James Hogg’s Unconventional National Tale


The Scottish Studies Research Group at Stirling has settled into a regular fortnightly routine, and the standard of presentations thus far is inspiringly high. At our last meeting on 1 June, Dr Barbara Leonardi presented a compelling paper based on an article that will see publication later this month in Studies in Scottish Literature, entitled ‘James Hogg’s The Brownie of Bodsbeck: An Unconventional National Tale’. On a personal level, having known her for about five years, it was nice to finally see Dr Leonardi present her work!

Barbara%27s Picture for Blog.1

Dr Barbara Leonardi

Barbara is an Early Career Researcher working on the Stirling/South Carolina Research Edition of the Collected Works of James Hogg, and her presentation argued that Hogg’s thematic choices in the short novel The Brownie of Bodsbeck work to subvert the traditional national tale. As Barbara explained, the conventional national tale follows Edmund Burke’s conception that the bourgeois family should form a neat and instructive representation of the nation, and in this case, the British Empire. In this conception, peasants and women are figured as the infants of Burke’s family-nation. Walter Scott notably employs this marriage plot in Waverley, as an ideological reconciliation of Scotland and England. In Barbara’s reading, Hogg challenges this paradigm through numerous subversive choices of theme, event and character. Brotherhood becomes a central trope in place of romantic love, with Katharine’s Lowland father forming a bond with a Highland soldier. At the same time, Katharine herself doesn’t engage in marriage with the potential ‘hero’ of the novel, and takes no lover, further disrupting the key symbolic relationship of the national tale. Katharine is the agent and moral locus of the text, helping the Covenanters and thus transgressing an unjust law in defence of human rights.

s048Barbara went on to discuss the dialogue of the text, analysing the apparent dichotomy between Catherine’s faultless English and her peasant background, and the broad Scots of her father. While some reviewers were uncomfortable with this clash of voices, in Barbara’s reading this amounts to a Bakhtinian approach to ‘multivocality’ through which Hogg rejects the centre/periphery division of the imperial ethos and suggests a new, inclusive Britishness based on the validity of working class, rather than bourgeois, ethical values. In this way, Katherine becomes ‘a meritorious symbol for the Scottish nation’, and further exemplifies the way Hogg was thinking ahead of his times. Barbara’s compelling paper will be accessible online after its publication later this month

Typically for these Scottish Studies Research Group meetings, the presentation provoked a lively informal discussion of Hogg, the national tale, covenanting history, publishing and editorial factors in relation to Hogg’s work, and the emasculation of an Episcopalian priest (this latter point occurs in the text)! These discussions have become a real high point of the group’s meetings, often ranging across disciplines (this week literature, publishing, history…) and giving a real sense of interconnectivity between researchers. If you’re working in the field of Scottish studies, no matter the stage of your research, at Stirling or elsewhere, please do come along to the next meeting or get in touch via email; discussions are informal, welcoming, and usually inspiring. The date of the next meeting is to be confirmed, but will be publicised via the Twitter account of the Centre for Scottish Studies (@stirscotstudies). We hope to see you there.

Scottishness in Early Sound Cinema, 1927-1933


Last Wednesday the Scottish Studies Research Group met for a fascinating presentation by PhD candidate John Ritchie on ‘Sir Harry Lauder and Will Fyffe: Being Scottish in Early Sound Cinema’. John’s talk was based on his wider research, which focuses on  how Scottishness is represented in films produced during the Transition to Sound period, from 1927 to 1933.
 Will Fyffe
John started by introducing the twin figures of Sir Henry “Harry” Lauder (1870 –1950) and Will Fyffe (1885 –1947). Both were music hall artists that became international stars in the first decades of the twentieth century, as suggested by how American tribute acts to the former preceded his arrival in the United States. John gave examples of how  Lauder and Fyffe were encouraged to record their music hall acts and stage routines for early sound films.

John then explored the performance of Scottishness as central to Lauder’s and Fyffe’s theatre practice. Although Lauder’s personification of Scottishness was more convincing, Fyffe’s too made a point of being identifiable as Scottish. In particular, costume and accent were used to signify Scottishness in music hall and sound film alike. Against a backdrop in which tartan costume became the signifier for nationality,the kilt was the most important element of the mise en scène. As for language, while Lauder’s voice came to represent Scottish language abroad, Fyffe too strove to realise Scottishness through language, but drawing on the east coast vernacular. The ways in which Lauder’s and Fyffe’s personification of Scottishness played to stereotype explains how the former could easily become a target of criticism for Hugh MacDiarmid, who resented  how Lauder’s (hugely popular) performances provided an inaccurate, simplistic and derogatory representation of Scotland.


Sir Harry Lauder

A very interesting interdisciplinary discussion was sparked by John’s presentation, in which we were able to discuss parallels between film critics’ take on Lauder, still influenced by MacDiarmid’s loathing of his performances, and literary critics’ approach to the Kailyard school of Scottish fiction, similarly informed by MacDiarmid’s caustic rejection. We also enjoyed learning more from John about the transition to sound film in Scotland and the state of archival resources around the topic, while hearing some fascinating anecdotes about his research journey and findings.


Our next meeting will take place on Wednesday the 1st of June, at 5pm, Room A7, Pathfoot Building. We will hear from Dr Barbara Leonardi, a post-doctoral researcher here at Stirling, about ‘James Hogg’s The Brownie of Bodsbeck; An Unconventional National Tale’. All members of the Stirling research community, as well as Scottish studies enthusiasts from beyond, are very welcome to attend.


Poetry & Song in Victorian Dundee


The May Day bank holiday was the date for the second meeting of the Scottish Studies Research Group at Stirling, and fittingly we had the pleasure of listening to Erin Farley talk about her research on popular and working-class poetry and song in Victorian Dundee. The city is known for its pride in its political traditions, from radical and liberal nineteenth-century identities through to labour and working-class strains into the early twentieth-century – historical legacies which continue to inform popular political discourse in Dundee (and beyond). In a week which saw the Dandy photo-shopping its way into the Scottish political limelight, and Dundee United FC relegated by their city rivals Dundee FC, Pathfoot A7 took on a strong Dundonian flavour for the evening (alas, without any ‘pehs’).


Erin opened by giving us some background to her research, undertaken in collaboration with Dundee Central Library and the University of Stirling. Her project is focused on a wide range of material – poetry, ballads, maps and photographs, newspaper stories, tales and songs – in the Lamb Collection in Dundee’s local history department. Over 450 boxes make up the collection which was left to the city by Alexander Crawford Lamb (1843-97), who was, in another nod to Dundee’s well-known political identities, the son of a Temperance hotelier. The poetry-enthusiast Lamb was later to become proprietor of his own hotel on Reform Street, which became a centre of writing and reading culture in the city.

Another important figure in the poetic and song cultures of Dundee was George Gilfillan (1813-1878), who championed working-class poetry in the city. Erin’s talk explored how the political content of these poems was conditioned by specific publishing environments, as Gilfillan would be reluctant to print anything that was deemed too radical or politically dangerous. In this model of poetic patronage, ‘untaught’ and ‘natural’ working-class poetic ability was encouraged so long as it pertained to Victorian narratives of moral improvement and respectability.

A major theme in Erin’s work is the significance of place in poetry and song, both in terms of content and as sites of performance and dissemination. Shops which printed and sold cheap broadsides were central to Dundee’s vibrant culture of poetry and song, and operated as focal points for the urban community and also for the rural communities of the surrounding countryside. At the changing of seasonal work patterns and during fair days, rural workers (usually young males) would come into the city and visit the broadside shops to pick up cheap songs and speeches to arm themselves with material for a busy day of (markedly in-Temperate) socialising. These local traditions found their way into the content of poems and songs, which Erin brought to life by playing an archive recording of a Dundee street song about a rural worker’s encounter with the city’s liquor trade, and a disastrous attempt at courting which found the young man awaken (alone) at the foot of a tenement close. The young man returned on foot to the countryside chagrined and vowing never to return to the city again, a nineteenth-century ‘walk of shame’ which, interestingly, placed the shame upon the spurned young man rather than upon the woman in the song.

Place was also significant in the political lives of poems and songs, a good example of this being the city’s Magdalen Green – the focal point for political protest in Victorian Dundee. The square’s topography lent itself to speeches and rallies, such as those held by Dundee weavers in the aftermath of the Peterloo massacre of 1819, to raise money for the families of those killed by the military in Manchester.

George Kinloch statue Dundee[4]

Statue of George Kinloch, Dundee

A local laird named George Kinloch made a speech at Dundee’s Peterloo rally which the authorities deemed rather too inflammatory, who then intended to exile Kinloch to Australia. Kinloch to France, returning to the city in 1832 to become Dundee’s first MP after the Reform Act, only to die shortly after. Kinloch’s place in Dundee’s popular political folklore was thus secured, and the poems and songs in the Lamb Collection attest to Kinloch and Magdalen Green’s symbolic centrality to the ongoing reform movements in the city.

Erin illuminated her presentation with numerous lively examples of Dundee’s Victorian poetry and song. The legacy of Burns was a strong theme to emerge, his songs being regularly re-worked to fit local issues. Erin finished with an engaging reading of one of Dundee’s most well known poets, James Young Geddes, who cast a doubtful eye upon the city’s pride in its radical traditions:

       Here are the people that sing “A man’s a man for a’ that”;

       Here are the people that shout “The rank is but the guinea’s stamp” —

       See how they are crane-ing their necks for honours. 

       See how avaricious they are for gew-gaws, how their souls are athirst for trumpery titles.

James Young Geddes, ‘The Glory has Departed’

A lively discussion followed Erin’s presentation, where we talked about the use of Scots and the Dundee dialect, and explored different aspects of gendered civic identities in the Dundee case and in other Scottish towns and cities. We hope to follow up this meeting by having a Scottish Studies Research Group day-trip to the City of Discovery, to find out from Desperate Dan himself what really happened with THAT Dandy picture with Nicola Sturgeon.

Our next meeting will take place on Wednesday the 18th of May, at 5pm, Room A7, where we will hear from second-year PhD candidate John Ritchie from the division of Communications, Media and Culture, and his research on “Sir Harry Lauder and Will Fyffe: Being Scottish in Early Sound Cinema”. We invite all members of the Stirling research community with an interest in Scottish topics to attend what promises to be another entertaining and stimulating Scottish Studies Research Group event.



After Culloden


Saturday 16 April marked the 270th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, which brought to a violent and bloody end the Jacobite uprising of 1745-46. Popular interest in the battle and the ’45 uprising has been reignited by Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books and the accompanying television series. The story of Culloden is often told, but what happened to the Highlands in its aftermath garners much less attention.


What if we were to take the Jacobite story forward several decades, to the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War? Only thirty years later, Highlanders were viewed not as the enemy but as an essential part of the British military, comprising a significant proportion of the army during the course of the war. Meanwhile, in the Highlands, the first clearances had already occurred by the time of the first shots of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775. The Clearances continued throughout the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, representing a final, fatal break with clanship. What happened in the three decades after Culloden to effect such changes?

Focusing on the military dimension casts considerable light on the wider picture. While the Jacobites enjoyed support from all parts of Britain, Scottish Highlanders provided the majority of their fighting strength in both the 1715 and 1745 risings.


David Morier’s famous painting highlights the strength of government forces at Culloden

During the ’45, British army officers and government officials viewed almost all Highlanders with suspicion despite the fact that a number of Highland clans and individuals fought for the government.[1] This dislike and distrust of Highlanders reflected a common anti-Scottish and, more particularly, anti-Highland sentiment that was common in the eighteenth century. Highlanders were thought to be ‘barbarous savages’ and disloyal subjects, naturally inclined to rebellion against the British state. As a result the British government and army believed it was necessary to civilise the population in order to ensure lasting peace in the region. This led to the violent pacification of the Highlands in the days and months following Culloden, and the implementation of longer-term ‘civilising’ measures throughout the Highlands.


Prohibited weapon

The Act of Proscription (1746) aimed to destroy the military power of the clans by banning traditional Highland dress, possession of arms and bagpipes – which were deemed to be an ‘instrument of war’. A number of Highland landowners who had supported the Jacobites had their estates forfeited as punishment. Most were sold to pay off debts or raise revenue but thirteen were kept and put under the management of a commission which was to encourage agricultural improvement, introduce industry and develop communication.[2] Thus, penalising military disloyalty fed directly into wider government and landowner-led strategies for ‘modernising’ the region. The commission encouraged economic diversification upon the estates it was responsible for managing. This led to the dismantling of the runrig system of farm management on numerous estates with small tenant farms being broken up and replaced with crofts. This provided a ready workforce for new industry such as kelping and fishing in the coastal regions and linen manufacturing in Highland Perthshire. Crofting became increasingly widespread as clan chiefs throughout the Highlands began to diversify their economies, with little or no consultation with their tenants. Some landowners began to invest in sheep farming or pursued commercial interests such as shooting and stalking on their estates; industries which required large tracts of uninhabited land. It was the common people who suffered. 1792 became known as the ‘Year of the Sheep’ following the first mass emigration of the Clearances.

Although Culloden and its aftermath certainly helped to accelerate these changes, it would be incorrect to argue that they caused the Highland Clearances of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As Allan Macinnes has shown, the process of commercialisation had begun in the early seventeenth century and many Highland clan chiefs were eager accomplices in this process, wishing to style themselves more like Lowland landlords than as typical Highland clan chiefs.[3] The aftermath of Culloden provided these chiefs with a welcome opportunity to continue this commercialisation process.


Robert Gibb, ‘The Thin Red Line’ (1881)

The recruitment of Highland soldiers into the British army in the latter half of the eighteenth century played a central role in changing attitudes towards Highlanders. Andrew Mackillop has emphasised that Highlanders were targeted for military service simply because they were seen as an accessible and expendable source of manpower.[4] Highlanders had fought in both regular regiments and independent companies of the British army since before the ’45 but the scale of recruitment during the Seven Years’ War was unprecedented. Upon the outbreak of war in North America in 1754, Highland elites recruited large numbers of men to the army for service in that theatre, using recruitment to integrate themselves within the wider British elite. The economic changes occurring in the Highlands which saw commercialisation begin to dominate over clanship meant there were many Highland men who required a way to supplement their income.[5] Highland regiments quickly gained a reputation for competence and loyalty, and, as the same time as Jacobitism was being romanticised by writers such as Walter Scott, the image of the Highland soldier radically shifted to the embodiment of the brave defender of the British Empire. Emerging during the Seven Years’ War, this imagery became even more pronounced during the American Revolutionary War, when numbers of Highland soldiers increased once again.

By 1755 attitudes towards Highlanders and the Highlands themselves had changed immensely. The policies introduced by the government in the aftermath of Culloden were one in a series of attempts both before and after the ’45 to accelerate change in the Highlands. These changes were part of a long-term decline of clanship in which Highland elites often played an active role. Whilst Culloden did not lead directly to these changes it certainly played its part in the process. Moreover, as the last pitched battle on British soil it marked the end of Jacobitism as a military, if not cultural, challenge to the monarchy. All of these factors have combined to cement the legacy of Culloden and the ’45 in the minds of people all throughout the world. And if the number of people who chose to attend the anniversary commemorations at Culloden this year is any indication – approximately 500 from as far afield as Europe, North America and Australia – that legacy shows no sign of fading.



[1] The Black Watch regiment, a regular regiment within the British army composed of Highland soldiers, was not thought to be trustworthy enough to be deployed in the Highlands during the uprising. Even the Duke of Argyll, who was otherwise well connected in the British government, was subject to a general suspicion against Highlanders upon the outbreak of the rising as he faced delays in being granted permission to call out his Argyll militia.

[2] Annette M. Smith, Jacobite Estates of the ’Forty-Five (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers Ltd, 1982). The papers of the Commission for the Annexed Estates are held in the National Records of Scotland and they contain a wealth of interesting information about the commission and the measures implemented in the Highlands in the second half of the eighteenth century.

[3] A. I. Macinnes, Clanship, Commerce and the House of Stuart, 1603-1788 (East Linton: Tuckwell, 1996); A. I. Macinnes, “Landownership, Land Use and Elite Enterprise in Scottish Gaeldom: From Clanship to Clearance in Argyllshire, 1688-1858,” in Scottish Elites: Proceedings of the Scottish Historical Studies Seminar, University of Strathclyde 1991-1992, ed. T. M. Devine (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers Ltd, 1994).

[4] Andrew Mackillop, More Fruitful than the Soil: Army, Empire and the Scottish Highlands, 1715-1815 (East Linton: Tuckwell, 2000).

[5] Many Highland soldiers were persuaded to join up to the army because of the promise of land grants upon their completion of service. These often did not materialise upon the soldier’s return from war. Some former Jacobites used armed service as a way to rehabilitate themselves within the eyes of the British state such as Simon Fraser, son of the Jacobite peer Lord Lovat who was executed in 1747.

Thanks to the National Trust for Scotland for the figure regarding the number of attendees at the anniversary commemorations in 2016.

Nicola is an AHRC funded PhD candidate jointly supervised by the University of Stirling and the University of Dundee. Her research focuses on British imperial attitudes in the period 1745-1775.



New Scottish Studies Research Group


Last week saw the first meeting of the Stirling Scottish Studies Research Group – intended as a friendly space for people working on Scottish-related topics to share their research, ideas and questions. At each meeting, a Stirling researcher will give an informal talk on their recent work, followed by group discussion. We aim to become an interdisciplinary support network, where we can share skills and knowledge and keep up to date with each other’s work.

Our first speaker was my fellow first-year PhD candidate, Félix Flores Varona, whose work centres on the Cuban national hero, journalist, poet and political theorist José Martí, and his relationships with various Scottish writers. This research is part of a wider view of Martí’s relationship with the culture of the British Isles – Félix’s Masters thesis focused on Irish connections, and he will follow the Scottish research with a study of Martí’s English interests.


José Martí (1853-1895)

Though his name may be unfamiliar to Scottish literature researchers, Martí’s detailed writings detailing his visit to Abbotsford – as yet unpublished – have proved invaluable to scholars of Walter Scott. Martí was not the only cultural link between nineteenth-century Cuba and Scotland. As Félix explained, other Cuban writers had translated Scott and Stevenson, and worked Scottish historical legends into their writing – but Martí was particularly prolific in his journalism, translation and criticism of Scottish authors.

Among the many writers Martí discussed were Margaret Oliphant, Henry Drummond (local to Stirling), and Gorbals author Alan Pinkerton (born 1819.) Pinkerton’s authorship has been disputed – he was accused of using ghostwriters – and his role as the founder of spy agency the Pinkertons has overshadowed his literary reputation. Ironically, during the Cuban War of Independence, the United States government had Martí investigated – by the Pinkertons.

Jose-Marti stamp

Cuban stamp celebrating Martí, 1995

Martí is remembered as an all-round cultural figure: as well as his prolific journalism and political work, he is hailed as a key founder of modernism in Latin America. This range of roles and writing styles means that Félix is having to familiarise himself with a range of disciplines, shifting from literary criticism to theories of translation and histories of journalism. The necessity of cross-disciplinary research is familiar to most members of the research group, and the more experienced researchers were able to offer Félix guidance on how to go about this.

For our next meeting, which will take place on Monday 2 May, in Pathfoot A7 at 6pm, I will be talking about the early stages of my own research into popular poetry and song communities in nineteenth-century Dundee, work which has so far incorporated literary, historical and folklore methods. We invite all members of the Stirling research community with an interest in Scottish topics to attend, and we look forward to the future conversations this group may open up.

Scottish Literature at Stirling


A few pics of recent events and guest speakers from the Scottish literary scene.

Clockwise from top left: our Professor of Poetry, Kathleen Jamie, after teaching a Master’s seminar on Scottish poetry and landscape; poet and artist Harry Giles, speaking to undergraduates studying literature in Scots and non-standard Englishes; Janice Galloway and a long queue of fans after her guest lecture on the second-year ‘Writing and Identity’ module; small-group teaching on the MLitt in Modern Scottish Writing.

Nobody’s Dream: Stories of Scottish Devolution


The Guardian’s Scotland blog today features a 30m podcast on Scottish devolution from a research workshop supported by the Centre for Scottish Studies.

Scottish Parliament 1

There is no grand narrative underpinning the most important constitutional process of our times. Partly for this reason, the meaning of devolution is unsettled and up for grabs.

The podcast – entitled ‘Nobody’s Dream’ – explores the difficulty of making a cohesive story out of Scottish devolution, and the competing narratives and perspectives brought to the question by writers, historians, parliamentarians and constitutional experts.

It emerges from an inter-disciplinary research workshop supported by the British Academy, entitled  ‘Narrating Scottish Devolution’. This examines the idea of ‘cultural devolution’ – the notion that writers and artists made Holyrood possible – and in the podcast you’ll hear workshop participants revisit a side of the story which is less about taxation powers than the management of national feeling.

Special thanks to the Scottish Political Archive and to participants in the workshop.