The Scottish National Anthem

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As a result of the conversation that the class had last Tuesday when I presented on Norman Cameron, I am going forward with my final paper looking into the ways that exoticism has an influence on his poetry. As I touched on briefly in class, Cameron spent significant time over the course of his life in different countries and therefore has much experience with other cultures. These cultures had an intense effect on him. I am looking at the ways in which exoticism and his native Scottish nationalism dual in his work.

As this has become my key focus, I thought it would be valuable as a background to look up the Scottish national anthem. I was hoping that through studying the lyrics of the anthem I would become more familiar with some of the cultural symbols and key important factors of Scottish nationalism that I could then look for in Cameron’s poetry. My idea was that if I found some of these symbols, etc. in his poetry I would be able to develop a deeper understanding of Cameron’s relationship with Scotland and his Scottish identity. However, this lead was temporarily stifled when I turned to Google and found that there is no official national anthem of Scotland.

Upon further research, I found that the reason for Scotland’s lack of an official national anthem is that for a long time, the Scottish Parliament felt as though the selection of such an important national symbol should be left to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and for Scotland to choose one on their own was a direct undermining of Scotland’s loyalty to the United Kingdom. In 2004, the Scottish Parliament did more thinking surrounding this issue of national rights and created a petition stating that the selection of an official national anthem should be left to Scotland. While the petition got the government and the country as a whole thinking more about the selection of an official national anthem, ultimately no action was taken.

However, the lack of and OFFICIAL anthem does not mean that there are not unofficial anthems that are used for the same function. Some of the national favorites include:
1) “Scotland the Brave” was used in the place of a national anthem at Scottish sporting events until the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

2) “Flower of Scotland” was used as the victory song of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Since these games, “Flower of Scotland” has been used as the national anthem at sporting events, most importantly at the matches of the Scottish rugby union team and the Scottish national football team.

3) “Scots Wha Hae” is another patriotic song of Scotland. Robert Burns wrote the lyrics to this anthem in 1793 (before the creation of “Scotland the Brave” and “Flower of Scotland”) and was written to the tune of a traditional Scottish song, “Hey Tuttie Tatie.”

In 2006, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra created a poll in which citizens from all over Scotland could vote for what they believed should become the official national anthem of Scotland. The results are below (thanks, Wikipedia).

ANTHEM VOTE (%)
“Flower of Scotland” 41%
“Scotland the Brave” 29%
“Highland Cathedral” 16%
“A Man’s A Man for A’ That” 7%
“Scots Wha Hae” 6%

Currently, there is still no official national anthem of Scotland. In most accounts that I have read, there are almost always members of parliament pushing for further discussion, but these groups are never able to recruit and convince the majority of the Scottish parliament that this is an important enough issue to move forward with. For the record, other Celtic countries (such as Wales and Ireland) do have their own official national anthem. Wales’ national anthem is called “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” (translates to “Land of My Fathers”) and Ireland’s is “Amhran na bhFiann” (translates to “A Soldier’s Song”).

Kilmainham Gaol

During my Spring Break trip to Dublin, one of the coolest (and perhaps most touristy) places I visited was Kilmainham Gaol. Part of what made this site so interesting to me was the relevance that it had to our class. This jail is located in Dublin and is the place where most of the leaders of the Irish rebellions, including the rebellion that took place on Easter 1916, were imprisoned and executed. The gaol was used to hold all kinds of prisoners, including women and children, the youngest prisoner documented being a five-year-old boy.
Kilmainham Gaol prison cells from the outside

The Gaol was built in 1796 and originally referred to as the “New Gaol,” as it was built as a replacement for an older gaol. It operated as a gaol until 1924 when it was closed and eventually turned into the museum that it is today. During the many famines that took place in Ireland during the years that the gaol was functioning, many people would commit petty crimes with the intention of being put into the gaol, because they knew that in there they would at least be given three basic meals. This lead to the gaol becoming significantly overpopulated, and because of this, constant renovations and additions were required to be able to hold all of the prisoners.

The largest area of the gaol is known as the Victorian Wing or the East Wing. It is in this area of the gaol that the majority of the leaders of the Easter 1916 rebellion were held, including Countess Markievicz, Willie Pearse, and more.
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Below is a picture of the guards’ staircase in the East Wing of Kilmainham. Their staircase is wide and straight, making it easy for them to get to all floors and cells of the wing. On the opposite side of the room was a small, steep, spiral staircase that was used by the prisoners. It was designed this way to make it difficult for the prisoners to manuver quickly, making it difficult for them to run away.
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The East Wing of Kilmainham Gaol is now used as a highlight of the tour, as well as for concerts, galas, fashion shows, and the set of multiple motion pictures, such as The Shawshank Redemption, The Italian Job, Michael Collins, and The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones.
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Grace Gifford, the wife of Joseph Plunkett, was also held in this area of the gaol. She was imprisoned after her husband. The night before Plunkett’s execution, Gifford (who was his fiancée at the time) was brought into the gaol so that they could get married before he died. There was a small ceremony with no friends or family present held inside the gaol. After the wedding, Plunkett returned to his cell to be executed in the morning and Gifford returned home.
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The executions of the leaders of the Easter 1916 Rebellion started that May. The first three to be executed in Kilmainham were Patrick Pearse, Thomas Clarke, and Thomas McDonagh. James Connolly was the last to be shot. He spent the night before his execution in The Royal Hospital Kilmainham because of his wounds, but on the day of the execution he was tied to a chair. All of these leaders and more were shot in a corner of The Stonebreakers’ Yard behind the gaol.
Stonebreakers-yard
This area was used for the prisoners’ “work,” in which they broke big stones into smaller stones. It was supposed to be hard, unproductive, and keep the prisoners busy while they thought about their crimes. Originally, all executions were carried out in the form of hangings from right above the front door of the gaol. This was extremely public.
Kilmainham-Gaol

Charles Stewart Parnell, an Irish landlord and a key leader of the national political party, was put into Kilmainham because his paper, United Ireland, directly attacked the Land Act. While this in and of itself was not a crime, English rulers in Ireland feared that Parnell would start trouble, so he was put into a suite in Kilmainham. From this suite he was allowed to conduct business with the outside-world, have visitors, and was even once allowed to leave for a family funeral as long as he promised to return afterwards. For the most part, Parnell was only put into Kilmainham to keep him out of trouble. During his time in Kilmainham, Parnell helped to form an agreement, The Kilmainham Treaty, with the government of England. Below is a picture of Parnell in his comfortable room in Kilmainham, into which he was allowed to bring his own furniture.
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During the gaol’s period of function, there were multiple escapes. Escapes were more common earlier on in its’ existence, as at this time guards were paid very poorly and therefore were easily bribed by prisoners. According to my tour guide, in a few cases escapes were successful when a prisoner merely walked out of the front gates at the right time.

Just for fun, here is a picture of my friend that I traveled with and me in the doorway of a typical cell at Kilmainham Gaol.
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The Abbey Theatre

This Spring break, I will be traveling to Dublin with a friend of mine for the week. We have spent the past several weeks planning an itinerary, and trying to find ways to fit as much as possible into one week in this city. While studying online tourist websites, and searching every variation of “Top Tourist Sites in Dublin,” we came across The Abbey Theatre, a historic theatre founded in 1904 by W.B. Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory.

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Lady Augusta Gregory, born Isabella Augusta Persse was born in County Calway in 1852. She had much experience with theatre, as she has written numerous plays, and published books of Irish folklore, as well as founding The Abbey Theatre with Yeats. In terms of her political associations, Lady Gregory was born into a family who was very loyal to the British rule in Ireland. However, later in life she shifted towards nationalism, as many of her generation did.

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On the theatre’s website (www.abbeytheatre.ie), they list the following as the mission of the company, Abbey Theatre Amharclann Na Mainistreach, which runs the theatre:

1) To invest in and promote new Irish writers and artists.
2) To produce an annual programme of diverse, engaging, innovative Irish and international theatre.
3) To attract and engage a broad range of customers and provide compelling experiences that inspire them to return.
4) To create a dynamic working environment which delivers world best practice across our business.

The theatre has had multiple sites. The original theatre was built on Old Abbey Street in Dublin. When the original building caught on fire in 1951, it was moved to the site of the Queen’s Theatre, but has since been moved back to its original location.

The play that we will be seeing is called Sive, by John B. Keane. Keane was an Irish playwright from County Kerry, born in 1928. He was a member of The Royal Dublin Society, whose mission is to “promote and develop agriculture, arts, industry, and science in Ireland. Sive is referred to as “one of the greatest Irish plays of the 20th century.”

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Sive cover

The description provided by The Abbey Theatre’s website is as follows:

“Beautiful young Sive lives with her aunt and uncle in rural Kerry. Seán Dóta, an elderly farmer, offers the local match-maker Thomasheen Seán Rua, a large sum for her hand in marriage. Will this be too much for her aunt and uncle to resist?”

The play’s protagonist is an 18 year-old girl, Sive, who was born illegitimately and lives with her uncle, aunt, and Nanna. It is a story of her family’s desire to have her wed, and is plagued by the ongoing debate about who is the appropriate man for her to marry. Her aunt and uncle encourage her to marry Sean Dota, a rich man but he is significantly older than Sive. She is in love with Liam Scuab, however, he is related to Sive’s father whom abandoned her mother when he heard she was pregnant. Therefore, Sive’s uncle has dubbed Liam unworthy of marrying Sive. Because it is the will of her family, Sive is forced to marry Sean Dota. Liam attempts to rescue her but fails, and when Sive goes missing the night before her wedding, Liam goes to look for her and finds her dead, as she has drowned herself. Liam mourns her death and Sean does not. It is in this moment, though much too late, that Sive’s family understands that she should have married Liam, as he is the one who truly loves her.

Here is an extract of a production of Sive performed by the Bardic Theatre Group at the Ardhowen Theatre. This scene features Sive’s aunt, uncle, and Nanna:

Visiting this theatre will complement the course nicely because of the relation to Yeats, one of the first poets we studied in detail this semester, and because it is such an integral part of the history and culture of Ireland. I will be sure to take many pictures when I visit, and hopefully I will be able to make an “Abbey Theatre Part 2” blog post when I return!