SCOTS
CMSW

Document 1669

Presentation of an Oliver Award to Alasdair Gray

Author(s): N/A

Copyright holder(s): SCOTS Project

Audio transcription

M1183 The trouble is, I married badly. [audience laughter] No, that's the truth. [audience laughter] My mother, God rest her, was born in Newlands, nurtured on the banks of the blue Cart, at the uncomprehensive Shawlands Academy, and in the Orpheus Choir under Sir Hugh Roberton. //[audience laughter]//
M1182 //Ah.//
M1183 She knew that the children in Glasgow, who lived furth of the south side, were aboriginal, [audience laughter] and no fit partners for her offspring, whether they hailed from Possilpark, or even Riddrie. [audience laughter] I was young and athletic and headstrong in those days [audience laughter] and in the consequence of the words of the song, I Married a Papist called Brigit McGinn. [audience laughter] Could have been worse. She could have been called Bridget McConnell. [audience laughter] The only redeeming feature Margery possessed was her urbane brother, Jack, who had been taught proper Britishness, in a naval destroyer commanded by a Viscount, and spent several years of the war dodging U-boats between Cape Town and Sydney. On being demobbed he completed his degree at Unthank's premier university [audience laughter] and then promptly emigrated to Oz, where he acquired five further degrees, in addition in due course to an SI fellowship. And for the next half century, became a hardworking, antipodean academic. At the end of work every day, at about half past two [audience laughter] he accompanied his cobbler, an equally industrious Adelaide university professor of music, to the South Pacific beach, to lie in the forty-degree-kissed sand, and read a six-hundred page thriller which had just been published entitled Lanark. I think because he was a prototype emigré, more in love with homesickness than his native land. When in due course we visited him, he complained that a three-inch-thick paperback was impossible to prop up on the sand without obscuring a lot of the text, by keeping spilling litres of Fosters all over the pages. [audience laughter] But his admiration for the emerging young writer was unbounding. Why, he kept asking, do they all have to depend for proper recognition, only furth of their own country. I hope Alasdair is going to provide us with the answer to that. As the fellowship expands, apart from guaranteeing the SI's existence for two or three more centuries on the road to independence [audience laughter], we are now accumulating more fellows across the globe; California, Normandie, Bad Godesberg, [?]Haute Savoie[/?], Buenos Aires. You'll notice the pronunciation! [audience laughter] James Gray in Frankfurt. Do you think he's a relative? Do you know, do you have a cousin? No?
M1182 Probably!
M1183 Yes. Austria, Brussels, Drumnadrochit, and quite a few in Australia. Recently one of them was keen to start a branch of the Celtic League, he said. He hired a hall in Sydney, and the advertisement for the inaugural soirée attracted several hundred Aussies. He was surprised, however, when they all turned up, wearing t-shirts with green and white hoops. [audience laughter] You can tell the ones that understand that joke. [audience laughter] Even they, however, were following the elections in Scotland with great glee. Which of us not? As Fiona has said, and I hadn't written this before, I'd tell you how I recruited her; persuaded her that she looked like Ghandi. I never I never apologised to you for that, did I ever? [audience laughter] Did we all believe we were going to arrive at the day when our own First Minister of Scotland, Sir Alexander Salmond, [audience laughter] would insinuate his massive right arm round the trembling waist of the Queen of England, [audience laughter] as if he was an Australian Prime Minister? [audience laughter] [feet stamping] While enjoying a cosy chat with her about the jurisprudential right of a nation to govern itself. [audience laughter] Recently though my young wife and I had been practising polling techniques in Châteaubriant in Brittany. We happened to be there on the first French Presidential polling day. It was a delightfully warm evening and the presiding officer was very welcoming. "Bonsoir, Monsieur", he said, in French [audience laughter], "how how can I assist you?" [audience laughter] I explained I had a European-Scottish passport, which especially in the light of the auld alliance, might allow me to vote for the President! "For whom would you be voting, Monsieur?" he said. I said General de Gaulle [audience laughter] "Oh Monsieur, I regret he's dead." [audience laughter] "But have a good evening." [audience laughter] I was also subsequently arrested at the Govan polling station [audience laughter] for alleged racially motivated breach of the [?]peace[/?] but that's a story for another occasion. [audience laughter] Okay, I will [inaudible]. The Ol- the Oliver Award. Made, the rubric says, to the journalist, author, poet, critic, illustrator, radio or television personality who has done most in past years to advance the cause of Scottish self-respect. Some candidates qualify under all of these categories if you think about it. It's not a condition that the recipient should be a member of the Scottish National Party. Previous ones have included Ewan Bain, he was the first Superman, Tom Weir, Professor Derick Thomson, Jimmie MacGregor, Norman MacCaig, Dr John Purser, did you know he was?
M1182 Oh yes.
M1183 Colin Bell, Sir Alastair Dunnett, the Gaberlunzie, Dr Elspeth King, Dr Paul Scott, two we are honoured to see here today, do you notice. Perhaps hoping to be nominated again? [audience laughter]. Or because their decanters are empty? [audience laughter] Iain Anderson, Jimmy [?]Reid[/?], and last year Dr Winnie Ewing. The only instruction our control-freakish Chairman gives me every year is, don't lionise them. Every year they all sneak up to me and say, whatever you say, do you think at least you could lionise me? [audience laughter] Half-way through. [audience laughter]
M1182 You're only half way?
M1183 Well, a third. [audience laughter] We're often asked, we're often asked how they are selected by the panel of judges. We got a letter the other day asking why we didn't choose much younger ones. Well, we have to wait until they've had time to achieve. Of course the equal trick is not to wait too long. So they tell me there exists a list of prospective recipients; I was being asked this. Such people as Sir Sean Connery waiting for a gap in between films so that we can fix a mutually-convenient date. I've no idea whether the judges' broad-mindedness extends to such eminent people as Lord Foulkes, [audience laughter] Lord Watson, Lady Wendy Alexander, [audience laughter]. And I haven't said Kirsty Wark [audience laughter]. At one stage our much missed compatriot, the marvellous David [inaudible], it's good to see his son here today, nominated Mr al-Megrahi, but legal complications have now arisen about fixing a date. [audience laughter] One regret is that we never got to Robin Jenkins in time. He and I were at school together and I thought [inaudible] he's gone. One way or another we like to think it's a great institution as the yearly-growing attendance testifies. Next year's may have to be held in Edinburgh Castle. The twenty-fifth candidate has been selected simply because he attended the same uncomprehensive school as Oliver Brown. And he wrote some good wee books and did some good wee murals and drawings and things, you see I'm not going to lionise him. [audience laughter] The Who's Who of two nations carry formidable entries. Our own native one says he's an artist and writer. The Angly one has him as a self-employed verbal and pictorial artist. That sounds like Morag's assessment. Early teacher, theatrical scene painter, TV playwright, seventeen perf- performances to date. What do you do in your spare time? Four on stage, one-man exhibitions, Glasgow University Writer-in-Residence, Consulting Professor of Creative Writing, Oran Mor, un-Ubiquitous Chip mural decorator, Strathclyde University, People's Palace work. A list of novels, short stories, Lean Tales, Sorry Tales, most of which I know and a number of guests here have enjoyed, broadcast pamphlets in Scottish self-government. The Scottish National Library has a collection of unpublished [inaudible] and so on and so on and so on. Personally, I'm too young to have read only some of his writing [audience laughter], but Lanark twice. The second time brushed up in the last month. He's been acclaimed in lavishly, justifiably lavish terms across the globe for decades now, making comparisons with Sterne, Blake, Dante, Joyce, Lewis Carroll, Scott, Arnold Bennett, Durrell, Orwell. For me, it's clearly Kafka. Lanark is an unfinished, autobiographical thriller like Kafka's America. Alasdair's is unfinished because he keeps adding afterthoughts with each reprinting. And there's lots of years for many more amendments and Calvinist repentances. [audience laughter] I got into trouble when [inaudible] I got into trouble when I quoted some lines of Norman MacCaig's when he was here, to prove that he was a closet nationalist. He was going to quote them later himself for the same purpose and he was pretty upset. [audience laughter] Alasdair is a self-employed closet nationalist. Hundreds of quotations are available to prove that. I've just found one, [inaudible] the best, which I'll now dare to use. [quotation in German, possibly dialectal]. Wow, you all speak German? The saltire, I- I'll translate that for people later. The Saltire Society, that fundamentalist wing of the Liberal Democratic Party, pipped us in acclaiming this quiet genius of our nation some time ago. Scots Independent, the fundamentalist wing of the Scottish National Party, has much pleasure now in adding our own tribute, by presenting him, have I even got it here? Oh I have, with the Oliver Award, the decanter and the wherewithal to keep it replenished. We're not going to lionise you, but today we salute you, young man. [audience clapping]
M1182 Eh, can I talk without that? Erm
M1183 I don't know.
M1182 ermeh, [another speaker says 'yes, he can' ] oh yes, thanks. [inaudible] [audience clapping] You will have f- you will have found beside your plates, eh this rolled up poster. Erm it was my wife's idea, Morag McAlpine. Eh she has [laugh] erm eh she's fifteen years younger than me and eh became a Scottish Nationalist eh at the age of fifteen,
M1183 Well done.
M1182 em eh she eh she grew up in Dumbarton and her parents were impeccable Scottish Labour Party supporters. Erm and eh and God knows why em , it must have been just an instinct that she decided to become Scottish Nationalist. Em I became a Scottish Nationalist well, sorry, I became keen on a Scottish independent government myself at the age of seventeen. I w- I was in Whitehill Senior Secondary School and I had taken History. And one of my best friends, George Swan, had taken Geography. Now, how can you know history if you don't know geography? Or vice versa. However, "We must specialise", they said, eh and an- an- and eh and I was very bad at numbers and I thought that Scotland was a very powerful part of the United Kingdom of Britain. I mean, apart from Walter Scott and aw that, I mean, we had Keir Hardie the founder of the Labour Party and wasn't the Labour Party the dominant party in eh in Parliament? So, and then eh my friend pointed out, because he'd taken Geography, that the the Scots representation in Parliament was ten percent of the English representation and it immediately struck me, if they're as wee as that, they can't control a countr- em em em sorry. And otherwise, eh in other words, the Eng- the English are going to be managing us and we can't manage ourselves.
M1183 Aye.
M1182 eh this, this em struck me as a straightforward ma- mathematical explanation. It didn't lead me immediately to want to vote SNP because at that at that time the Welfare State that the Attlee government had set up eh as a result of the Beveridge Report was in full working order and eh I believed, and I think rightly, that Britain had become an example to the rest of the world! Em that is, em unlike the USSR we had constructed a welfare state with- without getting a single-party dictatorship, and unlike the United States of America we hadn't given over the govern- government of our country to millionaires. [audience member coughs] Well of course things have changed since then.
M1183 Aye.
M1182 Em, under Margaret Thatcher and since then, the government of Britain by millionaires, the general notion that the whole f- world should be governed by mill- millionaires oh eh sorry. I rave, I rave, I rave. eh I didn't mean to. Em eh eh what happend was, Morag, my wife, em being an earlier Scottish Nationalist eh em eh she went about collecting em all the pamphlets she could find about Scottish Nationalism and eh and also all the books she could find that that had been printed by em Bill MacLennan who wasn't particularly a Scottish Nationalist
M1183 No.
M1182 um heh he would have been called I suppose a, a Douglas, what was //the word for it?//
M1183 //Young.//
M1182 Douglas? Em, sorry I forget what the Douglas economic system.
M1183 Social Credit.
M1182 Ah yes. H- he was he was a surg- a a Douglas Social Credit Party individual but he, he'd publish anybody. eh in, in Scotland, and eh he published MacDiarmid's em The Kind of Poetry I Want. The em em he, he did good things. In eh nineteen fifty-six, oh yes, sorry, Oliver Brown was a teacher of French in eh Whitehill Senior Secondary School when I was there. I eh was not in the French class. I was in the Latin class because in those days you couldn't get in to Glasgow Univ- you couldn't get into Scottish Universities unless you knew Latin, and eh and eh my parents were so keen that I get into university that I took Latin though I hated the subject and eh never learned it because my em my teachers didn't didn't regard Latin as something you could enjoy reading! They thought it was something you needed to pass exams on!
M1183 Hm.
M1182 Em and eh, sorry. The idea of learning a thing just because you could pass exams on it, is so utterly stupid, that em eh em anyway, nevermind. But but em Oliver Brown taught my sister French, and others, and I've occasionally bumped into folk who found him a teacher, [glass gets knocked over] sorry, and, and eh and thought he was a good teacher
M1183 Yes.
M1182 and em and a nice and a lovely man. He was, he taught French. He was very keen on France. He thought that eh Scotland and France had em had connections that by-passed England. And em em, however, one of Morag's books was a MacLellan publication called a holib- a Holiday Book that came out in eh nineteen fifty-six, and eh it had a variety of things in it but one was a set of letters call- eh essays called em How To Succeed. Therefore you had How To Succeed as a Philosopher. The writer was a man called Joad whom practically all of you will have forgotten. Or maybe not.
M1183 [audience chatter]
M1182 Em eh em eh, but em How, How To Succeed as a Crime Writer by John Cheney and eh eh umpteen, but but there was How To Succeed as a Pamphleteer by Oliver Brown. [audience laughter] I'm going to read it to you eh because eh eh this has the covers of eh ten pamphlets that eh Oliver Brown wrote between nineteen thirty and nineteen sixty-six. The covers were designed by his wife, Margaret Macdonald and and they're tremendously good covers. //They,//
M1183 //Yes.//
M1182 they almost explain the entire character of what's hap- what he's talking about inside. But I shall read this How To Succeed as a Pamphleteer or Mein Pampf!
M1183 [audience laughter]
M1182 And he s-, and he says, "All p- all all popular prap- propaganda must contain that touch of virulence which resembles the drop of acid whereby the wise bee seeks to preserve its honey. The pamphlet is essentially a weapon of attack, presenting one aspect of a case with a view to discrediting an opponent whose past must be examined and all his weaknesses and inconsistencies noted as by a detective agency. For this purpose the files of newspapers act as ancient rocks containing the marks of prehistoric insects. To find some politician condemning in an opponent some policy which he was later to adopt himself, and to convict him in his own words gives that feeling of satisfaction felt by the entomologist who pins a strange beetle to an exhibit card. [audience laughter] Let the object of your attack be one capable of rou- rousing intense hostility on the one hand and intense loyalty on the other. Between the fell insensed points of mighty opposites." That's a quotation. "For man is as much more emotional than [?]ratch-[/?], because man is much more emotional than rational. Then become absorbed in your subject un- until it becomes a temporary monomania. No-one objects to a bee in the bonnet provided it produces some honey. [audience laughter] Having acquired a deep though not necessarily wide knowledge of the subject, the pamphleteer must pepper his matter so as to season it for palates already jaded through incessant propoganda. To startle without injuring truth and to shock without indecency should be his aim. Can he coin some original phrase on the model of the expressive Americanism Chicagoril- em Chicagoril-, em Chicagorilla, i.e. the telescoping of two words so to unite two ideas in one. Here are some examples. The relationship of England and the USA, vasalliance. [audience laughter] The "Make Germany pay" school of thought, eh Vanzittartism. Eh sorry eh Vanzittart was er an English em aristocrat who at the end of the Second World War thought that of course Germany should be required to pay for all the damage that had happened to the to Europe eh when Hitler was running it. Em, the anti-imperialist might sum up the enemy, the seamy side of imperial expansion, in the words "Under the Union Jacket". [audience laughter] The Scottish reaction to predominantly Cockney character of the BBC is exactly summed up in the phrase "The Anglo-Saxophone". [audience laughter] The muddle about Palestine eh the British say the Arabs sold the same horse to both the Jews, th- to both the Jews and the Arabs and then kept it to themselves should be summed up under the title of "Palestine: the too-much promised land". [audience laughter] Em em eh, this is nineteen fifty-six, by the by. The value of such wisecracking to use an Americanism for the result of American influence is two-fold. It lightens the style and serves as a mnemonic to the reader. A crisp and forthright style is the first essential and of almost equal importance is an invariable factual accuracy. One slip may ruin a whole edition and lead to a libel action. Apart from this consideration a rep- a reputation for dependability is essential if a pamphlet is to have any serious influence. To decide what should be included in the pamphlet, or rejected, depends on the possession of a sense of news values which may be acquired by close study of a popular daily like The Express, eh to counterbalance its influence the Manchester Guardian should be diligently studied in order to develop a mature judgement and a sense of integrity. [audience groan] If the pamphleteer, if the pamphleteer succeeds in in supplying the dexterity of a tightrope walker, his pamphlets will be read with interest by the man in the street, and quoted in the council chambers by the expert. And instead of reflecting publish- public opinion it will have the power of creating it. [audience applause]

This work is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

The SCOTS Project and the University of Glasgow do not necessarily endorse, support or recommend the views expressed in this document.

Close

Cite this Document

APA Style:

Presentation of an Oliver Award to Alasdair Gray. 2020. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved October 2020, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=1669.

MLA Style:

"Presentation of an Oliver Award to Alasdair Gray." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2020. Web. October 2020. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=1669.

Chicago Style

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Presentation of an Oliver Award to Alasdair Gray," accessed October 2020, http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=1669.

If your style guide prefers a single bibliography entry for this resource, we recommend:

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2020. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk.

Close

Information about Document 1669

Presentation of an Oliver Award to Alasdair Gray

Audio

Audio audience

Adults (18+)
Informed lay people
For gender Mixed
Audience size 100+

Audio awareness & spontaneity

Speaker awareness Aware
Degree of spontaneity Spontaneous
Special circumstances surrounding speech Speech by Alasdair Gray is unscripted; introduction is partially scripted

Audio footage information

Year of recording 2007
Recording person id 1177
Size (min) 28
Size (mb) 106

Audio medium

Other Speech to a gathering of people

Audio setting

Government/politics
Recording venue Hotel
Geographic location of speech Stirling

Audio relationship between recorder/interviewer and speakers

Professional relationship
Speakers knew each other No

Audio transcription information

Transcriber id 1177
Year of transcription 2007
Year material recorded 2007
Word count 3213

Audio type

Lecture/talk, sermon, public address/speech
General description Acceptance speech, preceded by an introduction

Participant

Participant details

Participant id 1182
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1930
Educational attainment College
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Agnostic
Occupation Writer and painter
Place of birth Glasgow
Region of birth Glasgow
Birthplace CSD dialect area Gsw
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Glasgow
Region of residence Glasgow
Residence CSD dialect area Gsw
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation soldier, box cutting machine operator, hostel manager
Father's place of birth Glasgow
Father's region of birth Glasgow
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Gsw
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation shop assistant and then housewife
Mother's place of birth Glasgow
Mother's region of birth Glasgow
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Gsw
Mother's country of birth Scotland

Languages

Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes at work and at home
Scots No Yes Yes Yes English with a Scots accent

Participant

Participant details

Participant id 1183
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1930
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Occupation Retired journalist and teacher
Place of birth Glasgow
Region of birth Glasgow
Birthplace CSD dialect area Gsw
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Glasgow
Region of residence Glasgow
Residence CSD dialect area Gsw
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Co-op manager
Father's place of birth Glasgow
Father's region of birth Glasgow
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Gsw
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Mother
Mother's place of birth Glasgow
Mother's region of birth Glasgow
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Gsw
Mother's country of birth Scotland

Languages

Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes
French Yes Yes No Yes at university
German Yes Yes No Yes at university
Scots No Yes No Yes

Close