Happy St Andrew’s Day

November 30th is the feast day of Scotland’s patron saint, St Andrew, and an excuse (as if one were needed) for Scots globally to come over misty eyed and nostalgic about the motherland. Although haggis, neeps and tatties are more usually associated with one of our other big celebrations, Burns’ Night, I indulge on St Andrew’s Day as well.

Nostalgia is in the air for Scotland in 2009 – it is the 250th anniversary of the birth of national bard, Rabbie Burns (familiar to the world through Auld Lang Syne, Tae a Moose and A Man’s A Man For A’ That amongst others). I’m glad to see that the Scottish Government is celebrating the anniversary of a significant literary figure. All too often in modern Scotland, and despite a rich heritage, the arts are seen as the domain of “poofs and wimmin”. God help you growing up in the West of Scotland as I did, if you didn’t want to play for Celtic or Rangers. Any pretension to a non-sporting career (and even then, if it wasn’t football you were still suspect) was an invitation to mockery, ridicule and ostracision.

But now the arts are, marginally, “cool”. We have a new generation of young singers like Paulo Nutini and Sandy Thom. Actors like Gerry Butler and David Tennant are winning fans worldwide. Writers like Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin are celebrated not just in Scotland but further afield. Even in surprising areas like the comic book industry, traditionally a North American preserve, Scottish writers and artists like Grant Morrison and Cam Kennedy are attracting rave reviews.

In light of the 250th anniversary, and in a bid to drum up tourism, a new tourism campaign has been devised. Homecoming Scotland 2009. An appeal to the Scottish diaspora to come back, and for second and third generation Scots to come and spend their foreign money on kilts, sporrans, tartan rubbish and Nessie models.

And it has an advert. An advert which, in theory, is a good idea. Take the song “Caledonia” (guaranteed to tug at the heart strings of the homesick Scot), set it against a backdrop of Scottish scenery, and have famous Scots sing the lines. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, the exclusion of some of the most recognisable Scottish singers for a start. Travis, the aforementioned Paolo Nutini, even the Proclaimers. Absent. Those singers that are involved generally put their own “interpretation” onto the song (in other words ruin it to display their vocal range). With the notable exception of Eddie Reader, the other singers in the advert take a good song and spoil it.

The next thing that goes wrong is relying on people who aren’t singers, to sing. Golfer Sam Torrance, and Olympic Gold Medal winner Chris Hoy do better than expected. Actor Brian Cox… not so good. And as for Sean Connery? He takes the best lines in the song (“Let me tell you that I love you, that I think about you all the time”) and he doesn’t even attempt to sing. The whole thing comes together in a mish-mash of good intentions and poor execution.

Maybe I’ve been away from Scotland for too long, but I had to look up half the people in the advert – I couldn’t have told you who the rugby players were, and even Brian Cox was unrecognisable. If the aim was face recognition amongst ex-pats and Scottish descendants, then it picked the wrong people. Even Sam Torrance is less recognisable than Colin Montgomerie if you want a golfer, and currently the leading Scottish sportsman is Andy Murray – why not get him?

Anyway, have a look at the advert – you’ll find it here.

And if you want to hear a good version of the song, then might I recommend the original by Dougie MacLean, or my personal favourite, by Frankie Miller.

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One thought on “Happy St Andrew’s Day”

  1. thanks for this link – have subscribed. Both Adrian and I have Scottish ancestory – He is pictish – mine got lost somwhere in the early 1800s – We have a small silver engraved snuff box – a family heirloom – presented by some Lord to a family member as he was the head huntsman.. must look it up sometime.
    Mitchell is my maiden name – related to the Innes clan.

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