How the Scots Invented the Modern World

What do pneumatic tires, ATMs, toasters, disposable contact lenses, and the telephone have in common?

All were invented by Scots!

How about penicillin, the television, and the MRI machine?   Yup, Scots invented them as well.

In addition to these more modern items, Scots have been at the forefront of radical change in the arts, philosophy, architecture, politics, and religion for almost as long as recorded history.

In the 2007 publication, “How the Scots Invented the Modern World”, Dr. Arthur Herman delves into  Scotland’s complicated history and how it shaped the modern world.

Do yourself a favor and pick up this fantastic book!

Amazon.com Review

“I am a Scotsman,” Sir Walter Scott famously wrote, “therefore I had to fight my way into the world.” So did any number of his compatriots over a period of just a few centuries, leaving their native country and traveling to every continent, carving out livelihoods and bringing ideas of freedom, self-reliance, moral discipline, and technological mastery with them, among other key assumptions of what historian Arthur Herman calls the “Scottish mentality.”

It is only natural, Herman suggests, that a country that once ranked among Europe’s poorest, if most literate, would prize the ideal of progress, measured “by how far we have come from where we once were.” Forged in the Scottish Enlightenment, that ideal would inform the political theories of Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith, David Hume, and other Scottish thinkers who viewed “man as a product of history,” and whose collective enterprise involved “nothing less than a massive reordering of human knowledge” (yielding, among other things, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, first published in Edinburgh in 1768, and the Declaration of Independence, published in Philadelphia just a few years later). On a more immediately practical front, but no less bound to that notion of progress, Scotland also fielded inventors, warriors, administrators, and diplomats such as Alexander Graham Bell, Andrew Carnegie, Simon MacTavish, and Charles James Napier, who created empires and great fortunes, extending Scotland’s reach into every corner of the world.

Herman examines the lives and work of these and many more eminent Scots, capably defending his thesis and arguing, with both skill and good cheer, that the Scots “have by and large made the world a better place rather than a worse place.” –Gregory McNamee

A Brief History of Highland Games

According to Wikipedia; “Highland games are events held in spring and summer in Scotland and other countries with a large Scottish diaspora, as a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture, especially that of the Scottish Highlands”.

One would think that the largest of these events would be held in Scotland, but you would be incorrect.

The largest three events in the world, in terms of attendance, are The Grandfather Mountain Games in North Carolina (30,000), The New Hampshire Highland Games and Festival (35,000), and the Pleasanton, California Highland Games (40,000+).

The Scots’ Charitable Society is not only a participating group at the New Hampshire Games, but we sponsor the annual trophy for the Adaptive Highland Athletics, held for participants with physical limitations. 

For more info about the New Hampshire Games, follow this link.

For more information about Highland Games, follow this link.

Hope to see you in New Hampshire September 16 – 18!

The Scottish Game

Beginning July 10, 2022, the 150th Open Championship returns to the “Home of Golf,” The Old Course at St. Andrew’s in Scotland.

Sometimes referred to as the “British Open,” it was first held on October 17, 1860, making it the oldest golf tournament in the world.

The history of golf goes back much further than 1860, however, with the original rights to play on the links being granted to the townspeople of St. Andrew’s by Archbishop John Hamilton in 1552!

To this day, the St. Andrew’s Links, which encompasses seven golf courses, remains in a public trust owned by local authorities.

The courses are open to the public for golf seven days a week, with the exception of the Old Course, which gets a day of rest each Sunday.  On those days it is not uncommon to see locals walking their dogs on the course. Can you imagine someone walking their dog at Augusta National or Pebble Beach?!

For more information about the history of St. Andrew’s, we encourage you to click these links:

Old Course
Wikipedia Page
The History of Golf

By Dennis Napier

Happy Burns Night from Scots’ Charitable!

It is with great delight that we share not one, but TWO, Address to the Haggis videos in celebration of Burns Night! Grab your haggis, scotch, and bagpipes and watch our members and special guests honor Robert Burns!

To learn more about Robert Burns, check out our 2021 blog post here.

Many thanks to SCS members and to special guest Peter Abbott, British Consul General, who appears in video #2. Special thanks to Dennis Napier who upped the ante by providing an introduction in honor of the Bard as well as stunning verse, and Jack MacLean for piping in the Haggis! You may recognize the scenery in one of the videos from Skyfall, the James Bond Movie, as one of our members filmed live in front of Duntrune Castle, and another video from the (virtual) interior of Burns’ Cottage in Alloway!

St. Andrew’s Day

Saint Andrew, the Patron Saint of Scotland, is celebrated today, November 30th. Who is Saint Andrew? He was a Galilean fisherman and one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, believed to have been born between 5AD and 10AD. But, funny enough, despite being Scotland’s Patron Saint, he was never believed to have stepped foot in Scotland!

There are many legends as to why St. Andrew became the Patron Saint of Scotland, but one tale is that in the 9th Century, as King Angus was preparing to battle the English, the king dreamt St. Andrew visited him and promised him victory. On the day of the battle an X, the symbol of St. Andrew, appeared in the sky, assuring King Angus that he would win the battle. This X went on to become a part of the Scottish flag.

Stained glass window of St Andrew in St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. Photo by Lawrence OP

Traditionally, St. Andrew’s day is celebrated with a ceilidh and feast, but this year things look a little different for many Scots and those of Scottish descent. Instead, many of us will stay home and prepare a traditional meal, or order one from our favorite Scottish pubs and toast to St. Andrew.

To learn more about St. Andrew, click here!

And if you want to try to prepare your own feast, a few favorite recipes can be found linked below!

Cullen Skink – Smoked haddock chowder
Roast Scottish Lemon Sole on the Bone
And of course, don’t forget a wee dram of your favorite Scotch!

Also, a quick reminder to our members, if you haven’t done so recently please check your e-mail for a special St. Andrew’s message!

The Travels of the Robert Burns Statue of the Fen and Winthrop Square

By William Budde, Historian, Scots’ Charitable Society, Boston, Massachusetts

Winthrop Square
(re-located back to the Fen in 2019)

The Robert Burns statue that graces Winthrop Square in Boston was originally erected in the Back Bay Fen. Burns, who was born on January 25, 1759 and died on July 21, 1796, is often referred to the National Bard of Scotland. A prolific writer, he produced about 300 poems, songs, and ballads that romanticized everyday Scottish life. It helped that he wrote in a vernacular Scottish dialect that was easily understood and pronounced by readers without knowledge of the native Scottish tongue. 

Traditionally, Boston has had a large Scottish population. From about 1870 to 1930, the Scots living in Boston were extremely active, especially in the organizations, events, and celebrations they organized. The oldest charitable society was the Scots’ Charitable Society organized in 1657 to assist needy Scots in the Boston area. Events often attracted 300 attendees, with one report of over 1,000, and honored guests included the mayor of Boston and Governor of Massachusetts, a future United States president, and Andrew Carnegie. 

The Burns Memorial Association was organized in 1899 to plan and erect a suitable memorial to Robert Burns. In 1910, the association announced a competition to design a statue. The winner was Henry Hudson Kitson, an English emigre, and he was awarded the commission in the autumn of 1911. Kitson was a well-known artist living in the Boston area. His list of earlier New England works included the David Farragut statue at Marine Park in South Boston (1881), the Minute Man statue on the Lexington Town Green (1900), and the Roger Conant statue in Salem (1905). Later work in the Boston area included the Henry B. Endicott tablet in Boston (1921), the Pilgrim Maiden statue in Plymouth (1922), and the Richard Saltonsall monument in Watertown (1931).

The original design for the bronze Robert Burns monument included a more elaborate base. The chosen site was in the Caledonian Grove in the Fen along the Charles River, near the memorial to the well-known Irishman John Boyle O’Reilly. Although the commission was awarded in 1911, the statue was not erected until 1919. The delays were probably due in part to fund raising, but a significant delay was the involvement of the United States in World War I. Massachusetts Gov. Calvin Coolidge (the future U.S. president) dedicated the statue on New Years Day 1920. 

Robert Burns stood in the Fen for 56 years. According to some reports, when developer Ted Raymond renovated the old Hearst Building at Winthrop Square the plans included a small park. The park apparently seemed somewhat empty so a search was started to find a suitable statue of historic import. The first choice, John Winthrop, was not available, so another monument was sought. One source indicates it was the chairman of the Boston Art Commission, Nelson Aldrich, that suggested the Burns statue be moved from the Fenway site to a more prominent location at Winthrop Square about 1974. Burns then settled into a new location in the square in 1975. 

Why was Robert Burns moved? In all likelihood, there were probably several reasons. The first choice, John Winthrop, was not available. To commission a new statue would take years, not to mention the cost that would have been involved. And who can say what influence the Boston Scots had in the decision?