Elizabeth Laird is one of our doughty Reserves. Today she agreed to take Celia Rees's 18th of the month slot, because of the referendum and her ancestry.
Today's the day. Scotland decides.
Today's the day. Scotland decides.
And I'm confused and anxious.
There are other History Girls who are much better qualified than I am to write on this momentous day. Some will be longing to stride confidently into the future of an independent Scotland. Others will be fervently hoping that the Union will prevail. But I'm confused and anxious. I feel as if my parents are on the brink of divorce.
Recently, I had my historic DNA analysed through the website www.scotlandsdna.com. By spitting into a test tube, I have learned that my mother line goes back to the first Mesolithic people who colonised Scotland 8000 years ago when the ice receded.
|My mother's great grandmother with her family in Fife|
By asking my brother's son to do his bit for family history (only men, who carry the Y chromosome, can trace the father line) I discovered that my father was descended from the Picts of central Scotland. This was a satisfying corroboration of the story passed down through the generations, which begins: A man came from the north as a factor to the Laird of Duchall. He was called the Laird's man, afterwards, for shortness Laird. "The man from the north" has always been an enthralling figure to me and now I know he existed.
|My father's grandfather and his family in Glasgow|
How do any of us, in this turbulent age of travel and uprootings and intermarriages know who we are and where we belong? All my life I've "known" that I was Scottish. My father was the first member of his family to settle outside Scotland. The names running back through his generations are Laird, Barr, Risk and Blair. My mother was a New Zealander, descended from Scottish emigrants. The names in her family are Thomson, Armstrong, McKenzie, Glasgow. It's the weight of my ancestors, my memories of childhood visits to my aunts in their warm and welcoming Scottish houses, the pictures on the walls of our own family home, the oatcakes on the tea table, the books on the shelves and the stories passed down by mother and father that have given me my identity.
But outwardly I appear to be entirely English. I grew up and was educated in England, and though I've lived in many places all over the world it's to London that I've always returned. My accent is decidedly southern English. My children feel that London is their home (though one lives in Saudi Arabia and the other will one day move to Canada with his Canadian wife). For the past fifteen years, I've flitted between our house in London and our flat in Edinburgh, and my heart never fails to lift as I step out of the sleeper at Waverley Station, or cross the Tweed at Berwick and know that I'm "home". And when I go back to our village of origin in Renfrewshire, I have an uncanny feeling that every other elderly woman looks pretty much like me.
My primary home is in London, so I can't vote today. I'm glad. I know I'd stand there in the voting booth, biting my lip, chewing my nails, vacillating. My head tells me that Scotland might well be better off freed from the dysfunctional government in London, with its Europhobic bigots, its welfare-busting instincts and its cosy relationship with the big city boys. But my heart desperately wants my beloved parents to stay together and sort things out between them. I love Scotland, but I love England too.
I'd go with my heart. I'd vote No.