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The Scots Week-End


WE have to thank the following for their courtesy in permitting us to quote from copyright works:

( I ) Prose and verse extracts: Lord Tweedsmuir [John Buchan], Mr C. M. Grieve [Hugh MacDiarmid], Dr. Charles Murray and Messrs Constable & Co., Ltd. (for "Ay, Fegs" from In the Country Places); Professor James Moffatt, D.D., and Messrs Hodder & Stoughton (for the extracts from the former's translation of the Old Testament) ; Mr Edwin Muir, Dr. J. M. Bulloch, Mrs Joyce Maxtone-Graham [Jan Struther], Miss Helen B. Cruickshank, Captain G. G. Macfarlane [Patrick Miller], Mr R. Farquharson Sharp (for extracts from the works of William Sharp) ; the Executors of Roger Quin the younger, Messrs W. C. Henderson, Ltd., St. Andrews (for the poems from The Scarlet Gown, by R. F. Murray); Messrs William Hodge & Co., Ltd. (for poems by Robert Browning (Scotus), J. R. Christie, T. L. Douglas, George Fletcher and A. S. Wallace from University Verses); Messrs Hodder & Stoughton (for extracts from Tobersnorey, by Sir James Cameron Lees, D.D.); Messrs Jackson, Son & Co., Glasgow (for extracts from A Heretic, by Walter C. Smith, D.D.); Messrs Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh) for "Blessing on the Kindling" from Carmina Gadelica) ; the Moray Press, Edinburgh (for the epigram by William Soutar); the Porpoise Press (for poems by Alexander Gray, Roderick Watson Kerr, William Ogilvy and George Malcolm Thomson); and the proprietors of the Glasgow Herald (for "The Best dressed Highlander" by D. M. Mackay).

(2) Songs: Mr David Stephen and Mr Ian Whyte (for the original rounds) ; Dr. Millar Patrick (for some of the precentor's rhymes); Mr Duncan Morison and Mr Malcolm MacInnes (for island airs); Mr Hector MacIver (for the words of the Lewis Bridal Song); Mr H. M. Willsher and Dr. R. C. Buist (for "If the Kirk wad let me be"); Dr. David Rorie (for "The Lum Hat wantin' the Croon"); Mr Moultrie Kelsall (for bothy ballads); Mr William Kemp (for "I dinna like McFarlane); Messrs Boosey & Co. (for "An Eriskay Love-lilt" and "The Road to the Isles"); and Paterson's Publications, Ltd. (for "Flat-footed Jean").

While we believe the foregoing to be a complete statement of our indebtedness, it is possible that there are a few omissions, in which case we offer our apologies to those to whom they are due. It also may be that by inadvertence we have included one or two copyright items, for it is not always easy in the case of long deceased authors to ascertain whether copyright still subsists or to trace the present owners of it. Here again, if we have offended we hope we may be forgiven.


IN the common form of preface acknowledgements of assistance, if made at all, are put last. This is a shabby practice at best, and in the present circumstances would be inexcusable, for without the generous collaboration of many friends our project of The Scots WeekEnd could never have been carried out. Our first duty, therefore, is to thank "JAMES BRIDIE" for his demonstration of the heather-bedside manner; ERIC LINKLATER for his sage guidance in the delicate matter of holiday friendships which he has refused to have entitled "Don Juan in Caledonia"; DAVID CLEGHORN THOMSON for bearing the main burden of the musical section; ROBERT HURD for his illustrated notes on Scottish architecture; and a lad we daurna name, owing to the etiquette of Parliament House, for the learned and lively opinion he has given on the law of Scotland as it affects the holiday-maker. With the main literary contributors we must join EVELYN DUNBAR, to whose witty and accomplished pencil we owe the decorations.

These have been our chief coadjutors, but there are many more to whom we are indebted-so many, indeed, that it would be no mere phrase to say that they are too numerous to mention. Yet a few must be mentioned. Thus we must thank Dr. J. M. Bulloch, whose authority on the subject is undisputed, for the notes on Scottish regimental tartans, which embody information not to be found in any other book; Mr Edward Scouller, who has put at our disposal his copious and curious learning on Scottish children's games; Miss F. Marian MacNeill and Mr George Malcolm Thomson for help in the meat-and-drink section; and Mrs Robert Ornsby for expert advice on our native breeds of dog.

Nor is this all by a long way, as we cannot even claim much originality of conception for our miscellany. Obviously there would have been no Scots Week-End if Mr and Mrs Francis Meynell had not previously thought of The Week-End Book, which has delighted the English-speaking world for these dozen years and is likely to go on doing so for another generation. To the Scot, however, the appeal of The Week-End Book is limited by what is its very charm-its essential Englishness, the spirit of the English countryside that it breathes, and the peculiarly English allusiveness of its literary quality. On particular points, too, such as flora and fauna, law and architecture, its information is largely inapplicable north of the Tweed. Yet, rightly or wrongly, for good or ill, Scotland has some reputation as a holiday country, and it is only reasonable that it should have its own holiday book. The Scots Week-End is our attempt to supply that. Of its imperfections we are well aware, but we do not beg to be excused on account of them. We would even make a virtue of them, because they are largely characteristic of the national genius. Further, in selecting their material the editors of The Week-End Book were limited only by the boundaries of the ample term "English" - that is to say, they could include anything from a Burns lyric to a negro spiritual. We of The Scots Week-End, on the other hand, have, with a few exceptions, been confined to native writers and singers. In these narrow circumstances our wonder is that we have so much to show.

Some criticisms of the anthological parts had better be anticipated. Let it be said in the first place that personal caprice has had a large share in the business of selection. That may be forgiven if the net result is amusing. Caprice, however, has been qualified by two serious considerations. Generally speaking, Scottish anthologies are apt to be both hackneyed and solemn. The masterpieces of the old "makars" and the vernacular poets of a later day are paraded again and again as if their merits could not be over-emphasised. It also happens somehow that these prime favourites are apt to be concerned with the more sombre emotions. Why this should be is not clear. The Scots are not an exceptionally dismal race. On the contrary, in comparison with (say) the Irish, they are cheerful and easy-going. One can but surmise that they feel there may be something not quite right in the sight of heaven about their natural good spirits, and so "wi' pains they put a Sunday face on". Conventional Burns-worship, which regards mainly the less robust aspects of the poet, has likewise done much mischief. There was good Scots verse before Burns, and there has been some since his day that is not to be despised. Not the least of the many services that Lord Tweedsmuir has rendered to Scottish letters is that in The Northern Muse he has shown the present generation of Scotsmen how much richer and more varied is their inheritance of lyric poetry than they had been led to believe.

Our little anthology was conceived in something of the same spirit, subject to the limitations of a book that is professedly for lighter moments. Like the Vicar of Wakefield's first sermon in prison, it is calculated to amuse rather than to edify. It includes very few old favourites, for these, as we have said, have been more than sufficiently rehearsed. Burns figures little in it, and even so mainly as an epigrammatist; but Hogg gets, if not his due, at least more generous treatment than is usually accorded him. He was a great man, who at his best could rival Burns in lyric poetry and excel Scott in prose. Stevenson is not represented at all. His experiments in Scots verse are juvenilia, and, when one comes to consider them, not very good ones. On the other hand, the Victorian age produced Scottish practitioners of the art of light verse who are not remembered as they deserve to be. Lord Neaves, perhaps, is no more than a ready and rollicking versifier, but George Outram is an accomplished wit, and Robert Fuller Murray a disciple of Calverley who might well have rivalled his master had death not taken him while still in his pupilage. We have also drawn upon the considerable body of fugitive light verse that may be found, if one has the patience to look for it, in the files of Scottish newspapers and university magazines since the beginning of the century. The poets of our so-called Renascence have presented a more difficult problem, because in the nature of the case their work so far consists more of experiment than of achievement. "Nae doot themsels they ken it weel", for the general response of those we approached with permission to quote was a courteous but sardonic consent. "Use what you like", was the substance of it, "and much good may it do you." Well, it has done us the good of enabling us to give poems by "Hugh MacDiarmid" and Edwin Muir, to mention no others. But admittedly our selection of the moderns is not in any sense representative.

Of the rest of the anthology not much need be said; but we hope the section called "Unlucky Numbers" may serve to refute the charge made by "Hugh MacDiarmid" in a recent work that Scotland has not quality enough to produce truly "good" bad poetry, and that the hoot of the Stuffed Owl is seldom heard on our side of the Border. Praise of Scotland we found difficult to fill from non-Scottish writers, while Dispraise of Scotland revealed an embarrassing wealth of material. Paradoxically the Sabbath section proved the most intractable of all. The Scottish Sabbath is a subject apparently that foreign writers can hardly bring themselves to speak of, while the eulogies of the native writers are either ludicrous or manifestly insincere. It is perhaps significant that the National Bard is silent on the painful topic.

A word on the song section and we have done. Here, as in the anthology, the aim has been to avoid as far as possible the beaten track, but as it is the essence of the section to provide songs that for the most part can be sung in chorus round the fire, a certain regard has had to be paid to old favourites. Consideration has also been had for local sentiment. Thus, in addition to Aberdeen's "Where Gadie rins", which is in many popular collections, we have given Angus's "Lum Hat wantin' the Croon" and Hawick's "Pawkie Paiterson", which are not so generally known. There are also some snatches of street ballads and other odds and ends which have never appeared in print before.


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