I got into conversation with Ken McDonald, iScot’s Managing Editor, on Twitter as he was interested in the ‘Treaty of Union Articles‘ and was wondering if he might have permission to reproduce some of it for his magazine. I think I just immediately sent him the whole word document of information and told him he could use the information as he liked. Alex had just started illustrating the research so at that time it was just the text and I was wondering how they’d make use of it. I was then contacted by iScot writer, Gordon Craigie, who was looking to see if I’d be interested in doing an interview with him about RSH itself as well as a wee bit about the ‘Treaty of Union‘ research. By the time I’d answered and sent off his emailed questions, reproduced below in full, and a phone interview, which I have no record of, Alex was well on-track with his artwork and it was suggested by Ken that they use our cover art as their own for the issue in which the RSH interview would be published. We were very excited by that and even more so when we got our copy through the door and realised they had withheld the usual cover article hints from cluttering up the picture. The interview was entitled ‘Not So Random Scottish History.’
I hope I did the site & publication justice. It was an interesting experience. It was due to this advertisement that we obtained a new Patron and took receipt of a donation of a 6-volume set of James Taylor’s ‘Pictorial History of Scotland‘ (1884-1888), which is such a beautiful addition to the collection and I can’t wait to get the information out to everyone.
Shortly after this edition of iScot arrived on doorsteps, Ken and Gordon worked out a 32-page abridged version of our ‘Treaty of Union Articles’ with the, now complete, art from Alex throughout. Their PocketMag supplement is a free and excellent introduction to our publication. Alex has also been requested to do their 5th Anniversary edition cover for the next issue which he’s just finishing at the moment. All very exciting!
Email Interview Answers.
Where did the initial idea come from?
As I picked and read a random book, from the collection I was acquiring, I was coming across information that I knew would interest others with any kind of interest in Scotland and its history. I’d type up whatever passage I’d come across, take a screenshot, and post to my personal Facebook profile. A friend, Bill, suggested I create a Facebook page in order to have them in the one place. That was about the end of 2013, start of 2014. So I did that and Random Scottish History began its existence. I only dealt with pre-20th century publications as I felt the information post-WWI/WWII was too centralised to a British perspective. I wanted information from Scots who still saw their country as an independent nation within a union with their sister kingdom England and that was best found in the, still broad, era I picked for my project.
It started as just the odd interesting quote from whatever book I was reading and evolved into entire chapters minus what I felt was especially uninteresting. The last book to the page, however was, Balfour’s ‘Historical Works‘ (1824) which I felt was worth typing out in its entirety. I also, chapter by chapter, created a Companion copy of the text to make it an easier read for those not familiar or comfortable with old Scots (zeire = year, diuersse=diverse, mounke=monk, &c.) and I added in any fore/surnames, dates, or places in order to clarify the information given. I think it’s probably near enough the most complete text of the first volume of the volumes online as the supplemental information added was obtained from international websites in more than a few Scandinavian and European languages. With this in mind I wanted the information to be searchable, as it was, as yet, still being posted in a jpeg format.
So, on the 21st of February, 2018, RandomScottishHistory.com went live. As the content was now searchable I decided that I had no right to decide for folk what they might find interesting or not and I went back to the books already read and completed their write-ups; every preface, chapter, footnote, and appendix. It’s only continued from there.
What challenges have you faced establishing and developing the website?
My main issue is the amount of content in relation to what WordPress is willing to provide me with for an affordable amount. I have no end of content. I’ve maybe uploaded 5/10% of an ever growing collection. Everything is scanned and uploaded as much as possible. The DotScot guys are in the process of helping me out at the moment with this issue. Rab is helping me just now to move RandomScottishHistory.com over to RSH.scot. They’ve been nice enough not to charge me for my new domain and I take that in the hopes it’s due to them feeling the information is important enough for the privilege.
What is your realistic ambition for the website’s future?
I don’t see it’s sunset yet. I have some wonderful people who have donated publications and art to the collection as well as those books, maybe with a link to information already on the site, I feel are affordable enough to purchase myself. There’s a Contributor’s page I’m updating regularly in order to better thank people’s generosity. I’ll just keep on keepin’ on until it’s impossible for me, for whatever reason, to continue. I feel that I’m helping to make information available to people that can help them make positive informed decisions in their country’s future. But I don’t feel that will end, regardless of impending political decisions taken by our governments, people will always require access to their country’s heritage.
Have you had any interesting feedback?
I can certainly provide you with plenty of glowing commendations, each, of which, never fails to surprise me. I haven’t experienced any negativity. I think it’s because I don’t post opinion pieces tho. Just history for the sake of history. I try not to let modern politics creep onto the site. I can’t help those of others, however. It’s all been super positive and is a reason I’d not think of giving it up any time soon. Twitter is a platform that’s surprised me more than any other. People give instant reactions and comments to content, unlike Facebook, I can see from the comments and compliments that it’s valuable information people have a desire to know. We don’t get it at school, after all. That’s something I hear more than anything from Scots. I think you’d have to make your way to some kind of specialty in further knowledge to get a lot of this information taught to you in Scotland. It’s an effect of centralisation within Britain of education from an almost English perspective. I like to put forward the examples that we get taught about Henry VIII and his 6 wives but not who was on the Scottish throne at the time of his reign, Elizabeth’s defeating the Spanish Armada but not that Spain proposed a team-up with Scotland against her and that we were considering it, and the Great Fire of London in 1666 but not the Great Fire of Edinburgh in 1824, which is far more contemporary and closer to home.
What particularly led you into researching the Treaty and its aftermath?
I already had a pinned tweet from 24th of November, 2017, of James Grant’s ‘Old and New Edinburgh‘ (1880) detailing in what manner the Treaty of Union was signed, Scots’ reaction to the signing of the Treaty, and listing those who had been bribed, with how much, for their signature to the document. On the 30th of June, 2019, I received a DM from David Taylor, author, telling me he was interested in “historic letters from Union supporters (to whomever) who write to explain things which could be done by WM to improve Scotland’s place and treatment in the Union, or are complaining.” He wanted anything I could find from the era I restrict myself to, pre-20th century, and I instantly responded that I could do that “Nae borra love.” That I was always up for a challenge but that newspapers were an easy go-to for the information. They proved to be an absolute goldmine of information. He tells me he was delighted I agreed to assist him and that he’s found “the results of the research eye-opening.” His project remains in the works. I’m looking forward to what he has for us.
What do you think the Treaty tells us about our situation now?
The treaty tell us that nothing has changed. Scottish Members of Parliament in Westminster are still fighting the same fights and receiving the same responses and often the same outright derision from their English counterparts. To have lived through it all would have tired anyone watching the repetitive actions of Westminster in regards to Scotland and her welfare. Reports and statistics backing up the constant over-taxation and under-funding of Scotland is rife and frustrating to read. It can make for strong emotions when you read a report stating the intent to apply for some rightful privilege that’s still being denied to us 150/200/300 years later. It says something that the fights of the British Nationalists, those entirely in favour of the union, of the 18th/19th centuries has been taken on by the Scottish Nationalists, those against the union, of today. It shows there’s a sense, regardless of the deprivation of history, that these are fights that have gone on beyond their end date.
Why do you think it’s important for people to know more about the Treaty?
Because of the repetition. I’ve only been doing this project for 3 months and I want it to end. I want us to stop wasting our time on this failed project of the Imperial Parliament who no longer has an Empire to speak of due to treating those in other places just as we ourselves have experienced here on home ground. It’s no wonder these foreign citizens rebelled and sought liberation from this foreign power that had usurped their laws and customs and sucked them dry of their revenue and resources at every given opportunity. It’s about time we learned a lesson from our brothers and sisters worldwide.
How far can this research theme go?
We set up a Crowdfunder in order to publish the Treaty of Union Articles due to the sheer amount of interest expressed on social media to what was being revealed. We couldn’t believe it when we reached our £500 base target within 3 days. We celebrated with a whisky. The purpose of it was to give folk a chance to contribute to the only hard-backed publication of the information as well as to fund copies for the Scottish government, libraries, and any schools that were interested. We’ll also publish a cheaper Paper-back edition, for rallies and meets, and a Kindle edition as well as an audio book, but we’re in talks with folk about the latter option. Nothing’s been decided there, as yet.
How far this project goes depends on people’s reactions to it, I guess. All other text has proved of interest while it’s being uploaded but thereafter it’s on folk to want to go seeking out the knowledge I’ve tried to make available.
Who knows what’s next on the site after the Treaty of Union project? It’s Random Scottish History, after all. We’ve dipped our toes into making YouTube videos. A colleague of ours’, Tony Wilson, composed and recorded a Theme Tune for our site that I love. It’s particularly Scottish and relevant to what we’re doing, he did a brilliant job of it. I uploaded the team, out about at Mardi Gla in July there, and a How-to Make Hot Toddies, to celebrate our obtaining the RSH.scot domain, there’s a funnier 3/4th Take of it posted from my personal channel, for those who aren’t offended by frequent swearing.
My visual/audio lass has been encouraging me to put out some readings of random short extracts of interest. It’s something we’re thinking about.
Your personal story?
I’m Jenny Eeles, née Caldwell, 35, originally from Greenock. Moved about Glasgow a bit for about 10 years before settling down in Bridgeton about 6 years ago. I’m married 13 years to Alex, RSH’s resident artist and we’ve two black floofballs in the form of Zara and Fargo cats.
Your ‘conversion’ to Yes!
As it states on my Twitter bio, I’m pretty open about the fact I was brought up a No-voting Tory. I believed all the “too wee too poor” rhetoric about how we could only ever stand a chance of failing should we choose the path of self-determination. The only papers I was exposed to growing up were the Daily Express and Sunday Post. It’s such a negative perspective to hold where, in order to maintain it, you can’t allow yourself to believe things could be any better for your country than the condition it’s presently in. That’s the position of Britain’s Conservative and Unionist Party. It’s in the name. Their mandate is to seek to conserve things as they are, if not to regress us back to how things were and to preserve the union at all costs. Makes you wonder why they’d want to maintain a situation in which they tell us we’re a constant drain on their resources. Seems a somewhat contradictory stance to assume.
So I felt, as I couldn’t correlate the facts as I knew them, that I was under-prepared to vote in the Scottish referendum in 2014. So I started seeking out Scotland’s history and it was a pretty quick turn-around from that point. I think, when you suddenly know your country better, you can’t help but form an attachment to it and seek to redress the wrongs you’re not only hearing voiced on varying contemporary media platforms but also those you’re now reading of having happened before in our, not so distant, past.
I began to openly espouse my desire to see Scotland obtain her right to self-determination on social media, losing friends and family members to the revelation. I was accused of being anti-English, but I couldn’t find anything I’d said that would have given people that idea. Everything I promote is positive and towards Scotland’s cause, never negative and against England’s. That would be an entirely destructive way of obtaining support for anything. The Home-Rulers of yesteryear, such as the Rev. David Macrae, ran on a platform that desired each of Britain’s 4 countries to have their own respective governments for local legislation. He also put forward a case for there being members for the Commonwealth countries representing themselves. Being able to see the No arguments from the other perspective really reveals how positive and inclusive the the Yes crowd are and bolsters the choice I made with regards my politics.
How did your interest in history in general, and Scottish history in particular, develop?
I was always interested in history at school. The only report card comment I ever remember was my history teacher at Lomond School, Mrs Allan, telling my parents she believed I was some kind of academic. I thought that was funny at the time but it stuck with me. I left Hermitage Academy, after 5th year in 2000, and moved out of my home when I was 16, going to live at Faslane Peace camp for about 9 months. Then I bounced about between a few jobs, my favourite of which was as a tour guide at Charles Rennie Macintosh’s Hill house in Helensburgh, before landing employment in customer service, 15 years ago in Glasgow. That allowed me to settle down and explore what interested me. Turned out that was Victorian London, I recommend James Greenwood and Henry Mayhew, and ancient Classical Greco/Roman history. I began an Open University Arts and Humanties course with a view to learning to read ancient Greek text as I wanted to read the original Homer rather than going through translators like Alexander Pope. I got 4 years towards that goal and was about to embark on learning that particular skill when the Scottish referendum was called to be held in 2014 and I thought I’d better turn my attention closer to home to see what, if anything, I could find of relevance or interest. Now, here we are 5 years later and I’m still engrossed by the history of Scotland.
Personal plans for further study/qualifications?
Well I’ve gone from having a desire to learn ancient Greek to, almost, a need to learn Latin, so there’s that. I’ll maybe get on that when I get a minute. I’m finding myself becoming more familiar with the words and terms but I think a course is required. I’m also set on learning Japanese , as I’m a big fan of anime, which I prefer to watch with subtitles. The RSH team are all fans of Babymetal too and can’t wait til they make it over to the Glasgow Barrowlands next year.
RSH has become my life; eat, work, RSH, sleep. I don’t know that I’ve thought further than that in terms of personal ambition. My aunt is set on my returning and completing my OU courses but I now see it as a distraction away from something I feel is more important and useful to people.
Where do you see your current or planned projects leading in the future?
We also have a Patreon up and running to support the site generally and fund the publication of J. F. Campbell’s, translated from the original Gaelic, ‘Popular Tales of the West Highlands‘ (1890-93), complete with Alex’s fantastic illustrations throughout. That’s a real work-in-progress. Campbell’s original text is pretty old-school and I don’t think modern audiences would engage with it easily. The archaic syntax can make it difficult to work out who’s doing what in a given scene. So I’m updating the text of the stories while maintaining his original dialogue. Further than that, we’ll just have to see where the information takes us.
What else is on the horizon?
Death? It’s the only certain I know of. Hopefully far in the future. We don’t plan on having children and I can’t think of anything impending upon us over the horizon 😉