A Guid New Year tae yin and a!
Stewart Bremner’s posters an cairds brocht a smile tae mony and the ‘Spirit O Scotland’ is kenspeckle to a they fowk that cam oot for the Scottish indy referendum o 2014.
Lang afore that, Ia mind hoo ma faither had a braw grasp o the Scots leid, but he rarely spak it in his ain hoose or wi his ain bairns. Him an ma grannie, his mither, blaitherd awa in Scots. He wiz bi-lingual. He lernt tae speak English for the university, but thocht that yins he wis trained tae be a doctor, he didnae hae a choice o the wey he spak maist o the time. He’d had a sair trial tae get educated and he wantit guid education for his bairns forbye. I began tae jalouse whit was gaen on when he wud tak me wi him tae visit his auld patients in the slum tenements at the Pleasance in Edinburgh. We’d gang in tae some auld biddie’s single end and she gied me a wee sweetie, aiblins taiblet or a soor ploom, an ask ma faither aboot a the rest o the faimly while’s he’d speir after her bairns and a her freens as weel’s her sair banes or her deef lugs and they’d hae a richt guid claik tae brisken up Seterday morn. If I asked aboot ony o’ the words I heard him yase that I didnae understand, he’d laugh, but no tell me, and if I tried masell tae spik whit I heard, he’d crie in English ‘Speak properly, so that everyone can understand you!’ I kent better than tae try ony Scots on ma granny, she’d have thocht I wiz makin a fool o her. She didnae like anybody kiddin her oan.
Gaen back tae Stewart Bremner, I’ve aye loed hearin guid Scots spoken and sung, frae Burns sangs tae the Broons, “michty me!” and Stewart’s hamilt airticle in Bella fair stirred me up. Stewart’s “heid like a struck bell, wi the shapes and soonds o the words ringin roond an aroond in it” is jist whit I feel when ah jine in singin Hamish Henderson’s Freedom Come All Ye, and yet I cannae get ower the feeling that fowk‘ll think ahm kiddin them oan if I pit a wee Scots word in ahint ma haund when ahm talkin.
Ah wiz listening tae a repeat broadcaist frae the Book Festival when I heard Ngugi Wa Thiong, a makar frae Kenya aboot scrieven a buik in his ain language. Pit in the jail fur his poems and novels in English, he scrieved yin in his ain leid on the lavvy paper. It wiznae whit he scrieved oan that stuck in ma lug as much as whit he said neist aboot why he didnae yase English fur it.
In English, Ngugi Wa Thiong cries himsel a ‘Language Warrior’ – a bonny leid fechter.
His spik is that whit maks us human is oor imagination, oor ability tae dream o a better warld. He says nae leid is better than ony ither leid. The main thin is, a’body’s ain leid cairries their ain musicality. It’s that music in oor ain mither leid that we can a tune in tae that can mak a picture o the future, and fire us up tae ken hoo things micht change. He kent that aboot his hameland Kenya, and ither African kintries, and traivellin gied him the chance tae learn aboot the same thing in Ireland and in Scotland and in Ameriica, whaur maist o the native leids are noo gane athegither.
Noo he kens that a places whaur a country is ruled ower by oppresors, they do a thing in their power tae stop fowk imagining ony ither future. Makars and playwrights aye get pit in jail or even kilt even though they dinnae hae guns or swords, tae prevent onyone getting any ideas aboot their ain power. The Irish hedge schools kept the leid alive there, and we maun use oor leid and mak siccar its no taen frae us by supermairkets wi their blackberries fur brambles and swedes fur neeps, jist because they ken we are at least that bilingual. Ye can see hoo its makin Scots come tae think we are ower wee, ower sma and ower stupid. So here’s tae a guid New Year an yin resolution for 2019 is tae dae ma best tae be a bonny leid fechter frae here oan in.