I must have been one of the very few kids in Glasgow to be lullabied to sleep with old Republican songs… and because of that and my own journey I’m an avowed internationalist republican which is why today I say Vive La Republic of Barbados.
And Bim, as it is affectionately known (hence me being known on the island as Bim Jim) is the talk of the Scottish and British Travel scene with the Bridgetown route rolling out from Edinburgh next month.
Now to celebrate Barbados becoming the latest country to throw off the shackles of monarchy and go out on their own, here’s to all those nations who have taken their destiny in their own hands.
And decided to be governed by one of their own.
Now a true republic, just like a true democracy or a true anything these days in double speak, is a moveable object.
But you’ve got to start somewhere which is why we’re going with 160 (now Barbados have signed up).
All republics lead from Rome
And if you know you’re Classic History, and my Latin is better than my Ancient Greek then you’ll know that republic derives from the two Latin words res and publica (public thing).
So that’s one of the famous things that ‘the Romans did for us’ although, of course, if you’re British then it’s an experiment from which we’ve run far away.
Apart, of course, from a brief period from 1649-1660 when these islands of Britain and Ireland entered into a Commonwealth which was really a theocracy.
But while Westminster claims to be the mother of all parliaments (doubtful, and Europe’s oldest in Iceland might have something to say about that).
It’s Rome which is the mothership of all republics, and we have the good fortune that the Forum, the hub of Roman public life is still there.
No fools those Ancient Romans though with their togas as I found out when I almost fainted in the Eternal City heat in my modern clothes.
An Italian fixture
Now where Rome led the rest of Italy followed.
And chief among them was the 1100-year Venetian Republic which still styles itself thus and is hewn into every gondola and the very bricks of the Campanile.
Florence, Siena, Amalfi, Pisa and Genoa all saw what the Doges were doing and how fetching their hats were and followed suit.
But the republicaniest of all the republics and the longest-standing is San Marino.
And so what they lack in football skills (0-10 v England) they more than make up for in their political skills.
La Republique, mais oui
Ah, yes, the French. like so much, would have us believe that they are the shining light of Republics.
So much so that they have had five of them ever since Corsican Napoleon got le ball rolling.
Notre ami soon decided though that L’empereur sounded so much better…
And he did that with one arm behind his back (or affectedly tucked in his jacket then).
It must be a poncey royal thing because the UK’s Prince Charles who very graciously decided to attend the signing-over papers to the Bajans (and bag himself some sun at the time) does pretty much the same thing.
And on a tangent we’ll not say anything about the carbon footprint, Prince Save The World.
None of us are perfect, of course, it’s just the rest of us don’t bleat on about it and preach to the rest of us who do hop on planes.
Middle Ages and Middle Europe
The breeding ground for republics in the Middle Ages was what we now know as Germany.
And a quick count chronicles 62 in the northern European powerhouse.
All of which would be a good exercise and excuse to traverse modern-day Germany with a Michael Portillo type notebook.
I’d have to start in my favourite German city Hamburg first of course.
There are some who have gone the opposite way to the Bajans and jumped from republic to monarchy like the Dutch.
Others who have had a brief dalliance with republicanism, Catalonia, and still have hopes of a return to those halcyon days.
Battle hymn of the Republic
Yes, their eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
And while the North eulogised its Republic, the South too held its close to its bosom, albeit for just five years.
That said the Confederate States of America still exist in the hearts and minds of many in the Deep South.
It’s one of those annoying Government buzzwords so let’s claim it back with a Rainy Days and Songdays Green Lighting megamix around the world. Our favourite songs with ‘green’ in the title and the countries where they transport us.
The old rogue Burns was pure rock’n’roll and could pen a lyric and a tune which is probably why he is held in such high regard by the greatest singer-songwriters of the latter half of the 20th century.
With Bob Dylan, no less, crediting the Scot as his greatest inspiration.
Every nation sacrificed its most promising generation in No Man’s Land but for those from the furthest outposts of Empire… well, it just seems to be all the more pointless to modern sensibilities.
Eric Bogle, a Scots-born Australian, explores the pyschological cost to one survivor ‘young Willie McBride’. And it was all the more poignant after I’d seen the statue of the Scots soldier in northern France.
As Scotland strikes out again to try seize its freedom following the vote for independence parties in the Scottish election, your global traveller is flagging up one Scots-infused country of Empire which did… Jimmyaica.
No, Jimmyaica isn’t my lame efforts at Jamaican patois.
It’s more a recognition of the Scottish imprint on Jamaica (Scots are playfully known as Jimmys) and particularly its flag.
Jamaican flags will be flying even more proudly next year as the Caribbean Island celebrates 60 years of independence and some of you might wonder why it has that St Andrew’s Cross at its centre.
Flags are us
If some of you are tentatively wondering that it might have something to do with Scotland then go to the top of the class.
You may very well be a vexillologist, or somebody who loves flags and have found a link too between the Scottish flag and the Tenerife flag too.
I did when I went out to the Canary Island with CanariaWays and found that they have the exact same flag.
The initial suggestion for the flag was a Tricolour of green (agriculture and hope), black (the struggles of its people) and gold (sunlight).
But that was thought too similar to Tanganyika’s (now Tanzania).
But then you knew that already.
Besides, a missionary from Glasgow, Rev. William McGhie (he’d obviously considered his ain Glaswegians well past saving!) had the ear of the Prime Minister Alexander Bustamante.
The Man of the Cloth persuaded him to embed Christian imagery into the flag.
And so the X of the St Andrew’s Cross found its way onto the flag to mark how the Apostle had lost his life.
Glasgow belongs to I and I
The Jamaican Glasgow on the west of the island is, of course, just one of a number of place names we both share.
Among the others are Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness, Dundee, Greenock and ouch… Culloden!
So we’re off… with our official countdown to the 60th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence.
And I’m bringing you this in association with Flag Up Scotland Jamaica which helpfully also seems to want to promote Caledonian preserves – flagupscotjam.
There’s an advert on Irish television where the winner of the EuroMillions lottery buys a tropical island for his friends and family… oh Ireland in the sun!
Didn’t he know there was a Caribbean island there already which is more Irish than Ireland?
Montserrat is the tiny 39 and a half sqm Emerald Island of the Caribbean because of its Irish links which run deep.
The Irish have been around the Leeward Island since 1632, sent there from neighbouring St Kitts and later Virginia.
Fly the flag
Montserrat was to build a thriving economy around tobacco and indigo (that’s blue dye) and later tobacco and sugar.
Fast forward to today by way of Cromwell’s transportations, and if it wasn’t for the sun, palm trees, volcano and rain forest you’d swear you were in Ireland.
It’s there in the island flag with its figure of a cailín standing by a cross and holding a harp. We’ll gloss over the Union flag in the corner.
While a shamrock adorns Government House.
So why then is Montserrat not a throng of Irish visitors from the Old Country?
Possibly because they prefer the Canaries and there is a lot to like about them but say that it’s Tenerife you love then you’ll love Montserrat too.
There’s the volcano which gives you the distinctive black beaches shared by both islands, though there is one white beach that we all love too on Montserrat.
While there’s evidence of the volcano’s activity in the form of a buried city, and now St Vincent’s has awoken and is erupting the focus switches south to the ghost town of Plymouth.
The best place to view it is from the Garibaldi Hill viewpoint or the viewpoint from Jack Boy Hill on the east of the island following a short hike.
Combined, of course, with a trip to the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.
While Montserrat’s Irishness is all around you in its symbols (the shamrock stamp in your passport), names of villages and they say too in an Irish brogue it goes into overdrive around St Patrick’s Day.
When the Montserratians tie in their own commemoration of their slavery past with the saint’s day.
For the craic, yes, but also because it is steeped in their history.
St Paddy’s Day, mon
On St. Patrick’s Day in 1768, the African slaves on the island rose up and it is alleged nine slaves were hanged.
And they have never been forgotten with St. Patrick’s Day now heradling a ten-day festival to honour their Afro-Irish heritage.
Again there are too few of the Irish who go out to Montserrat, and we mean to do something about it.
And trawling through the records we’ve seen that Martin is a regular visitor out to the Emerald Island
Where he was a special guest at Governor’s wife Sujue Davis’s popular latest Coffee Morning on Tuesday, March 11 before that same evening performing at the Uncle’s bar/restaurant a popular night spot in Flemings.
And the Montserrat Reporter (are you employing?) chronicled that ‘the three-man Irish band performed throughout the week at probably every ‘rum shop and bar’ and is a major performer in the popular “Pub Crawl’.
So Montserrat, all 4,900 of them, celebrates their Irish roots with good trad music then, and also its Caribbean heritage with our favourite Soca Music.
Arrow hits the mark
Hot-hot-hot? Yeah, you now it, mon. It’s this classic from one of Montserrat’s favourite sons, the legendary late Soca star Arrow
So to get there… you’ll fly out of the UK to Antigua where it’s only a 15-minute flight out to your Ireland in the Sun.
And here’s where you’ll stay with a wide range of hotel rooms, guest houses, villas and apartments all flagged up on the Montserrat site.
And with less than 5,000 people on the island, everyone practically knows each other, and if you say you’re Irish you’ll get a warm welcome from Warren and Cherise!