THE FINAL POST – North Britain/Caledonia

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North Britain_CartedeVisite                    Caledonia-map1

Scotland has been called many things since time immemorial – some straightforwardly descriptive, some self-aggrandising, some downright insulting. It is a country, it would seem, that invites as many different takes as there are facets to its culture. Or to the denial of its culture, even. In the heady days post-Act of Union, some believed that a genuinely unified country could emerge, one where the original nations of Scotland and England would effectively cease to exist. The fashion amongst those with such beliefs was to drop the name of Scotland altogether, referring in its stead to North Britain. Whether this would ever have caught on is debatable, but clearly the reluctance of our southerly neighbours to characterise their part of the island as South Britain had a bearing on that outcome. The ancient name of Caledonia, of course, dates back many centuries before such terminology. Originally employed by the Romans to refer to the part of the island north of Hadrian’s Wall, the term may be derived from the Pictish tribe, the Caledonii. The modern usage of Caledonia has now taken on romantic, almost nostalgic connotations – not least because of Dougie MacLean’s popular folk ballad – but many organisations, ranging from Glasgow Caledonian University to ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne, have employed the term as a synonym for the nation as a whole. Whatever is the truth of what Scotland truly is surely lies somewhere between these two terms, where extremes meet indeed, with which thought we editors sign off and bid all our readers a fond farewell.

North Britain
by Brian Johnstone

On examining the provenance of a carte-de-visite
by St Andrews photographer Thomas Roger.

This carte-de- visite is a note
a caller left at our door, in a past
as familiar to us as its own invention:
the sepia tones that it’s taught us
were ever the favoured garb;

one we expect like watch chains
and fobs, bustles and Paisley shawls,
a neck brace hidden between the folds.
But text embossed upon the reverse
offers a moment of pause

image and pose don’t contain:
fashion intent on hiding what’s been
cast aside, so passé that Scotland needs
must be concealed, hidden behind
its absence. N.B. here noted well.



by Andy Jackson

What makes your big head so hard?’
(Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five)

I don’t know if you can see
my name on the label mum had sewn
into my shirts. It’s there for me,
my friend, so when I am alone

I can take a keek under my collar,
mind the man I used to be before
I pitched up in these parts, smaller,
dumber than the sum of the wars

we fought with you. Back then I
was lean and lanky, great big feet,
ignorant of how the land and sky
could be unfolded like a sheet

before me and beyond, waking
sooner every day to forest choirs
and corbie calls, the shaking
of the land by sea, persistent fires

long put out in places I had drifted
from. Mama said ‘son, keep away
from there, its grudges and its frigid
people, lousy with laments, the day

long gone when anyone might ask
them what they know or think’
but all she saw were English masks,
the jokes recalled in midst of drink,

the history that wasn’t hers. I’ve been
telling new stories, singing songs
I do not own, watching submarines
put out to sea, their payloads long

unwanted. I see how the nation breaks
and blends and bonds. I’m scarred
for life, but maybe that is what it takes,
what it is that makes our big heads hard.

Thank you!

Andy Jackson and Brian Johnstone at Scotia Extremis would like to thank all contributors profusely for their freely-given creativity and support for the project.

In addition, we would like to thank everyone who followed, liked or shared any of our postings. We hope you’re enjoyed the project as much as we have! But for now, ae fond kiss, and then we sever.









Images courtesy of;
Carte de Visite from St Andrews University Library Special Collections Department

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