A Free-Minded

Scot Douglas Young Remembered

Douglas Young was a tall man, six feet six inches; with his beard he looked like a Calvinist Jehovah. At St. Andrews, he acquired the nickname "God" by eavesdropping on a political discussion about the Balkans. (In the 1930's, the Balkans were full of angry ethnic factions, fighting and killing one another.) The group was stumped over the identity of a political leader. "God alone knows his name," one of them muttered. "Well, I know his name," said Douglas, "and I shall tell it to vou." For a game of charades at Oxford, he was carried in upside down as a clue for the word "dog." (The editors of his memorial volume, A Clear Voice, call this a legend, but Nigel Nicolson in My Oxford, My Cambridge says he helped carry Douglas in.)

His father, an officer in the Bengal Artillery, was a Tory and an Imperialist, but, apart from polities, a loyal Scot. (Douglas remembered, "He was always annoyed to hear of any of his female relatives marrying a Sassanach, almost as if they had espoused a coloured person.") Douglas was a Unionist until 1929, when he was at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh. The poet Lewis Spence's campaign for Parliament as a Scots Nationalist appealed to Douglas's natural conservatism and made him "an assertor of my own country's right to self-government." He went to St. Andrews, despite passing the entrance exams for...

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