Like The Thistle Seed: The Scots Abroad
Scotland is a small country on the western fringe of Europe. She has a seventy-mile land frontier with England while the rest of her thrusts into the sea, as if attempting to escape the confines of her own geography. Two thirds of her land is rock, bog or rough grazing. The remainder grows some of the finest crops on earth. At one time, with one-eighth the population of her southern neighbour, she had twice as many universities and one of the most literate populations in the world, yet her people were frequently regarded as barbarous. She had a fearsome military reputation yet as an independent nation had no standing army and no history of national aggression. The national dress and international perception of Scotland is based on a caricature of the Gaelic culture that was once banned and frequently feared by the Lowland population. Scotland, then, is a land of contrasts.
Is it any wonder that such a nation should produce so many wanderers, men and women who helped create the new countries of the world, as their ancestors had blossomed in Europe? And is it any wonder that these same people should compose some of the most heart-wrenching laments for the land they left behind, even as they encouraged others to board the emigrant ships? Is it any wonder that this complicated nation should also produce a fine a collection of odd balls and eccentrics as any on Earth?