Glasga to Brazil

Glasga to Brazil

John Fitzpatrick is a former journalist who now runs his own communications business (Brazil)

1) Where did you grow up and when did you leave Scotland?

I´m a Glesga keelie but I was fortunate enough to study and work in other places like Stirling, Edinburgh, Dundee and Kirkcaldy. This showed that Scotland had another side and life did not have to be defined as to whether you were a Billy, a Dan or an auld tin can. I left in 1976.

2) What is your job/sector and how many countries have you lived in?

I was a journalist for over 30 years and started as a reporter on the Dundee Courier and Sunday Post. I have also worked in England, Cyprus, Switzerland and Brazil for newspapers, magazines, news agencies, radio and as a freelance.

I made the decision to specialize in financial and economic journalism in the early 1990s and have been in Brazil since 1995. I was also a political commentator on Brazilian affairs for a long time.

However, I more or less gave up journalism several years ago and my wife and I run a small company that provides translation and corporate communications work – writing press releases, speeches etc.  It is called – wait for it – Celtic Comunicações as a tribute to the great Celtic people, a race of warriors and poets.

3) Do you sometimes visit bonny Scotland?

Can you believe that I once spent 15 years without setting foot on my native soil? I made up for it recently and returned for two consecutive years, one of which was the Homecoming. One of the reasons was to introduce my teenage daughter to what I regard as her real hame. She loved it and I hope she will go and study there some day.

4) What do people in your host country think of Scots and Scotland?

Brazilians relate to the Scots as we are both honest and friendly people. There are more links than you might imagine. I always point out that it was a Scotsman, Admiral Cochrane, who helped Brazil gain its independence, a Scots-Brazilian, Charles Miller, who introduced football to São Paulo, and Brazil´s greatest poet, Carlos Drummond, was of Scots descent.

Of course, whisky and kilts are the main attraction. Latin Americans are fascinated about what is worn under the kilt and when I tell them the truth, the men are envious and the women always ask me when I will next be wearing one and if they can come round and see me!

5) Should haggis be a protected species?

Can I pass on that one? I´m a vegetarian!

6) Has living abroad changed the way you think about Scotland?

I spent 11 years in Switzerland, a country similar to Scotland in terms of geography but with almost no natural resources yet one that is outstanding in many areas. I was impressed by the way the Swiss had built up their country and education system and created a modern economic miracle while managing to bring together such different cultures and religions. I never met a German, French or Italian-speaking Swiss who felt the Swiss needed Germany, France or Italy to rule them.

On the other hand, Brazil is just too big to compare with Scotland. For example, it takes four hours to fly from São Paulo to Manaus and you are still nowhere near an international border. I must admit that at times I am a bit overwhelmed by the sheer size of Brazil and its mixture of people.

7) What do you miss most and least about the auld country?

I miss being able to talk broad Scots and hearing it. Some of the nicest moments on my latest trips back were very simple pleasures: sitting in front of a blazing coal fire (in July!) at the Sligachan Hotel in Skye after a walk in the Cuillens, taking a picture of my wife and daughter sitting in the arches at MacCaig´s Folly in Oban looking across the Sound of Kerrera, the three of us having a picnic on the banks of Loch Morar with no-one else in sight, meeting relatives in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Arisaig. Wonderful people! Wonderful places!

I´m from Glasgow and was brought up in Easterhouse. I went to school in Shettleston and then Duke Street (where I was born incidentally). Bailleston, Shettleston, Carntyne, Parkhead, Tollcross, Bridgeton, the Barras – these are the areas where I feel most at home. Edinburgh is great for a holiday but I know that deep down Glasgow is where my roots are.

What I don´t miss is the religious bigotry, drunkenness and violence that is still associated with Glasgow and stirred up by a tiny minority on both sides. My father was a Catholic and my mother a Protestant. We lived in a totally mixed area that was well integrated. When my father died, one of our neighbours who played in an Orange band and used to go to Belfast every year came to his requiem mass as did some other Protestants we knew. It makes me sad to read about the religious hatred that still exists there.

On a less personal level, I have no time for the wee feartie, forelock tugging Holy Wullies who think Scotland is too wee and pathetic to go her own way.

8) What about the independence referendum coming up? How will it affect you and Scotland’s international image?

From my previous answer you can tell where my sympathies lie. I am old enough to remember Winnie Ewing´s victory for the SNP in Hamilton in 1967 and an independent Scotland has been my lifelong dream. In terms of our international image, it will show the world that we are not English (as many people think) and allow us to form our own direct relationship with the international community once again without having to go through a government based in London that has generally not reflected the will of the Scottish people.

9) When are you coming home for good and do you have a message for Scots back home?

My wife is from Brazil and I have made my life here but I do dream of going back. My message to the home-based Scots is not to see us exiles as sentimental fools listening to the Corries or tax exiles lounging around swimming pools in California but as part of your worldwide family. You should even feel sorry for us in some ways. Some Scots need to go abroad to thrive and others are happy in their own back yard. Looking back, I wish I had not left Scotland so casually. I have enjoyed living and working abroad but at times I wish I had stayed at home.

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