27 June 2011

"An alien & an interloper & despised of his fellow-men..."

I assume the book belonged to my late great grandfather. Several years ago, it caught my eye on the shelf at home on account of its lurid title: The Wild Irishman, published in London in 1905. Its author - one T W H Crosland (left) - is styled on the inside cover "the author of The Unspeakable Scot". Quite why this particular eccentric jeremiad was ever purchased by my relative, I have no idea, but it proved an entertaining accidental diversion. Intrigued by the gratuitously insulting chapter headings, I read on, and was soon chortling at the Crosland's outrageous, ornate, over-ripe - and at times, basically racist, prose.  The author reserves his particular bile for the Scotch, a fondness that finds expression in his chapter in The Wild Irishman on "Dirt", which commences...

"I suppose that next to the Scotch, the Irish are out and out the dirtiest people on the earth. But whereas Scotch dirt is a crude and gross affair, Irish dirt has still a pathetic and almost tender grace about it."

Blogging has been quiet on the peaty front, on account of an extended sojourn down to London to see some cronies. As I wandered through those chartered streets, I was soon reminded of Crosland's comparative analysis of both the Irish and the Scotch in London. Crosland particularly despised the swarm of Fleet Street Scottish hacks - a point much enlarged upon on his earlier work The Unspeakable Scot (1902).  Not a fan of the“stern, calculating Scotch peasant has during late years dedicated his son to the practice and service of journalism”, Crosland was at least willing to concede that:

“He [the Scotsman] possesses too certain solid qualities which are undoubtedly desirable in a journalist. For example, he is punctual, cautious, dogged, unoriginal and a born galley-slave.”

 A whole chapter of his 1905 book is committed to "the London Irish". He contends...

"... the London Irish do not shine effulgently. None of them is at the top of things, as it were; none of them has got very far above the middling. The reason no doubt is that the Irish temperament is coy. The Scotchman who comes to London knows that he is an alien and an interloper, and despised of his fellow-men, but he blusters it out. The Irishman, on the other hand, feels his position keenly and refuses to be other than diffident."

Crosland was very keen on provocative epigrams, and both books are full of riling and insulting  jabs at both the Irish and the Scots. Several are eminently quotable, but I'll limit myself to a couple more, from The Unspeakable Scot. Given their relative antiquity, both books are now freely available online, for kindlers and freebie-seekers, seeking comic racist tracts to alleviate the boredom of the commute. Firstly, a classic bit of Crosland, laying into cherished Scotch pieties...

“Your proper child of Caledonia believes in his bones that he is the salt of the earth. Prompted by a glozing pride, not to say by a black and consuming avarice, he has proclaimed his saltiness from the house-tops in and out of season, unblushingly, assiduously, and with results which have no doubt been most satisfactory from his own point of view. There is nothing creditable to the race of men, from filial piety to a pretty taste in claret, which he has not sedulously advertised as a virtue peculiar to himself.”

And secondly, on the Scots tradition of education Alex Salmond is so keen on espousing. I dare say Crosland would not have been an admirer of our First Minister...

“All the same, I concede that the Scotch really do love learning. I gather, too, from unbiased sources that they starve their mothers and make gin-mules of their fathers to get it. And when it is gotten, when a monstrous and unlovely possession it usually turns out to be. For your Scotchman always takes knowledge for wisdom. His learning consists wholly of “facts and figures”, all grouped methodologically round that heaven-send date A. D. 1314, and if you cannot tell him off-hand the salary of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the population of Otaheite and the names of the fixed stars, he votes you a damned ignorant Southron, and goes about telling his friends that he shouldn’t wonder if you never went to 'the schule'.”


  1. Scottish republic27 June 2011 at 22:15

    Thanks for these excerpts from the Tory manifesto but the picture is a rather unkind likeness of David Cameron.

  2. Was he Kelvin McKenzie's great grandather?

    Maternal line of course.

  3. Makes you nostalgic for the days of proper journalism, like this little vignette, which is sort of topical. Plus ca change.

    GLASGOW OBSERVER: 1 NOVEMBER 1924. “On the terracing at the Dalmornock end on Saturday there was congregated a gang, thousands strong, including the dregs and scourings of filthy slumdom, unwashed yahoos, jailbirds, night hawks, won’t-works, ‘burroo barnacles’, and pavement pirates, all, or nearly all, in the scarecrow stage of verminous trampdom. This ragged army of insantitary pests was lavishly provided with orange and blue remnants, and these were flaunted in challenge as the football tide flowed this way or that. Practically with out cessation for ninety minutes or more, the vagabond scum kept up a strident howl of the ‘Boyne Water’ chorus. Nothing so designedly provoking, so maliciously insulting, or so beastially ignorant has ever been witnessed even in the wildest exhibitions of Glasgow Orange bigotry…..Blatantly filthy language of the lowest criminal type assailed the shocked ears of decent onlookers. There was no getting away from it, chanted as it was by thousands of voices in bedlamite yells.”

  4. The newspaper did have a Celtic slant. I've seen same article quoted as 1921.
    Not the blog for tit for tat partisan exchanges. À mon humble avis.
    Anyway "bedlamite yells" and chanting a choruis are probably mutually explosive.

  5. terrence

    The ellipsis suggests that the bedlamite yells refers to the 'Blatantly filthy language', not the Boyne Water chorus.

    The point is that the prose was robust and colourful and the slant unambiguous. Plus the subject matter is topical.

  6. Scottish republic,

    Most English Tories I meet don't have nefarious plots for Scotland (well, no more nefarious than their schemes for the rest of the country). Their keynote is indifference; a shrug not a shriek. I doubt Mr Cameron would have remotely of Crosland's bitter spice, to think such passages, never mind compose them.


    A spiritual father, you might well thing. Actually, old T.W.H. makes the ghastly Kelvin seem sane and temperate.

    Anonymous, terrence,

    Thanks for that pungent quotation. My favourite phrase is the description of folk as being "in the scarecrow stage of verminous trampdom". Gives me something to aim for.