View Full Version : Cultural Identity in the UK and Ireland

Gregory Tenenbaum
February 8th, 2007, 04:21 PM
Across the great divide

What is it really like for an Englishman living in Glasgow or a Scot working in London? Kirsty Scott and Patrick Barkham talk to the migrants in search of a better life.

Thursday February 8, 2007
The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/)

'Many English here see themselves as new Scots'Twelve years in Glasgow has done little to modify Claire Robertson's accent. The 31-year-old principal dancer for Scottish Ballet still talks with more than a hint of Hertfordshire, the county in which she was raised. But since 1995, home for the ballerina has been Scotland's largest city. "One day I will probably move nearer my family but I know I will miss Glasgow," she says. "It's such a wonderful city. If my family lived closer, I would stay here. I have become really settled."

It was work that brought Robertson north of the border. She was studying at the London Studio Centre when she was spotted by Scottish Ballet talent scouts and offered a place with the company at the age of 18. "It was a big change because I came from a small country town to living in a city. Although I do remember thinking how small the Glasgow underground was. The Smartie tube, we used to call it. You can't get lost on it. You just stay on and it'll bring you right back to where you started."Robertson is typical of the English who have settled in Scotland. They make up Scotland's largest migrant group - 408,000 at the last census count. A study found that the bulk of them are not retirees seeking free personal care, or families escaping to remote islands, but people coming largely to work, who settle in the central belt and whose social composition matches that of the Scots. About one in eight of the MSPs in the first Scottish parliament were born in England.
The author of the survey, Dr Murray Watson of Dundee University, says one of the most notable things to emerge from his research was the way that most English settlers worked hard to integrate themselves into Scottish society and how many came to prefer living north of the border. "It would be wrong to generalise," he says, "but I would say that they did merge into the community and many of them began to see themselves as new Scots or as British and Scots."
That is certainly true of Peter MacKenzie. Born in Spalding, Lincolnshire, to a Scottish father and an English mother, MacKenzie, a contemporary of David Blunkett's at Sheffield University, moved to Scotland in 1974 to study teaching and never left. Ten years ago he joined the Scottish National party. "My father was of that generation who despised their roots, who thought that the most marvellous thing was to live in the English suburbs," says MacKenzie, 56. "It wasn't until I was about seven or eight that my dad told me my grandfather had spoken a different language."
Intrigued, MacKenzie got hold of a Gaelic Bible and started to teach himself. Last year, he passed his native speakers Gaelic higher. He had always felt a kinship with the Scots and the notion of independence.
"When I got here at the age of 22 I kept thinking, I'm just going to be quiet about these feelings; look and watch and listen and learn. At the age of 46, I shook myself down and said I will never understand this and I joined the SNP. It is the normal state of historic nations to rule themselves."
Kieran Tempest would not go so far as to consider himself a new Scot, but since the 37-year-old business travel executive and his family moved from London to a small Stirlingshire village just under two years ago, they have felt settled and included. "There is a feeling of belonging within Scotland," says Tempest. "Being in the community. I do feel part of it. But I do consider myself English."
It was when his son, Brodie, was born that Tempest and his Scots-born wife, Sarah Jane, considered moving north. "I spoke to my work and they said as long as you are near an airport we have no issue with it whatsoever." The Tempests ended up in Thornhill and have never regretted the move. "The people here make a big difference. When we were living in London, we knew maybe three sets of neighbours. In Thornhill, everyone says hello to you. They would do anything for you. We find that whole community support great."
Tempest also finds commuting to and from London and mainland Europe easier than he imagined. "If I get the 6.30am flight from Edinburgh, I can be at the office before everyone else."
It was quality of life that also brought Julia Thomson and her family north. Thomson, 40, and her husband had been working in high-powered financial jobs in London. "We just didn't have time to smell the flowers; we were just on this merry-go-round. Kids born, back to work. I felt all I was doing was writing out cheques; cheques for the nanny, cheques for this class, that class." When her husband fell ill, the couple took stock. "It was time to go, 'Whoa!' It just made us assess everything."
They came to Scotland because Thomson had spotted an old barn in Aberdeenshire and fell in love with it. The family moved north in 2001. More recently they relocated to Perthshire to get a better choice of schools for their two daughters, aged 10 and 11. "We like the slower pace up here," says Thomson. "Even in Edinburgh people are much more friendly. It's not so aggressive. There's less crime. Clean air, better atmosphere." Downsides include the lack of infrastructure, in particular fast, frequent trains from Perth to Edinburgh, and the dearth of dentists. Thomson is also concerned about job opportunities for younger people. "You see these kids doing really well at school and university and then they can't get a well-paid professional job here. So they have to go to London or the south."
But Thomson insists she would not move back south. "We're very happy. If we did move again, we would probably move abroad."
James McKean is also considering staying in Scotland. The 23-year-old from Oldham is in his third year of a business management course at Stirling University. "If it was a choice now to live in Scotland or Manchester, I would choose here," he says. He has not come up against any overt anti-English bias, a sentiment echoed by the others the Guardian spoke to: "The worst I have had is people taking the mick when thefootball's on."
Watson's study found that nine out of 10 English migrants had experienced nothing more than teasing or banter. Peter MacKenzie and Claire Robertson can both think of the odd comment, but nothing of any significance. "I think it's more of a football thing," says Robertson.
Watson, meanwhile, has been wondering if the recent debate on what it means to be English might have changed the views of English people living in Scotland. But where they might have different thoughts on the notion of Englishness, Watson doubts that their feelings will have changed about living north of the border. "My guess is that they will still feel at home in Scotland," he says.
Kirsty Scott
'The English warm to us because we're friendly'
When Andrew Orr moved south to study in London, he probably did not imagine he would be in the first wave of a mini exodus of Orrs from Scotland. His older sister was already working in the capital, but during the next decade his journey into England was repeated by his three brothers and, finally, his mother and father.
"When I was growing up in Scotland, I saw London as this great big city. It felt like a dangerous, scary, alien place," he says. Another reason not to move there was that it was full of English folk. "In the 70s and 80s, you were identified by not liking English people. It was ingrained in me - English people were arrogant." Now 36 and a scientist working for a meteorological company in Reading, Orr thinks that English-hating as part of the boyhood Scottish psyche could have been magnified by Margaret Thatcher. (More than one expat Scot in their 30s mentions Thatcher.)
After university in Edinburgh, however, Orr felt confined by a city where he kept bumping into familiar faces and sought a fresh start, and a PhD, in London. "It's this myth of Dick Whittington - that the streets are paved with gold," he says.
Anna Murphy, 42, a theatre producer, had similar visions of England, growing up in the east end of Glasgow, where almost no one owned their own home. At 18, she went to Reading University, thinking it was in London. "I had an image of people in England all with their own houses and gardens. It was a class thing - I thought it would all be a lot posher but I was very impressed to start with."
The 2001 census recorded 819,000 people born in Scotland living in England and Wales. Thousands flock to career opportunities in London, but more actually set up home in the border counties of Cumbria and Northumberland. Alnwick, Carlisle, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Blackpool, Richmondshire and Corby are hotspots, with more than 4% of the population Scots-born, according to census data.
When Orr moved south he says that he found the English nothing like his childhood prejudice. "They didn't walk around thinking 'Bloody Scots'," he says. "In fact, once they find out that you're Scottish, people are so friendly to you."
It is a point picked up by John Macnab, 67, founder of the London Kilt Maker company, which provided all the kilts donned in the Oscar-nominated film the Queen. "In London, people warm to those who are Scottish because they consider us a bit more friendly. It's nice to have that given to one on a plate," he says. "Then, of course, you are more likely to be friendly. In a way, political correctness is a shame because we all had such fun having a dig at each other. I still enjoy some of the jokes about how mean Scots are."
Every expat Scot is either an accountant or a teacher, reckons Forbes Hodge, who relocated from Glasgow to Yorkshire with his chartered accountancy firm when he was 28 in 1974, bringing his wife and one-year-old child with him.
Andy Breckenridge, 41, is an English teacher who lives in Brighton with his English partner and two young children. He moved south because there were no teaching jobs in Glasgow and his partner wanted to be closer to her family. Sounding Scottish, he says, has not done him any harm, although he says that even after 12 years in England people ask him to repeat things because they don't understand. What does he miss about Scotland? "Opening your mouth and not being unusual," he says. "Blending in is something I miss."
Despite a bit of accent angst, most Scots seem very comfortably integrated in England without fearing their identity is under threat. Despite growing up in England, Hodge's son is still a patriotic Scot. "When he got married he wore a kilt," says Hodge. "I play the pipes in a band and taught him to play." Breckenridge and Orr, who both have young children with English partners, also do not seem unduly worried that they might lose their Scottish roots, although Orr confesses to alarm when his daughter, Alabama, seven, announced that she was supporting England during last summer's World Cup. All say that they have a mix of Scottish and English friends, and usually more of the latter. Murphy's best friend is Scottish but her partner is English, and almost all their friends are English too. "There's not a Scottish network," says Breckenridge.
Hodge believes that the lack of English nationalism helps English-Scottish integration. "The English lack of nationalistic feeling that us Scots all have makes it easier for the English to welcome us," he says.
Asked about differences, Scots in England tend to point out that the English lack their national pride. Breckenridge's teaching colleagues, who are English, "seem in their minds to have a clear idea of what Scottishness means. But they have a crisis about Englishness, because it's not the image of the village green and nor is it the BNP stuff. If I was English I think there is a lot I could find to be happy about like the Smiths, Mark E Smith, Billy Bragg and George Orwell - the radical tradition."
Expat Scots in England seem close enough to home not to be misty-eyed about where they come from. "There are many things I miss about Scotland but the weather isn't one of them," says Hodge. "We miss friends and family, hills and mountains and the seaside. Although we live in the country in Rutland, space is something we would enjoy more of in Scotland." Breckenridge says he could imagine moving back north later, "when the kids have grown up", although "that might be a typical expat thing of hankering to go back and never going back". While Hodge says that he knows of older Scots who return to their homeland when they retire, he says he does not plan to.
Expat Scots have mixed feelings about independence. "I think it would help Scotland a lot," says Orr. But he fears that division would foster anti-Scottish prejudice among the English, which he detects in media coverage of Gordon Brown as Tony Blair's successor. "Suddenly you saw all these stereotypes of Scottish people being very dour. It was quite unpleasant," he says.
Hodge was always against independence but is not so sure now after seeing Ireland thrive within the EU. "That suggests maybe for the first time in my lifetime that there's a serious opportunity to go it alone."
For Breckenridge, the Act of Union was "a few fairly opportunistic Scottish lords" who flogged off their country. He is not sure, however, that Scottish independence will come about until the English locate the very thing that Scots seem baffled they lack - a sense of their national identity. If a home-rule movement mobilised in England, says Breckenridge, perhaps independence would be sparked by a Ukip/Daily Mail-led faction "and Scotland would get chucked out of the union by disgruntled Radio 5 Live listeners."
Patrick Barkham


But they all look the same to me. :cool:

February 8th, 2007, 07:44 PM
yeah but you know **** all.

Gregory Tenenbaum
February 9th, 2007, 04:20 AM
yeah but you know **** all.

Enlighten us then.

February 21st, 2007, 10:59 AM
hey, i used to live in se10, which part are you in? Just moved north of the river to ilford.