The names of our places, filched,
they sealed our lips in secrecy,
insisted on sworn oaths
and, by our obedience, bound us
to their scheme of things.
…on both sides, clans, brother against brother,
some say, for honour to survive, otherwise
in factions under orders from their betters
five hundred miles away; the same sly lords
wrestled for bloodless advantage, spilling blood,
but not their own.
The cloth we wore, stripped away,
an offence, they said, against the king,
our distant cousin, a prisoner himself
of finery and high position; God, they told us,
was with him, not us; bow down, kneel, they said,
go home to harvest your sparse and fruitless crops.
…home of black betrayal; for want of fealty
to the lords, for that token obesiance,
deceit and death fell on the innocents
and those too proud to bow down.
Our tongues and the words upon them, cut out
so we would be dumb and could no more say
what was in our hearts nor read the names
our footsteps wrote in the despair of our retreating.
…armies in a field of blood, a nation risen again,
its subjugation, the vexatious substance of battle,
and the line stood, for once unbroken,
despite the intent to hammer dissent
into the strewn earth like a rusty pin.
Our resistance was twisted into wild intransigence,
an they defeated us with history till we were laid low
by feud and squabble like mean and vicious fools,
like savages; for all that we placed a different honour on it.
with land beneath to stand on or lay ourselves in, living or dead.
And now the label steals the word.
our names are secret still,
not to be seen or said without consent
and, though the red stain is no longer blood
but a scrawl of pen across a legal page,
consent is not sought - not from the land itself,
nor the people on it, but only from those
whose ownership still compels our silence.
© BH, 2017
Then there was the NTS branding controversy in which they pursued a clothing manufacturer who had been making Glencoe outdoor wear for years. But NTS own the Glencoe name …and Culloden …and Bannockburn. To name only a few.
I thought, this is still colonialism, a colonial attitude, never mind it’s in the marketing context. It’s still about putting fences round our world and daring us no longer to cross. Because theirs is the power and the glory - not ours.
You’ll note this text has changed over time. It’s something that happens with poems. They are rewritten. Rather like our history.