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Scottish American Society

From Prussia with love: the Scot who ruled Berlin

by Dave Graham

He once governed Ukraine and Berlin, controlled Finland, and might have changed British history -- but is little known in his native Scotland.

The late James Keith, a committed freemason and rebel exile, is a forgotten hero from Germany's Prussian past whose life reveals a lost network of connections across 18th-century Europe that some say modern Germany should revive.

His death 250 years ago fighting for Frederick the Great's Prussia is to be marked next year with a simple monument in the village where he was killed.

Field marshal Keith may be obscure now, but he was larger than life. He fought a slew of continental wars, governed regions that dwarfed his homeland and evaded the clutches of a Russian empress before fate finally caught up with him at the eastern village of Hochkirch in the Seven Years War.

"Keith may not have been so important to Scotland, but he was to Prussia," said Ruediger Bayer, a local expert on Keith and driving force behind the memorial. "He was a soldier of great humanity and exceptionally conscientious for his era."

The monument comes as public interest is growing in Germany in its Prussian history, particularly in the east where much study of the nation's complex past was neglected under the former communist administration.

Keith's role has a wider significance to Germany today, said Juergen Luh, a historian at the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation for Berlin and Brandenburg: many of Prussia's links across Europe have been forgotten since the rise of nationalism and the Nazis.

"We must get back to examining the cultural exchange, and stress our common ties," he said. "West Germany tended to avoid international politics and focus on finance. But now Germany must take responsibility again, both in Europe and in NATO."


A native of Peterhead, Keith was a Jacobite outlaw -- he took part in abortive risings in support of James Stuart, son of the deposed King James II and pretender to the British throne.

Made governor of Berlin, he became one of Frederick's most influential generals in a conflict that was central to Prussia's rise as European power. This helped lay the foundations for the creation of a united Germany in 1871.

Hochkirch plans to erect a stone tablet inscribed to Keith outside its church, to stand with others dedicated to the victims of Prussia's defeat by Austria on October 14, 1758.

"People want to put the events into perspective. A memorial helps keep debate alive," said Kathrin Mittasch of Hochkirch's cultural history association. "More and more people are coming to our lectures because they want to know about the past."

When Keith arrived in Prussia, he had spent over 30 years in exile fighting first for Spain and then Russia.

He rose through the ranks to became governor of Ukraine in 1740-41 and records show his administration was enlightened, said Steve Murdoch, a historian at the University of St Andrews.

"The Ukrainians said they wished they'd never met him, because they'd never have known how bad they'd had it before -- and that once he'd been made governor, he should never have been taken away from them," he said.

In the Russo-Swedish War of 1741-43, Keith was briefly de-facto ruler of Finland, where he met the love of his life, a prisoner of war many years his junior called Eva Mertens.

Less is known about his rule in Finland, but recent research by Finnish historian Atina Nihtinen said it was "particularly successful" and showed unusual sensitivity towards the locals.


These administrative skills reflected Keith's wider qualities, said his biographer Sam Coull, another Peterhead local. Until Coull's "Nothing but my Sword" appeared in 2000, no books had been published about Keith in years.

"James Keith embodied the very best of human nature. He was generous to a fault; he gave you the last thing he had. That's why he was always broke. He couldn't hold on to money," he said.

Keith later fell from favor in Russia, having rejected the advances of the new Tsarina Elizabeth, which in 1747 prompted her enemy Frederick to recruit him and his brother, a fellow Jacobite.

"Keith and his brother George brought a broader experience of world affairs, and a sense of the urbane and the non-Prussian to Prussia," said historian Luh.

But his ardor for the cause waned over time. In the end, said Luh, the Keith brothers were instrumental in pressing Frederick to ally with Britain before the Seven Years War: that pitted Britain, Prussia and Hanover against Austria, France, Russia, Sweden and Saxony.

Renowned for his logistical skills and expert planning, Keith was not afraid to contradict the Prussian monarch, which encouraged his other generals to think independently and helped Prussia's successful prosecution of the war, Luh said.

"Otherwise the king would always have tried to go over the generals' heads -- which usually did not end well," he said.

Yet his biographer believes Keith could have left a very different mark on history.

Before he left Russia, Jacobite leaders asked the Tsarina to let Keith lead their forces in the 1745 rebellion fronted by Bonnie Prince Charlie, son of James Stuart. She refused.

In the end, the Jacobite army penetrated deep into England, spreading panic, before the Prince's rebel advisors urged them to retreat from the English town of Derby.

Coull believes Keith would not have turned back.

"When (government) troops were heading up the east coast, Keith would have been swinging down from Derby to enter London. And that would have been it," he said. "You wouldn't have Hanoverians or Windsors on the throne of Britain today."

HOCHKIRCH, Germany (Reuters)

Note:  For more information on this interesting man see:  http://www.electricscotland.com/history/other/jkeith.htm


The oldest known medieval harps from the British Isles survive till today. They are two instruments in the form of a triangle with 29-30 wire-strings. The High King of Ireland Brian Boroimhe, who died in 1014, following his defeat of the Vikings, became traditionally associated with the harp, even though he probably never touched the harp. The so-called Brian Boru Harp was made at a workshop in Scotland between 14th and 15th century, and became a national symbol of Ireland. It is preserved in the Library at Trinity College in Dublin. The Irish Flag carries an image of the Brian Boru Harp. The latter is also depicted on coins and all Irish government's official documents.

The Brian Boru Harp, 14th – 15th century.
Library of the Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.

Mary Stuart (1542-1587), Queen of Scots, daughter of James V Stuart and Marie de Guise Lorraine, at the age of six arrived in France with her ladies-in-waiting: Mary Seton, Mary Beaton, Mary Livingstone, and Mary Fleming (the four Mary's). She received an excellent education at the French Court of Henri II de Valois. With Elisabeth, her companion, (a daughter of Henri II and Catherine de'Medici, later known as Ysabel Felipe, Queen Consort of Philip II, King of Spain), Mary Stuart learnt to play the harp, lute, zithern and virginal, to write poetry, to knit in wools and sew in silk, and what she loved most, to embroider. She was taught the new Italian style of handwriting and she signed her name in French as Marie Stuart, instead of Mary Stewart in Scottish.
Queen Mary Stuart, traditionally associated with the harp, perhaps played the instrument shown below, now restored and preserved at the Museum of Anitiquities in Edinburgh. This harp, dated 16th century, similar in design to the Brian Boru Harp of Ireland, is ornamented with gems and has a geometric relief carving on its column.

The Queen Mary Harp, 16th century.
Museum of Anitiquities, National Museum, Edinburgh, Scotland.

[Thanks to Nancy Haggard Davis for the above.]
Thanks to Don Mellen for the following
October 26th
Today in 1911 the Gaelic poet, Sorley MacLean, was born on the island of
Raasay. Maclean was a key force in the revitalising of the Gaelic language.
After studying at the University of Edinburgh, he took up teaching as a
career and was for many years head teacher at Plockton High School. His
poetry brilliantly demonstrates the capacity of Gaelic to express themes
ranging from passionate love to contemporary political and intellectual
issues. While he broke with the conventions for Gaelic poetry that still
prevailed when he started writing in the 1930s, his writing very much
belongs to the eloquent continuum of the Gaelic oral tradition. Honoured
with many major awards, including the Queen's Medal for Poetry, Sorley
MacLean was the greatest Gaelic poet of the 20th century. He died in 1996
  Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne (1766-1845)
   Although many people may not recognise her name, Carolina Oliphant's
songs are second only in popularity to Burns. She wrote such classics as
"Will Ye No' Come Back Again" and "Charlie is My Darling" and "Wi' 100
Pipers An' A'".
   Carolina Oliphant was born on 16 August 1766 in Gask, Perthshire.
Carolina became known as the "Flower of Strathearn" because of her beauty.
Both her father and grandfather had joined Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 1745
Jacobite Uprising and she herself had been named after the Young Pretender
(Carolina being the feminine form of Charles) so it is not perhaps
surprising that many of her songs were sympathetic to the Jacobite cause.
   In those days it was not appropriate for women of her social standing to
publish poetry and so for a long time they were published under the pen-name
of Mrs Bogan of Bogan. Even after marrying her second cousin, Major William
Nairne in 1806, she kept her writing secret from him too! They had a son,
born in 1808, when she was aged 43. In 1824, following a campaign by Sir
Walter Scott, peerages and titles which had been forfeited as a result of
the Jacobite Uprising were restored and so Caroline became Lady Nairne.
   Like Robert Burns and James Hogg, Lady Nairne collected old folk tunes
and modified or put her own words to them. She showed a love of the
countryside in such songs as "The Rowan Tree" and "The Pentland Hills." Her
poem "The Auld House" is about her birthplace in Gask and she showed her
compassion in songs such as "Caller Herring" -
   Wha'll buy my caller herrin?
   Oh, ye may call them vulgar farin' -
   Wives and mithers, maist despairin',
   Ca' them lives o' men.
   Her husband died in 1830 and she then travelled through Europe, returning
to Gask two years before her death on 26th October 1845. She gave permission
at that stage for her collected songs (87 in all) to be published as "Lays
from Strathearn". They appeared in 1846.
(information courtesy Rampant Scotland) 
Shinty Spreads to Fife
The game of shinty, which has some similarities with hockey in that it is
played with a stick and a hard ball, is traditionally a game played in the
Highlands of Scotland. Derived from the same root as the Irish game,
hurling, it used to be more widespread. Now it seems to be making a minor
comeback in the lowlands, as a result of being introduced five years ago at
Aberdour Primary School in Fife. Now children from other parts of Fife,
including Burntisland, Inverkeithing, Dalgety Bay and Dunfermline have
joined in. But Aberdour Primary seems to be leading the way - their
under-10 team has only been beaten once in 15 matches. Across Scotland,
there are 90 schools with shinty teams, though many are in the Highlands.
Marine Harvest Shinty Premier League 
17 June 2006
Inveraray  3  Lochcarron  2
Kilmallie  1  Newtonmore  1
Roslyn & Iona, etc.
A couple of articles appeared recently in the paper that might be of interest to you.  They were in the Akron Beacon Journal.  One of them was on Roslyn Chapel - a favorite spot of ours for many years.  The other was on the island of Iona.  If you would like to read the former, copy the following and paste it into the address section of your browser:  http://travel.msn.com/Guides/article.aspx?cp-documentid=346328 
If you would like to read the latter (on Iona) copy the following and paste it into the address section of your browser: http://www.ohio.com/mld/ohio/living/religion/14787356.htm
I'd especially like to call your attention to the Mo caraid- tha thu fortunach - Wonderful Celtic Music - of Scottish born Hazel Whyte.   You can reach her web site athttp:www.hazelwhyte.com
EDINBURGH - the "Inspiring Capital"
Having a "brand identity" and a slogan is de rigeur these days for any organization trying to sell its wares - and even capital cities have to look to their laurels these days. So the City of Edinburgh has spent 800,000 with a London agency researching and developing a visual identity.
Nobody can deny that it's simple - three arching lines of varying length and the words "Edinburgh - the Inspiring Capital." The lines may represent the arches of the Forth Rail Bridge or the undulations of Arthur's Seat, or maybe the three hills forming the castle, Calton Hill and Salisbury Crags. Nobody seems quite sure.
The London advertising agency which designed the brand said the "lines of influence" shown above the word Edinburgh in the logo were there to create "a sense of the energy and direction of the past, present and future ambitions of the city". Far from being inspired, people interviewed by the local Edinburgh evening newspaper were very much "underwhelmed". Some thought it looked like an advert for a golf driving range. The new brand has its own Web site - see
[excerpt from Rampant Scotland web site]


Monday, February 20, 2006

The islands of Orkney and Shetland became Scottish territory on this date in 1472, when they were annexed to the Crown as part of a marriage dowry to King James III. Both have strong links to their previous owners, the Norwegians, as can be seen each year in Shetland at the Up Helly Aa Viking winter festival or in the numerous ancient sites that dot both islands. For more on Up Helly Aa go here: http://heritage.scotsman.com/diagrams.cfm?cid=2&id=40592005

What is not mentioned here, is that this dowry was arranged by Robert Boyd, Regent of Scotland for King James III. It is the Boyds that are responsible for the Orkneys and Shetlands becoming part of Scotland.

Alexander Boyd, Robert's brother, was Keeper [or Governor] of Edinburgh Castle and was responsible for training young King James III in the art of chivalry and other matters. Robert's son Thomas was married to Princess Mary Stewart, young King James' sister. A true love match, not a political arrangement And for some time it was the Boyds that stood first in line to the Scottish throne as James had no issue.

Lauren M. Boyd, President, House of Boyd Society, Inc. http://www.clanboyd.org


Who were the Picts?  Where were they located? 
The Picts are a mystery.  Their origin, their language, their society remain a debateable topic, even to this very day.  Their location, primarily the Highlands - above the Firth of Forth. 
They were most likely named by the Romans who wrote briefly of them in the 3rd century A.D. while doing guard duty on Hadrian's Wall.  The first recorded mention of them calls them "Picti" and refers to them as being barbarians to the north.  "Picti" may have been a general term of abuse used by the Romans in referring to any people from beyond the boundaries of their empire or it may have referred to their colorful habit of  body painting and tattooing.  No Roman would ever do this. 
We know little of the Picts because they were never conquered by the Romans.  They were not a literate society - preferring to convey messages by drawings rather than by writing - at least so far as we know.  The Romans tended to write about the people they actually encountered.  The Picts avoided them except in battle where they proved to be fierce warriors. 
The Irish called them "Cruithni" - "The People of the Designs"  again no doubt referring to the same body decorations.  We do not know what they called themselves.  It is thought that they might have come from the North - the Orkneys or the Scandinavian countries.  In other words, the Vikings.  We know there was a population in Scotland prior to the Picts, The Celts, and the Scots.  For convenience sake, historians often refer to them as the "Ancient Caledonians."  Again, we don't really know their names - only that the Picts over ran them. 
It's interesting to speculate about these ancient people.  Their blood may run through our veins.  Their fierce sense of tribal affinity may have contributed to the Scottish clan system.  We can only guess.
Burns' Centenary *
Like many other artists who believed that fame would come their way after their death, Burns pronounced in 1796 "I'll be more respected a hundred years after I'm dead than I am at present." One hundred years after the death of Scotland's bard, Charles Murray wrote this poem - confirming the prophecy.

Burns' Centenary
My fame is sure; when I am dead
A century," the Poet said,
"They'll heap the honours on my head
They grudge me noo";
To-day the hundred years have sped
That prove it true.
Whiles as the feather'd ages flee,
Time sets the sand-glass on his knee,
An' ilka name baith great an' wee
Shak's thro' his seive;
Syne sadly wags his pow to see
The few that live.
An' still the quickest o' the lot
Is his wha made the lovely cot
A shrine, whaur ilka reverent Scot
Bareheadit' turns.
Our mither's psalms we may forgot,
But never Burns.
This nicht, auld Scotland, dry your tears,
An' let nae sough o' grief come near's;
We'll speak o' Rab's gin he could hear's;
Life's but a fivver,
And he's been healed this hundred years
To live for ever.
Meaning of unusual words:
ilka = every
baith = both
Syne = soon
pow = head
cot = cottage
gin = if
fivver = fever
* [Courtesy Scottie @ Rampant Lion]
HAGGIS HISTORY (including recipes & instructions)
 I make no claim to accept or deny the following - only to provide it as something to provoke thought.  Maggie m.

The first known English cookery book is The Form of Cury (cookery), written in 1390 by one of the cooks to King Richard II. It contains a recipe for a dish called Afronchemoyle, which is in effect a haggis:

"Nym Eyren with al the wyte & myse bred & scheps talwe, get as dyse grynd pepr & safron & caste thereto & do hit in the schepys trype. Set it wel & dress it forth."

In other words: Take eggs, with the white and the yolk together, and mix with white breadcrumbs and finely diced sheep’s fat. Season with pepper and saffron. Stuff a sheep’s tripe with the mixture, sewing securely. Steam or boil and drain before serving.

The saffron would give the mixture a golden colour, while the swelling bread would give a firm forcemeat.

The haggis became well-established in the Scottish culinary scene, not as a star dish but as an everyday staple.

In The Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century, H. Grey Graham describes the town life of the well-to-do in Glasgow. Men of letters, doctors, merchants "... were allured from their abodes as readily as jovial tradesmen to their favourite taverns, where they could have their much-loved banquets of hen broth, black beans, a haggis, a crab pie, with ample punch ... " It was the success of Burns' mock-heroic verses that gave the haggis its special prominence in Scottish life. In 1826, Meg Dods produced the Cook's and Housewife's Manual. She was the landlady of the Cleikum Inn, in St. Ronan's, near Peebles; which housed the gatherings of the Cleikum Club, one of the many dining clubs which flourished at the time. Sir Walter Scott was among the founders, and its members celebrated the national literature and the national spirit (literal and figurative) and took a gentle, nostalgic, antiquarian interest in old Scots customs. Mistress Dods is a mysterious figure about whom rumours abound. It is quite firmly believed by many in the food world that Scott was the author of her cookery book. Others question her very existence or suppose her to have been Scott's mistress. These are wild speculations: what is clear is that the Cleikum Club was among the first organisations to organise Burns' Nights. Meg included haggis in her suggested Bill of Fare for St. Andrew's day, Burns' Clubs, or other Scottish National Dinners. Her book gives two haggis recipes.

The first is as follows:

"The exact formula by which the Prize Haggis was prepared at the famous Competition of Haggises held in Edinburgh when the Cleikum Haggis carried the stakes:

Sheep's pluck and paunch, beef-suet, onions, oatmeal, pepper, salt, cayenne, lemon or vinegar."

The author's note is interesting:

This is a genuine Scotch Haggis: the lemon and cayenne may be omitted and instead of beef gravy a little of the broth in which the pluck is parboiled may be taken. A finer haggis may be made by parboiling and skinning sheep's tongues and kidneys and substituting these, minced, for most of the lights, and soaked bread or crisped crumbs for the toasted meal. There are moreover sundry modern refinements on the above recipe -- such as eggs, milk, pounded biscuits, etc. -- but these by good judges are not deemed improvements. Some cooks use the small tripes in making lamb's haggis.

Meg Dods' second recipe is for "Haggis Royal", taken from the Minutes of the Cleikum Club:

Mutton suet, beef marrow, bread crumbs or oatmeal, anchovies, parsley, lemon, pepper, cayenne, eggs, red wine.

Three pounds of leg of mutton chopped, a pound of suet chopped, a little or rather as much beef marrow as you can spare, the crumb of a penny loaf (our own nutty browned oatmeal, by the way, far better), the beat yolks of four eggs, a half pint of red wine, three mellow fresh anchovies boned, minced parsley, lemon grate, white pepper, crystals of cayenne to taste - crystals alone ensure a perfect diffusion of flavour -- blend the ingredients well, truss them neatly in a veal caul, bake in a deep dish, in a quick oven, and turn out. Serve hot as fire, with a brown gravy and venison sauce.

We have come quite some way from simple cottage fare. This is prosperous Edinburgh's version of Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake".

Not all haggis in Scots recipe books is made with a sheep's paunch. There is Haggis in a Jar -- "the haggis may be put in a buttered jar or basin instead of the bag, and steamed for four hours. It should not be too moist." Closely related is Haggis in a Pan -- "haggis may be cooked like a stew in a saucepan. It has to be stirred occasionally and kept sufficiently moist to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan." Somehow it seems lacking in romance.

To bring the haggis up to date, here is a modern recipe from Dorothy Hartley:

A sheep's paunch and pluck, some of the porous lung, liver and heart, and sometimes the kidneys. Take the suet from around the kidneys and chop it finely. Add about a pint of medium oatmeal, a good amount of chopped onion, a tablespoon of salt, a strong dash of black pepper, half a nutmeg, a handful of currants, raisins or any available fruit element (small wild damsons or garden currants). Mix and pack into the paunch. The secret of making a good haggis is to allow for the swelling-up meal to fill the elastic stomach tightly without bursting. It may be necessary to prick the haggis slightly when the boiling is beginning, to let out the air. It is easier to sew it up, though the correct fashion is to wrap the stomach over, using wooden skewers.

The above article is an excerpt from:

Wright, Clarissa Dickson. The Haggis: A Little History. 1996, Appletree Press Ltd. Belfast.

The tartan is the great Scottish game, and it's a game in which anybody can join.  It's funny to think that a length of woolen cloth with coloured squares on it can stir pride and passion in the heart of a nation, but it does; and of course it's a splendid lark and the envy of all lesser peoples like the Chinese, who are roused only by crude stimuli like the rice harvest and raw steel production.
Tartan is second only to whisky as an exportable element in Scottish culture.  Chic women all over the world have been smothered in yards of chromatic cloth, and lynx-eyed younger executives in California conceal checked undergarments behind their smooth exterior apparel.  A lot of this yardage is made in Austria or Hong Kong, it's true.  But what the heck, it was a Scottish idea.
The Scots also smile indulgent smiles at the strange and untraditional patterns adopted by well meaning foreigners.  Many cannot be identified as true tartan because that adheres rigidly to certain designs laid down by God and approved by the Lord Lyon (also a sort of God).  Nevertheless, to wear tartan or even a facsimile, is considered patriotic and laudable.  Wear it, enjoy it, and raise a toast to Scotland as you do.
*some text unashamedly stolen from A Skinful of Scotch, by Clifford Hanley
This was largely cut and pasted by one of our readers from some of the links she was following through those posted on our site.  She found it interesting that so many of the sentences and the structure of them were so familiar to her.  Her postulation was that it might be an "Ohio" thing "my hair needs washed" or ending a sentence with a proposition "where is my coat at." She says she will have to pay attention to "native Ohioans" to see if I hear things like these proper Scottish Standard English phrases from them, too.  See what you think.
SSE      Anglo English
He turned out the light     He turned the light out.
They took off their coats     They took their coats off.
Did you buy one yet?         Have you bought one yet?
He is here yet.
        He is still here.
Is he not coming?.         Isn't he coming?
Can you not come?         Can't you come?
Do you not want it?         Don't you want it?
Did he not come?         Didn't he come?
He was thinking he'd get more pay. He thought he would get more pay.
I was hoping to see him. I hoped to see him.
They were meaning to come. They meant to come