IT wis aabdy. Thon’s the nemme o a projeck run oot o an auld scuil in rural Aiberdeenshire that explores its ain parochial connections wi slavery. It wisnae ae cheil in Glasgae wi an interest in tobacco. It wisnae twa three o the Embra gentry makin investments. Whan it comes tae slavery in Scotland blame cannae be gied just tae nemmed fowk, as it wis aabdy.

It’s a bauld claim, a big claim that pits the hail o Scotland in the bricht licht. An its bein made bi just a totty wee heritage group in the no-sae-weel kent parish o Birse.

At the hert o the story is the auld scuil in Finzean. It wis foondit in 1723 wi the maist respectable tenents o guid Scottish Christian education richt tae the fore: educate aabdy, regairdless o backgrun. The siller was gied tae the scuil bi a local religious mannie: The Rev Gilbert Ramsay. Ramsay wis originally fae the parish but resident maist o his deys oot in the Caribean. He peyd fir baith the scuil tae be biggit, an scholarships in Marischall College – noo pairt o Aiberdeen University – as weels siller fir the local puir.

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The siller aa cam fae the profits o slavery. Ramsay bade 40 year in Barbados, an had tae him a guid wheen o African slaves that brocht him a deal o gear an cash. We ken this maistly fae his ain will an testament, makkit oot whan he wis dwynin awa in Bath, whaur he’d repaired tae no lang afore he deed. He wis cared fir in his last bi a servant “Negroe”, Robert, wha he said wad be free when Ramsay himsel deed.

Ramsay wis unco pious. He left siller ahind tae pey fir a “Pious, ... Professor of Hebrew, Arabic and Oriental Languages, in the Marischall College [noo pairt o Aiberdeen Uni] ... to the glory of God and the good of his Church” as weel’s gowden gowpens fir fower students o divinity at the same university ilka three years, aa fir the “service o the church.” Guid, generous Ramsay wisnae done there. Na na. The kindly-hertit cheil had five hunner pund left owre tae gie tae his ain native parish o Birse, tae pey the wages o a scuil maister an big a new scuil there. Fair pits ye in mind o the religiosity o Holy Willie that Burns telt us aboot.

A body’s Will isnae whaur ye’re likely tae see them wrastlin wi the muckle philosophical dilemmas. But tae hae ae section sae stowed oot wi piousness as that abuin, ye wadnae expect a dispassionate blether aboot whit tae dae wi aa the puir craiters he owns back in Barbados tae follae wioot a dose o self-awareness. But thon’s whit we read. “All my slaves except my negroe man Robert here now attending me, be immediately sold after my death.” It isnae easy tae credit that a Scot deein in Bath wad hae a black slave servin him tae his last, while gien awa aa his siller tae pious causes. But thon wis the wey o it.

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I mind bein telt that Scots aye treatit their slaves better nor the English slave maisters did. Pish an havers. Anither Birse native oot in Barbados wrote hame, scunnert that he wasnae allowed tae gie his slaves ony mair nor 39 lashes wi a whip, aifter a new law wis passed, an that he hadnae seen “a Negro receiving a more severe flogging than he himself had received from his old schoolmaster in Birse, Mr Cromar”. Scots were involved wi insane levels o inhumane cruelty tae their puir earth-bound companions an fellow mortals. Whits mair, Scotland wis unusually strang in the anti-abolition muivement.

But whit does this maitter noo? Are we no just raxxin oot owre hunners o years o history tae gie oorsels grief fir the sins o some lang deid cheil? Weel, naw. See, Ramsay wis a canny cheil. He didnae just gie owre a daud o cash tae Marischal College an Birse parish. Naw. He gied laun wi rent that peyed oot ilka year. Sae year aifter year, doon through the centuries, Ramsay’s derk legacy kept peyin oot, on an on. Historians luikin intae the maitter hae seen that the legacy wis ainly finally wound up in 1961! Mair nor twa hunner year o siller peyin oot fae Ramsay’s slave profits. That’s richt intae the wab o Birse, Aiberdeen an the hail o the North-East. An o course, Ramsay wis just ane oot o thoosans siclike cheils.

Ae threip ye dae hear is that “Scots hide fae their history o slave-trade”. There’s some justification fir this at oficial levels. But the truth be telt fir us normal cots on the grun, it’s mair like mony o us just arnae aware o oor history at aa. A skelp o surveys owre the years hae shawed us that fir exaimple 84% o Scots dinnae ken aboot the battle of Trafalgar, indicatin ignorance o British history, that 53% o young Scots didnae ken that Robert the Bruce wis victorious at Bannockburn, indicatin

ignorance o Scottish history, an that ainly 14% were aware wha it wis that inventit the tele. Sae it isnae some muckle stamagaster tae discover that Scots arenae that engaged wi their ain nation’s role in slavery. But we maun get there, an this project is helpin.

READ MORE: We must work together to break the chains of modern-day slavery

We owe it tae oorsels tae big up a decent kennin o oor past, the guid an the bad. But we also owe it tae the victims o slavery, oot in the Caribbean an ither airts whaur Scots cruelty an profiteerin is felt yet. They dinnae aye hae the siller or sources tae unfankle the stories o slavery, sae their ain history is tint. We hae a wheen pooerfu universities wi guid historians in them. We hae the siller an expertise tae research these stories an tell them, gien us oor ain history, but also gien the history back tae the places whaur Scots hae tane sae muckle in the past.

As fir the rest o us, SNP memmers are ettlin tae bring tae the October paity conference a motion that wad gar the Scottish Government mak an official apology fir oor role in slavery. It wad also “examine ways of strengthening formal relations with those African and Caribbean countries – most notably Jamaica and Sierra Leone – most negatively affected by the legacy of Scottish involvement in slavery.” This micht seem nae mair nor a gesture, but the stooshie aroon it wad gie us a chance tae hae a guid national blether aboot Scotland’s role in slavery that wad ging faur oot ayont the SNP conference an intae wider society. This is vital.

I wad encourage ye aa tae hae a keek at the documentary Slavery: Scotland’s Hidden Shame, on the iPlayer the noo. We need tae ken aboot oor past.

Aifter aa, whan it comes tae Scotland’s role in the slavery, it wisnae just ane or twa fowk wha profitit fae it, It wis aabdy.