Introducing Susan McIntosh – Our latest member of team ScotClans!

Its with no small amount of pride and pleasure that we welcome aboard our latest guest blogger and addition to the ScotClans family, Susan McIntosh. Those of you who move in clan circles may already know her as she is a ‘weel kent face’ to many who have connections with the clan diaspora. Susan has been a great friend to ScotClans over the years and will be contributing with her unique perspective from the other side of the pond. Challenging, thought provoking, argumentative – we hope for nothing less! I’ll now hand you over to the lady herself:

Hàlo! Is mise Siusaidh Nic An Toisich!

Susan McIntosh

Susan McIntosh

In case you didn’t quite recognize that it is Scots Gaelic for “Hello! I am Susan McIntosh” – and I am honored and excited to begin blogging for the great team at ScotClans. A few folks may already know me as the immediate past president of the Council of Scottish Clans & Associations (COSCA). I stepped down as COSCA President in March of this year so that I could slow down a bit and try my hand at a few new tricks. Some of you might also have run across nearly three years of my column on the back page of Scots Heritage Magazine called “McLetter From America”. While all of that was great fun, I am chuffed to say that I have consolidated my efforts into the most active, inquisitive and engaging Scottish heritage presence on the web and on the field – ScotClans. Whether we are old friends or new I can’t wait to begin to interact with you here on Bletherskite.

I will be writing about the two Scots loves of my life. No, not Sean Connery and Sam Heughan, although I would not shrink from that duty. I will be reporting on Scots Gaelic culture and history and on Scottish contemporary affairs with an eye to making both easily accessible, intelligible and fun for folks of the global Scottish diaspora. Here’s a bit more about what’s in store.

Not your father’s Gaidhlig

Not everyone with a Scottish heritage sports Gaelic ancestry or interest but many do. Even if yours is a family of Scottish Normans, who somehow never made the Bruce mistake of marrying into those wild eyed Gaels, a better knowledge of the Scots Gaelic culture will enrich the larger brotherhood of Scots. Plus its just plain fascinating stuff.

I will be looking at our Gaelic ancestors using a different lens, using resources that focus with and on Gaelic eyes and words free of non Gaelic interests and bias. This will be a story that has gone untold and is largely forgotten in the Scottish diaspora world. Resources with which to learn about Gaeldom from the Gaelic perspective based upon resources written in Gaelic by Gaels are tragically few and largely inaccessible to the Scots Diaspora.

The good news is, over the last few decades, more scholars and institutions are locating and digging into these true primary Gaelic resources and they are providing insight from a native perspective. The less good news is that most of these resources and scholarly interpretations are widely dispersed and hard to find, often written fully or partially in the Gaelic language, and not easily available and organized for those who have the greatest hunger for the information and the least time to spend hunting for it – the Gaelic Diaspora.

Americans learn virtually nothing about our Scots Gaelic past in school and those of us with an interest must take it upon ourselves to go find answers. Yet when we discover what has been written about our ancient indigenous roots we too often find that it fails to satisfy. We learn about Gaelic culture through the filter of words such as “savage”, “barbaric”, “primitive”, “outlaw”, “backward” and “anxious to be improved by British civilization.” We have been fast forwarded to a history told from the perspective of a growing, Anglicized, urban-centered, industrializing and outward looking 19th Century British Scotland. As you might guess we aren’t getting the whole story. Or necessarily the correct story all the time. We want to know as much about our ancestors’ worlds as possible. Consequently, we want to know their world through their own eyes.

But what is that story? It’ll be my job to begin to chase that down and bring it to Bletherskite. I am not a Gaelic scholar and my own knowledge of the language is steadily approaching rudimentary. I will be picking the brains of the best scholars out there today to begin to paint the picture of what it means to be a Gael – from our own perspective.

And lest we forget, Gaelic culture is a living thing. So don’t be surprised to find some chatter about the contemporary arts side of our Gaelic world to complement and give context to the ancient roots. I look forward to an exciting and enlightening journey to recover and learn about a great Gaelic civilization and I hope you join in!

Watching Scotland: The world is watching Scotland – maybe we should find out what all the buzz is about.

While most of us in the Scottish Diaspora can extemporaneously provide a rousing and mostly accurate recount of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, few of us can do the same for 2014’s version of “the 45” or “the 56” for that matter. My second job at Bletherskite is to begin to change that for anyone that is interested.

Both “the 45” and “the 56” are new monikers, freshly minted in the exciting and turbulent world of contemporary Scottish politics. Scotland boasts an extremely engaged, creative and energetic society today and Scottish independence from the United Kingdom is only one area that has garnered huge worldwide attention.

Scotland is currently in the midst of fundamental land reform discussions the outcome of which could have profound consequences for the Scottish diaspora, including our built and environmental heritage. In other news, the very backbone of Scottish politics and government, the Labour party, has recently imploded while a record 56 Scottish National Party (SNP) MPs were sent to Westminster recently, one of whom is the youngest Minister of Parliament in the history of the Union at 20 and she has a colleague who is 23. Scotland is folding 16 and 17 year olds into the electoral process as the nation recognizes the importance of youthful views and judgment for the future. Scotland is an exceptionally exciting place to live – and watch – right now!

No one outwith Scotia is more interested in Scotland than the Scottish Diaspora but geez-Louise it is difficult to find trustworthy straightforward reporting on the subject. America is a particularly difficult market as we are not of the Commonwealth and thus one more step removed from news of the United Kingdom.

Then there is the challenge of understanding it all. From the American perspective just about everything about Scottish and United Kingdom politics and government are, well, foreign. Who can tell a Labour or a Tory MSP from a hole in a pine tree over here? Ta da! I can and I’m going to help you make some sense of it all too.

Specifically, I will abandon the comfort of good ol’ American news sources and daringly sift through actual British and Scottish news and opinion and blog about the stuff that matters most to the Diaspora:

• Scottish independence (or not)
• Scottish natural environment
• Scottish heritage

You’ll see a few interviews with key Scottish leaders here as well. As we go along, Rodger, Amanda and I will be providing some keen resources to help folks in the Diaspora interpret what is going on in your ancestral homeland today. Look for my first Watching Scotland post here on Bletherskite for a wee glossary of terms necessary for understanding what the heck is going on over there.

So that’s it! If you have any thoughts or suggestions or comments or gripes, fire them over. We are interested in your ideas. I can’t wait to get started and I hope to see and hear from everyone in the ScotClans extended family!


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2 thoughts on “Introducing Susan McIntosh – Our latest member of team ScotClans!

  1. Malcolm Buchanan

    I had hoped that we had not lost you totally since you “retired” as President of COSCA.
    It’s great to read your article and look forward to many more with your views.
    Slainte, Malcolm

  2. tauna powell

    Will look forward to reading your insight from this side of the pond (north central Missouri). My sons and I were in Edinburgh for the big vote (Much to their concern, I even darted out of our rented apartment to follow the parade down the Royal Mile to Holyrood for all the flag waving, horn honking, chanting excitement). My roots are traced back to the Kincardineshire area with marginal ties to Dunnottar Castle. I’m especially interested in the connection between the Israelite diaspora into Scotland – very little confirmed information on that as well though Robert the Bruce touched on it.


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