The Dark Man of Cheddar

Cimmerians. These people were descendants of the ancient Atlanteans, though they themselves were unaware of their descent, having evolved by their own efforts from the ape-men to which their ancient ancestors had sunk. They were a tall powerful race, averaging six feet in height. They were black haired, and grey or blue eyed. They were dolichocephalic, and dark skinned, though not so dark as either the Zingarans, Zamorians or Picts.
– Robert E. Howard, “Notes on Various Peoples,” The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p348-349

Then when I was about twelve I spent a short time in New Orleans and found in a Canal Street library, a book detailing the pageant of British history, from prehistoric times up to – I believe – the Norman conquest. It was written for school-boys and told in an interesting and romantic style, probably with many historical inaccuracies. But there I first learned of the small dark people which first settled Britain, and they were referred to as Picts. I had always felt a strange interest in the term and the people, and now I felt a driving absorption regarding them.
– Robert E. Howard, letter to Harold Preece, 20th October 1928*

Prof Mark Thomas and Dr Yoan Diekmann at University College London analysed the sequences generated at the Natural History Museum to establish what Cheddar Man looked like. It was previously assumed that Europeans developed paler skin many thousands of years before Cheddar Man, so he was thought to have had reduced skin pigmentation and fair hair. The results however, indicate that whilst Cheddar Man had blue eyes, he also had dark coloured curly hair and ‘dark to black’ skin pigmentation. This means that the lighter pigmentation now considered to be a defining feature of northern Europe, is a far more recent phenomenon.
– The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man Press Pack 

The recent news about Cheddar Man will come as no surprise to people with an interest in anthropology, or even ancient history. Britons with dark skin & black, curly hair have been recorded since the Roman period, with early 20th Century folklorists such as Margaret Alice Murray, David MacRitchie, and G.F. Scott Elliot detailing stories of the early inhabitants of the British Isles.

What is perhaps more surprising is the reaction to that news.

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To My American Pals

There are many great stories of the Scots in America. Look up Ludovic Grant.

There are many great stories of the Scots in America. Ludovic Grant is a personal favourite.

Dear pals,

Howdy! I haven’t seen you guys for a long time. I really miss going to Arizona, Texas and Nevada to see you. I hope you’re all in fine fettle. I just have some things to sort out, and I think I might be seeing you a lot sooner than I thought this time two years ago.

Anyway, I talked a wee bit about politics with you while I was there. Some of you are Democrats, some Republicans; a Libertarian or two; more than a few that don’t like those – or, indeed, any – labels, and certainly dislike the binary party politics of your nation. As such, it was fascinating listening to your perspectives on economics, social security, healthcare, international relations, and local government. I didn’t agree with everyone, but our conversations confirmed to me just distinctive and independent the United States are.

Were I a citizen of the United States, I feel I would view US politics completely differently to how I view them as a Scot. I’m used to health, further education, and social security being national rather than private concerns; I couldn’t imagine dealing with some of the taxes and laws you guys put up with; our history and culture has as many differences as commonalities. Similarly, I don’t doubt many of Scotland’s laws are complete anathema to you. So I truly don’t think I could say who I would vote for in the upcoming US election, for the simple fact that I am neither a resident nor citizen of the United States. I couldn’t even tell you who I’d vote for if they were candidates for First Minister in Scotland, because we don’t vote for First Ministers – or Prime Ministers – here.

So, in that spirit, I thought I’d offer some of my observations. Not judgements, not suggestions: just a few thoughts.

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Independence For Its Own Sake


There’s an article from Barton Swaim on the Washington Post which discusses his perception of the unusual case of Scottish Nationalism – namely, that it doesn’t seem to quite “fit” with other Nationalist movements. A lot of independence supporters seem to quite like it, and I can see why: usually it’s the “I’m not a Nationalist” folk who shy away from the word due to its connotations. I love the Not-A-Nationalists to bits, and I’m happy to share the journey to independence with anyone regardless of their reasons for joining the caravan, but I’m also not going to buy into the “Nationalism Is Inherently Evil” meme – one ironically perpetuated most ardently by British Nationalists who are blind to their own nationalism.

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The Deprogrammers


There is a brilliant episode of the 1990s revival of “The Outer Limits.” It’s called “The Deprogrammers.”

I highly recommend watching it, because I feel it reflects my perspective of the “populist uprising & rejection of the political elite” argument of the European Referendum exalted by some parties.

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When My Home Was Burning

He who had been born in a mud-walled, wattle-roofed hut, in his old age sat on golden thrones, and gnawed joints of beef presented to him on golden dishes by naked slave-girls who were the daughters of kings. Conquest and the acquiring of wealth altered not the Pict; out of the ruins of the crushed civilization no new culture arose phoenix-like. The dark hands which shattered the artistic glories of the conquered never tried to copy them. Though he sat among the glittering ruins of shattered palaces and clad his hard body in the silks of vanquished kings, the Pict remained the eternal barbarian, ferocious, elemental, interested only in the naked primal principles of life, unchanging, unerring in his instincts which were all for war and plunder, and in which arts and the cultured progress of humanity had no place.
– Robert E. Howard, “The Hyborian Age


And then it started, the first glow of red in the sky which built up until it was practically like a full sunset, just a complete blaze of light. That was it. That was Greenock being bombed.
– Bill Murray. That tower in the lower right is Greenock Town Hall.

While I was born in Greenock and lived there in my early years, it is the nearby town of Gourock which I consider my home. I suppose one could consider Greenock & Gourock to be two sides of the same basic settlement, possibly named for the twin hills from which they took their names: Guireag, “round hill,” and Grianaig, “sunny/gravelly bay.”

Today is the 75th anniversary of the second day of the Greenock Blitz.

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Why You Should Vote for Stuart McMillan & the SNP

Stuart McMillan MSP from David Newbigging on Vimeo.

There are plenty of great reasons to vote for Stuart McMillan that are applicable to any other SNP candidate. Support Scottish independence? Vote for Stuart McMillan! Support the Council Tax Freeze, abolition of the Bedroom Tax, and the removal of nuclear weapons from Scotland? Vote for Stuart McMillan! Want to keep further education tuition, prescriptions, school meals for young primary children, care for the elderly, and concessionary bus passes free? Vote for Stuart McMillan!

But let’s look at things from a more intimate perspective – to look at the constituency of Greenock & Inverclyde itself. Any SNP MSP can claim credit for SNP policies – but what about Stuart himself? What has he brought to the people of Greenock, Gourock, Port Glasgow, Inverkip, & Wemyss Bay?

In other words…

Why should I vote for Stuart McMillan?

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A Wee Guide to Voting in Greenock & Inverclyde on 5th May


What’s going on?

There’s a Scottish Parliament election taking place on 5th May 2016.


Didn’t we just have an election?

That was for the UK Parliament.


What’s the difference?

Some matters are reserved to the UK Parliament, while others are devolved to the Scottish Parliament.  Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) represent one of the many Scottish Holyrood constituencies in the Scottish Parliament. They have direct jurisdiction on most issues devolved to the Scottish Parliament or which have always been controlled in Scotland, such as health, education, justice, police, fire services, housing, and the environment. Here’s a wee guide.

There will be two ballot papers for you to put your cross in. One is for the constituency you live in, and the other is for the region your constituency is in. You vote for a candidate in the constituency, and for a party in the region.

West Scotland_Greenock and Inverclyde

Thanks. So, who do I vote for?

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