Scottish proverbs often seem simplistic at first glance.
Behind the humble words, however, lies a wealth of wisdom and Celtic “can-do” attitude.
Here are a few of my favorite Gaelic Scottish proverbs:
In other words, whatever is worth having will take effort to obtain.
There are many examples of how this Scottish proverb applies in life:
finding your soul mate, providing for yourself and your family, achieving Scotland’s freedom from English rule, to name just a few.
This Scottish proverb speaks to the need to always be prepared.
Invasion from England and Vikings was a constant threat to Scots for many hundreds of years. Putting aside the sword for the plough could spell disaster for the clan. Generations later, the wisdom behind the words still rings true, and not just in military situations.
This Gaelic phrase is the Scottish proverb equivalent of saying that the course of true love never runs smooth.
The illustration is from a 1906 childrens’ book of English history. It depicts the sad parting of Flora MacDonald and Bonnie Prince Charlie, as he was fleeing the English after Culloden. The romance between Flora and Charles has been greatly embellished over time, and may never have happened at all.
Actual partings of loved ones, however, was a harsh reality for many Scottish Highlanders and Islanders over the centuries. Whether their men left in search of jobs to earn desperately needed money, or were forcibly removed to an English prison, Scottish women knew well the heartache of separation.
For a fictionalized version of romantic Scottish misery, check out Outlander, the book, by Diana Gabaldon, or the cable series Outlander, based on Gabaldon’s books.
Of course, we all know that this Scottish proverb holds true in the modern world. As the first proverb above implies, however, sometimes the reward is worth the risk.