Isle of Skye

“Much can be made of a Scot if he be found young enough.” This sign hangs in a friend’s home. People who have come from a difficult situation like the Scots exhibit a sense of determination and a great bit of humour. The countryside of Scotland is beautiful to view, but unyielding ground upon which to live. The Western Isles lie like rocky crumbs along the coast of Scotland where the weather often is rainy and foggy. Most of Scotland is really not arable, but rather home to grazing flocks of sheep. The vast vacant fields are picturesque, but not agriculturally productive. Ship building, the only industry in Scotland that once flourished on the Clyde, has withered into a wraith-like image of its formerly robust self.

Now tourism is hugely important to Scotland. People come from around the world to play courses like The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, one of the over ninety courses. Tourists also come to Scotland to shop for specialty woolens. When my mother died, a heather-tone blanket lay across the foot of her bed. Marilyn and I had purchased that soft warm rug for her almost thirty years ago in a small shop in Hawick, Scotland. Visitors to Scotland also find the range of Scotch whiskeys a great draw. Singular single malts or blends, these whiskeys are often available only in wee places in the country.

A poor land with a dodgy employment record, Scotland has sent many of its brightest and most ambitious natives abroad. A reading of the history of the Hudson’s Bay Company will find the reader knee deep in kilts. The Scots exhibit a tenacity that is much admired. That determination is no more evident than in the way Scots living away from home stubbornly cling to their accents. I have a friend who left a small village near Glasgow almost thirty years ago, but listening to his country accent is still like a ride in a pick-up along a pot-hole-riddled track. He told me that when he first came to Canada, after working in the ship building industry on the Clyde, he honestly tried “to speak like you lot, but I almost broke my tongue”.

It is a shame that such a large number of Scots had to leave their homeland to find work, but no matter how long they’ve been gone, the tug of Scotland is still there. A friend from Glasgow delights in posing this question: “What’s the best thing to ever come out of England?” — The road to Scotland.