Abbey Of Arbroath, The [Radio Scotland]


2020040820200412 (RS)

In the final programme Billy looks at the contemporary relevance of the Declaration and explores its growing influence through the rise of modern Scottish nationalism in the late 20th and early 21st century. We hear a BBC archive clip of a remarkable Oxford Union debate in 1964 when Hugh MacDiarmid shared a platform with Malcolm X! There MacDiarmid quotes the famous passage about the Scots from the Declaration “It is not for glory or riches or honours that we fight, but only for liberty, which no good man will consent to lose but with his life” but then concludes that “my people have done little but betray that ever since!”
One of the reasons for its increasing recognition was the availability of facsimile copies. The Burns Federation e.g. presented an engraving, text and translation of it to every secondary school and teachers training college in 1949, while the Scottish Records Office published a beautiful facsimile of it for the 650th anniversary in 1970. It was now conspicuous and instantly recognisable, and we will hear a passage read by the author, from one of Alexander McCall Smith’s Scotland Street novels where his characters discuss the Declaration hung on the wall of an Edinburgh coffee shop.
We will also hear from generations of Arbroath people about what the Abbey, the Declaration and the town’s historic pageant celebrating the Declaration means to them and their community. All agree with Dr Nicki Scott from Historic Environment Scotland and Billy that the Abbey is imbued with an atmosphere that echoes the importance of what was created here 700 years ago.

Billy Kay celebrates the Declaration of Arbroath and examines its legacy today.