ONCE, during the ebb and
flow, pitch and toss and cut and thrust of a party, I was discussing
with a female the authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews when she
said, "Albert Morris, I hate everything you stand for."
Nonplussed, I had not realised that I stood for anything. Later, I
realised that I stood for much - for films in queues, at stops for buses
and - this was in the early 1950s - in cinemas while the National Anthem
was played and most of the audience was fleeing as if from a dam-burst.
I would stand as stiff as a rolled umbrella while the anthem adjured God
to save the king, scatter his enemies, confound their politics and - in
the never-sung lines - hoped that the monarch would "like a torrent
rush, rebellious Scots to crush".
A very awkward lot, those in the land of mountain and flood, not given
to effusions of gratitude for all the benefits that union with England
had showered on its brave, little cholesterol-rich and
I stood then, and still stand, for the anthem, not because of its
monarchical sentiments, but out of a mixture of contrariness and good
Although I rise when anthems are played, I cannot stand them, and that
will go for any Scottish anthem. David Taylor, the chief executive of
the Scottish Football Association, has blamed Flower of Scotland - "a
bit of a dirge" - for the Scotland football teamís recent poor showing
and wished it could find an inspiring anthem.
Let me join any condemnatory chorus about that song, both as a
heart-racer, pulse-stirrer and bringer of a tear to the eyes of
sportspeople, whether footballers, rugby players or haggis hurtlers, or
as a national anthem to stiffen the sinews of Caledonia stern and wild.
In its banality of sentiment and crushing melancholiness of melody, it
could serve - as Bernard Shaw said of the Red Flag - as the funeral
march for a fricasseed eel.
I am also not a supporter of Scots Wha Hae as a national or any other
kind of anthem. Although its words do have a noble ring, it sounds like
the musical evocation of a dismal, drizzly day in an out-of-season
Scottish seaside resort with the only public telephone out of action.
Most national anthems are pieces of patriotic pomposity, overblown pride
with arrogant and often near-nonsensical aspirations. From National
Anthems of the World, published by Cassell, can be gathered a mixture of
exhortations, adjurations and demands, "Let tyrants
fear/tremble/flee/perish; arise, march on, fly the flag, raise the
torch, smite the foe, God defend, forfend, intercede." In fact, "God
this, God that," we sing and shout. "Good God," said God," as a poem has
it, "Iíve got my work cut out."
According to the book, 196 countries from Afghanistan - "Become hot,
become more hot, You, the holy sun. O sun of freedom ..." - to Zimbabwe
- "O lift high the banner of Zimbabwe, symbol of freedom Ö" - have
Some enlightened countries, like Mauritania, Qatar and Somalia, have the
right idea about theirs. They have music but no words, thus saving
subjects from voicing the vapid and vacuous. Our national football team
might have benefited from a stirring song without its words - say Ta Ra
Ra Boom Dee-ay - but, as is well known, rousing tunes do not necessarily
bring success to teams or nations.
The French have La Marseillaise and are, as is well-known, a bunch of
money-grubbing twisters who, since Napoleonic days, lost all their
battles and always have to call on Britain to rescue them.
If Scotland, Godís little oil platform, Land of Cakes and home of the
knuckle sandwich, where five million devolved citizens probably know
each otherís father, insists on an anthem, here are some suggested
lines: "Hail, O chief executive of the freedom-loving universe, enlarge
our glorious undersea, crude reserves so that their profits fall into
the righteous pockets of our citizens. Keep all Parliamentary costs from
ascending to Heaven knows where. Forever raise our exports; on our
business expansions let triumph crown and do not let our shares go
Rhymed and scanned and set to a heart-cockles-warming tune like Pop Goes
the Weasel, it could have an exhilarating effect. Will Scotland stand
for it? It has stood Labour dominance for so long, sometimes I think it
will stand for anything.