Imagining Scottish Identities

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Chair: Sarah Laurenson

Shauna O’Neill:Brotherlie vnitie is good and plesant’: the material culture of fictive kinship and Scottish Covenanter identity

In the late 1630s and 1640s the community of expatriate Scots living and working in the Scottish staple port at Veere in the Netherlands was an important source of arms, munitions, credit and ideological support for Covenanters in Scotland.

Although married into, and cooperating in trade with, the local community, they held fast to a Scottish identity, which embraced the Covenant. They had their own minister, and despite worshipping in the same building as the town’s Dutch population, this Scottish congregation resisted the infiltration of Netherlandish practices into their area of the church.

This paper explores fictive kinship as the support for their tenacious Scottish identity by examining Scottish secular and religious bonding and the important symbolic contribution material objects made to the bonds on which fictive kinship networks, like the Covenant, were founded. Analysis of a set of silver communion cups and heraldic stained glass from Veere demonstrates that Scottish people used a range of objects to construct, express and activate fictive kinship and that the Covenanters of Veere, although protective of their cultural identity, were open to adapting Netherlandish conventions and forms suited to serve their social and religious purposes

Laura Scobie: Whisky’s material culture: Eighteeenth century roots of Scottish identity in the contemporary Scottish whisky industry

Objects produced by whisky distilleries often feature elements that evoke ideas of Scotland’s past and landscape through imagery and design choices. These are used in packaging to market and represent the brand and the whisky product. This paper looks closely at where the use of whisky’s history and ideas of Scottish identity in whisky marketing are rooted in the eighteenth century.

This paper considers twenty-first century whisky packaging and marketing against the context of three main themes: illicit distilling, whisky’s medicinal history, and ‘the picturesque’. It considers the display of the reportedly romantic history of illicit distilling in distillery visitor centres in Speyside, and examples of whisky products that pay homage to smugglers and Scottish whisky’s history. It also considers the material culture of whisky’s medicinal history. As stated in Tobias Smollett’s 1771 novel, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, Highlanders used whisky at all ages, treating smallpox in infants and the common cold. This study also looks at early travel accounts of Scotland in the eighteenth century as a root of ideas of ‘the picturesque’ in Scotland’s landscapes. By looking at contemporary whisky objects with this context, I have examined how elements of the picturesque Scottish landscape and the appeal and intrigue of adventure have been reimagined in the contemporary whisky industry.

These three main themes reveal both change and continuity in whisky marketing, explored through contemporary Romanticising of Scotland, and of whisky’s history, using elements rooted in the eighteenth century.