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Saturday, 11th October 2008
Scotch missed

S cotland after a bit of a struggle have finally broken free of England.

Unlike an early map of England and Scotland which had them as separate islands in the 1500's the two countries have remained joined. I suppose having your own Parliament is something to shout about but yet another gas station does not seem like progress to me.

Still I cannot pretend to understand the political system in this country let alone a 'foreign' one. Given Scotland are claiming their identity it might be a good idea to give Scotland a few of their more famous citizens back.

How many times has a Scot become British when in the process of achieving something and become a Scot when in the process of underachieving. Well this is not just something prattling sports commentators do. You can understand some of their problems as half the sportsman in the world seem to win medals for countries they would struggle to be able to name the Capital of. Still that is another matter.

Mitchell can always be relied upon to produce sets with a Scottish theme but Famous Scots, Ardath, 1935 a series of 25 cards is the one under the spotlight here. Straight off there is something important to note. The set would have been better entitled 'Famous living Scots', don't expect to see William Wallace in this set, and if you did don't expect him to speak with an Australian accent.

It is a visually lovely set, something Ardath managed regularly and deserve more credit on this site for that if nothing else.

The BBC is a shoddy broadcasting institution

So lets get stuck in.. It kicks off in fine style with HRH The Duchess of York. Not the red-headed children's novelist and naff chat show host but Britain's favourite grand mother herself. Yes the Queen Mother, pre-multiple hip operations and a few years off looking the East End in the face. In fact a few years off even considering doing anything remotely useful being second fiddle in the race to the throne. The life of leisure ended abruptly when her husbands older brother decided an American divorcee was more important than being King of the country he literally owed everything too.

So I think we should ship the British royal family back to the countries we borrowed them from. So bad luck Scotland, Germany, Greece et al. Perhaps we could break them up on the basis they enjoy an unfair monopoly and then we can sell them off to the highest bidder. The US can keep the present Duchess of York and I would not care how much you offered us to take her off your hands, she stays.

Logie Baird

Please don't write in to complain about my views on royalty, they're big enough and well paid enough to look after themselves.

Card 2 is the Duke of Atholl. Well he did plenty of charity work it seems but if the back of the card is to be believed his claim to fame is trying to set up a national lottery to fund British hospitals but the project failed. He also has the unique right of being able to maintain a private army.

Card 3, now this is more like it, J.L Baird, he is the fellow that invented television. First demonstrated in 1928 the BBC broadcast 3 years later. Baird experimented night and day to perfect the system and was still perfecting his 'televisor' in 1935. The card says, 'Another of his wonderful inventions is the Noctovisor, for seeing in the dark by invisible rays.'

A few details left out by the card. Too sick to serve in World War One, Baird could not keep up a job as an electrical engineer by 1925 he was supporting himself as a shoe shine and razor blade salesman.
He actually put the television signal down the telephone line so cable television. By 1937 his system was replaced by an electrical apparatus. Also credited with demonstrating colour television, 3D television and also recording programs on wax and steel disks.

Sticking with the broadcast media, Sir John Reith. The first Director-General of the BBC. He was seriously wounded in the Great War. This was the man insisted that education, religion, and culture should have their places with information and entertainment; aspired to make BBC finest and most efficient system in the world; his dictatorial attitude led to controversy with the governors and criticism in parliament. He died in 1971 and if anyone on this planet is now spinning in their graves it is this fellow. The BBC is a shoddy broadcasting institution that seems to keep its best work for creating adverts telling us why it is so good we are legally obliged to pay for the rubbish they churn out day after day. Why am I so angry today?

So the Scots have their mits on our royal family and played a pretty important role in the setting up of the BBC and in both instances they could lay claim to being the best bits of both institutions.

The print media appears in this set a couple of times in the guise of novelists. First up in the set, Sir James Barrie O.M, creator of the boy that never grew up and assigned the rights of 'Peter Pan' to the children's hospital at London. So not only was a Scot trying to set up a lottery funded hospital system for the UK here was James Barrie funding a childrens hospital by writing books. Barrie dies in 1937.

Card 6 has Col. John Buchan, he was the Governor-General designate of Canada at the time and was President of the Scottish Historical Society but probably will be more famous for being the author of The 39 Steps. The card just mentions he is the 'author of many novels and historical works.' I suspect it would have been different if the set had been compiled and issued a few months later as 1935 was the year Hitchcock made the classic film of the novel.

Card 15 is Ian Hay, another author whose works include the 'First Hundred Thousand.' This being one of the first books which dealt with the realities of the Western Front in World War One.

Moving seamlessly to author, poet, playwright we bump into Compton Mackenzie on card 18, 'He is the author of the world-famous play, 'Carnival'. More bizarely the card tells us he is a leading expert on the subject of the gramophone. Well someone had to be.

There are other writers within the set but I've got bored with them because I want to tell you about card 20. Most Rev. Cosmo Lang, why is it all the best names have been taken? The card tells us Cosmo Gordon Lang (please tell me his friends called him Cosmo) was the Archbiship of Canterbury at the time and not only looked a deep thinker but was.

Looking every inch a politican

The Scots have more than their fair share of thinkers too by the looks of it. Prof. Sir Arthur Keith None are greater than Sir James Crichton-Browne. Now you have to be drawn to this fellow because of an enormous pair of Piccadilly Weepers (check out the Players, Dandy set if you are struggling with that reference). 73 years before the card was published this fellow was taking his medical degree at the age of 22. He actually died in 1938, at 98. He was a fellow deeply interested in education and also mental disorders. Although the card does not mention it he was the Lord Chancellors visitor in lunacy 1875-1922. Think of the things that fellow saw in Victorian lunatic asylums.

You would think this would be enough for a set of 25 cards but there are also a number of politicians who also happened to be Scottish including card 9, Rt Hon J Ramsey MacDonald P.C M.P he happened to be the Prime Minister of the day. MacDonald had been the first Labour Prime Minister Britain had.

The description of him being Prime Minister must have been a close run thing when the set came out as he was replaced in 1935 by Stanley Baldwin after he had created a coalition government which had become increasingly dominated by the Conservatives. MacDonald died in 1937.

MacDonald could be at best described as a haphazard Leader. Elected to Parliament in 1904 he hed the part until 1914 when his opposition to World War One lost him the leadership. He recovered the leadership in 1922 and formed a Government with the help of the Liberals in 1924. The Liberals withdrew their support in October of that year and Ramsey was forced to resign. He returns in 1929 as Prime Minister but the minority Government collapses under the weight of economic disaster in 1931. He reappears as the leader of the national government, having resigned from the Labour party, which was formed with the help of the Conservative and Liberal parties. He is ousted in 1935.

There are a number of other politicians in the set but I will not continue on that vein because if you think I have a poor opinion of royalty and the BBC it is as nothing to my feelings about self-serving politicians. They seem to have their noses ceaselessly in the trough whilst talking from their rear quarters.

Politicans are legendary at spending other peoples money but there would not be any money if people did not earn it (and please don't try to tell me politicans earn money, they just skim money of everyone else, just like the Royal family and the BBC) So thankfully the set includes an industrialist and a good one at that. Card 13, Sir Harry D McGowan. Chairman of ICI no less, President of the Institute of Fuel, Director of Banking. Motor and other concerns both sides of the Atlantic. What it does not seem to mention is the chap was heavily involved in the explosives industry from the age of 15 and given that was before during and after World War One, not a bad career move really. Mind you if he and Sir Alfred Mond had not agreed on the merger of British Chemical firms in 1926 ICI would never have been formed. He was made a Baron in 1937.

Let us end this set with a quick look at Sir Harry Lauder, famous Scottish wit. Scotland's most famous says the card. The card names him as Sir Harry LacLennan Lauder (he was knighted in 1919) but his actual name was Hugh MacLennan so almost but no cigar lads. He actually started his stage career as an 'Irish' comedian. By the time the card was out this one time millworker and miner had a following on both sides of the Atlantic as well as Australia, New Zealand, India and more bizarrely China.

The card is in awe of the fellow, audiences reduced to near uncontrollable mirth can be quelled when he starts up on one his famous songs, 'I love a lassie' being one of these and 'The end of the road.'

I found a quote from the fellow: Just a wee deoch-an-duoris Before we gang awa'... If y' can say It's a braw brecht moonlecht necht, Yer a' recht, that's a'.

Really I don't know if I should laugh or cry. Do you think it might be rude?