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I have just returned from the 99th Scottish Esperanto Congress (28/31 May 2004). There is much to be said about it; but here are my initial thoughts.
The Scottish Borders countryside is enchanting: a symphony in green!
Peebles itself is a marvellous town with over 150 Listed Buildings; so a town walk was a good start for the early arrivals, and a chance to become oriented.
The Congress venue, St. Joseph's Neighbourhood Centre, was first class; it is an excellent community resource, and was perfect for our Congress.
There were 30 participants from Germany, Ireland, England and, of course, Scotland.
The Congress programme was rich and varied with outstanding lectures. Alec Mollison spoke about the art of film-making and showed examples of his award-winning works. Dr. Marjorie Boulton lectured eloquently about how Scotland and Scottish literature had influenced an Englishwoman. She did not neglect the important Esperanto literature which had originated in Scotland, and particularly emphasized the importance of the Scottish School. John Francis, a member of the Scottish School, reflected philosophically, using precise and polished language, concerning Naivety, Knowledge and Reaction; i.e., an analysis of how one one's past opinions can seem very peculiar in the present.
Tom Neil chose the theme of mathematical games; and demonstrated that maths can be fun! Norah Brown gave an enthralling lecture concerning the life of Emmie N. Harrington, who turned out to be her mother.
One of the Congress themes was Sir Walter Scott, a local and Scottish hero! Jean Bisset tested everyone with a Scott quiz and some translation conundrums. David Bisset spoke about Scott's historical objectivity, and his importance as the initiator of the Scots Baronial revival style in architecture.
The visit to Abbotsford, the house of Sir Walter Scott, was a revelation; it reveals so much of a literary genius who loved Scotland. It is a living museum of Scottish history idyllically situated beside the River Tweed. We dined in Melrose after the visit in an hotel which Scott frequented.
The Congress had a pleasant musical evening which included beautiful guitar playing by Connal McKay; humorous contemporary songs written and sung by Duncan Thomson; and a touching rendition of Carrickfergus by Hugh Reid, using a new translation by John Francis.
An unusual Congress event was a debate between Ed Robertson and Hugh Reid concerning the Esperanto superscripts. Ed believes that they have negative consequences for the adoption of Esperanto in the modern world; Hugh thinks that they are an integral part of the language and that technology is fast removing any practical problems associated with them. The debate was good-humoured and thought-provoking with excellent audience participation. Ed's viewpoint did not prevail; but his arguments were intriguing.
The Ecumenical Service was a meditation concerning peace with an extended allusion to the viewpoint of Sir Walter Scott; the parallel programme item, led by Paul Gubbins, was a discussion concerning how humanists confront moral dilemmas.
The Scottish Committee worked hard; and the AGM was well attended. Diana Richardson was elected Vice-President of the Scottish Esperanto Association; and a new information brochure, which also presents the absolute fundamentals of Esperanto, was launched. It was announced that the Centenary Congress will be held in Largs next year; the venue will be the Priory House Hotel.
The Congress Banquet at the Park Hotel was a most enjoyable occasion: good food and wine, animated conversation, a most thoughtful welcome from Tricia Purvis of Borders Council in which she drew upon army and UN experience to indicate endemic language problems which require the kind of radical solution which we propose, and an apposite speech from Hugh Reid, the President of the Scottish Esperanto Association, in which he indicated that Esperanto will survive because the problems which it addresses will not go away.
The last day of the Congress was a sort of postlude, consisting of a visit to St. Ronan's Well at Innerleithen, followed by lunch at Peebles Hydro Hotel, during which the President declared the Congress finished!
Every Congress has its own characteristics because of the contribution of that year's President. Hugh Reid arranged a Congress which was well documented, well balanced, and well programmed; he and Ute deserve our appreciation.
David W. Bisset
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