Welcome to the Scots Language Centre feature Are The Onybody Ither, or, Is There Anyone Else? This series of articles asks one of mankind’s most important questions - is there intelligent life beyond this world? Since ancient times scholars have been asking this and yet we still have no sure answers. During the 20th century an increasing number of people began to report sightings of strange or unexplained objects in the sky, and authorties began to take notice, conduct investigations, and often try to explain them away. In the USA the term ‘flying saucer’ was coined to described a typical aerial object and then came the term UFO - short for unidentified flying object. Since then people around the world, Scotland included, have been reporting objects they perceive to be craft from other worlds, and some have claimed to have interacted with, and been adbucted by, extraterrestrial life forms.
Once we begin to look back through history it is clear that Scotland and other countries have been experiencing strange sightings for many centuries. But until relatively recent times, few people could read and write, and thereby leave accounts, and many natural phenomena were badly interpreted. Also, given the strong control of religious authorities many people who saw noteworthy things in the sky probably remained silent for fear of being linked with ill portents, or even with the work of the devil.
Since the 17th century at least, Scottish scholars have played a role, often a leading one, in searching the night skies, adding to our knowledge of how the galaxy, and the universe works, and we shall explore some of these individuals and Scottish firsts, as well as Scottish involvement in the belief of, and search for, extraterrestrial life. Do we in modern Scotland simply mirror the ideas derived from modern, largely American ‘pop culture’ regarding this phenomenon, or might we have our own Scottish tale to tell? We will look at the earliest accounts of unexplained aerial phenomena – or UFOs - in a Scottish context, and at some of the later significant reported incidents.