CONTRIBUTION BY LORD LOTHIAN
Although I was a
neighbour of my kinsman Anthony Kerr for a long period of years, because
we were both frequently away from home, it was only towards the end of
his life that I came to know him more fully. He had been doing important
research into our family papers and wrote an excellent and informative
short history of Ferniehirst Castle to coincide with its restoration and
opening to the public.
The thoroughness of his
research, his meticulous and accurate setting out of facts combined with
a dry wit and lack of pomposity (which so often surrounds genealogical
matters) made me appreciate what a gifted and imaginative man Anthony
was, and what a loss we had suffered, as he died before his research was
The many and various
activities with which he was involved and which form the subjects and
tributes of this volume, bear ample witness to his professionalism,
skill and capacity for work. And also how generous he was with his time.
I would like to record a
few personal memories of Anthony by way of introduction.
I recall many times
seeing his walking purposely up Jedburgh High Street - his hands firmly
clasped behind his back - or alternatively in an enormous crash helmet,
riding his motor cycle along the Border roads. Or again one remembers
the voluminous correspondence with the newspapers generally "The
Scotsman". Whether he held the record for letters published I do
not know but it is said that it was once asked whether Anthony Kerr was
a Committee, as the letters could not have all come from one man!
Much of his
correspondence was concerned with the point of view of the Scottish
Nationalist Party, of which he was a life-long, loyal and active
supporter. Sadly he never achieved his ambition of being elected to
Parliament. He would certainly have enlivened the House of Commons. One
of the delights of knowing Anthony was that the unexpected or the
surprising was apt to happen. A person trying to reach him on the
telephone, for instance, might, to his astonishment, find himself
listening to the recorded voice of Anthony speaking in fluent French!
His political colleagues might have thought this was perhaps some sort
of a tribute to the Auld Alliance. But, of course, Anthony as a skilled
European translator and interpreter was frequently rung up by people who
preferred to leave a message in French. It was also a measure of
Anthony's thoughtfulness that he provided this service.
But to me the memory of
Anthony which I shall value most is of his reading the lessons in the
Catholic Church in Jedburgh. Not for him any need of a microphone or
amplifier! Anthony's robust delivery was such that it easily penetrated
every corner of the Church. I never heard him speak about his religion,
but I suspect it meant a lot to him. Certainly it inspired Anthony who
was, I believe, a shy man to proclaim the good news from the house-tops!
It was the key to his life. I hope that this book will long keep his
memory alive for those who were fortunate enough to know him.
July 1960 - The Times
Letters to the Editor
The R.B.47 incident is
one more object lesson in the criminal folly of letting others bear our
burdens for us.
For years we have been
grabbing from the till of National Defence, the prime purpose of
government, in order to finance welfare schemes and all manner of
extravagance. As individuals we have encouraged the State to do things
for us which we could do for ourselves if necessary; as a nation we have
allowed another and more powerful nation to take on our commitments.
It is time we learnt once
more to stand on our own feet or - which may be more practical politics
to-day - to join in equal partnership with the other nations of Western
Europe, rather than continue as the clients of a wealthy, distant and
often irresponsible patron.
At the worst it is better
to be outnumbered and ill equipped, but independent in spirit, than to
rely on the strength of a protector, however generous and well-disposed
towards us. History shows that, in the hour of danger, nations that have
kept their freedom and their determination acquit themselves better than
others with mightier forces but less of virtue in the old Roman sense.
We remain, Sir, your
W.N. COLES A.J.C.
27th September 1962 – The
SCOTTISH PLEBISCITE APPEAL FUND
As Hon. Field Organiser
(Borders) of the Scottish Plebiscite Appeal Fund, I am writing to invite
moral and material support from all those who consider that the people
of Scotland should be given an opportunity to vote on the issue of
Whether they are for
independence (as I am) or for some kind of home rule within the United
Kingdom or for continuance of the present system is immaterial so long
as they agree that it is something that ought to be voted upon.
The appeal was launched
on St. Andrew's Day, 1961, by a committee of 15 distinguished Scots,
headed by the Earl of Airlie. Its target is £100, 000, being the sum
necessary to conduct a postal poll of the entire Scottish electorate.
It is intended that every
Scottish elector shall receive a ballot form together with an envelope
on which the Scottish Plebiscite Society will pay the postage if it is
One side of the ballot
form will give a straight choice between government and continuance of
the present system. On the other, those who have opted for
self-government will be asked to show preference for one of the
(i) Ulster-type Home
Rule. - The Scottish Parliament would raise no taxes of its own, but
would depend on a grant from Westminster.
(ii] Statehood within a
Federal United Kingdom. - The Scottish Parliament would raise it own
taxes, but the Federal Parliament in Westminster would retain control
over the Customs revenue and would be responsible for Commonwealth and
Foreign Affairs and for Defence. The Liberal Party supports this.
(iii) Independence within
the Commonwealth with freedom to opt out of it. The Scottish National
Party supports this.
I should be glad to hear
from anyone who is willing to help with collecting or with the
organisation of fund-raising activities and from anyone who would like
to place a collecting box in his shop or cafe or home.
Donations may be sent to
the Scottish Plebiscite Appeal at 39 St. Vincent Crescent, Glasgow, C.2.
or c/o The British Linen Bank, Forfar.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR.
22 September I962 -The Scots
POINT OF VIEW
Schools of Scotland
May I comment briefly on
your generous review of "Schools of Scotland" (4th August),
which I have only seen recently as I have been abroad for some time?
My experience of Scottish
Education was gained (i) at Jedburgh Grammar School, a Junior Secondary
School with a Senior Secondary stream in the first two years.
(ii) At Kingsridge
School. Glasgow, a very large comprehensive school with many pupils
taking French but none taking Latin (two-language pupils in that area
are sent straight to Knightswood, to which the best Kingsridge pupils
are also transferred later);
(iii) At Biggar High
School, a Senior Secondary School, but with a large majority of
"non-academic" pupils leaving at 15.
But I have relied mainly
on the wisdom and experience of men far more highly qua1ified than
myself, men such as Sir James Robertson, Mr Harry Bell and Mr William
Dewar, among many others whose names appear at the end of the
Regarding my fifth
charge, that of indecision as to the real purpose of the school, I have
plenty of support. The point is that our educational budget and
time-table of our school are adequate only to their limited and
If more has to be done -
which is probably the case in Central Scotland - ampler means must be
found and more time made available. Since these essentials are lacking,
many schools have an ineffective shot at character-building and
culture-building while others on the whole more successful, talk about
these things and get on with the old job in the old way.
A further difficulty is
this: If a school is purely Junior Secondary - and this generally
happens only in the cities and a few large burghs - it can put on all
sorts of interesting and worthwhile projects but it will have some
trouble in recruiting and retaining able and enthusiastic staff – or
indeed any staff at all. The desperate teacher shortage in and around
Glasgow has much to do with this problem.
If on the other hand it
is organised like Jedburgh G.S. or Biggar H.S., both more typical of
Scotland outwith the industrial belt, it may have fewer staffing
problems but nearly all its teachers have to take "academic",
classes and many or most are appointed essentially for that purpose.
This tends to limit the scope of what can be done for the
Finally, it is, of
course, quite true that three of my suggested reforms were lifted
without acknowledgement from S.N.P. policy direct: though your presence,
and Gordon Wilson's in my list of "names" is intended as some
sort of indirect acknowledgement that Nationalist opinion had been taken
and seriously considered.
But all three reforms are
very strongly supported, and indeed advocated, by people who have no
connection with the Party and in putting them forward I was expressing
what appeared to be the consensus of educated opinion in this country.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
May 1963 – The Glasgow Herald
Letter to the Editor
I have read Sir Russell
Kettle and Mr Morrison and think Scotland well rid of them both.
Unfortunately their attitude of submission is not rare among those who
have remained here, and it is the greatest single obstacle to our
progress as a nation. We must make up our minds whether we prefer to be
an effective third-class power in our own right, comparable with Norway
or Switzerland, or the struggling, ill-considered tail end of a second
A Government, under
modern conditions, can spread the butter very much where it likes, and
the present Government has no vital interest in spreading it here.
Directly, it can help by placing contracts of all kinds. On the basis of
its population and of the taxation which it pays, Scotland should have
about 100,000 to 120,000 of the jobs financed by the Defence Budget. In
fact our share is under 30,000. Indirectly, a Scottish Government could
do much else: for instance it could and would introduce a flat rate for
freight by road and rail, a sliding scale of passenger fares (return for
one and a half times the single fare, 200 miles for one and a half times
the cost of 100 miles, as in several Continental countries), and some
fuel tax relief in remote areas.
advantage is that we would deal directly with other countries. Scottish
commercial attaches abroad, and air services from Prestwick, Abbotsinch,
and Turnhouse to 20-25 other countries, would go a tremendous way to
help Scottish industry and the Scottish tourist trade. Foreign embassies
here would also help.
housing and health would all make giant strides with a Government of our
own, responsible to the people of Scotland, and to nobody else.
Politicians of whatever Party have one thing in common, love of office
and prestige. The present set of politicians do not depend on us, the
people of Scotland, except in so far as they happen to represent
Scottish constituencies. Even then any really significant man on either
side, if he lost his seat would soon enough be found another in England.
The Ministers in a Scottish Cabinet, on the other hand, would depend on
us for their living and for their continuance in the public eye. This
alone would ensure their doing something to justify their existence and
whatever salary we may choose to pay them.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
1963 – The Glasgow Herald
LOCAL POWERS IN SCOTLAND
Provost Thompson of
Callander makes several excellent points in his letter to-day. May I add
a few more:
(1) Centralisation will
reduce the number of responsible people in society at large and will add
to the powers of a faceless few. Both these things are evils in
themselves even if, which is doubtful, they produce greater
(2) By destroying the
self-respect of small towns and by limiting the opportunities available
there, it will aggravate the problem of depopulation, and as always the
best will be the first to go.
(3) Local authorities in
Switzerland, The Netherlands and Norway have greater powers than in
Scotland; yet nobody denies these countries are well run.
(4) The main cause of
inefficiency is the remoteness of the central power. The whole
relationship between Scotland as a whole and London should be
reconsidered before there is any attempt to destroy institutions which
have attracted a lot of goodwill over the ages, and still work quite
well as the security services, on recent showing.
(5) Boundary problems can
be solved without abolishing or redrawing the boundaries themselves. The
Secretary of State already has powers to make local authorities
co-operate over such matters as the education of children living close
to a school in another county. Those powers could be used more
frequently, and no doubt would be if education were centrally financed
though locally administered.
Delenda est Carthago: the
first step is to end English domination over Scotland and have a
Parliament and Government entirely of our own, able to solve Scottish
problems in a manner appropriate to Scotland. Our other difficulties
will not disappear forthwith but they will then fall into their proper
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
20th August 1963 – The
A SWISS LOOK AT LOCAL GOVERNMENT
May I congratulate Mr J
.M. Reid upon his very impressive letter today? In the light of what he
says, and of my own knowledge of Switzerland and several other
relatively small countries, I would regard the following reforms as
(1) Scotland must resume
her independence. "Devolution" is not enough because it will
not give us complete control of all taxation raised in this country or
freedom to pursue our economic policies based upon Scottish rather than
British needs, or the power to reconstruct our administrative
arrangements to the extent that may be desirable.
(2) The countries and
cities must enjoy greater autonomy than at present. In my opinion they
should have, like the Swiss cantons, an elected, part-time, and unpaid
legislature, corresponding to the existing County Councils but generally
larger, together with a smaller executive, consisting of seven to
fifteen persons, also elected, paid and working full time, or possibly
half-time in a few of the smaller authorities.
The counties and cities
should have a guaranteed slice of the income tax revenue. In fact they
could have primary responsibility for levying income tax, together with
a tax on property, shares and other assets, replacing rates in their
present form, and for remitting the central Government's slice to the
In this way taxes and
rates - or what would replace rates - would in the first instance be
collected by the same officials, who might be county employees, or
municipal employees where it was more convenient to devolve this duty
(3) Every place in
Scotland should form part of some municipality, in some cases a purely
urban burgh, in others a burgh with its landward areas, in others a
their nature, would be taxing as well as "rating" bodies -
that is, there would be a municipal income tax and property tax
collected by whoever collected the county taxes. Some municipalities
might choose to provide more services than other, as they do in
Switzerland, and taxes would therefore be unequal as rates are at
present. This is not undemocratic provided the people of each
municipality are directly consulted - through a citizens’ meeting or a
referendum - whenever there are new projects likely to involve borrowing
or an increase in taxation. People who want to pay less tax (and are
prepared to put up with fewer services) or wish more swimming pools,
more attractive houses, etc, and are prepared to pay higher taxes, would
after all be free to move.
(4) Counties, cities and
municipalities (burghs, or parishes) should be free to engage in
commercial undertakings, subject to the same safeguards as in
Switzerland - i.e. a poll to be taken if borrowing or increased taxation
will be necessary. Thus a county or several counties, together with
municipalities, firms, and private individuals, might operate a branch
railway line, and small burgh might very well own a hotel or two.
(5) As education is
relatively most expensive in the areas with the fewest resources, it
should be wholly financed out of national taxation but administered by
local bodies - viz. county or city education authorities, elected for
that purpose alone. This again is not undemocratic; the people who pay
national taxes are also those who elect the local bodies. Nevertheless
the Scottish Ministry of Education should retain some measure of overall
control, possibly greater than the Scottish Education Department has at
present. It would still be open to counties, cities and municipalities
to provide educational fringe benefits - subsidised trips abroad or
youth centres with various cultural activities.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
2nd October 1987
Letter from W F Petrie
I was a postman in Jedburgh when your
father, Anthony, carried out a plebiscite. I assisted him in delivering
envelopes up in the new housing scheme. The idea being that they filled
in their answer and we went back for the answers which were in a sealed
I was later approached by the police,
accused of collecting money round the doors. But in actual fact
supporters of the S.N.P. had put money in the envelopes as a donation to
the party. We were never charged but it was just one of the many
projects Mr. Kerr did for the S.N.P.