THE THISTLE AND THE ROSE
Traces Scott Erskine’s odyssey. As an orphan boy in a small Scottish town, as a Glasgow shipyard apprentice, as a newspaperman, as local politician and friend of James Maxton, as someone so imbued with Scottish nationalism and ideals that he defies wartime conscription and ends in Barlinnie Jail. Forced to work as a medical corps private in the London blitz, he falls in love, against his will, with an aristocratic English nurse who follows him into the army and schemes with him to recover Scotland’s stolen Stone of Destiny when the war is over.
The books falls into three parts, runs to 165,000 words or 484 script pages.
Before Scott Erskine’s birth his father is killed when Glasgow police charge striking workers in 1919. This tragedy and his love for Scotland color Scott’s whole life. His mother goes out of her mind when he is ten, compelling him to leave his small town for Glasgow to stay with his aunt and favorite uncle, who becomes his mentor.
An outsider, he is nearly killed at school by a gang of razor boys, but takes his revenge. Although university material, he decides to repay his foster-parents by working as an apprentice shipyard welder.
As an Independent Labour Party volunteer in Bridgeton he meets James Maxton, Davie Kirkwood, Shinwell and other Socialist leaders. He falls in love with Kathryn, an Irish Catholic whose father runs Maxton’s ward. She pushes him to speak at a Glasgow Green meeting, realizes he is a fervent Scottish Nationalist and urges him to enter a competition in the nationalist newspaper, The Clarion, for an article on home rule. Kathryn falls ill with TB.
At his shipyard Scott organizes the union, defies the bosses, invites Maxton to speak and is sacked. He wins both the competition and a job on The Clarion. At that moment, he learns Kathryn has died in a Millport nursing home.
He makes a success of journalism. With the help of, Alistair Gillespie, an old schoolmate from his country town, he stands as a Scottish Nationalist candidate in a local election in Bridgeton which again involves him in fights with Glasgow gangs. He does well though he is not elected.
In London, he meets political leaders in the Commons, but is more interested in discovering the Stone of Destiny in Westminster Abbey and Westminster Hall where William Wallace was tried before being hanged, drawn and quartered by the English.
His flighty cousin, Moira, seduces him, tells him she’s pregnant by him, maneuvers him into marrying her then aborts the pregnancy.
Scott takes to heart Maxton’s advice to stay out of the war; he challenges the Westminster government’s right to conscript Scots by destroying his call-up papers. He is given a year's jail in Barlinnie where he again tangles with razor boys. In jail, he learns Moira has been mortally wounded in one of the German air-raids on Glasgow. Before dying, she confesses she had been carrying someone else’s child when they married.
Threatened with another trial and prison on his release, he joins the RAMC but is forcibly transferred to London at the height of the blitz.
He meets a volunteer nursing officer, Sarah Villars, and saves her life when a land-mine falls near them. Invited to her home, he discovers she’s an aristocrat and fears she will compete with his other love, Scotland and ‘confiscate’ him. Although he loves her, he confesses everything about himself and runs away only to find she is still in love with him.
When incendiaries set Westminster Abbey ablaze his one thought is to save Scotland’s Stone of Destiny under the Coronation Chair. It is not there, but hidden for the duration. Sarah learns about Scottish history and the Stone. She vows to help him recover it by fair or foul means.
Gillespie turns up in Black Watch uniform and when Scott realizes the war is poised on a knife-edge he decides to join the Scottish regiment. He leaves it to Sarah’s aristocratic father to tell her he has joined up. She finds out he is on a troopship going to the Middle East and blackmails her father into arranging for her to fly and meet him at Gibraltar. She has a plan of how to steal the Stone; she has also arranged to marry him on the trooper. He realizes he has been confiscated but surrenders.