The Bonnie White Feather Club

Just a couple of days ago, former First Minister Jack McConnell said that the referendum campaign should be suspended during the Commonwealth games.  Jack doesn’t want the yes campaign to benefit from any upswelling in Scottish patriotism the games might generate.  But he’s been entirely silent about the UK Government’s intention to host a series of events designed to highlight British patriotism.  Hypocrisy much?

Early in August this year, the UK Government plans to hold a commemoration of the start of World War 1.  Despite the fact that London is the invariable scene of UK national commemorations, David Cameron and the Tories have decided that Glasgow is to be the focal point of the planned commemorative service, which will feature military parades and enough Union flag bunting to string up all the war mongerers who in their eagerness to teach the Kaiser a lesson caused the deaths of millions.

I can’t recall a previous occasion when such a high profile UK national event was held in Scotland.  But we’ve been assured that the decision to hold a mass demonstration of British patriotism in Glasgow is entirely unconnected to the fact that the Scottish independence referendum will take place just four weeks later.  No really, the UK Government has said it’s pure coincidence, and they wouldn’t lie about something like that, would they?  Jist hing oan a wee minute while A dae up the buttons at the back ae ma heid.

The UK has never before held an official commemoration of the start of any war, but the decision to hold one in Glasgow for WW1 has absolutely nothing to do with the independence referendum, and only bitter and twisted secessionists could possibly think otherwise.

The hundreds of thousands of lions who were led to brutal and early deaths by the donkeys of Westminster were told they were fighting for the right of small nations to decide their own futures.  But it was a lie, in reality they suffered and died so that the powerful could maintain their stranglehold on public life, so that the rich could stay rich and the poor remain poor.

Westminster may have been able to rely upon the naivety of the public during WW1, but this is 2014 and we’ve had 100 years to digest the duplicity and habitual lies of the Mother of Parliaments.  Of course these events are nakedly political and a blatant attempt at emotional manipulation.   Despite the official hype they will indeed be a celebration of Britishness, one held at a politically highly charged time when the question of Britishness will be foremost in the minds of hundreds of thousands of Scots.

The Glasgow event will form a central part of the “emotional case for the Union” which Cameron and Better Together say they’re going to make between now and 18 September and as such is a cynical and opportunistic attempt to lay claim to the sacrifice of millions of dead service people and civilians, and co-opt it for the modern political ends of Westminster.  Whatever the noble dead of WW1 sacrificed their lives for, it wasn’t so that Westminster politicians could continue to abuse the trust and faith of their descendants.

During WW1 white feathers were handed out to those who were regarded as cowards by the official propaganda – those who protested against the war, who refused to succumb to the jingoism used to batter the reluctant into compliance.  Westminster’s opportunism gives us the chance to reclaim the white feather as a symbol for the rights of small nations to decide their futures peacefully and without interference from those who glorify war for their own personal and political ends.

The symbol supposedly originates in the belief amongst afficionados of cockfighting that a cockerel with a white feather in its tail would be a poor fighter.  In August 1914, Vice Admiral Charles Fitzgerald founded the Order of the White Feather which aimed to shame men into enlisting for the slaughter in the trenches by persuading women to present them with a white feather if they were not wearing a uniform.  He obviously viewed ordinary working class men as some species of creature to be used in a blood sport.

In 1904, 10 years before the War to End All Wars, Fitzgerald wrote an article calling for war with Germany in order to destroy the German navy and ensure the continuation of British naval supremacy.  He didn’t seem to be overly concerned about the millions of deaths which would result, after all he wanted to maintain British naval supremacy so that Britannia could continue to rule the waves and despoil and exploit Africa, India and a quarter of the globe.  That’s the real reason the UK declared war on Germany in 1914.

Fitzgerald’s deployment of the white feather was as cynical and self-serving as Westminster’s decision to hold a commemoration of the start of Fitzgerald’s longed-for war just as Scotland stands at the threshold of a historic referendum on the country’s future.

The only appropriate way to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of a world war which led to the deaths of 16 million and the maiming or wounding of 27 million more is with shame and disgrace.  It was a crime perpetrated by governments and the ruling elites upon the ordinary people who suffered and died for the arrogance of those who believed they had the right to rule.  Westminster politicians ought to have no part to play – they are the heirs to the warmongers of 1914, but they will be central to the commemorative events.  They continue to send young men and women to fight, die and kill in their pointless and self-serving wars.  It’s like commemorating the outbreak of the bubonic plague with an exhibition of pedigree rats and a flea circus spectacular.

So I’m having my own wee protest about the futility of war and to express the hope that we can live in an independent country dedicated to peace, and which eschews nuclear weapons and disavows militarism.  I’m starting the Bonnie White Feather Club.  There are no membership lists or fees, no office holders, and no annual general meetings.

All you need to do is to wear a white feather during the month long commemoration of the centenary of start of World War I this August.  The bonnie white feather represents peace, freedom from the manipulations of a Westminster which glorifies war, and the right of the small nation of Scotland to choose its own destiny.  It represents the wish that never again will our youth perish in foreign lands for the glory and vanity of politicians.

I’ll wear my white feather with pride.

39 comments on “The Bonnie White Feather Club

  1. Jim Wylie says:

    Right on the button there. There is an arrogance in the assumption that Glasgow will welcome a jingoistic display of Britain’s military power. I would be surprised if even the unionist inhabitants of Glasgow will identify with this aspect of Britishness. Although the independence campaign has been entirely peaceful, and I very much hope it will remain so, by August it is quite possible that feelings will be running high, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the planned commemorations gave rise to counter demonstrations and even unrest. My first thought when this was originally announced was that it was thoughtless and irresponsible. They don’t have a clue, do they?

  2. I suspect, hope and pray that this backfires in spectacular fashion.

  3. kininvie says:

    Actually, that’s a brilliant idea…I hope it catches on.

  4. Rosaleen says:

    Great article as always, loved the title too. I’ll be joining you in the club. Shared on FB to help.

    • Wilma Watts says:

      We will gladly join your Bonnie White Feather Club and have posted on FB. It should also be remembered that a much higher proportion of Scottish soldiers were killed in each of the WWs.Wear your feather with pride!

  5. Lest we forget, a month prior to the ‘commemoration’ we have this to contend with too….

    If we didn’t know any better, it’s almost as if they are trying to provoke a reaction….

    • I fully agree that with their constant bombardment of lies, insults and abuse, along with these crude displays of propaganda; they most certainly are trying to provoke a response. If everyone else feels the kind of pent up rage I’m keeping the lid on at the moment, then it’s clearly an intended effect. I refuse to act upon it as it is intended as provocation. I hope the rest of my pro Yes countrymen and woman remain cool too because I have no doubt the British, if we refuse to play ball, have some kind of ‘false flag’ spectacular planned.
      About 20 years ago I read a novel by a Scottish author about a situation where Scotland was about to go for independence. In the story, London mounted a number of black ops including a deadly bomb planted on a Glasgow-Edinburgh train and assassination attempts on the new Scottish PM. I can’t remember the name of the book now but it’s worth a read if anyone can remember the title. Or indeed the book!

  6. Cath says:

    Glasgow was considered one of the key centres of opposition to the war. It had a strong left then: the Clydesiders, rent strikes, anti war demonstrations, MacLean and Maxton. These people of Glasgow, along with the normal people who died in their millions are who we should be commemorating.

    That today’s Labour party in Scotland will go along with the Westminster establishment in a show of pro war jingoism should shame anyone involved with them.

    However I also believe this Glasgow event will be held just after the Commonwealth games while people from those other countries are here. Those other countries which also one saw their people sent to die for Westminster but are now independent. Perhaps that can be used?

    Rather than anger or demonstrations I also think we should be countering with parties, concerts and celebrations.

  7. Craig P says:

    As they sang back in the day:

    I don’t want to join the army
    I don’t want to go to war
    I’d rather hang around
    Kelvinbridge underground
    living off the earnings of a high class lady
    I don’t want a bayonet up me arsehole
    I don’t want me bollocks shot away
    (falsetto) shot away
    I’d rather be in Glasgow
    bonny, bonny Glasgow
    and fornicate me fucking life away

  8. jdman says:

    Looking for a duck down pillow right now

  9. Stuart Black says:

    Great piece, WGD, thanks for this. Should be required reading…

  10. Gray says:

    With you all the way on this Paul

  11. Bertie K says:

    Great article, puts this charade of a “celebration” right in perspective.
    Glaswegians, please make sure the streets are deserted during this shameful parade.

  12. gerry parker says:

    I think we should be treated to a weekly diary of the facts that led up to the first world war, why it was necessary to fight it, and how many soldiers (on both sides) were killed during it.
    I think that would sober a few people up.

  13. Desimond says:

    The pathetic excuse being used is that all the Commonwealth leaders will be around due to the Games in Glasgow so lets have it there and not in London, yeah yeah yeah. The Glasgow Lord Provost uttering words like “Its great for Glasgow to host such a celebration” really makes one despair.

    Truly dreadful manipulation and we can await wall to wall media coverage about the brave BRITISH troops who fell to protect the very Union we so disgracefully dare to question.

  14. Eilean says:

    As I understand it most of these “commemorations” will take place in Georges Square. I am up for a campaign to rename Georges Square post independence. Lets rename it “John McLean Square”!

    • That’s one of the finest suggestions I have ever heard. I’ll add my weight to this one for sure!

    • weegingerdug says:

      What an excellent idea. Much better than naming the centre of Glasgow after a king who never once set foot in Scotland during his entire 60 year reign.

      • Eilean says:

        Dont get me started on re-naming. I would get rid of all the Georges, Williams, Charlots, Princes and Princesses. And what about “Union St.” I would change it to “Action Strasse” after the song by Glasgow’s own S.A.H.B. (see link) but I am probably pushing it there.

        Now, Fort William and Fort Augustus two Scottish towns named after William Augustus Duke of Cumberland. AKA “The Butcher Cumberland” Who was in charge of the dreadful and extremely brutal ethnic cleansing that took place in that area after the Jacobite defeat at Culloden in 1746. What sort of country would accept an insult like that. I have checked a map of Israel and I cant find anywhere named after Himmler anywhere at all, strange that eh!

        Just like any normal newly independent country we can throw off the reminders of our colonial past.

        Just to add. I think that the John McLean Square idea works on so many levels. I wonder how “Scottish” Labour would vote on that if the SNP proposed it.

        • Eilean says:

          Getting carried away here but how good (and unlikely) would it be to get Georges Square renamed before “Camerons Flying Circus” comes to town.

        • weegingerdug says:

          The Gaelic for Fort Augustus is Cill Chuimein,’Cummein’s Church’. On older maps the original Gaelic name is rendered Killwhimmin – in various spellings.

          Fort William is usually An Gearastan in modern Gaelic ‘the Garrison’. But it was formerly known as Gearastan Inbhir Lochaidh, the Garrison of Inverlochy as the original settlement grew up around Inverlochy castle just to the north of the town.

          Changing street names is one thing, but I think you should only change the name of a town or village if the people who live there agree with the idea.

          • David Smith says:

            Every Union Street will be renamed ‘Independence Street’. Simples.
            We have lots of McLeans, McDiarmids, McGonagalls, Innovators, Sporting legends, and Creative giants to remove every trace of the Overlords from our street maps.
            If Glasgow or any other Scottish city ever needs a new sewage treatment plant we could name it after Ian Davidson or similar.

          • Eilean says:

            Of course you are right about asking the residents prior to renaming of a town. In these cases though I would not want to be the one campaigning on behalf of William Augustus.🙂

      • Wilma says:

        Can I just say that today I have been writing to my MP, MSP and councillors to say how disgusted I am that George Square is being used and Glasgow abused in this way. I have reminded them of the Riots that took place there in 1919 when the British Army was called in against strikers and returning soldiers. When there were tanks in the streets of Glasgow and machine guns set up on the roofs of the General Post Office and the North British Hotel aimed at the men and women who were demonstrating there.
        This is an affront to the people of Glasgow. For some shocking photographs of the event go to Glasgow Digital Library. Also had an article all about it last year, in the autumn.

  15. Eilean says:

    I served in the Army for 16 years. I was intending to attend one of these parades not to take part but to demonstrate against the celebrations. I was planning to wear my medal and regimental association badges (three of!) while doing so. Looks like a white feather will be added to the ensemble!

  16. Scaraben says:

    My mother once told me that her father, who fought in the trenches and was wounded in the Great War, never spoke about it. I have little doubt that my grandfather would have been disgusted at the cynical exploitation of the anniversary of the start of the war for political purposes.

    As for McConnell, I do not take his pronouncement at face value; he is a unionist politician, after all. But if I did, then I would have to conclude that he believes that finding out, for example, who can run fastest is more important than Scotland’s future.

  17. yerkitbreeks says:

    @ Scaraben. I guess there are few of us with personal connections to WW1. My father was a farm lad yanked out of Sanday ( in Orkney ) and I suppose because so many men were killed at the Somme where he fought he rose to Major in the Royal Artillery – he said to me many years later he knew that was as far as he would be allowed to rise as he ” hadn’t been to the right schools and didn’t have the right accent”. You will know what he meant, and looking at the accents of the military movers and shakers today, as with all the other bits of the London Establishment, has anything changed in 100 years ? Anyway, he got his medals and I never saw him wear them as I had the firm impression he thought it inappropriate to flaunt what was offered for killing poor German lads yanked off for the same purpose.
    I will seriously consider wearing a White feather, but am not sure what he would have thought about it. I took him to France briefly, which he enjoyed, but while my mother and I had a look at some war graves, he refused to get out of the car.

  18. alharron says:

    Interestingly, the white eagle feather has a very different meaning in Native American culture:

    “The plume of an Eagle Feather or fluff is white, billowy and soft. It presents the purity, lightness and gentleness of a child full of the spirit and so new to the cycle of life. The plume is distinctive and usually a token of honor.

    The plume in the Cycle of Life is the beginning of the formative years, childhood. It is the age of innocence, pride and dreams – a time for bonding and attachment to relationships, values, attitudes, behaviors, personalities, character and to the environment. It is a time for security and integration.”

    “To Native American peoples in every location where eagles are indigenous, they are a revered animal. The greatest gift and honoring one can receive in our cultural way is to be given an eagle feather, feathers, or other part, such as a talon.”

    Such irony, that a gift intended to shame and ridicule a man in one culture would be considered “the greatest gift” one could give in another! Reclaiming the white feather as a pacifist symbol, then, would also be a lovely gesture of solidarity with Native Americans. I will certainly be wearing a white feather of some stripe, and will be suggesting it to my friends & family. What a wonderful idea.

  19. macart763 says:

    A more cynical exercise by the Westminster government I’ve yet to see in this campaign. Using our war dead in a political point scoring scam.

    Appalled when it was first suggested and disgusted that they are going ahead.

    Great post and couldn’t agree more.

  20. Keith Smith says:

    Totally agree with the previous comments. Makes me sick to my stomach at the thought of a celebration of millions if dead. I suggest that a major campaign should be instigated and as many people as possible turn up wraring the white feathers. I think also that the most effective way of protest is to simply en-masse turn our backs as soon as Cameron speaks and do it so it is plainly clear our feelings are of utter disgust.

  21. William says:

    Westminster is CELEBRATING the start of this war.

    Shall we have street parties in Glasgow and all over Scotland?

  22. Eilean says:

    On the John McLean thing. I am working from memory here but I think that this is something that John McLean said with regard to WW1.

    “The trouble with the bayonet is that it is a weapon with a working man at both ends”

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  24. Kelly says:

    Hi – really lovely article. It looks like reclaiming the white feather has been carrying on. Check this out:

  25. Great article. Looks like the White Feather has reclaimed itself and Finnieston Crane too. Nice work from dugs and feathers.

  26. xtclimbing says:

    “The hundreds of thousands of lions who were led to brutal and early deaths by the donkeys of Westminster were told they were fighting for the right of small nations to decide their own futures. But it was a lie, in reality they suffered and died so that the powerful could maintain their stranglehold on public life, so that the rich could stay rich and the poor remain poor.”

    I have a few problems with such comments. I am currently a member of the Air Training Corps, or Air Cadets and so I feel as if I can offer a unique perspective on this as I aspire, in the future to join the Royal Air Force.
    In this paragraph you imply several things which are in fact rather biased opinions. The first being that when you say “The hundreds and thousands of lions” were “led” to war by “Westminster”. This, I admit was true of some cases but you forget that a large percentage of the population will have had other reasons. One reason could be that the forces was a family job, others could have had no-where else to go, others may have enjoyed the prospect of violence as not all soldiers are in fact good, honest, brave hearts and finally some may have simply felt a sense of patriotism. My point is that it is wrong to assume that it was the “lies” or in some opinions the “truths” that “Westminster” made public that inspired men to join.

    The second is that it is in fact wrong to say that it was “Westminster” who lied to Britons, because the Ministry of Information, responsible for propaganda was based in Senate House, on Malet Street, in London, as opposed to Westminster in The City of Westminster.

    The third is that you are protesting against the Armed Forces, who during The Great War, went over as the British Expeditionary Force to help hold Belgium and France, impeding the German advance. Imagine if the German army had successfully invaded France. Would they have crossed the channel? Would we have been able to stop a full scale invasion? Probably not as the Army only consisted of 40,000 volunteers. The argument is similar during The Second World War. So, in effect, you are protesting against the organisation which has and continues to protect your right to protest against it. Seems rather illogical. Perhaps you should change your manifesto to instead protesting against war. Just war. Not the people who fight it. Not the people who “Gave their tomorrow for our today” because frankly it’s a bit disrespectful to assume that they had no idea what they were doing. Many would have done and many would have joined up anyway.

    And finally, the fourth is that you claim that “fighting for the right of small nations to decide their own futures”, “was a lie”. Although I’m not sure what you mean when you talk the men in power maintaining “their stranglehold on public life, so that the rich could stay rich and the poor remain poor”, but I want to ask, if you were to see a teenager beating up a small child, and someone was asking you to help him, would you idly stand by on the basis that you don’t believe in violence and the person asking you to help looks a bit shady and watch the child get beaten to a pulp? I hope not. If you have the ability to help, you should take the initiative to help simply because it’s the right thing to do. Many servicemen will probably have believed this, as well as other reasons listed above. So when Belgium was invaded by Germany in The Great War, or Poland and France in the Second World War, or people are oppressed like in Afghanistan in the previous few years, shouldn’t we as decent human beings help those who can’t help themselves?

    In conclusion, as I suggested before, you should change your angle slightly from targeting the brave men and women, to targeting the very concept of war for that is the true poison because even as an aspiring serviceman, I would rather live in a world without war than be in the forces but as long as there is war, I’m happy to fight for yours and others freedom. And maybe I’ll die for you. I don’t know, and there’s no glory at all in it, fighting for unappreciative people or people who support the forces, and there’s no glory in death. There’s just that satisfaction in doing what I believe is right, as you do with this article.

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