The coming together of peoples who share a language and culture

Since the 19th century there has been a huge revival of interest in the Highland way of life in Scotland. This Victorian romanticism saw Clan Tartans becoming fixed and identifiable with particular clans. Up to this point there were most certainly district tartans that were the result of colours and cloth available in a particular area, and traditional patterns woven by local weavers.

Tartan and the Highland Dress came to represent Scotland and embody its sense of nationhood. Even the great families of the Scottish border country gained their own tartans, of which great claims of antiquity were often made. Even Mel Gibson in his appallingly inaccurate and anti-English film ‘Braveheart’ had the Lowland forces of William Wallace outfitted in kilts and tartan. This was of course pure fabrication as Lowlanders did not wear the tartan, and unlike the misinformed Mr Gibson, they also did not paint their faces blue.

Tartan was Highland garb, although poor Lowland women did wear a kind of tartan garment for warmth. Lowland men most certainly did not wear kilts or the tartan. In fact, the majority of the Lowland clans were of Anglo-Norman descent, they spoke the Scots version of the language of England and not that of the Highland Gaels. William Wallace and his followers therefore spoke the language of the Lowlands, not Gaelic.  

Scotland then, as today, was a divided nation with the Highland Line separating the Gaelic speaking Highlander from the non Gaelic speaking Lowlander. There was often deep mistrust and a lack of understanding between the two groups within the borders of Scotland. Although both being Scottish by nationality, they were far from being friendly kinsmen.

Mel Gibson’s famous cry of “Freedom” in the film would have been meaningless too, as the Lowlands were a feudal society, a system introduced by the Normans, and the modern concept of individual freedom simply did not exist. In effect, Gibson seems to have been manipulating Scottish history in order to influence a modern audience. In Scotland, where the concept of political independence had been placed on the agenda by the Scottish National Party, it had a deep resonance.


An interesting news item about the English and Welsh

As the tartan revival gathered pace in Scotland and tartan became the height of fashion in 19th century Britain, it began to become identified as a symbol of Celtic culture and achievement. In recent times it has taken on a more international flavour and become a rallying point for not only the scattered Scots but also for other Celtic nations and people. Even places in mainland Europe who once had a Celtic presence on their territory thousands of years ago, are getting in on the act with dubious claims to a current national Celtic heritage.  

Today, the peoples of the ‘Celtic Fringe’ which include Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, the English Duchy of Cornwall and the French Department of Brittany all have national tartans and many others besides. The tartan along with the Celtic languages, are being used to bring Celtic peoples together. In fact it was the poet E.E. Morton-Nance, designer of the Cornish National Day tartan in 1963, who believed that the tartan belonged to all the Celtic peoples and not just the Scots.  

The only sour point here is that this Celtic fraternalism has attracted the profiteering hands of commercial interests. They are attaching themselves to the movement and generating such things as spurious 'Name Tartans' and all kinds of souvenir 'traditional' tartan tat, and selling it at ridiculously high prices. Insult is added to injury when much of this souvenir merchandise is actually produced in China, benefiting the producer and the trader and nobody else in the local community.

The Celts for long centuries were the subject peoples of other nations and cultures, and now in the modern world Celts are beginning to experience self-determination. Ireland is a sovereign nation once more and both Scotland and Wales have a lot more autonomy within the United Kingdom. Cornwall has yet to gain the same kind of recognition but it may yet get some form of devolved government.

There are many people of Celtic extraction in England and it is becoming ever more popular for those people to find a sense of identity within their Celtic heritage. It is no surprise that Scottish Clan Associations and Societies have growing memberships. It is also no surprise that there has been a huge revival of the Gaelic language in the Highlands of Scotland, where it was once almost 'improved' into extinction.

Despite being a subject people of the English for hundreds of years, and despite having a foreign 'Prince of Wales' foisted upon them, the Welsh have always maintained a sense of national pride and have clung fiercely to their language and traditions.

The last time that Wales enjoyed any kind of independence was during the rising of Owain Glyndwr at the beginning of the 15th century. He was a Welsh nobleman who had served with Richard II in France but when Richard was usurped by Henry IV, he found himself at loggerheads with his neighbour, Lord Grey of Ruthin - a close friend of Henry IV.

In 1400 - Lord Grey in an attempt to discredit Glyndwr, delayed summoning him to join Henry's army in Scotland, until it was far too late for him to be there. Glyndwr was incensed and attacked Greys lands at Ruthin. This was the beginning of the last great push to regain Welsh independence. Many Welshmen flocked to Glyndwr's banner, even returning from England to do so.

At first things went well for the Welsh and Glyndwr even concluded a treaty with France. However, after significant military reverses in 1408, and after the severe winter of that year which saw many people starve to death, the rising began to falter and die. In 1409 the rising ended with Glyndwr and his remaining forces defeated. Nobody is sure what happened to this last great Welsh hero after that date. It is rumoured that he ended his days quietly in England. Others say that he died in north Wales. To date his final resting place has never been found.

Since those days Wales has not developed any great appetite for independence. It was not until the late 1990's that a Welsh Assembly was established, to no great enthusiasm from the Welsh people. The Assembly as a consequence has much less power than the Parliament in Scotland, and will probably continue to be an inferior entity for the foreseeable future. 

Owain Glyndwr 1349 - 1416 The last true Prince of Wales

The Pan-Celtic Movement is establishing a new and broad sense of belonging, an umbrella for the smaller Celtic entities within the 'Celtic Fringe' that clings steadfastly to the edge of Europe. National identities are beginning to wane and become confused by the great population shifts that are happening in Europe, and by inward migration from outside Europe. Due to these influences, cultural identity and familial heritage is becoming ever more important and meaningful to people as an anchor in this restless sea.

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