The Scottish world: a journey into the Scottish diaspora by Billy Kay

This fascinating though somewhat partisan book is a history of the activities and influence of Scots world-wide throughout history. The truth is hard to deny; it is carried in the Scots personal and place names that crop up continually all over the world, and indeed beyond; Neil Armstrong, first man on the Moon, was of Scots descent. It is interesting that this book is published by an Edinburgh publisher, suggesting that a London-based house would not have taken it on. Perhaps that accounts for the author’s frequent lapses into written Scots having got through the sub-editing phase! Certainly, a London publisher would have taken that language out, and it does rather suggest that the writer is content to write for his own audience rather than trying to prosyletise amongst those of us who are unenlightened. I can tolerate this; some less broad-minded souls would not have done. Yet having said that, the author is not immune to the personal failings of Scots, and he does not gloss over Scots’ roles in the slave trade, for instance (though he does not dwell on it, either). But that is a minor criticism; the aim of this book is to celebrate the role of Scots in world events, and that he does full well.

The book covers Scots influence in 16th century Europe, in the British Empire, in trade and commerce and finally in the esoteric world of Freemasonry. This book went some way to explaining the difference between the Scots Rite and the more restrictive, self-serving Masonry sometimes practised in England. All in all, a worthwhile volume.

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