I don't always agree with Gerry Hassan's
comments and articles but I was moved by his recent piece in the Scottish Review. I lived in Glasgow for more than 55 years before retiring to Wester Ross about 10 years ago, and I'm a regular visitor back to the city. My last visit was several weeks after the most recent fire at Glasgow School of Art, and I walked (so far as one could) from one end of Sauchiehall Street, from Buchanan Street bus station to Charing Cross. Quite apart from the effects of the fires, both at the art school and Victoria's, the dereliction evident in the street is profoundly depressing – empty shops and other buildings – and it's hard not to come to the conclusion that Sauchiehall Street is broken most probably beyond repair.
Gerry Hassan's comments could not be more relevant. His last paragraph is telling. It is absolutely to the point for Glasgow, but beyond that, by changing his terminology very slightly, it could equally be applied to the whole country – to either or both Scotland and the UK. With no apology to Gerry Hassan, but rather with thanks to him for prompting the thought, I'd like to repeat his paragraph in altered form:
People love and care for this [country]. It is time to show this and act upon it with words and deeds. We need people to reach out and reconnect, have conversations and even disagreements, which go beyond the party partisan, and bring into the mix the missing voices and alternative stories to that of narrow political agenda. We need institutions to step up and take civic responsibility and accept that the (authorities, local and national) can't do everything. We need a people's [country] – one which draws from the best of the [country's] tradition, but that ultimately is down to the people of this [country]. Do we really care enough to do something?
quite reasonably puts me in my place for claiming, wrongly, that he acknowledged that the vast majority of editions of Burns's poems have 'ithers' in the famous line in 'To a Louse,' 'To see oursels as others see us.' Historically, Gerry says, most Burns editors print 'others', 'and the reason they print "others" is because of the print version of the text from the "Kilmarnock" edition (1786) onwards, as authorised by Robert Burns.' That's me tellt then.
Nevertheless, it is interesting that in that same Kilmarnock edition Burns also authorised no fewer than 14 instances of 'ither' or 'ithers', one of them in the same poem: 'Wi' ither kindred, jumping cattle.' There are 16 instances of 'other' or 'others' in the Kilmarnock edition. So Burns seemed equally content with the representation of that word as both 'ither' and 'other', and presumably saw the former not as an affectation but as a legitimate pronunciation.
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