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THE BALLAD OF BIG BILL By Owen Dudley Edwards A Festschrift is one of the most delightful, and sometimes one of the most valuable, scholarly pauses at ageing signposts by whose wisdom we may examine what the worst President in US history would call our road-maps. It has no English form, though attempts are made from ‘tribute’ (rather unpleasantly reminiscent of ancient imperial blackmail) to ‘presentation’ (even more unpleasantly evocative of smarmy salesmen swindling suckers). Gaelic has the term, as Feilsgribhinn (in Munster Irish, varying somewhat in more northern climes). It implies a writing feast, plates high with the essays there piled up, but the imagery is not wholly or even primarily gastronomic apart from the implication that the recipient should eat and drink well on what is offered, since elsewhere is famine. We have to remember that feasts are for saints, and hence there is a canonisation element (no wonder Anglophones lack the term, at least since they dropped saints in favour of Tudors). We have two candidates for canonisation here, one being Dr William Ferguson, and the other being Scotland. I proceed to confuse them with one another, as is always happening (consider the cases of the saints James, John, Jude, Patrick, David (yes, the Welsh patron, and the selfcanonised Scots philosopher). But it is Scotland, not St Andrew that is to be confused with St William Ferguson. As to another St William, I have a story. When I was at Belvedere College, Dublin, under Jesuit survivors of James Joyce, the teaching staff were augmented by some very elderly priests, of whom the most conspicuous was known to the few as the Rev. John O’Connor and to the masses as ‘Bloody Bi1l’, why, nobody knew. Authority let it be known that he had served as headmaster (Prefect of Studies), at a time taken to be somewhere between Noah and the nineteenth century; public opinion explained the absence of two fingers from one of his hands as the result of a gun-battle at the Last Chance Saloon whence his adversaries (Protestants, no doubt) were carried out feet foremost. We grew older (he had aged to ultimate human possibilities, we assumed). And we left and, many years later, looking at the obituaries in the Belvederian, idly skimmed one for the Rev. John O’Connor, whose name by now Awoke no echo in memory until its douce conclusion that he about had seemed as though about to die on the feast of his patron saint, St John, but that in fact he died the following day,

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which was almost as appropriate, being the feast of St William. And, I suspect like every other exschoolboy reading it, I shouted’BLOODY BILL! (In passing, that is a quintessence of the Jesuitical. They needed to, convey the name by which we all knew him, but delicacy prevented its direct use since when we were at school ‘bloody’ was as bad a word as anyone said. And thus they told the world of his demise... and in our four corners of the world we said our prayers for Bloody Bill, and Bar Nothing Ranch or wherever he lost his fingers.) In like manner, I examine on your behalf The Scottish Nation: Identity and History Essays in Honour of William Ferguson, edited by Alexander Murdoch with the assistance of Edward J. Cowan and Richard J. Finlay, with a Foreword by Professor T. M. Devine, and an Appreciation by the late John M. Simpson (Edinburgh: John Donald, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd.) but to me it will always be ‘The Book for Big Bill’. Why I thought of him as ‘Big Bill’ I cannot altogether guess. He is big, physically, but not overwhelming. He is a ferocious controversialist when occasion demands:(it demanded it most recently in the Scottish Historical Review for April 2007, where he denounced Professor Colin Kidd, of Glasgow, for gratuitous hagiographising’ a false god, the late, if not universally lamented Hugh Trevor-Roper, first Lord Dacre (the title probably chosen from the line in Scott, ‘Noble Lord Dacre, he lives on the Border’, although there are alternative hypotheses as to the border on which Trevor-Roper himself lived, not being at all geographical. Colin Kidd, (who, unlike TrevorRoper, is a sportsman to his finger-tips) promptly replied; It is an honour to have been thwacked by Dr Ferguson. For several decades Dr Ferguson has assumed the role of the dominie of Scottish historiography, and several distinguished historians, including a former Regius Professor at Oxford [Trevor-Roper] and Her Majesty’s present Historiographer in Scotland [T. C. Smout], have felt the sting of his tawse for errors large, small and non-existent. However the honour I feel also stems from another source, for Dr Ferguson - a scholar of great erudition and an indefatigable smiter

of Amalekites in historical debate - has long been, and still remains one of my heroes ... Mine, too. Well, why not ‘Bloody’ then, rather than ‘Big’? “To answer is not to profane the memory of the Rev. John O’Connor, the origin of whose sanguinary panache remains hidden from me (he couldn’t have been an ill-fated butcher’s apprentice in youth suffering comparable effects to the sorcerer’s brat for abuse of the tools of his master’s trade?). But Big Bill waged his historiographical battles for the bigness, not for the blood. His own wounds,(as the Jacobite song ‘Clare’s Dragoons’ says of its colonel) are in his breast and face. Not for him the arrow in the night, or the assassin’s intrigue in academic twilight. Small may be beautiful, but not in the measurement of minds and souls. Bill was big: and so were the causes for which he fought. ‘Was’ and ‘were’ be damned: thank God it is still ‘is’ and ‘are’. The late, gentle, benevolent John Simpson begins his posthumous appreciation almost on a note of wonder in recognition at the big man around whom we grew: I’m mindful of the fact that Bill Ferguson, my friend and colleague with whom I took morning coffee over so many years, is also a major historian. The sixteenth-century humanist, Polydore Vergil, told Bishop Gavin Douglas that history I showld nether abhorre the discoveringe of falsehoode, neither in aoie case allowe the undermining of veritee’. Bill Ferguson has excelled at both of these duties. And if he has by temperament seemed especially zestful in discovering falsehood. it should be remembered that it is only once the old myths have been expunged that as in the case of his superb book, The Identitv of the Scottish Nation: an Historic Quest (1998), a new and truer account can be substituted. The essays in the Feilsgribhinn testify to the bigness of the recipient’s scholarly interests, the vastness of the range where he is at home. Ted Cowan of Glasgow leads off with ‘Scotching the Beggars’, pursuing the theme of the destitute giving judgment in The Thrie Estaites and other works of art in the sixteenth century and beyond. There could be no neater way of

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asserting Ferguson’s insistence on history that sees all levels of society, and on judgments whose virtue stems from justice, not from fashion. He draws conclusions from John the Common Weal, not John the Common Room, or the Commons House. Cowan shares with Ferguson the ability to use today to illustrate yesterday without being glued to today’s spectacles. The historian’s eyes have in some way to penetrate time, and if the present can strengthen rather than limit your vision, away you go. Cowan’s eye scans a millennium on the reputations of beggars: (3): The poor, of course, were ever present, though not all poor were beggars, nor all beggars poor. There was something of an obsession with beggary in sixteenth century Scotland and then, as now, beggars generated such antithetical responses as concern and condemnation, embarrassment and exploitation. It’s not a trick to liberate history on all levels. Mr,Blair will probably be worse than useless to the student of Disraeli or Gladstone: a Prime Minister whose intellect ran off the minus scale and whose morality was no more than a mongrel’s mouthing to his master, is presumably useless to help us grapple with the mind of Disraeli or the soul of Gladstone. (But the converse can apply: Trollope’s The Prime Minister can tell you a startling amount about Mr Gordon Brown.) ... In Professor Cowan’s hands we are made to see the beggars of the past by his reminders of what we know (though we may not admit we know) about the beggars of the present: it is but one of the many gifts the beggars of today give their supposed betters. Cowan’s largely masterly use of literature to read history honours Ferguson’s achievements in this regard, but he occasionally falls below the standards of his dominie. There is a would-be macho necessity for some honest but hearty historians to belittle Scott, as though it is cissy to like him and the bigger laddies will make game of you. Ted Cowan digs himself into this midden: The idea that [James V] ‘certainly mixed freely with subjects of low degree’ - whatever that may mean - seems to owe more to the imagination of Sir Walter Scott than to any contemporary source. On one occasion James reportedly disguised himself as a servant in order to view a prospective bride, an

anecdote out of which Scott apparently manufactured the entire legend of the Gudeman of Ballengeich… A goodman is a tenant farmer, far removed from the designation of ‘beggar’, yet due to the invincible authority of the great fabricator, Scott, the popular image of the beggar-king persists even at the present day. (12-13) First of all, the story may have been found by Scott in folklore about some earlier James -James III and James IV were both given vague credit for imitating Haroun al Raschid investigating his subjects in mean apparel, thus saving the wages of spies: Shakespeare has Henry V (in his eponymous play) and the Duke of Vienna, Vincentio (in Measure for Measure) do exactly that. Secondly, to call Scott ‘the great fabricator’ for what he wrote in tales for his grandson would ban every rhyme from the nursery on the ground that ‘Goosey goosey gander’ is an over indulgent exoneration of the excesses of the Protestant Reformation or that ‘Sing a song of sixpence’ makes unsubstantiated allegations anent the want of chastity of the four-and-twenty overlords given King John by Magna Carta. When Professor Cowan has grandchildren, he will understand more. Big Bill Ferguson, who has charming grandchildren, has used Scott’s novels with great effectiveness as witnesses, notably The Antiquary and The Heart of Midlothian. That does not condemn us to imprisonment in Scott’s images, especially when Ben Logue brings back hard reality to the Porteous lynching in the impressive terms he does here. I cannot blame Scott for my illusions on the Porteous murder which Logue dispelled. The Heart of Midlothian, if you will think about it, plays its readers to confront a sufficient mixture of motives and miscreants, with Scott’s own contribution the invention of a crowd-leader in drag whose heroism is drastically slimmed down as the tale advances. It is fairer to plead undue influence from John McGrath and 7:84 whose Joe’s Drum valorized the mob and its virtues in the Porteous case as elsewhere. As Synge’s Pegeen Mike learns in The Playboy of the Western World, there’s a deal of difference betweem a gallons story and a dirty deed, and Logue’s account shows that any justice in the killing of Porteous for firing on an earlier crowd vanishes when the sadism of his executioners is clear. He tells his story well, perhaps making too little of the mystery of who its leaders really were. He offers an omnibus.: (64-5): Lots of theories have been advanced

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about the motives of those behind the lynching of Porteous. They were involved in a Jacobite plot or an extreme Presbyterian conspiracy; they were smugglers seeking revenge; they were a wild drunken rabble; or they were simply the determined friends of those killed on 14 April [1736], It is possible that elements of all these were present in the crowd of 4.000 that broke Porteous out of the Tolbooth and accompanied him to his painful and cruel death. The crowd at whom Porteous was said to have fired had been throwing stones to express its disapproval of his action in ensuring the hanging of a smuggler, a hero who bad enabled two of his confederates to escape tbe gallows that would kill him. But smuggling itself abounded in early eighteenth century Scotland and Ireland because of the existence of two jurisdictions, open and secret, Hanoverian and Stuart, and the Irish Jacobites of Nantes and Bordeaux made their pieties profitable, picking up rents, clerical students, soldiers of fortune, spies, &c while leaving contraband wines, fineries,in clothing and furniture and a delivery list admirably summarised in Kipling’s ‘A Smuggler’s Song’: If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet. Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street Them that asks no questions,isn’t told a lie. Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by! Five and twenty ponies, Trotting through the dark Brandy for the Parson, ‘Baccy for the Clerk; Laces for a lady, letters for a spy, Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by! Kipling supposes a smuggling world in East Anglia, with something of the enthusiasm for mass defiance of law hinting at kinship with a lynchmob, but which also implicates pillars of society who may share none of the smugglers’ political sympathies (if any) but who want their brandy cheap while upholding the church and their tobacco cheap while fulfilling the law. In Scotland and Ireland the Jacobite smugglers might include Whig grandees among their most valued customers. Jacobites might not amount to

much in armed insurrection, but they could be formidable when in alleged quiescence. Logue is surely right about many ‘elements’ present among Porteous’s killers, but he owed it to himself to remind us what could unify a hidden Scotland momentarily visible to history. The book has been long in the making, and its deceased contributors include the late Ronald Sunter of Guelph University, Ontario, describing from documents the misfortunes of military authorities in the wars against Revolutionary France who found themselves trying to cope with recruitment of the then Macdonald (written ‘Macdonell’) of Glengarry. Here again is an alternative agenda, presumably not a Jacobite becoming Jacobin, but with post-Jacobite sentiments far from clear in their implications, Sunter brings to life the frustration and fury of Glengarry’s colleagues and subordinates, which might be rendered as comedy skirting tragedy somevbat combining the priorities of Compton Mackenzie’s Whisky Galore and James Kennaway’s Tunes of Glory. But it is a little meaningless without the family context. Fifty years earlier the then chieftain of Glengarry was ‘Pickle the Spy’ to the appropriate paymasters in His Hanoverian Majesty’s Government. Fifty years later the bad soldier Glengarry’s brother Sir James was lieutenant-general, having served against Napoleon in Naples, Sicily, Egypt, the Pensula and Waterloo, and commanding in Canada after the insurrection of William Lyon Mackenzie in 1837. Most deplorable omission of all is the suspicion that the infuriating Glengarry of the ‘90s was Scott’s inspiration for Fergus Mac-Ivor, doomed hero of Waverley: that needed testing, and if it has any truth, Scott’s admiration required juxtaposition with the almost hysterical military responses to Glengarry. In any event che pretensions and peccadillos of Glengarry in the 1790s are part of the story of the fall of Gaelic Scotland which Scott encapsulated so well in Waverley, and whose tragedy across the generations he reveals in Rob Roy and the short story about Rob Roy’s grandson ‘The Two Drovers’. There are hints, uncertain in their meaning for Sunter, that Glengarry was anxious to use the newly emancipated Catholics to his advantage and, he May have thought, theirs. Certainly he gave a valuable start to the future Bishop of Kingston, Ontario, his kinsman and namesake Alexander MacDonell: however inglorious, what Sunter describes was a step on the road from Jacobite power co Catholic. power. It is not the least valuable quality of this collection that it summons labourers in

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the future, although they should emulate Bill Ferguson’s incessant pursuit of his historical quests rather than the too easy capitulation of one or two of his disciples. With a consciousness of the present all the greater when chey precend to lack it, historians are likely to turn rapidly to the last essay in the book, perhaps secondly or thirdly after their own specialisations, but soon enough; Professor Richard Finlay on ‘Thatcherism, Civil Society,and the Road to Home Rule’. It is of the greatest importance, and much of it is highly convincing. Richard Finlay rightly stresses socio-economic factors rather than a vague vision of ‘civil society’, as the pivot of Scotland’s embrace of devolution, or more correctlj of the intensification of that embrace from one third to three-quarters of the voters (with two-thirds, let all parties remember, voting for financial selfgovernment so far denied). The bourgeois peck on the cheek or air-kiss had been discarded for a passionate bear-hug. But he leaves certain other motivations out of account. Oddly, if perhaps logically, he omits Thatcher herself as a key factor in the Scottish revolt against Thatcherism. While he is shrewd enough in noting~signs. of reThatcherisation even amongst the official deThatcherators such as Gordon Brown, he fails to allow for the personal antipathy which swept away preThatcherite Scottish support for the Union undevolved. But as honest Tories (there are some) will admit openly, the very voice whose genteel bullying turned on the masochism of Surrey and Essex sent former Scottish voters into any storm out of that port. We could argue, drawing on the bleak and shallow essence of postwar, preThatcher Scottish Young Conservatives, as implacably exposed in Dr lain Hutchison’s preceding essay, that the Toryism of Balfour and Buchan had gone as irrecoverably as the Toryism of Nineveh and Tyre. But the inertia, the social habit, the ancestor-worship in Scottish Conservatism which kept Tories in Westminster so long regardless of the reduction of its machinery into banality and shadowland, even they could not prevail against Thatcher’s patronising. Dr Hutchitson might have made more of phenomena of preThatcher Toryism in Scotland --- the neofeudalism of the Ancrams and Douglas-Hamiltons, the urban guerilla mudlarks inspired by Teddy Taylor, the final ferment of the beerage and bankers symbolised by George Younger --- all had their moments, and might have been expected to have their echoes in the Central Ayrshire case-studied by Hutchison, but ultimately Thatcher, like the enchantress Circe, made them her prisoners and reduced them to animal impotence. If lain Hutchison keeps too

ruthlessly to his political Duts and bolts and the bankruptcy of their manufacture, Richard Finlay begins by nearsuicidal overcall of his hand. Anxious as he is to nail civil society as myth rather than motivation tor Scotland’s delayed precipitation down the road to home rule, and reasonable as he is to concede that it may be a myth at least as good as a mile on that road, he treats us to a litany of comparable myths everyone of which he gets spectacularly wrong (p. 137): “myths’…can be described as contemporary explanations that are constructed in response to the immediate circustances. History is littered with many such mytha that ariae in response to the need to provide immediate explanations for complex contemporary events. ‘The Strange Death of Liberal England’ followed World War I, the myth of the blitz was constructed during the war, the ‘Guilty Men’ of appeasement appeared after 1945 and the advent of the poat-war ‘New Jerusalem’ became embedded in popular memory in the 1960s. The Strange’ Death of Liberal England was a book by George Dangerfield, published in 1936, which was farther from World War I than World War I was from Queen Victoria: it argued, perfectly reasonably, that the United Kingdom was on the verge of breakdown from which it was rescued by World War I, what with civil war on the brink of outbreak in Ulster, violent female defiance of government on the suffrage, and labour confrontation of capital inducing vio1ent state response. What was untrue about this analysis, and what contemporary event was it trying to explain? The myth of the blitz has been impressively questioned by Angus Calder and others. disspelling some misapprehensions which had clung to the memory of World War II; but what they demythologised was certainly not the blitz, since it was, alas, no myth, Guilty Men was a pamphlet signed”Cato’ which was published in 1940. denouncing the Municheers as men unsuitable for retention in wartime government. The ‘New Jerusalem’ embedded in popular memory in the 1960s may be an allusion to the welfare state; if so it was, fortunately, no myth. The most memorable use of Blake’s quatrain I recall was in a bitter parody denouncing Harold Wilson’s capitulation to racism over non-white immigration:

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I shall not cease until I hold The slime on which my rivals stand, Till we have built Johannesberg In England’s green and pleasant land. All of this reminds me of two Irish judges, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer Christopher Palles, and Lord Chief Justice Peter O’Brien, his former pupil, when Palles. dissenting from a judgment of O’Brien. said ‘O Peter, Peter,.you ever learned that law from me’, Big Bill Ferguson has demolished many a myth, and may from time to time seem to take on the four corners of the world (upping Shakespeare’s ‘three’) with a view to shocking them --- Rosalind Mitchison once remarked that ‘everyone is out of step but our William’ --- but he has never opened an article by believing,six impossible things like the White Queen in Through The Looking Glass His rash pupil has also mythed fire. So to speak, in failing to acknowledge the great place of the Church of Scotland in bringing about devolution. He somewhat grudgingly credits ‘the churches’ with being ‘key advocates in the debate for devolution’’ whose moral authority had been in decline for many years as membership plummeted’, and I dare say as a Papist I may thank him for thus aggrandising my own crowd, but the church which made the difference was the Church of Scotland and it did so to cleanse its reputation from the contamination of Thatcher herself when she hijacked a platform from its General Assembly in which she blasphemously called ‘The Sermon on the Mound’. The Kirk opened its doors to a Constitutional Convention, and defied the Government’s attempt to subordinate it as a state church, and very many people who had never been its members, and the many more who had been. or whose parents had been, responded to its moral leadership. Professor Finlay’s weakness on the Kirk is in strong contrast to the rest of the book, which honours Bill Ferguson in following the analytical awareness he has always shown on the Kirk’s great place in Scottish history. Probably the essay in the book to which readers will most frequently return is ‘Moderates and Wild Men’ assessing Evangelicalism and its critics in the Churcn of Scotland from 1800 to the Disruption of 1843, by Iain Maciver whose death was so

tragic a loss to the National Library of Scotland. It brings out in clarity and subtlety how the more reactionary and bigoted wing when the great historian William Robertson had led the Moderates in the eighteenth-century Kirk, now surpassed its rivals in courage, intellect and spirituality as Evangelicalism came into its own. Similar awareness of the complexities of religious conviction is present in the sparkling and inspirational essay on the legacy of the Revolution of 1688, in SCotland by the book’s devoted Chief editor, Dr Alexander J. Murdoch. He has a momentary nod on Episcopalianism in 1746. the end of the Jacobite tradition in Scottish Episopalianism in 1746.It was powerful enough forty years later for the first Episcopalian bishop in the United States, Samuel Seabury, to be ordained by a bishop deriVing directly from those Protestant bishops who refused to swear allegiance to William III (the Hanoverian bishops would not ordain a bishop who could not take an oath of allegiance to George III, despite peace having been signed between Britain and its former American colonies). Professor Finlay ends the final words of text with a sentence as appropriate for Big Bill Ferguson as it is for the essay: ‘Old-fashioned Scottish nationalism has shown no signs of going away’ (P. 155). The book itself, stretching as it does from medieval beggars to modern Thatchers. testifies to the bigness of Bill, historiographically speaking . His first book, Scotland: 1689 to the Present (1968), was the pioneer professional historicalaccount of modern Scotland. Historians, even including at least one of its reviewers, questioned whether post-Union Scotland had a history at all, save as a picturesque ‘region’. Bill Ferguson made the desert bloom into rich flowering, and any of us who have worked in those Centuries since must ackowledge him as our master if we have any honesty or sense. His next book, Scotland’s Relations with England; a Survey to 1707 (1977) showed its mastery of the centuries preceding his previous work, and his last, The Identity of the Scottish Nation ---An Historic Quest (1998) follows Scottish history far back into the enchanted myths of the origin of Scottish history. IThus this Feilsgribhinn pursues its fascinating themes across the Scottish centuries, in all cases reflectine that for every writer, whether as pupil or later, they have toiled and struggled to see, far in advance of them in time and often in perception, is the stooped but still towering Ferguson. And still the beckoning smile draws us forward, to remind look at the past with appreciation, but never with loss of humour.

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There is a great beauty in this book, as devotion proclaimed for a great leader must always be, provided the greatness. and the leadership are real. But it cannot hope to be sufficient. Bill Ferguson’s mastery as a historian goes well beyond the limits of his Feilsaribhinn. His pamphlet Carlyle as Historian, is the best treatment of its topic in existence. He had the genius to celebrate classical writing of history, and to do so for writers out of mode and out of memory for most of his fellow historians. Dr Tristram Clarke comes closest of the Ferguson students writing here to genuflect to that fascination with dead historians in his elegant essay on multi-biography compilations of Scottish relevance. Ultimately the test of the endurance of such predecessors must be our recognition that it lives to draw us within its spell. It is one of Bill Ferguson’s major strengths in studying past historians that he scientifically assesses the pull of their magic upon him, and happily proclaims it when he finds it. As it happened I recently need to look at the end of his Scotland: 1689 to the Present to reread his observations fn Scottish religion, coolly examined in the light of the 1960s. When that book appeared it was evident that Bill Ferguson had indeed shocked contemporaries by writing about so recent a past, and seniors were quick with the cliché that such activity would be undone by tomorrow. In fact, that conclusion to his book is now a historical document of great value. His foresight on the future he has lived to see is invaluable for our day as for his. Already, by 1968, he had seen that Roman Catholic ecumenism carried with it internal reform as a necessary consequence, snd he perceived divided Christian clerics’ dawning discovery of the extent of their common ground, Characteristically he did not limit himself to intellectual phenomena: he saw personal emotional mutual response as vital --- ‘the growing sense of comradeship between Protestant and Catholic is almost startling’, To read those words today is to realise that the roots of goodwill go back much before the Papal visit, and in a historiography which rivals journalism in its preoccupation with disaster, we require the perpetual vigilance of historians unafraid of the positive. Professor Colin Kidd, before his charming partial repentance, described Bill Ferguson as ‘representative of an archaic nationalist position’. This elicited the raise of a sardonic eyebrow from his target: ‘the precise meaning of this evades me --- one has to guess so much to

understand Professor Kidd’s veiled prose’. He followed it, naturally, with a clarion call: But if by this Professor Kidd means that I believe that historians should study the past of Scotland (or any other country for that matter) in order properly to . appreciate it rather than to impose on it fashionable present day conceits, then I would accept that designation. . And here we come to the rich paradox of the Ferguson achievement. Professor Finlay, whose prose from time to time is as veiled as any Kidd, begins his essay (after a few sentences): Unlike Ireland, whose nationalism has been the predomin.ant historical theme for most of the modern era, Scotland does not have a strong vein of nationalist historiography to mine in order to explain why it achieved a large measure of self-government by the late twentieth century. To dispose first of Professor Finlay, I would have said that Ireland’s religion (or, if you insist, religions) has (or have) been the predominant historical theme for most of the modern era, and that much of Irish nationalism on the Liffey and the Lagan, the Bann and the Boyne, not to speak of the Slaney and the Shannon, has been the political/cultural expression of religion. Secondly, ‘nationalist historiography’ may mean ‘writing by nationalist historians’ or (less satisfactorily) ‘historical writing about nationalism’. In fact, Bill Ferguson’s books, particularly The Identity of the Scottish Nation, make it clear that there has been a considerable body of writing about Scottish nationalism as well as by Scottish nationalists. We have also to recognise in Scotland is in Ireland that there were varieties of nationalism. Daniel O’Connell wanted an Irish nationalism centred around the monarchy. Charles Stewart Parnell’s nationalism slighted the monarchy. Arthur Griffith accepted the monarchy. Eamon de Valera dumped the monarchy. In every one of these cases the relationship to the monarchy is crucial to the type of nationalism. And Ireland also produced an’other form of nationalism, that preached by Carson, and still another, that practised by Craig. If we apply this to Scotland,and look at its literary implications, we find a variety of nationalisms in Burns, Scott, Carlyle, Stevenson, Buchan and MacDiarmid, with meetings of minds among unexpected

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companions, e.g. the Unionist Buchan and the separatist MacDiarmid. To consider another facet, Irish nationalism had ita greatest successes in the constitutionalism of O’Connell and Parnell, but it ended poisoned by the cup of violence, while Scottish nationalism may have found its most successful evangels in versions of the military careers of Wallace and Bruce, but its major exponents over the last eighty years reject violence, and in recent years the S.N.P.’s hatred of violence has ushered a widespread Scottish desire to escape from’ intoxication in wars. But Gordon Brown is explicitly championing a British nationalism which tries to ignore Scotland’s expressions of hostility to violence. Irish nationalism in the nineteenth century no doubt helped Irish history on to publishers’ lists but in the twentieth century the professionalization of Irish historiography was very much in opposition to nationalist mythologies. The great river of Irish historical writing from 1930 onwards had constantly to be breaking down myths, and, enabling realities to break in. In Scotland, the want of historical studies. above all on the last three centuries, was replaced io the last fifty years by an abundance. In particular, the period for which nationalism was unarguably a living ideology was set on its feet by s historian who was a nationalist, Bill Ferguson, as stated above. This fact has been seminal in determining the course of subsequent historical writing. As the field opened up, historians came trotting over the border, many of them regarding Scottish nationalism as an impertinence which they took personally. But thanks to Ferguson, they were obliged to take nationalism into account in framing their discourses. Many of them would be indignant at his avowed sympathies. And many of them began from solidly anti-nationalist positions (by which we mean British nationalist or even English nationalist positions). But before Ferguson had finished with them and they with him, many were ideologically much cloeer to him than to their own original vantage-points. Ferguson also had the advantage of having studied in Oxbridge, and thus knowing the nature of his critics long before they knew their chief target, as well as their chief yardstick, would be him. Professor Kidd tried to distinguish the neonationalism of the Tom Nairns from the so-called Fergusonian archaism, but it makes no sense. As Pope Benedict XVI is reminding us, Martin Luther was a Catholic. Equally, St Paul was a Christian. The Nairns

and Neal Aschersons are inspired by Hugh MacDiarmid, whose nationalism had much in common with Ferguson’s, but which certainly lacked Ferguson’s cool judgment on previous protagonists, or his readiness to see strengths and weaknesses regardless of doctrinal affiliation. Neo-nationalism may dispense with much..but it cannot dispense with nationalism, least of all with professional historians who bring their skills to bear on a nationalism some part of which they believe. Ferguson above all stands for a Scotland knowing and learning from its own past, and he is a reminder to future nationalists that they become shadows in mirrors if they try to reject the time dimension. I have left myself little time or space in which to salute Scotland --- the Autobiography edited by Rosemary Goring (Viking). It might seem to offer a new perspective. It begins with a touchingdeference to Bill Ferguson’s old antagonist, Christoper Smout, who tutored the editor. In place of the Ayrshire which bore Bill Ferguson’, the Glasgow , which trained him, and the Edinburgh where he taught, it hymns St Andrews, where the editor studied: Few places are more steeped in dramatic event and blood. A short distance from Smout’s study was the spot where the mild and forgiving George Wishart was hanged and burnt, after kissing his executioner on the cheek; only a few miles away was the moor where turncoat Archbishop Sharp was dragged from his coach and run through by Covenanting extremists. John Knox had taken shelter in St Andrews Castle~ short sprint from Smout’ door, while the story of golf, which found its spiritual home here ulnder the Victorians, unfolded almost within earshot of ‘the history department. Here too, a future king, William Windsor, came to study.... Smout may well pray to be protected from his friends: no nationalist admirer of Ferguson would dare booby- trap their great Man in a bath of historical sentimentalism like this. It is all too reminiscent of its parody, albeit a parody written a hundred years before Rosemary Goring: It was here in the glen that Bonnie Prince Charlie had lain and hidden after the defeat at Culloden. Almost in the same spot the great boulder still stands behind which the Bruce had lain hidden after Bannockburn; while

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behind a number of lesser stones the Covenanters had concealed themselves during the height of the Stuart persecution. Through the Glen Montrose had passed on his fateful ride to Killiecrankie; while at the lower end of it the rock was still pointed out behind which William Wallace had paused to change his breeches while flying from the wrath of Rob Roy. Grim memories such as these gave character to the spot. Indeed, most of the great events in Scottish history had taken place in the Glen, while the little loch had been the scene of some of the most stirring naval combats in the history of the Grampian Hills. [Stephen Leacock, ‘Hannah of the Highlands: or, The Laird of Loch Aucherlocherty! Nonsense Novels (1910). The difficulty about the Goring sub-title is that it may be Scotland’s acquaintances who speak rather than Old Lady Scotia herself; for instance, we are entitled to regard Calgacus as giving us the first recorded voice of Scotland, however filtered through Tacitus, but our selection from Tacitus here is a charming seascape on the discovery of the Orkneys by the Romans, On this precedent the anthology might well have included William Wordsworth’s ‘The Solitary Reaper’ which is as good a landmark of the Gaelic linguistic frontier as one could ask. Again, Scotland’s children are a little too often glimpsed in illustrious exile: would it be better, and less beaten a track, to have heard from Conan Doyle on his native Edinburgh, than a conventional extract on Sherlock Holmes, slightly dulled with repetition? Yet what is here is so good that there is no point yapping about absentees. Sometimes the witness is a hostile one, as in Simon Jenkins’s ludicrous denunciation of the award of the Booker Prize to James Kelman, a very clever editorial grasping of the nettle since there was a case against Kelman, but Jenkins’s hostility to the book expresses itself by complaining that he, Jenkins, had once witnessed a drunken Scotsman peeing on the cushions of a carriage. Rosemary Goring is particularly well suited to bring together a Feilsgribhinn, given her fine achievement in editing Chambers’s Scottish Biographical Dictionary) which her blurb forgets to mention and which Dr Tristram Clarke evaluates with most unusual lack of generosity. And, very satisfactorily, the great bulk of the extracts in Scotland: the Autobiography come from the last

three centuries, a fitting comment on Big Bill Ferguson’s achievement in proving Scotland had a history since 1689, when he wrote it forty years ago.

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O.D.E: The Ballad of Big Bill  

From issue 27, Spring 2008.