I ALWAYS enjoy the contributions of the historical feature writer for The National, Mr Hamish MacPherson, and none more so than Tuesday’s on the much neglected story of the early nationalist and Gaelic enthusiast, Ruaraidh Erskine of Marr (Erskine of Marr, the honourable early nationalist, Jul 20).

In particular, Scotia Future are delighted at the publication of Gerry Cairns’s new biography of Erskine because the Scots National League stressed the need for full Scottish sovereignty, a co-operative economy, and pan-celtic co-operation, all elements of an older radical nationalist tradition to which Scotia Future would look for inspiration rather than the NPS and its successive incarnations.

But I regret that Mr MacPherson cites the influence of “men like Roland Muirhead and John MacCormick” as key factors in the decision of Erskine to withdraw from early SNP politics. His observation is likely to be broadly accurate in the case of John MacCormick, who despite his life-long loyalty to the cause had a healthy pragmatism which sadly landed him eventually on the shores of bourgeois liberalism, but I cannot let an inference be hurled at the great Roland Eugene Muirhead.

READ MORE: Erskine of Marr, the honourable early nationalist who aided in Gaelic revival

Firstly, Muirhead was always on the side of progressive politics all his life in whatever way it was displayed, and on the economic front in the depression-ridden 1920s would have had far more in common with Erskine than with MacCormick. As well as being the editor of the ILP newspaper, Forward, for decades, Roland practised what he preached and at the family leather works at Gryffe Tannery the workers enjoyed terms and conditions light years ahead of their contemporaries.

Secondly, as SNP president in the late 1930s Muirhead, having a much keener political antennae than MacCormick, crucially and publicly condemned the rising tide of European fascist dictatorships in 1937 and made clear Scottish independence meant none of these things.

Finally, Muirhead’s political protege, Tom Johnston MP, said in his biography published in the 1950s that Muirhead was “the greatest patriot which Renfrewshire had produced since William Wallace”.

Perhaps to highlight Roland E Muirhead’s substantial contribution to both the nationalist and Labour movements in Scotland, Mr MacPherson could do a feature on him to redress any misunderstandings.

Cllr Andy Doig
Scotia Future

A WONDERFUL article by Hamish MacPherson on Ruaraidh Erskine. I tried to obtain a copy of Gerry Cairns’s book through my local independent bookshop rather than the mainstream bookshop chain without success. I would rather give trade to a sole trader than direct from the publisher and pay the surcharge.

John Maclean’s parents were both victims of the Clearances, an influence that he acknowledged, so it comes as no surprise that these two kindred spirits would hit it off. The Tramp Trust Unlimited and the call for a Scottish Workers’ Republic left Maclean isolated and vilified by erstwhile comrades. He “would not let Moscow dictate to Govan,”for which sin he suffered greatly.

The centenary of his death will soon be upon us and deserves to be given the credit he deserves.

As for this book, I will contact directly with the publisher. An essential addition to my library. Many thanks for the reminder, Mr MacPherson. Your column is never dull and always enlightening.

Frank Casey
via thenational.scot