Worthy anthem

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Call me a curmudgeonly old fart, but I’ve never quite figured out how a dismal sentimental dirge of a mediocre folk song written in the 1960s by one half of an average folk duo managed to become the ersatz anthem of our nation.

Other songs have been prominent in the past as supposed anthems.

Scotland the Brave was popular, despite the regular mauling it got from Andy Stewart on the White Heather Club. But as for Caledonia, it runs Flower of Scotland a close second for mediocre dismalness.

There can be only one candidate for a Scottish national anthem, and that’s the wonderful Scots Wha Hae.

Its roots are embedded in Scottish history and culture, and it ticks all the national anthem boxes to the extent that it has a pedigree unmatched anywhere in the modern world.

The lyrics are by Robert Burns, the national bard of Scotland and celebrated as a writer and poet of immense talent and influence worldwide. He wrote the lyrics in the form of a speech he imagined Robert the Bruce might have given before the Battle of Bannockburn and used the traditional Scottish tune of Hey Tuttie Tatie as the basis for the music.

This tune is known to have been played by mercenary Scots soldiers in Europe from the 16th century.

Even more evocative is that a version of it is thought to have been played by soldiers in Bruce’s army before the battle of Bannockburn, the defining moment in Scottish history.

It can be played as a beautiful slow air and just as effectively as a rousing call to arms. (We’ll overlook the anti-English sentiment in it, and just call it quits with the sixth verse in God Save the Queen.)

Can you think of a country anywhere in the world that wouldn’t give a collective arm and leg, along with a few eye teeth, to have that kind of martial, musical and literary history attached to its national anthem?

IAN MCELROY

Heathfield Road

Thurso, Caithness

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