. Three witnesses approached the Lord Chief Justice, who ordered Somerset be kept while the case was heard.  The LCJ’s judgement walked the narrowest of lines between common law and the interests of the traders. His ambiguous ruling was: no master was allowed to take a slave by force to be sold abroad because he had deserted his service or for any other reason whatever. Read it carefully: it doesn’t make slavery illegal: it did, however, give runaways pretext to take charge of their own future.
  • Joseph Knight was an enslaved African, the possession of Sir John Wedderburn in Perthshire. Inspired by the Somerset decision, Knight demanded his service become paid. Wedderburn refused. Knight absconded, and was arrested. The abolitionists, including Dr Johnson and James Boswell, interceded. In 1778 the case came to court at Perth, and was appealed to the Court of Session in Edinburgh — in both the judgement was that the law of Scotland did not allow slavery.

Salters and miners

Both essential industries, and a law of 1606 put coalyers, coal-bearers and salters in a state of perpetual bondage to their employer. Breaking the bond put the said Coalyears, Coal-bearers and Salters to be esteemed, reput and halded as theives, and punished in their bodies. Moreover, all maisters and awners of Coal-heughs and pannes, were empowered to apprehend all vagabounds and sturdie beggers to be put to labour. So: serfdom and press-ganging.

This persisted until 1775 Act. Let there be no doubt, as the Act said:

many Colliers, Coal-bearers, and Salters are in a state of slavery or bondage, bound to the Collieries and Salt-works where they work for life, transferable with the Collieries and Salt-works, when their original masters have no further use for them.

Even then there were conditions attached. It took until 1799 before all salters and colliers were free from the bond (but, even then, only when an apprenticeship had been served, or ten years’ service registered.

 

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A stirr’d turd stinks (1)

I sense this could best be presented as a three-parter.

I know I’ve used Charles II Stuart’s expression previously, and perhaps too often. It is, allegedly, the original of what school histories bowdlerise as “Let sleeping dogs lie”. Discovering that convinced me never to rely on the classroom diet provided. And so a natural dissident was born.

So, for these first two parts (and then I’ll attempt a summary-reflection) yesterday I found myself getting involved in two different disputations.

Both were Scottish in essence.

Vox pop

One was on James Kelly’s Scot goes Pop blog. For the epicene, those above the salt, this is in the same territory, but a social class and literacy just above the horrors of the “Rev.” Stuart Campbell’s Wings Over Scotland.

Both those sites (and several others in the cyber-SNP diaspora) are waxing strong, and vexed, and expectorating against J.R.Rowling and all her works.

The cause is that Rowling declined to pay her dues to the Yessers during the #IndyRef. So she is a “Britnat”, an incomer, a traitor, and a whole string of other clichéd inventions.

The precise circumstance was that Rowling had taken umbrage at a particular tweet from Natalie McGarry. Indeed, her. Allow Tom Peterkin, of The Scotsman to explain:

The Glasgow East MP Natalie McGarry got more than she bargained for when she made disparaging remarks about the world’s most famous children’s author on Twitter.

A furious row erupted that resulted in JK Rowling suggesting she might sue Ms McGarry after the former SNP representative accused the Harry Potter creator of “defending abusive misogynist trolls”.

Ms Rowling revealed she was considering taking a ­defamation case after Ms McGarry claimed the author had “tweeted support” of a Twitter user, who uses the nom de plume of Brian Spanner QC to attack Scottish Nationalism.

A series of tweets were posted by Ms McGarry, whose political career has been marred by her suspension from the SNP after financial irregularities were discovered in a pro-independence group that campaigned during the referendum.

In a tweet addressed to Ms Rowling, McGarry said: “It is quite simple flee with craws…You tweet supportive tweets of a misogynist Twitter troll.”

The MP then added: “Do you or don’t you tweet supportive tweets of a misogynist and abusive Twitter troll like Brian Spanner. Answer is Yes. Simple.”

Ms Rowling replied: “So you need some evidence for that or I’m going to need an apology.”

The author added: “You are a politician making a public accusation. Show me where I have defended abusive, misogynist trolling.”

During the online spat that spanned six hours and involved many participants, Ms McGarry also said she “regretted” queuing to buy Ms Rowling’s books.

Ms McGarry later apologised for “any misguided inference” that Ms Rowling supports misogyny or abuse.

But the row escalated when Ms McGarry subsequently tweeted an image that had been altered to wrongly suggest Ms Rowling had responded “you’re a good man” to an abusive tweet sent by Brian Spanner.

According to the author, Ms McGarry had taken the “good man” tweet out of context. Rather than a response to an abusive tweet, it had actually been posted when Brian Spanner helped to raise money for Ms Rowling’s Lumos children’s charity.

Never having had dealings with “Brian Spanner” (whom I now discover tends to similar “vagina monologues” as Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail), I naturally incline to accept the Rowling version.

Over to you, James Kelly!

Kelly’s blog, Scot goes Pop!

Mr Kelly reckoned he had identified the hidden hand behind “Brian Spanner“. To do so he identified three dozen of Spanner’s relatively modest 4,622 followers on Twitter, and listed them as a large number of the unionist establishment (especially the journalistic unionist establishment). Including said J.K.Rowling.

I took exception: this list looks remarkably like the black sentence and proscription of Julius Caesar, Act IV, scene i. I read several of the journalists listed there. I don’t have to agree with them, but I know what they write today will be the tittle-tattle of received opinion, the public-bar wisdom of the morrow.

From there it became increasingly bizarre:

  • What age are you 70???? [Would I were so young, but what’s a bit of ageism between commenters?]
  • ... as you haven’t posted here before it would be useful to know what your interest in this matter is? [There is  entry requirement to participate in Mr Kelly’s open house?]
  •  I see from your profile you’re in London, so is your main interest in Scottish politics or in Rowling? [London? wrong. And my main interest(s) are somewhat more catholic: lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice.
  • Inevitably, once names are in the frame, others are drawn in: a journalist and book-reviewer in  her own right had to be identified as the wife of a Labour politician. Remember: this whole she-bang was about casual sexism. Muriel Gray was one ripple further out. And so we arrive at (better believe it) “Joe McCarthy” and “Arsene Wenger”.

And this to cap it off

I for one will not rest until every msm Scottish journalist is unemployed. Its time to shut the papers down then we can create a free and fair media.

No irony there, then.

Anyone for a nice lie-down in a darkened room?

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