Tuesday 14 January 2020

Celtic Roots Craic 65 – 'Ye cannae take our freedom!

Scottish highland bagpipes

I got into a whole history of Galicia last time – which I found interesting, I don’t know about yous? – anyway, it occurred to me I haven’t talked about our close neighbours across the North Channel – the Scots. 

My grandfather was actually born in Glasgow – or Glasgae, as they might put it! – although my great-grandfather had actually come there from here in Northern Ireland, then married a Scots lady called Mary ?? and the rest of that sad story I’ve told before. 

A lot of people in Northern Ireland have Scots connections – many of them dating back to the time of the Highland Clearances – back in the early 1700s – when many Scots came to the north of Ireland, as well as emigrating to North America. 

Scots from the Highlands and islands were forcibly evicted from their crofts, so the landlords could develop huge sheep farms – making money came first, once again! These evictions pretty much destroyed the traditional Scottish clan-based society, that had existed up until then – and the emigration has continued – just as it has done in Ireland – ever since. The Scottish Celtic band, Runrig, released a great song about it, called ‘Oran Ailein/Leaving Strathconon.’ 

We Irish – especially in the the north – share quite a lot with our Caledonian neighbours. In the 6th and 7th centuries there used to be a Gaelic kingdom called, Dalriada – or Dál Riata, in Gaelic – which spanned the North Channel, with part of the kingdom stretching to Argyll, in Scotland – the coast of the Gaels – and the other part in County Antrim – which would explain the Scots accent in ‘Co. Antrim, hey!’

They still speak Gaelic in western parts of Scotland – only they call it gáidhlig Gáidhlig and the Ulster gaeilge have many similarities, but there are differences, too – you can easily get caught out! 

By the way, do you know where the word, Scot, originated? It comes from the Latin word, scotus, meaning an Irishman – so all them Scots over there are really just Ireland, east!

Of course not all people from Scotland are really Scots – that is of Irish descent – the tribe that lived in the eastern part of Scotland were the Picts. As far as I know they had no connection with Ireland, and they had a few battles with the Scots of Dál Riata. The first king of Dál Riata was Fergus Mór – Fergus the Great, from which, of course, you get the Scots name, Ferguson – plenty of those about in Ireland! Eventually, in the 9th century the Scots and Picts united into the new kingdom of Alba, or Albannach.

Did you ever hear the story of how the Scottish bagpipes were invented? No? Well, a certain Scots chieftain came over to the north of Ireland for a wee visit and they laid on a banquet with food, drink and entertainment. He was very impressed when he heard the wild sound of the Irish uilleann pipes and asked if he could possibly get a set to take back to Scotland.

Well, the local chieftain called in his pipe maker and he agreed to do his best to make him a set of pipes before the visiting chieftain went home. When it came time to leave the pipe maker presented the Scottish chieftain with a newly made set of pipes, and explained that he hadn’t had the time to make the bellows, which are used to fill the uilleann pipes with air, but had put in a little pipe that the player could blow into in the meantime. And ye know what? The Scots haven’t caught on to this day!

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