When I was researching for my Declaration of Arbroath post my investigations highlighted how Scottish national identity is associated with this letter. That then led me to start thinking about my own identity. In this post I hope to resolve some questions I’ve never really been able to answer, including why despite feeling Scottish, am I unable to say where I come from.
I explore the range of factors that work together to create our identity on Wise & Shine, but in this post, I’m going to stay focused on the factors that can contribute to shape my sense of Scottishness.
If I were to ask you where you come from (your home town/town of birth) would you be able to answer? This is something I have always struggled to do and tend to consider myself as a Scottish nomad.
I am 100% sure that I identify as Scottish. That is an emotional reaction, although technically as I was born here, that counts too. However, with an English father and spending some of my childhood years in England, I could say I’m English too. I’ve never ever felt English though.
On paper, I’m British, but I’d never self-identify as British. Any time I’m asked for my nationality, I’m Scottish. As I said above, my dad was English, and my mum was Scottish (although technically half Northern Irish, half Scottish). My maternal grandmother was born in Ireland to Irish parents. Despite only technically being 1/4 Scottish – I’m still Scottish, no doubt in my mind. See what I mean about it being an emotional identification?
Where do I come from?
Normally when asked this question I don’t know what to say, or I just say I don’t really consider that I come from anywhere – or I just come from Scotland, but not anywhere in particular. As I reflect on this, I think there are 2 reasons for this:
No room at the hospital
Christmas 1964/New Year 1965 must have been a very special time for many people because come September 1965 and there were no available beds at the hospital in Glasgow when my mum went into labour. She wasn’t sent to another hospital/maternity unit in Glasgow but to a town along the Clyde some 12.6 miles away. Although I was born in Paisley, I’ve never lived in the town, so have no affinity with it. Its just a name on my Birth Certificate.
I wondered if this lack of identification is normal for people who would not be born in the town where they lived – perhaps a smaller town or village where pregnant women would go to the Maternity Hospital in a bigger town or city to give birth.
Although my first home was Glasgow (and its where I live now) I don’t actually feel I come from Glasgow either – my mum did, but not me. That, I think is because we moved from Glasgow to England when I was only about 2 months old, so I don’t remember that first home.
From the above, its clear that I don’t attach importance to either where I was born or my first home.
The Navy life
My dad was in the Royal Navy so we moved about a lot. In my 7 years of primary school I attended 5 different schools. My dad came out of the navy when I was about 10. During his navy career, we travelled within the UK extensively and from my calculations my dad seems to have had about 7 or 8 different postings. I suspect since we moved about so much, living in naval bases most of the time, I didn’t form connections to these Navy cities either. Talking with my mum years later, she admitted that once we settled into Irvine, after the navy, that she got itchy feet after a couple of years and was ready to move on. While I’ve been living in the same flat for over 30 years (all of my married life) I don’t feel the urge to move – its nice to have some established roots here, but at the same time, I can see why this nomadic existence has meant I don’t identify with anywhere. Plus at least 3 of those postings were in England and most of my childhood memories are from the final posting in Plymouth, but I wouldn’t say I’m from Plymouth nor that I’m English.
National identity is much more complicated than I would have expected, but it does show how much your experiences in life can impact on who we are and who we become.
Where does my Scottishness come from?
I’ve established that I’m a nomad with no sense of belonging – but despite that sounding like a bad thing, I don’t think it is. It allows me to adapt to change more easily. This also makes it clear that my place of birth doesn’t really connect with my Scottish nationality.
I think the biggest influence on this was my education in Scotland when I went to high school. We were taught Scottish history, about William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. We were also taken on a class trip to the land of Wallace and Bruce. I also went to school in Ayrshire, which is the birthplace of Robert Burns. The names of the places visited still stick with me, even today, so obviously my history lessons left a lasting impression.
Prior to going to University as a mature student, I completed an access course which also covered Scottish History looking at other important periods in Scottish history which have shaped who we are today, and helped form my own identity as a Scot.
Our identity is shaped by a range of different factors, both internal and external (and you can read more about this on my Wise & Shine post) but what I have realised is just how much these influences take place even without our realising it. For me, it has been a useful exercise to reflect on what has made me the proud Scot I am today – and where my love of history has come from.
This has been quite an interesting journey of discovery for me, answering some questions I’ve been asking for a long time. What about you? Do you have questions about your own identity?
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