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Armistice Day

A guest post from several-time Luath author, Walter Stephen:

PLATE 1B

When I was young we called Remembrance Day ‘Armistice Day’, which reminded us that the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month was neither Peace nor Victory, but simply a cease-fire between the Allies and Germany.

PLATE 8B

Memorial to the Battle of Jutland, May 1916.

With hindsight the Allies were too eager for peace. Had we continued till the 12th hour of the 12th day of the 12th month we would have been well inside Germany. Hitler would never have been able to begin his rise to power in 1929 saying that the German armies had not been defeated in the field and that the sacred German soil had not been defiled by invaders. What if we had fought on? We would have lost more men. Would it have been worth it? One of the many ‘what if?’ questions we can ask about World War I.

It must have been 1947 when my father and I were cycling through Moniaive in Dumfriesshire, when they were having their Armistice Day parade and service. There were no massed bands, no serried ranks of smartly uniformed troops, no visiting dignitaries. All the uniforms that little Moniaive could muster were worn by Scouts
and Guides. It was really quite sad and a cynic would have found plenty of ammunition for smart-aleck remarks. A little lad sounded the ‘Last Post’. A wee bit wobbly – but then we remembered the hundreds of little boys, however wobbly, who died doing their duty. The lone piper tuned up his pipes and began to play ‘The Flowers of the Forest’. A chill went up my spine then, as it does now, as I remember it. As Lewis Grassic Gibbon wrote:

It rose and wept and cried, that crying for the men that fell in battle.

The solitary village piper became the symbol for the 500 pipers who were killed in the First World War and the 600 who were wounded. We heard the grand old words rolling out –

Their Name Liveth for Evermore
They will not grow old as we that are left grow old

– and wondered if they meant anything.

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Errata Page: Scotland’s Future History

We regret that there is some text missing from our recent book, Scotland’s Future History, by Stuart McHardy. A corrected version will soon be released, but for those who have already purchased this book, here is the missing text. This fits in between the last sentence on P125 and the first sentence on P127. A few sentences on either side have been included for clarity.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

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Catriona Child: On Music, Harry Potter and Inspiration

On Wednesday 19 August, we headed down to the Edinburgh Book Festival to watch Catriona Child perform her short story ‘Diamonds in the Rough’ as part of Story Shop, a series of events run by Edinburgh City of Literature Trust as part of its Emerging Writers Programme, to give new and upcoming local writers a chance to showcase their work. You can read her story and watch the video here. After the reading, we caught up with Catriona…

Kate Moreton: So, the first question! I’m interested in where you take your inspiration for characters. Quite a lot of authors say they take bits from people in real life and mix them together, so I was wondering what the inspiration for characters like Davie in Trackman came from?

Catriona Child: Okay, Davie… It was always a guy. The idea for Trackman came from a dream that my husband had, of this guy on a subway train who handed a pair of headphones to a girl that was crying, and then all these weird, dream colours came in. So it was always a guy in my head. I started thinking about who the Trackman should be and he seemed like the troubled young Scottish guy. I actually heard my brother’s voice in my head when I was writing it, and I based it on males that I know – everyone who’s read it from my family say that they can hear my brother.

KM: Is that the same for most of your characters?

CC: Yeah, I guess so. In Swim, the character Marièle, the older lady – a lot of it’s based on stories that my granny told me so I had my granny in my head when I was thinking of her. I try to hear real people’s voices in my head, so even though the characters are completely fictional, I’m using real life too.

KM: Do you ever find that you write yourself into your stories?

CC: I used to swim so I drew a lot of my own experiences in Swim, and I guess it’s nice to be able to put your own opinions. I’m not very outspoken but I can be quite opinionated so it’s nice to put that out there. Then I can say, well, it wasn’t me who said it!

Louise Dickie: (We laugh) Yeah, I loved the fact that Davie had this distinctive Scottish voice throughout the whole of Trackman, you could tell that he was from the area…

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Stuart McHardy: Scotland’s Future History

‘The whole notion of this book, Scotland’s Future History, is a simple question; what should we be teaching future generations about Scotland’s past?’ During his talk at the Edinburgh Book Festival, historian Stuart McHardy leads the audience through his answer to this question, interwoven with bouts of humour (including the occasional Scottish-Glasgow joke) and plentiful righteous outrage. Is the history that we’ve been given fit for purpose?’ According to McHardy, the understanding of Scottish history that we’ve been given today is not the whole picture, and often not the true picture. Although he concedes, ‘all historians are propagandists… this one included’ he believes that much of the history that we’re taught in higher education institutions has become ‘moribund… we need to open it up and become more critical.’

Stuart McHardy Book Festival 

Just one of McHardy’s examples is 18th century Scotland. Depicted by many historians as a very calm, settled period, through his own research, he discovered that in fact it was quite the opposite; there was a low level guerrilla war which continued for almost 10 years. ‘Anybody read about that?’ he continually challenges the audience, only to be greeted with the desired silence. Later, he turns to the Scottish clans; although commonly portrayed in history as using the tribal system, McHardy reveals that this is far from the truth. In fact, the clans were far more egalitarian, far more autonomous; they picked their own chiefs, and indeed, as McHardy points out, these were chiefs, not kings. These are the kinds of discrepancies that McHardy asks us to question. But this is only the tip of iceberg; he believes that there is a whole period of Scottish history missing and that ‘we need an arc, we need a story arc that takes us from within the ice age to today’.

Stuart McHardy Book Festival 2

McHardy is not your usual historian; both endearing, ‘I’m lousy on dates… like the anniversary of my wedding’ and provocative ‘from my point of view we should just blow the whole thing [history] up and start again’, he certainly knows how to make history lively. At one point he challenges the audience ‘hands up who’s heard of Thomas Muir?’ and, when met with a show of hands, he yells ‘Brilliant!’ in his strong Scottish accent, and you get the sense you’ve become part of some kind of historical uprising. Which is, of course, exactly what McHardy wants. A born story-teller, he unites you to his goal of re-imagining Scottish history. He calls on the audience to question what we’re learning, saying ‘always be critical, take nothing on trust, make up your own mind. This is what history should be about it’s almost like we have to tear down the building and start again.’ Radical, passionate and undeniably convincing, McHardy leaves you with the urge to go back to your books, to look a little closer, to question a bit further.   

If you missed this, you can hear Stuart McHardy talk on 26 August 2015 at 13.45 at the Quaker Meeting House. Get more information and tickets at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/scotlandsfest-2015-scots-wha-hae-tickets-17936287920

Copies of Scotland’s Future History are available to order here. ISBN: 9781910021415 RRP: £7.99

Many thanks to Kate Moreton for attending this event and writing this piece for our blog.

9781910021415  

Scotland’s Democracy Trail

Louise Dickie

Well, it’s that time of year again. The time when Edinburgh becomes a city fit to bursting and the Royal Mile looks like a carnival. Yes, that’s right, it is officially the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and people from all over the world have gathered to see some of the best and most exciting acts on offer.

This means that it is also a busy time for Luath Press as we are currently in the midst of organising our very own ScotlandsFest 2015 beginning on the 24th August! The week-long event aims to tackle some of the biggest questions facing Scotland in the future, including issues surrounding art and culture, the value of history and the evolving politics of the nation. Tickets for separate events are available here: http://www.luath.co.uk/scotlandsfest where there is also the option to buy a week pass.

In the meantime for all you festival goers, we have picked a variety of books that we think can help you to get to know Auld Reekie during your visit and we just HAD to start with Stuart McHardy and Donald Smith’s fantastic book Scotland’s Democracy Trail. With this book at your side, follow the 500 year route to Scotland’s Independence Referendum whilst in the heart of historic Edinburgh, discover the connections between influential ideas and personalities and how this has led to the emergence of a social ideal and reality.

The book itself follows on from a series of walking tours around key locations in Edinburgh so if you fancy really getting to grips with Scotland’s history, why not pop over to Green Yonder Tours and book now?

 

DONALD SMITH is a storyteller, playwright, novelist and performance poet. Born in Glasgow, he has worked in theatre and literature since the 1970s. Donald is founding Director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, a founding Director of the National Theatre of Scotland and first Chair of the Literature Forum for Scotland.

STUART McHARDY is a writer, musician, folklorist, storyteller and poet, and has lectured on many aspects of Scottish history and culture. A prolific author, he has had several books published including A New History of the Picts, Tales of the Picts, Tales of Edinburgh Castle, The Quest for the Nine Maidens and On the Trail of Scotland’s Myths and Legends.

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