What’s Beyond the Labours?

It’s done now, and all of sudden, life bursts out from beyond the obscuring cloud of interpretive atavism. I’m pleased to relate that my dissertation is finally finished, handed in, and now at the mercy of three very distinguished instructors. I’ll know if it was sufficient in a matter of weeks, and then a simple equation will be appropriate:

1 Year + 4 Papers/History(Scotland) + (x)WhiskyPools – 3 Modicums(Sanity) + 1500 Sheep + Untold Passion and Adventure =

1 Master’s Degree and 1 Historical Examination:
‘Like Lambs Among the Heather’: Impressment and Coercion in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745-6

I’ll be posting it online after I’ve had time to edit it and consider remarks for anyone foolish enough to want to delve deeper. But all this isn’t so important anymore. Now there’s a new focus on gathering my possessions and my faculties to make the big trip home. After a year that has concurrently felt like ten and also like just a week, I spend my last month in Edinburgh amongst friends and buildings that I’ll never be able to excise from my insides.

And why would I ever want to?

It feels very good to take a minute to write here, because I’ve missed it so. There’s a tamper on creativity and flair within academia that stripped me of both time and method to let myself out. All my paints and projects are back home, and this country and its experiences conjure so much within a person that not letting it out can be virtually poisonous. Real life will be fun once again. The whole gang back home will be there, burritos and sushi, fog and brine, and time to be young even as youth slowly wanes away. I’ll have time to express myself, and to be myself. All 100% of me.

And I was thinking about this after I printed out my effort; as the ink was still drying upon its pages. Cross-legged on the hardwood floor with a paper moorland splayed out in front of me, I gathered the books and articles which I had wielded as weapons for the past year. I swept them close like warm clothes just out of the dryer and I carefully separated the City’s tomes from my own. I stacked large skyscrapers of history around me and remembered that I’ve read so many people that have used the very same books to come to similar or divergent conclusions. I felt high, and it felt wrong that I was stopping that right here and now.

In the excitement created by a little birth of freedom and accomplishment, there is also a small dirge of death and regret. It took me an hour to remove a rainbow of Post-It notes from thousands of pages, still clinging fervently to old margins in the hopes that they would brightly signal some new revelation under their sticky tabs. With each one I peeled out of a book or journal, there was a fleeting question nipping at my thoughts – am I doing the right thing by going home? Don’t I still have more to contribute? And in answer, my Old Friends from time immemorial gazed into my eyes before the pages closed and the books were set back upon their towering stacks. They were speaking to me, though I’m not sure exactly it was that they said.


These are very familiar folk, these faces. We have a history, and I trust them to a great degree. We’ve been helping each other for some time, now. Our methods aren’t always the same, but there is a confluence towards a greater goal: To live on in the hearts and minds of our descendants. Am I abandoning this noble purpose – half-selfish and half-altruistic – before my own time is done? Am I taking a break, or is this really the end of it?


What makes the decision more difficult are the startling temptations I’ve had of late, things that are very good for my academic career but which must be put on hold for some time. For example, I managed to conjure the gumption to approach a long-time mentor at a recent conference, the very day I submitted my paper. I had never met the man before, but to see his eyes light up at the mention of my own research was a pleasing shock. Making plans for lunch to discuss our ideas together was an unexpected boon, and confessing that I disagreed with some of his theses and still having him interested in talking to me was the best part. As well, the opportunity to work towards my PhD under the curator of the National Museums has presented itself, and after a nice lunch with a nice man, we’ve found that we have much in common where our interests lie. And then there’s STASIS, which has only now really come to fruition, with our new advert in History Scotland magazine.


There is time, I think. Too much momentum won’t be lost. There are no ‘right decisions’ in life, only decisions that we attempt to make work for us to be right. Somehow I know that there’s more to do here. That’s my decision, but maybe not mine alone. It might have something to do with the faces in the books that convey their wordless messages when my eyes brush past them in a final acknowledgment of thanks. I don’t know how they’d feel about coming out of great cardboard boxes after a lengthy journey only to find themselves in California. Maybe Elcho would enjoy sushi, and perhaps Lord George Murray would finally forgive Charles Edward for his obstinacy once he was warmed by the golden, sunny rays of a more progressive land. I’d be happy to take Lady Anne Mackintosh on a private tour of the Napa vineyards if she promised to behave.

But Lochiel…

Lochiel needs his Achnacarry. He needs to be close to his Lochaber, and his Manmore Forest. I understand this, and I can see it in his eyes. They still speak after all these years, and they have so much more to say still. To listen clearly means being close to the source, and in a way that’s all I need to hear. Feel free to ask him yourself. For now, though, I’m coming home. It’s been some year, and I couldn’t feel richer for the experience. For now, though, there are other good things to work on.


26 Responses to “What’s Beyond the Labours?”

  1. psymbiotic Says:
    September 11th, 2004 at 10:15 pm

    I’m pleased to relate that my dissertation is finally finished, handed in, and now at the mercy of three very distinguished instructors.
    Let me be the first to say CONGRATS my friend! 😀
    Egan >:>

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 12th, 2004 at 8:10 am

    Thanks greatly, Egan. That was some bold vote of confidence!
    See you soon!

  3. defenestr8r Says:
    September 12th, 2004 at 12:42 am

    wow! i'm so very excited for you. i hope leaving isn't too traumatic and that you are optimistic about what comes next.

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 12th, 2004 at 8:11 am

    It will be, and I will be, thank you. And the same for you, of course.
    Do we have any other choice?

  5. siphet Says:
    September 12th, 2004 at 1:16 am

    …additional congratulations on the accomplishment thus far!
    In particular, may I say that the outline for Stasis is quite thoroughly mapped and a model for other groups to use. I'll be using it as an example for some of the groups I consult.

  6. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 12th, 2004 at 8:13 am

    Wow, thanks for digging into the project a bit and taking a look. It's been a blast thusfar and I hope to be able to come back to the group in the future sometime. We've had some good responses and good turnouts, with lots of kind support. When I get back it would be fun to chat about what you're doing right now, as well.
    Let's be in touch!

  7. ubernacht Says:
    September 12th, 2004 at 2:27 am

    Congrats Man! You are one of those few people who perceviere (see I can't even spell it!) and accomplish thier dreams.
    I'm still curious about what you did with 1500 sheep…I thought you curbed that habit!
    Anyway, I can't wait to see you and I know what it feels like; despite your surroundings, there is always 'home' in all it's dull and familiar glory – there is nothing like it!
    So cheers man…you have earned everything you have gotten!

  8. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 12th, 2004 at 8:15 am

    Hey, once you've had over a thousand at once, it's hard to stop. And in the dark, it's all wool and teeth, anyway…
    Thank you so much for your firm congratulations and kind words. We'll certainly be seeing each other soon!

  9. velvetdahlia Says:
    September 12th, 2004 at 4:35 am

    This is quite an achievement! Congratulations! *Doing happy Thesis Dance in Portland*
    Though I have to confess a kind of selfish sadness that I'll just miss you– I will be arriving as you are returning. I hope you consider the PhD– it seems like you were meant for it. But like you say, there is time.

  10. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 12th, 2004 at 8:18 am

    My velvet darling:
    Thank you for your good stuff. It's been a long road, and I'm thrilled that we met so far apart, and now that our locational roles will be reversing. You can bet that we'll have some time in the same place in no time flat. Everything else has come this way, even at the depths of great despair and frustration.
    In a way, we're both living a testament to that fact, and for that my congratulations to you are as necessary as yours to mine, which I once again thank you for.

  11. velvetdahlia Says:
    September 16th, 2004 at 9:32 am

    It does have a weird synchronicity, doesn't it? Kinda cool! I have to say all your posts kept me hopeful, and gave me something concrete to visualize, so thank you for that, and all the encouragement along the way.

  12. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 19th, 2004 at 10:57 pm

    It is a given, and I hope you know that inspiration, honestly, goes both ways. These are not just words. I can't wait to see how your journey kicks off.

  13. thistlelurid Says:
    September 12th, 2004 at 4:41 am

    looking forward to the read!

  14. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 12th, 2004 at 8:18 am

    Boy, are you a glutton for punishment!

  15. thistlelurid Says:
    September 12th, 2004 at 8:26 am

    oh I am…. :*) but Im a sucker for learning!

  16. seide Says:
    September 12th, 2004 at 10:20 am

    Congratulations! This is quite an accomplishment and you should be proud. Can't wait to read the dissertation!

  17. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 13th, 2004 at 12:55 am

    Hiya! Thank you kindly.
    I'll expect your criticisms and points in triplicate, within one month of the online publication date.

  18. agntprovocateur Says:
    September 12th, 2004 at 11:05 am

    congratulations, you did it!
    NOW, you just put down the sheep and get on the plane. 🙂

  19. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 13th, 2004 at 12:55 am

    But…I brought one for ewe!

  20. agntprovocateur Says:
    September 13th, 2004 at 1:25 am

    baaaaaaaa baaaaaad ass!

  21. lady_in_satin Says:
    September 13th, 2004 at 1:50 am

    Congratulations! You are an inspiration. What a huge accomplishment!

  22. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 14th, 2004 at 12:57 am

    You're a dear. Thanks for the support.
    And see you very, very soon!

  23. dougygyro Says:
    September 13th, 2004 at 9:22 am

    Now we get you home again… and hopefully in a couple years I'll be over there again flattering you through imitation in getting my own degree from Edina hallowed halls.
    Then you'll have to come over and visit at MY flat. Heheheh… turnabout SUCKA!!!

  24. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 14th, 2004 at 1:01 am

    Yes, payback is a bitch. Somehow, I look forward to it.
    No imitation for you, my friend. Only groundbreaking research and an amazing experience to go right along with it. So much to do!

  25. Anonymous Says:
    September 16th, 2004 at 9:54 am

    I must add my congratulations and say how totally excited I am that you'll be back soon!
    My mom will be so proud! You KNOW I am reading a copy of that MF.
    Oh, by the way, there'll be a barstool at our counter and a bottle of Scotch waiting for you.

  26. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 19th, 2004 at 10:59 pm

    Re: whooohoooo!
    Huh? Scotch?
    *starts swimming, even now*
    I can't believe how long it feels since I've seen you – more than most, and yet you're such an integral piece of my life…
    We have so much to catch up on, as long as you're willing to catch ME when I finally fall off of your barstool.

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