On Sunday afternoon I passed through the pre-referendum rally on Edinburgh’s Middle Meadow Walk.
There I found a scene quite unlike anything I have experienced before in my country. The atmosphere was lively, distinctly European, positive, optimistic and inclusive. I felt like I was in a newspaper report or an actor in a movie scene of a historical moment from some other time and place. The place was calm and exciting at the same time, and I liked it and the possibilities it suggested. I understood why people have been saying that there is something new happening, something in the air.
At the Women for Indy stall it was difficult to tell who were the helpers and who were the customers, so many were gathered round in lively engagement. Someone delivered a handful of LGBT Yes badges to the EnglishScots for Yes stand and I watched as they went like hot cakes. Close by, volunteers handed out window signs, stickers and copies of the Wee Blue Book.
Another table, laden with literature on the NHS and independence, stood in the shadow of the old Royal Infirmary building, now converted to expensive apartments but previously part of a world-renowned medical complex where my wife worked for years and where our children were born and cared for.
Outside the Sainsburys store (appropriately?) the No folk had set up a post and Yes people and undecideds of all ages were engaging with them in respectful argument while others listened and chipped in. Conversations and discussions on the vote were to be heard at the Starbucks and Peter’s Yard patio tables too.
Down on the Meadows, National Collective was pumping out groovy sounds and had attracted a good crowd. A saw the artist John Byrne pass by sporting a natty camera and a Hollywood actor posing for selfies with giggling and blushing fans.
Waiting my turn to view that stall I overheard a conversation between two young women, one of who pushed a buggy in which a very young baby slept peacefully. Nodding towards the pram, the mother said to her companion: “Well it’s very easy for me. I’m voting for her. So, who are you voting for?”
Walking back up through the crowd I pondered on that woman’s question asking myself “But who am I voting for?” As I moved onto Forrest Road traditional music spilled out from Sandy Bell’s pub and I immediately thought of two people who would have loved to have been around this week’s excitement but are no longer here to play their part.
My vote is for two friends, two strong and talented men who loved Scotland and who did so much in their own ways to preserve and share the best of her traditions and culture. Both were strongly committed to the idea of Scottish independence and did their best to patiently and quietly move this reluctant voter into their camp. Unfortunately, neither lived to enjoy my slow and relatively recent conversion to Yes as both passed away since the referendum was first announced.
Derek Hoy was an architect, nurse, academic, IT specialist and musician of the highest quality. I first heard his fiddle at a festival in the Scottish Borders in 1974 and knew immediately that he had a special touch. Others came to know his playing through the concerts and recordings of the long-standing folk band Jock Tamson’s Bairns. He was a popular fiddle teacher in and around Edinburgh and set so many, including his own daughters, on their musical paths.
Through his work in local authorities and at Historic Scotland, Jim Souness made important contributions to the conservation of Scotland’s architectural heritage. He was always happiest on site rather than behind a desk and he had true practical skills as demonstrated by his expertise as a thatcher in the Highland manner. Jim was a one-man School of Scottish Studies who immersed himself in Gaelic language and culture and, comfortable and secure with his own national identity, he was an internationalist too.
Both would have loved the challenges, frustrations and joys of the current campaign and I sorely miss their gentle humour, arguments and insights as well as their dreams for the Scotland still to come. We need people like them now.
I am troubled that two colleagues and mentors were taken at times in their lives when they had so much still to do and give and so offer up my vote on their behalf.
I only wish I had two, one Yes for each remarkable guy.
Who are you voting for?
Stuart Eydmann is Traditional Artist in Residence 2013/4 at The University of Edinburgh and a member of The Whistlebinkies traditional music group. He is a tutor at Edinburgh College of Art and is a signatory to Architects for Yes. This text can also be read, downloaded and circulated as a PDF: Who are you voting for?
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The Miscellany is concerned with aspects of the traditional and popular music of Scotland and complements other print, recorded, archival and on-line resources.
There is a page for longer articles on traditional music, a ‘scrap book’ page for archival material, links to key policy texts, selected playlists of video content and on-line music tracks, a photographic archive and dedicated areas on certain instruments and subjects. All material is published in PDF form for portability and the layout has been designed to suit the iPad and other electronic reading devices as well as print at A4. Articles are dynamic and will be amended in the light of new information and feedback, with all changes marked by version numbers.
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The site is the personal project of Stuart Eydmann who was also jointly responsible for establishing the complementary rareTunes on-line traditional music archive. He is delighted to consider proposals for inclusion in the Miscellany and to receive feedback from users.