On Thu, 1 Mar 2007 16:36:27 +0100, "Michael Kuettner"
On Wed, 28 Feb 2007 23:04:04 +0100, "Michael Kuettner"
"Was Brot ich ess' , des Lied ich sing'"
Translated : " Who pays the piper calls the tune."
I think that's rather insulting. We may have had an oral culture, but
then we know how easy it is to lie in writing, as your fellow
Landsmann, the late A. Hitler showed us much
Tsk, tsk. Godwinising that early ?
Where do you find an insult ? The above comment isn't directed against
oral culture or Scottish oral culture.
It's just a hint that _every_ historical source is to be taken with a grain
Be it oral or written down.
Despite the Celtic twilight nonsense, it is noteworthy that
most place names acted as an oral Baedecker's Guide, so that when
venturing into parts unknown, the names given to geographical features
tended to be descriptive, rather than fanciful, so you were forewarned
about what sort of country you would be travelling through, with names
like Plain of the Bogs, The Road of Flagstones or the Hillside of
Pines, mixed with the invariable memorable incidents, such as Field of
the Shirts; (Blar-Na-Leine) fought on 3 July, 1544 between the
Frasers, the MacDonalds and the Camerons.
Yes, but place-names have nothing to do with historical facts.
MacAlpin didn't come from the Alps ;-)
Place-names are a nice way to fill in some historical details (like
the age of the village), since they tend to be conservative.
But some of the names can't be explained anymore; like "Wien"
from "Vindobona", a Roman coinage. It seems to refer to a Celtic
Well, as the Celts occupied a large part of Austria, why would you be
I'm not surprised. I was pointing out while place-names are useful, sometimes
we have lost the knowledge of the meaning behind them.
It was a hot day and the
clansmen stripped to the waist, leaving their shirts lying behind
They just wanted to save the pennies for cleaning their shirts !
True Scots to a man, IOW.
Highland folk medicine is of interest because the Highlanders knew a
great deal about treating wounds, as well as using foxgloves
(digitalis) to treat people with heart problems and eating blueberries
to prevent what we now call Alzheimers. .
People eat the fruits that are easily available. Connections between
blueberries and Alzheimer weren't detected by Scots.
Sometimes blind luck rules.
Could you be a little more specific about the dates ?
When was digitalis used in Scotland to cure heart-problems ?
(This thread is cross-posted, and I'm reading shm).
Since time immeroial. I was taught the recipe for making it as a
child. I'll also thank you to stop mocking our culture; it was a
greaty deal more successful in its wars than youre ever was, In fact,
if Ghenghis Khan hadn't died unexpectedly, Vienna would have been a
Where did I mock your culture ?
If you don't get the difference between a friendly joke and your sneering
above, you have a reading - comprehension problem.
The "Mongols versus Europe" has been discussed several times in shm, btw.
You faith in the written word is touchingly naive.
Where did you get that impression from ?
All sources have to be evaluated critically.
The primary treatment for a serious wound was to urinate on it thereby
sterilizing it, and if possible, i.e. being close to any bush,
stuffing it with masses of spiderweb, which made the wound heal far
faster than leaving it merely bandaged.
Er, what ?
_Visible_ spiderweb is visible because there's lots of dirt on it.
God spoare me, it's like instructing a child!
It rains a lot in Scotland, and after each shower, spider's webs are
easily seen because the water drips from them like silver beads among
Thankfully, another member of scs has answered my question.
It would be easier if you could put some dates to your statements.
Example : "Highland culture". Which time-frame ?
Go to a library and read a book on the subject. We are not here to
drive out ignorance, we are here to discuss matters of interest to
I thought the differences between Highland culture and general Scottish
culture would be of interest to scs ?
What, are you under the impression that we know nothing about our own
country and its various cultures?
Let me explain what Scotland is about.
Scotland's history is one of constant warfare, both internally among
themselves, mostly over religion, and externally almost always against
English attempts to take over and control the country.
Ireland had a similar history and as both are closely related Celtic
cultures, it was common for Irish warriors to come to Scotland to help
fight the English, and reciprocally, Highlanders in particular would
go to Ireland to help drive off the English and protect the Gaeltacht
regions. There is still substantial cross-mingling between the two
nations and I think they would make an excellent partnership if
Scotland withdraws from the United Kingdom next May.
The declaration of Arbroath, drawn up in Arbroath Abbey on the 6th
April 1320, was unequivocal on this point; It declared bluntly, "...as
long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any
conditions be brought under English rule."
The Lowland Scots, although often of Highland descent, were natural
merchants, bankers and farmers. The Highland Scots lived in a feudal
rather than tribal society, whose chiefs measured their wealth by the
number of fighting men they could put in the field, and whose common
people in general led lives as close to misery as made no difference.
They however reinforced their image of themselves with music, poetry,
fighting skills and the concept of "Cliù". Cliù is often translated as
"Honour", but fact that is an inaccurate rendering; the actual Gaelic
word for honour is "Onair"; Gaelic being an Indo-European language.
although admittedly, one of the most distant from the Indo-Euopean
Cliù means "face", not in the sense of a human face; that's "aghaidh"
or "aodann" but face as in the Chinese understanding of face, namely
reputation, and the most serious thing that could happen to a man,
even today, is to lose face; to look bad in front of his neighbours;
something that will tag him for the rest of his life.
Cliù on the other hand can preserve a man's reputation for centuries
after his death, and men like Sir Ewan Cameron of Lochiel (1629-1719)
was admired and trusted by his men for his martial successes and for
the way in which he conducted himself. He is still honoured in the
Highlands to this day for his incredible feat of killing 124 English
Redcoats out of 300, with only 30 men at his side - there were 35, but
musket fire killed five when they were closing in on the Redcoats. The
remaining English soldiers fled for their lives.
Cliù is also the legacy of Flora MacDonald (1722-1790) who as a young
girl, smuggled Bonnie Prince Charlie to safety at under the noses of
the Redcoats and at the risk of her own life - there was a bounty of
£30,000 on his head - by disguising him as her lady's maid. Flora was
later arrested as a traitor before being freed in an amnesty. Every
young Highland girl wants to grow up to be Flora MacDonald and her
cliù will last as long as Highlanders are alive. Thousands came to her
funeral, many traveling futher than they had ever been in their lives,
from all over the Highlands and Islands.
Dr. Samuel Johnson the English lexicographer met her during his tour
of the Highlands and Islands. He said of her that she "will be
mentioned in history, and if courage and fidelity be virtues,
mentioned with honour." These words are engraved on her grave stone
and her statue stands below Inverness Castle.
In the Highlands, bravery is prized above all else, but it is also
well understood, and her reputation is only enhanced by the fact that
she was initially terrified at having anything to do with the Prince
because the reward for anyone helping him was death. She decided to
help him when her family told her that it was her duty and also when
she met him, because despite the slanders put about regarding him, he
was a handsome young man with a pleasing manner and brave to boot,
according to the accounts of those Highlanders who had a chance to
observe him. Indeed seven bandits sheltered him for a while in a cave
and were so impressed by his courage and sense of humour, that one
risked his life to go down to Fort William to buy gingerbread for the
Prince, as they all felt that their rough fare was unsuitable for such
a fine gentleman, unquote!
Cliù was what saved Bonnie Prince Charlie, for many people knew where
he was at any given time. I remember reading a book wherein the author
remarked, "It says much for the manners and mores of the men of the
Highlands that despite a reward of £30,000 for his capture; (an
unimaginable sum of money in a country where £1 spent on whisky could
keep 10 men drunk for a week); not one person betrayed him."
As my mother, a notorious cynic said, "Where would he have gone with
it anyway? Half the Highlands would have been looking for him to
avenge the Prince, and the other half looking to get their hands on
Indeed one young gentleman, well-dressed, carrying a sword and spotted
by a patrol of Redcoats, was pursued to Loch Arkaig, if I remember
correctly, and ran into the water before turning to face his pursuers,
prepared to sell his life dearly. The Redcoats simply shot him from
the shore, but he had the presence of mind to cry out in English as he
went down, "You have killed your prince!"
There was great excitement - £30,000 would have been a fine prize for
Redcoats - and the young man's body was beheaded and the head sent to
England to have those who had known Bonnie Prince Charlie identify it.
Needless to say, despite the fine clothes and the knowledge of
English, they were unable to identify the young man as far as I am
aware, but more importantly, his inspired last words put the Redcoats
off the trail for weeks as the head was trundled to London in a
stagecoach, while the Prince was rescued by a French warship, sent to
find him and take him back to France, without, as one irate lady on
the Isle of Skye said angrily many years ago, "Not even a thanks on a
postcard to poor Flora!"
Anachronism and Modernity walk hand in hand in the Highlands...
The opinion of men who have fought with Highlanders is that far from
being the harsh, brutal killers that they were portrayed as, they were
in fact a last stronghold of the virtues of the ancient Greek
warriors, jealous of their reputations, skilled fighters to a man and
firm believers in the saying, "Theid duine gu bàs air sgàth an nàire -
A man will die to save his honour. (Actually, a better translation of
the import is "A man will die rather than be shamed publicly".)
The CIA knew what it was doing when it sent Afghans to the Highlands
to learn from the SAS how to fight effectively in mountain country
during their struggle against the Red Army.
I have dedicated a lot of space to explaining the Highlanders of old,
but the Lowland people too have a substantial history of bravery and
battle to the death for Scotland's sake. I have mentioned recently
that in WWI, two-thirds of the young men of Scotland died in the
trenches. As with the Highland regiments, soldiering in the local
Lowland regiment was a matter of pride and honour, and the Borderers
in particular, some of the toughest - and roughest - men in Europe,
were legendary for their exploits and feats. The Border Ballads,
possibly the finest folk songs known, were taken to America and became
part of that culture too, especially in Appalachia and the American
South as far as Texas. The Border Ballads tell of a life of hardship,
sudden death and cruelty that would have stunned any Iraqi insurgent.
They were a harsh people; many still are; and a classic example was
when my uncle came back from the war minus a leg. After 20 minutes of
listening to his complaints, my Grandfather rose and made for the
door, saying in passing, "Well, what the hell are you crying for -
you've still got the other one haven't you?" That's about as close to
heartfelt sympathy as I have ever heard from any Borderer I've known!
Generally speaking, the Lowland Scots are blunt, quick to anger, slow
to forgive and utterly contemptuous of weakness. It's not surprising;
their history is one of beating off England, often against desperate
They have their heroines too; Black Agnes of Dunbar, aka Lady Agnes
Randolph, was a feisty lady who was hell bent and determined that no
sniveling English King would deprive her of her property.
On January 13, 1338, English soldiers headed by William Montague, the
Earl of Salisbury, arrived outside the gates of Castle Dunbar (near
the fallen town of Berwick, which remains in English possession to
this day.) Patrick Dunbar was away, fighting with the Scottish army,
and his wife Lady Agnes had been left in charge. No doubt the Earl
thought this would be an easy victory. He was considered one of the
best and ablest commanders of his day. Alas, he had reckoned without
the valiant Black Agnes.
The lady refused to surrender, and has been attributed as saying in
response to the Earl's request:
"Of Scotland's King I haud my house, (hold)
He pays me meat and fee, (rent)
And I will keep my gude auld house, (good old)
While my house will keep me."
She had only a handful of men left by her husband, but Lady Agnes shut
the castle gates. Whatever the cost, she was determined to stick it
out rather than meekly acquiesce to the hated English enemy. Assuming
the duties of commander, she rallied the tiny garrison to defense, and
inspired all within Castle Dunbar by her example.
The Earl of Salisbury began his engagement with catapults, which
hurled great rocks and lead shot at the walls. When this phase of the
campaign was over, Lady Agnes had her maids dress in their Sunday
best. Led by their mistress to the ramparts, the women boldly dusted
the marks of battle from the stones, thus showing the Earl that they
were not at all concerned. Modern readers may take this as a gesture
equivalent to giving Salisbury "the finger." Lady Agnes would not only
thwart Salisbury's plans, but she intended to do so with as much
insult given to the Earl as possible.
Now the Earl had an ace up his sleeve. He summoned his secret weapon -
a mighty battering ram on wheels, roofed over to protect the soldiers
who rolled it right up to the gate. Lady Agnes also had something up
her sleeve, and it wasn't a lace hanky. She had previously ordered a
whacking great boulder (one of those which Salisbury had used against
the castle) to be saved for just such a contingency. At her signal,
the boulder was dropped over the walls. It struck the roof of the
battering ram, smashing it into smithereens, and causing the enemy to
flee for their lives. As they ran, Black Agnes jeered at them from
high atop the walls of Castle Dunbar.
Twice burned, the Earl was nevertheless determined to do whatever it
took to bring the castle and its formidable lady to their knees -
metaphorically speaking. He changed his plans, thinking that perhaps
intrigue might suit his purposes better than brute force.
Salisbury attempted to bribe the guard who watched the main entrance
of Castle Dunbar, offering the man a substantial fortune if he would
either leave the gate unlocked, or somehow ensure his army could enter
without complication. The guard appeared to accept the bargain, but
the Earl did not know that this man had confessed all to Lady Agnes.
The plot called for Salisbury and a small group of English soldiers to
enter the castle at a certain time. At the fateful hour, observing
that the gate had been opened, the Earl led his forces onward. Upon
reaching the gate, Salisbury was overtaken by one of his men, named
Copeland. As soon as Copeland (who had been mistaken for the Earl),
walked inside, the portcullis clanged shut, trapping the man and
locking him in the castle.
Black Agnes observed all this from the ramparts. As the roundly
defeated Salisbury went back to his encampment, she sneered and mocked
him - "Fare thee well, Montague, I meant that you should have supped
with us, and support us in upholding the castle from the English!"
And the siege continued.
One day, when the Earl was riding around the castle with his
second-in-command, he was spotted by Lady Agnes, who saw a chance to
end matters there and then. She called upon one of her archers, and
bade him kill both men. The arrow barely missed Salisbury, who clapped
heels to his horse's sides and rode hell-for-leather out of range. His
second was not so lucky. The missile went straight into his chest,
penetrating three layers of mail and a thick leather jacket, and
killed him. The Earl was heard to comment sarcastically, "Black Agnes'
love-shafts go straight to the heart!"
Having completely surrounded Castle Dunbar with his forces, Salisbury
thought he might just starve out the defenders. Their supplies were
running low. The Earl smelled victory. However, some of the
townspeople of Dunbar were sympathetic to Lady Agnes' cause, and not
adverse to putting a spoke into English wheels. On a dark and moonless
night, several boats loaded with supplies made their way to the
castle's seaward side - a blind spot in Salisbury's plans. They
relieved the famine with this delivery. The next morning, Lady Agnes
had a fresh loaf of bread and some wine delivered to the Earl with her
compliments, and loudly proclaimed the gift to all within earshot.
Another victory for Black Agnes' side!
The Earl was desperate. Lady Agnes' brother - John Randolph, the Earl
of Moray - had been captured by the English and was a prisoner of war.
Salisbury sent for him and marched the unfortunate man close to the
castle. Making sure that the lady could see and hear everything that
was going on, Salisbury forced Moray to call out to his sister. Moray
told Lady Agnes that Salisbury would kill him if she did not surrender
Lady Agnes was not daunted one whit. She pointed out to Salisbury that
if he did, indeed, kill her brother - who had no children or heirs -
then she, herself, would inherit his lands and titles. The Earl,
believing Black Agnes' greed was greater than her love for a sibling,
was frustrated once more. He did not kill Moray, but sent him back to
(In a side note, the Earl of Moray passed away in 1347 without issue,
leaving all his wealth and title to his sister - the heroic Black
Agnes!) The siege continued for five months, with Black Agnes holding
the upper hand and mocking the English at every turn. Finally,
Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie - who had been roaming the Scottish
countryside with a band of followers - heard about the gallant lady's
little problem. He decided to aid the defenders.
Ramsay marched to the coast with forty men and acquired two boats.
Under the cover of darkness, they made anchor just offshore from
Castle Dunbar. Ramsay knew he could avoid detection and get into the
castle via a half-submerged gate on the seaward side.
Once within the walls, he mustered the lady's forces and joined them
with his own. Ramsay led a surprise attack through the main gate,
which sent the English scattering in all directions. Disheartened by
this bold maneuver, and probably tired of listening to Black Agnes'
mocking comments, the weary Earl accepted a truce. On June 10, 1338,
he ordered his forces to withdraw, leaving Lady Agnes once more in
sole possession of her castle. As he marched away, Salisbury
supposedly composed a song about the lady who had defeated him,
however there is no proof that he was the actual author.
"She kept a stir in tower and trench,
That brawling, boisterous Scottish wench,
Came I early, came I late
I found Agnes at the gate."
(A ballad attributed to the Earl of Salisbury.)
Lady Agnes died in 1369, leaving behind two sons - George, tenth Earl
of Dunbar and March, and John, Earl of Moray. Her husband, Patrick,
led the Scottish army at the fateful Battle of Durham in October 1346.
He escaped with considerable losses. Patrick Dunbar died just a few
months after his brave lady.
She is called Black Agnes, the Saviour of Dunbar Castle. With
fortitude, courage and iron determination, she held a key defense of
Scotland out of English hands. Outnumbered, outgunned, facing
starvation and worse, Lady Agnes never believed that surrender was an
option. She held out to the bitter end (bitter for the Earl of
Salisbury, anyway), and showed admirable panache. By her valiant
example, kept her people's spirits high, and ultimately came out the
Lady Agnes Randolph is still honoured in Scotland as a true heroine -
indeed she rather reminds me of one of our more mature lady residents!
(which is why I have written that last sentence with some care!)
Scots went on to become the most innovative people in the world; it
has been claimed that over 50% of patents are held by Scots. They also
created a way of life to live by, a model adopted by most of the
English-speaking world and some who were not, which takes as its base
the concept that whenever one does something good for another with no
expectation of reward; the real reward is the feeling of having done
something worthwhile and thereby expanding the sum of human happiness.
This is put into practice with human rights, freedom from persecution
by the State, the provision of universal health care, unemployment
insurance, the introduction of pensions for the elderly - a Prussian
idea; we must give Chancellor Bismarck his due - and most importantly
in most Scottish minds, the idea that all men are equal and none are
above the law.
We are a tiny country whose population I don't believe has ever
exceeded six million. Yet, we have made an impact on this world out of
all proportion to our numbers, as witness the many acknowledgements of
our contribution, from statues to Sir Alexander Fleming outside
bullrings in Spain - his discovery of penicillin has saved many gored
matadors from death; his very name recalls how Scotland sheltered
Flemish refugees - called Flemings in those days - from religious
persecution - and not forgetting Scotland's protection of Jews since
the early 1300s - to Tartan Day, April 6th, proclaimed by the US
Congress to honour the Scottish contribution to the United States.
Most important of all, despite the ridicule of the English for our
native dress and a countless other insults, we have the world's
respect as honest, decent people - people with immense "Cliù".
And you would deride us, Mr. Michael Kuettner?
Am fear a ghleidheas a theanga, gleidhidh e a charaid.
The man who holds his tongue keeps his friend.
Faodaidh nach ionann na beachdan anns
an post seo agus beachdan a' Ghàidheil.
The views expressed in this post are
not necessarily those of The Highlander.