Will Ye Go Tae Flanders? [Radio Scotland]

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20210402Billy Kay celebrates Scotland’s profound engagement with the Flemish & Dutch people. If your name is Fleming, Douglas or Murray, if you play golf or curling, if your house has red pantiles or crow step gables, if you speak Scots and use words like hunkers or howff and if you studied law or medicine at a Scottish university, then you’ve been touched by Scotland’s links to the Low Countries - a cultural legacy that came with trade, religious and intellectual exchange, and patterns of migration to our nearest neighbours across the North Sea. It is an ongoing exchange testified by the publication of a beautiful book Scotland and the Flemish People supported by the Government of Flanders in Belgium.

The ancient county of Flanders was the economic powerhouse of Europe in the early medieval period and the principal outlet for Scotland’s major export of wool. When David I established royal burghs across the country he encouraged Flemish settlers to establish their entrepreneurial skills bases in the new towns. An idea of their importance can be seen in the infamous massacre of Berwick by Edward I in 1296 when 30 Flemish merchants in the Red Hall resisted the invaders for 24 hours before dying amidst the flames of their building.

Meanwhile in Flanders, the Scottish export of wool for the weaving industry was augmented with herring, salmon, cod and wheat. So important was the Scottish trade that several towns vied for the privilege of being the Scottish Staple with the great city of Bruges holding the title for 150 years before Middleburg and Veere superseded it in the 16th Century. Billy explores historic Bruges in the company of Jan Dumolyn from the University of Ghent and talks to him beside the Schottendyk, the Scots Wharf, used by Scots merchants.

Billy Kay celebrates the history of Scotland and the Flemish people.