World War II was a time that called for many things from many different people. However, one Polish soldier stepped above and beyond the call of his nature. He carried ammunition, he helped his squad members get better at wrestling, and he drank and smoked with the rest of them - Wojtek, the soldier bear. [more inside]
Scottish trade unionist, journalist and broadcaster Jimmy Reid has died aged 78. Often described as the best MP Scotland never had, Reid was the instigator of the 1971 Upper Clyde Shipbuilders famous work-in, where rather than striking, workers demonstrated the viability of the shipyards by working to fill the orders on the books, drawing national and international support (including a fat cheque from John Lennon). The year after, he was elected as rector of the University of Glasgow, where he delivered a speech (behind a paywall, sadly) that the New York Times (which saw fit to print it in full) called one of the finest since the Gettysburg Address [more inside]
The Lewis Chessmen are to tour Scotland. As part of the tour they will spend five months the islands where they were discovered. Digging the Dirt's review of the exhibition gives an idea of what you're missing, and the chess pieces are part of the BBC's History of the World in 100 objects. They're beautiful pieces from a beautiful place, but underneath this the chess pieces are at the centre of some political wrangling over object repatriation. In a more low-key version of the arguments over the Elgin marbles some are demanding that the British Museum should return the 82 pieces they own to Scotland. [more inside]
UK adoption agencies are reporting "huge numbers of calls from 'deeply distressed' adoptive parents whose children have been contacted" through Facebook and other social networking sites, in violation of the traditional, confidential reunion process between birth parents and their offspring who have been placed with other families. Full report from Channel 4. [more inside]
New Order's 1990 official World Cup song, World In Motion, promised a new, actually listenable era in football songs. So what has England seen since then? The endearing Three Lions for the hopes of Euro '96. Fat Les' Vindaloo celebrated the marriage of matches and curries. Meat Pie Sausage Roll celebrated the meal options of your average footie ground. On The Ball celebrated the meteoric rise of Ant and Dec. In 2006, we had a novelty cover of a novelty song, the unspeakable, the unelectable, and the so bad it loops round to genius. [more inside]
Your dreams of rapping superstardom are stymied by your Scottish sound, so what do you do? Simple: reinvent yourself as a West Coast wild boy, with American accent and history to match. Keeping it real might be murder, but even when it all falls apart, at least you got to tour with Eminem and D12 – and you can salvage something by writing a book about it all.
Information-age math finds code in ancient Scottish symbols. "The ancestors of modern Scottish people left behind mysterious, carved stones that new research has just determined contain the written language of the Picts, an Iron Age society that existed in Scotland from 300 to 843. The highly stylized rock engravings, found on what are known as the Pictish Stones, had once been thought to be rock art or tied to heraldry. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, instead concludes that the engravings represent the long lost language of the Picts, a confederation of Celtic tribes that lived in modern-day eastern and northern Scotland."
In 1954 the UK Atomic Energy Authority established a research campus at a distant, disused airfield in Caithness, Scotland. The mission: develop fast breeder reactor technology. In 1988, they chose to conclude the research and in 2000 to decommission the site. This 32-year cleanup now underway is chronicled at a most snazzy website... [more inside]
Originally developed for military tasks, amphibious buses have found a niche running tourist services in various cities around the world. But now, Scotland is about to get the first timetabled amphibious bus passenger service, replacing a ferry route in Glasgow and extending it inland to a nearby town and a shopping centre. [more inside]
One person’s helpful mood improver, though, is another’s worryingly effective stimulant. "The drink is 15 percent alcohol by volume, a bit stronger than most wines. Also, each 750 milliliter bottle contains as much caffeine as eight cans of Coke." Scottish authorities are trying to reduce alcoholism in the country, but consumers still love their Buckfast, which has been linked to violent behavior by some, and dismissed as merely a scapegoat by others. [more inside]
to be held for the first time in 30 years, the 'Grand Match' has been canceled due to safety fears. [more inside]
Last month, extreme weather conditions in the Pacific brought us The Eddie. Right now in Scotland, a serious cold snap means there's an even rarer sporting event on the verge of occurring: The Grand Match. [more inside]
Scotland's National Collection of Aerial Photography includes a plethora of pictures of Scotland, notably Edinburgh and Glasgow, seen from above, many dating back to WWII. But there are also photographs of wartime European cities and images of elsewhere from the Aerial Reconnaissance Archives.
Utopia Britannica is a collection of stories and a gazetter about utopian communes in the British Isles from the 14th Century up until the end of World War II. There are some incredible tales in here, such as 'Free Love' in 19th Century Somerset, St. Kilda, Death of an Island Republic, Percy Bysshe Shelley's attempted communes, Augustus John, the King of Bohemia and many more.
The evacuation of the abandoned island of St. Kilda has been commemorated after 79 years. [more inside]
Painting +puzzle +compulsory 'Da Vinci' ref. Glasgow artist Frank McNab Previously has an interesting series of paintings on display in an exhibition at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. Running until the end of October the paintings have the common theme of 'Libraries in the Community" and are a celebration of both the buildings themselves and their patrons. Check out the link not just for the obvious quality of the works on display but also to see if YOU can be the one to solve the riddle hidden within the paintings themselves.
British Women Romantic Poets Project is a collection of poetry written by women from the British Isles between 1789 and 1832. Over a hundred female poets are represented. Women rarely feature in literary histories of the Romantic period but there is treasure if you search (some poems are, frankly, terrible). A few places to start are Charlotte Turner Smith's Elegiac Sonnets, and Other Poems, Christian Ross Milne's Simple Poems on Simple Subjects and Mary Robinson's sonnet cycle Sappho and Phaon. The oddest works to modern readers may be Elizabeth Hitchener's Enigmas, Historical and Geographical and Marianne Curties' Classical Pastime, which are collections of verse riddles (the answers are at the end of the text).
What happened to the Trainspotting generation? Heroin and Scotland: the relationship continues.
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware that jaups in luggies: But, if Ye wish her gratefu prayer, Gie her a Haggis!
Just nae call i' English! Food historian Catherine Brown has announced that Haggis, the traditional Scottish dish, was invented in England rather than Scotland. Scottish butchers have dismissed the daft claim. But just in case she turns out to be right, there's always... curry? [more inside]
Bike Parkour. Exactly what it says on the tin.
The Demarco Digital Archive holds 10,000 images and documents gathered by Richard Demarco, gallerist, Beuys collaborator, founder of the Traverse theatre and a key figure on the Scottish arts scene since the '60s. [more inside]
They got overshadowed by Bono in their interviews, their videos hardly rocked the zeitgeist, their lead singer looked way too much like the weird kid who played little Hitler in the Boys From Brazil, but for a while in the late 1970s and the early 1980s (before the release of a certain annoying movie), it was sometimes claimed that Simple Minds were the best band in the entire history of the Universe, if not the world ... and the groove goes on.
Smuggler's Britain tells "the fascinating story of smuggling in 18th and 19th century Britain, when high taxes led to an dramatic increase in illegal imports. As the 'free trade'" grew, smugglers openly landed contraband in full view of the customs authorities: columns of heavily-armed thugs protected the cargoes." Includes a gazetteer with Google maps links so you can scope out some lonely cove to land contraband of your own in the footsteps of your forefathers and introduces you to famous smugglers like Isaac Gulliver, who never killed a man in a long career. Though of course, it was an enterprise where things often would turn ugly.
Take Britain’s favourite poem and add it to Scotland’s other national drink and here’s the result (mildly NSFW). [more inside]
For those of you who are celebrating Tartan Day on April 6, a little primer on tartans. Tartans began in Scotland as woven wool patterns used as district identifiers, created using locally popular patterns and, originally, different natural wool colors. The word tartan originally just meant the style of weaving -- take the yarn over two cross strands, then under two, then repeat. Eventually the meaning changed to what we now accept, the patterns of colors in the weave, also called the sett. [more inside]
Seventeen years Steve Feltham sold up everything, bought an old mobile library van and parked up alongside Loch Ness to look for Nessie... He's still there.
Poet, playwright, novelist, mural painter, experimentalist, illustrator; a “fat, spectacled, balding, increasingly old Glasgow pedestrian”; and perhaps “the greatest Scottish novelist since Sir Walter Scott,” Alasdair Gray has a new book out. [more inside]
The Scots voice of the Spanish revolution [Embedded DivX video 1hr15m; also downloadable] Ethel MacDonald was a young working class Scots woman who hitch-hiked to Barcelona to do her part in the war. There she became the English-language voice of the anarchist movement as a radio station announcer. Newspapers at home dubbed her the "Scottish Scarlet Pimpernel" for her role in helping comrades escape the crackdown that followed the May Days. Her remarkable story is told in this recent drama-documentary.
THE church elder’s reaction was one of utter disbelief. Shaking his head emphatically, he couldn’t take in what the distinguished professor from Yale University was telling him. "No," insisted Jim McRae, an elder of the small congregation of Clearwater in Florida. "This way of worshipping comes from our slave past. It grew out of the slave experience, when we came from Africa." But Willie Ruff, an Afro-American professor of music at Yale, was adamant - he had traced the origins of gospel music to Scotland. [more inside]
Billy At 65: I owe it all to Glasgow. But Glasgow and Scots in general owe Billy Connolly for all the laughs at our own expense...Tourism, Economy, Music, Religion, Sport, Social life, Education, Language, Cuisine, History, Transport and Sex. (Rampant YouTubery: All links potentially offensive and NSFW) [more inside]
Empty Cathedrals. Tenement closes. Glasgow artist Frank McNab documents the communal entrances sans nostalgia or sentimentality. Gets it just so damn right! His 'Thoughts' and 'Projects' need a little more work however.
ukgraves.info has thousands of photographs of cemeteries and gravestones all over the UK, from City of London to the Kirk of Lammermuir, and random points in between.
BBC Introducing is an excellent way to keep tabs on what's fresh in the British popular music scene without having to live in a rainsoaked armpit. There are four podcasts for you to download, the flagship Best of Unsigned Podcast, Homegrown Mix with Ras Kwame, Scotland Introducing and BBC Radio Northampton's Weekender. All feature bands that are either unsigned or just recently signed and the music ranges from hip hop to punk rock to what sounds awfully like the soundtrack for a NES game with half-hearted chanting over it. This is an excellent resource whether you're casual searcher for new songs or the kind of anorak who knows which British indie band was first to use an 808.
Exit Music. The King of Tartan Noir, Ian Rankin has retired his detective John Rebus. Ageing him with each novel, Rebus has finally reached the retirement age at Edinburgh CID; Although that may not stop him... [more inside]
We ettle tae come up wi writin that's easy tae read an can be soondit bi readers in thair ain dialect.
We've discussed Simple English Wikipedia, and descriptions of other languages in English, but have you tried reading wikipedia in Scots? You asked if Scots is a language? How about any of the other 253 languages of Wikipedia?
"The ile is full of wild fowls, and when the fowls has their birds ripe, men out of the parish of Ness in Lewis sail and tarry there seven or eight days and to fetch with them home their boatfull of dry wild fowls with wild fowl feathers" - Donald Monro, Archdeacon of the Isles, 1549. The men sail again, as they have done since the 15th Century, this month.
Alasdair Gray 0-70 2004 BBC Artworks Scotland film made on the occasion of Glasgow artist and author's (best known for Lanark) seventieth birthday. Also a short clip and another film on his mural work as embedded Youtubery at his site. (Previously.)
So, how is that whole Iraq thing working out for you, Tony? What's going on with Scotland? Is the rise of the SNP your party's fault? Are they laying the groundwork for Scottish independence?
Being the adventures and observations of a field naturalist and an animal photographer - An utterly charming picture of life in Scotland's Outer Hebrides in 1896.
St Kilda - "Many theories have been advanced as to the origin of the inhabitants of this lonely rock, and a curious tradition exists as to its acquisition by members of the outside world. The inhabitants of Harris and Uist agreed to make it the prize for a boat race, and accordingly set out to row across the intervening waste of waters. So equally matched were the crews in regard to pluck and endurance that they arrived at St Kilda almost at the same moment. The Uist men, however, led by a few strokes, and hopes of winning ran high amongst them when Colla MacLeod, the chief of the Harris gang, chopped his left hand off and flung it ashore over the heads of his competitors, and secured St Kilda and its satellites to himself and his descendants for all time."
"John Smith, Youngest, of Crutherland, was given the honorary degree of LL.D in 1840. In 1842 he announced the bequest to the University [of Glasgow] of his runs of publications from learned societies, and his volumes of ephemeral items. These came to the library on Smith’s death in 1849." Some examples: Playbill, Theatre Royal, York Street. Broadsheet account of an attempted prison break. Radical Party election ballad. See also: Glasgow Broadside Ballads: cheap print and popular song culture in nineteenth-century Scotland and Glasgow Broadside Ballads: The Murray Collection
So you can sing along this evening. Happy New Year from Glasgow where our Hogmanay event has been cancelled due to storms.
Iraqi peacekeepers sent to the Scottish border... 1600 years ago. The Notitia Dignitatum, the Roman equivalent of an organisation chart for the imperial bureaucracy in the fifth century, contains a reference to soldiers from the Tigris stationed at Hadrian's Wall. More on the Notitia here; more on Hadrian's Wall here, including a 3D tour of a fort near the Wall, and tablets discovered at another fort (including a request by a commanding officer for "more beer").
Every year the The Burryman makes his appearance at the Ferry Fair Festival. It has now been revealed how he copes with all that whisky.