Great Scott!

(or The Inherent Anglocentricity of LB)

Is this the face of Mary, Queen of Scots?


Piper by Roger Hall

An attempt to penetrate the Englishness of LB; that peculiarly robust, even admirable, Blightyness, akin to large doses of the BBC, Blue Peter (where Bring and Buy Sales trawl in the LBs) and the Royals, appears onerous, but examine the underpinning of Reith and the Bowes-Lyons, and one has a difficult but not impossible task to seek out Scottish influences. To adopt the title of another exile Scot, Muriel Spark, it is like finding the needle in the haystack. Scots, like these spiky yet useful adversaries, turn up everywhere.

A certain amount of licence is called for, to include Uncle Mac and Peter Pan into our wee collection of Scottish connections. Likewise, the Hound of the Baskervilles, by dint of its author, Conan Doyle... But the outrageous omissions in the Great Scientists series - Fleming, Charles Lyell, Napier - outweigh that. Though, to be fair, a third of the scientists featured in 708 are Polish females! I ought also to praise the number of Scots who feature in Great Inventions. (by the way Dunlop was originally from Scotland)

Similarly, the History series includes only two Scottish monarchs: Robert the Bruce and James the Sixth (1) and First (wrongly described as First only) - the latter given a bad press. Hampson inadvertantly addresses the historical imbalance with his portrayal of MQS in the Ladybird Book of Nursery rhymes. Later History series titles include Bonnie Prince Charlie and Robert Livingstone, but where is Boswell (2) to Pepys, Walter Scott to Dickens?

Much later, in Discovering Places, amidst the Tower of London, Madame Tussauds and London, we have Scotland, condensed to no more than the Spanish Armada (that English hang-up).

Hidden gems include the Book of Handwriting by Tom Gourdie (a retired teacher from Fife, who is the most respected caligrapher in Britain), and RLS' Treasure Island and Kidnapped. Saint Margaret (3) in the Saints series, and the odd image in the Customs series also refer to Scotland. The much later Dandy and Beano titles also have a Scottish link - as the characters originate from Dundee!

I have concentrated, naturally, on the Scottish element although Welsh, Cornish and other Celtic minorities will undoubtedly see their culture and people appear sporadically. I would be interested to hear of their findings.

Finally, I'm sorry if I sound hypercritical of the English, which would rather be like biting the hand that feeds. This is intended as a not to be taken to heart overview of just one aspect of the exceptionally rich Ladybird ouevre.

  • 1. OK so he was a misogynistic bigot, but it was hardly his mother's fault. Return.
  • 2. OK so his diary entries are unsuitable for impressionable innocents Return.
  • 3. OK so she was English. Return.
  • OK so Scotland's population is only 10% of England's.

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