13 March 2007

The Highland Games: Tossers and shoogling.

(Notice that this man has an unusually large caber. Scotsmen are famous for the size of their cabers and must toss them regularly)

The Highland Scotsman takes three things very seriously, drinking whisky, religion and taking part in the Annual Highland Games. (Oh and Shinty of course but we'll look at that another time)

So when the Highlander arrives home in the wee small hours of the morning smelling the worse for drink his wife is seldom surprised when she hears the excuse "I was just away tossing my caber". She must bear this with fortitude for she knows that her husband must be a regular tosser if he is to hold his end up in the annual highland games caber tossing competition.

Highland Games Historical Origins
The tossing of the caber is of course only one of a number of events at the annual Highland Games gathering which is held in each village in the Highlands during the Autumn months.

The historical origins of these games is illustrative of the roots of many Scottish cultural practices. They have their origins in preparation for battle - for the Scots are of course a warrior race who formed the backbone of the British Army as it forged an Empire.

In the "Olden Days" (I use the definition here first set out by McGlump and McGlinty in their seminal book "Auld Scots Folk culture: Before the telly came aboot" Published by McSporran Press 1991) it was important that the Highlander was kept in a state of readiness for battle so that his clan chief ( The big Yin) could call on him at a moments notice. This was then the original purpose of the Highland games.

The other main events at the annual games are hurling the shot and dancing roond swords. Let us look briefly at the role each of these events originally played in preparing the Scot for battle.

Hurling the Shot.
This event is perhaps easiest to interpret in respect of its relevance to martial skills.

First, one must understand that the Highland Scots were, in the "Olden Days", rather poor and not many of the Big Yins could afford to purchase proper cannon to fight the English. But of course without cannon the Scots would have been at a disadvantage in their yearly battles with the English Army so the Big Yins set their best thinkers to try to resolve the problem.

The Scots are famed for being an inventive, practical and mechanically minded race so it was not long before the Clan scientists came back with a solution to the problem.

"We'll tak a wee bit wire and kinda tie it roond the cannonball like this see. Then we'll get Jimmy tae kinda swing it roond his heid and then letit go tae F**k at thae English bastards like."

Problem solved. The only drawback of course was that your average Scottish "cannoneer" could not achieve the distance that the English artillery was able to manage. As a result the Scottish cannoneer had to get close to the English lines before he was within throwing distance. The life expectancy of Scottish cannoneers was as a result not very long.

Dancing roond the swords, 'n kilts 'n aw that.

To really understand the origins of dancing roond swords you should read our post on the Scottish midgie so that you understand the role of this wee bastard of a beastie in the creation of Scottish manhood.

As we revealed in a previous article there is an intricate relationship between the wearing of the kilt, the midgie and being "a man" in Scotland.

Long ago in clan times the Big Yins (Clan chiefs) had to find some way to get their men all fired up for battle. As any Scottish man knows, when you are wearing the kilt and shoogle about this is like a red rag to a bull for the local midgies. The shoogling of the kilt sends a waft of testicular odours out on the breeze and the local midgies home in on this likes sharks on blood scented water. The midgie likes nothing better than snacking on Scottish dangly bits.

The shoogling Scotsman quickly discovers that his testicles are being bitten by thousands of blood sucking midgies and boy DOES THIS GET HIM MAD. He is at this point ready to blame any nearby Englishman ( See the entry on Scotlands second favourite sport: Blaming the English).

So, knowing this, the chiefs began the custom of having their men shoogle around in their kilts before a battle. To give the whole exercise some cover they had the men put their swords on the ground and dance around them. Hence Scottish highland dancing.

More soon.

1 comment:

tina said...

Okay, I'll comment. This is some funny ass stuff!