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A Short Scottish History Lesson


The Buchanan tartanWhen I mention to people that I’m from Scotland I tend to get the same old responses. The first is “I thought you were Canadian” which is a bit strange, but even Americans have thought this was the case. Another common one is a mention of that historically inaccurate film Braveheart and the classic line about “freedom!”. And another is a reference to caber tossing. This ancient Scottish sport involves getting the largest telegraph pole you can find (a de-branched tree in the old days), picking it up by one end and throwing it upwards and forwards with the intention of it flipping over and landing it in front of you so that the end you were holding is now the furthest one away from you. The guy who can toss the biggest one and successfully flip it over is the winner. And it brings me perfectly on to this weekend.

I’ll be back home in Scotland and on Saturday I’ll be attending the Balloch Highland Games. These competitions date back to the clan days where rivals would meet and the games would be organised to keep both men-at-arms and camp followers occupied and stop them from killing each other with large, pointy swords as was the fashion in those days. The tradition has carried on to the present and is a cultural reference point for my beautiful country of birth.

If you want more Scottish culture than you can shake a stick at, then the Highland Games are for you. As well as loads of “look how strong I am” sports like caber tossing, stone throwing and sheep throwing (I made that last one up) there’s dancing, music, bagpipes (see how I separated music and bagpipes?) and everything else that seems stereotypically Scottish. I believe I’ve been to the games before when I was a kid but to be honest about all I can remember was the car park (I was probably far too busy trying to be the centre of attention all day to notice anything more). So as far as I’m concerned this will be my first time and I’m really looking forward to it.

I’ll be bringing along my camera so I can record the whole thing in detail. Until then I’ll practice my Scottish accent some more (I’ve been living in Yorkshire for too long). Okay, basic vocabulary: auch (D’Oh!), aye (yes), ken (know), wee (small), dreich (cloudy day with spots of rain), dinnae (don’t), cundie (drain cover), dunderheed (complete idiot). Now string it all together: Auch aye, ye ken it’s a wee bit dreich the day – watch ye dinnae slip on the cundie ye dunderheed! For more information on the Scottish language, check out Scottish Words Illustrated.

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

4 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Thanks for the site…that’ll come in handy 😉

    I think I might adopt the word “dunderheed”…I like the way it sounds 🙂


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