I just heard John Bell of the Iona Community on ‘Thought for the Day’. He was talking, since it’s St Andrew’s day, about the old Scottish saying, or toast, “Here’s tae us, wha’s like us? Damn few, and they’re a’ deid.” That’s, “Here’s to us, who’s like us? Damn few, and they’re all dead,” in case you have trouble with Scots.
Thing is, Bell was bemoaning the attitude he thinks it represents. He thinks it means, “The only people we can emulate are dead.” He thinks it epitomises a ‘national inferiority complex.’
That’s not how I ever understood it.
Rather than looking back wistfully on past glories, to me it was triumphal, celebratory, even arrogant, if you need a negative adjective. It said — it says — “We’re here, and we’re great; there’s no-one like us.”
So happy St Andrew’s day: we rock.