Dear ‘Deepest Darkest’
Perhaps this seems a rather bleak name to give to my homeland. However, these words come as I begin to make my address. In using these words, I feel the tears begin to prick behind my eyes… such emotion still! Who, or what do I weep for? I weep for me, but I also weep for you.
The ‘Deepest Darkest’ I refer to is Lanarkshire, a central belt Scottish region. A place of coal mines and steel works (long since departed). I remember you as a place of loyalties, but these seemed often channelled into generations of religious bigotry. For me your voice shouted, CONFORM, CONFORM, CONFORM. I could not do this, and small and uncertain, consciously remember choosing a different path. I carried a strong sense of not belonging and this evolved into a romanticised relationship with the surrounding countryside.
First, before letting my imagination soar and carry me to my rural escapes, South Lanarkshire I moved here from North Lanarkshire when I was 5 years old. Life at this point changed radically, although geographically it was but a short move. At this time, the village held the dubious honour of being the region in the UK with the highest number of unemployed. These harsh realities seemed to scar the very land, change the people, different to the scars left by coal mining. Under these pressures, perhaps a tribal mentality seemed to emerge, with each village defending its territory, a fan to further increase the flames of all sorts of bigotry. I needed to distance myself from you, and for the first 18 years of my life could only do that by escaping into my imagination. Nevertheless, this was aided by my ability to travel.
My greatest joy….my bike!
Regularly crossing the divide between villages, I and a few like-minded friends would cycle to ‘The Meetings’ (where two rivers, the Logan and the Nethan intersect) there we would guddle for fish, make ‘dens’ in the woods and play hide-and-seek in the high ferns as summer morphed into autumn. I would stand on the bridge, which spanned one of the rivers, and remember with pride that times had been different, perhaps both for me and for the land. I knew of my socialist great grandfather, and I burst with pride at tales of his friendship with Keir Hardie, the man who wore a tweed suit to parliament! In my own small way, I too wanted to be a ‘radical’, challenge those around me to see the bigger picture, not to judge and condemn those who seemed not to fit.
The freedom of a somewhat feral childhood taugh
t me many valuable lessons. A few years ago, I came across this statement written by Tony Ryle in 1982, and I quote
Sometimes, in order to become who we truly are we have to reject our homeland, take a journey to seek out a new homeland. Therefore, despite my opening address, without you Lanarkshire, I would not be the person I find myself to be today.
With sadness, but great respect. D
Letter back from Deepest Darkest
I ken why you called me ‘deepest darkest’, and I um sorry for the bit o’ me that seemed bleak and desolate. But, whatever else you ure…is true, ye ure wan o’Jock Tamson’s bairns! And there is light and shadow in that, make no mistake.
I am glad your imagination soared and you were able to hold what had gone before, and to some degree what might lie ahead, cause from these lands men, (and indeed wummin) o’steel wur forged. Beneath the dirt and dust o’ the coalmines ideas formed that sparkled like diamonds. Crushed by extremes o’ force and pressure the human spirit won through. It always dus lassie, it always dus, for lands where there are fear and hatred, lands that are consumed wi’ war, wi’ the passage o’ time change, they morph intae somhin else. In the dark times we must hang on to hope of a return to somhin better, must hope that from pain and suffering there blossoms compassion, there blossoms justice, not mere retribution.
Weel, y’ spoke o’ Keir Hardie lassie. Y’ spoke o’ him wi’ pride: the man championed the rights o’ wimmin, supported the suffragettes, so I gei y’ the words o’ James Conolly to show y’ what this land brought forth.
“By the death of Comrade James Keir Hardie labour has lost one of its most fearless and incorruptible champions, and the world one of its highest minded and purest souls… ”
James Connolly, Workers’Republic:
Fearless and incorruptible, hae pride in that. We know that fearless in no no feeling fear, its just no letting it crush y’, no forcing y’ to change direction. Och the fear is real aright, but all eventually passes. Just like that snowflake in a river….a moment there then gone forever. Y’ didn’t think me poetical, did y’ lass? It comes as a wee surprise to hear me gie a wee bit o’ Burns.
Ach weel, you are truly a mixture o’ the good the bad and the ugly. So embrace it, keep the “hairs on yer chist”, be at one in the same time confined and no confined by the terms alloted by YOUR society> Just pick the wans y’ wish to be confined by.
So I now wish y’ adieui. History always comes backt tae bite y’ on the arse. A wee echo of the auld alliance creeping in!
Keep heart, stay true,