Through the Stones at Cafe Karisma.

Another guest article from regular Peter Young of IndyScot News in Denmark. I always try to publish Peter on a Sunday so people have time to enjoy the fine quality of his writing. Today he uncovers more historical links between Scotland and Denmark. Built when Scotland was an independent trading nation and before England put the hems and restrictions on through taking control of our ports.

Through the Stones at Cafe Karisma.

The first snow of winter arrived in east Denmark the other day. There’s now a mad rush for winter tyres. Most Danes have these extra wheels stored somewhere. Mine are with Jonas, my local dealer, who took about 15 minutes to make the switch early this morning.

So, I’m on an errand in Helsingør, on my grippy winter rubber, and I’ve dropped in to Cafe Karisma. The cafe is at Stengade 56A (pronounced ‘stain-ga-the) on the eastern end of the long, historic main street in Helsingør.

From its big windows there’s a good view of the pedestrian world going by. Had Karisma been here 500 years ago, chances are a Scotsman like me would have been in this exact same spot, minus the cappuccino, of course.

You see, more than half a millennium ago this city was home to a large Scottish immigrant community. More than 200 years before the United States declared themselves a nation, citizens of independent Scotland were travelling to, settling in, and trading with our European neighbours. 

That our majority of pro-indy MPs and MSPs did nothing substantial to maintain our historic ties to Europe, on the back of electoral mandates and their own solemn promises, was criminal. Why should we Scots have lost our European status on the back of Anglo-Saxon antipathy towards ‘bloody foreigners’? Where was the fight? Where was the Scottish resistance? I suppose all that’s left to say is goodbye and good-riddance, Ian Blackford.

Cafe Karisma is its own brand. With a rustic interior and a mix of comfy chairs and formal tables, it’s more appealing than the ubiquitous Espresso House chain which you’ll see everywhere on both sides of the Sound. Stengade 56A dates back to the early 16th century. In fact, in the adjoining property they recently uncovered a medieval wooden ceiling. It revealed beautiful, and hitherto unknown, painted decorations. The ceiling has since been removed and is now at the local history museum.

I’ve actually always liked Helsingør, and thought I was pretty well acquainted with the ferry-terminal town. Little did I know. Several years ago, I discovered a whole section about the place in Billy Kay’s book, The Scottish World. He writes in chapter 1:

“If Grieg’s Bergen was the Scottish metropolis in Norway, in Denmark it was the port of Elsinore. In the sixteenth century, the Scots community in Elsinore comprised around 15 per cent of the population.”

My jaw dropped when I first read those words. Here’s a place I often visit, cycle to, and where I have a favourite Italian restaurant – and five centuries before I turned up, there were exile Scots walking the length of Stengade.

When it comes to listed buildings, Helsingør must be unique owing to the sheer number of them. And a couple of the most impressive once belonged to well-to-do Scots who prospered in this coastal town. These buildings are just a few doors down from this cosy cafe.

This corner of north east Sjaelland wasn’t exactly the worst place Scots could choose. Five centuries ago, Helsingør was one of the most affluent, thriving, and cosmopolitan towns in the Nordic region.

Turn right when leaving Cafe Karisma and the two very large houses with Scottish heritage come into view. They are at 72-74 on Stengade, and in the early 1500s were associated with the influential Lyle family (Lyle became ‘Leyel’ in Danish).

Alexander Lyle and his son Frederik became not only prominent in the local community, they were highly regarded by the Danish monarch. They were rewarded with a number of small rural estates. 

A stone’s throw from Stengade 72-74 is St Olai Kirke. It’s green-coloured copper tower is a local landmark. There are two narrow connecting passages from Stengade to the auld kirk. One of the signs (in Danish only) tells us that these were entrances to a larger graveyard that once surrounded the church. 

As I enter St Olai, evidence of the Scottish diaspora is literally under my feet. Some old grave stones are now horizontal on the floor. And one of the first you step on belonged to a ‘Sara Clark’, born in Edinburgh in 1580. She lived to the ripe old age of 84 in the good sea air of Helsingør. One of the large paintings on the walls depicts Frederik Lyle and his family. He was, among other Scots, the church’s generous benefactor. 

The relationship of Scots with the Danish king appears to have been one of mutual trust and respect. This is illustrated by their role in collecting the Sound tolls, first introduced in the late 1420s. Being the narrowest point in the Sound it was the ideal location to persuade foreign ships to pay up.

Two minutes from St Olai is the harbour. The old shipyard is now home to a culture centre and underground maritime museum, ingeniously built into the old dry docks.

I don’t know about you but I love to watch ships coming and going. With a genetic background in Montrose and Glasgow, perhaps gulls and the bustling activity of sea ports is in my blood? With many Glaswegians of my vintage I share that early memory of sailing on a paddle steamer doon the watter.

Just across from the ferry terminal is a monument to the years of occupation in the 1940s. The northen coast of this island played an important role during the rescue of Jews during the Second World War.

A number of comments on Yours For Scotland have suggested we don’t fall hook, line and sinker for the Scandinavian model. To be honest, I agree with them entirely.

Personally, I try to focus on the positives in the Nordic region, particularly here in Denmark. There’s a lot for us to admire and perhaps emulate. However, there are most definitely darker undercurrents coming to the surface. The latest example is a law passed in Sweden which effectively curtails freedom of speech. This follows in the wake of its rush to abandon neutrality. Further east. across the Gulf of Bothnia, the non-aligned foreign policy once championed by President Kekkonen of Finland – during key decades of the Cold War – has been binned. 

Finland’s current love affair with NATO effectively gambles with the nation’s national independence, as it does with Sweden’s. But love is blind, apparently. 

The country, from whom the SNP borrowed the baby box idea, is even building a fence on its eastern border. This structure may be merely to keep out bears or whatever, but added to Poland’s version it looks like a return to the era of dividing lines in Europe.

And in case anyone was in doubt, the head of the Finnish Defense Ministry said as much this week –

“I am afraid that we are, let’s say, at the beginning of the second Cold War. It will last for a long time.”

And to think these same European nations were united in their condemnation of President Trump’s border wall.  

Meanwhile, here in Denmark, the media is surfing a wave of virtue signalling surrounding Qatar – while rejecting any suggestion of a boycott. But the issue was settled for them a few days ago when Australia dumped them out. “Fiasco,” was the cry post-match. Definitely, echoes of Scotland at Argentina ‘78, and our own fiasco, which also occurred in a host nation criticised for its human rights record following the generals’ coup.

Heading back along Stengade there are a few more information boards detailing local history. I’m easily distracted by this kind of thing.

One incredibly poignant display, above an old cellar of the current Raadhus, the city chambers, describes the final days of a young woman condemned to die – accused of being a witch. The tragic fate of Birgitte Skaaning in 1626 has eerie parallels 400 years later in the cancelling and demonisation of women – merely for being a ‘non man’, to quote video satirist, Shauny Boy. 


It sounds clichéd to say that history won’t be kind to our current First Minister. So instead, I’ll suggest history will damn her. Whether it’s women’s rights being burned at the stake, child protection, poverty, drugs deaths, or an unused set of indy mandates – she has failed to resist Westminster, and neglected to fully use what powers she has, in order to help those most in need. Whether it be from a tax on second home owners, or as has been suggested, introducing a land tax on those who ‘own’ the estates stolen from our people centuries ago. We can only hope she’ll be the last colonial administrator of Scotland.

Heading back to the car, there’s another plaque visible on the corner of number 44. This is the spot where John Nielsen and Otto Juul were shot in August 1943 – patriots willing to die in the fight to liberate their country from occupation.

Real nations stand up to their oppressors. Unfortunately for we Scots, many in our ruling elite are tucked up in bed with their colonial masters – and this includes the so-called party of independence. Poseur in chief, John Nicolson, has got himself so tangled up in the British establishment he’s now been disciplined on live TV.  His ‘poor wee me’ voice, breaking theatrically, evoked little sympathy in the Union parliament, which he has such affection for. Even the pompous Pete Wishart, announcing his 21-year veteran status, failed to have the desired effect. These two British establishment fanboys are clearly viewed as just another pair of tedious ‘jocks’ – despised by their English peers. 

Unlike the terminally conceited Wishart and Nicolson, Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey sent Speaker Hoyle into a raging fit because they actually stood up for Scotland’s cause. If Carlsberg did polar opposites 

By the way, I received my printed copy of the Danish constitution the other day. These are now my rights as an adopted Danish citizen. Here’s a thought, while we’re excavating Scotland’s historic constitution, perhaps we should dust off our treason law? After all, if we’re now punishing people who merely state biological facts, or who publish accurate court reports, it may be worth considering inserting a statute that removes any gold-plated pensions, or state-sponsored perks from those who have collaborated to oppress Scotland’s democracy. Why should those who have facilitated the theft of our nation’s wealth, or who have engaged in other crimes against our people be rewarded from the public purse?

Let’s face it, most of them have done so on behalf of a foreign state. If facilitating the theft of £80 billion of Scottish natural resources, from our sovereign territory over the next five years, isn’t 21st-century treason, then I don’t know what is. 

Too harsh? You may think so, but why not let those bought and sold for England’s gold make do with the already ample rewards of their betrayal?

I can’t help thinking of Birgitte Skanning as I wander back. Her only crime was to supply herbs and lotions. For six months she sat in that underground cellar dungeon awaiting her fate. On 23 of February 1626 she perished in the flames. No matter when or where women are persecuted, we must never fail to stand up for them. If that means heckling the First Minister, as was done this week, so be it. To her eternal shame, she can neither stand up for women nor for her country – she is an imposter on every level. 

MY COMMENTS

Peter is always very thorough in his research and he also supplies me with an ample supply of quality photographs which make preparing his articles for publication a pleasure. Living in Denmark he is very aware of the benefit of international trade and personal contact between different nations. Benefits that Scotland are increasingly losing through being removed from the European market and growing legislation from England forcing us to accept their isolation and kept well away from the key trade discussions. Peter and I disagree over Ukraine Peter puts the blame on NATO. I blame Russia’s aggression and Putin in particular. Any new Cold War lies at Moscow’s door as does any further expansion of NATO in the region. Driving tanks, hundreds of thousands of troops, missiles, planes and heavy artillery onto the land of an independent sovereign neighbour tends to result in all neighbouring countries reassessing their security. None of them think moving closer to Moscow will deliver that hence their wish to join NATO. As Peter says several have abandoned decades of neutrality to do so. It would not have happened if Putin had not invaded Ukraine. That is where the fault lies in my mind.

I am as always

YOURS FOR SCOTLAND


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37 thoughts on “Through the Stones at Cafe Karisma.

  1. I applaud your perceptive comments and love the historical context as well. You benefit from the bird’s eye view you get from a distance and this is what we must all aspire to. Sad movies these days with the SNP deserting the cause behind a smokescreen of deceit and self interest. Maybe it’s a Scottish thing, this treachery embedded within our DNA. From the Ragman’s Roll to 1603 to 1707 to 2014 and still with us in 2022, this sleight of hand and covert deception in the pursuit of self entitlement and self interest.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. To be fair, John, we have been at a huge disadvantage compared to Denmark, in that we have had a large, unified southern neighbour cajoling, subverting, bribing, and threatening us for the best part of 800 years. The Danes southern neighbour only unified in the 1870s and so was never that huge hegemonic force on Danish politics the way England was/is in Scotland. They are currently waging an aggressive information war against us as in 2014, particularly around natural resources being worthless to us. In an international relations context this is completely unacceptable.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. Very true, but we’ve also been brought up to ignore our history and despise our language, such that being ‘Scottish’ is a kind of lower caste. Many business leaders are recruited from down south and use the covert threat of redundancies to persuade workers to vote against independence. Our professional / leadership classes have been anglicised, and offer preference to Scot’s who choose to join them. Our education system has been unequally divided, so that the most able can be channeled into the private sector and brainwashed into believing it’s a meritocracy in which all have an equal opportunity. And even after forty years of amoral and incompetent government from Westminster, these people will still vote for them.

        Liked by 8 people

  2. An excellent Sunday morning read. Thank you Peter. It reminded me of a plaque my daughter and I discovered in a quiet street in Bergen commemorating the Hansiatic League, in particular the trading links between Norway and Scotland. It was a poignant reminder to me of the days when Scotland was an independent country.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. It’s a real shot in the arm to remember how we once were as an independent European nation. But for our spineless politicians – 56, 35, and then 48 – we would be again.

      Liked by 7 people

  3. Another outstanding article.

    Your example on “baby box to barricade” is interesting. In my view that is why we should all focus on the positives of European values instead of the “American influence”.
    Regardless of your views on EU/EFTA etc
    I am talking about integration, shared values, being open to change.

    The isolationists are causing much of the Global problems. I remember a training course on which they gave out the “freebies” at the start (baseball caps in blue and red). When the course director came in we were standing in two groups – Red and Blue. He just smiled and without a word we all realised that is all it takes to divide.

    A thought provoking article on many levels. The skill of such writing is that you can read it again and see a different level of message.

    Liked by 8 people

      1. 😁
        Another part of the course was to select a displayed poster to stand under as their role choice, here are some examples, you are..

        The gay partner of an HIV infected Senior executive.
        A Peterhead fisherman with a drug habit
        A young pregnant Catholic Mother who already has 3 children
        An uneducated, illiterate Immigrant
        plus another handful of various backgrounds.

        When I stood under the “uneducated, illiterate immigrant I was accused of being homophobic?. I replied I picked the one with the least health risk and greatest potential to improve myself. They were not happy!
        They tried the open public shaming that I was in denial, but that was a waste of time.

        I suspect these “managerial” courses are now more and more designed to narrow your view and ensure that you conform. The “leaders” were to leave ready to shape their team.
        I am amused now to look at my “Linked In” account contacts from that Major International Company.. They all now have their Pronouns alongside their profile name.

        It appears now that being ANYTHING first in your lifestyle is being Transphobic.
        If you don’t want kids mutilating their bodies and taking drugs for life you are Transphobic
        If you don’t want extreme pornography and grooming in schools you are Transphobic.

        The reality is I don’t like People being silenced or ignored. A real leader always asks the loud voices to be quiet and encourages the quiet members to speak up to ensure balance. Unfortunately we have Sturgeon dividing society and cheering on the loudest voices EXCEPT on the topic of Independence.

        Seek balanced debate not conditioning!

        Liked by 7 people

  4. HEJ!
    Essentially Scots wake up! Smell the coffee and tuck into some wienerbrød.
    The British identity is smothering. Check out your international history.
    «The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was immensely multicultural throughout its existence — it comprised countless religious identities and ethnic minorities inhabiting the country’s vast territory., The precise number of minority groups and their populations can only be hypothesized.
    Statistically, the most prominent groups were the Poles, Lithuanians, Germans, Ruthenians and Jews.There were also considerable numbers of Czechs, Hungarians, Livonians, Romanis, Vlachs, Armenians, Italians, Scots and the Dutch (Olędrzy), who were either categorized as merchants, settlers or refugees fleeing religious persecution.»
    From Wiki on the former multi ethnic state, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
    In the 17th century Scandinavia, the Baltic lands, Poland and Russia were territories of opportunity. Scots were important settlers in those areas as merchants, soldiers, architects and administrators.
    On the UK front check out James Gibbs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Gibbs
    Scots are full of surprises. What would England be without Scots.
    I’m a foreigner, I do research, amazing what you find when you make the effort.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. “I’m a foreigner”? NO! You are Ottomanboi seeing Scotland and the Scots condition through a prism which TOO many Scots refuse to look.

      Unfortunately too many are still suckered by the what Scotland would be without the English Parliament subsidising oor puir country. By your contribution’s Ottomanboi you challenge deeply ingrained perceptions and for that reason (you) are an “important settler”.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. I remember reading a book years ago about the links between Scotland and Europe made through the herring fishing industry when salt was used to cure the silver darlings, I don’t think it was John Goodlad’s The Salt Road but whatever book it was, was a fascinating read going back to the 15th-century trade routes between Scotlands herring ports and the continent, and showed that the Scopts held closer links to the Dutch, Flemish, and Danes who exported salt to Scotland its something I have often mentioned when arguing for closer links to the EU, not necessarily going back to full membership, but def going towards the EFTA route where we still get the use of the four freedoms and going further by joining a customs union also.
    In fact, when folk mention that Scots is just a dialect of English, I will oft say that Doric, the language of the North East has closer links to European languages, quine deriving from the Scandinavian Kvinne for woman, kirk from kirsche, etc but has been anglicized since the Angles and Saxons started trying to take over the no=rthern half of the British isles

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Indeed support the Scots/Scottis langage/leid in whatever dialect form it manifests but remember that without assertive, motivated state «patronage» the survival of such vernaculars is problematic.
      A modern English to Scots/Scottis dictionary is required. That requires effort from linguists and lexicographers for the purpose. The Scottish English/Anglo-Scottish dialect often mistaken for Scots, which the Union centuries produced is derived from a developing language of the 15/16 centuries. Developing in the sense that it was displaying lexical and grammatical divergences from «Inglis» which but for the introduction of the English «Protestant» bible and its mandatory use as model form may well have diverged even further. Alas that stopped that development in its tracks, along with fulfilment of Scottish nationhood and destiny.
      Scotland’s languages need work, dedicated, committed,imaginative and resourceful wary of those encroaching anglicizing/americanizing cultural influences. There survival entails language planning.
      This an example of dedication.
      http://nornlanguage.x10.mx/
      The locals seem to prefer the fake to the real thing however. Með lögum skal land byggja, as was once understood in Hjatland/Shetland and in the Orknøjar.
      The above site contains the sad history of how to kill a once living language.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Problem being that Scots isn’t just one language, Lallan Scots is diffferent to Doric, and even 20 miles down the coast from Fraserburgh you have Gamric which is different again then you have country Doric which can be different to coastal Doric so one dictionary is wrong in my opinion then you have the Island language, even folk from Lerwick struggle to understand folk from Whalsa😀🤣🤣🤣

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Scots fowk only have a ‘rusted tongue’ because of colonialism/cultural assimilation and what is known as ‘linguistic imperialism’. As Albert Memmi put it: “the colonized no longer knew his language except in the form of a lowly dialect. … he had to borrow (i.e. is forced to learn only) the colonizer’s language”.

        We might consider a similar outcome if Danes were forced by law to learn only German and were actively prevented from learning thair ain Danish language or in giving any authority to the indigenous language, and the effect this has on a people and their national identity, and their psyche.

        The good news for a colonized people is that after independence “in recovering his autonomous and separate destiny, he immediately goes back to his own tongue” as one of the key features which distinguishes ‘a people’ and nation.

        Sae dig oot yer stourie auld Scots langage dictionaries, fer ye’ll hiv need o thaim suin eneuch!

        https://yoursforscotlandcom.wordpress.com/2021/07/04/paper-two-the-determinants-of-independence/

        Liked by 3 people

  6. Wonderful writing, as usual. The contribution to restoring our lost identity is not to be underestimated, either! (Let us hope that history is as just to Mrs Murrell as you anticipate.)

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Like you, Pete, watching the coming and going of ships on the Clyde was, from an early age, a huge deal for me. Eventually, as a sixteen-year-old deck-boy, the boatswain of our elderly Burns & Laird passenger ferry gave me my most memorable, sea-going assignment ever. I was to report to the bridge just before 21:00 on all outward voyages and when just above John Brown’s shipyard yard at Clydebank, on a signal from the skipper, I was to pull down, three times, on a rope in the starboard bridgehouse, which released three truly air-bending blasts from the ship’s brass whistle, blasts which must’ve carried for miles. Living-the-dream, or what? Although, you’d probably have to love ships to think so. Another fine piece from you, to remind us all that we Scots were never without a spirit of adventure and home-grown enterprise, not to mention an ability to live peacefully amongst our hosts without plotting their subjugation.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. A fantastic bit of lived history right there from the Clyde.

      Of course, the Danes had their own colonial history and empire. In fact the constitution applies to ‘Riget’ or ‘The Realm’ – ‘rigsfælleskab’ still includes the Faroes and Greenland – though both have far more automomy than Scotland.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Evocative writing as usual. Loved, ‘poseur in chief’.

    We don’t learn though do we? The women were the doctors and nurses of the day…. the realities and dangers of childbirth saw to that, and childraising, meant doing the cooking and cleaning, meaning knowledge of herbs and nutritian was their domain too…

    Until this knowledge, status and income, was seen as a threat to the power of the church.

    First they came for the socialist, starts the poem…

    But in reality, first they come for the women… always, and in every culture, country, religion.

    Shakespear said, the only sure thing in life is death and taxes…. he forgot the housework… go figure.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Just watched the Through a Scottish Prism podcast and take a bow Robin Mcalpine. Always thought Robin was a very clever man but found his writing style as dull as ditch water but when he speaks a whole different ball game. If he could write as well as he speaks he would likely be running the country by now. Disagree with some of his politics but the boy can speak well. Enjoyed Peter’s post and it brought back memories of watching the shipping on the Clyde and yes I sailed on the Waverly when it was still in service. Regulars on the Clyde were the so called banana boats that hauled the sewage sludge from the sewage works in Glasgow then dumped it out towards Aran. Now if you live in the South of England they have cut out the middle man and just dump it in rivers and in the sea every time it rains. Taking back control seem to involve side stepping EU laws that used to hammer water companies that did this sort of thing so well done to all concerned. I never saw the right to take a dump in a river on the side of a bus.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Another excellent article from Peter and I too put the blame for the present situation firmly NATO’s door after all is Russia not assisting two territories who declared their independence from a Nazi infiltrated government in Ukraine?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are aware that between 8-13 million Ukrainians died fighting the Nazis and the Soviet Army that stormed Berlin was made up of 40% Ukrainian troops?

      Like

      1. I am and I am also aware that many Ukrainians sided with the Nazis during that same war and in fact many of the guards I.
        in the concentration camps were Ukrainians with a high proportion of them Jewish like Zelenskyy

        Liked by 1 person

  11. @ Indycotnews

    Indeed, Pete, I well remember that some Danes could be unmistakably racist and very far from charitable towards Greenlanders.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I moved to Germany because of my wife, two years before we joined the EU.
    When browsing through the English section of my local library, I came upon a book “The Scots in Germany”. It made me realise I wasn’t the first to wash up on these shores..! Sooner or later the book disappeared from the library and couldn’t be found anywhere, out of print.

    It’s a history of Scottish trading with the Baltic nations and of course in particular with Germany as the book says. Scotland was without any doubt a nation of seafaring traders who traveled far and wide and the reputation was solid.

    Some day I’ll write something about the “Sinclair Haus” in Bad Homburg.

    Thanks to modern digital printing, the book is back and worth every cent.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Sorry but the link to Amazon doesn’t want to work. 😦
    Just Google it and go on from their.

    Like

  14. I love reading your wee stories and as usual thanks for sharing. The story about the young girls fate like many seems to be repeating itself. I research a lot of medical journals past and present and doing family history I found folk who would have been from the same of one of our ancestral names that they had their own Scottish doctor and their book of treatments is still available. Clans protected healers too and looking across the world particularly the USA the people who perhaps are from the folk who had to leave are currently doing the herbal. Quite a lot of males as well and are currently speaking out about events. I also know that there’s many Scottish folk who are alternative healers and therapists who feel drawn to nature and helping people. If the Humza Yosef needed help for research he just needs to ask various colleges that have these courses for the students research as everything has to be sourced and research shown. The Scotsman newspaper helped me with some of their historical pieces on Scottish past therapies. Obviously unknowingly

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ancestral was Irish but with a Scottish physician. The Royal botanical is great for information and they have events where people could go view their collections of books. I am not really a royalist however I do have a couple of things in common with Charlie as in different methods of healing and plants. He suggested them be available on the NHS. Just not keen on his WEF pals and gmos etc.

    Like

  16. Instead of Humza being panned in the media folk would direct him to the research his team should have so he doesn’t take the fall for being put in a job he clearly has no experience of. Theoretically he could go ask for the research and then get a team to act based upon the evidence.

    Liked by 1 person

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