Whaur’s Scots academic scrievin?

Ilka bodie kens there’s academic scrievin in the Gaelic – jist keek at the wark o Aonghas MacCoinnich or Domhnall Uilleam Stiubhart.  Folk may speir an croup it’s no accessible tae Anglophones, but that didnae stop a Gaelic scholar yit.  Wha’s keerious, though: ye maun scrimge hard tae find the like in Scots.  Wha’s mair keerious: a thrid o folk in Scotland, includin mair than ane dominie I ken, can speik the leid, whilk is a guid sicht mair than micht say the same aboot Gaelic.  Sae whaur’s the academic scrievin in Scots?

There are, I think, a couple o reasons fer this absence.  Fer Gaels, scrievin in their native leid is a foundin pairt o their identity as an embattled minoritie group and a strang jeve agin Anglo-normativity; in short, there’s a dunch towarts scrievin academic prose in Gaelic if yer a Gaelic scholar.  On the ither haun, fer Scots there’s historically been a dunch awa fra scrievin scholarly wark in their ane leid.  Leavin aside the emphasis on learnin Inglis to gang aheid in the Empire in former generations, Scots has historically been seen as a rude chiel’s leid, a dialect, a vernacular no ganelie for “sairious” wark.  Een when it was revertit (or inventit) be Hugh Macdiarmid an co., that was for explicitly literary purposes an there were few Scottish historians o that or succeedin generations wha would hae conceivit o scrievin their buiks in Lallans.

Dae ye hae this in yer buik kist? It is, av coorse, scrievit in Inglis . . .

Noo that Scots is finally beginnin tae be kent, baith as its ane leid and as ane o the major leids o Scotland, there are still factors wha dackle its use be academics.  A lack o journals or buik series is a pairt, but mair fundamental, I misdoot, is scholars’ ane uncertainty in their use o the leid.  Fer sae lang, Scots has been the tongue o the hame and o freends – somethin tae be avoidit in the schule – and that kind o codin is difficult to change oernicht.  If yer no a native speaker, sik concerns matter less mayhap, but the challenge o navigatin a flude, complex leid and findin the words an concepts tae express scholarly thocht is nae easy (and I’ve nae doot that ye could pick mair than eneuch holes in this laboured prose).

But nane o these factors are sufficient reason no tae attempt some academic Scots.  If we care aboot the leid and want it tae continue tae thee, we should put it tae the test in all walks o life.  When you next scrieve an article, ask yersel: wha would happen if I scrievit this in Scots?  The warst they can dee is turn ye doon . . . .

Copyricht 2019 Kelsey Jackson Williams

A Scottish Regiment in Catholic Riga?

While skimming through Haralds Biezais’s 1957 edition of the church book of St. Jakobskirche in Riga during its brief tenure by the Jesuits (1582-1621), I found an unexpected entry:

None of these individuals appear elsewhere in the church book unless the Albertus Kromeus who witnessed a 1606 baptism is to be taken as one and the same with Albertus Kromme; it would seem their residence in Riga was of short duration. Our one clue comes in the form of John Hill, presumably the same man who was a captain in the Swedish service in 1610 when he was amongst Karl IX’s mercenaries in Russia (he was later in the Polish-Lithuanian service under Sigismund III).

We can, however, make a few educated guesses based upon the record itself. Hill is described as “Capitanaeus scotores militum” – “captain of the Scottish soldiers”, while Boehne and Kromme are plain soldiers (miles), with Boehne further clarified as being a “miles arcen[sis]”, i.e., a soldier belonging to the garrison of the castle at Riga. It seems reasonable to suppose that Hill was the commanding officer of Boehne and Kromme and that all three belonged to a Scottish regiment which was in Polish-Lithuanian service in 1607 and which, based on Hill’s later service record, temporarily entered Swedish service before returning to that of the Commonwealth. We might even be tempted to imagine that Boehne and Kromme were Patrick Ban and Alasdair Graham, suggesting a potentially Gaelic-speaking origin for at least some of the regiment’s soldiers.

This is all conjecture and no such regiment is immediately identifiable in Peter Paul Bajer’s Scots in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but it is tempting to imagine that what we see here is an early example of the flood of Scottish soldiers who would come to play such an important part in European history during the Thirty Year’s War.

(c) 2019 Kelsey Jackson Williams