Rosemary Goring took a degree in Economics and Social History at St Andrews University. She started her career in publishing in the role of in-house editor for Chambers Biographical Dictionary and has since edited and written for many reference books, among them the Larousse Dictionaries of Writers and Literary Characters. She was Literary Editor of Scotland on Sunday for several years before becoming Literary Editor of the Herald. Her latest book is Scotland: The Autobiography (Penguin, 2007).
About Rosemary Goring
An Interview with Rosemary Goring
More About Rosemary Goring
Interview with Rosemary Goring, author of Scotland: The Autobiography
What were the highlights of researching and compiling this book?
Apart from the pleasure of being immersed in the past, it was wonderful to discover writers I'd never heard of, such as the Countess of Nithsdale, who disguised her Jacobite husband as a woman to help him escape from the Tower of London, and to glean insights into Scottish life, such as a schoolboy mutiny in Edinburgh, in 1595, where they locked themselves into the school and shot dead a Baillie of the city.
Who do you think is the most unreliable eye-witness in the book?
I suspect that the memoirs of Alexander Carlyle, being written in hindsight, are more than a little embellished. Carlyle, a minister whose nickname was Jupiter, was regarded by many fellow clergymen as a maverick, a madman, and immoral. He once rode naked across the links at Musselburgh on his horse, and - far worse - consorted with actresses. He was, however, present at several critical historical moments, such as the Porteous Riot in Edinburgh and the Battle of Prestonpans, and his autobiography is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the Scottish character.
If you could have been an eye-witness to a particular moment in history, what would you choose?
I like to imagine myself as an ancient Briton, standing on the Cheviot hills watching an advancing army of glittering ants heading north, and slowly realising that these were not another straggle of belligerent southerners, but the Roman army. Alternatively I would love to have been a little fly on the wall at Riccio's murder, or old enough to have watched Scotland win 3-2 against England at Wembley, after their World Cup victory in 1966.
Please describe a couple of figures from Scotland's history that have particularly inspired you?
Mary, Queen of Scots, for bringing some sophistication and culture to Scotland and standing up to religious bigots; and John Knox, for his fervour and for understanding the essentials of true democracy and instilling the idea that was later caught in the phrase "a man's a man for a that".
What kind of reading experience would you like readers to have?
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I'd like readers to understand that there's more to Scottish culture, history and society than drunkenness, football sectarianism, sex in closes and terrible weather, although there's quite a bit of these in the book.
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