|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.
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
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!
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
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
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
Where tropic skies are beaming,
Love sets the heart a-dreaming,
Longing and dreaming for the
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
(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.
In the highlands, in the
Where the old plain men have rosy faces,
And the young fair maidens
Where essential silence cheers and blesses,
And for ever in the hill-recesses
Her more lovely music
Broods and dies.
Songs of Travel, Robert
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.