Last time we took the story of Jimmy VI and his government all the way up to the eve of his accession to the throne of England. But now, in the words of Monty and the boys, for something completely different. Let us move on to focus a bit on the Highlands and Islands. Unconsciously, when we talk about the growth of governmental institutions and social changes in the period, we are talking mainly of Lowland Scotland. For James, just like many other European states, part of building a coherent nation was to smooth out difference, and make sure that all parts of his kingdom conformed to the same structures of governance and law; but his kingdom, even before he attempted to make himself King of Britain was composed of at least three very strong identities, and even that ignores many regional and local loyalties – Lowland Scotland, the Highlands and Western Isle, and the Northern Isles in Shetland and the Orkney Islands. Scottish kings had tried to bring the regions more fully into the body politic, an attitude that was laced with an increasing dose of cultural distrust, misunderstanding and even contempt, a continuing trend from the 14th century. As Lowland Scotland began to value the ideals of something we might generally lump into an idea of civility – abandoning violence in short as a way of dispute resolution and stressing shared culture and education those differences between lowland and highland grew rather than diminished.
Let us start in the north with the Shetlands and with the Orkney islands. The last we’d heard these had been absorbed into the Scottish crown after a treaty with Denmark and by the Scottish parliament in 1472. The Sinclair family had established and retained a hegemony, both in the Islands and the north of the mainland, and thus it might have stayed; the northern Islands were far away, and as long as the Sinclairs maintained order, the crown appeared to be little concerned to intervene. Trouble is, the Sinclairs proved terminally argumentative to a degree which made the Christmas family get together genuinely dangerous, and the result was a struggle for supremacy and violence which stirred the stumps of James V into action; he imposed his illegitimate son, Robert Stuart as Earl of Orkney and Lords of Shetland, in the confident expectation that he’d impose some order and be much biddable, law abiding and responsible than the Sinclairs, that he would probably organise soft play areas for small Orcadian children and tuck tenants up in bed with a good book and a cup of proto cocao.
Well, do you remember the Wolf of Badenoch? He’s the bloke who terrorised the central highlands, extorting money from his tenants, seizing land from weaker landlords, burning Eligin Cathedral – essentially acting like a mafia boss. Well, lowland society in the north east and central highlands had managed to reign the guy in eventually. Robert Stewart and his son Patrick were subject to no such attention; they were accused of crimes ranging from the arbitrary imprisonment of their critics to the levying of unlawful taxes, and they used their power to live in luxury, at the stone built Palace of Birsay on Orkney. However, it doesn’t do to exaggerate this because we’d be in danger of two classic historical mistakes; of misunderstanding the traditional nature of lordship in Thorfinn the Mighty’s ancient kingdom; and also reading the historical record with one eye. Because many of the complaints that survive came from a specific segment of Orcadian society.
Essentially after the incorporation of the Northern Isles into Scotland, they appeared to some land hungry Lowlanders as ideal territory for colonisation. Through the 16th century, a steady stream of members of lairdly families, lawyers, landholders, farmers came to the Northern Isles and bought up land; often they benefited from the Reformation which made the church lands of the old church available to secular buyers, as the Catholic church infrastructure withered and died from lack of interest. When they got to the Orkney Islands, they expected to live under Scots law, and to speak the Scots language; they were more than a bit horrified to find that the language of choice remained Norn, the ancient Scandinavian language; traditional Udal law, derived from detailed law codes, regulated land disputes, landholdings and justice, along of course with what Black Pate, that is the Earl Patrick, decided what was and was not acceptable. So a stream of complaints made their way back to court from the new lowland incomers about Black Pate’s non standard behaviour, there to greet Earl Patrick when he turned up ant James VIth’s court to pay his respect and build his bridges with the king.
Over time, the incomers began to change the nature of society; Norn began to die out, replaced by Scots as the language of commercial and land transactions and even justice, and therefore the status of Norn fell and it’s usage too. Norn survived in some of the smaller Islands into the 18th century, and many Norn words made their way into the local Scots dialect – but as a living language with a future it was dying by the turn of the 16th century.
Further disaster occurred, if multi culturalism is your thing, as the pressure of complaints finally caused the fall of Black Pate. He was summoned to the Privy Council to answer the complaints of the incomers and imprisoned in 1606. The Earl raised rebellion through his illegitimate son, but the rebellion was suppressed by the Earl of Caithness, and the leaders brought to Edinburgh and executed. It took a while for the same to happen to the Earl Patrick himself, since the Kirk of Edinburgh was horrified that he could not even say the Lord’s Prayer, and you can’t kill a man who can’t do an Our father. It took Patrick until 1615 to learn his prayers, at which point he was beheaded at the mercat cross in Edinburgh, thus clearly demonstrating the benefits of a good education on career prospects.
Whatever Earl Patrick’s faults, he was at least committed to the traditional way of life and traditions in the Northern Islands. With the removal of this protector of tradition, by that stage he lost his head, the remaking of the society of the Northern Isles in the Scots image was well advanced; particularly significant was the law passed by the Privy Council in 1611 that Scandinavian law must give way to Scots law.
Now, I don’t know if you have been to the highlands and Western Islands of Scotland; maybe you live there, or have been on holiday. If you have been on holiday there are probably two conclusions; one, you are unafraid of biting insects, and secondly you are alive to stunning natural beauty and wildlife – there are probably other things too, but surely one of the draws is the all of the wilderness and amazing environment. Well, if you were a 16th century visitor, your attitude would very probably be different. To the Lowland visitor, the Highlands were a wild and quite frightening place. In the 18th century, John Burt, an English contractor wrote of the worries of Lowland Scots whose business took them there. The following, quite incidentally, is quoted in Hunter’s Book ‘Last of the Free’ if you are looking for an easy to read history of the highlands and Islands
The Highlands are but little known even to the inhabitants of the low country of Scotland, for they have ever dreaded the difficulties and dangers of travelling among the mountains; and when some ordinary occasion has obliged any one of them to such a progress, he has, generally speaking, made his testament before setting out, as though he were entering upon a long and dangerous sea voyage, wherein it was very doubtful if he should ever return.
The thing is that difference can be scary, and the highlands were different. There were no roads once you got beyond the largest town, Inverness on the edge of the highlands
‘The ways are so rough and that no wheel ever turned upon them since the formation of [the] globe.’
The landscape, so attractive to us now as we travel there for an exciting and refreshing holiday, were seen as wild and sterile compared to the ordered and highly managed Lowland countryside. Early visitors described it as ‘sterile’, ‘monstrous’ ‘Dreary and ‘most horrible’. I must do something of renaissance and medieval views on nature and cultivation sometime, though I’ll need to do some research but as a general point it would take Romantics like Wordsworth and Coleridge drugged up to the eyeballs striding across Cumbrian fells to advance the idea of the beaty of savage nature. Your Renaissance attitude was all about control, the garden was all about formality and structure against the chaos of nature.
The Highland landscape was also significantly different to the environment we visit now. Most of Lowland Scotland had been swept clear of its tree cover, whereas the Highlands retained many of its native trees – ancient native species such as Alder, Scots Pine and birch before the dead hand of the forestry commission fell on the landscape. As you travelled around the countryside, you would also have noticed many more people; this is well before the Clearances and the creation of large grouse moors so that the idle rich can murder thousands of birds bred for the purpose; highlanders were spread evenly over the landscapes in small townships, the Highland and Western isles contained a far higher proportion of Scotland’s population than it does now. And because of the lack of urbanisation and relative poverty and marginal nature of the countryside for farming, they were spread, like butter, much more evenly over the landscape.
Because there were indeed no towns, rien, zip, null point. Except just one – Inverness. That was where there were streets and a burgh and a citadel with a governor. Inverness was in a strategic location at one end of the Great Glen with access to the sea and there’d been something there since Pictish times. It had been attacked many times by the Lords of the Isles, been embroiled in the wars of Thorfinn the mighty, and been the scene of Mary’s fury and vengeance when it closed its gates against her. By the 16th century though, Inverness was two things; a trading centre, supplying the hinterland of the Highlands which the self-reliant highlanders could not make or source themselves like wine and spices, and taking highland products like pelts, Salmon, furs, herring and timber to markets such as Flanders. But it was also the outpost of the central Scottish government in Edinburgh. The inhabitants of Inverness did not see themselves as part of a Gaelic Highland community
The natives [of Inverness] do not call themselves Highlanders . . . because they speak English . . . Yet although they speak English, there are scarce any who do not understand the [Gaelic] tongue; and it is necessary they should do so [in order] to carry on their dealings with the neighbouring country people; for within less than a mile of the town, there are few who speak any English at all.
The highlanders lived in small groups of 8-10 houses, townships. Houses were built of locally available materials for the most part with the exception of the very richest; In the Orkneys, the houses were made of stone and rubble. In the highlands, the houses were flimsy affairs consisting of wattle walls and thatched rooves, possibly with more substantial foundations to slow down the rotting. When a new house was needed, the entire community got together, and within the raising and setting of the sun a new house would appear for the family in the township.
These were isolated communities, with highly localised stories and traditions. Those traditions and township activities and entertainment revolved heavily around the Gaelic bard, telling ancient tales often very localised, in song and music; for reasons we’ll come to, the 16th century saw for a while a massive re-flowering of the central importance of the Gaelic bardic tradition.
Meanwhile the obsession in the highland township was of course to produce enough food, and in a very inflexible, almost entirely goods based economy with little use of coinage the line between survival and starvation was thin. Highland communities worked very closely together to make enough to eat, and in good years their diet was not at all bad; here’s a contemporary description of the years before the creation of the deep fired mars Bar and crunchy fried pizza
They make a kind of bread, not unpleasant to the taste, of oats and barley, the only grain cultivated in these regions, and, from long practice, they have attained considerable skill in moulding the cakes. Of this they eat a little in the morning, and then contentedly go out a-hunting, or engage in some other occupation, frequently remaining without any other food till the evening
This isn’t the whole story – beef was very important, along with milk and cheese, and game, nuts and berries. But a cereal diet was the stable, in a part of the world where arable land was sparse and very valuable. Arable land was therefor divided into wide strips, call rigs, and where this form of agriculture was practiced it was called run rig. The rigs are very like the strip farmed open fields elsewhere in the UK – strips of land heaped towards the centre, divided with ditches between the strips. The strips were distributed between the inhabitants, where the guiding principle was equity – you might get some bits of prime land, but you’d also get some lower quality land too.
Land was broadly divided into infield and outfield. Infield was the best land and carefully husbanded – heavily manured and intensively farmed, sown with oats and Bere, a forerunner of barley. Outfield had to rely for manure on the animals kept on it, and to keep the land from being overworked might be left fallow on occasion. During the growing season of course the livestock had to be kept off the arable land; this was done by driving the animals outside the tounship, through the 6 foot head dykes which lay around the tounship. During the summer months, families would head for the high hills, to find summer pasture. Living in temporary dwellings called shielings. It’s a traditional highland form of farming you can see all over Europe; the same applies just for example, to Northumberland and Asturias, and made maximum use of natural resources.
All this community based activity needed managing; and decisions were made by the local barony courts in the control of the local clan chief and tacksmen. The barony courts looked at the allocation of land and made adjustments, laid down rules for ordering the rigs and livestock, fined those who broke the rules by letting their animals wander, for example, and made sure communal grazing land was not over used or individuals didn’t take more than their fair share.
Now, in the late 15th century, Scottish kings had made a concerted attempt to re-assert control over this highly independent and autonomous society, and bring them into the culture and control of the lowland centred kingdom. We have spoken of this before in the Daunting of the Isles for example in 1493. Over the 15th century, the lord of the Isles ruled the highlands and Islands, in the form of the MacDonald clan based at their palace of Finlaggen on Islay. The Macdonald established a highly successful organisation through the clan system, using traditional Gaelic law and customs to regulate feud and control violence and disputes; and at the same time the period of relative peace saw the flowering of Gaelic bardic culture. The Stewart kings were not fans however; the culture was becoming more alien to a single shared Scottish identity based on lowland, and the MacDonald’s looked mightily like a rival king. So the Stewarts broke them; the MacDonald lordship died hard, with 8 attempts to the mid 16th century to rebel and re-establish their hegemony, and their memory lived deep in the collective memory but over the course of 60 years MacDonald power was finally broken. As you do when there’s a tragedy, the poets poured out their hearts. James VI would probably have written a poem about a Phoenix, the Gaelic bards wept for the loss of what they saw as a golden era
For sorrow and for sadness, I have forsaken wisdom and learning; on their account, I have forsaken all things: it is no joy without Clan Donald.
Sadly, Stewart power, though sufficient to break the power of the Lord of the Isles, was not sufficient to build a replacement, really in any format. There was very little attempt to impose that central Lowland government structure although there was some, particularly in the imposition of written legal title for land and the arrival of timed leases, or tacks, a rather alien and difficult concept in the clan based Gaelic society which we’ll come to. Some attempt was made to replace MacDonald power with alternative magnates who would hopefully be more biddable, and we’ve heard their history to a degree – the Gordon earls of Huntly in the northern and central highlands and the Campbell Earl of Argyle in the South West. The Campbells indeed proved much more careful to maintain strong relationships with the centre; but they took a very long time to extend their power and control and had certainly achieved nothing approaching the MacDonald supremacy by the end of the 16th century.
Shorn of the control of the MacDonalds, the society of the Western Isles and Highlands fragmented and reverted to type; the 16 century saw a flowering of bardic culture, a strong re-assertion of the habits and structures of an age old clan society that harked back to pre lordship of the isles days – and was soaked in violence between clans and poorly restrained blood feud. The Macdonald clan split into various clans – the MacDonalds of Sleat, of Glengarry, of Clanranald, of Glencoe, of Ardnamurchan, of Islay and of various other places emerging as clans in their own right. Other Clans who had previously been brought into the control and submission of the lordship of the Isles struck out for independence and struggled, often violently, for local dominance, such as the MacLeods of Lewis, MacLeods of Dunvegan, MacNeils of Barra and MacLeans of Duart. In the Gaelic tradition, it became ‘linn nan creach’, the time of raids, accompanied usually by an apology for murderous English pronounciation of the Gaelic, Sorry.
The Gaelic bards loved it of course – here was the golden age reborn. In the halls of the clans, the warriors who murdered and slaughtered their enemies were always handsome, strong and hung like a baboon, their swords bight and sharp. The historian James Hunter again uses an 18th century text to illustrate how clans, shorn of the MacDonald administration and control and justice, began to relive the life of earlier centuries, returning from a raid
When the Hebridean chiefs and captains returned . . . after a successful expedition, they summoned their friends and clients to a grand entertainment. Bards . . . flocked in from every quarter, pipers and harpists had an undisputed right to appear . . . These entertainments were wild and cheerful . . .
The whole tribe filled the chieftain’s hall…Whole deer and oxen were roasted…Then the females retired, and the old and young warriors sat down in order from the chieftain, according to their proximity in blood to him.
Social structures also reverted as part of the disruption. The root of the word clan is the Gaelic for Children, and the relationship between clan chief and his people was closely based on a blood and family relationship. Clan chiefs emphasised their lineage with even more enthusiasm than an American Scottish website; some families such as the MacLeods of Dunvegan and the MacLeods of Lewis were more Viking than Celtic, others like the Frasers of Lovat and the Stewarts of Appin were descended from Norman noblemen. They were all an object of pride, but all were based on the Gaelic culture brought with Fergus Mor, and the Island empire and lineage of Somerled figured highly. The clan chief’s authority rested on very traditional responsibilities we’ve heard many times in many other tribal situations – the responsibility to protect his people, to reward them in his halls with music and feasts, and regulate their local courts. In return, his people must be prepared to fight, and if necessary, die for him, to work the land and to pay the constant stream of food and tribute – part of which they’d then eat at feasts of course.
One of the responsibilities of your Gaelic clan chief was absolutely not to work the land – such a thing was of course far beneath his dignity. To organise such an activity, the clan contained a number of middle men, Gentry I suppose you might call then, tackmen, who owned a title to land and organised the tounsmen and clan to work the land and pay tribute. Tacksmen also didn’t actually get their hands dirty and expected to live much more grandly than ordinary clansmen; they were often blood relatives of the clan chief, and it would be them that lead the clans to war and provided the chief with his captains of war.
The tacksmen were so called because they held legal, written title to land in the form of leases, an innovation which owed much to the Stewart kings’ attempt to civilise the highlands by bringing Lowland legal practice to the highlands. It is actually something of a mugger’s buddle though, with different jurisdictions or traditions conflicting. The concept of land ownership in the Gaelic tradition was that the land was owned collectively by the clan as a whole. What this meant for ordinary clansmen was security of tenure on the land – they kind of part owned it. This conflicted fundamentally with the idea of tacks – time limited legal contracts, which meant that if push came to shove, a tenant could be thrown off the land by the chief who owned title. In the 16th century, folks didn’t really pay this any mind – but it would become critical as the economy moved to one based on money rents, and clans chiefs would complete the transition to evicting landlords out to maximise income through economic means; and far off then in the distance, the notorious Clearances. It was not the least way in which the intervention of the Stewart kings caused immense harm and disruption in Highland and Island societies. But, gentle listeners, in the words of Balloo, there’s more, much more, and they have little to do with the bare necessities.
Let us return, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven to the question with which we started this segment, which as you may be able to tell has got seriously out of control. But you know, I learned a lot I didn’t know here, and that’s always invigorating unless it happens to be the history of the English in Ireland when its generally like a bullet through the lower ear, and so in my invigoration I thought on whom could I inflict my new fund knowledge, and your names came up, so sorry Anjin-San. That theme was one of nation building; the desire of the later Stewart kings to emulate the strategy of France, Spain and England and build a more unified, cohesive and integrated nation state where everyone pointed in the same direction and anyone who mentioned the word multi-cultural would have an immediate appointment with the Maiden. So far, despite their best efforts, things as we have heard had not gone well – instead the Highlands and Western Islands had actually chosen to an earlier age, even more non lowland culture.
None of this helped some fundamental attitudes that were already strong in parts of Lowland society; a distrust and frankly, contempt for Gaelic culture which was seen by the gentle and refined inhabitant of the 16th century equivalent of Morningside as a frightening and untrustworthy place. It’s easy to over emphasise this; for there was a tradition also that dimly remembered that Scottish culture owed a fundamental debt to their Gaelic roots – Bishop Elphinstone had written at the end of the 15th century of
‘the antiquities of the Scottish people, especially in the Hebrides, where are preserved the sepulchres of our ancient kings and the ancient monuments of our race’.
But even by James VI time, the sands were obscuring the pyramids of Gaelic origins. James IV was famously the last king who could speak Gaelic, and although the Daunting of the Isles was part of a disastrous strategy, as we have just heard, at least James IV tried to engage with the Gaelic lords. A Castilian poet in the times of James V, Alexander Montgommerie, made fun of Gaelic legends
How the first helandman of God was maid of a horse turd in Argyle it is said
By the reign of James VI, Gaelic had come to be called Erse – or Irish, and seen as an entirely alien culture. Official documents are festooned with blood curdling denunciations of Gaelic culture which would get you in serious trouble with the diversity committee of the Auchtermucty Darts Club these days; Gaelic culture was seen as barbaric and backwards; the inhabitants of the Highlands and Islands were ‘void of the knawledge and feir of God’, they were ‘Wild Savages’ ‘batheing thameselfis in the blude of utheris’; taking delight in ‘all kynd of barbarous and bestlie cruelteis’. The Lowlanders, Scottish government and James VI were in short, in the grips of a serious downer, Highlands and Islands wise. In Baslikon Doron, James told his son there were two types of Highlander
Those that dwelleth in our mainland, that are barbarous for the most part and yet mixed with some show of civility; the other that dwelleth in the Isles are utterly barbarous, without any show of civility
There’s a clear parallel between English attitudes towards the Irish Gaels and the attitudes of Scottish lowlanders to Gaeldom.
Into this worsening situation came the Reformation, and there are interesting parallels with Wales and Ireland if I can make a connection. The Welsh became a relatively harmonious part of the Protestant reformation, and the reason often given for this is the early production in Welsh of a vernacular bible. In Ireland no progress was made, for many reasons but at least in part because for a lack of personnel, a softly softly approach from Elizabeth’s government and the lack of a Gaelic language bible and catcheisms. That mirrors the situation in Scotland, where the initial materials were either in English or Scots. And where the lack of training for personnel and preachers minimised conversion in the highlands; the situation was made worse by the fear of the Lowlanders for the highlander – who would want to go to that wild and forbidding place of savages if you see what I mean? There were exceptions, which rather proved the rule that there was nothing innate about the slow progress of Protestantism into the highlands and Islands; on Argyle the efforts of a Gaelic speaking clergyman called John Carswell mean that the Reformation was highly popular there.
But elsewhere the situation was very different – and it’s important to note that as Scotland became a fiercely Calvinist country, this was another spur to the growing cultural conflict and separation; Calvinism became a core part of the Scottish identity. As the king became a more distant king of Britain, the Kirk became the primary defender of Scottish identity. Its lack of support in the Highlands and Islands simply confirmed Lowland prejudices that the Highlands and Western isles were a place apart, a nation within a nation that threatened Scottish unity with backward beliefs.
The Catholicism thing is interesting; if I may digress just very briefly, writing the history of Scotland for me has been very interesting, because while I’ve engaged with English history since I was but an tiny boy – is that Shakespeare by the way? Gets everywhere that bloke, like a cockroach. But my knowledge of Scottish history is similar to that of Mr Creosote, wafer thin without the bucket, or restricted to the kind of victimology of popular Scottish history to which the average English is subjected in a Scottish pub after lock in. One of those fragments of knowledge is that when we get to the ’45, Highland society is Catholic as opposed to the Protestant Lowland, and that’s part of the reasons for the conflict. Now things may change in the intervening centuries so watch this space, but it seems that the truth is just a little more nuanced.
The first thing is that Catholic infrastructure disappeared as comprehensively as it did in the lowlands – priests, monasteries, churches. The lay aristocracy and gentry were part of that, filling up their boots with the excessive wealth of the medieval church. But it is also true as I’ve just said that the protestant church was slow to penetrate the highlands. So, what fills the void, because as we were told by Aristotle Aristotle, who as we know was a bugger for the bottle, nature abhors a vacuum. The answer seems to be a rather confused variety of Catholic survival, or partly remembered Catholic practices. So, the apparently Protestant inhabitants of Lewes for example, were regularly seen to say their Paternosters and kneel when they came to a church. In other areas there was a reversion to a kind of quasi pagan-Christian hybrid; in Wester Ross, a cult appeared of the Maelrubi, a 7th century Christian missionary, and celebrations included the rite of sacrificing bulls in Maelrubi’s honour, which sounds slightly Wicker man. The situation therefore, is rather confused, but still very much encouraged Lowland beliefs that the Highlanders were outside the pale.
So, what to do about it? On this the Scottish parliament, dominated by Lowlanders, and James, were agreed that action needed to be taken to civilise the Highlanders and Islanders. Scottish parliament proclaimed that Gaelic should be ‘abolisheit and removeit’ from Scotland because it was
‘one of the chief and principall causis of the continewance of barbaritie and incivilitie amongis the inhabitantis of the Ilis and Heylandis’
Which is, you know, rude. But there was more direct action to come. Now as we’ll come to, James was a big believer in the idea of plantation, as we will find maybe next time when James enthusiastically settles Ulster with Protestant Scots. The idea was to replace barbarous inhabitants with civilised ones; partly I suppose the idea was to provide an excellent example of clean living to the locals, I don’t know, like maybe starting a community of culture warriors from Islington in deepest Yorkshire, Goathland maybe. But honestly, James wasn’t that fussy about the locals. So in the 1590s, James focussed on the island of Lewes as the perfect target. He proclaimed that the MacLeod had forfeited their rights, and formed a society, the Gentlemen Adventurers of Fife. 500-600 Fifers set out for Lewes, to set up a community in Stornoway. James was unconcerned about local feeling – the Adventurers were to proceed ‘not by agreement with [Lewis people] but by extirpation of thame’. Which is again, rude.
Actually, the attempt was a complete miserable failure; the MacLeod and locals fought tooth and nail against the fifers, attacking and killing them until thoroughly demoralised they picked up their skirts and headed back to the civilised fields of the Neuks of Fife; annoyed, James deployed an age old method of exploiting local clan rivalries, encouraging the MacKenzies to hunt the chief of the MacLeod down and bring him to the mercat cross in Edinburgh for execution.
James changed tack. In 1608, he despatched a naval force to the Hebrides, and demanded the highland clan chiefs to meet. And then in finest traditions of Early Modern statecraft, he took them all the Islands clan chiefs hostage and incarcerated them in Lowland castles, until they agreed to assemble the following summer at Iona.
The result in 1609 was the Statute of Iona, with the associated Band. Together the two set a series of requirements, and the statute and its relevance has been hotly debated. The statute and general Band laid down a few rules. The chiefs were to support Protestant ministers in Highland Parishes; inns were to be set up to encourage travellers and the practice of demanding free quarters and provision by chiefs to end. Any man of means – chiefs, tacksmen, and one with more than 60 cattle were to send their eldest sons to be Educated in English at Lowland schools. The right to carry arms was restricted, fugitives and beggars not to be protected. And then this one, the outlawing of Gaelic bards and other bearers of the traditional culture “pretending libertie to baird and flattir.” As part of the band, the Chiefs were made responsible for the actions of their clansmen, and bound to preserve the peace.
Broadly the hot debate to which I refer has been twofold; the extent to which the statutes are actively anti Gaelic culture, and the extent to which the statutes were relevant. On the Gaelic thing, the reference to bards probably doesn’t mean get rid of all bards; it should be seen together with the don’t harbour beggars thing, don’t put up with the kind of bards that foster rebellion or disobedience, rather than all bard. The aim of the statutes and following policy appears to be one of cultural assimilation – to encourage highland chiefs to acquire the civility of the Lowland culture, and to achieve security and cultural integration in that more subtle way – rather than the adversarial plantation.
Then it’s argued that the statutes are like a corporation’s strategy document – you spend ages creating it, and then take the F&F protocol – file and forget until next year. But actually, 1608 to 1616 sees a series of events including rebellion yet again from the MacDonalds on Islay, maybe provoked secretly by those sneaky Campbells, and then in July 1616 the promulgation by the Scottish Privy Council of a more authoritarian statute, very much based on the Statute of Iona. It was clearly taken seriously. The statutes are part of a trend and a policy, that does start to have an impact among the bards, and the culture of the chiefs of the highlands and Islands towards lowland norms of civility.
Okally dokally, thank you for listening all, and thank you for being members, I am eternally grateful. Next time, Jimmy VI and a new vision – dual monarchy, or the king of Britain. Don’t forget to put January 16th and the Bunfight Fete in your diaries, and bookmark thehistoryofengland/bunfightfete.co.uk. This is the last Shedcast of the year 2020, so can I take the time to thank you all for your support and membership I cannot tell you what it means to me, it is thoroughly wonderful of you all. I hope your new year celebrations are a thorough delight, and I will see you again in 2021.
 Hunter, James. Last of the Free (Kindle Locations 2966-2969). Mainstream Publishing. Kindle Edition.