Posts tagged ‘Scotland’

March 7, 2017

The Transportation of Angus Gillies

Angus Gillies from Inverness-shire was convicted of simple larceny (theft) at the Old Bailey in London in February 1845 and sentenced to seven years transportation.

Punsihment-of-convicts

I don’t know what attracted Angus Gillies to make the long journey south into England but he worked for a time in the household of a Dr Dowler, as a carer for a man described at the time as ‘a lunatic’. Dr Dowler’s cook and housekeeper, Mary Lewis, and Gillies struck up a relationship and together they planned to open a coffee-shop which was to prove the undoing of Gillies when he was accused of stealing fifteen £10 bank notes and three £5 bank notes which Mary Lewis had withdrawn from a bank to pay for the business.

Full of anticipation the pair set off to check out the property and settle the payment. Mary picked up her money – notes and a little in gold coin when Gillies suggested she let him carry the money –  “You had better hand over that money to me, as I have had the paying of the other money, and I will pay it” – he had earlier paid a deposit of £5.

Bangalore first of migrant ships

Bangalore is on extreme left

Mary Lewis replied, “Well, Mr Gillies, as you had the paying of the other, I suppose you will have the paying of this” and so she gave him notes worth £165 which he slipped into his pocket-book and off they went to the coffee-shop on Ludgate Hill. Satisfied with the premises they were shown into a back room to settle the deal but no sooner had they sat down when Gillies jumped up stating, “I have lost my book.”

Mary Lewis replied, “That is impossible.”

He said, “Then I have dropped it from my pocket in your room; give me your key to go back and look for it.”

She handed over the key to her room and Gillies went out returning within the hour to report he found no sign of the money. Mary Lewis insisted it was impossible the money could have been lost as they had gone straight to the coffee shop from her home. Gillies then urged her to return to the Glyn and Co bank and get from them the numbers of the bank notes paid out to her so they might be stopped.

shippppp

Onboard a convict ship

After this Gillies proposed marriage to Mary Lewis but when their marriage banns were put up he disappeared and that was the last she saw of him until his appearance in the dock of the Old Bailey charged with larceny.

In court as a witness was Janet Gillies, Angus’s cousin. She had travelled all the way from Inverness-shire and as Janet spoke only Gaelic her evidence was relayed through an interpreter. She told the court she saw Gillies at her home a few days before Christmas the previous year when he gave her a bundle of money and asked her to take care of it. In turn she gave the money to Angus MacDonald, a magistrate in Inverness-shire, for safe-keeping. For whatever reason MacDonald passed the money on to Andrew Wyness, a police constable, who was also a witness in court having arrested Angus Gillies at his home in Inverness-shire on the 29th December 1844.

Thirty-five year old Angus Gillies was found guilty and sentenced to seven years transportation to Van Diemen’s Land on the 3rd February, 1845.

prison-hulk-discovery

Convict hulk

Gillies was duly put on to one of the very many ships that sailed non-stop delivering their cargoes of criminals to whichever part of the British Empire there was a need to for their labour, far away from families. The majority of this human cargo was composed mainly of the impoverished and desperate among Britain’s population and the trade was a major source of income for shipping companies. Whether or not the transported could ever return to their homes was of no interest to the British authorities.

One of the ships on the Britain to Australia route was Angelina which makes it sound rather nice. In April 1844 she set sail with 171 prisoners stuffed into her hold and docked in Australia in August – four months of incarceration in crampt and unhealthy conditions all the time the distance stretching between the ship and home. Disease and death cut many a sentence short.   

I didn’t expect to find any record of Angus Gillies’ transportation but such is the magic of the internet that is precisely what I did – not in Australia but in the year 1848 – three years after his transportation order from the court – he was at last en route for Van Diemen’s Land on board a wood barque, the Jersey-built Bangalore, along with 203 fellow prisoners sailing from Bermuda.

In 1823 Parliament passed an Act permitting the courts to send their British and Irish convicts to any of Britain’s colonies to provide free labour. Times had become harder for the Britain’s capitalists anxious to squeeze every ounce of profit out of the Empire once slavery was abolished in 1806 -although they kept the trade going until 1833. Over the next forty years 9,000 were transported from Britain and Ireland to Bermuda and put to work mainly on the island’s naval dockyard – quarrying the local limestone and constructing a breakwater, similar to the construction of a prison to provide prisoners for forced labour to construct a breakwater at Peterhead in northeast Scotland.

bermuda 1862

Convict hulks and ships of the British fleet at Bermuda

Seven old hulks were moored off Bermuda to house prisoners many of whom had been given shortish sentences such as Gillies’ with his seven years for larceny. The hulks were steaming hot in summer and freezing cold in winter and were breeding-ground for disease – dysentery, consumption bronchitis and all manner of fevers.

It was easy to become a convict in 19th century Britain and Ireland when people lived in unimaginable poverty and starvation was ever-present. The 1840s was the period of the worst of Ireland’s famines when food grown in that country was carted past hungry men, women and children – food they could not afford to buy and which was being taken to the ports to be exported to England. Anyone caught stealing was arrested, tried and transported.  

jersey

Whatever happened to Angus Gillies once he landed in Australia on 14th July 1848 I have not been able to discover. Did he ever get back to Inverness-shire and his family? Perhaps someone out there knows.

June 7, 2015

Picture of the Month: Darkened Figure by Anthony Scullion

Anthony Scullion Darkened Figure

Anthony Scullion Darkened Figure

Anthony Scullion’s figurative paintings are ethereal and mysterious. To me his subdued palette emphasises a profound sadness that haunts the people that populate his canvases.

Sketchily drawn figures move silently across his pictures, oblivious to the viewer, intent on activities we cannot even guess at, absorbed in their own worlds, or else gaze out, their stare seldom engaging with us.

His figures are like characters from a play or people inhabiting a parallel universe that seems consumed by conspiracy or anxieties – victimised and vulnerable and to me reminiscent of Goya although he is influenced by the ‘chiaroscuro of Rembrandt and the spirituality of Giacometti and distortions of Francis Bacon’.

This Scottish artist, born in East Kilbride, studied at Glasgow School of Art in 1992.

Darkened figure oil on canvas

This monochrome study of a female drawn entirely in black emerges from a greyish-white background exudes mystery and contemplation. The girl’s downcast eyes suggest her uncertainty, her vulnerability, that makes it uneasy for the viewer staring at her as if we’re intruding into her thoughts.

April 10, 2015

Arty Farty Aberdeen: look at me street festival

Rabbie Burns is fitba crazy

Rabbie Burns is fitba crazy

Rabbie Burns in fitba socks in the colours of France and Russia is not an everyday sight, even in Aberdeen. His fitba is the planet Mercury and he’s wearing headphones created by a 3-D printer.

Don’t know if Rabbie was a fitba supporter but he supported the French Revolution hence their tricolor of red, white and blue that makes up his stockings. And conveniently these are also the colours of Russia the nation that took the great poet to their hearts and minds and who celebrate Burns almost as much as here in Scotland. Actually thinking about it perhaps more so in some ways. Wasn’t it the Soviet Union that put Burns on a postal stamp a decade before the British post office did? Yes is the answer.

The Soviets were drawn to Burns’ down-to-earth poetry elevating the lives of the humble Scot and wee creatures alike.

Why Mercury? It appears that there is a crater on Mercury named after Rabbie. Not the Rabbie crater but the Burns crater. Check it out.

The headphones Rabbie’s wearing I’ve said were produced on a 3D printer in Scotland’s and Jamaica’s colours. The colours of the Jamaican flag are a reference to the post of bookkeeper he planned to take up for there was little money in poetry but he never lived to sail to the slave island. That would have been interesting.

Rabbie Burns’ gull was most put out by all the additional attention the poet was getting and watched with a jaundiced eye from the dyke at Union Terrace Gardens as people crowded around to take their pictures. He (or she) occasionally claimed his or her usual spot on the top of Rabbie’s bonce, nudging forward the headphones to get a better perch. He (or she) hasn’t yet discovered the headphones are made out of cellulose, I think, or something like that, and possibly edible.

The Mannie outside the Athaneum, one-time well and water source for people living in the area, spiks Doric to anyone who approaches it.

On the wee mannie’s heid is a motion sensor, a bit like Spike, mind Spike in the Winter Gardens in Duthie Park? only mair Doric. The mannie’s heid is covered by a wooden box with four different faces and contained inside those clips of local people that play when anyone is close by.

Albert, Queen Victoria’s squeeze hasn’t been touched as such – still think the red moustache he sported for a time contributed 100% to his appeal. Ah well, the grass around Albert who has been sitting on his backside for well over a century is arranged with blue and white flags, not as I assumed representing Scotland but signifying ideas, as in blue sky thinking (I think). The Central Library at his back is a lucky coincidence in that it extends the association of ideas.

The statue of Robert the Bruce is decorated with ceramic birds, I assumed seagulls but apparently pigeons also.

Not sure if they add anything although they are delightfully arranged and only enhance this dull sculpture for Aberdeen’s statues often sport a gull, or three or four.

General Charles Gordon on Schoolhill is beautifully attired in vibrant knitwear. I had initially gone to the wrong Gordon. I do get my Gordons mixed up. The one in Golden Square didn’t feature in this festival. Gordon of the gorgeous woollen scarf knitted in the colours of Sudan amongst other places he was associated with is the famous, uhm, infamous butcher of all sorts of foreign lands – Gordon of Khartoum.

One of the local Gordons – all Gordons originated from Aberdeenshire – including Commissioner Gordon in Batman – Gordon on Schoolhill was himself butchered and his head paraded on the end of a pike. What had he done to deserve such an end?

This Gordon was one of the fighting Gordons among his most celebrated involvements the siege of Sebastopol in the Crimean War and the Second Opium War fought by the British to force China to open its rich markets to British merchants, to dominate Chinese trade and to do this without paying taxes to the Chinese. And it did it, through coercion obviously and by selling opium to the Chinese; vast, vast quantities of the narcotic.

Opium was used as a medicine in China but otherwise prohibited. British merchants bought up stocks of the drug and traded it through the British East India Company. The profits it made British businessmen were immense. The impact on China, devastating. As if this wasn’t enough General Gordon ordered the Chinese Emperor’s summer palace in Beijing be burnt down. He was that sort of guy.

Later he became a governor of a province of Sudan during which time he mapped the Nile, not for natives you understand, but Europeans who would make their way inland to carry out trade on the African continent. On other occasions he whiled away his time crushing native rebels outraged at having British imperialist armies marching onto their land and ordering them around.

To cut a long story short he was sent back to Sudan, having served in several other places, to tackle a group of fighters known as the Mahdists, Islamists who resisted Christian colonialists. Gordon and his men held out for a while but eventually he met his bloody end.

I suppose it’s therefore appropriate that Gordon should be dressed by a knitting technique called Yarn Bombing in the colours of the several places in which he served, and splendid he looks. The knitting is beautifully done – partly hand, partly machine. Nice binoculars and stick.

I didn’t speak to the artist who dressed William Wallace, the finest Wallace statue in all of Scotland. Once a Guardian of Scotland, Wallace has been transformed into a Guardian of the future. The materials in his tabard (and is his tabard a coincidence or meant to be associated with the Toom Tabard? Look it up) are light sensitive and are different day and night. I’m sure there’s more to it than that. Anyone know?

Someone told me one or two complaints appeared on social meeja suggesting Wallace had been desecrated to which I say, get a life and anyway he isn’t a god. I love this statue and am a defender of the role of Wallace in Scotland’s history, regarding him as a more admirable figure than the Bruce but, honestly loosen yer corsets guys and embrace a bit of cultcha.

Look Again, Aberdeen’s Visual and Art and Design Festival is fun and meant to get you taking a second look at street furniture that is so familiar it has become invisible. For some of these statues that’s no bad thing. Perhaps one day we could employ a crane and a wrecking ball to dispose of one or two of them and have them replaced with real public art.

There’s more to the festival than this but that’s all you’re getting from me.

November 14, 2014

Bust Up: Women’s Liberation in ’60s/’70s Aberdeen

The 1960s and 1970s – those eras of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll were also eras of wars, racism, starvation, massacres, atomic bombs, nuclear threats, assassinations, the Cold War and rampant sexism.

You only have to watch some hideous films of the ’60s and ’70s or listen to song lyrics from the time to realise that while there was much talk about women’s liberation the reality was it was just that – talk.

Bust Up. Aberdeen

So women’s lib movements mushroomed in much the same way they had a century before with the rise of the Suffragists and Suffragettes. That the struggle was continuing 100 years on reveals how resistant British society was to embrace radical change in its power relationship with women.

What women had discovered was if you want an injustice rectified you have to go out and fight for that cause and not to expect rights to be handed out by political bodies. Rights are grabbed screaming and kicking from those who limit access to them.

The 1960s when the taxman sent tax statements and demands and tax rebates relating to a woman’s earnings to her husband! Women were considered incapable of understanding such complex arrangements.

Women in work were horribly exploited by employers and male-dominated trade unions run by dinosaurs content to collaborate with employers to keep women’s earnings lower than men’s for equivalent work.

Along with employment rights, women sought to control their own bodies – to be able to terminate a pregnancy in particular circumstances. The alternative was horrific and sometimes lethal and in 1967 an abortion act was passed which allowed a woman to apply for an abortion if the pregnancy was a risk to her life, her physical or mental health, to her existing children, likely seriously handicap the unborn child or an arguable detrimental social impact going through with the pregnancy.

That same year the Homosexual Law Reform Act was passed allowing homosexual acts between consenting adults in private.

During the 1960s and 1970s Aberdeen was buzzing with the politicisation of the young. Groups they were involved with included Aberdeen Women’s Liberation made up of young housewives, working women and students.

Much of their discussions centred on questioning the family structure, its strict gender divisions, availability of contraception and developing awareness among girls and women of their status within society.

The group’s very limited resources produced a wee publication called Bust Up. Published here is the second edition and as well it the group printed as a pamphlet on contraception which was distributed outside factories where women worked and secondary schools in the city (which attracted an interview on BBC radio).

I shouldn’t imagine there are many copies of Bust Up or the contraception booklet left some half a century on but a copy of each have recently surfaced and you lucky people have a near unique opportunity to travel back in time catch a glimpse of Bust Up and hopefully soon, the contraception one.

I’ve separated pages from Bust Up with snippets about relevant legislation from around this time for your further enlightenment. Bust Up Aberdeen

 In 1969 the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act guaranteed a wife a share of family assets on dissolution of her marriage, based on her contribution to the household as a housewife or wage earner.

010

The Divorce Reform Act allowed for divorce on the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and a divorce was granted after five years of separation.

In 1970 the Conservative government of Edward Heath introduced the Equal Pay Act. Equal pay for equal work but what was equal work? That discussion still continues. It was to be another five years before it had to be implemented. 

1973 the British Sociological Association conference on sexual divisions took place in Aberdeen. 

In 1975 Equal Pay Act implemented, in theory although we know there are still women fighting for recognition of equal pay for equivalent work with male colleagues, by Labour under Harold Wilson.

 

 

The Sex Discrimination Act was passed which demonstrates that there was no gender equality in Britain. As might be expected the Act failed to cover everything – excluding pensions and social security rights.

Maternity rights were strengthened through the Employment Protection Act.

The same year the Scottish National Women’s Liberation Conference was held in Aberdeen and so too did the Northeast Scotland Regional Women and Socialism Conference. 

 In 1976 the Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act was passed which made it possible to get a court order to remove a man from the matrimonial home, whether or not he owned or rented it. The Act did not apply to cohabiting couples.

A year on from the implementation of the Equal Pay Act and women at a factory in Middlesex were out on strike for 21 weeks before management agreed to follow the law. Clearly their employers were not the only ones to ignore legislation but the only one where women were prepared to stay out this length of time to force the hand of their management.

The fishing industry was still a major employer in Aberdeen then and many women worked processing and packing fish (where incidentally they were left to man(sic)-handle very heavy wooden boxes packed with wet fish while their higher paid male counterparts drove around in forklifts never lifting anything heavier than their weightier pay packets.

 

In 1977 the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act recognised battered women as homeless.

In 1978 the ‘Normal Household Duties Test’ a wheeze brought in by the Labour government under James Callaghan, to deprive disabled married women of benefits as they had to prove they could not work but also then they were incapable of doing normal housework for a whole year in order to receive those benefits.

 

The Scottish National Women’s Liberation Conference met in Aberdeen in 1977 and discussed lesbiansism and heterosexuality, language, the fifth demand.

The Fifth Demand was legal and financial independence for all women.

The women’s movement agreed a series of demands at their conferences in the seventies:

Demands 1 – 4 Passed at the National WLM Conference, Skegness 1971

  1. Equal Pay
  2. Equal Educational and Job Opportunities
  3. Free Contraception and Abortion on Demand
  4. Free 24-hour Nurseries

5 and 6 Passed at the National WLM Conference, Edinburgh 1974

  1. Legal and Financial Independence for All Women
  2. The Right to a Self Defined Sexuality. An End to Discrimination Against Lesbians. In 1978 at the National WLM Conference, Birmingham, the first part of this demand was split off and put as a preface to all seven demands

Demand 7 Passed at the National WLM Conference, Birmingham 1978

  1. Freedom for all women from intimidation by the threat or use of violence or sexual coercion regardless of marital status; and an end to the laws, assumptions and institutions which perpetuate male dominance and aggression to women.

 

 

 One young woman, a keen member of the Labour Party, attended a couple of meetings. She said she was quite interested in women’s lib and she’d only entered one beauty competition. The group was arranging to disrupt a beauty contest being held in Union Terrace Gardens, which it did beautifully, with fancy dress, saucepans and lids. The young woman from the Labour Party did not come back.

 

November 11, 2014

A Highland soldier’s letters to his cousin from the trenches in 1916 & 1917

A young man from the Black Isle  serving with the Seaforth Highlanders wrote to his young cousin Bella back home in Ross and Cromarty. The letters are fragile and very faded now as they were written in pencil on flimsy paper almost 100 years ago. At the bottom of the first letter is a signature of Gemmell whose job it was to censor outgoing mail to make sure no information that might have been regarded as useful to the enemy leaked out. Roddie Bisset’s letters are all about friends and family. We can just imagine how much he longed to be back home with them, farming on the beautiful Black Isle instead of being stuck in the nightmare existence of the trenches. Trenches letter 1916 Highland soldier    December 13th 1916 Dear Cousin I received your most welcome letter and Parcel. I don’t know how to thank you for the parcel. We have fair good weather out here as yet. I believe you had a bad time of it at home. Tell John I will look after the turnip seed bag alright. He will get it if I will be ever able to see him. I had a letter from Whitebog they tell me that Frank is called up. If so, they will miss him very much. This is my address now 40422 Pte Bisset.R A Company 3 Platoon 7th Seaforth Highlanders B.E.F. France We all heard out here that Dan was to get married at the term. Have nothing to tell you as the news are scarce. Hoping this finds you all well, As I could not be in better health. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas. I Remain Your Loving Cousin Roddie   John Gemmell trenches letter 2 1916 Highland soldier  

***

trenches letter 3 1917 - Highland soldier

18th March 1917 My Dear Cousin Just a note in answer to your letter and Parcel. Well I thank you very much as I was in the trenches at the time, we have very good weather just now, hoping you have the same and getting on with your work as the winter was so bad. I had a letter from Jhonnie, he says the same. How is Dan getting on. tell him that I told you, if he is wise to stop where he is. you will be all thinking long for the wedding and if it will be a big turnout, for he will not get Annie McIntyre Lambton, for they are a fellow here writing her steady. How is Dan -?-? Donald. I never seen his goodself since a while but I see Plenty of Rosemarkie & Fortrose boys. Willie Cameron Rosemarkie is home for his commision. He was seeing them at home. I believe they have a great – trenches letter 4 1917 Highland soldier This is where the letter ends. I don’t have the next page. I don’t know if Roddie made it back home to Scotland.

Discovered after blogging that Roddie was killed 3 weeks after writing to Bella. He was 26 years old and was never again to walk the beach at Rosemarkie, gaze out at the Souters at the Cromarty Firth or return the turnip seed bag to Bella’s husband John. Young Roddie lies buried in POINT du JOUR Military Cemetery (Athies) Pas de Calais, France. Whitebog was where some of the family rented a farm.

November 10, 2014

The Scots, the English and Mutiny on the Bounty – Buchan’s Domestic Medicine

 

William Buchan's Domestic Medicine

William Buchan’s Domestic Medicine

Life in Scotland in the 18th century was filled with dangers not least from physicians’ treatments of sick patients. Some ‘cures’ might provide clues to the prevalence of early deaths.

A single example will illustrate what I mean.

Severe constipation might be tackled by immersing the patient’s lower extremities in cold water, or making them walk along a wet pavement (flagstones/setts) and dashing the legs and thighs with cold water. If this didn’t result in producing a stool, and I’d be surprised if it did, then a quantity of quicksilver (mercury) was called for, as much as one pound, to be swallowed by the unfortunate sufferer. If the quicksilver proved too much for the patient he or she was suspended by the heels to encourage the quicksilver back out through the mouth.

Healing was often the result of long-term observation by physicians and trial and error attempts to deal with illnesses which might prove successful or might not. When the Scottish physician William Buchan decided to put his observations and recommendations into print so others might benefit from his knowledge he made himself unpopular with colleagues who wanted to preserve an aura of mystery around the art of medicine.

The first edition of Buchan’s book appeared in Edinburgh in 1769 and proved a great success from the start. His Domestic Medicine or A Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases by Regimen and Simple Medicines was to become a standard work not only in this country but across the world. It was reprinted in over 140 English language editions selling some 80 000 copies and it was translated into several languages. Domestic Medicine proved particularly popular in America with several cities reprinting their own editions so it would be found in homesteads and plantations and carried on journeys west by pioneers – a medical bible that advised on just about any physical or mental danger that might afflict a person. Catherine the Great of Russia showed her appreciation of the great man by awarding Buchan a gold medal for his comprehensive guide to medicine.

 

Ships captains, responsible for the health of their sailors away from home for months at a time, would carry Buchan’s Domestic Medicine with them on voyages. When mutiny broke out on HMS Bounty Captain Bligh’s copy was one of the pieces of property purloined by the mutineers, led by Fletcher Christian, when they abandoned ship and went into hiding on Pitcairn Island.

Today Buchan’s work is a curiosity, a glimpse into a world very different from ours, where death was never far away from a stricken patient. But not all treatments sound outrageous for the good doctor’s keen observational skills can strike a chord with us on several ailments, such as gastric difficulties, when he warns of over-indulgence in fatty and rich foods.

Buchan was an enthusiast for exercise and fresh air which he recognised was essential to generally good health. He was also a keen advocate of the Scottish diet – simple and nutritious and gentle on the stomach and gut.

At a time when personal hygiene was not easy to achieve because of poor supplies of clean water he, nevertheless, advocated frequent washing. It is easy to see how such sensible advice would in time provide the groundwork for recongising that adequate and clean water supplies in our expanding and overcrowded towns and cities were essential to improving human health during the 19th and 20th centuries.

In his section on diet, Buchan examines the differences between the average Scottish and English habits of eating during the eighteenth century. He despairs at the quantity of animal meat consumed in England (when it could be afforded) because he warned too much animal meat led to circulatory and gastric problems, to nausea and excessive thirst (leading to the over-consumption of beer which he regarded as expensive and wasteful of money that might otherwise have been spent on nutritious food).

The more sedentary the occupation the less animal meat that should be eaten he cautioned. What meat was consumed should be mixed with vegetables was his advice. He came across too many people in England, where he also practised medicine, who ate too few vegetables with the result scurvy was extremely common in England. He also blamed an excess of meat for blunting the imagination and inducing ferociousness in individuals. His conclusion was too much meat made people angry, produced lethargy and rotten teeth through scurvy while at the same time was an expensive way to eat. Mixing meat and vegetables in soups or stews, he reasoned, would feed more people for the same cost as one person’s serving of meat but in England when meat was boiled it would be taken out of the water and the stock was thrown away, so discarding the nutritious juice that could have provided a tasty soup.

Cooking meat, he observed, was largely limited to the most expensive methods of roasting and broiling so that little money remained for clothes so the common people he came across in England appeared scruffy and poorly dressed.

He wrote that the English diet was the most restricted in all of Europe consisting of little more than meat, bread, butter, cheese, ale and porter. Even children in England were encouraged to drink alcohol from an early age

Buchan noted that the consumption of bread was as great in France as it was in England but the French made ‘copious use of soups and fruits’ whereas the English largely confined themselves to bread (and meat when affordable) eaten mainly with butter – which he condemned as excessively oily and detrimental impact on the stomach. Despite this children of the poorest of the population in England virtually lived on bread and butter.

Bread, he argued, was a wasteful way of utilising grain – better to eat the grain directly – and bread and flour were open to all manner of adulteration such as chalk, alum and lime. He recommended eating a variety of breads made from different types of flour – rye, potato, rice, oat, maize, buckwheat, Indian corn and barley rather than be confined to costly wheat.

Oat bread, he points out, was universally eaten in Scotland. Bread then referred to any solid made out of flour such as bannocks and oatcakes not just loaf. Buchan held up the Scottish mixed diet as preferable to the English while admitting it tended to be quite restricted and unvaried, certainly among the poorest people, it was nevertheless wholesome and affordable.

Buchan's Domestic Medicine

Oatmeal, milk, broth, vegetables, occasional meat formed the bulk of the Scottish diet. Instead of the large quantities of beer drunk in England, Scots tended to drink more water. (Of course there was whisky but I haven’t come across references to that.) The result, according to the doctor, was a population that was cheerful, active, healthy and strong. In an aside aimed at Samuel Johnson who derided the Scots habit of eating oats which he regarded only fit for horses, Buchan suggests if English horses ate less of it and English men more- it would be to their advantage and, ‘lessen the expense of living.’

If you remember Buchan thought grain best eaten directly. He advocates hasty pudding as an ideal means of serving them. Hasty Pudding could be made from any grain boiled up with water or milk and a little butter or molasses- such as porridge, rice, Indian corn or wheat puddings that might be varied with the addition of spices such as cinnamon or ginger.

He regrets the very few types of grains cultivated in Britain and dependence on foreign imports and he deplored the number of horses that ate large quantities of what grain was grown. Buchan estimated some 2 million horses were kept in Britain which required the equivalent of 3 acres of grain each, totalling some 6 billion acres of grain consumed by horses, enough grain he wrote to feed half the population of Britain. Many of those horses were used to draw carriages ferrying men and women around who he concluded would be far healthier if they got out and walked instead.

The growing popularity of the herb tea also came to his attention which he criticised for its lack of nourishment and how it was drunk with milk and sugar which he noted could be better utilised in the preparation of a nutritious meal.

He accused women taking tea of being too partial to eating too many muffins, crumpets and other spongy bread soaked in liquid butter and consuming fatty pastries  who would then complain to doctors about indigestion. Despite his side-swipes at ignorance and over-indulgence Buchan was not against perfectly good food such as butter, only its excessive use on bread and buns foods of low nutritional value. He did recommend those undertaking hard physical labour should add butter to vegetables and non-oily fish but not people who sat around all day or people in sedentary occupations because too much butter would make them sluggish and the addition of cheese could produce ‘fires in the blood’ and constipation as well as drink cravings, presumably due to its salt content. Instead he urged greater consumption of roots and fruits.

Potatoes he regretted were too little eaten except in Scotland and Ireland despite being easily grown and he recommends them boiled or roasted or as a meal served with milk, butter or gravy. Where potatoes were to be stewed or made into broth he recommends boiling them first to get rid of poisons – because the tattie, as he points out, is related to nightshade.

A variety of vegetables in the diet such as Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, carrots, salsify, beets, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, onions, leeks and broccoli perhaps made into cheap and nourishing stews and soups were recommended by Buchan to easily improve health in individuals but cautioned against too many at one time for fear of wind and flatulence. However, he concluded this was not as serious as consuming too much meat for animal food led to the accumulation of bile and subsequent inflammation affecting parts of the body which is more or less where we began.

William Buchan died in 1805 and is buried in Westminster Abbey in London.

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October 21, 2014

Hydro-electric charges more where it generates its energy and that’s not right

central heating

With energy costs so high in this country we are being advised by the best minds that Westminster can muster to ‘heat just one room.’

Now call me picky but I think we should expect to be able to afford basic heating throughout our jerry-built hovels while being grateful we don’t have the upkeep of say a mansion as sprawling, grand and presumably a nightmare to heat as that belonging to the Tory government’s welfare advisor (unelected) Lord Freud (of the slip).

freud

For years, since discovering it, I have been quite put out by our hydro-electricity being sold off cheaper to Russian oligarchs in London than your average crofter with one sheep and a cow in Achnasheen – where it rains a lot, contributing to hydro power. It rains a lot in London too but their rain disappears down drains, much like everything else down there.

Electricity we couldn’t live without it – as comfortably as we do. And so people realised when Britain’s first companies were formed to generate/ distribute / sell the stuff – stuff being a generic term for something I don’t understand – I mean have you seen it?

Building dams by flooding Scottish glens was a great way to generate electricity.  Not so great for the people who were moved away or the animals drowned or even a relative of mine blown up in an explosion in the making of the dam at Torr Achilty but there are always downsides to everything.

In 1943 the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board was established to run production of hydro-electricity in the Highlands and soon it absorbed the Grampian Electricity Supply Company to become even bigger.

hydro

At the time electricity was supplied through a mixture of bodies both private and public and more or less knocked into shape with the establishment of the National Grid in 1938. Ten years later, supplies were nationalised. Fourteen regional electricity boards oversaw distribution as part of the British Electricity Authority.

The next biggest change came with Thatcher and her government; let’s call them daylight robbery specialists who sold off any public asset they could get away with, as cheaply as they could get away with – hang on that’s ringing bells.

Scotland was still generating huge amounts of power.

Scottish Hydro-Electric joined up with Southern Electric which operated in the south of England in the late nineties and became Scottish and Southern Energy plc whose Chairman is Lord Smith of Kelvin (yes that one).

Which brings me back to my question to SSE – why is it that the people in the very areas of Scotland which generates so much energy have to pay so much more for it than people in the south of England?

The Hydro line appears to be that folk in the north are so much farther away from the main distribution point, in the south, so must expect to pay more.

But why doesn’t that argument work the other way round? Why do people in the south not have to pay more for the power that has to be transferred along the National Grid to where they live hundreds of miles away?

It’s like that question people from Aberdeen get when in the central belt trying to arrange a reciprocal meeting here and are asked, ‘how far is it to Aberdeen from here?’ to which the response is, ‘exactly the same distance from Aberdeen to here.’

If I lived in London SSE would charge me a

Unit Rate of 13.82 or SSE Direct Unit rate 10.91  

Here in Aberdeenshire their rate is –          

Unit Rate of 15.60 or SSE Direct Unit Rate 12.32  

This unfair disparity has been operating for years – imagine how much more that will have added to bills up here for people suffering the coldest winters and many who can ill-afford high electricity charges.

It’s time this anomaly was rectified in our favour.

September 19, 2014

So You Voted No

You didn't vote for him or for  The Spirit of Scotland

You didn’t vote for him or for
The Spirit of Scotland

You didn't vote for her and she'll never get another chance

You didn’t vote for her
and she’ll never get another chance

You didn't vote for her or her

You didn’t vote for her or her

Hamish Henderson

You didn’t vote for him and what he worked for. You probably don’t even know who he is.

You fell for Murdoch trash press

You did vote for him, his values and his trash press

You voted for  Neo-Nazi Unionists

You voted for
Neo-Nazi Unionists

You voted to retain the House of Lords

You voted to retain the House of Lords

You voted to retain the corrupt  British Establishment in the manner to which is expects

You voted to retain corrupt British Establishment in the manner it has grown to expect

You voted support for  the Stock Exchange when it threatened you with penury

You voted support for the Stock Exchange when it threatened you with penury

You voted for him and his Party's austerity measure

You voted for him and his Party’s austerity

You voted your approval of their threats and interference in the democratic process

You voted your approval of their threats and interference in the democratic process

You vote your approval of their threats and interference in the democratic process

You vote your approval of their threats and interference in the democratic process

You vote for them and their threats of job losses

You vote for them and their threats to take jobs out of Scotland

You voted your approval of their threats to increase prices in Scotland

You voted your approval of them and their threats to increase prices in Scotland

You voted to reinforce their view they are born with the right to govern you

You voted to reinforce their view they are born with the right to govern you

You voted your approval of  him interfering in the democratic process of a foreign nation

You voted for approval of him interfering in the democratic process in a foreign nation

And you voted no along with these fellow-travellers

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10202433758517846&set=vb.1610349991&type=2&theater

You voted for a Labour leader totally at sea when confronted by ordinary Scots

You voted for yourself and your personal self-interest

You voted for yourself and your personal self-interest

And it could all have been so different.

September 17, 2014

Thank you all fellow YESers it’s been great!

The Yes Scotland Campaign

We’ve taken on the Tories

We’ve taken on the BNP

We’ve taken on the Orange Order

We’ve taken on the Labour Party

We’ve taken on the Britannia Party

We’ve taken on the Liberal Democrats

We’ve taken on the National Front

We’ve taken on Ukip

We’ve taken on the BBC, determinedly propagandizing on behalf of the Union

We’ve taken on the luvvies with their enormous egos and holiday homes in Scotland

We’ve taken on the distortions of our views, our desires, our ambitions in the press

We’ve challenged and sang and laughed and chapped on doors in the sun in the rain in howling gales

We’ve spoken at meetings and shrugged off abuse and attack

We’ve turned ordinary Scots into activists

We’ve introduced young people to political participation

We’ve challenged lies and more lies and dirty tricks

We’ve shaken our heads at political posturing and stunts

We’ve shaken our heads at Labour politicians advocating people do not use their democratic vote

We’ve faced up to the whole panoply of aggressive misrepresentation thrown at us by a mischievous media

We’ve used social media to counter media distortions and lies and censorship of our opinions and ideals

We’ve taken on millionaires and billionaires and city folk who aim to buy support

We’ve taken on self-serving corrupt politicians motivated by self-interest who feather their own nests with inflated expense claims paid for by people who are reduced to feeding their families from food banks

We’ve taken on threats and personal attacks from No supporters

We’ve countered the hysterical rantings of fanatical rightwing commentators

We’ve countered the hysterical ranting of Kensington lefties

We’ve grown more confident

We’ve loved being part of a movement that is positive and ambitious to help the majority in our little country of Scotland

We’ve taken the flak and shrugged it off because we’ve been empowered to speak out

Thank you all fellow YESers

It’s been great

September 15, 2014

Not narrow nationalism but popular democracy

Aberdeen Yes

A great deal of nonsense has been said and written throughout the Scottish independence campaign by a mostly hostile media.

We were told at the outset it was too long. Well here we are about to vote and interest in it is greater than ever. It certainly has caught the attention of the world media and even, the UK media, and that takes some doing when it comes to Scotland-related matters.

The Guardian is an example of a newspaper purporting to represent the whole of the British Isles when, in fact, it represents possibly a small community around SE England. Pick up a copy any day of any week, outside of the referendum period, and you’ll struggle to see any mention of Scotland whether in the politics section or sport.

The Guardian, therefore, cannot be taken too seriously when it claims to understand the Scottish psyche through this campaign. Curiously it regards itself as sharing with the campaign ‘some of the things that matters most to this newspaper and its readers.’ An eyebrow or two will have been raised around Scotland at this conceit.

You, the Guardian, are part of the problem which has led to the groundswell of support for re-asserting our independence.

You are wrong when you say that national identity is high on anyone’s agenda, certainly not for those of the Yes side. The same may not apply to the No side for they’ve supported the cry of Scots across the UK and even abroad who maintain they should have been given a vote. The Yes side see this referendum as the business of those who live in Scotland, who make their livings here, who raise their families here, irrespective of where they come from originally. It is not a franchise based on national identity at all but of location. You can be from Pakistan, England, Poland, Estonia and you are deemed to be Scottish and so entitled to vote.

‘Ugly nationalism’ has no place in the Yes movement, except as an invention by mistaken or mischievous opponents of the independence movement.

No, the view that this is a campaign of national identity, narrow nationalism or Britishness of the type Gove tried to introduce into England with all the nastiness that involves, is far removed from the pro-independence movement. Only No campaigners have been desperately declaring themselves patriots and passionate about Scotland, not the yessers. It is so misleading to suggest independence here is about narrow nationalism. It is a movement which has emerged from us being overwhelmed by at times a bullying and often indifferent Union partner happy to exploit Scotland’s people (industrially and militarily) and our resources and condescend us by ‘giving us’ a few powers of government so that there is an allusion of semi-autonomy. We are a partner we shouldn’t be ‘given’ powers we should be able to take what we want out of the Union.

The Guardian holds up the views of Charles Kennedy to knock back independence. He has not featured in Scottish politics for long (while still an MP) his voice is now unfamiliar here and he speaks for a discredited party of LibDems whose integrity is in shreds and who will struggle for votes in the future so why the Guardian thought he was someone who could shed light on the movement for change here is risible and another example of how out of touch the Guardian is with Scotland and its Scottish readers.

The newspaper’s editorial is spiteful in its accusation against the millions who support a radical shakeup of life in Scotland and reveals an unhealthy level of intolerance of opinion despite its opening statement about sharing some of our concerns.

No-one I have heard has ever uttered the opinion that they think the Scots superior to anyone else; inclusiveness is the overwhelming view.

I suggest the Guardian ca’s canny when going down the line that the Union better serves oldies relying on a state pension for UK pensioners receive among the worst pensions in Europe and the pension age if being pushed back towards 70 the age it was when pensions were first introduced – when few lived long enough to benefit from them.

Likewise with the NHS there can be few in doubt that privatisation will erode all but a tiny element of the once-great NHS. Only by Scotland getting away from its status as a pocket-money dependency will we have a hope of retaining a well-funded free at the point of access health service; as campaigning medical and nursing staff have argued.

The wealth that is created in Scotland will be used to tackle the obscenity of poverty in the 21st century in an oil-rich state but it can only be done when we rid ourselves of the corrupt back-slapping nepotistic establishment that pulls all the strings in the UK around Westminster and Whitehall.

There is little Scotland, as part of the Union, can do to raise the living standards of people across the UK but there is much it can do to use the massive oil and gas reserves we have along with the rest of our economy to improve life here in Scotland with our small population. The argument that risk shared across populations is manifestly untrue given the evidence that small western nations have the highest standards of living and well-being.

Scots are looking for big constitutional change. Labour says vote for them next year and they’ll reform the House of Lords. We’ve heard that one so often and what do we get? Labour Party MPs queuing up to wrap themselves in ermine, eager to grasp the daily allowance of the totally undemocratic Lords. No Labour we don’t want reform of the Lords we want its eradication.

Until recently most issues of the Guardian along with all other mainstream UK newspapers and BBC largely ignored us or patronised or ridiculed us. Fair enough, carry on doing that but don’t expect us to give you respect or play your games anymore.

Whatever the outcome of the referendum vote Scotland’s people have been reinvigorated and we will not be docile any longer.