Dagobert's Revenge

If It Isn’t Scottish, It’s Crap!

Some Scottish contributions to the welfare of the community.

(Originally published along with the interview with Prince Michael Stewart of Albany.)

If you like those plaid skirts that certain overpierced, over-the-top neo-punksters cavort around town in, flashing you their finely-crafted scrotum rings and they sprawl open-legged on the subway train, you have only the Scots to thank. In fact, if it weren’t for Scotch plaid, the Grunge movement could never have happened, and a lot of bulldykes would have to go around shirtless! The kilt is just part of a three-piece outfit, along with the Sporran and the Tartan, worn by Highland clansmen during the 17th century. Wearing it was considered a political statement in favor of Scottish independence, and at certain points in history it was actually outlawed by the Westminster government.
While the Scottish did not invent bagpipes, most people who think of bagpipes think of the Scottish kind. The Scots were probably introduced to bagpipes by the Romans, - we’re not sure when, but the oldest set of Scottish bagpipes dates from 1409. Commonly used for “buskering” in English tube stations, bagpipes feature prominently in Big Country’s “In a Big Country” and “Come on Eileen” by Dexie’s Midnight Runners.
Highland Games:
If you like kilts, and you like bagpipes, you’re gonna love this! These unusual athletic competitions are a continuation of ancient Celtic tradition, and are held annually in both Scottish communities and throughout the world. Events included “Putting the Stone” (a 16-22 lb. shot put), “The Scottish Hammer” (much like the Olympic “Wire Hammer”), and “The Farmer’s Walk”, which involves walking as far as you can while burdened by 150 lb. weights. The gentleman in the picture is playing “Toss the Caber”, a 9 ft. wooden pole. Women were not allowed to participate in the games until earlier this century. You’ve come a long way, Baby.
Remember that smash hit indie flick that gave you nightmares about child neglect and had everybody saying “shite”? The one that put all previous gross bathroom scenes to shame and put Iggy Pop back on the radio playlists (for better or worse)? The one where you couldn’t understand what anyone was saying but it was really funny? The one that was so cute & clever & hip that you almost wished it had never been made? Yes, I can say without the slightest hint of factual knowledge to back me up that this was the crowning achievement of the Scottish film industry. Unfortunately, the success of Trainspotting spawned such putridity as The Full Monty and A Life Less Ordinary.
Scotch (The Beverage):
Ever been drunk on Scotch? Enough said!
Although there were both Dutch and Roman precursors, the game played today by old country-clubbers and trendy, cigar-smoking twenty-somethings was devised by the Scots in the 14th or 15th century. Its popularity spread quickly, and in 1457 the Scottish parliament had to outlaw it because too many soldiers were neglecting their archery practice. It became the accepted recreational pastime among British nobility when King James I took it up. Now millions of smug, self-serving yuppies pile into their Lincoln Town Cars every weekend and try their luck at the putting green. Scholars blame the boom in popularity on television, but the original responsibility lies with the Scots. Just think, if it hadn’t been for them, we would have never even heard of Tiger Woods.
Auld Lang Syne:
The #2 most popular song in the world, this annoying old Scottish ballad is garbled by drunken partygoers at the stroke of midnight every New Year’s Eve. The version we sing today was written by poet Rabbie Burns (pictured), and its ridiculous nonsensical lyrics give one pause. “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind”? What’s that supposed to mean? Like, “Oh, it’s January 1st, everything’s different now.”
Beneath the sky-blue waters of Loch Ness dwells a terrible beast, grand and mighty, with fins, big teeth, and a really long neck. There are ancient Viking tales of creatures that could’ve been Nessie, and both Norse and Celtic folklore contains stories of “water horses” swimming around in the surrounding lakes. But the first written description of the Loch Ness Monster was put down by a guy named Adamnan in 565 A.D. He relates St. Columba’s story of how he’d heard that a monster in the lake had killed a man, so he went out in a little boat and told Nessie not to do it anymore. Since then, the monster has had only peaceful relations with people, and has been sighted hundreds of times. Most scholars who accept the validity of the Loch Ness Monster believe it to be a plesiosaur that escaped the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Just around the corner from Loch Ness stands the 14-room mansion formerly owned by Aleister Crowley. A Scotsman by birth, he bought the property, sometimes called “The Toolhouse”, as a place to conduct his magickal experiments, and he bought it for almost twice its value because its architecture met certain geometrical requirements. He is said to have called up a number of demons and discarnate spirits there, and he recorded in his diary being haunted by “shadowy shapes” who pestered him throughout the house. Since his death these same “shadowy shapes” have been seen by all of the house’s subsequent owners, including guitarist Jimmy Page, who bought the house in order to conduct his own rituals but was too frightened by the things he saw. Boleskine is now revered as something of a Holy Mecca by Crowley’s modern-day followers. (One ritual instructs: “Let the magician turn his face towards Boleskine. That is the house of the Beast 666.”) The house has a terrible reputation, and is a popular tourist spot for both Crowleyan Thelemites and the morbidly curious.
The Stone of Scone:
Also called The Stone of Destiny, this ancient Judaic relic was used as the “fealty stone” for the swearing-in of Scottish kings, and is an essential part of Scottish heritage. The story goes that this was the stone described in the Old Testament that Jacob rested his head upon as he dreamt about wrestling with an angel. It eventually got carried off to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah, who was fleeing the Babylonian invasion of the Holy Land. From there it migrated to Scotland. The stone is believed to have been stolen by the English army in 1296 and carried off to Westminster, where it’s been used as a coronation stone for British monarchs ever since. However, Prince Michael asserts that what they actually stole was “a piece of sandstone cut from a monastery doorway”, and that the real stone was secretly hidden by the mindful Abbot of Scone, who realized that “the true legacy of the kingdom lay with the ancient stone”, and that it could not be allowed to pass south of the border. There it has rested ever since, he says, guarded by watchful Templars, who will reveal it when the Scottish throne is again reclaimed. As evidence for this theory, Prince Michael points out that when the English offered the stone back to the Scots in the 1328 Treaty of Northhampton, they said “thanks anyway.” In 1996, the fake stone finally was given back, with much rejoicing among the Scottish laity. However, the so-called “chunk of masonry” will be carried back to Westminster for every future coronation of a British king.
William Wallace:
Made famous by the film Braveheart, this strapping young Scottish patriot indeed fought bravely for his country, and won many decisive battles, only to be captured by the English and convicted of “treason, sacrilege, homicide, robbery and arson”, for which he was dragged, branded, hung, castrated and disemboweled. Then, still alive, he watched the removed parts get burnt to a crisp before finally being decapitated. His body was quartered and the sections sent off to various cities throughout the kingdom, and his head was placed upon London Bridge as an example to others. However, the legend of William Wallace is still a source of national pride for the Scots. Incidentally, a statue of him has been erected outside Scottish parliament, in the likeness of Mel Gibson.
Robert the Bruce’s heart:
After the death of Wallace, Robert Bruce, a descendant of Scots King David I took up the resistance movement, and was crowned King Robert I in 1306. He won a number of important battles, including the famous Battle of Bannockburn, which was fought with the help of a fleet of fugitive Templars. Before he died in 1309, he requested that his heart be buried at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In honor of his wishes he heart was indeed removed and placed in a casket, reportedly wrapped in a banner bearing the Templar cross. The following year, five knights embarked upon a mission to deposit the heart in the Holy Land, but along the way they got themselves involved in the Spanish war against the Moors of Granada, and the heart ended up getting hurled at the enemy while Sir William Douglas recited a lovely poem. Four of the knights died, but the sole survivor, Sir William Keith, recovered the heart, which was eventually buried at Melrose Abbey in Scotland. The casket was found by archeologists in September of 1996, but was not opened.
Rosslyn Chapel:
This magnificent structure was designed and built under the direction of Sir William Sinclair, who had been appointed “Patron and Protector of Scottish Masons” (meaning stonemasons), thereafter a hereditary office. The chapel, which later became known as “Lodge #1”, is extensively decorated inside with motifs relating to speculative Freemasonry, such as the murder of Hiram Abiff, and Celtic paganism, particularly the foliage-sprouting head known as The Green Man, a fertility god. Strangely, during the 1400s the Sinclairs, as Rosslyn’s patrons, would hold a celebration at the chapel every Midsummer’s Day, and would invite gypsies, who had been officially banished from Scotland by parliamentary decree to perform a play called “Robin Hood and Little John.” The play, which was also banned by parliament, was not the version that we know today, but more like an orgiastic fertility rite, where a number of virgin “Maid Marions” would have their virtue taken “Green Robin” or “Robin of the Greenwood”, acting as a personification of the Green Man in an openly pagan May Day ritual. Friar Tuck, then known as the Abbot of Unreason, would officiate. Because of the closeness between the Sinclairs and the Scottish crown, none of the Calvinist Protestants then in charge of parliament bothered them about it. Today, Rosslyn Chapel is still used by the Scottish Grand Priory of Templar Knights, and by the Scottish Episcopal Church.

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