My sense would be the contrary actually. I think that regional associations are strong. I think that you will find, in a sense, completely independently of an association about Highlandness or Gaelic language, an affiliation that has to do with a shared place in the work environment. So, you know, one is, if you like, a weaver or a plate metal worker, regardless of one’s background in that regard, and I don’t think you’re necessarily picked out by virtue of place of birth, language and so on. There is of course the exception to this in as much as ... certainly the Irish are ... always sort of typified as the sort of bestial worst excesses, worst examples of the urban poor in the nineteenth century. The Highland man, the Highland family, is never quite figured in those ways as sort of both apes and angels, as others have written, but there is a sense in which I think initially they were seen as strange, a moral burden for Scotland’s society. I mean, after all, the Jacobite rebellions are only a generation or two away in the public memory by the time people in the 1810s and 1820s are establishing Highland societies in Dundee, Edinburgh and so on. So I think there’s an aristocracy of labour at work. There’s a sectional difference within labour as well as within a sense of common concern, if you like, within Scottish civil society as to what the Highlander represents when in the midst of the city.

  • Charles Withers
Thursday 17th June 2010