April 1987 – The Scots Independent
MEMORIES OF ANTHONY KERR, GARTCOSH MARCHER
CONTRIBUTION FROM MR IAIN LAWSON: Recruit
to S.N.P. from Tories
While I only had the privilege of knowing
Anthony personally for a period of about eighteen months, in that short
time I had many opportunities to confirm the very high opinion I held
about him when I was still a member of the Conservative Party.
I had my first personal contact with
Anthony shortly before Christmas in 1985 when he phoned to support my
stance on the closure of the Gartcosh Steelworks. We talked on the phone
for over an hour on that first occasion and it was the first of a great
many conversations on a whole range of issues.
I remember that year receiving from
Anthony a paid-up membership card for the S.N.P. enclosed in a Christmas
card with a delightful letter which explained that each year he
purchased six membership cards which he sent out in the year to those
Scots whom he felt were worthy of the honour of being members of the
Party. It was a gesture which was so typical of Anthony and reflected
the warmth and friendship which he offered readily to anyone who shared
in his desire for Scots independence.
Shortly after joining the S.N.P. I had
the honour of being elected Honorary Vice-President of Anthony’s
Constituency Association and this ensured even more regular contact
If there is a story about Anthony which I
would like him to be remembered it concerns the Gartcosh March and
Anthony almost single-handed striking fear and panic into the Labour
Party. To explain, the second night of the march was spent in the
council car park in Jedburgh. Next day we were to cross the Border and
the Labour representatives on the march were extremely concerned that
when we reached the border we would be met with thousands of
Nationalists which would hog the headlines. Jim Wright, the official
S.N.P. representative on the march, had spent the whole day reassuring
the Labour party that no special event was planned.
That night we all went to
a local pub to get a meal and warm up (it was –17 degrees) so you can
imagine the panic when after about an hour Jesse Rae complete with the
Robert the Bruce gear arrived in the pub to bid us welcome. One of the
Labour people wouldn’t even shake hands with him so great was the fear
that this was the beginning of the "invasion". Shortly
afterwards Anthony and a few others arrived and this further increased
the tension. Tommy Brennan recognising a good picture when he saw one
agreed that Jesse in full battle-gear, complete with his broadsword,
could accompany us to the border the next morning. However, other Labour
members still were worried about thousands turning up.
That morning when we
reached the Border there were only the TV cameras and some reporters to
greet us and the relief in the Labour faces were plain to see.
Just as they were
relaxing, however, over the top of a hill about half a mile away a large
Saltire on a pole was spotted moving towards us. Cries went out from the
Labour Party. "Here they come;" "We told you," and
By this time Anthony
complete with crash-helmet, could be clearly seen carrying the flag
along with three others but for a moment the Labour party
representatives were in a panic. Anthony proceeded to shake hands with
all the marchers and wish us every success as well as producing a bottle
of whisky in order that we could toast our country before leaving. I am
sure Anthony would like to be compared with the cooks etc., who played a
similar role in the Battle of Bannockburn and certainly on that day he
had the enemy ready to flee.
I personally found
Anthony an inspiration, his commitment to his beliefs were amazing and
his attitude was to get on with the job irrespective of circumstances.
His example should be followed by all who seek our country's freedom, he
was an unswerving friend and colleague and I sadly regret that he never
lived to see his dream fulfilled. It puts additional responsibility on
us who succeed him to carry on his life's work in the sure knowledge
that his cause was right.
IAIN M. LAWSON
Ferniehurst Address of Welcome to
Callant Pringle delivered by Anthony J.C. Kerr on behalf of the Kerr
It is an honour and a
privilege to welcome you here on behalf of the Kerr Family, together
with your Right-Hand Man, Left-Hand Man and Herald, and the splendid but
at present invisible cavalcade you have brought here with you. I am
proud to be a member of the Kerr Family Association, and record with
gratitude the interest shown by many of its members, and in particular
its American members, in the restoration of this Castle, and the help
given by John Hoare Kerr, of Newport, Rhode Island, in making its past
come to life again through the drawing he produced for my little book.
The Castle which you see
here, in one form or another, has been in the hands of this Family for a
little over five hundred years, and the land upon which it stands for
two hundred years before that. It has been destroyed and rebuilt several
times: the present Castle is the third or the fourth, depending on how
we count some of its past restorations. It was again in dire and
imminent danger, not now from an invading foe, but from sheer physical
decay; it has been rescued with very little time to spare by our Chief,
Lord Lothian, who has spent large sums on its fabric and roof and
outbuildings. Kerr kinsmen throughout the world - and many others who
appreciate a fine building when they see it - will be grateful to him
for this: nobody now would know how to build such a castle if it fell
apart, and even if someone could do it, a new Ferniehirst would lack the
authenticity which only the passing centuries can give.
Ferniehurst has a unique
history, born of its unique purpose. It was not built by alien lords to
overawe and hold down native peasants, like the massive Norman
structures of Central and Southern England. It was not intended as a
mighty barrier stronghold, comparable to Durham, Carlisle or Stirling.
It was first and foremost a base for rapid interception and lightning
raids, tucked away out of sight in a fold of the high ground overlooking
The original Ferniehirst
seems to have been a kind of wedding present. When Margaret Kerr, the
daughter of the Laird of Kersheugh, married her kinsman Thomas Kerr of
Smailholm, the son of Andrew Kerr who started the tradition of
left-handed swordsmanship in the Family, her father gave her the land on
which we now stand, and since she and her husband needed a place to
live, they built the first castle, of which only the cellars and kitchen
Their son, "Dand"
Kerr, was one of the great Border characters of his time, constantly in
and out of trouble; but mostly in it. He helped to win the Borderers'
share of the otherwise disastrous battle of Flodden, and to retrieve
part of the disaster by seizing Kelso Abbey the same night. As a result
the English were unable to make full use of their success. A few years
later they captured the Castle, but this time the Kerr women prevented
them from taking full advantage by stampeding Lord Dacre's horses the
same night. Sir John Kerr, Dand's son, recaptured Ferniehirst in the
bitterly contested action Walter Laidlaw recalls for us in his poem, and
I would like to congratulate our Festival Convener for the way he makes
this stirring episode alive once again, year after year, as though it
had only happened yesterday.
Sir John's son, Sir
Thomas Kerr, was noted for his loyalty to Mary Queen of Scots, for whom
he built the fine old house that bears her name. This loyalty caused
some problems with the townsmen, who supported the opposite party, and
publicly caned a herald sent out by Sir Thomas to read out a
proclamation in her name. But the quarrel was made up a few years later,
when the townsmen and the Castle garrison rode up to Carter Bar
together, to fight and win the last of the Border battles. The ceremony
we are re-enacting today is not just a picturesque ritual for the
benefit of the tourists. It recalls the many occasions when the Town and
the Castle joined forces to repel an English invasion or to carry out a
raid of our own. It is through this long-standing comradeship in arms
between Jedburgh and the Kerrs of Ferniehirst that our sector of the
Border Line was held, and that we still have a country to call our own.
I will not go into all
the similarities and differences between ourselves and the nation that
begins only eight miles from here. Nor will I try to explain what it
means to be Scottish. Either you know it and feel it here, and do not
need to be told; or else it is a strange and obsolete concept which
nobody can put across to those who do not share this heritage. Enough to
say that we remain another people in another land, proud of our identity
and determined to keep it, and this is very largely due to the courage,
the effort and the sacrifice of our forebears, both Kerrs and the sons
and daughters of many other families, whom we join to honour here today.
September 1979 – The
SOME CORNER OF A FOREIGN
FIELD THAT IS FOREVER. . . . SCOTLAND
One of the quaintest outposts in the
Scottish diaspora must surely be Gurro, a few miles west of Lake
Maggiore in the foothills of the Italian Alps. Its inhabitants are
descended from mercenaries in the French Army which was cut to pieces at
Pavia in 1525. Their superior discipline enabled them to survive and
stay together, and they marched off in the general direction of Germany,
hoping to offer their services to some other prince, and failing that to
On their way they stopped
in a glen where there happened to be a number of young widows and
bereaved lasses, the local men having been killed in the same battle.
They liked it (and the women) and stayed. The Gurro dialect still
contains hundreds of Scots or Gaelic words, and many of the people - the
children in particular - have a Scottish and specifically a Highland
look about them. A banner carrying the Saltire as well as the Italian
Tricolour welcomes visitors in several languages: the local museum, next
to the parish church, contains such relics as the tartan material worn
there until the 18th century. Gurro itself is a maze of vennels
resembling many of our smaller towns before the advent of the motor car
and for the drouthy there is a "Whisky Bar" where one usually
drinks Campari as it is cheaper.
The village is best
approached from Canobbio - though I took the more direct but difficult
route from Domodossola - either way one has to leave the main road and
go up a steep and winding brae. Cars have to be left on the square by
the church - the rest of Gurro being inaccessible to them. Scottish
visitors are always very welcome.
A. J. C. KERR
November 1979 – The
FINDING (AND KEEPING) THE RIGHT PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATES – A.J.C. KERR
EXTRACTS FROM THE ARTICLE
We know where we stand
and where we are going. This article is mainly concerned with two
aspects of how we are to get there – the selection and encadrement of
parliamentary candidates. The latter is a French military term for which
there is no satisfactory equivalent in English or Scots – it expresses
something which is very necessary and sadly overlooked.
1. Selection. The
existing procedure is too secretive, and too few people are involved, up
to the point where a candidate is announced and the CA's choice,
endorsed by the National Executive, cannot be reversed without some loss
of face at local and possibly at national level. It can lead to the
acceptance of inadequate and worse still of disloyal candidates. The
secrecy itself may provoke rumours, claims and counterclaims which
eventually leak out into the local or even the national press. I
therefore propose a reformed procedure along the following lines:
(i) The Constituency
makes it known through the S.I. and by any other means it may think fit,
that it is looking for a candidate, and gives some indication as to the
type of person it is seeking;
(ii) Obviously unsuitable
applicants are weeded out and HQ is asked whether it knows anything
against the people who have written in.
These two steps are much
as at present. The next step I envisage however, is:
candidates, after this initial sifting, are invited to address branches
at meetings open to the general public. The object is to establish their
impact on uncommitted voters and their ability to cope with hostile
(iv) Nominations are then
made, not only by Branches but by a reasonable number of individuals - I
would suggest seven party members from three or more Branches or ten
from two Branches. This enables potential candidates with useful
minority support to be considered, even though no one Branch favours
them. The persons nominated by Branches or by a sufficient number of
members constitute the shortleet from which final selection is made.
(v) Validly nominated
potential candidates may then circulate a "selection address",
at their own expense, to all paid-up S.N.P. members resident in the
constituency, and may release it to the press. They may also canvass the
local members and the general public.
(vi) Final selection is
made; not by a committee of x delegates per Branch but at a special
general meeting of the CA where all paid-up members have a vote and
where (for part of the meeting if not all) non-Nationalists and
non-party Nationalists may also be present and put questions but not
vote. The result is announced forthwith, since persons unacceptable to
the National Executive should have been weeded out at state (ii). It may
be desirable to allow postal voting, especially in large constituencies,
in which case I would suggest some form of weighting, e.g. half a vote
for those who do not attend the selection meeting, since they will not
have heard the potential candidates in front of a large audience, and
may not even have seen them in the earlier stages.
Considerable damage has been done through the fact that PPC's, once
selected, were not properly followed up, that they were given too little
advice and training and that little or nothing was done about complaints
(in some cases repeated) which reached HQ or individual members of the
National Executive. In my view that body ought to issue firm guidelines
to cover the following points at least:
(i) The amount of physical presence in
the Constituency required from all PPC's whether or not they reside
locally, and whether, in specific cases, non-residence is permissible.
(On this issue I feel that, for instance it is quite in order for a PPC
in any of the seven Edinburgh constituencies to live anywhere in the
city, but the PPC here must be a Borderer).
(ii) The amount of work
required from all candidates, whether or not they are resident.
(iii) Contact with
Branches, prominent individuals living in the Constituency, and the
general public. (There may be some doubt as to whether the existence of
'prominent individuals' should be recognised. My view is that it
certainly helps if one gets to know local councillors, ministers and
priests, headmasters and other local worthies. They may give you ideas
worth following up, even if they don't vote for you.)
(iv) The amount of
material they should try to place in the local press - statements,
letters, texts or reports of speeches, details of their activities in
the Constituency. This will of course depend on local conditions and in
particular on how many local papers circulate in the area: Glasgow
constituencies have none so far as I am aware, Hamilton and Motherwell
have one apiece, in Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles we have eight.
(v) Participation in
non-political activities which help to get them better known - Common
Ridings and similar festivals, agricultural shows, various cultural and
other voluntary bodies, and attendance at sales of work, coffee
mornings, etc. in aid of local churches and charities.
activities and controversy in which the PPC should not be involved. Here
this would include anything which sets off the interests of one of our
eight towns against the others, or of the towns generally and the
landward areas against each other.
Failure to comply with
these guidelines should lead to some sort of action by the National
Executive - firmly-worded advice in the first instance, then a formal
warning and ultimately withdrawal of recognition.
July 1980 – The
PARTY SAVED FOR AN "UNWISE MOVE"
As I blocked a conference
resolution (No. 50) single-handed by insisting on my right as a delegate
to move the remit back, when it might otherwise have gone through by
acclamation, I feel I owe the party some account of my reasons.
This resolution condemned
military intervention in the affairs of independent countries. To all
appearances it was one of those "pro-motherhood" resolutions
which no decent person should oppose. In fact, there are three
exceptional situations which ought to be considered, and which could
only be worked in by remitting the whole resolution back, since Standing
Orders do not provide for major verbal amendments.
The first exception
concerns Entebbe-style rescue operations - quick hit-and-run affairs
whose sole purpose is to retrieve one's own citizens when diplomatic
measures are inadequate because the Government of a country which is
raided is not fully in control or is actually aiding the terrorists.
The second exception
arises where a country allows itself to be used as a base for terrorist
operation. It may then be necessary to seek out and destroy the
terrorist or to promote an internal coup which will instal a more
reasonable and law-abiding Government.
Finally we must consider
the rare case where a country suffers under a totally inhuman regime
which can only be removed by some form of outside intervention.
Three such operations
were carried out in 1979.
Bokassa of Central Africa
and Macias Nguema of Equatorial Guinea were toppled by coups sponsored
by France and Spain respectively - both highly efficient, relatively
bloodless and resulting in a considerable improvement.
Amin of Uganda was
displaced by a Tanzanian invasion: this operation was rather slow and
clumsy and the Tanzanians have overstayed their welcome, but they were
probably right to intervene in the first instance. It is most unlikely
that an independent Scotland would be involved in the destruction of
terrorist bases or the removal of a grotesque tyrant such as Amin or
Bokassa, though I think we should recognise that other countries may
occasionally feel obliged to carry out such operations.
It is entirely possible
that we might one day have to rescue some of our own people in a tight
corner, as the Israelis did at Entebbe and the Belgians did at Kisingani.
It is, therefore, unwise for the National
party, pledged as it is to put Scotland first, to condemn this sort of
action indiscriminately and in advance.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
22nd January 1981 – The
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIBERALS AND SOCIAL DEMOCRATS
Whatever you may say in your leading
article, I have no difficulty in telling Liberals (if genuine) and
Social Democrats apart. Their basic priorities are different.
In the last analysis, a
real Liberal regards the state as a necessary evil and distrusts all
heavy accumulations of power, whether they be in the hands of
Government, big business, trade Unions, the Church, the aristocracy or
anyone else. His overriding priority is personal freedom and the other
values that go with it, but he is on practical grounds already to
compromise to some extent.
The female of the species
has similar views but is surprisingly rare, at least in the corridors of
power. I cannot remember when one of them last became an MP, though the
late Honor Balfour got within 40 votes.
Social Democrats (many of
them women) regard the state as basically a good thing, to promote
social justice without destroying freedom. The problem is that the
reforms they promote often tend to undermine freedom, by leading people
to expect too much from the state and to put up with a good deal of
The issue is confused to
some extent by the fact that some people sit as Liberals, whose outlook
is in fact Social Democratic, while others I would regard as Liberals by
the above definition have hitherto found it convenient to seek election
as Labour moderates.
I might add that while
the Social Democrats may prosper to some extent in England (if suitable
by-elections appear to set them on their way) there is nothing in the
new movement for Scotland. Whoever attains power at Westminster will
remain principally concerned with England's problems and will seek to
resolve them at Scotland's expense, because that is the way to gain or
retain votes where they matter.
I am also far from convinced that they
will get anywhere. Mr Foot's party retain the Labour name and tradition
and this could be what counts at the end of the day. If we want to
achieve anything for our country we have to do it by ourselves and
appealing to Scottish loyalties and Scottish interests rather than look
to any British realignment.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
2nd March 1981 – The
NOT AFRAID OF THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS
The S.N.P. is not in anyway
"afraid" of the proposed Social Democratic Party, as Mr Robert
Aldridge suggests: what Mrs Ewing pointed out is what I have said; the
SDP have no future in this country whereas they probably have one in
Both parts of this
statement must be qualified to some extent, in that individual Social
Democrats may do fairly well on a personal basis in some localities in
Scotland, while they may also fail in England if they don't get down to
fighting a few by-elections in the next few months. In general terms,
however, their prospects are very much better in England (and
specifically in areas where the Liberals are not present in any real
strength) than they are here.
The reasons would take an
article rather than a letter to explain. One of them is that national
independence is an issue here but not in England; another is that the
"natural" Centre vote is smaller in this Country and there are
already two well established parties competing for it.
A third reason is that
instinctive, traditional voting is more prevalent here than in England,
especially on the Labour side; those Labour voters who are prepared to
break with tradition are more likely to support the S.N.P. than to go
for something entirely new.
A fourth reason, probably
the most important, is that few Labour MPs in Scotland are as far to the
Right, and few constituency Labour Parties are as far to the Left as is
sometimes the case in England. Hence there is less likelihood of a
sitting MP being disadopted by his local party, or seriously threatened
with disadoption, and several Social Democratic MPs have in fact decided
to secede from the Labour party in anticipation of such a vote.
Finally, no party gets
anywhere without activists to address envelopes, run up and down the
closes etc, and the people who would be prepared to do this, in
Scotland, are already committed to other parties which they are unlikely
to leave. There is more spare manpower and woman-power available in
As regards proportional
representation - we are in favour of it, as a party (though my personal
preference has always been for the French system with a run-off between
the two leading candidates where nobody wins outright in the first
round) but we cannot make everything a top priority and our top priority
Most of us think it
counter-productive to campaign on too many issues at once: it is apt to
confuse the voters, and depending on the issues, one may very well
alienate potential supporters or even actual members.
British rule is a greater evil than the
present electoral system; so is the present level of unemployment; so is
the systematic theft of our oil resources; so is the flagrant misuse of
our land, especially in the North, and its extensive alienation to
owners who in some cases cannot even be identified. This makes at least
four evils greater than first-past-the-post voting.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
8th April 1982 – The
Article written by William Hunter
JUST A FEW LINES ON JEDBURGH’S
INDEFATIGABLE MAN OF LETTERS
When he is at home, Anthony J.C. Kerr
lives at 52 Castlegate, Jedburgh, up the hill from the barber’s shop.
"He has the good Scottish name of Wallace, but he always cuts my
hair too short," Anthony J.C. Kerr says.
Fifty-two Castlegate is as well-trodden a
piece of geography in the Herald as the weather map. Anthony J.C. Kerr
is so indefatigable a writer of letters to the editor (see below) that
even other correspondents have felt moved to wonder whether he exists.
Perhaps, he is a committee of people? Or is he a "Mastermind"
winner, seeing that he knows so much about a’ things?
In "Mastermind" he went for one
round, finishing second. His television knowledge marathon was on the
other channel, an inquisition called Double Your Money, quizzed by
Anthony J.C. Kerr -
copped £1,000 in that one, answering questions on British history
within the spectrum of Caesar's first landing and the end of the Second
World War. The clinchers came with queries about Pitt the Younger.
With the prize money, he
bought his family a vast dinner in a restaurant in Carnaby Street before
he hiked off on a six-month tour of Europe. He collected material for a
couple of books. He has had a dozen published. Their subjects vary from
a study of how Euro young people behave to an examination of how the
Common Market works. ("I reckon it works about as well as the
UK," he says).
Mainly, the subject of
his letters is to instruct readers properly about Scottish nationalism.
Anthony J.C. Kerr was
born in Geneva. His father was in part English, Scottish and French. His
mother was half Russian, half German. "I am Scottish because that
is what I decided I wanted to be. I felt a sense of identity," he
His Jedburgh address
hikes him only 10 miles into Scotland. He feels that Jed is as Scots as
Glasgow and even more so than Edinburgh. "We held the gate, while
other people were stabbing each other in the back," he explains.
Home is a three-room flat
with no name on the door, unkempt, bachelor. His eldest son Andrew, aged
21, also lives there. His two other boys are with their mother in
Aldershot. "My wife thinks we are divorced, and I think we are
still married, since we were married in a church and I regard this as a
lifelong commitment," he says.
Anthony J.C. Kerr is a
translator (mainly of engineering literature into French) and an
interpreter. He took a first in history at Cambridge University.
He has been a member of
four political parties so far. As a schoolboy at Harrow he was a kind of
Socialist. At Cambridge he became a Lib., then a Tory. He has been in
and out of the Scottish National party, contesting David Steel's seat as
an Ind. Scot Nat. brought him banishment for eight years. He was back
working for George Leslie at the Hillhead by-election.
agrees that his help as a canvassing trooper is mixed. "I have this
broadcasting House accent," he says. "Sometimes there is the
advantage that I am not immediately recognised as a nationalist."
Au contraire, people find it difficult to believe he is Scottish.
For eight years he was an
itinerant school teacher in Jedburgh, Glasgow, Motherwell, even
Coatbridge. There were six schools in the eight years. "I think I
was good at putting knowledge across, and less good at maintaining
discipline," he says.
His Jeddart loyalty is
intense. He only happened up there because there was a job at the
grammar school. But it is the central seat of the Kerrs. (He is
He reckons he has every
year about 60 letters to the editor printed in several journals. He uses
newspapers well. Rolled-up Heralds provide him with the fuel for cooking
sausage and egg in the fire-place at 52 Castlegate. He finds, though,
that boiling water takes longer.
His middle initials are
for John Crawford. He is 53.