Heritage and Legacy

E. S. Dallas in his treatise on aesthetics goes on to clarify his object, which is:

‘…not so much to identify imagination with what may be called the hidden soul, as to show that there is a mental existence within us which may be so called – a secret flow of thought which is not less energetic than the conscious flow, an absent mind which haunts us like a ghost or a dream and is an essential part of our lives. Incidentally, there will be no escaping the observation that this unconscious life of the mind – this hidden soul – bears a wonderful resemblance to the supposed features of imagination. That, however, is but the ultimate conclusion to which we are driving. My more immediate aim is to show that we have within us a hidden life, how vast is its extent, how potent and how constant is its influence, how strange are its effects. This unconscious part of the mind is so dark, and yet so full of activity; so like the conscious intelligence and yet so divided from it by the veil of mystery, that it is not much of a hyperbole to speak of the human soul as double; or at least as leading a double life. One of these lives – the veiled life, now awaits the rudeness of our scrutiny.’

This ancestral observation seems appropriate to this presentation of a life’s work. A further element of elucidation does necessarily lie in that twin satchel which accompanied the journey. The two compartments were not separated. Some matters could be found in both. Having been educated in the oldest school in Scotland, this being long ago and far away, remember, before and during World War II, we were imbued with a profound sense of our Scottish heritage. While the school orchestra played Haydn and Mozart, the school choir sang widely and largely from Hogg’s ‘Jacobite Relics’, which had as subtitle ‘Being the songs, airs and legends of the adherents of the House of Stuart’. Alongside the standard Whig history taught everywhere, Trevelyan and Fisher, we also absorbed the more thrilling narration of Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Tales of a Grandfather’.

It is here that the cross-over between my formal education and my family indoctrination took place. While Burns was the official Scottish poet, he was, although a Jacobite, also a lowlander, a freemason and a tax-collector. Yet again, he was the author of ‘Scots wha hae wi’ Wallace bled’, which years later Hugh MacDiarmid, exiled on his lonely moor, was to teach me was Scotland’s national anthem, only requiring the substitution of the name Edward for the word England. My family education instilled me with another world-view. My aunt, Cecilia Dallas, trained me in the importance of the family history. I learned with pride how Sir Walter Scott had written asking for permission to mount the Dallas coat of arms in the Hall of Abbotsford where he had placed the flags of all his Scottish kinsmen. I learned that a greater poet than Burns, Lord Byron, was part of our family heritage, although my aunt sniffed, ‘Mind you, he was only in the cousinage!’ Emotionally, a profound link crossed the national history with the family destiny. We had fought with Wallace and Bruce, and our Jacobite credentials were of the highest.

The Chief of the Dallases, James Dallas of Cantray, was one of the six captains of the Mackintosh Clan Regiment who took up arms at the end of 1745 and who welcomed the Prince’s return in January 1746. John Hossack, ex-Provost of Inverness, wrote, ‘The brunt of the battle fell on Clan Chattan (the Ur-clan of Mackintosh/Dallas), and at its close only five of the 21 officers of the regiment survived.’ James Dallas and Alexander MacGillivray of Dunmaglass led the central charge of the Clan Chattan. In the ‘Jacobite Memoirs’ the Rev. Mr. James Hay, a Jacobite Minister in Inverness, was asked: ‘Can you give me the name of that man whose body was taken up twenty days after being covered, and the name of that man whose body was taken up twenty-eight days after being covered, both which bodies were without any corruption or smell in the least?’ To which Mr. Hay made reply: ‘The gentleman whose body was taken up after it was covered with a little earth was James Dallas of Cantray, a loyall, kind, brave young man, who rais’d his Company at a great expense to serve his royall master….The other was Alexander MacGillivray of Dunmaglass, who was more than six weeks unburied and without smell…. Had all acted the part that these two gallant young gentlemen did, that day would have brought forth other things than it did.’

The wonderful romance and impact of the Jacobite spirit and adventure, the mingling of national history and family destiny, were to be a resonant dynamic through the whole symphonic structure of a young man’s life who saw himself as exiled from Highland home and heritage. It was to be half a century before aspects of these childhood passions were to be informed with a new political awareness. Hilaire Belloc’s reading of Stuart history as the end of personal rule in monarchy, being forced aside by the Whig dominance which set up, under the English gentry, the whole system of modern banking, the re-appraisal of the Jacobite event in Kevin Sharpe’s magisterial ‘The Personal Rule of Charles I’, and Edward Corp’s ‘A Court in Exile’, were to re-frame the Jacobite cause as the only serious, in political theory, challenge to the monetarist enslavement into which banking plunged the world during my long lifetime.

An important way-mark must be set down that occurred during World War II. A friend of my brother serving in the army was flying bombing missions over Germany. We came to know his sister, who in her late twenties was suffused with that particular beauty granted to those dying of tuberculosis. One day she sent for me to her bedside to inform me that she was about to die. On the bed lay two books. She told me that she wanted to pass to me the legacy of what she had learned in life. It was in one of these books. If I chose the right one she wanted to pass that legacy on to me. The first book was Jakob Burckhardt’s ‘The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy’. The second book was Carlyle’s translation of Goethe’s ‘Wilhelm Meister’. I examined them with shaking hands, and chose Goethe. I had made the right choice. Her name was Netta Hannah.

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