Ripping yarns

Gordon Brown, a famously accident prone politician, once stated that the British should stop apologising for the empire.

Film maker Ken Loach had a swift historically literate riposte for the Scotsman in Number Ten.

Brown’s imperialist gaffe was only slightly less ominous than when he decided to try and smile in a video.

It would appear that Malcolm Murray is of a like mind with Gordon Brown.

His proud boast in this radio interview about the role of the Scots in the creation of the British Empire rather misses the point.

Many people, just as Scottish as Mr Murray, might consider their role in constructing the London’s imperium to be something to be rather ashamed of.

The British Empire was no different from any other power grab in history.

It was built on conquest, slaughter and theft.

Millions of ‘natives’ had to die to make London the centre of a vast global project in the 19th century.

The A-Z of British power encapsulated and emasculated everyone from Arabs to Zulus.

Scimitars and Assegais were no match for the modern armaments produced in the ‘workshop of the world’.

Back home in ‘Blighty’ the ordinary peoples of Britain were encouraged to  have  great pride in their empire although they derived little real economic benefit from the fortunes that were made from savagery and slavery.

Mr Murray also noted the different experiences in the 19th century between his nation and mine in the imperial project.

The Irish saw the USA as a great escape route from intolerable conditions in Ireland.

Historians of the Irish community in Scotland believe that once the route to North America was more affordable then emigrating across the Atlantic was a much better option.

Certainly the Irish in the United States flourished and were not held back by any institutional bias once the nativist hostility of the ‘Know Nothing’ movement had been faced down.

On my father’s side some of my own kin arrived in Ohio immediately after An Gorta Mór.

Two of them wore the blue of the Union in the Civil War.

It was a polity that did not discriminate against them on the basis of their ethnicity or religion and today their descendants are proud Americans.

Like me in Ireland my American cousins get to vote for their head of state.

Mr Murray’s recalling the halcyon days of Empire sounded like dog whistle politics to ingratiate himself with the klan.

Indeed he was sending out a feel good message to Scotland’s equivalent of the ‘Know Nothings’.

It is a basic human right for any person to be able to self-define their ethnicity, nationality, sexuality.

We have seen in Scottish football is that right not being respected in the case of Aiden McGeady.

Alan Brazil reminded Mr Murray that he  was Glasgow born and considered himself Scottish.

The amateur genealogist who used to be Chairman of the ill-fated Rangers International Football Club helpfully pointed out to the ex-Scotland international that the surname “Brazil” originated in “Southern Ireland”.

Just as Aiden wished to assert his Irishness then so Alan Brazil has the same right to define himself as Scottish.

For example I am sure no one would wish to impose Swedish or South African nationality on Richard Gough.

The man who grieved when Rangers died proudly declared for the land of his heritage and wore the dark blue of Scotland with pride and fair play to him.

What are left now of the empire in the collective British consciousness are some sepia toned memories of glory and grandeur, but the victims of the empire generally don’t see it like that.

What should be central to imperial narrative around the home fires is what is laid out in harrowing detail in Ian Cobain’s ‘Cruel Britannia’.

There is a strong echo of Edwardian jingoism at Ibrox mixed in with Ulster Loyalism.

Both, of course are contemporaries and there is something of the Third Home Rule Bill in the Ibrox Zeitgeist.

Given the death of Rangers (1872-2012) and the shambolic state of Sevco I cannot begin to imagine the cognitive dissonance that the klan must now be experiencing.

It has to be excruciating if they are capable of any rational thought.

The late Hugh Adam, a Rangers director in the Murray ear, resigned in 2002 and warned of bankruptcy. In a valedictory interview to the Scotsman he also addressed the putative size of the Ibrox support worldwide.

“Rangers’ so-called global appeal is a myth. When I was there, we did an exercise which involved asking 50,000 fans on the database to recommend a friend or a relative abroad.

“A big response was expected – some were even talking about getting 100,000 names – because everybody in Scotland seems to know somebody abroad.

“We got back 2,800 names and three-quarters of them didn’t know they had been nominated. It’s no surprise that Celtic are officially the best-supported football club in North America, with more official clubs than anybody else. The difference is the Irish connection.

“Many Irish people may support Manchester United, Liverpool or whoever, but they all – every one of them – have an affection for Celtic. And, of course, Celtic also have a great Scottish following.

“The difference is that, while the Irish all have an allegiance to Parkhead, there are millions of Scots who not only don’t support Rangers, but actively dislike them.

“Despite the claims of international appeal, Rangers are, essentially, a West of Scotland club.”

Now as RIFC and their loss making subsidiary Sevco faces an uncertain reality it is pleasing to remind the klan of the imperialist glory days like Amritsar and Rorke’s Drift.

Such pandering to the gallery is a safe bet when the cheap seats are stuffed full of historically illiterate racists.

In his “The Ascent of money” historian Niall Ferguson styled the British empire in the 19th century was “history’s most successful narco-state”.

In these difficult times the klan need feel good Herrenvolk opium like never before.

When Gordon Brown was Prime Minister the British Army in Basra in Southern Iraq faced with the Mahdi Army of Muqtadā al-Ṣadr shamefully surrendered the city to them.

The Queen’s boys shat it from the Shiites.

Until the US Marine Corps retook the city  Al Sadr’s thugs murdered over forty women, many of them publicly for being…err… insufficiently Islamic .

While this Taliban type ‘justice’ was being dished out in Iraq’s second city the Brits cowered in Basra airfield where the Jihad boys had told them to stay.

Subsequently Britain’s inexorable slide down the league table of major powers means that any boasting of the glories of empire sounds rather sad to the rest of us.

It is a bit like a crumpled drunk in the corner at some social gathering telling no one in particular that they used to be somebody.

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