This post is by Nancy Jardine.
Life comes with all sorts of highs and lows. Sometimes it’s powerful words that affect you but at other times an image alone can punch you in the gut and bring forth profound emotion.
I had a change to my usual weekly timetable of grandchild minding this past week to accommodate a 400 mile round trip. Sadly, this wasn’t to a wedding like I recently blogged about here on the Wranglers blog but instead it was to go to a family funeral. Living at a distance from both my own and my husband’s siblings and cousins means a bit of travel at such times.
Bill, the man who died, was a genuinely lovely person who touched everyone he met with his kindness and his quiet personality. When he spoke to you, you were the centre of his full attention and always the beneficiary of his positive, cheery focus. Bill was my husband’s female cousin’s husband so it tended, over the decades to be mostly at family gatherings that our paths crossed. Bill was a dedicated Christian and a lifelong elder of his local church but that wasn’t the only faith of his that I’d like to mention today.
He was also a dedicated and committed Scottish nationalist for decades. Being a member of the Scottish National Party (SNP) back in the 1960s and 1970s was quite unusual in Scotland and it took courage and determination to break free of the stranglehold of the ruling political parties—the Labour, Liberal and Conservative parties of the day. Bill was really proud of being Scottish and immensely proud of his country: Scotland becoming an independent country being a lifelong goal of his.
In September 2014, Scotland went to the election booths to decide in a political referendum if we wanted the country to become independent, or if we wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom. Only days before that election Bill and his wife came to me for a brief visit since Bill had business to attend to in the Aberdeen area (not far from where I live). Most of our conversation was a catch up of family matters: the recent wedding of my niece which we’d all attended and the forthcoming wedding of my nephew to which we were all invited. However, while my husband caught up with more family matters with his cousin, I chatted to Bill about our common goal of Scottish independence. It was a memorable conversation because he hadn’t realised that I had also been voting for the SNP party since the mid 1970s.
Sadly, the results of that referendum of September 2014 were a little short of what it will take for Scotland to break free and become independent from the rest of the United Kingdom. Bill was gutted with that 2014 referendum result, as were all of the 44.65% of people like me around Scotland who voted in that referendum FOR an independent country—the turnout to the voting stations unprecedented at 84.6% of eligible voters. A huge surge had been made towards independence but not quite enough.
When I attended Bill’s funeral two days ago, I entered his small local Church of Scotland. Bill’s coffin was placed in the very narrow entrance hall bedecked with beautiful flowers, an instant reminder of why I was there. The service was perfect, the local minister’s knowledge and memories of Bill being intensely personal. I didn’t cry during the service, although I was very moved by the minister’s eulogy.
When we exited the church to progress to the nearest Crematorium for a further service of committal the hearse was parked at the foot of the short flight of entrance steps.
The coffin sat in the vehicle draped with a Saltire flag.
That was when I broke down.
Bill didn’t quite make it to see his lifelong goal of Scottish independence happen but, I vow that when it does, I will toast Bill and people like him who kept the faith for decades. The groundswell of support for Scottish independence has risen since September 2014 and continues to rise.
In my current writing, I’m covering a time of intense upheaval in northern Britannia, the land area that eventually became what we now name Scotland. The desire to remain free of the Ancient Roman Empire when the late iron age tribes were invaded by thousands of Roman soldiers back in AD 84 is a documented fact. Their faith to remain free of Ancient Roman influences was strong, their determination to retain their own customs and religious practices ongoing for a few hundred years and evident in recurrent skirmishes with the legions of ancient Rome which were mentioned in Ancient Roman military historical documents and by Roman writers like Cornelius Tacitus.
I’ve never read references to any sort of image that might have meant ‘freedom’ to my late iron age tribal characters (Celts) but it’s something I’m currently pondering over. Authorial licence might just allow me to invent some visible image like the Saltire flag of the Scottish independence movement.
I wonder if you could suggest a ‘freedom’ image when the era of AD 84 is more than a thousand years before the Hollywood ‘Braveheart’ period.
Has any particular flag or iconic image had the same sort of visceral impact on you?
Have a lovely weekend, whatever you may be doing.
(p.s. I’m hoping that my next post in a couple of weeks will be written in California, U.S. since I’ve a wedding to attend over there. Look forward to some travel info from Nevada, Utah and Pasadena.)
Nancy Jardine finds all historical eras totally fascinating: research a delightful procrastination! Her week is taken up with grandchild-minding, gardening, reading, writing and blogging. Catching up with historical programmes or TV series and watching the news is a luxury – as are social events with friends and family but she does a creative job to squeeze them in.
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