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The Scots Week-End
To the Stranger within our Gates



God send ye mair sense and me mair siller

Old Saw

THAT there may be no misunderstanding or offence, let it be said at once that the following remarks are not intended for that growing section of Scotland's population, the English who are settled among us. These are not "strangers", but, in the Scottish phrase, "incomers". All such are advised not to read this section, and that for two reasons. In the first place, applied to them, our admonitions would be an impertinence. Secondly, ardent as is the native Scot's love and admiration for Scotland, it is lukewarm compared with that of the English incomer, who is so inordinately sensitive to the slightest breath of criticism of the land of his adoption that he might even discern satire in our blameless words. And this is but natural. Abuse Scotland to a Scot, and he may tolerate it, even acquiesce in it-he is, as Dr. Johnson pointed out, not responsible for the accident of his birth: but venture even to criticise Scotland to an English incomer and you disable his judgment, and invalidate his taste, than which nothing is less forgivable. There are said to be in the remote North congregations so careful for the purity of public worship that they glue up the leaves of the pulpit Bible containing the Paraphrases lest any strange minister should offer to employ the abominations in praise of God. The English incomer ought to do likewise with these pages of The Scots Week-End. They are not meant for him, but for those who are truly strangers within our gates, who come to Scotland for a little while, chiefly to play there rather than to pray, and go away again, sometimes to speak well of us as hosts and play-providers, sometimes ill; sometimes to return, sometimes not.

And now, stranger, having stated what you are not, let us consider more precisely what you are. You are of every colour, race and culture. When you are not a British subject you are most probably an American; but in the great majority of cases you can and do call yourself an Englishman. This means, inter alia, that you find it difficult, when you find it worth while trying at all, to pronounce a pure vowel, and that your aspirates are not all they might be. (Excuse us, Sir or Madam, but you do, and they are not.) And to make up for this you sometimes slip in a consonant. You have, even in your own high places, been known to refer to your admirable legal system as the lore of England.

But let these things pass. It is nothing to the purpose to classify you according to your pigmentation, your allegiance or your particular way of mispronouncing a noble language. What matters here is your motive in coming among us, and on this principle you belong to one or other of two categories - you are either a "sportsman" or a "tourist". If you are the former we could address you at some length and with even more vigour of expression. In either event it is improbable that you will pay any attention to our strictures. We submit them, however, in brief, neither for your sakes nor our own, but for that which is dearer than either to every Scotsman - the principle of the thing.

By a "sportsman" we understand (a) a wealthy English tradesman or (b) an American trust magnate or (c) a Levantine money-broker or (d) the parasite, male or female, of any of these, who comes to Scotland because it abounds in beautiful and edible wild creatures that can be "preserved", that is to say, encouraged to breed in order that they may be slaughtered by him (or her), not because he (or she) is hungry, but because it is such good fun. We abstain from cavilling here at a liking for blood-sports - it is a taste that has been shared by many estimable men in all ages - but if you come to Scotland to pursue them, there are one or two things we wish you would bear in mind.

In the first place, remember that so that you, the stranger, may have your pleasure (for which, praise God, you are made to pay through the nose) huge tracts, amounting to several millions of acres, that once supported men and cattle have been laid waste, and that for the most part these wastes are rigorously policed by your hirelings. Without your permission we set foot on our native heaths at our peril. This we can understand, for it is essential that the game you pay for should not be disturbed in multiplying; but you, in return, must understand that we resent as unnecessary our being stopped on the King's highway by your gamekeepers and impertinently questioned. In Scotland we have long been taught that "he that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city", or, as Horace has it, Animus, nisi paret, imperat. Whether this in all circumstances is a good thing for us is perhaps debatable. There can be no question that in these circumstances it is a good thing for you, ensuring, as it does, that your throat remains unslit. Consider this, and do not assume that because you do not belong to Scotland therefore Scotland belongs to you. Putting aside the bad logic, such an assumption is in the worst taste.

Does this studiously moderate statement of the position sound somewhat harsh? Are you really, belying your behaviour, a good fellow at heart, whose gaucherie is merely a result of your lack of imagination? If so we ask you to find some means of letting us see it.

There is a story - perhaps it ought to rank with our Celtic legends - that once upon a time an English clergyman of means, who was also a Christian, acquired a small sporting estate in our Highlands. So attached was he to the place, the people and their ways, that he not only became an elder in the local parish church, but even sat for several years as a member of the General Assembly. (How he squared accounts with his bishop is not told.) We do not suggest that you should follow thus far the example of this man of God. Not everybody finds the atmosphere of a kirk-session congenial. But there are limits in the same direction that you might reach without harming yourselves or us. We admit the possibility that, unlike our clergyman, you do not like us. There have been some of us who have not liked you. Or, not disliking us, you may feel that you lack spiritual contacts with us. There was an old Scot who wrote that "there is nocht twa nations undir the firmament that are mair contrar and different fra utheris nor is Inglis men and Scottis men", and some good English writers have said the same. In either circumstances you have no choice but to keep aloof from us, even while you occupy our ground. If you feel a foreigner, by all means be a foreigner in Scotland. But let us point out that even this implies an acceptance on your part of the customary obligation of a foreigner to walk delicately among his hosts. You cannot, Sir or Madam, both eat our oatcake and have it.

At this point we can hear some of you protest: "But I do like you Scotch! How can you think otherwise? Don't I turn up in force at every Highland Gathering of the season to see you throwing the hammer and tossing the caber and hear the pibroch sounding, sounding? Splendid chap the Highlander - finest on earth - so handsome, brawny, courteous, dignified and all that."

While we submit to your good opinion we should value it more if we could think that you knew what you were talking about. The Highlanders who are still suffered to inhabit their glens represent less than a quarter of the population of Scotland, and even them you do not know by sight. The only Highlanders with whom you are on speaking terms are the handful you employ as gamekeepers, and you are far from knowing what these think of you. So, to be frank, are we. For your Highlander's private opinions are as abstruse and unfathomable as your cat's, though possibly, as far as you are concerned, much the same. That is to say, it is improbable that he loves you, but he recognises that you provide him with a semi-gentlemanly livelihood that does not feel too like work. He has many virtues, but industry is not one of them. Neither is candour. On the other hand, he may claim to be the only man who can be a complete sycophant without forfeiting his dignity.

At this point, stranger, we ought to beg your pardon. We have been talking too much on the assumption that you are a sportsman, whereas the odds are a hundred to one that you are nothing of the sort, but belong to the tribe of very welcome guests who cheerfully bear with our weather, our licensing laws, our Sabbaths and our funny or infuriating little ways, all because Scotland is still a home of wild beauty.

The weather, let us point out, we cannot help: it is, like the beauty, as God made it. But seeing He has made it what it is, you may find it unreasonable that we should compel you to go hungry and thirsty on Sunday to His Glory, especially as we don't do it ourselves. We are prepared to admit that on a superficial view your objection is plausible. But it is a deeply-rooted conviction of ours, and, being such, its rightness may not be doubted, that on Sunday, eating and drinking ought to be done only in the home. You may urge that you have not got a home up yonder. We are sorry, but that is your misfortune, not our fault. Having homes, of which we not infrequently tire during the passage of the Sabbath, we ourselves have only to nip into our car and run up to (say) Gleneagles for a round of golf and a good binge afterwards. The notion that we are bigots is a vulgar error. We make exceptions but only for ourselves.

As all this is intended for your greater guidance; and for warning that shall include some measure of encouragement, in spite of discouraging appearances, we ask rather your thanks than your pardon for ending with a short series (no longer than the Ten Commandments) of "Don'ts" for all who are citizens of the British Commonwealth or of the United States of America:

1. Don't, if you are English, keep telling us how much better educated we are than your own country men. You ought to know that it is not true. We do. At the same time . . .

2. Don't pretend that you can't pronounce the guttural aspirates of our place names. You can say loch if you like to try once or twice, and it sounds better than lock.

3. Don't, on the other hand, fancy that we shall admire as just your pronunciation if you say that you play "goff" when you mean that you play golf. Books which tell you that the l is silent are incorrect. In the Scots vernacular it is vocalised, so that the game becomes gowf. But you are not required or expected to speak the Scots vernacular.

4. Don't say Dunlop or Kinloch or (worst of all) Cárnegie, for Dunlóp, Kinlóch and Carnégie. Your education ought to instruct you that these duns, kins, cars, etc., are no more than common descriptive prefixes and never the significant part of the name. Not that our place-names are not tricky. The Glasgow water supply comes from a loch of which the name does not rhyme with "latrine", however much you may be tempted to think so. And the London bus-conductor who bids his Scottish fare alight at Eljin Avenue is misinformed.

5. Don't claim acquaintance or anything else with So-and-So "or any of that ilk", still worse "any of his ilk". No such thing as an ilk exists or ever did exist. "Of that ilk" means "of the same". It is an idiom used when a laird's territorial designation is the same as his surname. Thus it is permissible, as we sometimes use, to speak of "Macleod of that ilk". But it will be safer for you to stick to "Macleod of Macleod".

6. Don't refer to our places of worship as "kirks". We may sometimes speak of our Establishment as the Kirk, because it is our native word. But to you it is the Church of Scotland.

7. Don't, if you mention our national bard, call him Bobby Burns. He never answered to that name in life, nor do we call him by it since his death. Besides you don't catch us saying Bill Shakespeare or Alf Tennyson.

8. Don't permit yourself the use of the word pawky, not, at least, when you are striving to select one of the few Scots words for which there is no exact English equivalent. Pawky means neither more nor less than sly. It is, therefore, uncomplimentary rather than otherwise. It conveys nothing, we trust, that is specifically Scottish, either in regard to humour or to character.

9. Don't confuse or identify a sporran with a filibeg. You may wear the filibeg without the sporran, but you had better not try to wear the sporran without the filibeg. The police object.

10. Don't let our bad example or anybody else's well meant precept persuade you that you must never call us and ours "Scotch", but always "Scottish" or "Scots". This is a recent piece of pedantry. Like most pedantry it is born of ignorance and nourished on snobbery. It has no authority in usage that can properly be called Scotch, Scottish, Scots or good English. "Scotch" is the normal form throughout Britain, and Sir Walter Scott, when he was writing English, correctly designated himself a Scotchman. Pedantry has so far prevailed that the Scotch Office has had to become the Scottish Office, but we have not yet attained to Scots whisky, butter-Scots or hop-Scottish.

If in addition you can remember that a gigot (locally pronounced jiggot) is a leg of mutton and an ashet (assiette) the dish upon which it is served, you should get through Scotland as comfortably and creditably as can be expected.

ENVOI

Fairweill thairfoir my hairt adew
fairweill and have gudnicht.
God graunt that we doe never rew
bot to have chosin richt.


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