One of the down-column letters in today’s Times [£, and I can’t find it on line]:
Tae think again
Sir, As a patriotic Scot I am delighted that people from Scottish sport are calling for an alternative national anthem to the anti-English dirge that is Flower of Scotland.
Surely someone from the Scottish literary scene could compose suitably uplifting words to such bright tunes as McCunn’s Land of the Mountain and the Flood, Highland Cathedral or Gerry Rafferty’s Shipyard Town.
All worthy stuff.
First let’s be clear Flower of Scotland is pay-back.
The British National Anthem really is a dirge. It is also Scots-phobic.
The lyric of God Save the King was first printed as a Hanoverian response to the Jacobite walk-over in the Battle of Prestonpans.
When, as a boy-chorister, I was sitting through an over-long and under-inspiring sermon, the main resort was Hymns Ancient and Modern. St Nicholas, Wells-next-the-Sea, had — like most parish churches which were not too spiky and Anglo-Ca(r)th’lick — the unexpurgated original edition.
My memory may deceive me, but I’m convinced the text of God Save the King (yes: it really is that long ago) included the optional verse:
Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,
May, by thy mighty aid,
May he sedition hush,
and like a torrent rush
Rebellious Scots to crush,
God save the King.
You do not need to search too thoroughly in that hymnal to find imperialistic and even racist twaddle masquerading as “muscular Christianity”.
Second, there’s already an excellent candidate for a Scottish National Anthem. It’s Hamish Henderson’s Freedom Come-All-Ye (which I first encountered in 1961, with CND marching to the Holy Loch):
Roch the wind in the clear days dawin’
Blaws the cloods heelster gowdy ow’r the bay
But there’s mair nor a roch wind blawin’
Through the great glen o’ the warld the day.
It’s a thocht that will gar oor rottans
A’ they rogues that gang gallus fresh and gay
Tak the road an’ seek ither loanins
For their ill ploys tae sport an’ play
Nae mair will the bonnie call ants
Mairch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw,
Nor wee weans frae pit-heid an’ clachan
Mourn the ships sailing doon the Broomielaw.
Broken families in lands we’ve herriet
Will curse Scotland the Brave nae mair, nae mair.
Black and white, ane til ither mairriet
Mak’ the vile barracks o’ their masters bare.
So come all ye at hame wi’ freedom
Never heed whit the hoodies croak for doom
In your hoose a’ the bairns o’ Adam
Can find breid, barley bree an’ painted room.
When MacLean meets wi’s freens in Springburn
A’ the roses an’ geans will turn tae bloom
And a black boy frae yont Nyanga
Dings the fell gallows o’ the burghers doon.