Category: Contemporaries

Brian Wilson and the Free Press

Most of the pieces posted on this blog began life as pieces in my ‘Footnotes’ column in the West Highland Free Press.  The whole world now knows that that column is no more; and thanks to Brian Wilson, they also know the reason why.  Via a phone-call from the Editor, the paper’s owners (its staff) put me on a warning.  I had crossed a line, and there must be no repeat.  There was little point in writing if I couldn’t say what I thought, and so, with only as much hesitation as was decent, I gave it up.

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North African Migrants and the Future of Europe

The flow of migrants from North Africa into southern Europe is no new thing.  It has been going on for decades, but now it’s become the stuff of tragedy as thousands cram into tiny vessels scarcely fit for a mill-pond and head off across two hundred miles of treacherous sea.

Europe is suddenly caught in a dilemma.  Will it rage against illegal immigrants, or weep over the loss of thousands of lives?   But behind the dilemma there is also guilt.  For centuries we Europeans shamelessly took advantage of freedom of movement to turn up unbidden and unwelcome on other shores, killing native inhabitants, destroying their culture and plundering their treasures.

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The Kirk Joins the Mockery

I should really be in a complete fankle about writing this column.  After all, I am a Calvinist, which means I believe in predestination: a subject on which Free Press readers are clearly fully briefed.  From what they say, I cannot write this column unless it was predestined; and equally, I cannot decide what to write about, because that, too, must be predestined.  The wisest course, then, would be to sit and wait for predestination either to force me to write something or prevent me from writing something.

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Wells of Joy: the Poetry of the Reverend Murdo Campbell, Resolis

The Reverend Murdo Campbell died in 1974.  Now, almost forty years later, his son, David has published a collection of his father’s Gaelic religious verse.

It immediately set my mind to working out connections.  Writing was in Murdo Campbell’s blood.  His brother, Angus (‘Am Puilean’) was a distinguished author, best remembered for his autobiography, ‘A Suathadh ri Iomadh  Rubha’ (‘Rubbing Up Against Many a Headland’).  His other brother, also named Angus but known as ‘Am Bocsair’, was a gifted bard, and his two sons, Alasdair and Norman, have made notable contributions to recent Gaelic fiction.  Mr. Campbell’s own son, David, the editor of this volume, chose a different path, becoming a distinguished Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, having previously studied under another eminent Highlander, Donald Mackinnon, Professor of Divinity at Cambridge.  To complete the connections, the translator, the Reverend Kenneth MacDonald, a native of Applecross, and one of our foremost (if most unassuming) Gaelic scholars, was for many years a colleague of David’s at Glasgow.

Which all goes to show how perceptive was the Puilean’s choice of title.  The Gaidheal does indeed rub against many a headland.

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Scotland's Future: Independence from Mr Salmond

The danger with the independence referendum is that few seem to have any idea of the scale of what’s envisaged.  It’s not about what used to be called Home Rule.  Nor is it a mere Devolution Upgrade.  It’s about making England a foreign country.  It’s about making Scotland independent in the same sense as Australia is independent: part of the Commonwealth, with occasional visits by HM the Queen as titular Head of State.

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What's the Point of Independence?

It’s probably a disgrace, but I’ve already forgotten the date of that referendum on Scottish independence.  This cannot be attributed entirely to senility.  I still know who I am, the date of Christmas, and the difference between infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism.  These, after all, are important things, and one might feel honoured to announce them.  But it’s hard to enter into the mind of someone like Alex Salmond who, last week, pronounced himself ‘honoured’ to announce a referendum on something so negative as the break-up of the United Kingdom.

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Richard Dawkins, Microbiologist

It’s not my job to sell tickets for Stornoway’s Lanntair Gallery, and so I kept mum about Richard Dawkins’s recent visit to the scenes of my childhood.  I would still be mum were it not that the coverage of the event in the local press was the most prejudiced piece of news coverage that ever had the honour to catch my eye.  Professor Dawkins so mesmerised the reporters that spelling and syntax went out the window; and objectivity had not even been allowed in.  The previous evening, the ‘case’ for God had been put by ‘Rev Robertson’ (neither what he was christened nor how he should be styled), but the report could hardly get him out of the way quickly enough, contenting itself with noting that he is a good orator, afraid of flying, and was challenged by Dr. Dawkins.

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Review: the Lost Message of Jesus

The most fascinating thing about this book is that it is deadly boring.  It took me two months to read its 197 pages, mainly because I kept putting it aside since, for sheer excitement, it couldn’t compete with Bavinck’s Prolegomena to Dogmatics or Kuyper’s Principles of Sacred Theology.

Yet if ever a book was designed with the single intention of being punchy, fast-paced and easily readable, this is it.  Its allusions are straight from yesterdays’ headlines, it abounds with anecdotes and it is extravagant in self-disclosure.  Here is someone with credentials a struggling minister might kill for: a regular broadcaster, a prolific author, a highly sought-after speaker, a builder of hospitals in India, a meeter of famous people; the sort of guy whom media flunkies take for a sports commentator, not a contributor to religious programmes.

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