Sons of Albyn, Daughters of Greece
Sons of Albyn, Daughters of Greece: Scottish Tales and Greek Continuities
Dr Vassiliki Kolocotroni (University of Glasgow)
Twenty years after his controversial involvement in the Greek political scene in the immediate aftermath of the War of Independence as the new state’s first Public Prosecutor, and having resigned his posts in the Greek Supreme Court and the new Athens University to take up the Chair of New Testament and Ecclesiastical Greek at the General Assembly’s College in Belfast, the Aberdonian Philhellene Edward Masson (1799-1873) continued to promote the Greek cause as ‘one of the most interesting social and Christian movements of modern times’. As sole editor of and main contributor to a number of Philhellenic journals, Masson published views on the Eastern Question, reports on the ‘friendly intercourse between Protestants and the Oriental clergy’, as well as his own translations of Scottish and English poetry into the ‘living literary language of the Greeks’ and vice versa.
Taking its cue from Masson’s claim that ‘by far the greatest part of Britons who have displayed an ardent and persevering adherence to the cause of Greek independence’, were ‘fervid Scots, either of Albyn or Erin’, this talk will trace elective affinities between Scottish Philhellenism and the emergent discourses of Scottish and Greek exemplarity, drawing attention to the medium of translation as cultural mediation and co-adoption of tropes sourced from the Philhellenic and late romantic repertoire. Recurrent parallelisms in accounts of landscape, lore in the form of the ancient pedigree of recalcitrant types such as the Highlander and the klepht, as well as the continuity between Celtic and Greek bardic traditions, are some of the elements which shape this tale of Scoto-Greek mutuality in the mid- and late nineteenth century. More specifically, alongside Masson, I briefly feature the work of Glaswegian classical scholar and ‘Scottish patriot’ John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), who defeated Masson in the ‘tough contest’ for the Edinburgh Chair of Greek in 1852, and the Aberdonian writer, educator and activist Isabella Fyvie Mayo (1843-1914), whose edifying tale, A Daughter of the Klephts or a Girl of Modern Greece (1897), casts in the form of the historical romance a uniquely Scottish (and womanly) understanding of Greece’s freedom-fighting legacy.