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In Bed with an Elephant: Personal View of Scotland Paperback – 5 Sep 1996
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Sir Ludovic Kennedy has taken the title from the statement by Pierre Trudeau, former Canadian Prime Minister, who, in a speech in Washington DC in 1969, said, "Living next to you (the USA) is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant: no matter how friendly and even-tempered the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt". The title does not immediately attract readers interested in Scotland's story. A pity, because the book is an insightful exploration of the relationship between Scotland and England from the Ice Age to the present day. Sir Ludovic describes himself as an Anglo-Scot. He is of Scots blood but Eton educated, nevertheless nailing his colours to the mast as a Scottish Nationalist.
The Journey through Scotland's Past and Present proceeds in a series of gigantic leaps linked by snatches of personal recollection. "Bonnie Prince Charlie" is treated with even handed objectivity, first with the romantic version, then an evaluation of his role in Scottish history and the part played by Flora Macdonald. The social effects of the Reformation, Calvinism and The Church of Scotland are examined. A commentary on Dr Samuel Johnson's "A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland" and James Boswell's "The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides lets us "see oursel's as ithers see us". Graphic accounts of the bloody times of King Edward I ("Hammer of the Scots") and the treatment by Queen Elizabeth I of Mary Queen of Scots explain the Scottish lack of respect for England's royal houses.
As his favourite Scots hero, Sir Ludovic picks the philosopher, David Hume, who he describes as The Great Infidel. He credits Hume with causing the scales (placed there by years of religious education) to fall from his eyes, quoting Hume, "It is an absurdity to believe that the Deity has human passions, and one of the lowest of human passions, a restless appetite for applause". Robert Burns is dealt with in a chapter of eight pages entitled The Fornicator, in which the author delights in the irony of The Church of Scotland commissioning a window for St Giles Cathedral in honour of Scotland's national poet who not only had been forced to do public penance for fornication, but who publicly deplored the sanctimonious hypocrisy of the Unco Guid in poems such as Holy Willie.
The story of Scottish patriots who, in 1950 removed The Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey and returned it to Scotland following the dishonouring by England of the promise to do so, is lightly and gleefully told. Detailed consideration is given to the political events leading to and following from the Union of the Crowns in 1603. We follow the trail to the present resurgence of Scottish Nationalism and the moves towards devolution and the re-establishment of a Scottish Parliament. An interlude on the way mercilessly dissects an address delivered (not by invitation) by Margaret Thatcher, then Prime Minister to the General Assembly of The Church of Scotland .
Unusual in its construction, this book is thoroughly researched and is well and interestingly written. It has sixteen pages of superbly printed and highly relevant illustrations. It is unfortunate that they are all placed together in one section in the centre of the book. There is an excellent index.
This book, in the reviewer's opinion, should be required reading for everyone with an interest in Scottish history. For those concerned with devolution, irrespective of their present viewpoint, it should be on their bookshelf.