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These days people move around more. A couple of generations ago there were people who had never strayed more than 20 miles from where they were born. And before television, all people had were the songs and stories of their families and neighbours to keep them entertained. Though, how much time and energy they had left for entertainment at the end of the soul-destroying, back-breaking, drudgery that many had to endure during their working day is debatable. Anyway, the point is many of the stories and songs helped people to know the history of their neighbourhood. And that history helped engender a sense of community. The people who organised the Scottish new towns in the 1950s and 60s seem to have been aware of this. East Kilbride, for instance, had a lot of people from Glasgow settled there and very few residents whose families had lived there for generations. And a lot of the incomers were Catholic. One of the few times folk from East Kilbride featured in Scottish history was when a strong contingent of men from the village showed up at the Battle of Bothwell Brig in 1679.  They fought against the forces of the Crown under a Covenanter banner. That banner used to be on display at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow, and may still be there for all I know. The little Catholic children in 1960s East Kilbride were encouraged to take pride in those Covenanters who stood up, like all good Scots should, for what they believe in.  What the little Catholic children were not told was that if they had ever met one of those Covenanters, things might not have turned out well for them. Those Covenanters may well have run them through with a 14 foot pike and waved their little bodies in the air behind that battle flag hanging at the Kelvingrove. But in the minds of those 1960s social pioneers creating community spirit through history was more important. Indeed, sometimes it is better to forget bits of the story and be happy than remember the whole thing and be sad. History is flexible that way.

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OK, yet another whinge. I'm getting fed up with so-called journalists who automatically assume if they don't know something; then it will be news to everyone. A couple of years ago some stupid radio presenter spent five minutes telling listeners what Diego Garcia was not. She assumed that no-one knew it was an island in the Indian Ocean which the British lease to the Americans for an airbase. She told us that it was not a brand of exotic liqueur and several other things it was not: blah, blah, blah, blah. Boring and time wasting for anyone who knew it was an island. Even worse, in the programme teaser before the hourly news the presenter had told listeners that the eviction of the population of the island of Diego Garcia would be discussed. Not only did she believe her audience was ignorant but it was also composed of people with no short-term memory.  Can we not go back to the days when it was assumed that the listener/viewer/reader had some intelligence and did not appreciate being patronized?

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I can't help feeling that the Scots don't pay enough attention to what happens in Ireland, the Republic of Ireland that is. Sadly, too many Scots are convinced they know a lot about Northern Ireland. Anyway, back to the Republic, or as is sometimes confusingly referred to "The South": Ballyhillin in County Donegal is further north than anywhere in Northern Ireland. Anyway, again, when the Scots consider breaking away from the United Kingdom they don't seem to think it worthwhile looking hard at how things have turned out in the Republic of Ireland, formerly and briefly the Irish Free State, in the past just under 100 years. The two countries have a lot in common, some parts more than others, and probably the same kind of people who run Ireland would end up running an independent Scotland. Just a thought. Something to think about. Would that, could that, be worse than what we have now?

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Apparently, according to the BBC World Service, the shortage of marriageable men at the end of the First World War meant that women turned to the arts and politics to fulfil themselves. What women were these? Certainly, the arts or politics were hardly an option for working class girls and women. But this is the BBC. History is nearly always focused on what the bourgeois and upper-middle classes were up to. In a 10 minute item, there was one mention of working class women. There as also one mention of lesbians, another supposed outcome of the shortage of men to marry. The item was also flawed because it suggested that the war had deprived something like three-quarters of a million women of men to marry. The problem with that many of the dead were already married and left widows and tiny children behind. It is doubtful if those widows had time to dabble in the arts or politics. Survival in the rural and urban slums of Britain used up most of their energy. The widow's pension was pitiable, unless the dead man had been an officer. There was no doubt some surge in the number of women who could devote themselves to politics and the arts in the 1920s and 30s. But they were a tiny minority drawn from the already privileged; not the widespread social phenomenon suggested by the BBC. The BBC every day becomes more and more of a live broadcast of Chelsea dinner party.

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It must be tough being a spokesperson for one of these pressure groups which relies on donations from the public. The kind of folk who donate often do it because they feel very strongly about an issue or a cause. This can mean that the spokespeople for these pressure groups often feel they have to take an uncompromising and at times even extreme standpoint. Commonsense and moderation often seems to take back-seat to hardline criticism of attempts to accommodate the campaign's aims. Moderates seldom dig deep into their pockets to support causes. Spokespeople prepared to welcome moderate progress seldom satisfy the demands of the small group who contribute the bulk of their pay packet. The same spokespeople also face the all common breed of journalists who have written the story in their heads before they make a single phone call. This type of journalist wants an outraged condemnation from the campaign group of any move by the "other side". Conflict, not compromise is what makes the story for them. And any spokesman who wants to get the name of their organisation into the media better provide it. Publicity is the lifeblood of most of the campaign groups which rely on donations. The prized quote in the media, supposed to balance the story, is often awarded to the spokesperson who makes the most extreme and uncompromising pronouncement. It is a brave spokesperson who urges a commonsense and moderate standpoint in response to a media request for a comment.   

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