A few reflections and found memories from the weekends ….
Some of the best moments ….
The nervousness of the first one. Hiring a minivan to take people up from Glasgow to Ullapool for it. The experience of seeing Croft No. 5 that first weekend – on the Saturday. An intoxicating mixture of traditional, jazz and dance music in a Ceilidh Place packed with young people enjoying themselves: a harbinger for future weekends and our country!
The Wendy Alexander/Fiona Hyslop discussion on Labour-SNP lack of understanding. This was originally going to be Wendy and Jim Sillars after their legendary exchange of admiring letters, but Jim pulled out with weeks to go. Wendy declared that if Scotland became independent ‘she would cope with it’. George Kerevan and John Curtice provided another perspective in this session, and with the two women in the middle and men as bookends it had an air of ABBA or more accurately Brotherhood of Man!
The time Tom Devine lost his temper with members of the audience. When asked by two members of the audience about government being less obsessed with economic growth, Tom responded by saying ‘what kind of rubbish is that’, and dismissing it with a degree of scorn that did show another side to his character.
The two sessions Bob Crampsey took part in. I had the pleasure of chairing Bob in both and in the first I confessed how honoured I was to have such a privilege. Bob was a gentleman, a scholar and a man passionate and erudite about football and sport. A special memory for me was having breakfast with Bob and talking to him about the pleasures of Subbuteo!
Murray Pittock’s session on the evolution of tartan developed into a tartan therapy session where people confessed to their various tartan experiences and journeys. This usually involved childhood revulsion then reclamation. Best story goes to Nigel Smith who confessed he was arrested in Spain for wearing a kilt in the 1960s on the grounds of being a transvestite!
Iain Hamilton deserves being singled out for being a joy: for being someone of principle interested in others, who has elements of fun, play and mischief with a bit of humbleness. And who was so genuinely touched when we gave him the first ever Changin’ Scotland Somhairle Award.
Some other memorable times include ….
Rob Brown giving the Friday talk – and taking an eternity to give it – supposedly on the politics of independence. When questioned on why he had not addressed ‘issue X’ he replied – with complete oblivion to how long he had gone on – ‘but I can’t cover everything in 20 minutes’. The wonderful and idiosyncratic Bernard Crick burst out loudly, ‘that was the longest 20 minutes I have ever known!’.
Timothy Neat deserves a chapter and category all to himself! A last minute call-in for chairing Michael Fry he felt it appropriate to show his disdain and utter revulsion for the speaker during the session. Then it was on to insulting members of the audience and concluding the discussion by taking to the floor and reciting some long poetry. A special mention has to go to his telling a member of the audience – who dared to ask a question Timothy did not approve of – ‘well, what can you expect from a Tory!’. This on the grounds the person in question’s father was Tory Provost of Ayr in 1955!
The Sunday morning in the discussion following a National Geographic film when Margaret Wright stormed out. This film – a typical Americana slice of apple pie and motherhood elicited a very nuanced discussion on whether such a panglossian positive view was helpful or not. Margaret bless her, could not deal with the fact a debate with different views had broken out. She got up in the middle of the debate and announced to everyone, ‘why does everyone have to disagree? This is why I can’t stand Changin’ Scotland and I am not coming back’.
Philip Blond is a Conservative thinker and revisionist and champion of ‘Red Toryism’. Blond has some interesting, engaging ideas, but it would be fair to say that he never stopped talking the whole weekend, in sessions, over meals, anywhere!
Graeme Turner got the sleeper from London to Inverness and then cycled from Inverness to Ullapool. He arrived fifteen minutes before his session was due to start, did his talk in his cycling gear, and then left to continue cycling northwards. The reason was that he had left his wife peddling away on the Inverness road so he could get to Ullapool. And they had decided to come north on their wedding anniversary and were away to have a special meal together further north.