In 1960, John Highet surveyed the religious demographics of the nation in one of Scotland’s earliest full-length works of sociology. Highet was a devout member of the Church of Scotland and was effectively their ‘in house’ sociologist. Yet his statistics revealed that even in the immediate aftermath of a large-scale religious revival, the number of Scots who were affiliated with churches was surprisingly low at around 66% of the adult population. Highet was keen to mitigate this perhaps embarrassing statistic, recruiting into the number of the absent 34% an unknowable number of ‘four door Christians’ – those whose only attendance at church might be when they were delivered for baptism in a pram, were driven in a taxi for their wedding and finally, arrived in a hearse for their funeral. He further asserted – without recourse to evidence – that in any theological dispute most Scots would be ‘found on the side of the angels.’
Mary, Queen of Scots was a prolific letter writer throughout her life. Most of her surviving letters date from her period of imprisonment in England from 1568 until her execution in 1587. Letters were Mary’s primary means of communication at this point, both for keeping in touch with supporters, friends, and family, and of course for maintaining her involvement in political schemes for her restoration to the Scottish crown and, towards the end of her life, gaining the English crown, too. Some of the most poignant letters are in fact earlier examples; those written by Mary to her mother, Marie de Guise. These were written when Mary was in France from 1547 and after her marriage to the dauphin of France in 1558. A number of these are held in the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, and they offer insight to the preoccupations of a young woman negotiating the French court.
In pre-war days, cinema was a popular Scottish pastime. Admission charges were very low, making it a relatively affordable leisure option. It was especially popular with the working classes and with youths, demonstrated by a 1937 survey that found 36% of West Lothian children attended the cinema at least once a week. During the war, cinema continued as one of Scotland’s most popular forms of entertainment. In response to a 1943 questionnaire on cinema habits, Scottish respondents mentioned the pleasure of being able to lose oneself in a film featuring a favourite actor, going to the cinema ‘for a good laugh’, and using film as a way of avoiding ‘the usual fit of depression of a Saturday afternoon’.
At the heart of so many Scottish towns and cities stands a mercat cross. First recorded in the late twelfth century, mercat crosses signaled a Royal Burgh’s unique trading privileges and its direct relationship with the crown. These crosses also became focal points for legal and political practises: sites for enacting justice; platforms for promulgating official proclamations; meeting spaces for burgh magistrates in lieu of a tolbooth or town house.