This anthology of Scottish writers, illustrated by their poetry or prose, was a TV series. I’d quite like to have seen it. I’m not sure how it would have worked, off the page, but no matter. The piece that stuck a real chord with me, was from someone I’d never heard of James Kennedy ‘The Highland Crofter’ (below). It was a lament for the Highland Clearances. Kennedy, a blacksmith and evicted crofter left Loch Tay and settled in Doune, Canada. Scottish history you might think, but with Scotland’s Oxfam revealing that the richest 1% in our wee country have more wealth than the bottom 50% and the very poorest are pilloried for being poor and feckless, treated as subhuman, less valuable than sheep, I ask myself what has really changed. Those that owned the land own the people on the land, as they do now, but they have mortgaged other’s lives in new ways. The answer comes from Blind Harry’s description of ‘The Wallace’ and what it is to be fully human.
Woundis he had many divers place,
Of riches he keepit no proper thing:
Give as he wan, like Alexander the king.
The Highland Crofter by James Kennedy.
Frae Kenmore to Ben More
The land is a’ the Marquis’s;
The mossy howes, the heathery knowe
An’ like bonnie park is his;
The bearded goats, the towsie stots,
An’ a’ the braxie carcasses;
Ilk crofter’s rent, ilk tinker’s tent,
An ilka collie’s bark is his;
The muir-cock’s craw, the piper’s blaw,
The ghillies hard day’s wark is his;
From Kenymore tae Ben More
The warld is a’ the Marquis’s.
The fish that swim, the birds that skim,
The fir, the ash, the birk is his;
The castle ha’ sae big and braw,
Yon diamond crusted dirk is his;
The roofless hame, a burning shame,
The factor’s dirty wark is his;
The poor folk vexed, the lawyer’s text,
Yon smirking legal shark is his;
From Kenmore to Ben More
The world is a’ the Marquis.
But near, mair near, God’s voice we hear
The dawn as weel’s the dark is his;
The poet’s dream, the patriot’s theme,
The fire that light the mirk is His
They clearly show God’s mills are slow
But sure, the handiwork is His;
And in His grace our hope we place,
Fair Freedom sheltering ark is His;
The men that toil should own the soil,
A note as clear as the lark is this;
Breadalbane’s land –the fair, the grand –
Will no’ aye the Marquis’s.