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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Democracy for Scotland: the referendum experience

Last Friday evening a packed Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum celebrated the opening of a new exhibition of material from the University of Stirling’s Scottish Political Archive. Democracy for Scotland: the referendum experience focuses on the campaign for a Scottish Parliament in the second half of the twentieth century. In particular it chronicles the history behind the two devolution referendums of 1979 and 1997 and explores the nature of the Yes and No campaigns for both referendums, their results and the re-establishment of a Scottish Parliament.

Exhibition poster

Exhibition poster

In conjunction with the exhibition the Scottish Political Archive is hosting a series of lectures at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum on Thursday lunchtimes at 12pm. The full lecture programme is as follows:

3rd May: ‘Scottish literary magazines and devolution’, Linda Gunn

Linda will examine the editorial processes of Cencrastus and The (New) Edinburgh Review.

10th May: ‘Let the People Decide’, Dennis Canavan 

Dennis will give some personal recollections of the Referendum campaigns, the intervening period of 1979-1997 and ask what lessons can be learned from the past to help shape Scotland’s future.

17th May: ‘From 1979 to 2014: Referendum Campaigning and the Future of Scotland’, Peter Lynch

24th May: ‘Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (1852-1936), Stan Bell, John McIntyre and Willie Thom

A celebration on the 160th birthday of Cunninghame Graham, who first proposed the establishment of a Scottish Parliament in 1888.

31st May: ‘Political Fictions’, James Robertson

James discusses the fictionalising of 20th-century Scottish political history in his novel And the Land Lay Still, and asks why there has been relatively little ‘political’ fiction in Scottish literature.

7th June: ‘The Radical Scotland Project: the making of a magazine’, Kevin Dunion

 Tickets for the lectures are £3 and are available at the Stirling Smith (Tel : 01786 471917). The exhibition runs from 27th April – 10 June 2012.

Nearer my God to Thee – The heroic musicians of the Titanic

This weekend marks the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic with a huge range of television programmes, newspaper articles, new books, events (and cruises) commemorating the disaster. Our small contribution to these commemorations is to reproduce the memorial poster of the ‘Heroic Musicians of the Titanic’ produced by the Amalgamated Musicians Union in 1912, part of the Musicians Union Archive.

Heroic musicians of the Titanic poster

Heroic musicians of the Titanic poster

The poster depicts the eight professional musicians who were employed to provide on board musical entertainment for the ships passengers (playing requests for up to 12 hours a day from a song book containing over 350 titles). As the ship sank it was reported that they continued to play, their final tune the hymn ‘Nearer my God to Thee.’ Selling over 80,000 copies in the months following the disaster the poster was one example of the extraordinary public response to the sinking of the Titanic, another musical response being a huge benefit concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 24 May 1912 which featured seven full orchestras.

The pages of the union’s journal in the months following the disaster provide detailed reports about the heroic actions of the musicians and the efforts made by the union and others to provide compensation for their families, compensation which was not forthcoming from the ship’s owners the White Star Line. The musicians were employed by an agency called Black Brothers, who supplied musicians to ocean liners, and were not technically ship’s employees. As well as being denied compensation from the White Star Line the family of the violinist John Law Hume also received a letter from Black Brothers demanding they pay the balance of the money he owed for his uniform. While reporting on the insults suffered by the families of the deceased the journal also records the huge sums of money raised by its members for its special Titanic fund, along with the various tributes made and memorials unveiled across the country to their fellow musicians.