BRIAN Cox is right to draw attention to Scotland's long sang with "succar" (greetin for a wee bawbee tae buy some succar candy), with the sugaries (the factories that refined the stuff), with sugarallie water, sugar biscuits, sugarbools and sugardoddles (sweeties) and a sugar-piece (butter and bread sprinkled with sugar) ("Actor Cox reveals he visited a Mumbai opium den", The Herald, November 14).
But Scotland and sugar has an even more difficult history from as early as the 17th century sugar-boiling houses in Glasgow, the making of rum and of course the rush into slavery, particularly after the 1707 treaty. Sugar was king in Glasgow for many years and Professor Tom Devine tells us that "by 1790 the sugar islands become the Clyde's premier overseas centre of trade".
We walk many a Merchant City street named after those who built their fortunes on the sugar plantations of the Caribbean and on the refining of the product plus the ancillary services of the manufacturing of cheap cloth for slave wear, salted fish to feed the enslaved as well as the export of doctors to keep them alive. On a plantation I know well, Codington in Barbados, "between 1741 and 1746 43% of all African negroes died within three years of arrival" (Devine).
I have in front of me a long list of Highland men "Barbdoed" as political prisoners (after the 1745 rebellion) to work and die on sugar plantations.
The full story of Scotland and sugar has not yet been told though there has been a considerable effort recently. Brian Cox might want to persuade BBC Scotland to produce a series on this somewhat sweet-less, sour history.
64 Market Place,
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