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Billy Kay's 'Scotland at Prayer'

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Alan Braidwood Alan Braidwood | 15:00 UK time, Monday, 30 August 2010

Ahead of his new series called Scotland at Prayer, Billy Kay sent me the following blog post to introduce the programmes.

Billy Kay
"Memories are made of this!" "From Scenes like these Auld Scotia's grandeur springs!" In the making of Scotland at Prayer I was left with indelible impressions which will remain with me all my days and which I would like to share with you....

....standing high above my native Irvine Valley in Ayrshire at the Cairn erected by the Galston miners to link their struggle in the 1926 Lock Out, with the persecution of the Covenanters during the Killing Times of the 1680's and thinking that in the area where I now live the chief persecutor is called Bonnie Dundee, while in Ayrshire, Ulster and America he was known as Bluidy Claverhoose!.....

...enjoying the pastoral Spring soundscape of a purling burn, lambs and birdsong in the Braes of Glenlivet and imagining the fear in the hearts of the boys training for the priesthood there at the secret catholic seminary of Scalan when they heard that Government soldiers were coming to burn the place down after Culloden...

...listening to the delicate yet moving beauty of the voices of the Lindores Consort singing the music of the Scottish Reformation in the Byzantine splendour of St Salvador's Episcopal Church in the Hilltown of Dundee...then hearing the remarkable difference in the atmosphere when the audience joined in with one of the Metrical Psalms and realising that this is what it must have felt like back in 1560 when public singing replaced choral singing in the kirks....any large crowd of Scots singing songs together in public stems from this change...

...understanding the survival of the evangelical sabbatarian traditions of Lewis when you hear the history of religion there from deeply committed Christian people who explain how "the gospel came late to the island and is late in leaving", referring to the great religious revival of the 1820's which transformed society there....but not completely because I also recorded the survival of an ancient, possibly pre-christian tradition among staunch Presbyterians there!

...hearing the peel of a hand bell from the 18th century that called Episcopalians to worship when their church was proscribed because of its close links to Jacobitism and chitterin in a snell wind off the sea above Cruden Bay as Marna Cruikshank told me about the identity with the Piskie religion in the North East and her love for St James Church there. Later the same day, the depth of the vernacular tradition came home to me when the Dean of Aberdeen and Orkney, Canon Emsley Nimmo sung for me a variant of Auld Lang Syne composed by Bishop Skinner, who corresponded with Burns and wrote the famous Scots poem Tullochgorum.

...getting drookit on a gey dreich mornin in Kirkmichael kirkyaird in Ayrshire but thrilled to know that I was recording history being made, as the stonemason nicknamed Young Mortality, Kevin Roberts worked on the lettering of a Covenanter memorial stone that had originally been carved by Old Mortality himself Robert Paterson, whose work on the martyr's graves inspired the novel by Sir Walter Scott, Old Mortality.

...looking back at one of the unplanned for legacies of the Reformation, the slow decline of the Scots language because of the availability of a printed English version of the bible seized upon by the Reformers....and the amazing ironic co-incidence that 450 years on I am taking part in a Ministerial Working Group set up by the Scottish Government which will report later this year on ways of promoting the long neglected ither mither tongue of so many Scots.

These are just a few of the memories that will stay with me. There are many more, but you will need to tune in to Scotland at Prayer to hear them and discover parts of your history that may surprise, delight, stimulate and move you, ma brither an sister Scots fae Maidenkirk tae Johnny Groats and ayont!

Billy Kay presents Scotland at Prayer which begins Monday 6 September, from 1130. For extra information about the programmes visit Billy Kay's website.


  • Comment number 1.


    How pure the Scottish prayer.
    It whispers in our ears now, rising to a perspective of understanding our brothers.
    And sisters, and all the bairns of the world.

    Let me share the words I heard in Notre Dame when I asked "Help me Jesus".

    So clear they were, I looked around for a trick and also calculated the acoustics.

    So loud it was..."Blessed are the pure in heart".

    Be always bonny.


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