The truth of the Second World War is that Britain was defeated. It was comprehensively defeated on the beaches of Dunkirk. On 15 May 1940 – at the very beginning of the British-German war – Germany’s Army Group A crossed through the Ardennes with 45,000 mobile armoured units, flanked the French and British forces, leaving them encircled and trapped north-east of Calais. On 27 May, under a horrifying Blitzkrieg assault from the air, Britain abandoned its allies to their fate as a mere 198,229 British soldiers fled thanks only to the miracle that was Operation Dynamo.
How could these stories not leave the listener affected? At every stop on our way around the tunnels and underground platforms Paul informed us not only of the stories of the places and the events, but of the people – the ordinary working people of Glasgow, the ordinary working people of the Highlands who came, cleared from their homes, to work in the city, and the ordinary people of Scotland and elsewhere who passed through the station.
This is the temple before the altar of which another Rebel could intone: “I say to my people’s masters: Beware! Beware of the thing that is coming, beware of the risen people who shall take what ye would not give.” And this is, at least in part, the meaning of Wolfe Tone’s grave; that its incompleteness is the promise of completion, that this is not over – that Ireland’s enemy should take heed. Something “is coming.” This grave in Bodenstown is not pretty. Its symbolism and meaning are dark – nightmarishly dark, but they are necessary.
We are not permitted the language of genocide – legally and technically precise as it is – because it makes certain people uncomfortable. That’s the seat of all the anger and vitriol right there: That Britain did this to Gaelic Scotland is discomforting, it tears from Britishness the fraudulence of benign and beneficial patronage and lays bare its naked and vicious and murderous ethno-nationalist imperialism. One simply cannot have the comfort of being “British and Scottish” and accept as historical fact that Britain did this and still does this.
Right now we are witnessing the very same with a cap being put on the number of children in a family in receipt of tax credits who can receive Child Benefit. Even with more than 90 per cent of Scotland’s MPs rejecting the Bill, the will of England was imposed on Scotland.
An independent Scotland with Elizabeth Queen of Scots as its head of state sounds positively repulsive. For many of us Yes is as much about rejecting London rule as it is about rejecting the monarchy.
No matter how brutal the London austerity programme in Scotland, how much of our resources are plundered, or how much of our wealth is confiscated the tory will always put the Crown and the Union over all other concerns.
Great Britain has managed anything but the reconciliation of old rivals. On the day that the Act was passed in the Edinburgh parliament an English army was waiting at the Tweed and reinforcements had been dispatched to the north of Ireland.