THE HEATHER OH FIRE
SCOTS RALLY TO THE STANDARD
FOR AULD LANG SYNE.
A NEW ZEALANDER’S IMPRESSIONS.
Where's the coward "who would not dare To fight for such <a laud? It is not surprising, really, when one thinks of everything, that tho only nation that iikes porridge without sugar and lights best with knees and knuckles bare, should bo foremost in the, rally to Hip Flag of Freedom at this critical period in British history. Most of the thrifty, wise folk “on the right, side o’ the Tweed ” have ran harefooted over bygone but remembered battlefields, and have pa id led in burns once redder than the heather with the blood of freemen's, foes. Ay, the. spirit of w.v haunts the hills and glens of Bonnie Scotland. and all that is needed to bring it into living, leaping activity is to sound the thrilling pibroch that fills Highlanders and Lnwlanders “ with, the tierce native daring which instils tho stirring memory of ,a thousand years.'' The pibroch, has sounded savage and shrill, and trnin Bi. or no way to the Solway, from Mull to Montrose, the strapping and sturdy lads of Caledonia are hastening- to •* fecht” for auld lang syne. It was the, stimulating pleasure of a, .Dunedin ci t-izeu, Mr W. R. Sligo, recently to tour Scotland, the land of his fathoi, the late Mr Alex. Sligo, who never lost Iris love of hamc and hamely history, and to observe an industrious people under vastly divergent moods and circumstances. Mr ..Sligo and his sister reached. .Scotland iu May. whoa the days were, lengthening to delight, and when the only tilings that were likely to distract the attention oi honest Scots from the Shorter Catechism and the eternal warfare against debt, and the Devil (Scotch folk will ken the life wool) were the Home Rule hullaballoo and the lunatic pranks of the .suffragettes. Thou the interest of colonials was concentrated on the haunts of beauty and the historical riches of Scotland. It was noticed with keen appreciation, however (and this should lie noted by folk who look on Scot laud as a place of mist, hard drinkers, poets, stern preachers, and brilliant politicians), that the summer was something to remember- -steady sunshine, keen blue skies, (jiiiot breezes, and lovely twilight. Suddenly there came the call to war.
It was in the very heart of the Highlands—Perth—that Mr Sligo first saw the thoroughness of the Army’s readiness lor grim service. One sunny day the Black Watch brightened tho charming city, which must be attractive, to lovers of Dunedin, with their brisk bearings and gaiety of gait (which is only seen in kilted regiments) ; and on the morrow they had gone. In the stillness of a summer night the splendid Black Watch had vanished silently from their garrison town, and were not heard of until a little more than a wool; later whoa the first list, of their casualties at Dions was posted. From then onward stalwart youths streamed in iroui the famous Carso o' Gowrie. from tho glens and clachans beyond the huddled hills, and from croft and sheiling to form a picture on the North Inch and the South Inch, probably unparalleled in the fantown of Perth* since the great elan battle of 1396. the same that inspired Sir Walter Scott. Presently, tho great playaround of Perth was crowded with sonic fO,OOO volunteers, all eager to gain in six or eight, months the training necessary for active service, in a desperate modem war. The sane, deep-rooted determination and grim enthusiasm of the men and of the. populace impressed Mr Sligo, and made him proud of tho homo of his
ancestors. All through the mid Highlands during August, the month when, the clear stillness of the moors, tho hills, and the sky is usually bro ken by tin- guns of leisured sportsmen, .Mr Sligo a-’.v ample evidem iof the fighting spirit of the Gaels, and (heir-determination to give of their bc.-t----sons to the Empire. A pleasant tour down the East Coast, almost always within sight of the azure North Sea. (be visitors observed preparations for service abroad and also, if need be, for service at home against invaders. But these were only seen from a speedy train, and it was rr>t until it rumbled over " ilie eighth wonder ol the world —The Forth Bridge —that (he real seriousness and thoroughness re' defensive roadimvs were noticed. ’Che wonderful structure was guarded by Territorials whose main camp'was situated at Inverkeithing. I’rior to the outbreak of the war, however, Mr Sligo and his friends were enabled through the kindness of an old Dunedin boy, Mr John M'Larcn, who is iu charge of certain works, to inspect the extensive operations at- Rosyth Naval Base, which was a centre of amazing activity. Ihe visitors were oulv permitted to inspect tho engineering works, which include three huge docks, one being 900 foot long. ’I lie fortifications were not open to inquisitive visitors. It’was clearly apparent that toe wor ka v/cl’c going forward .it. a maximum juice.
When Mi- Sligo reached the metropolis of .Scotland, '‘mine own romantic town ” —Edinburgh—was at her best : a- glorious state. Although it was ;us an armed camp there was no wild fever of militarism. Til- people of Edinburgh aro kept- in a humbleness of thought by tho dominating grandeur of her famous historical Gastlo. which (as Stevenson says) is one of the most satis factory craps in nature—a. IS." r Roc!: upon dry laud, rooted in a garden, shaken by passing trains, carrying a crown of ba-tllerneuts and turrets, anti describing its warlike shadow over the liveliest and brightest thoroughfare of Iho New Town. As iu Perth -and Stirling (within sight, of tho field of Bannockburn), the spirit of determination and activo patriotism ruled the, citizens of Edinburgh. All the regular soldiers had vanished like the Black Watch to foreign soil, but, the city was teeming with stalwart-, 1 lean youths, uncomplainingly undergoing a special and very rigorous training for veal war. Full advantage, was being taken of the long summer days to drill thousands -of reeruits on the parada ground -behind Holyrood Palace, iu the very centre of inspiriting historical events and scenes, and within bugle cal! of the (’astlo Esplanade, once the place .of execution a:f martyrs and witches, ami within little more than a stone-throw from the grim site where the Marquis of Argyll and tho greater Montrose were hanged, drawn, and quartered, and where in for(lreamed of, scolding wives wore publicly gagged by the “ branks,” a contrivance something like 0, horse's bit. 'Die soldiers were being drilled in physical exercise during the closing days of August. All wore keen and willing. I ho attitude of th-3 Edinburgh populace was impressive to strangers. All tho people had a perfect confidence in the British Navy, ami all were prepared t<> do their utmost to advance the success of tho British and Allied forces. There was no panic, financial or otherwise, and business was being- maintained iu confident spirit. The question of unomplovment was not then acute. Entrenchments had been completed in am! about Edinburgh prior to Air Sligo's visit, but he
fv.v s-olclior.** preparing gun-foundations at ■St. Leonards. The attitude and feelings of Londoners were not so impressive upon stranger's as in Scotland. 'lt seemed to Mr Sligo that the people of London were not so thorough n; their determination and enthusiasm as the. hoots were throughout. Mr Sligo made a. great effort to hear Mr Asquith a.t the Guildhall, but was unable to get ■through the tremendous press of privileged folk. On another occasion Mr Sligo attempted to attend a grant meeting- assembled to hear the -Chancellor of (lie Exchequer, but had to be content wiih a -glimpse of the “ littlo Welsh Attorney." who, by courageous procedure, has made friends of many of hie enemies. It was only with great difficulty that Mr Sligo and his sister were able to secure berths on the Ophir. This was due to tlie fact that a great number of ..liners had. been cojnimandeered by the
Imperial authorities for troopships. It was necessary to haunt the shipping offices for three weeks before a berth could bo obtained. They had interesting experiences in the Channel, the Ophir striking a buoy (a mishap that momentarily tried the nerves of the passengers, who feared collision with a mine), and being compelled to return to. Tilbury Docks for examination and repairs of a leak. After a delay of five days tlio Ophir again sailed for the South. During the trip through the Channel her passengers saw trawlers engaged at mine-sweeping, also a French warship and a flotilla of destroyers, In the Mediterranean the ship's course ran towards the coast of Africa. After passing close to Malta a. convoy of 24 troopships, crowded with Indian troops, was passed on their way to Marseilles. The next object, of interest was an Indian encampment on the bank of the Suez Canal. Eight days later another convoy of Indian troopships (30 and three warships) was passed in the. Tied Sea. After leaving the vicinity of Perim several passengers who wero early astir had the good fortune to see the flashes of the guns of Allied warships bombarding a Turkish fort on the Arabian coast.. The. run to Colombo was uneventful. That port was reached two days after the Australian and New Zealand troopships had sailed for Suez. They had been passed in the night.
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THE HEATHER OH FIRE, Evening Star, Issue 15699, 13 January 1915
THE HEATHER OH FIRE Evening Star, Issue 15699, 13 January 1915
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