I need to take you back to Letham, a housing scheme in Perth and to the 1960s where my political consciousness was first stirred. At the heart of it was when a great unfairness became apparent to me. Of course great unfairness’s are all around us and we are conscious of them – some we can do something about and in others we feel helpless, some we contribute to. This particular unfairness was a big one at an early age.
There had been a noteworthy unfairness before the big politicizing unfairness, three or four years previously. Crying to the teacher at Letham Primary because of an intense pain in my ears, I sniveled that “ I’ve got sare lugs, Miss”… six of the belt later ( one for every year of my age ) it was explained to me in a clipped voice that I had earache. The news of the pain in my ears was an affront to those of the teacher when expressed to her in my native Scots. That was an unfair thing and a political unfairness at that – but I was too wee tae ken.
No, the big unfairness that politicized me was worse than getting the belt from Miss Mason. It was to do with deprivation.
There was a television programme, in black and white, a French/German production that screened in the summer holidays, an episode a day. It was a fantastic adaptation of Daniel Defoe’s ‘ The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe’. Readers in their mid-fifties may remember it and many will still be able to recall the haunting, signature tune. It opened with waves lapping on a sandy shore.
Now this programme got me at just the right stage of boyhood and I loved it.
I didn’t just watch this programme I stared it out. In my mind I whittled every stick, hunted every goat and caught every fish along with Robinson. Nothing, but nothing would make me miss it. My parents even tolerated me not using cutlery at the table when I was in ‘Robinson’ mode.
But the people that control the TV had made a terrible mistake. The first few weeks of the holidays had no kids programmes so were spent in anticipation of Robinson Crusoe. Then, a few weeks later, just when he’d seen off the cannibals, it was time to go back to school. For younger readers – this was before digital, video, on demand, playback… it was be in front of the TV or miss it.
I sought higher council…
“Dad, why does it not start at the start of the holidays and finish at the end of the holidays?”
“Because English schoolchildren have different holidays than us and it’s on for them,” came his reply.
“But that’s not fair… Why don’t they put it on in England when they have their holidays and put it on in Scotland when we have ours?”
“They’d never dae that son, they dinnae really care aboot us up here.”
Now, many years later I realize that in a world of poverty, corporate greed, racism, sexism, homophobia, war, famine etc., etc., deprivation of the last few episodes of a TV programme is hardly up there, on Amnesty’s or Greenpeace’s long list of things to tackle. But to me, at that time it was the mother of unfairness’s. Seeing those last few episodes meant everything to me and what made it so bad was the fact that I was being deprived unnecessarily. It was simply because … “they dinnae really care aboot us up here.”
From that day on I became a supporter of Independence for Scotland. As I’ve grown up I’ve done the rallies, mourned Willie MacRae, booed the Wombles at Hampden, cheered Margo, campaigned in 1979, Scotland Utd etc. etc. – all the usual stuff.
Ironic then that Crusoe’s creator, Defoe, was sent to Edinburgh in 1706 to spy on those campaigning against the Treaty of Union.
And finally we have it in our hands, as citizens of Scotland, to end this unfairness in it’s many facetted manifestations. I never thought I’d see the day. I can hardly bear to contemplate where we’re heading. On September 19th my heart will be broken with, either overwhelming pride or with the deepest of despairs.
We are in historic times. The 18th of September, 2014 will be etched in this county’s history forever, whatever. Just as the 17th of May, 2014 will forever be in the hearts and minds of we supporters of St Johnstone FC. I stood with my son on that historic day at Celtic Park , having counted down the ‘sleep nights’ and woke up on the day, daring to hope. One day, two sides, one outcome, history made.
And that’s why I won’t actually vote in the referendum, it’s too historic.
I hope, I pray my son has more of Scotland’s future to see than I do. He is 13 and a half and I’m 54 and a half. He’s older now than I was when confronted by the mother of all unfairness’s. I’ve heard the word ‘indoctrination’ bandied around my parenting style more than once. I, however, know it is through his own intelligence that my beloved son is a St Johnstone supporting, Scottish Republican. At worst it is coincidence. It is his own wisdom that tells him .. “they dinnae really care aboot us up here” as I echo my own father all these years later.
That is why he will come to the polling booth with me on September the 18th and I’ll put the cross where he instructs me on my voting slip.
I predict a YES, I also predicted St Johnstone would win the cup.
Image by Duncan C