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Wings Over Scotland

As we that are left grow old

Posted on November 11, 2012 by

We don’t know if there’s ever been an official competition for “Most British Place In Scotland”, but if there was it’s a pretty safe bet that Ibrox Stadium would win it at a canter. So we don’t suppose we ought to be surprised that this is what happened there just before the kick-off of yesterday’s SFL3 match against Peterhead:

The display was only one part of a touching and solemn commemoration of the fallen of two world wars which also included the firing of an artillery gun on the pitch (“Hey, survivors of enemy barrages, here’s a fun trip down memory lane for you!”), Broxi Bear standing with his big comedy foam head bowed in the centre circle for the minute’s silence and – we promise we’re not making any of this up – a bunch of Royal Marines abseiling down from the Govan Stand roof with the match ball.

Now, we’re sure this whole grotesque circus was conducted with the best of intentions. But anyone juxtaposing the poppy with a national flag – with any national flag – has misunderstood what it is that the poppy is supposed to stand for in the most complete and catastrophic way imaginable. This was the poppy as symbol not of remembrance and sacrifice and tragedy, but of victory.

(A point driven home with unintended irony when one witless Rangers fan cited the proceedings as the Ibrox support “proving they are the best fans in the world”, bringing that much-needed element of competition into the act of showing respect to the dead.)

The poppy was adopted as a symbol of what was meant to be “the war to end all wars”. It was meant to signify the untold horrors of the conflict – of all military conflict – and ensure that such a terrible conflagration never happened again. That great ideal was shattered within just two decades, with all the “lessons” forgotten and a far worse war arising, in large part out of the victor’s justice of Versailles. And ever since, the poppy has slowly morphed into the exact opposite of what it was designed to be.

The poppy was intended to render soldiers redundant forever, by deterring kings and governments from ever again being so foolish as to indulge in wars. No more should poor unwitting conscripts be sent off to be slaughtered on foreign fields, vowed the survivors and horrified spectators of the carnage of Ypres and Passchendaele and Verdun. We would not forget their pointless, needless, senseless deaths, and in remembering would never again let our leaders send our children to die in our name.

Nowadays, though, the flower of Flanders is more often deployed – as illustrated with such dignity at Ibrox yesterday – as a jingoistic, borderline-belligerent celebration of the armed forces, an excuse to laud Our Brave Boys, professionals who sign up of their own free will to do a job for money and are sent off by governments to interfere in the affairs of sovereign nations where the United Kingdom has no legitimate business.

(Wings Over Scotland doesn’t dispute the bravery of the UK’s soldiers and sailors and airmen for a second. We know some veterans personally. But Britain faces no military threat to its borders, and anyone signing up in the last 20 years has known that they may and probably will be sent into the maw of death for the glory and self-interest of politicians, not to save their homeland and families from foreign bombs and invaders.)

The poppy is not a symbol of triumph. It’s in fact the polar opposite – a reminder and a warning of humanity’s most disastrous and costly collective failings. To wear a poppy and sing “Rule Britannia” at the same time is like marking Holocaust Memorial Day by going on a BNP march. If this is what it means to be “British”, we want no part of it. And soon, we’ll choose a different, less war-mongering flag to grow old under.

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118 to “As we that are left grow old”

  1. steven Luby says:

    I find it striking the contrast between 30 years ago to this day,in so far as support for Scottish Independence are no longer the kilt,porridge and flag waving and sad bearded fools they were once portrayed as being.
    Now we find ourselves facing a referendum and the very people who would have accused others of the above have become the sad flag waving fools. Media and schooling have more to answer for than they dare recognise.

    But this from a football club is simply sick,but when considering the ‘fans’ songs and chants,i’m afraid it says more for the imbreeding of beliefs from which the 2nd World War was to rise from. I’m stunned the club supported such a cheap stunt,because thats all this is,a stunt. One day this country will reflect and correct a number of it’s errors but this kind of show belongs nowhere in any country that remembers the loss of millions from a select few politicians. 

  2. muttley79 says:

    Was the poppy meant as a symbol to remember all the victims of the First World War, or was it meant to commemorate only British casualties?

  3. DougtheDug says:

    It’s now come to the point where the poppy is seen as a statement of British pride or British nationalism rather than as a symbol of remembrance for the slaughter of world war one and all subsequent wars.

    This was a post on the facebook page, “Glasgow Rangers Fans Against the SNP and Alex Salmond”, on the fifth of November:

    For all of you who remember the stunning Poppy display for remembrance day a few years back, I am planning to have another one on the 10th November that’s next Saturday, it should prove to be another beauty. The plan is to have one giant poppy and 4 smaller ones in the Govan Front and Rear…a massive Union Flag in the Copland and another giant Union Flag in the Broomloan this is in honour of the Men and Women who were killed serving our Country to make the World a better place to live in, LEST WE FORGET.

    You can’t really blame the Rangers Fans because all of the media from the BBC to the Sun have made wearing the poppy a demonstration of British loyalty and love of the armed forces.

    I’ll wear a poppy because the last two generations of my family saw active service in WWI and WWII and for all the names on the local war memorials but the meaning of the poppy has become corrupted and lost in a sea of jingoism.

  4. Holebender says:

    Out of curiosity, Rev, what do you think of the poppy superimposed on a Saltire which the First Minister has been wearing lately?

  5. crann tara says:

    Can anyone tell me how other nations remember their fallen? Do the other nations keep rememberance Sunday in the same manner?I did try to get an answer to this on the uberbrit call Kaye programme but I think I wasn,t unionist enough to warrant a callback.

  6. smallwhitebear says:

    I no longer find myself lost in public grief over dead sons and daughters, whilst watching the Remembrance Sunday commemorations. 
    I now only see jingoism and political capital being made over the deaths of young people, who only join the forces to make a better life for themselves or their family, as they often have few other options available.
    They are the “victims” of political forces and we are all supposed to join in on this royalty/church/armed forces/media grief-fest, where the upper echelons of this society combine, with their hand-made suits and fine leather shoes, to “respect the dead”.
    When the reality is, that they, whilst sitting safe in offices and lovely homes, sent the victims to their deaths in the first place and continue to do so.

    We never really learn from history. It merely goes on repeating ad infinitum…

  7. Doug Daniel says:

    I wonder how long it’ll be before you get people demanding you remove this article, completely missing the point you’re making?

  8. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Happily I don’t think that great internationalist Dunc Hothersall reads this blog any more. And sm753 hasn’t posted since someone uncovered his fondness for “adult reading material”.

  9. zedeeyen says:

    Spot on, Rev. Just listen to the language being used, not just by politicians who we’d expect to be venal, manipulative wankers, but by pretty much the entire media industry too. Remembrence all too often isn’t about remembering those who died at all, it’s about remembering “the sacrifice they made for their country”, with the inescapable implication that such a sacrifice is inherently noble and something that us civvies should jolly well be grateful for.

    Well, sorry, but I can think of few things more grotesque than young people, often barely out of childhood, dying (or killing) for their country. I can respect those who died, but I cannot and will not respect the process and system that caused their deaths.

  10. James T says:

    I noticed this week an advert on TV (around about 6pm). I wasn’t really paying attention as I was clearing our kitchen table, but the TV played the advert which showed various paper cut-outs of disabled servicemen doing active things. Eventually, the paper cut-out morphed into a poppy. Then came the voice-over ‘Supporting our troops’.

    It was that…that stopped me stone dead in my tracks, and a ‘whoa!’ from me.

    I have no problems with supporting disabled servicemen, and women, but when did the poppy become a symbol for ‘supporting our troops’. It was meant to remember the fallen. There is the sly overtone now that the poppy is a symbol of supporting the army of today, and of the injured soldiers; not of the fallen, and remembering them.
    I have no problems with money being raised to help those who have had their lives shattered by war, but to now imply that the poppy is up there as an equal symbol of today’s army is wrong.

    I drove to work yesterday, and it left me wondering in the wake of the scandal of Lord McAlpine being falsely accused.
    What has happened to Britain in these last 30 to 40 years. Seriously! Banks can do whatever they want, the economy (thanks to the Banks) is up to its neck in a trillion pound debt (and still rising), the Army dragged into an illegal war, and fighting another that cannot be won (how much money is being spent a day in Afghanistan?), a Prime Minister who should have been locked up for war crimes, lying constantly and abuse of power walks around freely, the BBC so deep in scandals that it beggars belief, and no one who was in a position of power in the BBC has so far, been charged with ‘witholding evidence of sexual abuse of and so many natures’, another Labour politican (did you expect anything less) once again mired in an expenses scandal (how many others, I wonder, are at it), and on and on and on it goes….

    I am pig sick of this ‘glorious’ and ‘wonderful’ United Kingdom we live in.
    Everything …everything that I have mentioned above…comes from, or is controlled by Westminster. That vile brown palace on the Thames.

    Seriously…where did this all go wrong. Was it Thatcher?…Was it the media…or are we to blame for being so easily duped and not protesting enough? 

    I really pray that we get independnce in 2014….or else…I’m off to Australia, New Zealand or Canada… I can’t handle another 40 to 50 years of this shite…   

  11. Albamac says:

    Comments reminded me of a poem I wrote some years ago.

    What hellish vision is it
    that conjures noble fate
    from a trail of blood and sorrow
    that leads to heaven’s gate? 

  12. James T says:

    ‘I noticed this week an advert on TV (around about 6pm). I wasn’t really paying attention as I was clearing our kitchen table, but the TV played the advert which showed various paper cut-outs of disabled servicemen doing active things. Eventually, the paper cut-out morphed into a poppy. Then came the voice-over ‘Supporting our troops’.’

    Oh aye… forgot to mention…the advert on TV was from the newspaper ‘The Sun’.

    Who else….  

  13. KOF says:

    This isn’t remembrance, this is imperial political posturing.

    A confusing thing, for me, about this is why the Royal Marines? Why not the local troops? Oh, yeah, that’ll be 6SCOTS,  6th battalion (52nd Lowland) Royal Regiment of Scotland. Can’t be having anything Scottish at Ibrox can we?

    Since we’re on Armistice day stuff, I’ll have a wee rant about the eleventh hour of the eleventh month in Galashiels. Apparently 11am is not good enough for Gala, they remember at mid-day. Thankfully three veterans stepped forward at 11am and took the two minutes silence. I laid my offering after they were finished. No serving personnel from the Army was there at 11am, despite the recruiting office and TA depot being only yards from the memorial. I’m sure they’ll all be there for mid-day, but mid-day is not what we are there to remember. It is the eleventh hour of the eleventh month that we remember and all that it signifies.
    It makes I fucking mad sometimes!

  14. AndrewfraeGovan says:

    @James T
    I have never worn a poppy, for the various reasons stated by posters above. However, to be fair, the cash raised is used for the welfare of former and serving members of the armed forces. I think maybe this is what the advert was trying to say.

  15. Seasick Dave says:

    Was there not some ironic/bonkers moment this week, which I glimpsed in the passing, about some soldiers doing a sponsored run from Downing Street to raise funds for the war wounded and Cameron was there to wish them luck?


  16. douglas clark says:

    Arb and others,
    What was said here:
    What hellish vision is it
    that conjures noble fate
    from a trail of blood and sorrow
    that leads to heaven’s gate?

    I think we need to take today as a rejection of that,
    We are better than that.

  17. Ron Maclean says:

    Don’t suppose they sang The Green Fields of France.

  18. Morag says:

    Strange Armistice weekend.  Kicked off with two Austrian house guests arriving on Friday evening – I had been “volunteered” to put up the two musicians who were giving a (very highbrow) concert in the village hall on Saturday.  At breakfast on Saturday one of them asked me what the red flowers were that everyone (including me) was wearing….

    Fantastic concert on Saturday night, so a good excuse not to have any contact with the Festival of Jingoism no doubt being transmitted live on all channels.

    Sunday morning I left the musicians finishing their packing and went to church.  The place was packed, but fortunately everyone got a seat by making the tinies squash up.  As we filed in the organist was playing “Land of Hope and Glory” and singing it loudly as she played.  I shuddered.  I spent years in the choir at the Last Night of the Proms ostentatiously not singing that.  I noticed our SNP councillor in a front pew, properly done up with poppy and ready to lay a wreath.  I was glad we were both there, because I think it’s important for people to see that known nationalists are part of the community and participate as part of the community in this sort of event.  I was brought up to participate in this service to honour those who gave their lives in the wars of the 20th century, including one of my cousins, and the son of our Senior Elder in the church, and I’m not backing off just because some people are turning it into a jingoism-fest.

    The minister gave a welcome which was rather heavy on solidarity with the similar memorials going on across the country with particular mention of the Cenotaph in Whitehall and the Queen leading the ceremony.

    During the two minutes silence, the names of all the fallen from the village were read out from the roll of honour.  (I don’t know how common this is – we never did that in my home village as a child.)

    The sermon was about the poppy, and the different forms, and the minister had brought an English poppy along as well as the Scottish ones to show us.  No special point made about this, though.  (I later noticed a friend wearing an English poppy and said, “who’s been to England then?” – of course I knew she’d just returned from visiting her new grandson in England – and she said, “I wondered if they were going to let me in wearing this!”  I then remembered my years of living in England, and trying to get a Scottish poppy every year just to be different.)

    The service went along as usual, but at the end, after the three-fold Amen, the organ struck up again.  “God save our gracious Queen….”  I couldn’t do it.  I can’t sing that.  So I stood in silence.  This may sound unremarkable, but I’m a singer.  I have a decent soprano voice, and inevitably I would have been heard clearly in that corner of the church throughout all the hymns, and the Amen we’d just finished singing.

    Then we all filed out (following the Butcher’s Apron carried by someone in the British Legion, but at least the Scouts’ flag is the saltire) to lay the wreaths on the War Memorial outside.  That was done in silence, then a single piper began to play.  “The Flowers of the Forest.”  I know that’s a common tune for military funerals and memorials, but it took me right back to Flodden, so many many years ago, and all the wars and all the fallen before 1914 that we don’t seem to include in the 11th November ceremony.

    Now I’ve come home and downloaded the music for “The Flowers of the Forest” and started to practise it on my flute.  Before today is out, I will be able to play it.

    I could feel all sorts of tensions going on in that one little village church this morning.  My name may be mud in several quarters for my stunt during God save the Queen, but frankly there are limits and that’s one of them.

    This could get interesting over the next two years.

  19. James T says:


    I’m not arguing about the welfare and the absolute care of our injured soldiers; I’m all for helping them. I would give them everything! They have given the ultimate sacrifice in our name.

    What I do have an issue with is the way it was done…and said by the advert. 

    Voice-over of ‘Supporting the troops’ with a poppy as the background image.

    Why wasn’t it ‘Supporting the troops’ with an image of the Union Jack?
    Why wasn’t it ‘Supporting the troops’ with an image of the Soldiers themselves?

    The Poppy is an ‘International‘ symbol for all war dead, from all nations. 

    Believe me mate. The poppy is being hi-jacked, and it is being done in a sly way. If I was to go on to the Scotsman, or the Guardian, or the Daily Mail websites and mention all of the above, I would be eaten alive, and sworn at. I would be called Traitor, and Scum.

    Believe me, I have massive respect for our army. For the service personnel in the Army, I can’t even to begin to imagine the sacrifice that they give, and what they have to go through, and it is all done to keep us safe at home.
    If it was me, I would bloody well make sure that they got the best of everything while in the Army, and afterwards once they leave or retire, I would make sure they got one helluva pension. And for the badly injured, I would tell them that they have nothing to worry about. We WILL take care of them by giving them the best, and I mean, the best medical care that they need, and make sure that they have a life again afterwards.

    So, No,  I think these boys get a raw deal, and when I see that advert, it got my back up. I think the Poppy is being hi-jacked, and it is being turned into a British icon for our military, when it is for all war dead, from all nations across the world.

  20. douglas clark says:

    And as Ron MacLean rightly says.

    “Don’t suppose they sang The Green Fields of France.”

    I don’t suppose they played this, either:

    It is a legitimate complaint about Westminster and it’s denizens.

    It is about them treating all of us as cannon fodder.

    It is about them treating the First World War as an excuse for sacrifice and their death cult.

    Frankly, they are despicable….

  21. AndrewfraeGovan says:

    @James T
    I agree with virtually everything you say, however I’ve always understood that Remembrance Day and the poppy were to remember the fallen on the British/Commonwealth side only. “Remembrance Day and the Two Minute Silence have been observed since the end of the First World War, but their relevance remains undiminished. When we bow our heads in reflection, we remember those who fought for our freedom during the two World Wars. But we also mourn and honour those who have lost their lives in more recent conflicts. Today, with troops on duty in Afghanistan and other trouble spots around the world, Remembrance, and this two minute tribute, are as important as ever.” (Royal British Legion). This is basically why I don’t wear one,

  22. James T says:


    No probs mate. I believe we are singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to the poppy. My own view is, whenever I see the Poppy, it is really the 1st World War that I think about. When I wear it, that is what I am really paying homage too; the absolute horror that ALL the soldiers, from ALL sides that fought in that war. It was almost the death of innocence in warfare, as that was the first war to be done on an industrial militray scale that no one had ever seen! ie everyone was involved, and everybody lost somebody.
    I know the poppy these days is used to commemerate all conflicts, but it is WW1 that the iconic image of the poppy reflects to me.
    I think the only difference I can see is just the way it was advertised this week. You’re seeing it as an advert for helping the injured, while I believe the line ‘Supporting the troops’ and being mixed with the poppy image was being used in a sly double meaning (as in ‘Isn’t Britain terrific’).

    Overall, our wee debate will become meaningless by the end of this day. The poppy will once more disappear from our forethought, and won’t be seen again until next November.  

  23. Morag says:

    My avatar on a forum I hang out on is wearing a smart Scottish poppy, and will continue to do so till bed-time.  (I put the avatar up and start wearing a poppy on All Souls Day, in line with many European countries using that day as Remembrance Day.)  The template to add the poppy to the avatar was available on the PoppyScotland web site a few years ago and I made that version then.  To some extent it’s British posters showing off on a US forum.
    I think I’m doing it to show that I’ll be damned if I’ll let the jingoist warmongers hijack the poppy.  I may be a decade or two too late though.

  24. Dual_Intention says:

    I agree with the general sweep of this message. 

    The symbolism of the poppy has broadly been forgotten by the authorities and pressganged into performing another function. However I still wear it as a symbol of my respect for the dead and the high ideal of its symbolism against the horror of war.


    But your subtext/foretext has got nothing to do with the poppy or the war dead. It’s a carefully crafted polemic against The Rangers; and the poppy has provided another stick for you to beat Rangers fans over the head with. 

    It’s troll stuff which should be beneath you yet somehow isn’t.


    From my understanding you don’t have a great deal of grounding to play the self righteous sanctimony card on this subject anyway.

    So, as well meaning as the piece attempts to be, it’s just as tacky, tasteless and hypocritical as the institution it means to villify. It’s the blogosphere equivalent of what took place at Ibrox yesterday.

    I note that you haven’t replied to the chap who asked what you thought of Alex Salmond’s poppy on the saltire.

    Would it be too bold to enquire why?

    Hijacked symbols can always be won back, it only takes a matter of will and public consciousness.     



  25. Morag says:

    (News flash.  Flowers of the Forest, in A flat, is easier on the descant (or tenor) recorder than on the flute.  Something about the recorder fingering above the stave.  One way or another, job done.)

  26. Dal Riata says:

    I wish to state from the off that I stand in immense awe of those who died, and continue to die, fighting while wearing the uniforms of the British Armed Forces in conflicts either ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’. Those left with permanent injuries and living off the barest of pensions also deserve, and get, my fullest respect. I would never decry the sacrifices of those men (and women).

    The poppy as a remembrance symbol of the war dead is, unfortunately, now no more than a symbol, pushed to the max by the Establishment MSM, of the ‘glory’ of dying for queen and country while fighting the ‘vile foreign scum’ …. It is used as a show of the power of the Establishment and the upper classes, safe in their country mansions while sending young men off to die for a cause they barely understood, then and now.

    For what those sacrifices meant to Scotland you only have to travel to the many towns and villages, big and small, throughout the country to see the monuments with the names of all those local young men who died for ‘the cause’ (26.4% of all Scots enlisted in WW1 lost their lives!). Some Highland communities were left devastated after the deaths of so many of their young men and never really recovered. Then, of course, after WW2 even more names were added to those monuments … 

    For the Better Together lot, there is no stronger form of propaganda for their cause than poppy-wearing and Union Jack waving and it is, and has been trumpeted on the BBC and the print media non-stop while ‘building up’ for today, Remembrance Sunday.

    In an independent Scotland there will still be poppies worn and a Remembrance Day. But it will be done in remembrance of the sacrifices of Scottish military personnel specifically, while fighting together with other countries’ armies in a common cause – as is done in other countries in other parts of the world.

    By the way, who is the “I” in the facebook page, “Glasgow Rangers Fans Against the SNP and Alex Salmond” entry, ie “I am planning to have another one on the 10th November that’s next Saturday.”? Would that be I’ll-do-anything-to ingratiate-myself-with-the-fans-no-matter-how-pathetic-and-embarrassing-it-is Mr.Charles Green? When “I” states of plans for inside Ibrox Park that “I” can only be Charles Green …Correct?

  27. Morag says:

    (Correction.  It’s in E flat.  A flat was the other piece I was learning at the same time.)

  28. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    I feel bad now for not knowing that Scottish poppies are different to English ones in some way.

  29. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “By the way, who is the “I” in the facebook page”

    Some bloke called something Hannah.

  30. Morag says:

    RevStu said:
    I feel bad now for not knowing that Scottish poppies are different to English ones in some way.
    They didn’t used to be, but some time while I was living in England, Scotland suddenly sprouted poppies of a different design to the one I’d been used to all my life.  You can see the difference on TV when they interview politicians – the Scottish politicos are usually careful to wear a Scottish one.  (Funnily enough, our minister called the English poppy the “London poppy” this morning, though it’s used all over England.  Dunno what they do in Wales or New Zealand or other places mostly populated by sheep.)
    Better pics at
    The Royal British Legion (English poppy)

  31. AndrewfraeGovan says:

    This lovely old tune was first set down in c.1615-25 in the John Skene of Halyards Manuscript, This ms was written for the mandore, a kind of small lute.  It’s usually done in D (i.e. starting on the note A) which I think you would find much easier to play. 🙂

  32. Morag says:

    Dual Intention said:
    I note that you haven’t replied to the chap who asked what you thought of Alex Salmond’s poppy on the saltire.
    Having just had a poke around PoppyScotland’s web site, including store, it seems it’s not “Alex Salmond’s poppy on the saltire”, but “PoppyScotland’s poppy on the saltire”.  There are a number of examples of exactly that image on show, including enamelled badges in the store, and a picture of a guy wearing a t-shirt with the image.

    I haven’t actually seen what Salmond has been wearing, but it sounds as if it’s this.

    It appears that Mr. Salmond is supporting PoppyScotland by wearing something bought from the organisation’s web site.  So what are we supposed to think about that?

  33. Morag says:

    AndrewfraeGovan said:
    This lovely old tune was first set down in c.1615-25 in the John Skene of Halyards Manuscript, This ms was written for the mandore, a kind of small lute.  It’s usually done in D (i.e. starting on the note A) which I think you would find much easier to play.
    Thanks.  I’m interested in Scottish Renaissance music, so that’s very good information.  I don’t know about the mandore; it’s not something that shows up at the Early Music Forum of Scotland workshops (although someone came to the Gabrieli workshop in May this year with something very similar).
    I just downloaded this, which is ostensibly arranged for flute, but some of the fingering is a little awkward.
    I noticed a wide variety of keys available on other sites, and I don’t know why this lot chose E flat.  (A bit confused now because D is only a semitone below E flat, but this begins on an F.)
    (Morag pauses and tries tune a semitone lower.)
    Dammit, I think you’re right!
    Now all I need to do is figure out how the words fit the tune.  Or root around the house for a Scottish song book to enlighten me – I’m sure I’ve seen it somewhere.

  34. Morag says:

    PS.  Just found this.
    Is that what you were referring to, Andrew?  It’s very very different.  The one I got hold of first of all is exactly as I heard it played on the pipes at the War Memorial this morning, though I couldn’t swear to the key.

  35. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “But your subtext/foretext has got nothing to do with the poppy or the war dead. It’s a carefully crafted polemic against The Rangers; and the poppy has provided another stick for you to beat Rangers fans over the head with.”

    Had I been able to find an equally crass example of everything that’s wrong with Remembrance Day “commemorations” elsewhere I would have. But Rangers pretty much knocked it out of the park. Sometimes you’ve just got to take the tap-in.

    The rest of your comments seem wildly overblown.

  36. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Out of curiosity, Rev, what do you think of the poppy superimposed on a Saltire which the First Minister has been wearing lately?”

    I hadn’t been aware of it until today. But I disapprove, as already noted in the piece.

  37. Juteman says:

    A sickening BritNat use of Remembrance Day by Effie Deans on OU. My comment is awaiting moderation.

  38. Holebender says:

    Rev Stu: “anyone juxtaposing the poppy with a national flag – with any national flag – has misunderstood what it is that the poppy is supposed to stand for in the most complete and catastrophic way imaginable”

    Morag, I don’t dispute that the FM has been wearing an official Poppy Scotland emblem I merely asked for Stu’s reaction, given his statement quoted above.

    p.s. I have also been wearing a poppy and Saltire badge for the past two weeks – mostly because my wife gave it to me.

  39. Morag says:

    I find I have an entirely different visceral reaction to the poppy superimposed on the saltire, to the poppy superimposed on the Butcher’s Apron.  This may be illogical and irrational, I haven’t worked it out yet.

  40. patrician says:

    If you agree with the arguments given in this article but still want to pay your respects then please think about wearing a white poppy.

  41. Morag says:

    Never, ever, seen an opportunity to purchase a white poppy.  Where do the proceeds of white poppy sales go, in the event of one finding such an opportunity?

  42. velofello says:

    I just hope I get the detail correct,relying on memory, but here goes.

    Remembrance – I think of Mrs Gentle of Glasgow who lost her son in Iraq just weeks after he enlisted in the army. Seems he signed up because he just couldn’t get a job. That apart I have no longer any interest in Remembrance Day.

    For sure there are types who will find handling weapons and fighting exciting, and TV provides reality on what to expect, but the poor souls despatched to the trenches in WW1 what did they know? A story book tale of past campaigns, as they are termed?
    Today’s Herald has an article on the legality(!) of using armed drones. Seems the UK has people stationed in Lincolnshire sitting at computer screens and directing drones over Pakistan and Afghanistan. Fire and Forget is the heading.

    The words of the song The Recruiting Sergeant have stayed with me over the years:

    As I was walking down the street
    I was feeling bright and larky oh
    When a recruiting sergeant said to me
    “You’d look fine in khaki oh
    For the King he is in need of men
    Come read this proclamation oh
    And its a life in Flanders for you boy
    It’ll be a fine vacation oh”.

    Jeannie a few days back, seeing her son go off to play sport reflected that a few generations earlier it might have Flanders he was off to. 
    We must find a way to ensure that Blair, and his type, cannot “have their war”.


  43. AndrewfraeGovan says:

    I’ve never seen that version before. The one I know is The original Skene version is but it’s difficult to make out the tablature, even if you know how to read it!

  44. Morag says:

    Andrew – hah, I don’t really know how to read the first one you linked to (which I did see on my travels), never mind the second.
    The 6/8 version in E flat was the first one I found, and as it was said to be arranged for flute and that’s my instrument I went with it.  I found I was playing exactly what I heard the pipes play this morning.
    The common time one in D is the same basic tune, but somehow prettified up to my ear.  Very interesting.  I’m still unsure which version one should be trying to sing to the words I found.
    I should try to find it in a song book – bound to have it somewhere in the large piles of assorted music lying around.  Must go – my car-share to choir practice will be here in 3 – 2 – 1 – and I still haven’t hunted up Resonet in Laudibus or the Oxford Carol Book, as instructed….

  45. James McLaren says:

    That is one disgusting low down article by Effie Deans, lower than a snake’s are*ole.
    The last paragraph take the biscuit though, conflating Scottish civic nationalist and the SNP with the extreme Nationalism which kills people just because they different.
    |is she saying that everyone who voted for the SNP are crypto fascists?
    I suppose she doesn’t understand British Nationalism, so wrapped up is she in her Union Flag and  Rule Britannia peeny.
    Cameron is spending £50 millions to commemorate / celebrate the start of WW1, just because it falls in the same year as the referendum in 2014 and we mustn’t miss the chance to ram the disproportionate deaths of Scottish soldiers during that war to convince us how grateful we should be. 
    She also claims to be able to read the thought of the dead. Has she been on the ouija board or is she barking mad?

  46. Juteman says:

    The BritNats can’t, or won’t see themselves as Nationalists though James. Let alone that their Nationalism is the very nasty type that they accuse us of!

  47. velofello says:


    The Flo’rs O’ The Forest,

    Old air (The Liltin). G Major, 4/4 time,slow.
    Modern air A Major,4/4,adagio.

    Reference, the Scots Fiddle, tunes,tales and traditions by A Murray Neil.

  48. Castle Rock says:

    Funny what you read and learn about on this blog.
    The Rev brings to our attention that Royal Marines abseiled down from the Govan Stand roof with the match ball at Ibrox
    Morag goes to a service to show her respects and has to endure Land of Hope and Glory being played.
    Juteman provides a link to an article by Effie Deans that is stomach turning in the way it tries to use Remembrance Day to promote British\ness\nationalism
    Don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
    Can someone also please explain to Effie Deans that Blighty actually means England, I refuse to go back to that site.

  49. AndrewfraeGovan says:

    Here’s an fascinating article
    The first version I posted was the pipe one.

  50. Tearlach says:

    Thanks to Rob Gibson MSP for pointing out this statement from the Leader of Plaid Cymru on Remembrance Sunday – I think it reflects the comments we are trying to articulate on this thread. Not what Remembrance Sunday seems to have morphed into, sadly.


  51. patrician says:

    try for a white poppy.  I didn’t know about   this website until I googled it 10minutes ago, so I cant guarantee its provenance. I bought my first one when my son was at school in England. I have never seen them on sale in Scotland.

  52. cynicalHighlander says:

    @ Juteman
    She hasn’t got any supporters last time I looked.

  53. Juteman says:

    I’m not going back to it. It just makes me angry, especially her stupid reply. I want to be able to sleep tonight, and that article isn’t doing my blood pressure much good. 🙂

  54. Tom c says:

    Branding of the Poppy by the British Legion:
    Can’t quite get my head round this e.g. BAE’s can increase their sales by linking their Brand to the Poppy Brand. Increase their profits at the expense of those slaughtered, injured and maimed in past and on-going wars. I can’t think of another word but obnoxious, but maybe that’s just me.
    The script below is taken from the British Legion Web site
    “Companies working with us enjoy a host of benefits. With 97% awareness of our poppy brand in the UK and a significant presence overseas we are uniquely placed to tailor partnerships that meet your specific business needs.”
    ·  Increase sales and competitive avantage
    ·  Maximise brand affinity and build brand equity
    ·  Attract and retain customers and staff.
    “BAE Systems choose a charity every 2 years for their staff to support and over the 2 years all fundraising profits go to said charity. 
    We were lucky enough to be chosen for the next 2 years and in February we launched the partnership with the help of Poppyman and BAE’s Challenge Charlie at their Great Baddow site.” 

  55. alan says:

    There may have been poppy fields at Flanders. The choice of using the poppy is no fluke. See Judy Garland lying in poppies in the Wizard of Oz. ‘Great Britain’ waged war against the Chinese with opium… And they still wage war with opiates against it’s own citizens as the ‘British Army’ protect Afghanistan’s poppy fields…

  56. Simon says:

    Yes, are the real original white poppy people. There is some interesting history on their site – seems that people have been unhappy about the association of red poppies with the military establishment since 1926.

    I have been working on the Flowers of the Forest with my Dundee students, here are our handouts:

  57. muttley79 says:

    Effie Deans sometimes posts here, so we can look forward to debating with her the merits or otherwise of British nationalism soon….

  58. Silverytay says:

    Effie seems to forget that a lot of the Scots who died in both world wars believed in Scottish Independence . When I left school in 69 the first S.N.P supporter I met had been torpedoed 3 times .
    I wonder what she thinks of the thousand of people from the Irish Republic who fought and died for britain in the 2nd world war because it was the right thing to do .
    Going o/t    I see that while entwistle gets a £450,00 payoff a former b.b.c. producer is arrested by police investigating the savile abuse claims . 

  59. Bill C says:

    The jingoism displayed at Ibrox has absolutely nothing to do with remembering those who fell in war but everything to do with those who follow a Glasgow football team displaying their perceived dominance over the rest of Scottish society.
    I was born, brought up and worked in Glasgow for most of life and know only too well what the Ibrox Brit fest was all about. It was about declaring ‘weearra peepl’, we are British, Orange and loyal to the Crown. It was about The Rangers Football Club and their supporters saying to the rest of Scotland that they oppose Scottish independence and that they will do all they can to defend the union. As recent events have proved there are elements within the Rangers following that will stop at nothing in order to protect their club and their heritage.
    Nationalists should be under no illusion, those who seek Scotland’s freedom are the enemies of many who attend Ibrox. Scottish loyalists have a ‘no surrender’ mentality and will fight (literally) to the bitter end to protect their Britishness, they are not nice people!

  60. dadsarmy says:

    The poppy is a symbol of the poppy fields in Flanders, where so many soldiers of all nationalities died; with the redness being a poignant reminder of the blood spilled. Proceeds of  poppy sales in the UK go to The Royal British Legion, which does great work for the survivors and families of the fallen.

    It was a commeration of the fallen in World War I, and World War II. As The Royal British Legion and hospitals and so on, continue their work and are still in existence, doing the same thing, it also commerates the soldiers of all conflicts and wars since WWII that the British forces have taken part in, including Aden, Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan.

    It has evolved into being, no longer a symbol of World War One, but of all wars since that British soldiers have taken part in; it has, I guess, nearly lost its international symbology as the original WWI fades into history, and the last survivor dies. It now represents the British soldier, airman, sailor; died or wounded. And so it has become more associated with “patriotism” than the sad and hopeful ideal of “the war to end all wars”. They died for their country.

    That’s something, I’m afraid, we’ll all have to just accept, and deal with. 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and Cameron has announced “celebrations” to mark it. It’s wrong, it’s tacky, it’s plain disgusting to those of us who remember the poppy decades ago and still feel its symbology. But it’s something we are going to have to deal with in a sympathetic way during 2014 leading up to the referendum.

    And without looking tacky, bitter or unappreciative ourselves. Or we will alienate those whose support we need to achieve a YES vote.

  61. dadsarmy says:

    Yes, I could have summarised that.

    Originally in reality the poppy meant “They died for nothing”, but to put hope into it, “They died to end war”. Then it became “They died for our freedom”. Then perhaps “They died to protect other people’s freedom”. Now it’s “They died for our country”.

  62. Ronald Henderson says:

    Alex Salmond’s lapel badge didn’t look to me like a poppy on a saltire. It looked to me more like the Heart of Midlothian football club badge. Mr. Salmond is a well known supporter of that club. Their badge is a red heart in the centre of a saltire.

  63. Holebender says:

    It might look like a Hearts logo, but it is official Poppy Scotland merchandise.

    btw, Scottish poppies have nothing to do with the Royal British Legion. They started out as the Earl Haig Fund, and were founded by the wife of the British commander in the latter years of WW1.

  64. dadsarmy says:

    Yay, I’ve become pre-approved for the Herald! I promise to behave myself 🙂

  65. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Yay, I’ve become pre-approved for the Herald! I promise to behave myself”

    Wow. I’ve been commenting for over a year there without doing anything obnoxious and I’m still waiting for them to “know you well enough”. What’s the secret?

  66. Morag says:

    I spent a long time at the Herald being polite and reasonable.  Never became pre-approved.

  67. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

    Wow. I’ve been commenting for over a year there without doing anything obnoxious and I’m still waiting for them to “know you well enough”. What’s the secret?

    Hate to tell you Rev but I’ve been pre-approved for about 9 months.


  68. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:


    Try hitting their boards hard for a couple of days with detailed polite posts…

    Eventually they just get tired reading you and pre-approve you so they cen get through the other folk on the naughty step   

  69. dadsarmy says:


    I don’t know really. I did have a bit of a flurry this weekend though, and though in one posting I mentioned I was pro-independence (I don’t like posting under a “false flag”), I guess my postings were fairly even-handed. And my style of posting is very different to that I use, or used to use, in CiF!

    I did also make the only two postings about a visitscotland article – perhaps that helped.

    It remains to be seen perhaps if that’s overalll in the Herald, or just by one columnist or even thread.

  70. cirsium says:

    @Alan 8.44pm 11 November

    Originally there would not have been fields of poppies in Flanders.  The Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) is a very fertile weed which infested wheat and barley fields.  The seeds can lie dormant under the soil for years.  Once high explosive churned up the earth, thousand of seeds were exposed to the light and frost.  As a result, the ground would be covered with blood red flowers in high summer.  This was commented on by soldier poets like John Macrae (In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses row on row That mark our place ..). William Orpen, a war artist, commented in 1917 “red poppies and a blue flower, great masses of them, stretched for miles and miles”.

  71. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:


    I went all out for the resident unionists with references and counterarguments.

    Of course all links were removed (now they get removed later)   

  72. dadsarmy says:

    I’m delighted to be there, but won’t do many postings, and I’ll be careful with them. My feeling is that the Scotsman and Herald are already becoming more even-handed and that’s what I want to encourage.

    Ironically one of the things I want to be able to do is criticise Yes Scotland, the SNP and Alex Salmond when I feel they need a “gentle” kick in the right direction 😉

  73. Morag says:

    I remember as a child reading a Biggles book, and someone coming up with some light banter about saying hello to one of the German flying aces.  The reply was “you’ll be saying hello to the Flanders poppies if you’re not careful, my lad.”
    I suppose that was anachronistic, because the significance of the poppy as regards the war dead wouldn’t have been understood at the time the remark was supposed to have been made (probably 1916 or 1917).  It sure as heck brought home to a primary school kid reading these adventure books just what it was we were talking about though.

  74. Morag says:

    Re. The Flowers of the Forest.  Andrew, and then Simon, and Velofello too.  The education you get on this blog!  Thank you all.

    I can’t read the Skene manuscript.  Maybe some other time – I see Simon has some instructions, but it’s all quite impenetrable to someone who doesn’t play a stringed instrument.

    The “Living Tradition” article was very interesting, because I realise now the version in my song book is the Alison Rutherford (Mrs. Patrick Cockburn) version about smiling and fortune beguiling.  No wonder I never got into it and thought it was lacking something.  Same basic tune though, but in 4/4 and in B flat this time – maybe for the range, not to take a singer above a G.

    I see the pipe version is in fact the same as the flute music I first downloaded, more or less, if you just read the normal-size notes.  6/8 and all, though as you say it’s in D rather than E flat, and in fact begins on a B.  I suspect the flute-tunes version is just a standardised version of that, though goodness knows why the semitone difference (unless there’s something about the tuning of the pipes I don’t know about).  I’ve never seen pipe music before so I don’t know what the small notes are for at all.

    Simon’s blog post is the only one I’ve seen so far with the actual Elliot words set to the music.  I’m wondering if that’s the earliest version of the sung tune?  The version I have with the Rutherford words is in a frustratingly undated song book that looks early 20th century is “arranged by Alfred Moffat” and seems both cleaned up and elaborated.  The other wordless one I found at the 8-notes site is even more elaborated with runs.  All of them present different versions of the basic melody also.

    Oddly enough, the ones with the runs are the easy ones to play.  The pipe version is the one I like though, perhaps through familiarity.  It has a starkness and an immediacy to it that the others somehow lack.  I’m curious as to whether it has actually been adapted and shorn of ornamentation for the pentatonic pipes, or if the original basic tune is really pentatonic.  It’s also the hardest to play, because it has so many leaps rather than nice obvious runs.

    However, Simon playing the Skene manuscript on the clarsach was the revelation of the evening.  Unutterably haunting.

    So, there goes my foray into ethnomusicology for the evening.  And despite the protestations of some people in the choir, the words are definitely 18th century and the tune not known to go back before the 17th century, at least not for certain.

    I’ve now played over about five different versions of this, and I’m sure there’s room for a longer, more detailed article about the evolution of the music from the Skene manuscript to the pipe melody and the song tune(s) and the fiddle music Velofello mentioned.  (Is there a dance tune?  I’ll just bet there is….)  Why (at least) two almost completely different sets of words to the same tune, by different authors, but both with the same title and both with virtually the same line “the flowers of the forest are all wede away”?  Where’s the common element?  Inquiring minds want to know.

    Anyone up for it?

  75. Morag says:

    Hmmmm.  Just noticed the transcription of the Skene manuscript version.  It is pentatonic apart from that bar with the two F#s in it.  Hmmmm. (Sorry, I realise this is obvious, especially listening to Simon’s clarsach recording with the transcription in front of you, I’m just getting into this and being a bit slow.)
    And of course the tune is called “The Flowers of the Forest” even at that stage, a hundred years before ladies were writing words to an ornamented version of the tune.  Or more than one version.  Who first dreamed up the “are all wede awa” line, then?
    Surely there’s a detailed study of this lot somewhere?  Is it really as fragmented and mysterious as Steve McGrail says?  Not even some intelligent guesses?

  76. AndrewFraeGovan says:

    There’s a version in A at traditionalmusic (which for some reason Wings website won’t let me post) which includes the words and would be suitable for singing. It starts on the dominant note E. The pipe version in D has an added upbeat B, but it’s really the same tune. The small grace notes are basically for articulation.
    It occurred to me that although bagpipes are written in A, they actually sound in B flat, This means that your E flat version would be the same pitch as the pipes playing in D, so you will be able to play along on your flute.
    Mystery solved! *Dons deerstalker*

  77. dadsarmy says:

    Ah well, that’s my quota in the Herald perhaps, since I reached 10 articles not sure if it’ll let me post for a bit when I log on, though clearing the cookies lets me read.

    I managed to get a couple of my critical posts in – I guess I agree with SIC that the Independence campaign needs to change tack and go for it now, rather than just reply to the Better Together.

    Looking forward now to news of today’s event at Cale. It could be the start …

  78. G H Graham says:

    Andrew McKie has decided to become today’s author of irony at “The Herald” by publishing an article in which he patronises the reader by claiming …

    “You understand arcane journalist procedures such as checking whether things are true, and only publishing them when they are, better than the pompously named Bureau for Investigative Journalism and the editorial command structure of the BBC’s flagship news programme.”

    What he fails to propose is whether Magnus Gardham flinched with embarassment when he read Mr. McKie’s work or did what Entwhistle did at the BBC (which was to ignore sub editorial content cos he was too busy doing something else which was never clearly specified) so that Gardham can focus on crafting his own bare faced lies for the next day’s leader.

    Take yer time Mr. McKie but not so long that it’s too late because the newspaper has been put into administration.

    (And I’m not giving anyone the link here to minimise further exposure to that rotten newspaper.)

  79. Alex McI says:

    @ Bill C please stop making wild generalisations about all Rangers supporters, doing so will alienate any moderate people who do follow that team, and are looking for facts about independence for Scotland. I support Rangers but have nothing to do with Orange order, I cringe when they start rule Britannia or god save the queen. You will probably find that this Poppy Day show is more a wind up at Celtic also. They historically supported the IRA, and were against the Army, as the no bloodstained poppy banners at parkhead a couple of years back showed. So the Rangers support go over the top with the British Army thing. A lot of it is tit for tat noise ups from folk who should know better. But in my opinion sections of both sides supporters are a Danger to independence. Because the see politics as something to do with football and religion. Rather than making choices that would be better for their children.

  80. Silverytay says:

    Alex McL                 
    Well said ,   There are lots of rangers supporters who support independence and I also know a few of the less rabid O.O members who support the S.N.P .   I will admit that most of the ones I know are over on the east side of Scotland rather than here on the west .

  81. maxstafford says:

    The saddest image of a ‘hijacked’ poppy I’ve seen this last week was a lapel badge with a blue panel underneath inscribed ‘try burning this’.
    My mate who sent me a photo of it thought it was a bit of a laugh. I didn’t have the heart to say how offensive and contrary to the true meaning I found it. From where he saw it (Preston),  I can only assume the EDL have had a hand in the production.
    Wrong. So wrong. 

  82. Kenny Campbell says:

    Bill C says:
    11 November, 2012 at 10:01 pm
    The jingoism displayed at Ibrox has absolutely nothing to do with remembering those who fell in war but everything to do with those who follow a Glasgow football team displaying their perceived dominance over the rest of Scottish society.”

    Its not about dominance over the whole of society, its grounded in retaining hegemony over one segment of Scottish society namely the Irish.

    What has happened in recent times is that some Scottish Nationalists have slotted themselves into new ‘victim’ status to replace the Irish and it would seem a reasonably large segment of the Rangers support have been happy to see a new enemy given the rise of a threat to the concept of Britishness.

    Loyalism and Unionism at Ibrox has its roots in Ireland, not in Scotland. I state that as season ticket holder of many years and having spent my youth in a predominantly catholic and Irish nationalist dominated area of greater Glasgow.

      It would seem to have morphed in recent years but its still rooted in another set of circumstances.

    This sudden love in with the Armed forces and Earl Haig is as ever a knee jerk reaction to the rejection of the Poppy etc from across the city. Rangers as a club has its problems but Scottish Nationalism is the new kid on the block when it comes to those who are not the People.

    You for one should know your history ;o)

  83. Kenny Campbell says:

    Did anyone else notice the gun at Murrayfield yesterday… :O) seems its catching

  84. Kenny Campbell says:

    “For what those sacrifices meant to Scotland you only have to travel to the many towns and villages, big and small, throughout the country to see the monuments with the names of all those local young men who died for ‘the cause’ (26.4% of all Scots enlisted in WW1 lost their lives!”
    I don’t know where you are getting that figure from but its way way too high. I know there is a ~140K number registered at Scottish War Memorial in Edinburgh but its known to have many duplicates plus it includes folks who lived abroad but counted themselves as Scots.
    You can’t then use the Scottish casualties list and divide by the known enlistments in Scotland as the enlistments are national and casualties multinational.

    Scottish casualties were between 10% and 13% but its very very difficult to tie down due to late in the war conscripts just filling gaps in any regiment. 

    There was slaughter on an industrial scale, there is no need whatsoever to turn it into a competition.

  85. Luigi says:

    RANGERS SUPPORTERS FOR INDEPENDENCE (there are quite a few out there).

  86. Iain says:

    @Kenny Campbell
    ‘What has happened in recent times is that some Scottish Nationalists have slotted themselves into new ‘victim’ status’
    There are currently segments of all groups who are keen to slot themselves into victimhood; I don’t think many of ‘the People’ could be said to be backward in coming forward in that regard, particularly recently. Much of current political, cultural, intranational and (nominally) religious friction consists of people looking in the mirror and not recognising themselves.

  87. Simon says:

    Morag, that’s the fun of traditions, no-one knows and no-one can ever know, though with a bit of digging you can turn up interesting info and make a better guess. I think poppy culture is like this too, it is too subtle and complex to say what a poppy “really means”. It intrigues me how people find the white poppies threatening.

    The Ritson book is 1794 by the way, and that’s the oldest words-and-music version I have seen. I think that some of the lines or phrases in the ladies’ songs are probably traditional and much older, but we don’t know which ones…

  88. tartanfever says:

    One thing we can be sure of – as long as the butchers apron is waved at Ibrox and the Irish tricolour is waved at Parkhead then bigotry and sectarianism will have good homes to breed their hatred.

  89. Dunc says:

    At The Cenotaph
    I saw the Prince of Darkness, with his Staff,
    Standing bare-headed by the Cenotaph:
    Unostentatious and respectful, there
    He stood, and offered up the following prayer.
    ‘Make them forget, O Lord, what this Memorial
    Means; their discredited ideas revive;
    Breed new belief that War is purgatorial
    Proof of the pride and power of being alive;
    Men’s biologic urge to readjust
    The Map of Europe, Lord of Hosts, increase;
    Lift up their hearts in large destructive lust;
    And crown their heads with blind vindictive Peace.’
    The Prince of Darkness to the Cenotaph
    Bowed. As he walked away I heard him laugh. 

    Siegfried Sassoon

  90. Appleby says:

    The one thing I don’t like about these events is the deliberate mixing up of the first two world wars – where conscripts were forced to fight and in particular in the second against a potential invasion – with a modern day imperial rape and plunder made up of professional soldiers who chose that occupation. It’s gone from the wrongness of war to jingoism and religious-level taboos and ceremony.
    The wars in the east have been going on now for so long that no one joining in the last ten years can have any confusion as to their likely posting and use. I feel sorry for them and understand the politics and orders are outside most of their hands, but it was still a choice for most. If you chose to join a war to grab oil then why should anyone treat you as a hero any more than the merceneries in the African resource wars? Because of state sponsorship for that band of merceneries? It doesn’t look at more heroic than gunning down Indians to hold on to their land and resources back in the day, or any number of nasty events that were swept under the carpet as part of the imperial whitewashing. A world away from those of generations ago that the poppy symbol was meant to remember (and remember as a warning never to blindly support war and to oppose and prevent it instead), before the “business” needed to find a new revenue source and source of grief to milk for cash as that generation died off. All disabled people, whether disabled by birth, accident or assault, should be cared for properly and this should be part of the benefits and health service provided for everyone. There’s no reason that a man who helps build a hospital who gets injured should be given second class treatment while a person with another job gets royal treatment, likewise there’s no reason that the professional soldiers should be dumped and left to fend for themselves – this is totally unacceptable and all efforts should be made to make them live good lives, as we would or should for all disabled people. That should be part of the “land fit for heroes”. Not empty symbols and insincere gestures from public figures equally forced into it and competing to be first to make ostentatious gestures. There should be no need for the jingoistic media circus at all.
    It’s hard to deal with and express mixed feelings, especially as people grab it as a stick to beat you with or deliberately take it the wrong way.

  91. Morag says:

    AndrewfraeGovan said
    There’s a version in A at traditionalmusic (which for some reason Wings website won’t let me post) which includes the words and would be suitable for singing. It starts on the dominant note E. The pipe version in D has an added upbeat B, but it’s really the same tune. The small grace notes are basically for articulation.
    It occurred to me that although bagpipes are written in A, they actually sound in B flat, This means that your E flat version would be the same pitch as the pipes playing in D, so you will be able to play along on your flute.
    Mystery solved! *Dons deerstalker*

    The traditionamusic one I found with vocal score is the Rutherford version, which I already have in a paper book.  The one online seems to be a simpler, less decorated version though.

    The bagpipe one is interesting, because I’ve never seen grace-notes written like that.  They don’t seem to be played as such as far as I can make out.  I was guessing there might be a transposing instrument reason for the semitone difference in pitch.  Although I don’t have perfect pitch, I’d heard the pipe version only hours before and it seemed to be in the same key.  Interesting, because pipe music always sounds “sharp” to me even though it’s in tune.  I’m used to the opposite effect a lot, with baroque pitch being about a semitone lower.  It can be disconcerting to sing something with a baroque harpsichord for example, and realise you’re not singing the notes that are in front of you.  As you say, the flute version would be transposed so that the flute would sound the same pitch as the pipes when played together.

    Simon said
    Morag, that’s the fun of traditions, no-one knows and no-one can ever know, though with a bit of digging you can turn up interesting info and make a better guess. I think poppy culture is like this too, it is too subtle and complex to say what a poppy “really means”. It intrigues me how people find the white poppies threatening.

    The Ritson book is 1794 by the way, and that’s the oldest words-and-music version I have seen. I think that some of the lines or phrases in the ladies’ songs are probably traditional and much older, but we don’t know which ones…

    Well, as of 24 hours ago all I knew was that I could recognise the tune on the pipes and had no clue how any words would fit that, but I wanted to know more.  I sure do, now!  I suppose I’m used to classical music scholarship, where for something as well-known as this there would almost certainly be scholarly treatises detailing all the versions known and setting out a hypothesis as to how they might be related.

    The simplicity of the Skene manuscript pentatonic melody is absolutely haunting, especially with the two F#s going right off-piste.  But the sheer amount of decoration being added over that is amazing, going in one direction to the angular pipe version and in the other to the various vocal versions which mostly seem to favour a lot of runs.  And they don’t just decorate but modify the original in various ways, including the effect from the F#s not necessarily being preserved.  Some mention an “Irish version”.  I’ve found it as a reel for the fiddle as well.

    The similarities in the words are interesting, as if both ladies were working from an older song they were both aware of, but we’re not.  And that music, as you say, could go back a lot further than the extant manuscript.

    Now I need to figure out or find a version I’d like to sing, as opposed to play.  Thanks to both of you.

    On the poppy front, yes, I was surprised by the amount of hostility to the white poppy, but I’ve come across it before.  The suggestion that it be worn in memory of all the civilians who died in the wars was a lovely one.  They so often seem to be forgotten in all the frevour about “our brave soldiers”.

  92. velofello says:

    At the Edinburgh Gathering Margo MacDonald identified  the target that if each pro-independence person persuaded just one other so independence will be delivered 
    Ridiculing Rangers supporters isn’t helpful. Anyone know how many independence supporters were in attendance at Ibrox? And so cringed at “the spectacle” laid on?
    Some things are best left unsaid and some topics better left to some other outlet.In saying this I am not condoning the behaviour or attitudes of the Old Firm supporters. A most casual read of the history of politics and religion  visited upon the Anglo-Scots-irish peoples will perhaps brings to mind Bod Dylan’s words, “they are only a pawn in the game”.

  93. AndrewFraeGovan says:

    The graces in pipe music are played so fast it’s easy to miss them altogether, though you can hear them if you listen closely, particularly to a solo piper. They’re what gives pipes their ‘skirl’. You can hear them clearly as more and more are added to the later variations in a typical piobaireachd setting, when they almost sound like birdsong! This is an excellent website if you want to learn about the “classical music of the pipes”. – I’ve linked to their free tunes page. Like yourself, my background is in classical music, but I also love the traditional music of Scotland!

  94. Bill C says:

    Hi guys please allow me to address some of the well made points re. the Poppy event at Ibrox.

    Firstly, I wish to state that I have absolutley no time for any elements within the support of both sides of the Old Firm that promote sectarian hatred.  I consider sectarianism to be a curse and wish it to be eradicated from Scottish society as soon as possible. Hence I welcome the Scottish Government’s anti-sectarian legislation which is hated by elements within the support of both Celtic and Rangers.
    @ AlexMcl – Alex, I have to say, I refute your claim that I made “wild exaggerations about all Rangers supporters”. I did refer to “The Rangers Football Club and their supporters saying to the rest of Scotland that they oppose Scottish independence and that they will do all they can to defend the union”.  I really don’t see how you can describe the Brit fest held at Ibrox as being anything else. It was was not about Remembrance, it was about the club and its support celebrating their Britishness! I also referred to “elements within the Rangers following that will stop at nothing in order to protect their club and their heritage”. Anyone who watched the recent Channel 4 News interview between Alex Thomson and a prominent Scottish QC will know what I am referring to. I agree with you wholeheartedly that there are sections within both sides who are totally against Scottish independence.
    @Silvertay – I know there are some Rangers supporters who support independence, I suspect very few.  I cannot see why any member of the OO could support independence, as it is at the other end of the political spectrum from the OO’s very reason for existence i.e. the promotion of all things British.
    @Kenny Campbell – Kenny, I catch your drift and agree with much of what you say. You are right,in many ways Scottish nationalists have replaced the Irish as a threat to the British identity of Scottish loyalists, however given that support for the SNP and to a lesser extent independence,is at an all time high, I would suggest that there are many Scots who are now the perceived enemies of Scottish loyalism. Ironically there are some within the Celtic support who see themselves as Irish and are every bit as opposed to Scottish independence as their loyalist colleagues across the city. I agree wholeheartedly with your statement “Loyalism and Unionism at Ibrox has its roots in Ireland, not in Scotland”, however I would add that sectarianism is not one sided, there are bigots at Celtic Park who think that it is legitimate to fight Ireland’s war in Scotland.
    @ tartanfever – I agree!
    @velofellow – As a fellow Dylan fan I agree “they are only a pawn the game”. However and ironically it was an Irishman who said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke). We cannot allow bigotry and sectarianism to accompany us into an independent Scotland.
    I believe that Alex Salmond is a good man, a courageous man, unlike his unionists opponents. Alex Salmond and his SNP government have tackled the bigots and fools through legislation, I think it is the duty of everyone who would see our country free to follow Big Eck’s example and tackle those who would keep Scotland in the chains of a foreign conflict head on!

  95. Morag says:

    Thanks again, Andrew.  I didn’t notice the grace-notes yesterday, but I wasn’t listening for that sort of refinement, and I wasn’t watching the piper’s fingers at the time.  And then again, this was only a wee village war memorial ceremony – are these refinements always played, by all abilities?  (Not that the guy wasn’t good, mind you, he sounded fine to me.)

    I know next to nothing about piobaireachd, other than that it’s high classical music and very skilled.  Saturday night in the pub after the classical concert someone mentioned pipes in a classical setting and the reaction was laughter and derision.  I bridled, protesting that classical pipe music is every bit as valid as classical viol/cornett/sackbut music, just a different tradition, but the conversation moved on.  If anyone had tried to pursue the topic, I’d have been lost in general ignorance.

    I’ll have a closer look at that link.  I see the last tune on the list is called “In praise of Morag”, so I really ought to have a listen!

    Oh – I hear it now!  Wow, light dawns!  I suppose I’m so used to reading music I never thought how that effect was notated or how it looked written down.  That looks extremely difficult to me, respect.  Yes, I need to learn more.

    I think I can see what I’d like to do with The Flowers of the Forest, vocally.  The version you indicated (let’s see if I can post the link)
    which has the Rutherford words, seems to be almost the pure original Skene manuscript tune, off-piste notes and all, pretty much what Simon’s clarsach rendering was playing.  That sounded amazing, more so than all the fancy extra runs and decorations.  Put the Elliot words to that, and we’ll see….

  96. Doug Daniel says:

    RevStu: “sm753 hasn’t posted since someone uncovered his fondness for “adult reading material”.”

    Wow, I hadn’t even noticed. That’s hilarious! 

  97. Morag says:

    Oh yes.  Some of us noticed!

  98. AndrewFraeGovan says:

    There’s so many different versions! The one I found (the one I couldn’t post) was in A hexatatonic, and was very similar to the pipe setting, while the one you’ve found is in G mixolydian hexatonic and is identical to the Skene version, but for the 3rd last note which is G in the manuscript. Incidentally, the F#’s in the transcription at are wrong – the tablature clearly indicates F naturals.
    ps Pipers learn the graces almost from the beginning – they’re pretty standardised and not really all that difficult, I imagine a piper leaving them out would probably be drummed out of the country!
    pps Another wee detail I’ve noticed in the tablature is that their are dots after some of the notes. These can indicate an ornament such as a mordant or trill. Music’s amazing isn’t it – you can never get to the bottom of it.

  99. Kenny Campbell says:

    @Bill C,
               The Orange Order also has its roots in Ireland and specifically as an organization that looked to protect and promote Protestantism and to try and drive out Catholicism. Seeing itself as a promoter of the Reformation. The idea that they are all about everything British comes from your own worldview.
    This has morphed since 1916 to a Unionist stance than has itself morphed to something similar in Scotland. Any text you will read will say they are Unionists opposed to the reunification of Ireland. The Order itself came to being around the very late 1700’s…so long before reunification was a question
      There is no link at the birth of the Orange Order to a stance of anti Scottish Independence, this is a stance that has evolved and given the ‘similarity’ in some peoples mind that NI has to Scotland, that complicated by the neanderthal thinking that of course Nationalists = Nationalists regardless of the real facts of history….
    I’m not a member myself but my father was. I put his membership down to a reactionary move to living as a minority within the community. What is interesting is he left the Order having visited NI a few times and seeing the depth of the divide saying he never imagined that it could get that bad in Scotland. The main issue being that other Loyalists could not believe we shared a close with catholics.

  100. Morag says:

    Sorry?  Excuse me?  (Too entranced listening to “In praise of Morag” here.  Someone knows how to flatter a girl.)

    I noticed that difference with the F natural being notated in a couple of the versions, conflicting with the transcription being an F sharp.  I was going to query it, so thanks for clarifying.  I realise now that Simon is playing F naturals in his YouTube performance – I can only plead Very Late Night last night.

    I like the version I found, as you say it’s virtually identical to the Skene version as Simon played it, and that unornamented tune is amazing.  I’ll try again later to find the other one you referred to.

    I’ve always heard the graces, I just didn’t realise that was what I was seeing in the ornamented written score.  I’ll watch the fingers of the next piper I see with great attention.  As a flautist/recorder player, it looks difficult to me!  As I said, I found the versions with the runs very easy, and the leaps in the pipe version relatively difficult.

    Interesting to note that the first version I found, for flute, was the pipe tune without the graces.  Looked as if it was meant for flutes to play along with the pipes, but nobody even thought of suggesting the flute might try these pipe ornaments!

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tune with so many varied versions kicking around.  Really fascinating.

  101. Bill C says:

    @Kenny Campbell

    Not a lot I disagree with there Kenny. Time to bury the baggage of Ireland and build a new Scotland.   

  102. Alex McI says:

    @ Bill C. Bill what I said was “wild generalisation” although going by the show at Ibrox I can see your point. I do personally know a lot of Rangers fans who are 100% going to vote yes in 2014. Lets face it the SNP would not be in the position of majority government if at least some of the Ibrox crowd voted for them.
    I don’t mind criticism when it’s due, and in this case it is warranted, it’s turned what should be a solemn occasion and time for reflection into a bit of a pantomime.
    I just think stereotyping every fan as some uber unionist is misleading, and a bit unhelpful in the task we have taken upon ourselves trying to inform undecided and those against independence. 
    We are trying to sell an inclusive society after a yes vote and the last thing we need is for folk to feel turned off because they are affiliated to any kind of group, and to feel threatened by the possibility of an independant Scotland.
    In my opinion these are the people we should be trying our hardest to show the truth, and the most rewarding when you change their minds. Remember a lot of these people have swallowed
    the bullshit that’s fed to them by media and politicians through their life and hate to admit they have been conned most of their life. 

  103. Simon says:

    Thanks AndrewFraeGovan, we crossed out the sharps in Saturday’s class but I forgot to edit them out of the PDF. I’ll replace it as soon as I can…

  104. Morag says:

    Andrew still around?
    Was this the version you were talking about?
    That melody is actually identical to the one I have in my printed paper book, but my version is in B-flat (presumably the semitone up is the soprano version!) and the accompaniment is a lot more elaborate (arr. Alfred Moffat).  It’s kind of growing on me.
    I’ve been reading round a bit more, and it seems Alison Rutherford and Jane Elliot knew each other.  There’s some dispute as to who wrote her version first, but one commentator is adamant that the Rutherford version was the first.  The consensus seems to be that they were both using a now-lost song as their source, and that the first and fourth lines of the Elliot version are from that song.
    Nobody can prove the lost song goes right back to Flodden, but nobody can prove it doesn’t, either, it seems.  The versions of the melody seem to branch like a mutating genome.  This site seems to have seven or eight distinct versions!
    I’ll bet a musicological analysis could figure out how they relate to each other.
    Ah well, that was fun.  Nearly as much as the Burns Supper tune-chase in January, when deciding to sing O wert thou in the cauld blast in the Mendelssohn duet version (originally inspired by hearing it in The Maltese Double Cross) turned into a relay chase – The Robin cam tae the Wren’s Nest, Lennoxlove to Blantyre, ending up in the Merry Muses of Caledonia, at which point I backed away real slow and cleared my cache.
    Ain’t ethnomusicology fun!

  105. Morag says:

    Simon said:
    Thanks AndrewFraeGovan, we crossed out the sharps in Saturday’s class but I forgot to edit them out of the PDF. I’ll replace it as soon as I can…
    Some of the note lengths look a bit odd too….
    Is this the same thing, though in an implausibly high key?

    This one, to some extent, also I think.
    I played the flute version along with a YouTube recording of the pipe solo, and it does work with the transposition into E-flat.

  106. Bill C says:

    @ Alex Mcl – Apologies Alex should have went to Specsavers. I see where you are coming from and agree we need to be as inclusive as possible. However, I think there is a hardcore anti-independence element on both sides of the Old Firm who we will never convince. Never mind, onwards and upwards to a better Scotland!

  107. AndrewFraeGovan says:

    @Morag @Simon
    OK, the tablature is quite crude, particularly the rhythm. There seems to be a missing crotchet sign above the 3rd note in bar 3. Also bars 6 & 8 do not add up. I suggest adding a dot to the last note of bar 6 and the first note of bar 8. I would add that Simon’s transcription is literally correct (except for the F#’s), but is not really performable in this form,
    Morag, the mfiles & abcnotation versions are virtually identical but for the different keys.
    The version I found in A (that Wings wont let me post for some reason) is tradit sco ttish-f olk-music/ 00 35 35. H TM which looks more like the pipe version. (I’ve added spaces to try to get round the posting problem)
    Anyway I’m just in from the pub after our branch meeting so take what I say with a pinch of salt!

  108. Morag says:

    AndrewfraeGovan said:
    The version I found in A (that Wings wont let me post for some reason) is tradit sco ttish-f olk-music/ 00 35 35. H TM which looks more like the pipe version. (I’ve added spaces to try to get round the posting problem)
    Ah, I saw that one, but it’s only the first few bars.  Actually, it’s identical to the one I linked to above,
    except for the triplet at the end of the third (full) bar.  That again is identical to the melody as it appears in the printed song book I have (with the Rutherford words and the flowery piano part), which is a semitone higher (possibly because it says “soprano” on the front).
    I counted about nine separate versions in that abcnotation site, although some of them were duplicated.

  109. AndrewFraeGovan says:

    Yes, you’re right.
    It’s the Skene version that’s the interesting one imo. I must try out on my much neglected lute!

  110. Morag says:

    I totally agree.  I was absolutely bowled over by Simon’s clarsach performance of that.  I don’t “do” strings, so lutes, mandolins and so on are a complete mystery to me.

    No rhythm worth mentioning.  A lot of the later detail of the melody missing.  The simplicity of the rising and falling shape on the pentatonic scale simply shouldn’t work like that, but it does.  Then when that off-piste note appears – wow.

    Somehow that morphs into a pipe tune, a reel, a song, an “Irish version” and several other very distinct musical forms (the way the reel just tosses off the lament and cheers the whole thing up is especially interesting).

    And they’re all more complex and decorated, and yet they’re absolutely unmistakably the same tune. Or maybe at least some of these versions are parallel, with their roots in an even older version rather than directly relating to the Skene manuscript.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a tune with such a wide range of forms, and yet its integrity remains absolutely solid.

  111. Morag says:

    This blog is amazing.  Who would have imagined you’d get three posters all together here, all interested in this slightly esoteric topic?  (OK, two who know what they’re talking about and one interested learner, but still.)

  112. AndrewFraeGovan says:

    Aye, Ibrox jingoism to medieval music theory in 101 easy steps 😉

  113. Morag says:

    It would make a terrific episode of “Soul Music”!

  114. Morag says:

    By the way, if you want a good laugh, listen to the midi file on this page.

    It’s the pipe version with all the ornaments included.  It’s ludicrous.

    That’s what I “heard” in my head when I saw that version written down, and I just didn’t get it.  It was only when I listened to a piper play it, while looking at the music, that the penny dropped.  I’d been so used to hearing the ornamentation that I scarcely noticed it, and hadn’t thought about how it was notated.  Notated, and read by someone unversed in piping, it looks seriously strange.

  115. AndrewFraeGovan says:

    Morag says:
    By the way, if you want a good laugh, listen to the midi file on this page.

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