Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How the Scots Get Ready to Party . . .

James Jerzy McGoogan
My favourite Scottish holiday tradition has long been The Ba. That’s the lunatic game the Orcadian Scots play at Christmas and New Year’s.  A couple of hundred players, mostly young men, take over the streets of Kirkwall and participate in this rugby-like game that involves carrying a cork-filled leather ball, “the ba,” either up the main street or down it. Each team has dozens of players, no limit, and some of them harbour grudges. But the main difference from rugby is that there are no rules – none. Anything goes.
So maybe I should clarify. I love the idea of someone else participating in The Ba, whose disputed origins are lost in the mists of time. But no, I cannot recommend that tradition to Canadians who wish to embrace the Scottish dimension of the holiday season that is almost upon us.  I am thinking mainly of my one-year-old grandson, James Jerzy McGoogan (pictured above), to whom I dedicated my book How the Scots Invented Canada. Do I want him ever to play in The Ba? No, I do not.
By comparison, Hogmanay is tame. This Scottish celebration starts on New Year’s Eve and runs through the next day and sometimes longer. Scotland’s national poet, Robbie Burns, once revelled in Hogmanay festivities that spun out of control. . . . [Read more by clicking here.]

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Here's from Canada's History . . . .

 With Scotland at my shoulder. . . .
On the Night Table of Ken McGoogan
When I write history, I try to wear my research lightly. And for my last five books, I have been blessed with an outstanding editor, Phyllis Bruce at HarperCollins Canada, who catches me up whenever I let my reading show. “Lighten up,” she writes in the margins. “Too academic!”

 In my new book How the Scots Invented Canada, the bibliography runs to sixty titles. Highlights include three collections of essays, a meditation, and a couple of surprises. In The Scottish Tradition in Canada, edited by W. Stanford Reid (M&S, 1976), I found thirteen scholars coming at Canadian life from fourteen angles. . . .
The expose continues here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How the Scots celebrated at the Atwater Library

Ken & Cameron at the Atwater Library
So this was the scene at the Atwater Library in Montreal, just before our hero explained How the Scots Invented Canada. That's Cameron Stevens, the Piper Major of the legendary Black Watch regiment. We're facing a goodly crowd that proceeded to do the right thing . . . i.e. they bought every book that was there to be sold, and even one that wasn't. And they filled out more than a few entries, as well, in hopes of winning that voyage through the Scottish Isles. I told the audience, truthfully, that Sheena won us a trip to Scotland last year when her business card got pulled from a jar. So, yes, Virginia, it can happen to you. The Atwater event preceded a fun occasion at Bishop's University, and a two-hour interview with a BBC film crew working on a three-part series about Scots in Canada. Then came Ottawa, where I donned my Public Lending Right cap, and home, where CBC Radio turned me loose on unsuspecting listeners in 11 cities across Canada. Down time is for sissies.