Very soon, I will embark on a journey to Canada, following the ghostly voices of the past. Come with me and share the journey of a lifetime!
Over the next few months, I plan to tease out the crucial themes of resilience, resourcefulness, hope, courage and endurance which have inspired generations of Scots for over 700 years – to understand the gritty mindset of the Scots immigrant.
If you think this is a step too far from Robert the Bruce and his family, think again, for it was Robert’s determination to overcome the brutal catastrophes of the Scottish Wars of Independence which allowed him to rise against all odds. Where would Scotland be today without the spiritual mantra of “Try try again!” instilled into wee snippets at the knees of their grandmothers?
Many of us grew up with the story of Robert in a damp cave with a spider which, sadly, historians now attribute to Sir James Douglas. Nae bother, but how do they know this, I wonder?
Regardless, it is an inspirational tale where Robert – cold, hungry, unwell and in the depths of despair – is inspired by a small arachnid. The spider spins a new web, again and again, without hesitation, after the brisk wind tears it to shreds.
Why is this tale so compelling? Isn’t it human nature to want to give up when events transpire against us? Why didn’t Robert just give up the idea of an independent Scotland? His forces were scattered; his family and supporters killed or imprisoned; his wealth and lands usurped by others. Even his health was failing in the unforgiving conditions of life on the run with little food and warmth, always just a hare’s breath away from capture and death.
In his darkest hour, a faint glimmer of hope must have surfaced. Perhaps he gained a vital insight into the energising nature of hope which forces us forward, step by slow step, inching toward our goals.
From then on, Robert fell back upon the strategies inspired by his family before him: to chip away at challenges, to break problems down into bite-sized pieces, to succeed through dogged persistence. Above all, he chose never to give up. No wonder he inspired Scots to survive against all odds, to rise to greatness, to become some of the world’s finest writers, inventors, engineers, adventurers and explorers – many of whom forged new lands and helped to found nations such as Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Alba gu Brath – Scotland Forever!