Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Yesterday, the Reaper pulled into Gardenstown Harbour for the day. The ship has been travelling up the Moray coast stopping at many ports to provide a historical experience for locals, school children and their families. The Reaper is a very large Zulu fishing boat, commissioned in 1902. This design of fishing boat was used extensively in the last century and is, sadly, the last remaining one afloat. The Scottish fishing industry once boasted a fleet numbering near 80,000 zulu designed ships. The hold of the Reaper has been converted into a museum, as well as providing meagre quarters for the current crew of eight volunteers. It really wasn't so long ago that the fishing industry in Scotland's small fishing communities bellied up as a mainstay of the country's economy, but that is a completely different story from recent history. Living in a country that supports its heritage, and the rich culture of it's past generations is one of the reasons I moved to Scotland. I love reading and learning about history. I think people in general, though, have become separated from the lessons of courage, character and sacrifice that past generations have grown up knowing and incorporating into their daily lives. No...this isn't the 'why when I was young we walked through drifting snow...' rant. Rather, it is an expression of a sense of loss. Sure there are great examples of selflessness and courage and sacrifice to be admired from individuals of every country these days, but those stories just don't seem to interest most folks or demand the attention of viewing or listening audiences on our television flat screens, films, computers or blackberries. Any American who has ever watched late night with Jay Leno and listened to JayWalk interviews is appalled by the average citizen's lack of very basic knowledge of their own country and history. And we find that entertaining. Memorial Day is fast approaching in the USA, and most people don't even know what it is we're supposed to remember. Winston Churchill said that a country that didn't know it's own history is destined to repeat it's mistakes. And we do. I doubt that most local students could guess why these boats are called zulus, even if you clued them that the design was first introduced in the late 1870's. Last year, American students finish 23rd in a measure of mathematical knowledge compared to the world's leading countries...28th in science...and 26th in history (including their own!). Surprisingly, US students only finished 1st in one category...confidence. Yikes! So, I guess what I am saying is take your kids out to a museum, an art gallery, or a location of historical interest. Read up on it yourself so you can model knowledge, curiosity and gratitude. Tell them about what your grandfathers and grandmothers did and accomplished in their lives. If you don't know...read up.
(more on the fishing industry at www.scotfishmuseum.org)