Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Sunday, 10 May 2015
It's taken me years to get a tenuous grip on Scottish national pride and identity, and only that was achieved by a few trips up there, where I was sometimes vastly outnumbered as a lone Englishman in a remote pub in the Highlands.
When they don't want to be polite, they are far from it, unlike the perfidious and two-faced English. They have very, very long memories, and it is still possible to be held personally responsible for the eviction of a distant relative from his croft, even though it took place about 300 years before my branch of the family settled in London.
When that woman in The Galley o' Lorne explained that 'Cuntie' was a term of affection when she addressed me by it - "Oi, Cuntie! Gi's a whisky!" - I was not sure she was telling the entire truth.
I found myself in the town of Inveraray once, the seat of Clan Campbell. It is built on a wide plain which is surrounded by soft mountains, and the place is dominated by the Campbell's seat, Inveraray Castle - a French Chateaux-inspired, conical turreted, whimsical thing which would be impossible to defend, unlike the rock-built strongholds of less secure clans.
The final gathering of defeated clans was held in Inveraray, because the topography of the place made it possible to visually monitor the approach of potentially hostile forces as they came down from the mountains in their thousands, from all directions.
The gathering was hosted by the despised English, but facilitated by the chief of Clan Campbell, which explains why he could build himself such an ornate and expensive family house a little later.
When I was there, the barman of the pub told me that there had - up until a few days before - been a collection-box on the bar, to help with the expense of repairing the dilapidated roof of Inveraray Castle, which had been deemed a national treasure quite a few years beforehand.
Campbell of Campbell decided to supplement the funds for roof repair by evicting one of his tenant farmers so he could sell the property as a holiday home for the English. That was it. 300 years of feuding were immediately rekindled and hostilities resumed after a short break of about 8 war-years, during which they had other things on their minds.
Stories were again told to children about the massacre of the MacDonalds on the fateful night of the banquet for which the Skean Dhu stocking-dagger was invented.
A few years ago, I was in the pub with a Donaldson friend of mine (same clan) and we had a bet on, for which the prize was a double, single-malt Scotch whisky. He won, but I had noticed a bottle of 'Clan Campbell' single malt on the shelf, and asked the barman to pour a shot for him.
He stopped the barman in horror, saying that he would never touch anything which could be associated with the hated Campbell clan, and thereby I saved myself the expense.
Like I say, they have very long memories. Selective, but long.