By Hardy Jackson
A few years ago, I read where Scotland was going to vote whether it will remain as part of the United Kingdom or if it will secede and take off on its own.
Now, I am in no position to comment on the ramifications of such a move but only to observe that if Scotland secedes, it will be because Scots are more like Southerners here in these United States, than like the Brits that live south of Hadrian’s Wall.
Let me explain.
It was back in the late 1970s, I think. I was in Edinburgh, and after a day of taking in the sights and sounds of the city, I decided to relax at a pub located across the street from my hotel.
Entering, I found the place full of patrons who were watching World Cup Soccer on a TV above the bar. When I ordered a beer my accent gave me away, and they greeted me as if I was a long lost relative. When they discovered that I knew little or nothing about soccer, they took it upon themselves to explain the game to me.
It did not take me long to learn that Scotland’s highly favored team had been knocked out early by a combination of bad luck and bad officiating. My new-found friends were none too happy.
When I asked which team they now favored, they replied, almost in unison, “not a bloody one of ‘em.”
In fact, they were watching in hopes that the surviving teams would make a mess of the game and embarrass their country, their fans, and themselves.
It was like SEC fans watching two Big Ten teams play and hoping the worst for them both.
It was Southern.
I felt right at home.
This connection between Scots and Southerners was confirmed a few days later when, up in the Highlands, I visited the site of the Battle of Culloden. There, in 1746, a largely English army under William, Duke of Cumberland, defeated rebel forces composed mostly of Highland Scots.
I will spare you all the details of the Jacobite uprising other than to simply say that if it had succeeded, there would be no need for a vote on Scottish independence.
Culloden was out in the middle of nowhere. If you went to the dictionary and looked up the word “bleak” you would surely find a picture of the moor where the battle was fought. All that was there were some markers and a small cottage museum, hosted by two lovely Highland ladies in period dress.
Greeting me warmly they explained that they got few visitors. Local folks don’t want to be reminded of what was done to them and “the English” (they said with an obvious distain) did not want to be reminded of what they did.
The women went over the battle quickly. It was a short and bloody affair – the rebels lost around 1,500, Cumberland’s army lost 50. What happened next was the tale they were there to tell.
The cottage which housed a few relics of the conflict was, they said, a replica of a cottage where Highland women and children sought refuge. The original had been burned, along with the refugees in it.
They recounted how, after the army was defeated, Cumberland’s troops went into the Highlands, looting what little was there, killing anyone who opposed them, and laying waste to the region and its people. Lean and hungry times followed.
As they spoke I could feel a passion that reminded me of the Confederate reenactors at Civil War demonstrations, especially the women, who say little about whatever battle was being refought, but tell listeners how, after the fighting was done, the South suffered years of cruelty and humiliation at the hands of victorious Yankees.
And there was, in both tellings, a hint of the conviction that the causes – Jacobite or Confederate –were just, and if the opportunity came again, Scots and Southerners would rise and avenge the ancestors who suffered so at the hands of “the English” or “the Yankees.”
But until that day came, descendants of the defeated would tell the story, their story, to whoever would to listen.
After politely hearing them out, as a Southern gentleman is supposed to, I thanked them and took my leave. As I headed for the door one of the ladies, the one who did more listening than talking, stopped me with a final word.
“You know, the English honored Cumberland by naming a flower after him,’ she said.
“We Scots put his name to a weed – Stinking Billy.”
Now tell me, can it get any more Southern than that?
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at email@example.com.