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Scottish Quotations

I like to have quotations ready for every occasions - they give one's ideas so pat and save one the trouble of finding expression adequate to one's feeling.

Robert Burns

A variety of quotations in prose and verse reflecting all aspects of Scottish life and outlook from the 1st century to the present dayNew quotes added every week.

John Adams (1735-1826): American Attorney; Politician; 2nd President of the United States of America (1797-1801)

Many of them were Scotchmen in their plaids and their music was delightful. Even the bagpipe was not disagreeable.

Kay Adams:  Television Presenter, journalist and UNICEF UK Ambassador for Scotland

Attitudes only change when we see the horrific consequences of our inactivity.

(Criticising the reluctance of governments to give cash to Third World countries 1992)

[I celebrate] the Scottish people. I know that sounds cheesy but you could live in the land of milk and honey where the sun shines all day and if you didn’t feel comfortable with the people you were with, it would be worth absolutely nothing.

(30 November 2007)

William Adamson (1863-1936): Politician, Secretary of State for Scotland (Labour)

We believe that government policy is to subordinate Scottish administration to Whitehall to a far greater extent than has ever been the case and to remove from Scotland practically the last vestige of independent government and nationhood and to have its centre in London.


Flagnote: William Adamson was attacking his own Labour Government!


Wendy Alexander:  Leader of Scottish Labour MSPs  (2007-2008)

I have never been one of those who believe that uniquely Scotland is incapable of standing on its own two feet.

(30 November 2007)

We [Labour] have no divine right to be elected, no automatic call on the people’s support.

(23 March 2008)

Mohammad Ali: American Professional Boxer; World Heavyweight Champion

I’d heard of a man named Burns – supposed to be a poet;
But, if he was, how come I didn’t know it?
They told me his work was very, very neat,
So I replied: ‘But who did he ever beat?’

(On a visit to Burns Country 1965)

Marion Emily Angus (1865-1946):  Poet

I am sometimes told my poetry is pretty pagan, with no religious message in it and this I believe to be true. Somehow I cannot tackle big ideas altho’ I am not a heathen.

(Letter 1929)

Anonymous (13th Century)

Quhen Alessandre oure King wes deid
That Scotland lede in luf and le'
Awa wes sonse of aill and breid,
Off wyne and walx, of gamyn and gle;
Oure gold wes chngeit into leid,
The frute wes falyeit fra everie tree'
Christ, born into virgynyte'
Succour Scotland and remeid,
That stad is in perplexitie !

(Quoted by Andrew Wyntoun – Orygynale Cronykill of Scotland)


Ye shape yer sheen wi yer ain shauchelt feet. (You shape your shoes with your own shuffling feet.)

(Scots Proverb)


As the day lengthens, the cold strengthens.

(Traditional Scottish Saying)

Anonymous (16th Century)

Brissit brawnis and brokin banis,           (torn  muscles,
                                                               broken bones)
Stride, discord and waisite wanis;          (broken homes)
Crukit in eild, syne halt withal-                (old age)
Thir are the bewties of the fute-ball. 

(The Bewties of the Fute-ball)

Anonymous (16th Century)

Go, heart, but dissimulatioun,
   To Christ, that took our vile nature,
For thee to suffer passioun,
   Go, heart unto thy Saviour.

Go, heart, richt humill and meek,
   Go, heart, as leal and true servitour,
To him that heill is for all seek,
   Go, heart, unto thy Saviour.

(The Gude and Godlie Ballatis 1567)

Anonymous (16th century)

… the natural love of your native cunyre suld be inseperblye rutit in your hartis, considerand that your lyvis, your bodies, your habitatone, your frendis, your lyvyngis, and sutentain, your hail, your pace, your refuge, the rest of your eild ande your sepulture is in it.

(The Complaynt of Scotland 1549)

Anonymous (17th/18th Century)

Tandem Triumphans (at last victorious)

(Jacobite slogan)

Flagnote: The slogan, probably, adorned the Jacobite Standard raised at Glenfinnan in 1745 but certainly did so by the time the Jacobite army entered Perth on 3 September 1745. A replica (pictured here) of the Jacobite Standard was made for the 1745 Association in 1964 by Association member Pat Newton. An excellent account of the story of the banner is to be found on the Association website - - along with much other information on the ill-fated Rising.

Anonymous (17th/18th Century)

Weel may we a’ be,
Ill may we never see;
Here’s to the King
And the gude companie.

(Jacobite toast)

Anonymous (18th Century)

Our Duiks were deills, our Marquesses were mad,
Our Earls were evil, our Viscounts yet more bad,
Our Lords were villains, and our Barons knaves
            Who wish our burrows did sell us for slaves.

They sold the church, they sold the State and Nation,
They sold their honour, name and reputation,
They sold their birthright, peerages and places
            And now they leave the House with angrie faces.

(Verses on the Scots Peers 1706)

Anonymous (18th Century)

The cassin o the Wanchancie Covenant.

(Anti-Treaty of Union (1707) Toast)

Anonymous (18th century)

God grant that Marshal Wade
           May by Thy mighty aid
Victory bring
            May he sedition crush
And like a torrent rush
            Rebellious Scots to crush
God save the King.

(English National Anthem 3rd Verse)

Anonymous (18th Century)

Call this war by whatever name you may, only call it not an American rebellion; it is nothing more or less than a Scotch Irish Presbyterian rebellion.

(Hessian Officer on American War of Independence 1778)

Anonymous (18th/19th Century)

Wha will ride wi’ gallant Murray
Wha will ride for Geordie’s sel’
He’s the pride o’ Glen Isla
And the darling o’ Dunkeld’
See the white rose in his bonnet
See his banner o’er the Tay
His guid sword he now has drawn it
And has flung his sheath away.

(The Gallant Murray)

Flagnote:  From a song about the byous Lord George Murray, the outstanding Jacobite commander, which was published in Hogg’s Jacobite Relics. Lord George Murray (1694-1760), son of John Murray, 1st Duke of Atholl. Was out in both the 15 and 19 Jacobite Ridings and after a few years fighting abroad he was pardoned and returned to Scotland in the late 1720s. In spite of many reservations he joined Prince Charles Edward Stewart in Perth during the 45 Rising. His relationship with the Prince was always fragile, In spite of the comment by Fitzroy Maclean that Lord George was “the military genius of the 45”, the Prince listened to others!. He proved his military skill at Prestonpans, the retreat from Derby and Clifton, and the last major Jacobite victory at Falkirk, Murray didn’t want to fight at Culloden, but the  right wing, under his command, was the only section to leave the field in reasonably good order and he proceeded to Ruthven. On receiving the order to disband he went to France and died in exile in 1760.

Anonymous (19th Century)

                        The Free Kirk,
                        The Wee Kirk,
            The Kirk without the steeple:
                        The Auld Kirk,
                        The cauld Kirk,
            The Kirk without the people.

(The Sabbath day Eighteen-Forty-Three)

Anonymous 19th Century)

Rise up, guidwife, and shak your feathers,
And dinna think that we are beggars,
For we are bairnies come out to play,
Rise up and gie’s our Hogmanay.

(A rhyme chanted by bairns when guising at Hogmanay)

Anonymous (19th Century)

From the lone sheiling of the misty island
    Mountains divide us, and the waste of the seas –
Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,
    And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.

(Canadian Boat Song in Blackwood’s Magazine September 1829)

Anonymous (English Saying)

He that will France win must with Scotland first begin.

Up the close and down the stair,
In the house with Burke and Hare;
Burke’s the butcher, Hare’s the thief,
Knox, the man who buys the beef.

(Edinburgh Bairn’s Song)

Anonymous (21st Century)

Scotland takes gold.

(Front-page Headline, The Scotsman 10 November 2007 – celebrating Glasgow being awarded the 2014 Commonwealth Games by 47 votes to 24)

Anonymous (Scottish)

Thaim wi a guid Scots tongue in their heid are fit tae gaun ower the warld.

(Scots Proverb)

Anonymous (American)

A Scot is a man who keeps the Sabbath – and every other doggone thing he can lay his hands on!

(American Folk Saying)

Anonymous (French)

Fier comme un Ecossais – Proud as a Scot.

(French Proverb)

Anonymous (German)

Warte bis der Schotte kommt – Wait until the Scot comes and gets ye!

(German Proverb used to fleg naughty bairns)

Dr John Arbuthnot (1667-1735):  Physician to Queen Anne, Scholar and Satirist

All political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies.

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888): English Poet and Critic

I am very glad to have seen the Caledonian Canal, but don’t want to see it again.

(Letter to his wife 1882)

Alex Arthur; Professional Boxer:  Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist 1998

The whole thing from start to finish – getting kitted out in your kilt and feeling part of a Scottish national team was a tremendous feeling. To compete for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games was by far the greatest experience (than representing Britain at the Olympics) because you could wear the blue and people knew that you were from Scotland. To win the gold medal just made it far better.

(Backing Glasgow’s bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games 6 November 2007)

Neal Ascherson: Journalist and Author

Scotland is not really within the category of ‘capitalist economies’ as they are usually classified. Neither is it socialist. It hangs somewhere between Eastern and Western Europe, a stateist economy without a state.

(Observer 1975)

Arthur Askey (1900-1972): English Comedian

I have never had to try to get my act across to a non-English speaking audience, except at the Glasgow Empire.

Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour (1848-1930): Politician, Prime Minister (1902-1905) and Statesman

Our Scottish theory…is that every country has need of Scotchmen, but that Scotland has no need of the citizens of any other country.


Nothing matters much and very little matters at all.

John Barbour (c1320-1895):  Archbishop of Aberdeen, Poet

A! Freedom is ane nobil thing!
Freedom makis man to have liking,
Freedom all solace to man givis:
He livis at ease that freely livis!
A nobil hart may hae naen ease,
Na ellis nocht that may him pleise,
Gif freedom failye; for free liking
Is yairnit owre all other thing.

(The Brus)

Sir James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937):  Playwright and Novelist

As boys we ran up the brae. As men and women, young and in our prime, we almost forgot it was there. But the autumn of life comes, and the brae grows steeper; then the winter, and once again we are as the child pausing apprehensively on the brig. Yet we are no longer the child; we look now or no new world at the top, only for a little garden and a tiny house, and a handloom in the house. It is only a garden of kail and potatoes, but there may be a line of daisies, white and red, on each side of the narrow footpath, and honeysuckle over the door. Life is not always hard, even after backs grow bent, and we know that all braes lead only to the grave.

(A Window in Thrums 1889)

I am not young enough to know everything.

God gave us our memories so that we might have roses in December.

I remember being asked by two maiden ladies, about the time I left the university, what I was to be, and when I replied brazenly, ‘An author,’ they flung up their hands, and one exclaimed reproachfully, ‘And you an M.A.!’

(Margaret Ogilvy, Ch. 3, 1896)

You’ve forgotten the grandest moral attribute of a Scotsman, Maggie, that he’ll do nothing which might damage his career.

(What Every Woman Knows, Act 1, 1908)

You come of a race of men the very wind of whose name has swept to the ultimate seas.

(Rectorial Address on Courage at St Andrews University 3 May 1922)

Ian O Bayne:  Teacher and Political Activist

The sacrifices made by the men of 1820 set a Scottish Agenda which – 170 years on – we have yet to complete.

(Scottish labour History review 1990)

Johnny Beattie:  Comedian

Call me an old square, but I like women to look feminine. They tend to dress down, which I think is unappealing.

Brendan Francis Behan (Irish: Breandán ó Breacháin) (1923-1964):  Irish Playwright

God help the poor Scotsmen - they'll never be free
But we're entirely surrounded by water.

(The Sea Around Us)

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922):  Inventor

Come here, Watson, I want you.

(First telephone message when Bell spoke to his assistant Thomas Watson 9 March1876)

When one door closes another door opens, but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.

A man, as a general rule, owes very little to what he is born with – a man is what he makes of himself.

Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc (1870-1953): French-born English Writer, Poet and Politician

I am one of those who always think it is fun to be in Scotland.

(Places 1942)

Nicola Benedetti:  Classical Musician

Being on tour so often, in fact, enhances my appreciation and pride in being from Scotland. In such a competitive world I believe it is my Scottish roots that have enabled me to keep a sincere and realistic approach to everything I do.

(April 2007)

Bernard de Linton (? – 1331):  Abbot of Arbroath Abbey, Bishop of the Isles and Chancellor of Scotland

For so long as a hundred remain alive, we will never in any degree be subject to the domination of the English. Since it is not for glory, riches or honour that we fight but for liberty alone which no good man loses but with his life.

(Scottish Declaration of Independence, letter to Pope John XXII sealed by the barons of Scotland at Arbroath Abbey 6 April 1320)

Julie Bertagna:  Children’s Author

I’m a big fan of Robert Burns’ work. It’s difficult not to be. His work was so incredibly rich. In so many ways Burns is the high point for Scottish poetry. Hopefully, the continued interest in him, both at home and abroad, will encourage an ongoing following for our cultural heritage and also provoke people to look at the extraordinary talent Scotland has to offer today.

(January 2007)

Thurso Berwick (born Maurice Blythman) (1919 - 1981): Teacher, Folklorist, Political Activist, Singer and Songwriter)

Nae Liz the Twa, nae Lillibet the Wan,
             Nae Liz will ever dae,
       We’ll mak oor land republican
             In a Scottish breakaway.

(Coronation Coronach aka The Scottish Breakaway)

Sir Walter Besant (1836-1901):  English Writer

Wherever the pilgrim turns his feet, he finds Scotsmen in the forefront of civilization and letters. They are the premiers in every colony, professors of every university, teachers, editors, lawyers, engineers and merchants – everything and always at the front. 

Professor John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895):  Political Activist, Scholar, Man of Letters and Educationalist

When Scotland forgets Burns, then history will forget Scotland.

What I want are three things – first, a great cause; second, a great battle; third, a great victory.


Flagnote: As a Nationalistic Scot Blackie fought many great causes, many battles and as with his backing of a Chair in Celtic Language and Literature in the University of Edinburgh, some magnificent victories. He had a great love of the Gaelic tongue and this led him to leading a campaign for a Celtic Chair at his University of Edinburgh. By 1879, thanks largely to his efforts the necessary £12,000 had been received or pledged – including £200 from Queen Victoria.

George R Blake (1893-1961):  Novelist

To labour in drudgery, to remain submerged, to be dumb under hard conditions of industry and living – these are not traditions with the working class Scot. He is of a free race, he thinks deeply, he feels passionately, and acts vigorously, even though these actions are forced into illogically by the passion that prompts them…The Scottish labouring-class is a force that must and will assert itself in self-defence, for that is the inevitable.

(Scotland of the Scots 1919)

The living conditions almost anywhere in the industrial belt [of Scotland] are quite enough to drive any man to drink.

(The Heart of Scotland 1934)

Alan Bold (1943-1998):  Poet, Writer and Editor 

Like gods kicking a world about
The players flail at the ball.
Their brains are in their feet,
Their single mind is fixed on goal.

(Scotland Yet ‘Epilogue’ 1978)

                            It is so
In Scotland, land of the omnipotent No.

(A Memory of Death)

Robert (Bob) John Graham Boothby, Baron Boothby of Buchan and Rattray Head (1900-1986):  Politician

A statesman is judged by results. If his policy fails he goes. It may be unfair, but there is a kind of rough justice about it.

Compassion? It marches hand in hand with moderation. And here, with an appalling lapse, the Scottish record is not too bad. The lapse, I need hardly remind you, was the Reformation, as it took place in this land and in this town [St Andrews]. It brought the Renaissance to an end; and plunged Scotland into a long dark night, from which she was ultimately rescued by Robert Burns.

(Rectorial Address on Tolerance at St Andrews University 17 April 1959)

James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck (1740-1795):  Lawyer, Diarist and Author

If a man born to a fortune cannot make himself easier and freer than those who are not, he gains nothing.

They were struck with the noble sentiments of liberty of the old Scots and they expressed their regret at the shameful Union. I felt true patriot sorrow. Oh, infamous rascals who sold the honour of your country to a nation against which our ancestors supported themselves with so much glory. But I say no more, only, alas, poor Scotland.

(On coming across a copy of the Declaration of Scottish Independence sealed at Arbroath Abbey on 6 April 1320 in the university library in Leipzig whilst on the Grand Tour)

We had the musick of the bagpipes every day, at Armadale, Dunvegan and Col. Dr [Samuel] Johnson appeared fond of it, and used often to stand for some time with his ear close to the great drone.

(Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides 1785)

Drinking is in reality an occupation which employs a considerable portion of the time of many people; and to conduct it in the most rational and agreeable manner is one of the great arts of living.

Gill Bowman: Folksinger

Burns can take the tea-towel or shortbread tin thing and not be damaged by it because his work is so good.

(The Scotsman 19 December 2008)

James Bridie (born Osborne Henry Mavor) (1888-1951): Playwright and Doctor

‘God gi’e as a guid conceit o’ oursel’s’ is the Scotsman’s most earnest prayer.

(One Way of Living 1939)

Boredom is a sign of satisfied ignorance, blunted apprehension, crass sympathies, dull understanding, feeble powers of attention, and irreclaimable weakness of character.

Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855):  English Writer

I always liked Scotland as an idea, but now, as a reality. I like it far better… and who indeed that has once seen Edinburgh, with its couchant crag-lion, but must see it again in dreams waking or sleeping? My dear Sir, do not think I blaspheme when I tell you that your Great London as compared to Dun-Edin ‘mine own romantic town’ is as prose compared to poetry, or as a great rumbling, rambling, heavy Epic – compared to a lyric, bright, brief, clear and vital as a flash of lightning. You have nothing like Scott’s Monument, or, if you had that and all the glories of architecture assembled together, you have nothing like Arthur’s Seat, and above all you have not the Scotch National Character – and it is that grand character after all which gives the land its true charm, its true greatness.

(Letter 20 July 1850)

Mary Brooksbank (1897-1978):  Jute Mill Worker, Political Activist, Poet, Singer and Songwriter

Oh, dear me, the warld’s ill divided,
Them that work the hardest are aye wi least provided,
But I maun bide contented, dark days or fine,
There’s no much pleasure living affen ten and nine.

(Oh Dear Me aka Jute Mill Song)

George Mackay Brown (1921-1996):  Poet, Author and Dramatist

For Scotland I sing
the Knox ruined nation
that poet and saint
must rebuild with passion.

(The Prologue)

One senses a growing coldness – the coldness of people who have received the fatal blessing of prosperity.

(The Broken Heraldry 1970)

W Oliver Brown (1903-1976):  Teacher, Political Activist and Propagandist

The Lord in his wisdom gave us the Cheviots as a defensive barrier. We really needed the Alps.

(Witdom 1953)

While Scotland became North Britain, England never became South Britain.

 (Witdom 1953)

“That part of the country now called England – that part of the country now called Scotland.” These phrases from Clause 9 of the Treaty [of union 1707] show that its drafters actually intended to destroy even the memory of such names as “England” and Scotland.” To describe yourself as a “Unionist” and a “Scotsman” is therefore impossible, since the first term implies the abolition of the second.

(Witdom 1953)

The Treaty [1707] was essentially a suicide pact. According to English law the sole survivor of such a pact is guilty of murder.

(Witdom 1953)

It was not sacrilege to build the churches of Liverpool and Bristol with the profits of the slave trade. Nor was it sacrilege to accept for the revenues of the London diocese the ground-rents for brothels in Paddington. But when some Scots recovered for their country a national symbol which belonged to it and which had been reset in an Abbey, that was sacrilege!

(Witdom 1953)

It is only when nationality is openly recognised that we meet other people on equal terms. Otherwise we feel subconsciously inferior to them and compensate for that inferiority by our stupid arrogance (“Here’s tae us!”).

(The Wisdom of Oliver Brown – Nationality and Nationalism – Edited by David R Rollo 1992)

The real romance of the ’45 was not the charm of the Prince but the morality of the people who were not tempted by the £30,000 which any of them could have claimed for betraying him, The statue at Glenfinnan is not to honour Prince Charlie – but the men who fought and died for him – how glad I was to discover that fact!

(The Wisdom of Oliver Brown – Jacobites – Edited by David R Rollo 1992)

Dr George Bruce (1909-2002):  Poet, Writer, Critic and Broadcaster

I go North to cold, to home, to Kinnaird,
Fit monument for our time.

This is the outermost edge of Buchan
Inland the sea birds range,
The tree’s leaf has salt upon it,
The tree turns to the low stone wall.

(Kinnaird Head)

Jeremy Bruce-Watt (1929-2006): Journalist and Novelist

In Scotland, no occasion of joy or sorrow, of national celebration or traumatic change, is complete without the wandering drunk.

(The Captive Summer 1979)

John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir of Enfield (1875-1940):  Author and Diplomat

If we are to have clear and sound thinking, the people must take politics very seriously and be very well informed about them.

(Address on ‘Literature and Life’ 1910)

You think a wall as solid as the earth separates civilisation from barbarism. I tell you the division is a sheet of glass.

(The Power House 1913)

It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.


Poverty is the first and biggest fact in our history, and from that poverty the Scottish race learned certain qualities which only come from a hard school. It learned that nothing comes without effort, and that we value most what costs us most…. Then again, poverty teaches self-reliance and effort. It hardens the fibre of a man and toughens his character. And most of all, it makes a man take risks in life. The more comfortable we are the more likely we are to be sluggish and unenterprising and timid.

(Some Scottish Characteristics 1924)

I believe that every Scotsman should be a Scottish nationalist. If it could be proved that a separate Scottish Parliament were desirable, that is to say that the merits were greater than the disadvantages, Scotsmen should support it. I would go further. Even if it were not proved desirable, if it could be proved desirable by any substantial majority of the Scottish people, then Scotland should be allowed to make the decision.

(Speech in House of Commons, Westminster, England 1932)

An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support.

Our rural population is shrinking and our industries are decaying. Our ancient system of law and justice is not what it was. Our churches, perhaps no longer have the same hold on the heart of our people, In language, literature and art we are losing our idiom, and, it seems to many, we are in danger of very soon reaching the point where Scotland will have nothing distinctive to show the world.

(Speech in the House of Commons, London, England 22 November 1932)

Romance is a revolt against the despotism of facts.

(Sir Walter Scott 1932)

An experience, especially in youth, is quickly overlaid by others, and is not at the moment fully comprehended. But it is overlaid, not lost. Time hurries it from us, but also keeps it in store, and it can be recaptured later and amplified by memory, so that at leisure we can interpret its meaning and enjoy its savour.

(Memory Hold the Door 1940)

A hundred yards may be a breathless business if only for a few seconds are granted to complete it.

Norman Buchan (1922-1990): Politician, Folklorist and Teacher

The normal sign of a bad song is that it calls Scotland ‘Caledonia’.

Robert Williams Buchanan (1841-1901):  English Poet, Essayist, Novelist, Playwright, Theatre Producer, Publisher, Editor and Actor

To the wedding of Shon Maclean,
  Twenty Pipers together
Came in the wind and the rain
  Playing across the heather;
Backward their ribbons flew,
Blast upon blast they blew,
Each clad in tartan new,
  Bonnet, and blackcock feather:
And every Piper was fou,
  Twenty Pipers together!

(The Wedding of Shon Maclean)

Flagnote: Born in Caverswell, Stafford, England, his father was a native of Ayr, the family moved to Glasgow in 1850 where Buchanan was educated at the High School and University.

Henry Thomas Buckle (1821-1862): English Historian

An essential antagonism which still exists between the Scotch and English minds; an antagonism extremely remarkable, when found among nations, both of whom, besides being contiguous, and constantly mixing together, speak the same language, read the same books, belongs to the same empire and possess the same interests, and yet are, in many important respects, as different as if there had never been any means of their influencing each other, and as if they had never had anything in common.

(History of Civilization in England)

The Scotch always had one direction in which they could speak and act with unrestrained liberty. In politics they found their vent. Their mind was free. And this was their salvation.

(History of Civilisation in England 1857-1862)

Ian Bunting: Journalist

‘Stone of Destiny’ is an entertaining caper that makes you a little prouder to be Scottish.

(Film Review – Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser 15 October 2008)

Gregory Burke: Playwright

It takes three hundred years to build an army that’s admired and respected around the world. But it only takes three years pissing about in the desert in the biggest foreign policy disaster ever to fuck it up completely.

(Black Watch 2006)

George Burley:  Footballer, Scottish Internationalist (11 caps) and  Scotland’s Manager

As a Scotsman I have a vision to do well for my country and I can’t ask for more than the opportunity to take it to the World Cup finals. There is a tingle of excitement running through me just thinking about it.

(The Scotsman 25 January 2008)

Joan Burnie:  Journalist

Grown-ups should be allowed to go to hell with their own vices – cigarettes, cholesterol, chocolate or chips – intact.

(Protesting against National No Smoking Day 1992)

Most things in excess are bad for us, including current surfeit of food fascist, born-again non-smokers, and po-faced teetotallers. I would rather tread the primrose path with Rab C Nesbitt, glass in hand and cigarette too.

Robert Burns (1759 - 1796):  National Bard, Poet and Songwriter

I never had the least thought or inclination of turning Poet till I got once heartily in love, and the rhyme and song were, in a manner, the spontaneous language of my heart. The following composition [Handsome Nell, 1774] was the first of my performances. It is, indeed, very puerile and silly; but I am always pleased with it, as it recalls to my mind those happy days when my heart was yet honest, and my tongue was sincere.

(First Commonplace Book, August 1783)

   Ramsay an’ famous Ferguson
Gied Forth an’ Tay a lift aboon;
Yarrow an’ Tweed, to monie a tune,
                              Owre Scotland rings,
While Irwin, Lugar, Aire an’ Doon,
                              Naebody sings. 

   Th’ Illissus, Tiber, Thames an’ Seine,
Glide sweet in monie a tunefu’ line;
But Willie set your fit to mine,
                              An’ cock your crest,
We’ll gar our streams an’ burnies shine
                              Up wi’ the best. 

(To William Simpson May 1785)

     We'll sing COILA'S plains an' fells,
Her moors red-brown wi' heather bells,
Her banks an' braes her dens an' dells,
                           Where glorious WALLACE
Aft bure the gree, as story tells,
                           Frae Suthron billies.

     At WALLACE' name, what Scottish blood,
But boils up in a spring-tide flood!
Oft have our fearless fathers strode
                           By WALLACE' side,
Still pressing onward, red-wat-shod,
                           Or glorious dy'd!

(To William Simpson 1785)

Leeze me on drink! It gies us mair
   Than either school or college;
It kindles wit, it waukens lear,
   It pangs us fou o knowledge:
Be’t whisky-gill or penny wheep,
   Or onie stronger potion,
It never fails, on drinkin deep,
   To kittle up our notion,
      By night or day. 

(The Holy Fair 1785)

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In praising foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
                        Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
                        For promis’d joy! 

            Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
                        On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
                        I guess an’ fear!

(To A Mouse, November 1785)

Thro' weary life this lesson learn
That Man was made to mourn!

(Man Was Made To Mourn, 1785)

In days when mankind were but callans;
At grammar, logic, an’ sic talents,
They took nae pains their speech to balance,
            Or rules to gie;
But spak their thoughts in plain, braid Lallans,
            Like you or me.

(To William Simpson of Ochiltree, May 1785)

A fig for those by law protected!
      Liberty’s a glorious feast,
Courts for cowards were erected,
      Churches built to please the priest! 

(The Jolly Beggars ‘Love and Liberty’ 1785)

   Gie me ae spark o’ Nature’s fire,
That’s a’ the learning I desire;
Then tho’ I drudge thro’ dud an’ mire
                              At pleugh or cart,
My Muse, tho’ hamely in attire,
                             May touch the heart.

(Epistle to J. Lapraik 1 April 1785)

O wad some `Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
            An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
            An’ ev’n devotion!

(To A Louse 1786)

Perhaps the Christian volume is the theme,
   How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed;
How He, who bore in Heaven the second name,
   Had not on earth whereon to lay His head:

(The Cotter’s Saturday Night 1786)

The halesome Parritch, chief o’ SCOTIA’S food.

(The Cotter’s Saturday Night 1786)

O never, never SCOTIA’S realm desert,
  But still the Patriot, and the Patriot-Bard,
In bright succession raise, her Ornament and Guard!

(The Cotter’s Saturday Night 1786)

SCOTLAND, my auld, respected Mither!
Tho’ whyles ye moistify leather,
Till whare ye sit, on craps o’ heather,
                                    Ye tine your dam;
FREEDOM and WHISKY gang thegither
                                    Tak aff your dram!

(The Author’s Ernest Cry and Prayer to the Right Honourable and Honourable, Scotch representatives in the House of Commons 1786)

 In gath’rin votes ye were na slack;
Now stand as tightly by your tack;
Ne’er claw your lug, an’ fidge your back,
                  An’ hum an’ haw;
But raise your arm. An’ tell your crack
                 Before them a’.

(The Author’s Earnest Cry and Prayer to the Right Honourable and Honourable, Scotch Representatives in the House of Commons 1786)

Edina! Scotia’s darling seat!
   All hail thy palaces and tow’rs,
Where once beneath a Monarch’s feet
   Sat Legislation’s sov’reign pow’rs!

(Address to Edinburgh 1786)

While the story of Wallace poured a Scottish prejudice into my veins which will boil along there until the flood-gates of life shut in eternal rest.

(Letter to Dr John Moore 2 August 1787)

This morning I knelt at the tomb of Sir John the Graham, the gallant friend of the immortal Wallace; and two hours ago I said a fervent prayer for old Caledonia over the hole in the whinstone, where Robert de Bruce fixed his royal standard on the banks of Bannockburn.

(Letter to Robert Muir of Kilmarnock 26 August 1787)

Tho’ll break my heart, thou warbling bird,
That wantons thro’ the flowering thorn:
Thou minds me o’ departed joys,
             Departed never to return.

(Ye Banks and Braes 1787)

That I, for poor auld Scotland’s sake
Some usefu’ plan or book could make,
Or sing a sang at least.

(To The Gudewife of Wauchope-House, March 1787)

We hae tales to tell,
   And we hae sangs to sing;
We hae pennies to spend
   And we hae pints to bring. 

(Hey, Ca’ Thro’ 1787)

I like to have quotations ready for every occasions - they give one's ideas so pat and save one the trouble of finding expression adequate to one's feeling.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
   And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
   For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my jo,
   For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
   For auld lang syne.

(Auld Lang Syne 1788)

Hear Land o’ Cakes and brither Scots,
Frae Maidenkirk to Johnny Groats! –
If there’s a hole in a’ your coats,
                        I rede you tent it:
A chield’s amang you taking notes,
                        And, faith he’ll prent it. 

(On The Late Captain Groses’s Peregrinations Thro’ Scotland 1789)

Gie a' the faes o SCOTLAND'S weal
           A towmond's Toothache!

(Address to the Toothache 1789)

“Alas,” have I often said to myself, “what are all the boasted advantages which my country reaps from the Union that can counter-balance the annihilation of her independence, and even her very name.”

(Letter to Mrs Dunlop 10 April 1790)

Is there no daring Bard will rise and tell
How glorious Wallace stood, how hapless fell?
Where are the Muses fled that could produce
A drama worthy o the name o Bruce? 

(Scots Prologue for Mrs Sutherland, March 1790)

Flagnote: Robert Burns wrote the prologue for Mrs Sutherland’s benefit night – she was the wife of George Sutherland, manager of a company of Comedians, who were at that time in Dumfries, and were raising subscriptions for the new Theatre Royal in the town. Bards did respond to the plea from Burns as the plays by Sydney Goodsir Smith - ‘The Wallace’ - and Professor Robert Silver - ‘The Hert o Scotland’ - brought the story of Wallace and Robert I, King of Scots, to the stage last century. Both deserve a revival by the new National Theatre of Scotland – what a double-bill for the Edinburgh International Festival.

Besides my farm business, I ride on my excise matters at least 200 miles every week: I have not by any means given up the Muse. You will see in the third volume of Johnson’s Scots Songs, that I have contributed my mite there.

(Letter to Dunbar 4 January 1790)

Now, for my friends’ and brethren’s sake,
And for my dear-lov’d Land o Cakes,
   I pray with holy fire:
Lord, send a rough-shod troop o Hell
O’er a’ wad Scotland buy or sell,
   To grind them in the mire!

Election Ballad – Dumfries Burghs 1790)

  Ah! Gentle dames, it gars me greet,
To think how mony counsels sweet,
How mony lengthen’d sage advices
The husband frae the wife despises!

(Tam o’ Shanter 1790)

To give them music was his charge:
He screw’d the pipes and gart them skirl,
Till roof and rafters a’ did dirl.

 (Tam o Shanter 1790)

The piper loud and louder blew;
The dancers quick and quicker flew;
They reel’d, they set. They cross’d, they cleekit,
Till ilka carlin swat and reekit,
And coost her duddies to the wark,
And linket at it in her sark! 

(Tam o’ Shanter 1791)

Fareweel to a’ our Scottish fame,
Fareweel our ancient glory!
Fareweel ev’n to the Scottish name,
Sae famed in martial story!
Now Sark rins over Solway sands,
An’ Tweed rins to the ocean,
To mark where England’s province stands –
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation.

(A Parcel of Rogues in a Nation)

I was born a poor dog; and however I may occasionally pick up a better bone than I used to do, I know I must live and die poor; but I will indulge the flattering faith that my poetry will considerably outlive my poverty.

(Letter to Mrs Graham of Fintry 1791)

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward’s grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
            Let him turn and flee!
Wha for Scotland’s king and law
Freedom’s sword will strongly draw?
Freeman stand, or freeman fa’?
            Let him on wi’ me!

(Scottish National Anthem – Bruce’s Address At Bannockburn (Scots Wha Hae) 1793)

Scots, wha hae wi’ WALLACE bled,
Scots, wham BRUCE has aften led;
Welcome to your gory bed, -
          Or to victorie. –

Now’s the day, and now’s the hour;
See the front o’ battle lour;
See approach proud EDWARD’S power,
          Chain’s and Slaverie. –

Wha for SCOTLAND’S king and law.
Freedom’s sword will strongly draw,
FREE-MAN stand, or FREE-MAN fa’,
          Let him follow me.

(Scottish National Anthem – Bruce’s Addresss At Bannochburn (Scots Wha Hae) 1793)

Yestreen, when to the trembling string,
The dance gaed thro’ the lighted ha’,
To thee my fancy took its wing,
I sat, but neither heard or saw:
Tho’ this was fair, and that was braw,
And yon the toast of a’ the town,
I sigh’d and said amang them a’,
‘Ye are na Mary Morrison.’

(Mary Morrison 1793)

A Guid New-year I wish thee, Maggie!
Hae, there’s a ripp to thy auld baggie;
Tho’ thou’s howe-backet now, an’ knaggie,
                        I’ve seen the day,
Thou could hae gaen like ony staggie
                        Out owre the lay.

(The Auld Farmer’s New-Year Morning Salutation To His Auld Mare, Maggie – On giving her the accustomed Ripp of Corn to Hansel in the New Year 1786)

Here’s a bottle and an honest friend
    What wad ye wish for mair man?
Wha kens, before his life may end,
    What his share may be o’ care, man?

(A Bottle and a Friend)

The lovely lass o’ Inverness,
   Nae joy nor pleasure can she see;
For e’en and morn she cries, alas!
   And ay the saut tear blin’s her e’e.
Drumossie moor – Drumossie day-
   A waefu’ day it was to me!
For there I lost my father dear,
   My father dear, and brethren three.

(The Lovely Lass of Inverness)

I’m sitten down here, after seven and forty miles ridin, e’en as forjesket and forniaw’d as a forfoughten cock, to gie you some notion o’ my landlowper-like stravaguin sin the sorrowfu’ hour I sheuk hands and parted wi’ auld Reekie.

(Letter to William Nicol 1 June 1787)

Go on, Sir! Lay bare, with undaunted heart & steady hand, that horrid mass of corruption called Politics & State-Craft! Dare to draw in their native colors these

Calm, thinking VILLAINS whom no faith can fix –

whatever be the shibboleth of their pretended Party.

(Letter to Captain William Johnston 13 November 1792)

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
   So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
   Till a’ the seas gang dry.

(A Red, Red Rose 1794)

Independent of my enthusiasm as a Scotchman I have rarely met with any thing in History which interests my feelings as a Man, equally with the story of Bannockburn.

(Letter 12 January 1794)

Flagnote: On Sunday 26 August 1787, at the beginning of his Highland Tour, Robert Burns visited the field of the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) with his friend William Nicol.

If I’m design’d yon lordlings slave
   By Natures law design’d,
Why was an independent wish
   E’er planted in my mind?

In Mauchline there dwells six proper young belles,
   The pride of the place and its neighbourhood a’;
Their carriage and dress, a stranger would guess,
   In Lon’on or Paris they gotten it a’.
Miss Miller is fine, Miss Markland’s devine,
   Miss Smith she has wit, and Miss Betty is braw;
There’s beauty and fortune to get wi’ Miss Morton:
   But Armour’s the jewel o’ them a’. 

(The Belles of Mauchline 1784)

While Europe’s eye is fixed on mighty things,
The fate of empires and the fall of kings;
While quacks of state must each produce his plan,
And even children lisp the Rights of Man;
Amid this fuss just let me mention,
The Rights of Woman merit some attention. 

(The Rights of Woman – an Address written for actress Miss Louisa Fontenelle for her Benefit Night in the Theatre Royal, Dumfries 26 November 1792)

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North –
The birth place of Valour, the country of Worth:
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

(My Heart’s in the Highlands)

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
   Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
   Ne’er fail in old Scotland! 

(John Barleycorn: A Ballad)

We may be wise, or rich, or great,
   But never can be blest!
   Nae treasures nor pleasures
      Could make us happy lang;
   The heart ay’s the part ay
      That makes us right or wrang. 

(Epistle To Davie, A Brother Poet)

Edmund Burt (?–1755):  English Author and Tax Collector

The common habit of the ordinary Highlander is far from being acceptable to the eye….. this dress is called the quelt: and for the most part, they wear the petticoat so very short, that in a windy day, going up a hill, or stooping, the indecency of it is plainly discovered.

(Letters from A Gentleman in the North of Scotland To His Friend in London – Letter XXII – published 1754)

The air of the Highlands is pure, and consequently healthy, insomuch that I have known such cures done by it as might be thought next to miracles – I mean in distemper of the lungs, as coughs, consumption & c.

(Letters from A Gentleman in the North of Scotland To His Friend in London – published 1754)

George Walker Bush:  American Politician: US President

Scotland and the United States have long shared ties of family and friendship, and many of our country’s most cherished customs and ideals first grew to maturity on Scotland’s soil. The Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish declaration of Independence signed in 1320, embodied the Scots’ strong dedication to liberty, and the Scots brought that tradition to the New World. Sons and daughters of many Scottish clans were among the first immigrants to settle in America, and their determination and optimism helped build our nation’s character.

(April 2008)

George Gordon Byron, 6th Lord Byron (1788-1824):  Poet

But I am half a Scot by birth, and bred
   A whole one, and my heart flies to my head
As Auld Lang Syne brings
Scotland, one and all
   Scotch plaids, Scotch snoods, the blue hills, and clear streams,
The Dee, the Don, Balgounie’s Brig’s black wall,
   All my boy feelings, all my gentler dreams
Of what I then dreamt, clothed in their own pall,
   Like Banqo’s offspring. Floating past me seems
My childhood in this childishness of mine;
   I care not – ‘tis a glimpse of Auld Lang Syne.

(Don Juan (1819-24, X, 17-18))

….They never fail who die
In a great cause. The block may soak their gore;
Their heads may sodden in the sun: their limbs
Be strung to city gates and castle walls,
But still their spirits walk abroad! 

Return to Scottish Quotations - Sources 


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