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A Dundee Lass
The Land That Begat Me


Come along, come along,
Let us foot it out together.
Come along, come along,
Be it fair or stormy weather.
With the hills of home before us,
And the purple o’ the heather,
Let us sing in happy chorus,
"Come Along! Come Along!"

The Land That Begat Me

It wasn’t difficult to find poetry extolling the beauty of Scotland and the character of her people. The hard job was deciding which to use to introduce this land of my birth to my children and my friends.

Shakespeare wrote about man having seven stages. I feel as though I’ve gone through several stages of my own sense of citizenship. They all seem to center around Scotland and America and my mother and my father and my efforts to find myself somewhere within biological, emotional, spiritual and patriotic equations.

I always knew my father was American. I remember my mother telling me when I was quite young that even though I wasn’t "registered" as an American, a child had the right to take the father’s citizenship. I don’t know where she got that idea from, but I had no reason to disbelieve her. When my mother reversed what she had been telling me, when I was about nine years old, and told me "Your father’s living in America and doesn’t have anything to do with us," I determined at that time I was going to come to America some day and make a connection with my missing father. I was determined to find him.

For the next nine years, until I was 18 and met and married John Bleh and claimed my American citizenship, part of my heart was in a foreign place – even though I was loving my home country and developing a pride in Scotland and my own family’s heritage. Sometimes my friends called me "a half baked yank" because I wanted so much to find that American part of me.

Now I’m 53, and have been in America to all intents and purposes for over thirty years. I find my heart returning to my Scots origins. I think I’m feeling rootless in this country. My childhood friends and my twelve wonderful years as John’s wife are found only in fond memories. The last 22 years since John’s death are best described as my particular adventure in growing up which, often unfortunately, my children also had to join. And I recognize now that the skills and strengths which have helped me survive widowhood are founded on lessons learned in Scotland and from her people.

I remember saying to John once that I did not want to raise American children. I think I meant that I wanted to raise children who would honor their predominantly Celtic roots through my Scottish, Belgian and Welsh blood, as well as being proud to be Americans.

I think I have those Celtic origins entrenched in our seven children and their children. And I now find myself reaching back to Scotland to find myself again, not as the young girl who left in 1965, but as an adult woman who would like to preserve a little of the Scotland she knew for the people she loves.

I’m frequently asked if I would like to go back to live in Scotland. I know my life is better here, in America, financially and emotionally. I also know that the places I visit so frequently in my memory are more than likely no longer there as I remember them. The house I was born in, as a matter of fact, was demolished when I was about 15, as was my primary school and the pend across the street where I used to help groom the carters’ Clydesdales in the stables. I hear the economy is bad in my homeland, but we do have our own Parliament again. But, I do believe if I didn’t have children and grandchildren to hold me here, I would go "home," perhaps to stay.

But a visit to refresh my memories would be nice. And part of me would like to have my ashes scattered from above the Dundee Law so that on the day of resurrection, or reckoning (depending on whether I’ve been good or bad) John can come back to Dundee to find me.

One of the many baby pictures my mother saved for me My brother, Victor, and me taken on a day trip to the Inch, at Perth

I now understand that my brother and I were named after a fashion in the old Scottish way of naming children. My brother was named Jerome (his father’s name), Victor (his grandfather’s name) Eric (after my mother’s brother who died so sadly when he was 15.) I was named Charlotte (my mother’s mother) Marie (my father’s mother.) The traditional naming pattern is:

First son named after his father’s father
Second son named after his mother’s father
Third son named after his own father

First daughter named after her mother’s mother
Second daughter was named after her father’s mother
Third daughter named after her own mother.

I imagine if you were fourth or later sons or daughters you got original names. If John and I had done this with our children, I imagine our first four children would have been Carl, Caroline, Rose, Charlotte – and, who knows, after the first four I might have gotten the Scottish name Catriona (just because I’ve always loved that name) and the Welsh name Bronwen (after my best friend in Primary School) that John vetoed. But I didn’t take that veto too hard because I managed to get Tina and my Welsh Alys instead!

SCOTLAND, THE BRAVE

An Anthem

Scotland, the Brave

Hark when the night is falling,
Hark! Hear the pipers are calling,
Loudly and proudly calling,
down through the glen.
There where the hills are sleeping.
Now feel the blood a-leaping,
High as the spirits of the old highland 
men.

Chorus: 
Towering in gallant fame,
Scotland my mountain hame
High may your proud 
Standards gloriously wave.
Land of my high endeavour.
Land of the shining river.
Land of my heart forever,
Scotland the Brave.

High in the misty highlands,
Out by the purple islands,
Brave are the hearts that beat 
beneath Scottish skies.
Wild are the winds to meet you.
Staunch are the friends that 
greet you.
Kind as the love that shines from 
fair maiden's eyes.

Far off in sunlit places.
Sad are the Scottish faces,
Yearning to feel the kiss of sweet 
Scottish rain.
Where tropic skies are beaming,
Love sets the heart a-dreaming,
Longing and dreaming for the 
homeland again.

Scotland

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!

Here is a patriotic poem I won a place at the Arbroath Festival. I felt my blood stirring, even as a teenager when I performed this.

(The marks and notes are to remind me of how I planned to "attack" the work to get the audience’s attention, the up and down vocal inflections and the pace, or tempo.

Scotland

In the highlands, in the country places,
Where the old plain men have rosy faces,
And the young fair maidens
Quiet eyes,
Where essential silence cheers and blesses,
And for ever in the hill-recesses
Her more lovely music
Broods and dies.

Songs of Travel, Robert Louis Stevenson)

Here’s a wee collection of baby pictures. I think the snap on the bottom with my mother pushing the pram is taken outside the bank in the Murraygate, across the street where Woolworth’s used to be. I’m also pretty sure these snaps would have been taken by my Granny with her little Brownie box camera. That was treated like a piece of gold because we didn’t have much money and any pictures that were taken were treasures, indeed. The pram photo might have been taken by one of the street photographers who made their livings, mostly busy on Saturdays, offering to take pictures because cameras were luxury items and not everybody had one.

wee collection of baby pictures


 

 


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