I'd like to say there's something for everyone in this month's Gateway, but an aversion to the cliche prevents me.
Instead, I'll suggest that if you are looking for a pattern amongst our pieces this month (as Editor this surely is part of my task) it might be the suggestion that we should read because (and what) we want to rather than what we are told. And that we may find 'friends' in some unusual places.
There's been a lot of ill-mannered behaviour from women (and some men) over Rabbie Burns. There's been rather too much gushing from women (and some men) over Muriel Spark and there's been some reflection from women (and some men) about the Suffragettes.
And who says women don't have the whip hand? (pause while I await the accusation of mysogyny to fall on my brow) I take precedence from James Leatham. I've read arguments of his in various places which suggest that women are seriously deficient in many of life's skills (including the capacity for serious reading and thought.) Either he was a serious mysogynist, or perhaps, just perhaps something is lost in the translation of 70+ years. I think it behoves us to be pretty careful how we a) interpret and b) retrofit those from the past. Certainly, Leatham had a 'strong' mother, a wife and four daughters and he must surely have known the strengths and weaknesses of the 'fairer' sex. Perhaps he understood and engaged in 'banter' in a way that we cannot culturally condone these days? Perhaps times were just different then? I'm not sure it really matters. It is perhaps less important to change the past than to try and change the future.
One finds strange bed-fellows when attempting to go beyond the 'mainstream' and I think it's always worth remembering that these people were people first. Do you only have friends who share all your views? Do you condemn those with differing views in this wonderful age of tolerance? I, personally, cannot thole Radio 3. Many folk have been Sparking up there this month... I've missed them all. I'm a Radio Scotland man. And this month one of Leatham's better known pals is getting an airing. Since Deveron Press last year published a book on Cunninghame Graham - An Eagle in a Hen-House (by Lachie Munro) it seemed fair enough to give it a wee plug... so here goes the promo...
DON ROBERTO Begins Tuesday, February 20, 2018 at 1.30 pm on Radio Scotland and available on the BBC iPlayer world wide for 30 days thereafter.
A five part series written and presented by Billy Kay which includes the original four archive programmes from 1999 and a new introductory programme for 2018 - The Adventure Begins.
A portrait of R.B. Cunninghame Graham - A true Scottish romantic hero and founding father of both the Scottish Labour Party and the National Party – forerunner of the SNP.
The model for leading characters in George Bernard Shaw’s plays "Arms and the Man" and "Captain Brassbound’s Conversion". his friends included Oscar Wilde, Henry James and Joseph Conrad. The latter contrasted his own enclosed life compared to the flamboyant exoticism of R.B. Cunninghame Graham - "When I think of him, I feel as though I had lived all my life in a dark hole, without seeing or knowing anything". If ever a major Scottish figure deserved re-discovery it is surely the life and legend of Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham.
The more you read about RB Cunninghame Graham the less likely it seems that he would have been a pal of James Leatham, which only goes to show us how little we know. Neither men is well known today of course, whereas the world still goes wild over William Morris (though not for his politics) and maybe I'm being cynical by suggesting that RBCG is privileged over JL because he is in a different class. Read on...
R B Cunninghame Graham, (1852 - 1936) was one of the most influential men in Scottish literary and political life in the 20th century - by far the most glamorous and romantic. With Scottish and Spanish aristocratic blood in his veins - he was often called the uncrowned King of Scots due to his family’s claim to the throne through their ancestor Robert II. His life spanned several continents and cultures, all of which he touched and in all of which he is revered.
A schoolboy at Harrow, his childhood was divided between London and his family estate at Gartmore in Stirlingshire. As a young man, he followed the Spanish side of his heritage to Paraguay and Argentina. In Argentina he is regarded as a national hero and the father of the gaucho - the man who rode on the Pampas then brought the glories of the South American cowboy to the outside world through his short stories. His legendary status is such that many in the Lake of Menteith area swear that gauchos have come to the Isle of Inchmahome to sing melancholic Spanish eulogies at his graveside. Married to a Chilean poetess Gabriela de la Belmondiere (actually an English actress Caroline Horsfall) his life as a cattle drover and rancher took him all over South America and up into Texas. Everywhere he went, he had sympathy for traditional ways of life under threat, and used his writing to highlight the plight of marginalised cultures. This aspect of his legacy was in the news in the late 1990’s when the body of an Ogala Sioux Indian chief was re-patriated from London to the Dakotas. The English woman who organised the event, had read of Long Wolf through the account of his life and death in the writing of Cunninghame Graham , who had befriended him.
On the death of his father, Cunninghame Graham succeeded to the Gartmore estates and he returned to live in Scotland. He became involved with the turbulent politics of the late 19th and early 20th century, and despite his background, always identified with the masses: “the damned aristo who embraced the cause of the people” as Hugh McDiarmid described him. He was Liberal MP for North Lanarkshire from 1886 till 1892, radically espousing the miners demands for shorter working hours and going to Pentonville jail for six weeks following his participation in a banned demonstration against unemployment which resulted in a riot. A close friend of Keir Hardie, he became the first president of the Scottish Labour party when it was formed in 1888. After the first World War, he became increasingly interested in the Scottish question. He became president of the National Party of Scotland in 1928, and on its amalgamatiion with the Scottish Party in 1934, he became the first president of the Scottish National Party. He died in Argentina in 1936, but his body came home to Scotland to rest in his ancestral lands in Stirlingshire.
Because of his extensive writings on different cultures, his influence outwith Scotland was extensive - the Indian story just one of many with resonances in Spain, Morocco, Argentina, Paraguay, Mexico and the U.S. His short stories like the much anthologised "Beattock for Moffat" on a Scottish exile returning home to die, are also used to illustrate the programme. His polemical writing on Scotland too is increasingly relevant, as the tension between nationalism and unionism in Scottish politics is still unresolved.
It's clear from the above that the find art of marketing and branding is alive and sparking... and also that Cunninghame Graham and James Leatham, while united in their desire for Socialism had very little else in common. Does that need to concern us, the modern reader? I think not. It's for us to wade through the hype and make our own choices. That means looking beyond the politically correct, or our own prejudices. Do our views count any more than our votes? I wonder. Here at Gateway we try to offer you choice and allow you to daunder along in your own direction at your own pace - whatever your class, race or gender preferences.
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