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Chat's with Frank R. Shaw FSA Scot
A chat with Duncan A. Bruce


I asked for and received permission from our Editor to interview the author of our current book under review, The Scottish 100. I contacted Mr. Bruce at his home in New York City and, in the process of several emails and a couple of letters, he was kind enough to share information about his book and to answer some questions about Scotland in general. I wish to thank Mr. Bruce for his patience while dealing with this writer.

Q: How did you come to name the book The Scottish 100? I study a book’s bibliography, and when I noticed Shapiro’s The Jewish 100, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a connection.

A: You are right. My former publisher, Birch Lane Press, had already published "The 100", "The Black 100", and "The Jewish 100". I suggested my book, and it was immediately accepted.

Q: Did you know all of the Scotsmen over your thirty years of personal study, or did some friends suggest some of the 110 for your consideration?

A: I asked people to help and make suggestions…It takes a long time (thirty years in my case) to get that perspective.

Q: How did you come to leave off Montrose, Bonnie Prince Charlie, George Bernard Shaw or Nigel Tranter?

A: George Bernard Shaw, as far as I could find out, had some definite Scottish ancestry, but maybe not enough for me…After 1707, when Scots could emigrate anywhere in the British Empire, the clans began to break up. The Industrial Revolution needed workers. Culloden just hastened the end of the clans. The clan system was outmoded and near collapse when Charlie came, I believe. Yes, Montrose was one of the greatest soldiers, and Nigel Tranter one of the best writers. But what was their influence outside of Britain (and in the case of Tranter, the Scottish diaspora? I was looking for people who influenced everyone. How many Americans, not of Scottish descent, have ever heard of Tranter? And remember, for everyone you want to put in the 100, you have to take one out!

Q: List some left off your list you have been asked about and name the next 15 not in the book.

A: I haven’t been asked much about whom I left out, but you asked me to name the next 15. Without ancestry checks, I could nominate Malcolm Forbes, James Whyte Black (who developed beta blockers), Don Budge (first tennis player to win the Grand Slam), Colin Campbell (Lord Clyde), Sir James George Frazer (who studied all of the world’s religions), Francis Jeffrey (editor of the Edinburgh Review, which influenced Jefferson and others), William Holmes McGuffey (who sold over 100 million books teaching the young), President James Monroe (of the Monroe Doctrine), James Beaumont Nielson (who revolutionized steel-making), James Clark Ross (explorer who claimed Antarctica for Britain and discovered the North magnetic pole), Robert W. Service (who sold more poems than any poet in the 20th century), Thomas Telford (who practically founded civil engineering), James Young (who founded the petroleum industry), John Loudon McAdam (who revolutionized road construction and caused the word tarmac to be used), and perhaps Neil Armstrong.

Q: Was education the main reason the vast majority of the 100 came from the Lowlands?

A: Education was one thing that favored the Lowlands, but also consider that the Lowlands had most of the people and, therefore, most of the talent. Also, cities attract talent. If a born artist is brought forth in Wyoming (as was Jackson Pollock), he is likely to end up in New York (as did Pollock). It is the same in Scotland. Many of the 100 are of Highland ancestry, but they or their parents went south to use their abilities.

Q: Please comment on the intriguing and interesting statement in your book that "a feeling of brotherhood with the Jews was a common idea among Scots and Presbyterians throughout the English-speaking world."

A: I’m glad you picked up my comments about the Scottish affinity with the Jews. It is important to me as my wife is of Jewish descent and, therefore, my daughters are also. I got my first look at this from my Highland immigrant grandmother who, with my grandfather, founded a Presbyterian church in Johnstown, PA. I call my grandmother the only true Christian I have ever known, and she taught me, on her knee, about what good the Jews had done and how wrong the Nazi persecution was…but the main point is that The National Covenant made the Scots a covenanted people like the Jews. It was an agreement with God between Him and a particular people (see page 301). The Scots thought of themselves as the New Israel. David Daiches, a prominent Scottish Jew, has pointed out that Scotland is the only country where there has never been a serious anti-Jewish act. Besides, there are the achievers. Many people think that the Scots and the Jews have contributed the most, at least per capita, to the progress of civilization. Study! Work! Save! These apply to both groups. Someone told me that the average Jewish-American has two years of graduate school. The U.S. Census says that Scottish-Americans have the highest level of education of any national group.

Q: Of the many awards you have received, which one is the most significant to you?

A: I haven’t received many awards and have no favorite. I wish someone would give me an honorary doctorate, since I have no time to get one the regular way!

Q: How often do you travel to Scotland? What are your favorite places to visit? What one place do you go back to time and again? What one thing would you recommend a first-time visitor to Scotland not to miss?

A: I have been to Scotland about 12 times. I prefer to go to Argyll where I have relatives. The one thing in Scotland that should not be missed is the display of the crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny. They are the soul of our ancestors. Every time I see them, I need a Kleenex.

Q: With your background in business and economy, do you see the UK eventually joining the European Union? How would you contrast the 1707 Act of Union to this possible European Union today? Do you see a possible loss of independence or identity for the UK if Blair should take his country into the EU?

A: The politics of Scotland are not for me. I have no vote. But I must say that I have always been in favor of a Scottish Parliament, and now we have it. If 1707 were to be redone, England and Scotland would, I believe, both keep their respective parliaments and would create a new one for the United Kingdom…I believe that most Scots thought, and still think, that the union was positive. I certainly do. Before 1707, the Scots had no great stage to play on. Look what they did on that stage! Whether the country is to be independent is up to the voters, not to me.

Q: What will be the subject of your next book?

A: I don’t know if there will be a next book. I am getting tired. It is interesting, though, how the world works. It took me 25 years to sell the first book; two phone calls to sell the second; and now a publisher is buying me lunch! I have enjoyed this exercise.


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