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”Defy them all, and feare not to win out”

Elizabeth Melville, Scotland’s first woman in print
Pic credit: Graham Clark

Scottish historian, cultural activist and former European Parliament translator

MAKARS’ Court, in the heart of the Old Town, outside the Writers’ Museum in the Lawnmarket, is anything but secret. But it is not very well known amongst the Scottish public (nor is it treated with any respect whatever by the commercial enterprises on either side of the entrance to it off the Mound). Short, powerful quotations from thirty-nine Scottish writers are carved into the flagstones. When a new writer joins those already commemorated (the inscriptions have to be sponsored, and they are expensive), there is an unveiling ceremony, generally rather low-key and attended by a small group of supporters and sponsors. As someone who thinks that Shelley had it right when he proclaimed that “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”, I think that unveilings in Makars’ Court should be trumpeted and widely publicised. And if you search on youtube, under “The Gavin Douglas Stone”, you’ll see how that particular stone’s unveiling was attended by rather more than a handful of people on 15 November 2013. It was also only the first event of three, collectively entitled ‘1513: Scotland’s Glory’ as an antidote to the defeatism all too easily associated with the catastrophe at Flodden on 9 September 1513. ‘Scotland’s Glory’ celebrated the 500th anniversary of Douglas’s completion of the Eneados, his dazzling Scots-language verse translation of the Roman poet Virgil’s Aeneid. There was an afternoon symposium, featuring excerpts from the poem performed by weel-kent makar Rab Wilson, and scholarly papers from a range of distinguished academics including a David-Starkeysmashing tour de force by the late Jenny Wormald. (The symposium talks and performances are also available on youtube.) Then, in Gavin Douglas’s former place of work, the High Kirk of Edinburgh (St Giles), there was a concert-reconstruction of high mass as Douglas would have celebrated it in 1513, featuring a triumphant setting of the mass made by Robert Carver (1485-1568) that probably dates from 1513 – part of that particular mass can be heard at the start of the youtube mini-documentary, in fact.

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About iScot Magazine

iScot Magazine March 2017 116 quality pages from THE ONLY TRULY INDEPENDENT PRO SCOTTISH MAGAZINE PUBLISHER HQ'd IN SCOTLAND. "The one with the Up Helly Aa front cover" Featuring the best writers in Scotland today Robbie Dinwoodie, Tom Morton, Derek Bateman, Wee Ginger Dug, Jennifer Harper, Grousebeater, Major Bloodnok, Zoe Weir, Vivien Martin, Dave Bowman, Mary Edward, David McVey, Alyn Smith MEP, Peter A Bell, Dr Steve McCabe, Dr Jamie Reid Baxter, Delia Forrest, Ann MacKinnon, Indy Lawyer, Fiona Nicholson and Jason Michael McCann