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THE FLIGHT OF THE TURTLE

New Writing Scotland 29

Edited by Alan Bissett & Carl MacDougall

Published in: Paperback, 256 pages.
By: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, Glasgow, July 2011.
Price: £7.95
ISBN 978-1-906841-06-5

Cover image: Alex Ronald

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Heifetz in tartan, and Sir Harry Lauder!
Whaur’s Isadora Duncan dancin noo?
Is Mary Garden in Chicago still
And Duncan Grant in Paris – and me fou?
       —Hugh MacDiarmid, A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle
The 2011 census tried to discover how many people speak, read or understand Scots. It’s an interesting question to which there is probably no definitive answer, but posing such a question contains the germ of something wider and far more important; for it implicitly recognises the existence of Scots as a language and such an obvious acknowledgement could be a step towards further official recognition, if not actual acceptance.
    The question comes at a time when the work of Scottish writers or even Scottish writing is still not a compulsory element in the public examinations of children in Scottish schools, a position which is little more than a sideways shift from generations of schoolteachers who told their charges to ‘speak properly’, resulting in a dichotomy that is and has been familiar to generations of Scottish children: one language for the classroom and another for the playground.
    By perpetuating an education system that still does not place proper value on Scottish literature and language, the status of Scots has obviously been reduced, resulting in a national ambivalence – we know Scots and respond most directly when it’s sung or spoken, but somehow think the language demeans us, reduces our status and might even be shameful. Running alongside this is the question of status: is Scots really a language at all?
    At the heart is something far more sinister, something Hugh MacDiarmid spent a lifetime decrying – a surface recognition and admiration for those aspects of Scottish language and culture that can be easily compartmentalised, that are safe and anodyne. There is still a love of the pawky and the second rate; but anything that seems threatening, anything, especially an individual – and Scotland has produced many – who appears challenging or even gently anti-Establishment has to be resisted.
    It’s easy to suggest this attitude is found in many classrooms, where the good will of English teachers carry the responsibility of conveying Scottish literature and language, but it’s far more pervasive than that. Classrooms are where it is most obvious, but we don’t have to look far to see its influence.
    Of course, there are exceptions, but the heart of the matter is national self-belief, and a palpable fear that if the linguistic door is opened, what else will walk in?
    Yet we persist in challenging the right of legislators or those responsible for education, those whose opinions deny Scottish children their birthright. And despite perpetual pronouncements of a rapid demise, for the twenty-ninth successive year these pages show that the variety and quality of Scotland’s voices is buoyant, varied and stronger than ever.
    On we go.

Alan Bissett
Carl MacDougall

Contents

  • Donald Adamson . . . . . Kilgramy Colliery Speaks to My Great-grandfather
  • James Aitchison . . . . . Riveting
  • Amy Anderson . . . . . Dancer
  • Jean Atkin . . . . . Photographs Between Criffel and Eden
  • Janette Ayachi . . . . . Princes Street Gardens / Dieppe, 14th July 1905: Night
  • Sheena Blackhall . . . . . The Flight of the Turtle
  • Tom Bryan . . . . . Iznae Jist Squirrels
  • Kate Campbell . . . . . Heart-Cairn
  • Jim Carruth . . . . . Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
  • Margaret Christie . . . . . Yes, We Have Free Will
  • Richard Cook . . . . . Lamp
  • Jen Cooper . . . . . Frog
  • Frances Corr . . . . . The Toby
  • Gillian Craig . . . . . Not Proven
  • Irene Cunningham . . . . . Loch Ness Marriage
  • John Duffy . . . . . My Mother Was Told Off For Saying Onions
  • Rob Ewing . . . . . Drouth
  • Seonaid Francis . . . . . Family Life
  • Raymond Friel . . . . . Brighton, 1977
  • Graham Fulton . . . . . Roman Holiday
  • Margaret Fulton Cook . . . . . When Johnny Comes Marching Home
  • Tony Garner . . . . . More Fabulous Animals
  • Leona Garry . . . . . Bonnie Blue
  • Gordon Gibson . . . . . Whale
  • Cicely Gill . . . . . Stoning
  • Valerie Gillies . . . . . Peter Pan Shadow
  • Danni Glover . . . . . Poem For Tony
  • Alex Gray . . . . . Hidden Treasure
  • John Greeves . . . . . Snow Geese / Waiting For ...
  • Catherine Grosvenor . . . . . The Examination
  • George Gunn . . . . . The Rowan of Life
  • George Hardie . . . . . Reidbriest
  • Diana Hendry . . . . . Quitting
  • Edwige Ignota . . . . . Witness
  • Andy Jackson . . . . . Trace Elements
  • Brian Johnstone . . . . . Back at Bash Street / Making the Change
  • Vivien Jones . . . . . Goose in My Life / Small Print
  • Beth Junor . . . . . Warnings
  • Lis Lee . . . . . Alcoholics
  • Kirsty Logan . . . . . Francis Observes How Babies Are Made
  • Ellen McAteer . . . . . Mourning in Arduaine
  • Richie McCaffery . . . . . Second Hand Cars / Weekend Break
  • Andrew McCallum . . . . . Beltane Quean / Leafs an Beuchs
  • Ian McDonough . . . . . Golem
  • Alan MacGillivray . . . . . The Broch of Glass / A Good Day for Mr Pepys / Watershed
  • Lindsay Macgregor . . . . . Cudknot / Settlement: from Mesolithic to Neolithic
  • Cara McGuigan . . . . . The Model
  • Gordon McInnes . . . . . Fog Shadow, Newport Bridge
  • Joe McInnes . . . . . The Loast World
  • Lorn Macintyre . . . . . Rigor Mortis
  • Rob A. Mackenzie . . . . . The Packs
  • Liz McKibben . . . . . There’s Going to be a Murder
  • Peter Maclaren . . . . . Traveller
  • Sheila MacLeod . . . . . Sacrament
  • Mairghread McLundie . . . . . Preparation
  • Kona Macphee . . . . . To a Starcase Stone, Doune Castle
  • Rosa Macpherson . . . . . Bears
  • Sandra McQueen . . . . . These Ungodly Shiftings
  • David Manderson . . . . . Inkerman
  • Agata Maslowska . . . . . The Vanishing Dance
  • Lynsey May . . . . . The Gull
  • Anne Morrison . . . . . A Fascination
  • Duncan Stewart Muir . . . . . The Peat God
  • Donald S. Murray . . . . . Widows and Spinsters
  • Nalini Paul . . . . . August
  • Walter Perrie . . . . . The Hermit
  • Chris Powici . . . . . Merkadale Cemetery
  • Natalie Poyser . . . . . Graduation Day
  • Wayne Price . . . . . Allotment
  • Maggie Rabatski . . . . . The Blue Blazer / Rabhadh
  • Allan Radcliffe . . . . . Old Toys
  • Olive M. Ritch . . . . . This Land
  • Robert Ritchie . . . . . Rattray Head
  • Lydia Robb . . . . . The Egg Wife’s Man
  • Tracey S. Rosenberg . . . . . The Time Lord’s Job Advertisement / For Jo, Who Was Dubious
  • Kirsteen Scott . . . . . Cracks
  • Sue Reid Sexton . . . . . The Ghosts of All Saints
  • Karin Slater . . . . . Tràigh Mhòr
  • Kathrine Sowerby . . . . . The Nest
  • Kenneth Steven . . . . . Gob
  • Jim Stewart . . . . . Balgay Hill
  • Em Strang . . . . . Felt Sense
  • Judith Taylor . . . . . Where You Feel It
  • Jacqueline Thompson . . . . . What Walt Disney Did For Us / The King and Queen / Skin / The Showers of Perseus
  • Harriet Torr . . . . . Our Dad, the Cobbler
  • Kate Tough . . . . . Moving On
  • Beborah Trayhurn . . . . . No, I Won’t Walk in the Woods / Frail Vessel of a Woman
  • David Underdown . . . . . Are We Going the Tunnel Way? / Home Brew
  • Zöe Venditozzi . . . . . Topology
  • Fiona Ritchie Walker . . . . . Finding the Plot / Hood
  • Marshall Walker . . . . . A Bit More
  • George T. Watt . . . . . Brammle Heids
  • Ian Nimmo White . . . . . Accident
  • Nicola White . . . . . What He Would Do
  • Allan Wilson . . . . . Stepping Outside
  • Stephen Wilson . . . . . Flood
  • Jonathan Wonham . . . . . Renata Perry
  • Rachel Woolf . . . . . An Craidelt It / And Cradled It

Last updated 13 June 2011.