Twenty-first-century Scottish play-acting draws depth and energy from a European and Western tradition of dreaming Scottish dreams, and this tradition dates back to at least the late eighteenth century, to the beginnings of European Romanticism. This book explores how contemporary celebrations of Scotland build upon earlier Scottish fantasies. The Scottish dreamscape is one of several pre-modern counter-worlds which have been approached through imitation in the past. The book examines the 'Scotland' that is on the play-actors' minds. The Scottish dreamscape was formed in an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century process now best known as Highlandism. It was then that Scotland became associated with the aesthetics and supposed characteristics of its Highland periphery. The book also explores the Scottish dreamscape's spread via the channels of the British Empire and American popular culture. It identifies five key carriers which helped to disseminate the Scottish aesthetic across the world, namely epic poetry, the Highland regiments, music hall entertainment, Hollywood films, and romance novels. The book further focuses on fieldwork conducted in 2009 and 2010. It sheds some light on the different forms of Scottish play-acting, on musicians, athletes, commemorators, and historical re-enactors. The pipers and athletes do not imitate the past; they perform in what they hope are old but living Scottish traditions. Commemorators and historical re-enactors have a different aim. They seek to recreate the past in the present. Finally, the book identifies some of the main reasons for the Scottish dreamscape's special resonance in northern and western Europe.
for our appearance.42
Sergeant Campbell’s account gives an idea of the unusual sight kilted soldiers made on the European continent at the time of the Napoleonic Wars
The Scottish dreamscape: spread55
(1803–15). Indeed, before 1815, even British citizens sometimes failed to recognise Highlandregiments as their own troops. A soldier by the name of Allan
Macpherson of the 42nd HighlandRegiment of Foot noted on his return from
North America, in 1762:
I arrived from America in the year of 1762 (at Bristol). I was dressed in the uniform
of the 42nd or Royal
about it than he does. It is performance that makes the
Scot and the Belgian of the past.
Together, the continental re-enactors cover roughly two millennia of Scottish
history. They portray ‘Scottish’ Celts and Picts, throwing rocks at the Romans
over Hadrian’s Wall. They perform as medieval warriors, fighting the English
alongside Wallace and Bruce in Scotland’s wars of independence (c.1296–1328).
They are Highland mercenaries in the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48), Jacobite
rebels on their way to defeat at Culloden (1745–46), British Highlandregiments fighting the
. Scotland was increasingly expected to look like a nation
of Highlanders. Highlandregiments had been incorporated into the British
army after Culloden in great numbers and figured prominently on American
and European battlefields. Their ‘ethnic’ uniforms were depicted in newspapers
and the arts and aroused considerable interest throughout Britain and Europe.
Scottish writers such as Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) and later R.L. Stevenson
(1850–94) created highly successful Highlander novels which made Scotland
a place of interest for European Romanticism.23 Tourists
‘distinctive symbols’ of Scotland. In 2008
they registered a Tilburg tartan with the Scottish Tartan Authority (No. 7464).
The two world wars also inspire Scottish commemorations in France and
Belgium. As we have seen, Scottish military pipe bands made a particularly
strong impression on the Continent, and their memory has been revived with
‘commemorative pipe bands’. The 48th Highlanders of Holland, for instance,
were founded in the Dutch town of Apeldoorn in 1991 to commemorate the
Our Scottish past: commemorations135
48th HighlandRegiment of the Canadian army (est. 1891
was reported in the Scots Magazine it was alleged in his defence that he had not
carried arms, but the Court observed that a Highlandregiment never marched
without a piper and therefore that his bagpipe in the eyes of the law was an
instrument of war.’12
Because of their weapon-like status, bagpipes were temporarily banned in
Scotland after Culloden with the Disarming Act. The mid-eighteenth century
saw a ‘steep decline’ of piping in the Highlands, and by 1770 ‘there was concern that bagpipe playing was in danger of extinction’.13 The friendly societies
– more fun perhaps than other national
mythologies. To impersonate a Scot means to adopt his noise and colours, to
stun and awe audiences, to be a marching, martial spectacle. Scottish costume –
with its bright tartans, regimental splendour, and the vaguely erotic kilt – causes
excitement with its extravagant mixture of militarism and comedy. There is
something highly theatrical about the Scots – a fact that was and still is appreciated by many Scots themselves. Scots have dressed up ‘as themselves’ in the past
when styling their Highlandregiments for the military
settlement grew only slowly – a fact mirrored
across the American colonies – and it was only after the end of the French
and Indian War in 1763 that numbers increased.66 From that point until
the 1775 outbreak of the American Revolution an estimated 25,000 Scots
settled in America.67 A good number of them were discharged soldiers
from regiments such as the 42nd (Black Watch) or the 78th (Fraser’s
Highlanders) – among the first Highlandregiments to serve in North
America, and thus regiments that included many of the first Highlanders
to join the British army after the
links between Scotland
and Europe, and re-stage moments from the Scottish past (or myths thereof).
Their favourite history is heroic history; re-enactors replay battles, commemorators recall them, athletes invoke a warrior mythology, and pipe bands imitate the
military glamour of the Highlandregiments.
The Scots of Europe dream of a Scotland which looks remarkably different
from everyday life in modern Scotland. Their fantasy of a pre-modern warrior
culture is hardly congruent with the reality of Scotland, the place on the map.
That said, it is one of the Scottish