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About A Week: Crush The Scots? - I Don't Think So

Peter Hinchliffe thinks the time for a new British national anthem is long overdue.

Every time I hear the British national anthem, I think of John Noble's cat.

Long before I learned to sing "God Save Our Gracious Queen," a village joker got to me.

This was in a tiny Yorkshire hill village. The men of the village, most of them miners, used to gather on fine evenings to set the world to rights. A gang of young lads walking past this village "parliament" was questioned by a man who worked at the coal face.

"Right you lot, what have you learned in school today?"

"Can't remember," was the embarrassed reply.

"Knew it," said the miner, with a mischievous glint in his eye. "They don't teach you anything these days. I bet you don't even know the national anthem. Come on young Hinchy. Let's hear you sing it."

"What's the National Anthem?" said I.

"Told you," said the miner, with a triumphant chuckle. "We'd better teach them it."

So they taught us the following words:

God save John Noble's cat
Killed two mice and one rat
God save his cat

When the village schoolmistress eventually got around to teaching us the official version, it came as something of an anticlimax.

God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us;
God save the Queen!

To a child's mind it was much more fun to ask God to intercede on behalf of Noble's predatory cat.

Of course, as a loyal citizen, I have stood to attention on many thousands of occasions when the anthem has been played. Fifty years ago, millions of cinema-goers stood for the anthem at the end of every show. Now it is rarely heard.

The words and melody of the anthem first appeared in the "Gentleman's Magazine" in 1745. It was officially recognized as the national anthem from the beginning of the 19th century.

No one came forward to claim authorship of the words. Hardly surprising. Many of the sentiments are bombastic. The sixth and final verse is obnoxiously anti-Scottish.

Lord grant that Marshal Wade
May by thy mighty aid
Victory bring.
May he sedition hush,
And like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush.
God save the Queen!

The union of Scotland and England was officially ratified in 1707. Some proud Scots continued to resist the union. Marshall Wade was charged with bringing them to heel.

England and Scotland have now prospered together for 300 years. But calls for Scottish independence are gathering momentum. This week Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish National Party, called for a "national conversation" to begin on Scottish independence.

First Minister Salmond is in his fourth month leading a minority government in the Scottish Parliament. Following a referendum in 1997 in which a majority of Scots opted for a measure of home rule, the Parliament was set up in 1998. It meets in Edinburgh in a new building of spectacular design.

Although the Scottish Parliament wields a good deal of authority, it is still subservient to the British Parliament in London. No party won an out-and-out majority in this year's Scottish Parliamentary elections.

The Scottish National Party is committed to full independence. The Scottish Labor, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties are opposed to a break-up of the Scotland-England union.

A recent opinion poll published in the Daily Mail revealed that half those questioned backed the Nationalist government, yet only 31 percent were in favor of independence.

However, a poll published by the Sunday Telegraph at the end of last year showed that the majority of people in both Scotland and England were then in favor of Scotland becoming an independent nation.

Independence was backed by 52 percent of the Scots who were questioned.

Astonishingly, 59 percent of English people questioned by the same pollsters wanted Scotland to have full authority over its own affairs.

Britain's new prime minister, Gordon Brown, is of course Scottish born and bred, and the Labor MP for the Scottish constituency of Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath in the national parliament.

Gordon Brown is firmly committed to upholding the United Kingdom and is opposed to Scottish independence.

The national conversation called for this week by Salmond is likely to go on for months and years.

In the meantime, someone should start a campaign to formally ditch the sixth verse of the national anthem.

Perhaps thought should also be given to excising the second verse of the anthem, which calls for the downfall of the Queen's enemies, on the grounds that some may see it as being directed at Salmond and his supporters.

O Lord our God arise,
Scatter her enemies
And make them fall;
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all!

Come to think of it, only the fourth verse of the anthem strikes a theme for modern times.

Not in this land alone,
But be God's mercies known,
From shore to shore!
Lord make the nations see,
That men should brothers be,
And form one family,
The wide world over.

At least the Scots and the English can unite in supporting this plea for worldwide brotherhood


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