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Oliver Brown
Introduction


It is an honour to have been asked to write an introduction to this selection of the writings of W. Oliver Brown, who was undoubtedly one of the main leaders of Scottish nationalist thought in the period from the 1930’s to the 1970’s. Professionally a school teacher of modern languages, fluent in French and German and honoured by l’Academie Francaise, he was also brilliant in his command of English. To introduce him is a task which should properly be redundant, for the man and his work and its influence should be as well known throughout Scotland as are his overlapping contemporaries, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Neil Gunn and Hugh MacDiarmid. Like those three he was a writer, but in the totally different genre of the polemicist, committed to overt argument for his beliefs, which others might share with equal strength but express less directly.

And overt his arguments certainly were, for not only was he a writer but he was also a speaker, regularly at street corners, whatever the weather. For several years his pitch at the corner of Sauchiehall St. and Wellington St., gathered a hearing overflowing from the queue of the nearby Scala Cinema. Overt again, because he was also a publisher, frequently producing his pamphlets at his own cost and taking full responsibility for what he stated in them. Never were any of his quotations challenged as being inaccurate, and the swift piercing comments with which he would follow such quotations are masterpieces of scathing humour.

Several examples of such quotations and comments will be found in this selection, and from them Scotswomen and men of today can realise how strong and clear the ideas of freedom and of a caring society in an independent Scotland were expressed and promulgated in the burgeoning nationalist movement. Those days included Cunninghame-Graham, R.E. Muirhead, the Scottish Secretariat, and the I.L.P., (Independent Labour Party’), notably James Maxton therein. But Oliver Brown was the most articulate in analysing the details of both the particular English usurpation of Scottish rights and the general opposition of imperialism to national liberty everywhere. Sadly Oliver was forced to conclude, in his pamphlet Scotlandshire, that "Scotland’s economic decline was due not to natural disadvantages but to a deliberate policy by alien and hostile rulers", hut also "that the Labour Party’ is no less unjust to Scotland than its opponents".

I hope that this selection of his work will show the continuing truth and relevance of the wit and wisdom of W. Oliver Brown to Scotland today.

R. S. Silver


 

 


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