Interview with Paddy Cullivan

Paddy Cullivan interview 2021

This interview deals mainly with the recently-released two-part documentary on Michael Collins, but touches on present day politics in both Ireland and Scotland.

“Paddy has performed his sold-out historical entertainments all over Ireland and beyond. His latest projects are online documentaries on Wolfe Tone and Michael Collins.

“Paddy is a multi-platform entertainer, MC, Speaker and versatile comic raconteur. Online or onstage his bespoke services are uniquely tailored to the client.”


Arrivals and Departures

Copenhagen Airport

It’s early January and the airport ‘Departures’ sign above my head is still framed by Christmas lights. It looks almost festive – almost, but not quite. Once again, I’m preparing to see my son off to catch his plane. The other part of the Auld Alliance is his current destination.

Ever since he completed his business degree in Copenhagen, the years have just telescoped together into a blur of arrivals and departures: Berlin, Calgary, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo. So much travelling for one so young.

These days each departure results in a longer absence and greater distance. I suppose as parents we all feel this sense of sadness on seeing our young leave the nest. But the world is his, and fortunately, he loves returning to our secure base in this land of his birth.

The earliest significant departure stored on the film reel of my mind is a scene at the old Glasgow Airport in 1961. On a dreich Lowland evening an aircraft disappeared into low cloud. ‘Wave now,’ my mother said. It was farewell to one of my older teenage sisters. Off to a new life in the States. My unasked question was: Why did she leave?

I’ve seen her only infrequently since.

Next time the idea of ‘departing Scotland’ registered was a couple of years later, at primary school. One day, our teacher – the notoriously volatile native of Skye – ‘Miss Graham’, revealed a different side to her austere personality. Out of the blue, she veered off from her usual teaching and wanted us to sing some of the Scottish songs she’d taught us.

Young ‘Heather’, one of the lassies in our huge class, was leaving our school, and not just school, but leaving Scotland. She and her family were emigrating.

Scottish outbound emigration was a common theme in the 1960s. It was mainly to Australia or Canada. An exile that usually became permanent due to the sheer distance.

On Heather’s last day we sang ‘For These Are My Mountains’ and, if memory serves me right, the ‘Skye Boat Song’. She left with tears in her eyes to plaintive tunes of exile. Her family were Canada bound. Heather was not the first and wouldn’t be the last to depart.

As the Sixties rolled on, you’d hear about a son or daughter of so and so who were now doing well in the ‘former colonies’. The way people talked the sense was that those who’d left had made a lucky escape.

The parents of two best friends, who lived off Dunchatten Street, took up the offer of those cheap maritime voyages to Australia. They’d had enough tenement deriliction and ootside lavvies, so they became, what Aussies called, ‘£10 Pommies’. Both entire familes up and gone, lock stock and barrel.

On a September day in 1974, it was my turn. I carried a borrowed suitcase into Central Station. There wasn’t much in it by way of belongings. I’d been more or less homeless for a few years since my parents went their separate ways. Just one of many unhappy East End marriages. My fate was to be shunted off to Easterhouse to sleep on my sister’s sofa.

With hindsight, it’s easy to see how poverty and social deprivation lead to distress, despair, family break ups, and worse. Poverty is a poison that seeps into every part of life. For some of we Scots, it was injected into our veins at birth. And worst of all, we appeared powerless to stop it or find an antidote.

Dunchatten Street towards Cardross Street

Our nation voted ‘socialist’ time and again, only to be betrayed by London-centric Unionists in red rosettes. If not that, our representatives were overruled by far more numerous English MPs.

With no minority veto for Scotland or Wales, Westminster was, and is, the de facto English imperial parliament. Its last colonies are the Celtic nations. Passive resistance and whinging in the chamber is futile, as the Irish Parliamentary Party found to its cost in December 1918.

Today there is only one Scottish red rosette at Westminster – Ian ‘Union Jack’ Murray, the sorry rump of Labour’s betrayal of their fellow Scots. He and a few Scottish Tories are all that’s left to support the British occupation of Scotland. Colonial flunkies enriching themselves at the expense of their own countrymen and women. British state collaborators, complicit in the ongoing plunder of Scotland’s fantastic wealth and resources. (If you’re in any doubt about that plunder listen to the discussion between Phil Boswell, Roddy and Iain on the Sunday Scottish Prism of 6 February 2022.)

If you stood beneath the huge clock at Central Station in 1974, you could look up to the right and see arrival and departure boards change. In those days this was still done by hand. Leaving the country and city of your birth is always tinged with sadness. And it was for me. But the stark reality was that Glasgow had very little to offer its youth. In fact, on my last day at secondary school in Dennistoun, a few years earlier, our final class was instruction on how to sign on for unemployment benefit! What a start in life. But how much worse must it have been for our forebears who were forced into exile? Driven from their own land, and from their ain fowk, by forces loyal to our bullying southern neighbour?

It was only with the help and charity of friends that I went off to study. But I’d always imagined returning to my native land. A few years earlier I’d run off to London. A misadventure. However, this departure was to prove final.

Fast forward to late 1979. A Norwegian student acquaintance had a car he wanted dropped off in Denmark. So, having a licence but no car, I jumped at the offer.

After an overnight crossing the ship arrived in the west of Jutland. So there I was driving off the Harwich-Esbjerg ferry on a sunny September day. Another arrival after yet another departure. My destination, though, was just north of Copenhagen on the east coast. A friend had helped arrange a job there.

A series of bridges and domestic ferries lay ahead. The geography of East Anglia near Harwich and that of Denmark is almost identical. The same gentle hills, similar crops in the fields. It’s an easy transition. No real sense of culture shock. Departure and arrival merge into one.

My plan was to stay and work for six months and perhaps continue my education with a Masters. I’d already spent a couple of summers working in Jutland. Those long 14-hour days meant I finished my degree with zero student debt.

In the event, I did save up to continue my education, but life happened. Several decades later, I’m still a resident of Denmark. A parallel Scotland, but with independence.

I’d never dreamed of Canada or Australia. Europe and Scandinavia always fascinated. In our school atlas, Norway, Denmark and Sweden looked like Scotland, just bigger and even more sparsely populated. Of course, ECC membership meant easy cross-border travel and work. And what a world it opened up for young people of my generation. I’ve lived, worked and travelled in all of the Scandinavian countries.

The cruelty of Brexit on young people is inestimable. For all of Iain Blackford’s promises and Nicola’s absurd ‘Stop Brexit’ bus, it happened. Neither Blackford nor Sturgeon could fight their way out of a wet paper bag. We put our entire trust in them and they abused that trust. ‘Oh, but circumstances! She has a secret plan’ the ‘Team Nicola’ faithful protest. No, sorry, the best opportunity in 300 years to exit the British Union is slipping through careless SNP fingers. It’s been wilful and woeful. Their last throw of the dice is #indyref2023 a promise that has several caveats attached.

Since 2015, 56, then 35, and another 48 pro-indy MPs were elected for one purpose only, to end the Union and restore Scotland’s freedom. Yet with each passing day those still representing the SNP become more deeply embedded within the British establishment. Many of the people we supported and put our trust in now mock and openly sneer at Yes supporters. Not only that, they’ve turned on some of the leading pro-indy voices still extant within the SNP.

Back in the world of free nations, each Scandinavian country has showed me first-hand what Scotland should be, but isn’t. I’m pretty much convinced that if the newly ‘devolved’ Scottish Parliament had created a programme of student exchanges and class trips targeted on Scandinavia,  there would be far more people fighting for Scotland to embrace its own Nordic potential – of prosperity through independence.

On my travels back to Scotland over the years, there’s one thing I’ve found deeply sad above all others –the resigned pessimism of close family. ‘Just you stay there,’ they’d say referring to Denmark, ‘there’s nothing for you here.’ Once again, the sense was conveyed to me that leaving Scotland had somehow been a lucky escape. The state of defeated, colonised Scottish minds would make you weep.

Over the years it’s been hard not to notice that as Denmark renewed itself and modernised, many of the places I was familiar with in Glasgow still looked like urban scenes from early Taggart episodes.

As long as our nation is forced to live on half of its revenues while London spends the rest, the country is destined to see more of its sons and daughters emigrate.

The Danes have a saying, ‘ude er godt men hjemme er bedst’ – what they mean is, ‘there’s no place like home’. The phrase is also used about foreign travel. Generally, Danes love to go abroad but they have a deep love of their own country and are proud of what it represents. A small, prosperous nation, that politically and socially, focuses on the common weal. The comforting oasis of social care and warmth they grew up with. Of course, social issues exist but time and resources are spent on fixing them.

Ironically, Copenhagen is the latest carrot dangle by the SNP. A new EU hub is to open in the Danish capital. We’re told it will open “ahead of the council elections in May” – the pre-election timing is entirely coincidental, obviously.

Of course, this is not a pro-indy Scottish ‘hub’. Just like the much vaunted hub in Berlin, it’s a room at the huge British Embassy complex. Yes, the place where you see the Union flag fluttering in the breeze. Well hooray for that and remember to vote #BritishSNP in May.

Office space in Copenhagen is not that expensive. If the Scottish Government was serious about this it would find its own accommodation or demand eight percent of the current embassy complex and grounds. However, pigs do not fly, even in the land of tasty bacon.

Worst of all, the latest ‘hub wheeze’ comes hot on the heels of the three stooges in Kiev – Doogan, McDonald and Smith. Perhaps it was a new front on their war on cybernats? On the other hand, who better to bolster the international legitimacy of the 2014 regime change leadership in Ukraine? A regime with disturbing links to the nation’s pro-Nazi past. Still, Stewart McDonald has  undoubtedly read some Ian Fleming novels and has international experience, as a holiday rep. He’s also stated his penchant for men in smart uniforms. Scottish foreign policy in capable hands then.

On the way out of Copenhagen Airport we passed through the arrival hall. Families, friends and lovers stood waiting for their near and dear. Some of those gathered were holding small Danish flags to wave as they welcomed those returning home from afar. This type of flag waving is a common sight. It’s got nothing to do with jingoism. People do it almost without thinking. The nation’s flag ‘Dannebrog’ is many things, but perhaps its most important function is its use in celebration.

One day, in an independent future, we Scots may welcome our returning kith and kin in similar fashion. And as we build a better more prosperous nation after centuries of colonial occupation, perhaps we can cast off our cringe and create a Scotland in which our young people can build a prosperous future – and a nation our exiled sons and daughters long to return to.

Miss Graham would be proud to know that I can still recite the words she insisted we commit to memory, almost 60 years ago. Aye, the sound of those childhood voices, singing their farewell to Heather in unison, drift back over the years.

“For these are my mountains,
And this is my glen,
The braes of my childhood,
Will know me again.
No land’s ever claimed me,
Though far I did roam,
For these are my mountains,
And I’m going home.”

IndyScotNews Midweek 13 January 2022

With Gordon Millar, Karen Kelly and Cllr Michelle Ferns – Westminster withdrawal? DejaVuDevo? Abusing with impuity? FM on Scotnight; Nicola’s legacy?

IndyScotNews Midweek 6 Jan 2022

For the first review of the week in 2022 we have Denise Findlay co-host of #TheCauldron, Julia Pannell Communications Officer with and Roddy MacLeod host of ‘Through a Scottish Prism’ and author of the #BarrheadBoy blog.

IndyScotNews Midweek Part 1 (15 Dec 2021)

A review of current news stories relating to Scotland and Scottish independence hosted by Peter Young with guests Peter Barclay @barclaypeter7 Michelle Ferns @michelleferns11 and Roddy MacLeod @Scotpol1314

The Tide of History

My wife and I were watching the north German drama ‘Der Usedom-Krimi’ recently. We suddenly recognised one of the seaside towns used as the location in the episode. We’d visited this town only a few weeks after the re-unification of East and West Germany on 3 October 1990.

Those momentous events of three decades ago were inspiring. They were events I had never expected to see in my lifetime. And when they occurred, they moved forward at a rapid, almost breathless pace. That experience has left me with the conviction that old established regimes can be swept away, no matter how bleak or hopeless things may look. This is something those of us who support Scotland’s historic cause must never forget.

Currently, many of us may feel that independence is further away than ever, but sometimes a series of seemingly unconnected events can cause a chain reaction – a reaction that is unstoppable.

I had travelled to the then East Germany only once before. That was back in the early 1980s as a curious tourist. In those days it was a boat train to Warnemünde, a northern district of smokey Rostock on the coast, then several hours cross-country by train to Berlin, and the infamous border.

October 1990: Crossing the Warnow estuary on board the Warnemünde – Hohe Düne ferry which saves a long drive through central Rostock

In October 1990, however, I was with my girlfriend and partner in curiosity. We had a real sense of anticipation. After all, we were about to enter a once forbidden land. Oddly enough, as the car ferry entered Rostock harbour I had a sudden deja vu with childhood Glasgow. It was caused by the air, heavy with a very distinctive but long forgotten smell of coal.

This was the second time East Germany reminded me of my native city. Back on my 1980s tour I’d taken a day trip to East Berlin. The short journey across the border was fascinating for a number of reasons. The ‘mirrors on wheels’ for sliding under the trains going in the opposite direction summed up the madness of it all.

Original 1982 DDR stamps in my old passport

The excursion from West to East was like passing between Kodachrome to Ilford HP5, a voyage from colour images to black and white. In many ways, it was similar to those trips from glitzy London home to Glasgow’s dereliction years before.

Wandering around East Berlin, in the pre-camera phone era with a Nikkormat SLR slung over my shoulder I must have stood out like a sore thumb. Nevertheless, it occurred to me that we Glaswegians probably had more in common with our ‘enemies’ across the wall, and in run down capitals of the Warsaw Pact, than our allies in the sophisticated, up-market Western part of the city.

Decades later, in the October Baltic chill of 1990, we headed east. We followed the signposts to Stralsund. The gentle coastal geography was familiar to me, but almost everything else was stuck in a time warp. Houses, roads, shops, were all something out of a 1950s movie.

We stopped at one of the coastal watchtowers. It was abandoned. Tools of state oppression gone, windows smashed. We looked out from the top over the sea. Not long ago this was occupied day and night by Kalashnikov-wielding guards. The only escape from state control here was violent death. And yet, within a few short months the old order was gone. Swept away by the tide of history.

If there is one thing we Scots can learn from this, it is that cataclysmic change can happen suddenly. So, there is no need to despair. The current British state is on its last legs. Our most important task is to keep the pressure up. The dam will burst.

Deserted GDR coastal watchtower a few weeks after the GDR ceased to exist

An unforeseen circumstance has arisen, though. An unexpected, temporary hindrance is blocking our path – it’s the very vehicle we thought would transport us to freedom. The driver and crew have parked the bus. The engine is seized and the battery flat. There are no visible attempts being made to restart the vehicle. Vandals are making a right old mess of the bus that gleamed so brightly in 2014.

It’s slowly dawning on people in the Yes movement that many of those we trusted with our loyalty, allegiance, and votes, may be acting in bad faith. In fact, some of their deeds are so destructive and disruptive that they appear to be assisting the very state that opposes our cause.

It’s becoming easier by the day to identify those who are wilfully frustrating our nation’s march to independence. The dots are there to be joined, if you dare. But beware, some of those dots, when joined, create an image of the unthinkable. You may not like what you see. Denial may be the easier option for you, as it is for so many others.

In Der Usedom-Krimi (it’s on Channel 4, by the way) the coastal towns we saw in 1990 are completely transformed. Re-unification has not been easy. But despite a sense of ‘Ostalgie’ among some former East German citizens (the longing for certain aspects of the old GDR) it’s hard to imagine anyone wishing for a return of the Stasi state.

Heading towards Stralsund in the former GDR a few weeks after the official re-unification of Germany

Like German re-unification, Scottish independence will be a challenge. That’s mainly because we have a hostile neighbour. A neighbour that has grown used to plundering our resources, keeping the lion’s share of our national revenues, and dumping its weapons of mass destruction next to our most populous city.

That said, who would not welcome this challenge? EFTA membership would not be a problem for a nation like Scotland. With ports re-opened we can trade direct with Europe. In a relatively short space of time – within months, not years – Scotland’s national and international fortunes can change. Our youth will have a European future again, our national wealth retained in its entirety can be used for the benefit of our people – to end child poverty, raise pensions for the elderly, renew our infrastructure and invest in our huge natural resources. What is needed now are elected representatives who will act on the mandate of the people. After all, a simple majority of MPs is enough to revoke the Treaty of Union.

The next general election should be Scotland’s last as part of the British state. We need to prepare ourselves to back candidates who will support a plebiscite election. They can be from all parties and none, but the only candidate we should give our vote to is one who supports the manifesto for independence put forward by the Scottish Sovereignty Research Group. Any candidate unwilling to recognise the election as a plebiscite on independence should be abandoned. And any party leader denouncing an alternative, internationally recognised legal route to independence as a ‘wheeze’ or ‘wildcat’, well, let them be swept aside by the tide of history.

Independence has been in the hands of one party since 2015. But that party has failed to use its three majorities of Scottish MPs to exit the oppressive Union. It could still act. The SNP leader promised a national constitutional convention during her Great Wet-Blanket speech of 31/1/2020. She has never called this convention of Scotland’s elected representatives. Another promise broken.

The SNP with 56 of 59 Scottish MPs in 2015. A virtual mandate to end the Union. The very least we expected from the ’56 was that they would accept nothing less than complete fulfilment of British promises of more expansive powers and virtual home rule for Scotland. We thought we had sent lions to Westminster, but instead we mostly got servile cap-doffing representatives who quickly settled into the ‘comfy-slipper’ Westminster lifestyle and a pay grade far beyond their wildest dreams

This is the type of convention Roddy MacLeod wrote about in his 20 December blog on Barrhead Boy. The First Minister could call together Scotland’s elected representatives tomorrow and allow a simple majority to revoke the Treaty which our forebears enacted in 1707. This convention could be held virtually, but preferably in person. A football stadium would do nicely. Lots of space for social distancing. Hampden Park, known for its famous roar, fits the bill – only this time it would be the roar of the Scottish Lion Rampant.

Now is the time to prepare. Individual SNP MPs must decide whether or not to join candidates from the Alba Party and the Independence for Scotland Party in a coalition for freedom by committing to a plebiscite election. If they decide against, they should be abandoned at the ballot box. No more comfy slippers, no more luxury wages for troughers. We must never again send MPs to Westminster unless it’s to settle up, immediately – not settle down indefinitely.

Germany’s Baltic coast really is worth a visit. My then girlfriend and I have returned many times; later on with our children. Today there are memorials to those who died trying to escape an oppressive state. Many of those fleeing were lost at sea, often with their entire families. It’s worth stopping for a moment to consider the tragic fate of those souls whose search for freedom cost them their lives.

We can count ourselves lucky that all we need to do is to vote for freedom at the next GE. It’s time for us to leave the oppressive state behind. It’s time to vote for a freedom candidate.

‘Union no more in 2024!’