At last, the chattering classes of South Britain have woken up to the incipient Scottish tragedy looming over Chambers Dictionaries in Edinburgh. Good on Robert McCrum of the Observer for breaking the silence with a blazing indictment of “cultural vandalism” that, as he notes, “has not troubled the cultural conscience of the south”.
However, it seems “the south” is still a little hazy about what comes from where. Those of us who have spent years writing dictionaries in Scotland for the old Glasgow firm of Collins, which became part of HarperCollins in 1990 or so, might be a little miffed to see it lumped together with the likes of OUP and Penguin as part of the “hegemony of the south”. William Collins, a Glasgow mill-worker-turned-schoolmaster, founded the company in 1819 (the very year Chambers brothers published their first title, The Songs of Robert Burns), and like Chambers, Collins was a family firm until quite recently. HarperCollins’s British HQ may be in London, just as the parent company of Chambers is based in Paris, but their dictionaries are still Clyde-built, by the way.