24 August 2016

Beyond the grave

The folks at the National asked me to fill in for a couple of weeks, while one of their regular columnists was tripping the light fantastic on their holidays. In my second and last effort this morning, I thought I'd take a break from the relentless politics of Brexit, and GERS, and #indyref2, and write something a little more personal, historical and meditative. Here's an excerpt:

There are always figures in your family history who cast longer shadows. The folk who catch the eye, who haunt and preoccupy. Sometimes their choices coloured everything that came thereafter. Sometimes they are enigmas. Sometimes you feel – or perhaps only project on to them – a sense of recognition. Sometimes you feel you can detect their influence on folk you have known – your parents and grandparents. 
Angus Miller, my great-grandfather, was one of these characters. A rural doctor, he was born during the reign of Queen Victoria, and tended to the health of his community long before the Labour government of 1945 introduced the National Health Service. We still have candlesticks he was given by a grateful blacksmith, who couldn’t afford his medical bills, but who could work and shine metal into beautiful shapes – a memento of a child whose life had been saved on the western edge of the Scottish wilderness.


  1. I think that is an excellent piece of writing. It has an elegiac quality. It also throws a shaft of light on part of the 'people's history': the kind of thing which millions of our ancestors did routinely as part of living day to day.

    1. Kind of you to say, Alasdair. I liked one response to this earlier today -- every family has tales of this kind. Sadly, most and many go unremembered at all.

  2. I'm sad such a fine man turned his back on God. It is one thing to hate the church, it is a human institution, like the Tory government. But another to hate that which inspires good works, for where did we get the idea that compassion and service was a higher calling? Call it what you like, but we are imagining creatures, and it is not rational, nor of this material world.

  3. A tale to be proud of. I trust you will take note of Crosland's opinion of The Scotchman and not Fleet off to London to pursue a journalism career.

  4. Yes Labour introduced the NHS but Liberals and Tories backed it, indeed the Tories had the most explicit manifesto commitment I think -

    ' The health services of the country will be made available to all citizens. Everyone will contribute to the cost, and no one will be denied the attention, the treatment or the appliances he requires because he cannot afford them. We propose to create a comprehensive health service covering the whole range of medical treatment from the general practitioner to the specialist, and from the hospital to convalescence and rehabilitation'

    Re the 'Unspeakable Crosland' as he became known I have a wee bit of knwoeldge of him from my Wilde studies, and he was widely despised. The book was I think intended to be part of a tongue in cheek series satirising all nations (including England) but it was a poor start.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Useful article, thank you for sharing the article!!!

    Website bloggiaidap247.com và website blogcothebanchuabiet.com giúp bạn giải đáp mọi thắc mắc.

  7. Thank you for sharing this article with such good content. Good luck in the following article. Artists Wikipedia Writing Services

  8. Such an precious information about bill of the grave.
    Loved your work.
    worldwide b2b marketplace