Wednesday, September 17, 2014

So all the interviews are in...

24 of them that is. My goal was 25. So here goes nothing….


What does the British identity mean to me?


    As a born-and-bred Yank, what can I say that would make any impact? I don’t know. All I know is that I’ve loved that quirky little island since I was in jumpers and pig-tails. It started out as nothing more than a childhood crush on Robin Hood and the cozy romanticism of a mythologized past. In my “tween years”, my love of the Prince of Thieves morphed into a deep attachment to the English Catholic martyrs, especially St. Edmund Campion, “Diamond of England”, and St. Margaret Ward, “Pearl of Tyburn”. A Catholic homeschool girl using Seton Home Study Curriculum, I loved reading about their courage and panache in my school books and dreamt of the day when I would go across the pond to follow in their footsteps on pilgrimage.

    Another source of fascination for me was The American Revolution, in which I could not help but have some sympathies for the redcoats and loyalists who fought for king and country, no matter how often they were disparaged in history texts. One character who captured my imagination in a particularly vibrant way was Major John Pitcairn, the British officer in command when the first shots of the war were fired at Lexington Green.  
And wonder of wonders, he happened to be a Scot. My revolutionary studies helped me to better appreciate the cohesive unity that existed among the English, the Scots, the Welsh, and to some extent, even the Irish during this period. The overarching identity they all ascribed to was Britishness.

    The Scottish Independence Movement became a hovering presence over the whole question of Britishness just I entered my teen years and began to expand my horizons by studying British history and culture as a whole and making some British friends by way of World Wide Web, snail mail parcel swapping, and international phone calls that drained the life blood out of my allowance. But I still felt it was worth it, and enjoyed every minute of it.

    Inevitably, I became drawn into discussions involving the many “what-ifs” of Scottish independence, especially when the Scottish Independence Referendum was announced in early 2012. In America, I found it was often viewed with glassy-eyed euphoria, associating it with our own independence movement over two centuries ago. In Britain, there was concern on the part of my contacts. My own instinct left me with a funny feeling in my gut. I knew that the whole debate was not so much about whether or not Scotland would become independent, but whether or not Britain would remain united and the British identity would survive.

    I had something of an idea in my cranium already, nurtured by years of researching and personal interpretation, but I wanted to find out more about the essence of the identity from those who lived in Britain themselves and still considered themselves a part of what sometimes appears to be a dying breed. So I made it my business to ask them through online interviews, now, at a dark hour for the British Union, perhaps even the final hour.

    At the moment, the Scottish Nationalists are doing quite well for themselves in their push for independence. They have successfully convinced almost half of the Scottish people that their British identity is better done without, and that they should trek out on their own. The issues of economics, defense, healthcare, the environment, and industry have all been debated back and forth, with the ultimate conclusion being that Scotland will be a much weaker and more insular should she choose to break away from The United Kingdom. But many seem to prefer weakness to strength, all for the sake of independence.

    It is obvious there is some sort of magic at work. I’m not talking about the pixie dust kind, but the workings of people’s minds. There is something about independence that is capturing the Scottish imagination. While the Unionist opposition tries to debate strictly on concrete subject matters, they are largely failing to grasp the power of the spiritual in this struggle. But I wonder…what is the magic in the British identity that captured my own imagination so many years ago? Is it not worth bringing to the fore at this moment?

    I don’t know how many people are going read this, if any. I don’t know if it will change the hearts of minds of those who may stumble across it, or just be scoffed at by those that are grounded in hatred of what I have grown to love. But love, I believe, is always more powerful than hate. I can only pray their will be some open hearts and minds left, and that my words and the words of the British people in the following pages will bear testimony to an idea and ideal that has a magic all its own. If nothing less, it can stand as a testimony to bearers of an old and venerable standard.

   So what does Britain mean to me, to me in my heart? So many things it could break my heart. More than anything the people, eccentric, stubborn, often thoroughly impossible to understand, defending the dark humor of Monty Python and a tangled constitution that was never written. And their voices, so distinct, so imperturbable, rattling on with an odd little lilting rhythm, about travel and food and gardens and “the way things are in this country”, saying “do take care of yourself”, and “we’re polishing our scarlet tunics for another go on you Yanks someday”. Their quiet courage, keen wit, belief in themselves, and oftentimes deep faith endeared them to me.

    What else do I love, that I have dreamed about, in some romantic dream? Rain, fog, tea, muffins, bagpipes, tartan, knit sweaters, wet green grass, dry dark humor, old buildings, crooked roads, big cities, small villages, stiff upper lips, soldiers in scarlet, a queen with her crown, the Union Jack, Celtic languages, folk ballads and carols with poetry so simple and tunes so haunting they could pierce the soul, and yes, Robin Hood and King Arthur and all the saints and sinners and ghosts and goblins woven into the mythology over a people trying to define themselves over thousands of years of history.   
    But there is MORE than that. There is something here, something those who I have interviewed understand. Britain is an idea and ideal, a representation of community and common purpose and the deepest sort of love.
    Yes, this is Britain for me, simple yet complex, wonderfully indescribable, always in the process of changing and growing while holding fast to that which is most important. God save her. Our Lady of Britannia save her.  

PEARL OF TYBURN, September 18, 2014

Interview with John Carney, Resident of Manchester

Pearl of Tyburn: Tonight I’ll be speaking with John Carney, resident of Manchester. Mr. Carney, could you tell us a bit about your background?

John Carney:  Certainly. I'm an Englishman of Anglo-Irish heritage born and raised in Manchester by two wonderful parents, a proud, patriotic Brit, a good Catholic boy (I hope!), a fervent Tory and Unionist, an underemployed accounting graduate of the University of Liverpool, and a part-time customer service assistant and occasional furniture fitter.

P.T.:  What’s your reflection on this past year and the many political and cultural ebbs and flows of it?

J.C.:  I suspect there will be few other years in our nation's history more momentous, powerful or poignant in which to consider the nature of British identity than 2014; the year not only of the centenary of the start of the Great War which deprived an entire generation of the prime of its youth, men whose tremendous courage and sacrifice in the name of King and country is a debt our contemptibly useless politicians have consistently failed to repay, but also of the dreaded Scottish independence referendum, a plebiscite which has the power either to destroy the greatest bi-national partnership the world has ever seen or to silence those calling for its dissolution for decades, perhaps even centuries, to come. In June we recalled our past and mourned our fallen, now in September we are contemplating our future and deciding what sort of country we want to be or, perhaps more precisely, whether to continue being a country at all.

P.T.:  What do you think about the way the Better Together campaign has been conducted to preserve the union?

J.C.:  Unfortunately, British culture and history, the very things which should be the foundation of the Better Together campaign, have hardly featured at all thus far in the debate but, sadly, this is far from surprising. Most of our politicians, commentators and academics suffer from a tremendous liberal guilt complex over the legacy of British colonialism and historic English aggression towards her immediate neighbours; therefore, out of sheer moral weakness, they have largely conceded the argument to the Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalists. They dare not even mention such things as common purpose, shared destiny and historic ties of friendship and co-operation for fear they will be laughed to scorn and branded an imperial apologist.

P.T.:  Why do you think so many people have dismissed these aspects of Britishness?

J.C.:  Many have chosen to take the easy way out and claim that Britishness is a meaningless concept only to be given meaning by the individual or ignored completely according to personal preference. In the bleakly parochial view of such people, one can only be authentically English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish (as though they were comparatively simple to define!) but I find this utterly absurd; our identities, national and otherwise, are composed of multiple complex, interconnected cultural strata and are made infinitely richer for being so - should a man choose between being a Basque and a Spaniard, or a woman between being, say, a Marylander and an American?

P.T.:  You telling me about an application form you signed recently. What are your feelings about the way identity options were presented to you in it?

J.C.:  Upon reaching the end of the application form, I was asked, after the usual, highly impertinent questions about my gender, potential disabilities and sexual orientation, to select what I considered to be my ethnic origin from a variety of alternatives (quite what bearing any of this has on a person's suitability for a job is something which has always baffled me - I always opt for "prefer not to say" on principle) when I noticed something to which I had previously never given much thought. Non-white British applicants were confined to options under the headings of "Black British" and "Asian British" whereas white applicants were offered the full complement of British national identities to choose from - "British", "English", "Irish", "Northern Irish", "Welsh", "Scottish", etc. Such identities as "Black English" or "Asian Welsh" are rarely expressed and so do not feature as demographic terms but why should this be the case? Just why do our ethnic minority countrymen feel more comfortable describing themselves as British rather than anything else regardless of whether they live in Birmingham, Belfast, Blantyre or Bangor?

P.T.:  What do you think is the reason behind this phenomenon?

J.C.:  Unlike our cowardly politicians, they, like their forebears in India, Jamaica, Kenya, Afghanistan and ex-British colonies all around the world, know what to be British means and why they are proud to call themselves so. For them, for me and for lovers and admirers of my beloved nation wherever they may live, Britishness is more than a culture - it is an ideal, an aspiration, even a dream. Differences of region, race and culture may divide us as a people but Britain unites us as a nation; truly, our story is that of the oldest and greatest melting pot in the world. Of course, the Romans, Saxons, Angles, Jutes, Vikings and Normans all changed Britain permanently and immeasurably for the better, but what is more significant to me is what they failed to change and, even more importantly, how profoundly they were changed by her!

Our early past has been traditionally presented as one group of foreign invaders after another remorselessly suppressing the native culture and supplanting it with an alien one but recent historical and archaeological research has proven this simply is not the case. Instead, a more careful reading of our island story shows a very clear, consistent set of beliefs and practices that existed prior to Roman occupation, which indeed not only survived but positively thrived during all of the subsequent conquests and which eventually evolved into those values, customs and institutions we now regard as quintessentially British.

P.T.:  What would you consider foremost among these customs/institutions?

J.C.:  Love of personal liberty, freedom of expression, trial by jury, a hatred of cruelty and injustice, local government, the underdog spirit, a sense of fair play, the importance of history and tradition, tolerance, constitutional monarchy, strong communities, the stiff upper lip, resistance to dictatorship, parliamentary democracy, respect for private property, etc. It would of course be arrogant to the point of megalomania for me to claim that Britain holds an absolute monopoly on these things but, my own obvious partiality aside, I am struggling to think of a nation which has done better justice to them on such a grand scale, over so long and proud a history.

P.T.:  What is your opinion on the British Empire and the way that hit has cast something of a shadow of shame over those who have British identities?

J.C.:  Ah, yes, that unspeakably awful embarrassment to well-meaning, half-educated liberals everywhere: the British Empire. Perhaps that is the one thing on the venerable list of British virtues and institutions which is conspicuous by its absence. At the widely critically acclaimed opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012 (which I thought rather gaudy and vulgar but never mind), tremendous emphasis was laid on our literature, film, music, NHS, industrial revolution etc. But there was no acknowledgement whatsoever of Britain's almost single-handed contribution towards spreading good administration, honest politics and the rule of law all around the world. Indeed, a stranger observing such edifying spectacles as James Bond and the Queen pretending to leap out of a plane and Rowan Atkinson playing a one-note synthesizer with the London Symphony Orchestra would be forgiven for thinking that we'd never so much as strayed beyond our shores let alone established the largest empire in human history which, at its apogee, covered almost a quarter of the planet.

Unfortunately, this very deliberate campaign to whitewash over the Empire and its achievements is nothing new and certainly doesn't lack for volunteers, not least in Britain itself; many are terribly sincere but ignorant liberals or New Labour zealots who seem to detest our history (a prejudice which invariably leads them to squander once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for genuinely patriotic celebrations in favour of insipid, anaemic affairs like the ludicrous Millennium Dome) whereas others are simply dishonest, deliberately distorting our history by highlighting its faults whilst carefully avoiding its virtues.

P.T.: What do you think about the way Hollywood portrays Britain/the British Empire on screen?

 J.C.:  Such things occur frequently and even on the most mundane level, e.g. entertaining but unhistorical cinematic drivel such as Braveheart, The Patriot and Pocahontas - all of which ridiculously romanticised their subjects and vilified the English to the point of disconnection from reality. Yes, I know its trashy Hollywood fiction and shouldn't make any difference and, indeed, wouldn't were our current education system much better instead! The scariest thing about die Große Lüge (the big lie) is that it actually works unless it's refuted.

P.T.:  So what’s your personal view on the benefits of the Empire?

J.C.:  I am writing, as you've no doubt gathered, as a convinced imperialist - by which I mean that I believe the case for the British Empire as one of the greatest things ever visited upon an undeserving world has been proved, open and shut. Of course, like all great human endeavours, it had its faults (some, like slavery, were terribly grievous) and they remain undeniable, indelible blots on our historical record but what nation since time began has been totally blameless? If history is, as the cynics say, just one long catalogue of theft, conquest and slaughter then surely there can be no dispute that Britain was second to none in these things? We were, and remain I think at heart, a nation of buccaneering merchant adventurers and we should be proud of the fact, not only because it has made us who we are but, more importantly still, because it has made so much of the world what it is today.

You may well have heard it said that Britain conquered half the world in a fit of absence of mind; a clever little phrase but I feel there is far more sophistry there than sophistication - presence of mind, by all means, but certainly not absence of it. For myself, I believe the Empire was founded on and sustained by many things, most of them paradoxical: avarice and Protestantism, idealism and cynicism, compassion and cruelty, policy and lunacy, commerce and thievery, strategy and accident, duty, arrogance, ignorance, curiosity, expediency and, last but by no means least, a fanatical determination to beat the French to it! And the most sublime irony of all is that, for all of the lust for power and plunder which motivated our ancestors (just as that which inspired our Saxon forebears to cross the North Sea centuries before), they left their colonies far, far better places than they found them.

P.T.:  What would be your answer to the charge the British Imperial project was particularly brutal?

J.C.:  If, as I passionately believe, that Britain was unsurpassed in her ruthlessness, rapacity and commercial aggression then she was also unmatched in her commitment to establishing freedom, democracy, prosperity, sound government and the rule of law wherever the Union Jack was flown. As a force to enlighten and civilise the world, the British Empire was unique and, if proof were required, one need only compare the condition of our former territories with their present state. At best, as in India, Malaysia, Singapore, Ghana, Botswana and numerous other smaller countries where the British legacy remains strongest, the people are, to say the least, certainly no more wisely nor humanely governed than they were under the Empire; at worst, independence (often, laughably, referred to as freedom) has been an absolute disaster, as in Zimbabwe, Iraq, Somalia, Burma, Yemen and various other previously stable, thriving, law-abiding nations now transformed beyond all recognition into bankrupt, bloody dictatorships riven by extremism, corruption, terrorism and violence. 

P.T.:  What do you think about the way the Empire came to an end?

J.C.:  There can be no question that the Empire had to end eventually; however, it was the reckless haste in which it was done that was largely responsible for the ensuing chaos and tragedy in many territories which immediately followed British withdrawal, e.g. in 1947, the Labour government under Clement Attlee were so terribly keen to partition India and get out that their callous stupidity caused the displacement of over fourteen million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims and the consequent mass migration (the largest in recorded history) lead to such carnage, riot and disorder that nearly one million people died as a result. Furthermore, those who were so active in accelerating the Empire's dissolution also bear their share of the blame; including, sadly, the United States who rather myopically took such pleasure in twisting the imperial lion's tail and now wonders why places like the Middle East are in perpetual turmoil - it'd be almost funny if it weren't so tragic.

Anyway, perhaps all of this explains why, for many people, Britishness remains an awkward subject; although, ironically, from my experience, the overwhelming majority of people who feel (or at least claim to feel) angry or ashamed by the legacy of British colonialism are generally the descendents of the colonisers whereas the descendents of the colonised are actually only too proud to call themselves British precisely because of, rather than in spite of, what the Empire did for their forebears in Pakistan, Kenya, Jamaica and elsewhere, as I suggested earlier. Ah, well, who knows? Still, we did what we did - it was definitely worth doing and nobody could've done it better, or even half as well.

P.T.:  Why do you think that so many Scots have come forward with such antipathy towards their British identity during the course of this referendum?

J.C.:  Sadly, I do think there is a huge wellspring of latent anti-English sentiment (which has steadily grown as the UK's overall standing in the world has declined) for the SNP to draw upon and, for many, the independence vote represents nothing more than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get back at Westminster. Indeed, the very notion of Scottish nationalism is founded largely upon a narrow-minded, bitter, deeply parochial hatred for and rivalry with their English neighbours (just listen to the unofficial national anthem, that dismal dirge "Flower of Scotland") and it's certainly no coincidence that the SNP pushed so hard, and sadly successfully, for 16- and 17-year-olds to be allowed a vote in the referendum, as they are by far the most susceptible to this sort of nonsense.

P.T.:  What do you think is responsible for the SNP’s rise to power as of late?

J.C.:  The truth is that what really lies behind the growing strength of the SNP's cause is that, for many years, the Scots have felt so increasingly isolated from the prosperity, advancement and job-creation in the South East of England and London in particular (a complaint with which we in Northern England, Wales and Northern Ireland are all too familiar!) that they now no longer truly feel a part of the UK anymore and so they can see no other way forward but secession from the union. The Scots have enjoyed, and understandably so, the steady trickle of powers devolved to Holyrood since 1997 and a considerably higher level of per capita public spending (including free prescriptions, free tuition fees, etc. which I very much doubt they’d be able to maintain on the existing tax rates without Westminster subsidy) than the rest of the UK.

P.T.:  But do you think of the lure of independence, in and of itself, might be a persuasive hook for seperation?

J.C.:  Actually, the vision Alex Salmond is offering the Scots in the name of “independence” is something of a fraud anyway; keeping the Queen as your head of state, retaining the pound sterling as your currency (with interest rates set "abroad" by the Bank of England) and ceding your hard-won national sovereignty to the EU as soon as the votes have been counted as he hopes to do isn't really my idea of independence! Much as the SNP might hate it, the reality is that the economic future of an independent Scotland would rest almost entirely upon factors over which they would have either limited or no control whatsoever: their share of the sadly not inconsiderable UK national debt (at least £150 billion although, after negotiation, it could be double that) and the terms under which it must be repaid would give them and successive administrations a good deal of financial trouble for many decades to come.

The Scots don’t even know whether they'll be allowed to keep the pound sterling at all (the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already stated categorically that they won't, the EU is, quite understandably, extremely reluctant to allow them to join the crisis-stricken euro instead and establishing your own currency is a mightily expensive business indeed). Independence is a massive financial gamble and I think it's only when they actually go to vote that the sheer enormity of the risk the Scottish people are considering will dawn on them and the majority of them will decide to play safe and vote to remain within the UK.

P.T.:  Aside from the referendum, what are your personal political beliefs?

J.C.:  I've always been a Tory ever since I became interested in politics several years ago; however, I've largely abandoned my faith in capitalism (at least insofar as we've hitherto practiced it), secularism, classical liberalism and the market as the ultimate impartial, efficient economic mechanism, and now the position closest to my views is that of a High (or traditionalist) Tory. High Toryism is much more of an attitude than a hard-and-fast ideology like Socialism and which emphasis tradition, the Church, strong local community, the rights and responsibilities of the aristocracy, integrity and duty in public office, etc. It is, in short, the complete antithesis of everything the modern mainstream parties (including, sadly, the modern Tory party) offer us in the UK.

My economic awakening came a couple of years ago thanks entirely to one author to whom I already owed so much and cannot recommend highly enough to you if you haven't read any of his work; at the dawn of the twentieth century, the superlatively wonderful G.K. Chesterton (in collaboration with the great Hilaire Belloc) formulated the only economic philosophy based entirely upon Catholic social teaching and it goes by the rather unfortunate, ironically Communist-esque name of Distributism.

P.T.:  Can you explain what you mean by Distribution exactly?

J.C.:  To borrow a quote from Chesterton: "The modern world is not evil; in some ways it is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues." Both Conservatism and Liberalism have great advantages as well as terrible faults and it is the beauty of Distributism that it enables us to enjoy the fruits of these philosophies whilst restraining their destructive excesses. Very briefly, Distributism advocates a via media between the evils of unfettered capitalism on the one hand and the perils of state Socialism on the other through spreading the ownership of property and the means of production as broadly as possible to individuals in the form of small businesses, not-for-profit organisations and local co-operative enterprises throughout the land (instead of concentrating it in the hands of large, faceless corporations or the state as we do currently) and replacing rapacious competition with Christian co-operation as the core driver of economic growth and wealth creation.

P.T.:  As someone from an Anglo-Irish background, what’s your opinion on the divided and divisive state of affairs in Ireland?

J.C.:  As a patriotic Englishman, I deplore the craven manner in which successive governments have appeased the former IRA members and collaborators now walking the corridors of power in Belfast yet, as a Catholic of Irish heritage, I am all too aware of England's extensive history of persecution, oppression and violence against the Irish people and cannot help but wonder just how long we were expecting them to let us get away with it.

P.T.:  What do you think the historical beginning of this antipathy between England and Ireland was?

J.C.:  The genesis of the historically negative English attitude towards the Irish is very simple. The Gaelic Christian kings and noble families were among the oldest in Europe but, rather than this being something worthy of admiration, the problem was that they were so old as to be effectively pagan, not in their beliefs, but in their origins, rituals and ceremonies. Unlike such relative arrivistes as Clovis the Frank who looked to the Pope to provide legitimacy to their kingship, the Irish aristocracy needed only to look back to their own history to find their authority as rulers; thus, to the deep disapproval of Rome and other European noble houses, they were able to unite and celebrate fully both their ancient pre-Christian royal heritage and their orthodox Christian faith.

The Irish Church too began to show disturbing tendencies towards independence from Roman authority (mixed sex monasteries, married clergy, etc.) so that it finally became necessary for our only English Pope, Adrian IV, to issue his laudabilitur empowering Henry II to invade Ireland and bring her Church and government under English, and effectively Roman, authority. Thus began the Norman conquest of Ireland in 1167 and the beginning of nearly 850 years of bloodshed and misery.

P.T.:  Do you have any thoughts on how the Irish Question might possibly be solved in the future?

J.C.:  The supreme tragedy of the Irish Question is that what makes it most difficult to solve is the very policy that we, the English, have pursued for centuries (stuffing Ulster with pro-Union Protestants who have no wish to live under the rule of their Catholic nationalist neighbours) and which was a wonderful idea when we had the political will and resources to be an imperialist power but today means that allowing the Republic to claim the rest of the six remaining northern counties would necessitate turning our backs on hundreds of thousands of people who consider themselves just as British as anyone living in any other part of the UK. Riot and disorder (perhaps even a civil war?) on a scale the like of which has not been seen in that troubled land for centuries would doubtless follow any such decision by the British government to cede Ulster to the Republic but, regrettably, I'm struggling to see a future in which that isn't a likely, if rather distant, occurrence.

The solution of an independent Kingdom of Ireland being a full, voluntary part of the Commonwealth realms is certainly a novel one (and all the more ironic when you consider how desperately we're currently trying to hold onto the UK we already have!) and one I should love to see happen but, with the present state of public opinion, I really can't see it. But it's definitely something we should devote every effort to achieving.

P.T.:  Could you tell us about some of your personal interests, hobbies, and plans for the future?

J.C.:  I am a lover of literature, poetry, history, philosophy and science, an aspiring learner of foreign languages, a devourer of good food and drink, and a keen amateur runner and weightlifter. It would be an exceptional understatement to say that life has turned out the way I'd expected even as little as five years ago, but I'm certainly not complaining - I know that matters rest in the hands of One infinitely wiser and more powerful than myself and I'm content just to enjoy the journey as it unfolds.

P.T.:  Thank you so much, Mr. Carney, for everything.

J.C.:  Aw, you’re very, very welcome.

Interview with Rachel Franchi, Resident of Worcestershire

Pearl of Tyburn:  Tonight I’ll be speaking with Rachel Franchi, a history and psychology student from Worcestershire. Hello, Ms. Franchi.

Rachel Franchi:  Hi.  

P.T.:  Could you talk a little bit about your background and any identities you see yourself as having?

Rachel Franchi:  I was born and live the West Midlands part of the country. I also have some Welsh blood in me from my Grandfather, who settled down in this area. I see myself as English and British, and I'm proud to be both.

P.T.:  What does being British mean to you?

R.F.:  Being British to me means feeling proud of the unity with the three other countries that make up Britain and taking pride in the history and the culture of these countries and the bond that we share. It make have been very shaky at times, but we've overcome it all, and I believe we're stronger together.

P.T.:  What are your feelings about the monarchy?

R.F.:  As a Brit, and a relatively poor Brit at that, I know it's quite easy to feel resentful towards the Royal Family for all the luxury that's placed at their feet merely because they happen to have been born into the right family. But I think that a lot of people tend to overlook the fact that being the monarch of a country must be incredibly draining, emotionally. The Queen rarely smiles- I mean really smiles- in public because she's been trained to keep her emotions hidden away. And, of course, there's plenty of way that Royals must never be seen to behave. They must always be seen as being respectable and in control of themselves- and rightly so- but it must be hard at times, especially if they are younger.

Many people nowadays feel that having a monarch is pointless and a waste of money. However, while I can see their point, I would be very sad to lose our monarchy, which, literally, gives the United Kingdom its 'crown and glory'. I think it's important for us to have an apolitical figurehead to represent our country, and I can't help but feel proud whenever I see our Queen doing what she does best, representing our country amid the rest of the world's leaders!

P.T.:  Could you tell me a little about your own personal aspirations/interests?

R.F.:  Most people who know me would describe me as a bit of an oddball, but I (for the most part!) take pride in being different. I’m a huge animal lover (excluding spiders!) and my cats are her most loved companions. I also sing a bit and have taught myself to yodel. I love the sound of the electric guitar, and one day might actually learn to play it. By far, my biggest interest is naval history, particularly 'Nelson's navy.' I hope to be a naval historian one day and help re-establish the connection Britain once so proudly had with the sea.

P.T.: Thank you for letting me interview you, Ms. Franchi!

R.F.:  You’re most welcome. Bye for now!

Interview with Alastair Redman, Resident of the Island of Islay

Pearl of Tyburn:  We have Alastair Redman, from the Island of Islay, with us now. Hello, Mr. Redman.

Alastair Redman:  Hello!

P.T.:  Could you tell me a bit about yourself and your background?

A.R.:  I am a crofter’s son on the Island of Islay, my mother in a nurse, one of my three brothers is a fisherman, one works for the forestry and the other is a crofter like my father. My girl friend is from the north of England, but was originally born on Shetland. I run a small shop and post office in Portnahaven on Islay.  

P.T.:  How did you get involved with Unionism, and why?

A.R.:  I am proud to be both Scottish and British, and I don't want to have to choose between the two.   

P.T.:  What does your British identity mean to you, and what do you think it means to the world?

A.R.:  It means that I am part of country that is a force for good in the world, loved by our allies, feared by our enemies, and respected by all.     

P.T.:  What would you say to an undecided Scottish voter to keep in mind tomorrow?

A.R.:  Being a unionist makes you no less or more patriotic than a yes voter. Too often the Yes side will claim that we are doing Scotland down by saying no to separation, that to vote no is unpatriotic well they are wrong no one person or political movement has a monopoly on what it is to be patriotic.  

P.T.:  What are some of your personal interests/hobbies/goals in life?

A.R.:  I love books, TV, video games, some sports and politics. As for my goals we will see how this referendum goes first. 

P.T.:  Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me, Mr. Redman.

A.R.:  No trouble.

Interview with James Shiels, Councillor for Carntogher

Pearl of Tyburn:  I’m now going to speak with Councillor James Shiels from Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Mr. Shiels, how are you?

James Shiels:  Fine, thanks.

P.T.:  Could you tell me a bit about your family background?

J.S.:   My forefathers were Presbyterians with Scottish roots, and as tenant farmers on a tiny bit of land near Carmtogher Mountain they tilled the ground in order to survive. It was a hard life, and when the industrial revolution came they, like many others in the area, took a chance for a better life and at the end of the 19th century moved here to Upperlands to find work in the Linen Mill.

Working six days a week for little pay, in a heavily class based society, they endured some of the most difficult and tumultuous periods in Ulster's history - the Home Rule period and the Great War - yet managed to remain hopeful that life could get better for everyone in our community regardless of their creed or class.

It's thanks to the risks they took, in pursuit for a better way of life that has meant that I, a working class lad from a little linen village, could become the unionist councillor for the entire area of Carntogher.

P.T.:  What political party are you affiliated with, and what identities do you see yourself as having?

J.S.:  I was recently elected as the sole Unionist Councillor for Carntogher DEA in the new Mid Ulster Council. As a member of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) I'm part of the largest unionist party in Mid Ulster, and at 24 I am one of the youngest elected politicians in Northern Ireland.

I am also heavily involved with Loyal Orders and am a committed Christian. On a nationality front I am unashamedly an Ulsterman, and proud of my British identity.

P.T.:  What are your thoughts on the Scottish independence movement and referendum?

J.S.:  I am totally opposed to Scottish independence as I believe that we really are better together in a United Kingdom because without our Scottish neighbours we (the UK) would be a smaller nation, with a smaller economy and a diminished standing on the world stage. That means less power, less influence and less voice in the key discussions concerning our people in the European Parliament.

P.T.:  How do you think the Scots themselves might be affected by this?

J.S.:  For the Scots themselves, questions must be asked in regards to how their country will function if they choose independence. Will they get to keep Sterling, or choose the Euro? What effect will that have on their ratepayers and businesses? What will happen to UK military and naval bases on Scottish soil? Etc, etc.

These are the sorts of questions that need answering, and when they are, I am sure the good people of Scotland will realise that they, and indeed all of us, are better remaining together as part of a strong United Kingdom.

P.T.:  How would you compare and contrast Scottish Nationalists with Irish Nationalists?

J.S.:  Scottish nationalism is primarily civic, and has focused quite rightly on their goal of an Independent Scotland. Irish nationalism on the other hand is ethnic and has time and again been hijacked by both religious and republican groups. This had lead to a situation where in Scotland independence is an open issue, but here in Northern Ireland it is a polarizing issue totally opposed by the majority of people.

P.T.:  Thanks so much for your time, Councillor Shiels.

J.S.:  A pleasure.

Interview with Jonny Lipsham, Professional Musician

Pearl of Tyburn:  Now I’ll be interviewing Johnny Lipsham. Good day, Mr. Lipsham.

Jonny Lipsham: Hi there.

P.T.:  Could you tell me a bit about your background and cultural/political/religious etc. identities you may have?

J.L.:  I am a Christian, ethnically and racially a Jew, born in Scotland but lived 31 years in England - so have a messed up accent - and have been a member of the Labour Party since 1990. I am a professional musician, vocalist, songwriter, recording and mixing engineer, and a music educator and vocal coach.

P.T.:  What is your opinion on the Scottish Independence Referendum?

J.L.:  I am a passionate and committed Unionist. I will be voting NO. My opinion of the whole thing? - Biggest waste of time and tax payer's money in British History. Scotland is at the forefront of British innovation, ingenuity, bravery, pioneering spirit, and making the impossible possible. We are the cutting edge of the sword of the Union. We have been since 1707, and I see NO reason that breaking the sword will make any of its constituent parts stronger or better.

P.T.:  What do you think of the current campaigns for and against? What is your opinion on the way they are being run?

J.L.:  “Yes Scotland” is fighting a campaign based on LIES, and increasingly in these latter days, fear, bitterness and anger. Better Together have been slow to debunk mythologies and the invented fables of the Yes campaign, leaving that to us on Facebook and Twitter; which is a poor idea and leaves us ordinary folks fighting a war with no support from our commanders.

P.T.:  How would you recommend the Better Together improve their game and better support their people in the street and online in these coming weeks?

J.L.:  I have seen much better coordination in recent weeks, but I think they, and we need to communicate more clearly and I believe that the senior leaders of BT need to make some kind of show of encouragement, endorsement and support for us on the streets and online.

P.T.:  What do you think of the decision to let 16 years old vote?

J.L.:  A major blunder by Salmond. It was a clear attempt to out-flank. It has back-fired on him.

P.T.:  What do you think of Alistair Darling and the way he has been handling things?

J.L.:  I’ve actually met him a few times. I used to live and work in London in the jazz scene, but I know Lib Dem Simon Hughes very well. He helped get me in to Parliament for PMQs when John Smith was Labour Leader. I first met him around about that time. And a few times since. Great guy. He is exceedingly intelligent, but also possibly the calmest, coolest guy under pressure I have ever known.

P.T.: Well, we can only hope that he and his campaign will make it through to the finish successfully. Thank you for letting me record your thoughts, Mr. Lipsham.

J.L.:  You’re welcome.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Interview with Alan Day, Founder of Ulster-Scots Online and The Orange Chronicle

Pearl of Tyburn: Today I’m interviewing Alan Day, the founder of the Ulster-Scots Online Website and The Orange Chronicle Website and a resident of Northern Ireland. Hello, Mr. Day.

Alan Day:  Greetings.

P.T.:  Could you please give us a quick biographical sketch about your family background?

A.D.:  My mother is from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. My father is from Leicestershire in England and was in the Army. I was born in what was then West Germany in the British Military Hospital in Rinteln. I have two brothers - one born in Scotland and the other in Northern Ireland.

We moved about a lot but lived in Scotland for a couple of years in Kirkcudbright around primary school age. The Army was based nearby. When my youngest brother was born, we returned to Scotland just after I had entered the first year of High School and I attended Kirkcudbright Academy and then the University of Paisley before moving to Northern Ireland to look after my grandmother at the age of 23.

P.T.: How did you get involved in The Orange Order?

A.D.:  A couple of years after moving to Northern Ireland I was asked by a friend if I would be interested in joining the lodge. To be honest I didn’t know much about it and wasn’t religious or a church attender. I have to say that becoming an Orangeman along with my mother taking a brain tumour were all instrumental in myself becoming a born again Christian.

P.T.:  How did you become active in your work to preserve Ulster-Scots culture?

A.D.:  I got involved with Ulster-Scots through articles, particularly history articles appearing in news papers and online. Having a mother from Northern Ireland and having lived in Scotland I could see the linguistic and cultural links clearly.

I responded to an advert in the local paper (Mid-Ulster Mail) with regards the formation of the South Londonderry Ulster-Scots Association where we held numerous concerts in the local high schools, performed living history re-enactments & floats at various events including the Twelfth. We were given a platform in local schools and brought the Ulster-Scots Agency community radio station fUSe FM to Maghera.

P.T.:  What inspired to create Ulster-Scots Online and The Orange Chronicle?

A.D.:  I created the Ulster-Scots and Irish Unionist Resource website which later became the Ulster-Scots Online website which has been going for many years and gone through some major changes. There are Twitter and Facebook pages connected with the site.I also created The Orange Chronicle website around the same time and has connected Twitter page and a Facebook page with 12,000 followers.

P.T.:  What is your opinion on The Scottish Independence Referendum?

A.D.:  With regards the Scottish independence referendum - I am very much in favour of retaining the Union. I have lived all around the UK and feel British and have a particularly affinity for Scotland & Northern Ireland. To rend Scotland from the rest of the UK would be heart breaking.

P.T.:  What have you been doing with regards to the referendum?

A.D.:  Unfortunately I do not have a vote in the referendum but I will be raising my voice in support of the Union and urging friends in Scotland to vote No.

P.T.:  What would you say the similarities are between Irish and Scottish nationalism?

A.D.:  With regards Northern Ireland, it will obviously go tribal with obvious splits, albeit Sinn Fein seem to be going ever so softly about associating themselves with Scottish nationalism, perhaps so as not to taint the Yes campaign with IRA baggage. However, social media shows that Irish Republicans and Sinn Fein types are indeed Yes supporters (Bernadette Devlin McAliskey has been campaigning and speaking at with Radical Scottish Independence events).

P.T.:  What about the comparison between Irish unionism and Scottish unionism?

A.D.:  Unionists have also been mute as Scottish Unionism is not identical to Ulster Unionism and many are aware that Orangeism and Loyalism do not necessarily sit well with some sections of Scotland and may be counter productive in the independence debate. But I am glad in recent days we have had some voices raised from the DUP & UUP.

P.T.:  What are your thoughts on the way that different political parties have interacted during the course of the referendum debate?

A.D.:  The SNP has been very successful at framing the debate as Scotland vs. the Tories and I am glad to see that the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones and the First Minister of Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson have both spoken out this week. It is good to see such a wide political spectrum of campaigning for a No vote from Unions, Labour, DUP, UUP, Lib Dems, Tories & Orange Order through UKIP.

P.T.:  Thank you very much for giving me your perspective on the recent political proceedings, Mr. Day.

A.D.:  Of course; my pleasure.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Interview with “Wyndysascha”, Legal Student from London

Pearl of Tyburn:  I’ll now be speaking with “Wyndysascha”, a resident of the great city of London, England, capital of the United Kingdom. It’s nice to have you on board!

Wyndysascha:  Thank you!

P.T.:  Can you give a little summary about yourself and your background?

W.S.:  I'm British, of English and Scottish ancestry. I was born in England, baptized into the Church of Scotland, and moved to Scotland at a young age. I now live in London, UK, where I attended university for a bachelor’s degree in history, and am now studying for a second degree in law. Although I haven't always lived in London, I do consider myself a Londoner (and I find it difficult now to imagine living anywhere else - a typical Londoner's conceit!). I am also a recent convert to the Catholic Faith.

P.T.:  Could you please tell me what your British heritage means to you?   

W.S.:  I've always seen my heritage as one of a thoughtful, measured, civilized, yet firm approach to tolerance, fairness, liberty, and the rule of law. We don't submit to tyrants; but we also don't have blood-in-the-streets revolutions either (although we do occasionally riot and decapitate our king!). Nowadays, though, we seem not only to fail to live up to our own image of ourselves, but we don't even know what that image is.

P.T.:  Why do you think “Britain” is such a good thing?

W.S.:  The reason why "Britain" is such a good thing is because, no matter what the cause of its inception, the history of conflict between the nations of The British Isles produced an authentically "British" idea of liberty. No matter how hypocritical we are in applying it, that is what the Union stands for, and why it should continue - above and beyond all other considerations, the Union represents how different nations can co-exist in one state and remain at liberty.

P.T.:  What do you think of the assertation that nations should, as a matter of necessity, have their own states?

W.S.:  The nations of Britain don't necessarily need their own states; they just have to love our liberty enough that they force the politicians of the Union to work towards it. Things like the European Union are bureaucratic exercises, and simply can't evoke that feeling of loyalty. The United Kingdom, as with the United States, represents an idea, and an ideal, of how people should live and what we should be willing to fight to preserve. That we've got to where we are now is a failure to hold faith to liberty.

P.T.:  Could you clarify what you mean when you say “liberty”, as opposed to “freedom”?

W.S.:  I say Liberty, and not Freedom, for a reason: "Liberty", understood as a British concept, is the God-given right to quiet enjoyment of one's private and family life and the state protecting us as we need it to; "Freedom" always seemed to me to be the running-around shouting, do-whatever-you-want thing.  It implies a positive effort of will, not simply a tendency to mobbishness and licence.

P.T.:  What do you think the active moral responsibility of the Union is?

W.S.:  The Union has an active moral responsibility to remind the nations of why the Union is a Good Thing and what it stands for. It shouldn't be forgotten that the Union was created in a shady politician's deal that the people, at the time, were overwhelmingly opposed to. But that didn't stop us coming to realize what the true character of the Union should be: a coming-together of equals established so that subjects could live their lives peaceably, free from undue interference.

That ethos came from centuries of intra-British wars, turmoil, and upheaval, and our common battles against monstrous tyrants that would make us slaves in our own country. The Union could be the fruit of all that, and prove that the world should draw closer together, find common ground, and agree on virtues to uphold instead of flying apart, with everyone trying to look out for themselves. We could just give-up and call it a few-centuries-old convenience and be done with it, but I think we'd all be the poorer for it.

P.T.:  What’s your opinion on the monarchy?

W.S.:  The same historical connectivity applies to the British Constitutional Monarchy. It's very difficult to defend monarchy as an institution in the modern world (although not the need for a single strong leader of government, such as the US President). But the monarchy, traditionally, has been the source of authority for the law.  In The King's Speech, King George VI says that he's only the King if the people believe he speaks for them.

An overarching theme of British history is the reining-in of the Crown, so it didn't evolve into a Continental-style despotism but one rooted in the "ancient laws" of the people. People had to see the monarchy as a product of our ancient liberties: not as in-your-face as, say, the explicit American declaration that the government is the servant of the people, but rather an organic relationship where We were loyal to the Crown, and the Crown upheld the things that made Us, Us.

P.T.:  How do you think the view of the monarchy has altered in present times?

W.S.:  Now, because they have lost their sense of common nationhood and are ignorant of their history, people don't understand how the monarchy is a source of authority any more. That has a terrible impact on British ideas on Law, and so on the Union itself. Laws in this country derive their authority from the Crown, and because they are promulgated by the Crown-In-Parliament. If you don't think the Crown possesses authority, as the authentic voice of the ancient laws and liberties of the people, why obey the law?  We end up being a nation of laws obeyed purely through fear of compulsion, not one where laws are respected.

P.T.:  What are your thoughts on the importance and meaning of history?

W.S.:  I believe that "History" as a cultural enterprise (not merely an academic one) is the set of honest stories about the past that we tell each other to reinforce our sense of self and community. Despite what some in the Eighteenth Century thought, life cannot be a purely rational exercise. That's not how people function. We are under a positive moral duty to make sure that our stories are true and morally good: when we stop concentrating on honest history and stop telling these stories to our children, we eventually lose our cohesiveness.

P.T.:  What are your thoughts on the Braveheart craze?

W.S.:  It’s easy to stick people in front of a TV playing Braveheart and then tell them it's the end of the story. But it's not the end. A simple look at British history would show that the heart of the Union is about nations fired by their own sense of liberty and independence being able to come together and work in common cause. I'm not unaware of the irony that the virtues associated with unity and liberty arose out of intra-British conquest, oppression, and struggle but, having fought and hated and brutalized, by the Grace of God we now have a higher standard to hold ourselves to.

P.T.:  What do you think might have made more Scottish people see the Union in a positive light?

W.S.:  Scotland's current generation might be more well-disposed to the Union if they saw how the original unification of Britain, though unpopular, became popular over time because of the mutually-beneficial nature of the arrangement. The Union forestalled Scottish bankruptcy after the Darien Scheme's failure. It brought a greater measure of peace to the Isles by excluding continental interference in Scottish affairs.

The Union allowed Scottish access to English (then British) markets.  In short, the Union allowed Scotland to punch well above its weight on a world stage. Not only this, but Scots have always been more than capable of holding the highest offices of state in a British Union; Scots are not the oppressed minority that Scottish Nationalists would like to portray themselves as, but rather are and always have been active participants in the Union at all levels. 

P.T.:  What do you think of the nationalist presentation that other people view Scots as having been disgraced or suppressed by the Union?

W.S.:  The peddled idea that "other people see Scots as brought low and wallowing in self-pity, and the Scots see themselves in a similar way" is the worst kind of rubbish: Scottish Nationalists get to present Independence as a solution for a perception that barely exists outside nasty right-wing media and pub loud-mouths, or gloss over that it's one implausible approach to dealing with something best dealt with within the Union anyway.  If self-respect and a sense of nationhood are so dreadfully lacking in the Scottish people, why not try to tackle this supposed problem within the Union, the institution that offers greater stability, greater opportunities, greater access to a world stage?!

Furthermore, the Union has never subsumed "Scottish" institutions beneath "British" ones. This flexibility is part of what makes the Union work. Constitutional protection has always been afforded to a separate Kirk, education system, and so on. Legislation, boards of control and state departments have been established in response to Scottish concerns over Scotland's needs. Development of devolved institutions continues today. If one believes that Scotland should become an independent, sovereign nation again then of course it is laudable that the process is peaceful, and through the political process. But that the process exists, has an historical presence, and is a viable route for future change - even if that change is independence itself - is a factual rejection of the idea that "Britain" somehow suppresses Scottish liberty.

P.T.:  What do you think are the main issues at the heart of the independence debate?

W.S.:  The true issue at stake in the whole Independence debate is this: unless there's some sort of complete, fundamental change in the governance, public morals, and general education of the people of the United Kingdom, then the Union is doomed to fail eventually. The pro-union Better Together campaign is fighting on the technical downsides of Independence. But people want more than that. I'd bet that any number of people voting For independence are sensible, sceptical people who don't believe the Yes Campaign's promises to give them everything they ever wanted without having to pay anything to get it - they're voting for independence because they've been presented with a vision of the world that makes them feel like they're part of a community again.

P.T.:  What do you think is “the best form of government”, if any?

W.S.:  I believe firmly that any state can only derive its authority from the informed consent of the governed.  This, obviously, doesn't necessarily imply either democracy or a republic, still less any inherent value to referenda.  However, I question what authority an independent Scottish state would have coming into existence via a brief moment of mawkish pseudo-patriotism.  There are nations around the world who are brutally oppressed by governments and regimes, who have a legitimate argument to make that they'd be better off with their own governors and states.  No-one oppresses the Scots, nor are the Scots lacking any opportunities within the Union.  Other independence movements elsewhere are similarly shallow. Who oppresses the Québécois, for instance?  What opportunities for localised government and international standing do they lack?  Like the Scots, they live in mature, rights-respecting states with civilized flexibility out of which they've done remarkably well and, when bumpy periods are passed, probably will do in future.

P.T.:  What do you think of the way individual politicians and parties affect the debate?

W.S.:  The manipulations of canny politicians lead people to forget their own interests and (not a popular opinion, perhaps) their just allegiances and duties. Governments you dislike aren't a reason to fracture one's country: they're a reason to stick it out, campaign for your point of view, and take an active role in the process.  I dislike many aspects of Conservative Party policy, their fairly cheap and nasty approach to the poor being foremost.  I'd probably have similar feelings towards any future Labour or Liberal Democrat government.  But pretending that the Scottish nation is so utterly, fundamentally divorced in its opinions from any policy these parties could implement is Fiction, pure and simple. 

 Scottish Nationalists draw the distinction between "Scottish politicians" and "Westminster politicians" to foster the "us-and-them" mentality necessary to break Scots from the Union but that's politics, not some fundamental character of the Scottish nation.  It's rare to find someone who identifies wholly with their elected leaders - we laugh at our MPs' supposed ineptitude regularly, Americans have their "clowns in Congress", and so on - and all the "Westminster politicians" argument does is piggy-back on this sentiment.

P.T.:  How do you think a lack of true patriotism towards Britain has contributed to the Scottish nationalist movement?

W.S.:  Our sense of Britishness has decayed to the point where the Union may be about to split. The past sixty years of British history have been the systematic dismantling of emotional attachment to one's own country. "Patriotism" is, apparently, something for right-wing thugs; the left/centre-left sneer at anyone who thinks that there's such a thing as "British liberty". Say what you want about the nationalists, they’re not stupid: they understand "History" far better than the Better Together campaign appears to (the fact is that they're cynically manipulating that history notwithstanding).  Again: although the Union provides tangible, real-life benefits to its citizens, its raison d'être cannot simply be measured in pounds, shillings, and pence.

I'm not naive. I know that "patriotism" is something that is used by the wicked on the gullible. But it's not a bad thing in and of itself, if it's attached to a good and noble cause. Love can warp easily into a greater, more general evil because it's an emotion, which is why love has to be married to reason and virtue to endure.  Love of one's country can warp easily into terrible things.  This is the line that Scottish Nationalists are skirting.  They're using Scots' love of the Scottish nation to foster division rather than unity, or a unity that is narrow and parochial, and encouraging self-pitying reactive chauvinism rather than genuine national character.  These things are being set against an authentic, British idea of liberty - something that emphasises common ground between different groups - in favour of a weak, ivory-towered concept of national freedom that isn't so much written solidly in history but slides greasily off its pages.

P.T.:  Could you wrap up this interview with a summary of the main problem as it stands now?

W.S.:  The sum of the problem is that we are forgetting our history, our unique sense of liberty, and our belief that our nations have a common centre that organically emanates authority but also derives its authority from us.  It can only end in division, and "suspect government" that has all the trappings of "rights" and "democracy" but enforces a deadening cultural uniformity on us.  Scottish Independence won't see some glorious rebirth of the Scottish Nation: it will say to the world that one of the foremost partners in the great, historical Projects of Union and Liberty has decided that it's just not worth the bother any more.  We don't have long to impart this on the Scottish people, and I'll be praying that it's a vision they can be persuaded to cleave to.

P.T.:  As an aside, can you tell me a little about your personal interests?

W.S.:  I maintain an interest in British and American History. My period of study is the Long Eighteenth Century, as affecting Britain and her empire (especially in North America). I've probably sucked up too much Eighteenth-Century pamphleteering, as I'm a big fan of the constitutional forms and theories of the time: whether the constitutional, parliamentary monarchy of Britain; or the federal, checks-and-balances American Republic ('The Federalist Papers' being one of my favourite works).

I also follow politics and consider myself to be a middle-of-the-road centre-right pragmatist with an attachment to ideas of individual liberty. I enjoy playing games, especially strategy ones, and I also love playing 'Minecraft'. I’m in the process of taking up blogging about his new Catholic life, politics, and gaming against the backdrop of ‘Minecraft’ (, as well as producing videos and vlogs on YouTube. I also try to deepen my newfound Catholic faith whenever I can.

P.T.:  Thank you very much for putting down so many excellent thoughts for this interview. I wish you all the best.

W.S.: Thanks; you too! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Interview with Rory Stewart, Westminster MP for Penrith and the Borders

Pearl of Tyburn: I have the privilege of speaking with Rory Stewart, Westminster MP for Penrith and the Borders. Mr. Stewart, could you please tell us what your British identity means to you, and why you believe it should be preserved?

Rory Stewart:  We are a result of shared institutions, languages and articles. The United Kingdom is the definition of what our nation is about. We are a nation that stands together in the face of adversity and hardship, we should not shy away now. Scotland is a vital part of our nation and needs to remain just that.

We have been working to preserve the UK for over 300 years; if broken up, it would be a very hard place to imagine. Our complexity, that feeling of being Scottish or English but also British, is one we should embrace and cherish. We need to stay together to continue being a strong and successful nation in this ever changing world.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Interview with G. Wright, Resident of Glasgow

Pearl of Tyburn:  I’ll now be speaking Mr. G. Wright of Glasgow. How are you, Mr. Wright?

G. Wright:  Well, thanks.

P.T.:  Could you please explain what your British identity means to you?    

G. W.:  For me, a Scotsman, to be British is to enjoy a unique and special identity.  Most people only have one culture and one history; but we British are lucky to have a share in several other cultures, as well as our own.  I love all things Scottish, but I'd still prefer a Dry Gin to a Whisky, a Shakespeare over a Burns and a St Thomas More over a John Knox.  And despite these things being English in origin - they have become very much part of my culture - thanks to the UK.  This is part of the beauty of the UK - as to be British is to be enriched in this way.

P.T.:  What is an analogy that you might use to describe the Union?

G.W.:  Our very successful Union is like a family, in that the Nations are close and affectionate of one another, but also distinct in identity and at times rivals.  There is nothing quite like the UK, and - should the worst happen in September, God forbid - there never will be anything quite like it again. For it is more than just a bland Union of Nations - like the EU - it goes way beyond that, via having unity of language and a shared and lively history too.  The Peoples of the UK Nations are not simply mere 'partners', but kith and kin. To be British is to be part of a family.

P.T.:  Do you ever feel like your British identity takes away from or diminishes your Scottish identity in any way?

G.W.:  Unlike some, I do not feel like my British Identity is an unwelcome "bolt on" to my Scottish Identity.  For me, it is a complimentary aspect - not a rival one. Like two luxurious room in a large Mansion. The rooms are not competitors, but each is wonderful and interesting on its own merits. You can flit from one to another, or place them alongside one another. It is fascinating to see how they compliment one another.

P.T.:  What do you feel it is to be British, on an international level?

G.W.:  To be British is to belong to a Nation which has done more than any other, over centuries, to shape the modern World.  I think this is shown by the enduring successor of the Empire, the British Commonwealth.  That the vast majority of former Empire States choose to remain part of this family of friends today, is a testament to how the bonds of brotherhood and friendship have ultimately prevailed over conquest and domination.  These friendships are the real legacy of the Empire. 

P.T.:  What did you think of the Commonwealth Games recently held in Glasgow?

G.W.:  The recent Commonwealth Games in Glasgow were a lesson in how blessed we are to be British, to enjoy links and friendship with so many different People and Nations from across the globe.  And the enrichment of Britain, through contact with these friends, was clearly visible - not least by the welcome presence of Men from the Gurka Rifles, at the security points! It may not fashionable to boast of Empire in the modern era, but the size of the British Empire was impressive by any standards. I believe that, one day, historians will talk of the British, the way they talk about the Romans today. And so to be British is to be International. 

P.T.:  How would you answer some of the negative charges made against the British identity by separatists?

G.W.:  Some separatist extremists try to extrapolate neo-fascism from a simple pride in, or admiration of, British identity and the United Kingdom. But in spite of this, many people continue to be proud of their British identities. We are not especially vocal about it - that would be quite un-British indeed - but that doesn't mean its not there. We have just as much to be proud of as Britons, as we do as Scots. One cannot blame keen fans of British culture for admiring the more romantic aspects of an exceptionally rich tapestry of history, as others do with the Romans, etc. As a Scottish Briton myself, I cannot help but share their sympathies!

P.T.:  What do you think has contributed to the antipathy towards the British identity on the part of many Scots?    

G.W.:  Sadly, many Scots today define themselves by what they decide to dislike - be it the English, or the Catholics – instead of appreciating the fullness of their heritage and important historical events. Many Scots think resenting these groups is what it means to be Scottish - it’s very sad. This kind of negative, or inverse identity is a phenomenon I have not encountered elsewhere.

I think in part this "negative identity" explains the verses in The Flower of Scotland which attempt to create a sensation of loss or grievance - rather than pride in our own nation, our anthem is all about whom we dislike and how hard-done-by we feel. The end result of all this is an ignorant and divided society. Most people have no real sense of themselves and are simply unthinking clients of cheap, imported pop culture. And that which is thought of as being genuinely Scottish (kilts etc) is in the main a modern and contrived caricature of an identity. 

P.T.:  What do you think of the claim that the British army used Scottish soldiers as cannon fodder?

G.W.:  The type of Scot who can seemingly see nothing but ill-will and exploitation in the United Kingdom strikes a chord of frustration with me. I hate the "cannon fodder" argument you often hear, about Scots in the British Army. It’s just not true. On the contrary, Scots Regiments have always been an important and illustrious part of the British Army. The Royal Scots were the oldest British Army Unit, till they became sadly defunct. Now it is the Coldstream Guards. And where is Coldstream? That’s right, Scotland! I also strongly dislike the bogus notion that Scotland is an English colony, rather than a partner of the English. It’s just absurd. 

P.T.:  If Scotland were to become independent, what do you think the Scottish people could expect?

G.W.:  I think people would get a shock in an independent Scotland. We would have no G8 seat, no permanent UN Security Council seat, no permanent UN veto, no major EU influence, no major global influence, no nuclear deterrent, no conventional military power, no fiscal control over our own currency, etc. As part of the UK, we currently have all of that. I don't think our coffers would be able to support the large number of public sector jobs the country depends on.

Before recent cuts started 1 in 4 employed by the State in Scotland, compared to 1 in 5 UK wide. And this is before all the extra ones needed if independent. Let’s not forget the many Scots communities, often isolated, who depend heavily on local British bases and military installations to drive their economies. All that would be gone if we split from the UK.

P.T.: What’s your opinion on the currency debate?

G.W.:  Control of our currency is another major issue that ceding throws up. We have to either take the euro (assuming we even got into the EU - not guaranteed) and let the EU control our currency, (that's going really well for Greece right now), or we keep the pound and let the Bank of England control our currency. The Bank of England currently controls our currency, but does so while taking us and our economic circumstances into account (along with the rest of the UK).

Post independence, they would still be in full control, but the Scottish economy would not feature in their considerations whatsoever, as they no longer have any duty to us. This then has grave implications for anything our Government would try to do: fiscal plans, the economy etc. Why would sane person, who was not intoxicated or under duress, freely vote to give up fiscal control of their own currency? If people think seriously, they can only credibly vote no, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens almost "by accident"! 

P.T.:  Can you please give me your closing thoughts, and what you see as the heart of the referendum?

G.W.:  Ultimately, the name of the "no" campaign - Better Together - sums it all up.  Were it not for the UK and its centuries of history, none of the constituent parts could ever have expected to have such an eventful history, or range of experiences and opportunities.    We know from the work place that working together achieves more, and so it is with the UK too. To be British is to have broad horizons.

This whole referendum comes down one major question: do Scots want to be part of a nation which helps to shape the world (The UK), or do they want to be part of a nation which is shaped by the world? No Scotsman worth his salt would choose the latter! Here's to a prosperous + proud Scotland within a happy + strong UK!

P.T.:  Thank you very much for your taking part in this project.

G.W.:  Sure, no problem.