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Issue 6 - I wanna be like you

Scotland Magazine Issue 6
February 2003


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I wanna be like you

New Editor DOMINIC ROSKROW explains why he's qualified for the job

So here I go. My first column, and if the typing looks shaky, well that’s because I’m just a tad nervous. Whenever you start on a new venture such as this, people ask what qualifies you for the job. But do you really need special qualifications to oversee a specialist magazine? After all, did the new Editor of The Financial Herald arrive in his job knowing the world of stocks and shares inside out, or the new chief at Housing International know his subject back to front? Probably not.

But I am nervous. Stepping into the shoes of Marcin Miller, who has moved upwards to concentrate on publishing matters, is bad enough. Serving the needs of such a quality readership makes it more difficult still. I think it would be politic to declare from the outset that I’m not in the least bit Scottish. There isn’t even a thimbleful of Scottish blood coursing through my veins. I’ve searched hard enough for some, and believe me, if it was there I’d have found it. It’s long been a standing joke among my kith and kin that I’m a cultural magpie, with a chameleon-like ability to fit in by any means necessary.

This might mean tracing my family roots back to the 17th century, or developing an appallingly feigned accent overnight.

It’s not a new affliction. When I joined Yorkshire newspaper The Sheffield Star some 20 years ago, I perfected a way of speaking that not even people from the county could understand. By the time they sent me to the mining heartlands to work, I had taken to coating myself in coal dust
and wearing a fluorescent miner’s jacket.

I emigrated to New Zealand in 1987 and by Christmas of that year was teaching Maoris some of the lesser-known hakas. And when I moved to London in 1991 I was soon adept at hopping on and off underground trains without ever looking up – just like the locals.

When it comes to Scotland, though, it is another matter entirely. The Scots are far too canny to let people like me get away with it.

Ireland, no problem. I can lay claim to loads of Irish blood. I can trace my lineage back to the shipwrecking of the Armada off the west coast. My mother’s maiden name, Lyonette, is derived from Lynott, and you can’t get much more Irish than that. And I even look like a Kerry man.

Celt, too; Roskrow is a Cornish name, long associated with tin mining, which of course underlined my right to coat myself in coal dust all those years ago. Nothing Scottish, though. So in a desperate attempt for acceptance, I turned my attention to associations.

My mother’s family is from the north east of England, so I tried the line about Durham having more in common with Dundee than London. That didn’t wash at all.

New Zealand? Well Aoteoroa is a home away from home for any Scotsman, and I mixed with any number of Andersons and Campbells there, even if most of them were Pacific Islanders named Winston. But this is clearly not good enough.

So how about my lifelong passion for English soccer team Leicester City? This might, on the face of it, seem a somewhat bizarre link, but in the early ‘80s when I was watching the team home and away, the manager was the legendary Jock Wallace, the likes of Gary McAllister, Alan Young and Ally Mauchlen were in the team, and I travelled to games with busloads of people from Corby – Glaswegians every one. Still not acceptable.

Then it dawned on me. I qualify to edit this august title simply because I am not Scots. For although I have visited Scotland on countless occasions, and have loved its tourist spots for years, much of the country is a mystery to me.

That puts me in the same position as many of our readers. As a result, I am perfectly placed to discover its delights and to pass my findings back to anyone curious about it. I will be able to celebrate its greatness through new eyes, and indulge myself in it with naïve enthusiasm.

Come to think of it, you could argue that it would actually be a disadvantage being Scottish on a Scottish title. There would be a temptation towards jaded cynicism on the one hand and accusations of bias on the other. Surely a neutral eye would serve the cause better?

So there you have it. I’m perfectly qualified to take on this great magazine and develop it further, and I’ll try to do so without making any dubious claims to Scottishness. But I can’t do it without your help, and I look forward to your e-mails and letters as we move forward together.

Yours aye.

Oh hell. Did I really write that?

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