City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Homage to Caledonia Book Review


By Irene Brown - Posted on 16 February 2009

Homage To Caledonia book cover

At the beginning of his book, Homage to Caledonia - Scotland and the Spanish Civil War, Daniel Gray quotes from another book on the subject, From the Calton to Catalonia by John and Willy Maley (Glasgow City Libraries).  The extract is written in
gallus Glaswegian Scots and describes conditions in the east end of Glasgow in the 1930s.

"When they three (Franco, Mussolini, Hitler) goat thegither an came up against the Spanish workers, they didnae expect the Calton tae offer handers."

The extract encapsulates the poverty from which many of the proportionately
large number of Scots volunteers who went to Spain came.  It also emphasises their vision.

"They wur internationalists.  They wur Europeans.  They wur Scots."

The book, acknowledged in its foreword by Tony Benn as being "important and powerful", is not only a culmination of extensive academic research but a personal gathering of information from relatives of International Brigaders and the now sadly deceased Steve Fullarton, the last
Scottish International Brigader.

Gray includes a chronology of events showing clear links from the General Strike of 1926 through the Spanish Civil War itself to Franco's victory in 1939, Hitler's invasion of Poland and the start of World War Two.

Gray's writing style is easy to read and the text is accompanied
by photographs throughout.  Although in his introduction he says the book is "a social history rather than a military one" he does by necessity speak of events experienced by the Brigaders 
in relation to the war and turbulent politics of the time.

He makes it clear that the period should be viewed "through the prism of 1930's Scotland", a time of hope and high ideals that may seem foreign in our more cynical, individualistic times.  The overwhelming sentiments that come across in the book from the Brigaders and indeed from their families are those of pride in having taken part and their lack of regret in doing so.  It is inspiring and humbling in equal
measure.

Homage to Caledonia - Scotland and the Spanish Civil War by Daniel Gray is available price £16.99

It is published by Luath Press Limited Edinburgh in association with the National Library of Scotland

ISBN (10): 1906307644

ISBN (13): 9781906307646