My Great-Great-Great grandfather, William McDonald drowned in a wash-back in Ben Rinnes distillery in 1900. He was 42 when he died and father to 12 children. As far back as we can trace, my family has worked in the whisky industry. Not as high-heid-yins… workies. The folk who work in with the mash and the malt and the stills.
I’m from Moray, which is I’m sure you know, home of the whisky trail. We are home to some of the finest whisky. Our booze is something to be proud of.
But then, there is also this concurrent context that us Scots are known to like the drink a bit too much. To the point of shame. So what is it? Are we to be proud of our expensive whiskies or ashamed of our closeness with alcohol?
Booze is ingrained into our society, good and bad, and it’s roots go back much further than you think. The poem Quhy Sowlt Nocht Allane Honorit Be? was first written down by George Bannatyne in the 1600’s. Before then the poem was passed down by oral tradition as a way of teaching subsequent generations of the importance of barley. It tells in an allegorical fashion of how to grow and cultivate, harvest, and process barley into whisky and then later warns of its effects. Barley isn’t just the ingredient in whisky but was also the main form of sustenance and money for the farming folk of Scotland. So Barley was worshipped and rightly so too.
Before the 1707 Treaty of Union, Scots was considered a language in its own right. During this time, continental poetry and prose was translating into Scots tongue. After the union, Scots was downgraded to a dialect and the language returned to being passed down by word of mouth. It’s a shame that a language as bonny as this should die out.
To watch the videos from the installation follow yon link.