National Anthems……. and O Flouer o Scotland

I have long admired the New Zealand National Anthem, God Defend New Zealand. It pays immediate and historical homage to its native people with the Maori version always sung first, followed immediately by the English version. Both versions have had a long and honoured trajectory to National Anthem status (1977). The English poem was written prior to 1876, the music chosen in 1876, and the Maori version was written in 1878.

Apparently New Zealanders think that few New Zealanders know the words, but youtube footy footage might suggest otherwise.

What a powerful package!

O Flouer o Scotland, was written by Roy Williamson of the folk group the Corries, and presented in 1967, and refers to the victory of the Scots, led by Robert the Bruce, over England’s Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. So this song is steeped in history, as well as being rooted in the contemporary. The Flower of Scotland (when will we see your like again), refers to those men of 1314 who fought and died, and todays finest of Scotland, too. The words acknowledge needing to leave the appalling losses of the past in the past…….”But we can aye rise nou, An be the naition again…..”

Sung at football openings, the crowd ALL seem to know the words, and to access and express the emotion – grief, anger, resilience, pride, of past and present singing their “anthem”.

Watching numbers of renditions of this anthem, it seems universally rousingly sung in the light Scots dialect, not plain English. Crowds will often call back after certain lines: after the words “and stood against him”, you may hear “(a)gainst who(m)”; and after the words “and sent him homewards”, you may hear “whit fur?” (“what for?”).

What  a fantastic contribution by Roy Williamson who died tragically young from a brain tumour. He probably did not foresee what would happen to his folksong.

Politics and economics aside, in their heart of hearts, they are independent of England!

With sadness, I agree with Wikipedia about Australia’s National Anthem:

“Both the lyrics and melody of the official anthem have been criticised in some quarters as being dull and unendearing to the Australian people. A National Party senator, Sandy Macdonald, said in 2001 that “Advance Australia Fair” is so boring that the nation risks singing itself to sleep, with boring music and words impossible to understand. A parliamentary colleague, Peter Slipper, said that Australia should consider another anthem.”

Perhaps the next opportunity to get it right might be when Australia becomes a republic!

Immersion

Currently reading “The Flight of the Heron” which is going slowly, mainly as it is my “bath” read. It was written by D.K. Broster, a woman who had worked as a nurse in WW1, and later worked as secretary to the Professor of History as Oxford writing this book in 1925. My copy dates to the compulsory read from my Grade10. Thus, it is (softcover), yellowed, very soft and pliable as a whole (will roll easily into a small tube), with a gentle smell of book. Back in the day, I never did really understand it or its historical background, but was very taken with the romance between Ewen Cameron and Alison, and would skip large tracts to where their names stood out together.

My copy's cover
My copy’s cover

Now, I am loving the historical context which Broster drew beautifully. I now understand that the English held Edinburgh castle, while The Pretender (to the British Crown)’s son, Bonnie Prince Charlie, passed through Holyrood House, (where W and I will see Queen Mary’s bedroom soon), separated by The Royal Mile.

Loving subtlties like Gaelic place names, as well as terms of endearment, e.g mo cridhe, meaning ‘my heart’. And also Scottish fey, or superstition……..the Flight of the Heron and its portents were predicted by the ‘taibhsear’.

66 years later, Diana Gabaldon published Outlander. This, too is strewn with gaelic terms, especially of endearment. Here is a great list of some.

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More of Outlander, Claire and Jamie later, to be sure.

Granma told me on several occasions she was sure she had Scottish fey…………