What a Scot really wears under his kilt

Bookmark this
December 14, 2016 By PAT MACADAM

The uninhibited, boasting American is legendary. Our American neighbours work at patriotism and jingoism. They preach, teach and dramatize it.

Alongside proud Americans are reticent residents of Canada. We could learn a lesson of love of country from Americans.

Two weeks ago we marked the 195th anniversary of the birth of Sir John A. Macdonald, our first prime minister. Except for modest sidebars on radio by Lowell Green and Michael Harris, the occasion went largely unnoticed.

In 1871, Nova Scotia statesman, Joseph Howe, told a family reunion: "A wise nation preserves its records, gathers up its muniments, decorates the tombs of its illustrious dead, repairs its great public structures, and fosters national pride and love of country, by perpetual reference to the sacrifices and glories of the past."

Wise words! But, they have fallen on deaf ears.

In 1968, Ottawa lawyer Dan Chilcott, television executive Bill Morrison, and I responded to a challenge by an Edinburgh Scot in a Canadian Press story to raise a monument to Sir John on his ancestral acres in Rogart, Sutherlandshire, Scotland.

We recruited John Diefenbaker to unveil a cairn fashioned from stones from the Macdonald croft. Mounting a direct-mail, begging-bowl campaign, we were able to raise present day purchasing power of more than $1 million.

Alcan's Kingston plant donated the large aluminum plaque, which is attached to the cairn. Jack McClelland of McClelland & Stewart donated a dozen boxed sets of Donald Creighton's two-volume biography of John A. - signed by the author. Air Canada's legendary PR man, Rod MacInnes, donated air tickets for "The Chief," Chilcott and Morrison. I was the lowly spear-carrier and inherited tickets to Amsterdam donated by Canadian Pacific president Jack Gilmer. I had to find my way to Rogart via The Hook of Holland, a ferry to Harwich and trains to London, Edinburgh, Inverness and Rogart.

The next few days in the Highlands were hilarious. Sir Compton Mackenzie ("Whiskey Galore") and Lillian Beckwith would have been green with envy. The simple ceremony, complete with 100 pipers, went off smoothly. I introduced Diefenbaker and he spoke briefly of Sir John A's "greatness."

The head table at the luncheon, which preceded the unveiling, was replete with more heavy hitters than the Parish of Rogart had ever seen - the Diefenbakers, Britain's home secretary for Scotland, the Lord Lieutenant of Sutherlandshire, Lady Rawstorne, (the widow of a former Lord Lieutenant), Robert MacLellan, the incumbent Labour MP, Hugh Macpherson, deputy provost of Edinburgh and Howard Warner, Brockville (president of Canada's United Empire Loyalists).

The entree of salmon and hollandaise sauce merited five stars. Mrs. Diefenbaker turned to one of the lady volunteers who was clearing her place and asked if the salmon was "lightly poached."

She replied: "Shh, yes, but don't tell anyone." The salmon had been "poached" from the laird's pool.

The incident reminded me of an occasion in the Yukon. Prince Philip placed his cutlery correctly on his plate. The lady serving him handed him the fork and said: "Save your fork, Duke, there's pie."

In an impromptu gesture, chairman Macpherson called upon local councillor John Murray to "welcome our Canadian guests." He didn't expect to be called upon to speak. His opening remarks stunned the 75 guests. He stammered. He stuttered.

"I didn't expect to be called on today. I feel like the bride on her wedding night. This thing has been thrust on me."

I thought I could contain an explosion of mirth if I fixed my gaze on an object and concentrated on it. I looked over at a kilted Bill Morrison. He was sitting with his legs apart and if you want to know what a Scot wears under a kilt, Bill was wearing fire-engine red boxer shorts.

Written by

PAT MACADAM


Advertisement