“The lovers of romance can go elsewhere for satisfaction but where can the lovers of truth turn if not to history?”
I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t interested. Even as a not-too-studious secondary school pupil I enjoyed learning about history. I am of a generation that learned very little of Scottish history, with most of the history I did learn coming through the prism of the history of the British Empire.
In hindsight it was far too narrow, but I discovered much later that my teacher was a UK expert on the topic of British History, especially from the early days of the industrial revolution.
I know that some people might take a conspiracy view of this, but I am not sure it was. This was a man who loved history and was fascinated by the industrial revolution and how it changed the world.
I – like all his pupils – would have benefitted from a much broader understanding of the world, but his passion left me with a real interest in the same topic. However, it also left me with the desire to know much more about both Scottish history and indeed the history of mankind – a not insignificant topic.
“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ”
On another trip north recently, I took the opportunity to revisit the National Trust centre at Glencoe. There is something about Glencoe that makes it a special place to go through. Shrouded in both mystery and splendour it is the history of it that seems to somehow etch it into our national psyche.
The village is on the site of the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe in which 38 members of the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed by forces acting on behalf of the government of King William III following the Glorious Revolution.
Treachery was involved, since the Clan had fed the soldiers and given them shelter for nearly two weeks before they turned on their hosts. The glen is sometimes poetically referred to as "The Weeping Glen", in reference to this incident.
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”
The National Trust centre at Glencoe is really an interpretive one, making it understandable and accessible for all. It is a great way to be introduced to the history of the area and hopefully it introduces a wider audience to the importance and value of history.
One of their current projects is the reconstruction of a 17th-century turf and creel house, just outside the visitor centre. Using traditional building crafts and informed by archaeological investigations in the heart of the glen, it will give a flavour of life in Glencoe for the MacDonald clan who once made their homes here.
No doubt it will become another popular place to visit. Although when you see the interior of the dwelling you are reminded how challenging life there would have been in the middle of winter.
But Glencoe is no deserted ancient monument. It remains popular with tourists, not just because of its breathtaking splendour, but because it provides amazing backdrops.
The first film set I remember seeing was that of the first Highlander movie, then of course Harry Potter and more recently Skyfall. It has inspired writers and singers, with one of my favourites being Moira Kerr’s Glencoe; The Glen of Weeping. A haunting listen!
“History is a symphony of echoes heard and unheard. It is a poem with events as verses.”
I titled this blog history for everyday living because we are products of not just our personal history but that of the society and world in which we live. And that influences how we live today.
Do we learn? Of course we do. But do we learn enough? Probably not – which should encourage us to dig both wider and deeper.
“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”
Martin Luther King Jr.