Thursday, January 29, 2015

A True Scotsman: Kilty, kilty caul' bum

Kilty, kilty caul' bum
Three sterrs up.
The wummin in the tap flair
Hit me wi' a cup!

Ma heid's a' bleedin',
Ma face is a' cut -
Kilty, kilty caul' bum,
Three sterrs up!

(Traditional Scottish skipping rhyme)

Like the monster at the bottom of Loch Ness one of the most well kept secrets of Scotland is … what, if anything is worn under the kilt.

Stock answers include:
"No, nothing is worn, everything is in perfect working order!" or
"Yes, socks, shoes, and talcum powder," and "Yes, socks, shoes, and two shades of lipstick."

The True Scotsman it seems wears the kilt without undergarments.

But where did this all originate from?

Highland drovers wore the kilt and found it perfectly appropriate attire for crossing rough terrain in summer and winter. The absence of technology to produce underwear at the time meant nothing was worn under the kilt. The Dress Act which formed part of the 1746 Act of Proscription prohibited the traditional wearing of clan tartans and kilts. But fear of rebellion in the private armies and mercenaries that made up the Scottish Regiments. kilts continued to be worn. Whether as a mark of respect for the once proud nation or pure disrespect to their English masters nothing was worn under the military kilt.

About a hundred years after the Acts of Union (1707), all things Scottish once again became very popular in England and Scottish Fancy dress was the vogue in upper class society. Naturally civilians became inquisitive about what lay beneath the pleated plaid.

This was humorously referred to as ‘military uniform’, leading to popular metaphors such as "going regimental" or “military practice.” No different really to to today’s “going commando.” By the time of Queen Victoria, a true scotiafile,her interest in the Highland Games and dancing necessitated participants were modestly clothed. Later the regulations of the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing (SOBHD) stipulated “dark or toning with the kilt should be worn but not white. Highland athletes were also required to wear shorts of some type during competitions.

During the First World War on the Western Front the kilt was worn into battle and sergeant majors reportedly used mirrors tied to the end of walking sticks to inspect up and under the kilt at parade inspection. In 1940 the kilt was retired from combat but used instead as the formal dress uniform of the regiments. “Up skirting” continued with a floor mounted mirror in the barracks.

Kilts have once again become very popular as Highland dress has become popular evening wear for men of all ages. The matter to go fit and proper without underwear has become quite controversial The Scottish Tartans Authority recently decreed refusing to put on underwear beneath a kilt is both "childish and unhygienic". Others remain stoic in the belief going regiment is perfectly acceptable dress. There is certainly no scientific evidence to support the unhygienic argument but one needs to be wary of how and where you sit if your dignity is to be preserved. In Greenock in 2011 a terrible fight broke out at a local wedding after the groom decided to sit on his bride’s white gown. All too quickly it was noticed he had unwittingly left a skid mark and one almighty fight between the in-laws ensued.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Robert Burns (BBC)

BBC Radio Scotland's Esme Kennedy and Dave Batchelor recorded performances by some of Scotland's best-loved actors of Robert Burns's works. A team from the University of Glasgow provided the many guides featured throughout this website. Recordings from 716 works are available, many of which have now been associated with days of the year.

Robert Burns (BBC)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Robert Burns (1759 –1796)

Robert Burnes was born in Alloway Scotland in 1759. The oldest of seven children to William Burnes (1721–1784) and Agnes Broun (Brown). William Burnes was a cotter (small farmer) and built the cottage where the family lived. In 1766 Robert’s father sold the cottage and took a tenancy at Mount Oliphant farm near Tarbolton. The young poet grew up in abject poverty and worked manual labour on the farm. Burns received little regular schooling but instead was educated in the basics by his father. For a short time he did attend an adventure school run by John Murdoch where he studied Latin, French, and mathematics. Ages 13, Burns was sent to Dalrymple Parish School in 1772, later he lodged with Murdoch for a short time to study grammar, French, and Latin. By the age of 15, he was the principal labourer at Mount Oliphant but in 1775 he completed his formal education with a tutor at Kirkoswald. Whilst times were hard the old Scottish belief in education proved fertile.

Robert was a sociable young man and loved girls and poetry with the same fevour. His first known muse was Nelly Kilpatrick who helped in the harvest of 1774. Burns wrote "O, Once I Lov'd A Bonnie Lass" in her honour. A year later he met Peggy Thompson , to whom he wrote two songs, "Now Westlin' Winds" and "I Dream'd I Lay". The young Burns joined a country dancing school in 1779 before forming the Tarbolton Bachelors' Club with his brother Gilbert, the following year. Robert Burns was initiated into the masons at the Masonic Lodge St David, Tarbolton, in 1781, when he was 22. He left the farm to become a flax-dresser but after the shop caught fire and burnt to the ground Burns was left to come home to the farm again.

Burns was encouraged him to become a poet by Captain Richard Brown and started to write poems and songs ina commonplace book in 1783. He fell in love with Alison Begbie and wrote her four songs but despite his infatuation, she rejected him. William Burnes' died in 1784 and Robert and Gilbert made an ineffectual struggle to keep on the farm. When it failure they tried another farm at Mossgiel, near Mauchline. During the summer of 1784 Burns came to know a group of girls known collectively as The Belles of Mauchline, one of whom was Jean Armour, the daughter of a stonemason from Mauchline. Burnes was incurable romantic and lothario he loved to play the field. While courting Jean he made his mother’s servant, Elizabeth Paton pregnant with his first child, Elizabeth Paton Burns. Then in 1786 Jean Armour, fell pregnant with twins. Despite intention to marry Jean’s father objected and sent his daughter away to live with her uncle in Paisley. Eventually the couple was married in 1788 and Jean bore him nine children, but only three survived infancy.

When financial difficulties eventually forced the poet to consider alternative employ and accepted the position of a bookkeeper on a slave plantation in Jamaica. At the time he was head over heels in love with Mary Campbell and dedicated the poems "The Highland Lassie O", "Highland Mary", and "To Mary in Heaven" to her. His song "Will ye go to the Indies, my Mary, and leave auld Scotia's shore?" suggests that they planned to immigrate to Jamaica together. However Mary caught typhus while nursing her brother and died in 1786. Burns had insufficient funds to pay for his passage and was advised by a friend to publish his poems. Burns sent proposals for publishing his Scotch Poems to a local printer in Kilmarnock. The volume of works by Robert Burns, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish dialect became known as the Kilmarnock volume. It sold for 3 shillings and contained much of his best writing, including "The Twa Dogs", "Address to the Deil", "Halloween", "The Cotter's Saturday Night", "To a Mouse", "Epitaph for James Smith", and "To a Mountain Daisy", many of which had been written at Mossgiel farm. The success of the work was immediate, and soon he was known across the country.

When Dr Thomas Blacklock a well known critic wrote to Burns expressing admiration for the poetry in the Kilmarnock volume he suggested an enlarged second edition. Blacklock encouraged Burns to abandon his plans to emigrate and go to Edinburgh instead. Naïve in the way of business and keen to amass enough cash to live in the city Burns sold his copyright to Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish dialect to William Creech for 100 guineas. His reputation as a man of letter preceded him and he was soon a guest at aristocratic gatherings, where he bore himself with unaffected rustic dignity. The new edition of his poems brought Burns £400. He embarked on a relationship with the separated Agnes "Nancy" McLehose (1758–1841), with whom he exchanged passionate letters under pseudonyms "Sylvander" and "Clarinda"'. When it became clear that Nancy would not be easily seduced he moved on to Nancy’s domestic servant , Jenny Clow (1766–1792), who bore him a son, Robert Burns Clow, in 1788. He also had an affair with another servant girl, Margaret "May" Cameron. His relationship with Nancy concluded in 1791 with a final meeting in Edinburgh before she sailed to Jamaica for what turned out to be a short-lived reconciliation with her estranged husband. Before she left, he sent her the manuscript of "Ae Fond Kiss" as a farewell.

Burns started to contribute to The Scots Musical Museum and in the first volume in 1787 there were three songs by Burns published . The second volume contained 40 song and eventually Burns was responsible for about 200 songs in the whole collection. In 1788 he resumed his relationship with Jean Armour and took a lease on Ellisland Farm, Dumfriesshire. He also trained as a exciseman (a gauger ) as a hedge against incase another failure at farming. He was appointed Customs and Excise officer in 1789 and eventually gave up the farm in 1791.

Burns wrote "Tam O' Shanter" in 1790 by the banks of the River Dee. He gave up the farm and moved to Dumfries. During this time he made major contributions to George Thomson's A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice as well as to James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum. Burns also worked to collect and preserve Scottish folk songs, sometimes revising, expanding, and adapting them. One of the better known of these collections is The Merry Muses of Caledonia , a collection of bawdy lyrics that were popular in the music halls of Scotland as late as the 20th century.

Burns was skilled in writing not only in the Scots language but also in the Scottish English dialect (Lallans) of the English language. Some of his works, such as "Love and Liberty" (also known as "The Jolly Beggars"), was written in both Scots and English for various effects. His themes included republicanism and Radicalism, which he expressed covertly in "Scots Wha Hae", Scottish patriotism, anticlericalism, class inequalities, gender roles, commentary on the Scottish Kirk of his time, Scottish cultural identity, poverty, sexuality, and the beneficial aspects of popular socialising (carousing, Scotch whisky, folk songs, and so forth). Despite his enormous popularity Burns's political affiliation and support for the French Revolution alienated him from many of his influencail and affluent friends. In an attempt to prove his loyalty to the Crown, Burns joined the Royal Dumfries Volunteers in March 1795 but his health began to give way and the Bard died in 1796 aged 37.

He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement, and after his death he became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism, and a cultural icon in Scotland and among the Scottish Diaspora around the world. The Robert Burns a club was set up "To cherish the name of Robert Burns; to foster a love of his writings, and generally to encourage an interest in the Scottish language and literature." The first one, known as The Mother Club, was founded in Greenock in 1801 by merchants born in Ayrshire, some of whom had known Burns. Soon Burns Clubs were set up across the Globe. Burns Night (Burns Super) is a celebration of the Bard’s birthday, on the 25th January. Over the centuries the format of Burns suppers has changed little and starts with a general welcome and announcements, followed with the Selkirk Grace.

After the grace comes the piping and cutting of the haggis, when Burns's famous "Address to a Haggis" is read and the haggis is cut open. The event usually allows for people to start eating just after the haggis is presented.

At the end of the meal, a series of toasts and replies is made.

This is when the toast to "the immortal memory", an overview of Burns's life and work, is given.

The event usually concludes with the singing of "Auld Lang Syne".

Monday, January 19, 2015

Niel Gow (1727–1807)

Niel Gow was born in Strath brann, west of Dunkeld, Perthshire in 1727 to John Gow and Catherine McEwan. The population spoke mainly Gaelic and he was christened Niel (the Gaelic version of Neil). The family moved to nearby Inver, in Dunkeld where his father made a living as a plaid weaver. Young Niel showed an early aptitude for making music and taught himself to play fiddle on a kit (a half size fiddle) at the age of nine. Niel watched other fiddlers bowing technique and how they held their fiddles. In his early teens he had lessons from John Cameron of Grandtully and quickly established a reputation after winning an open competition in Perth in 1745 (the year of the Jacobite uprising). Fiddle competitions were judged by a blind musician to avoid favoritism. John McKaw, was the appointed judge and after naming Niel the winner, he declared he would recognize his bow hand anywhere. Where most fiddlers emphasised their downbow Gow put power into his up-bow and played it like an organ at full gallop. His standard and style of playing was such he became in great demand for all social occasions as far afield Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

Dunkeld sat as the gateway to the Highlands and when Bonnie Prince Charlie visited Dunkeld House on his march south to Edinburgh, Niel Gow was asked to entertain the Young Pretender. He travelled with the Young Pretender’s army as far as Luncarty before returning to Inver. Niel was married to Margaret Wiseman and their first of eight children was born in 1751. They had five sons and three daughters and all the boys became fiddlers. After Margaret died he took a second wife Margaret Urquhart in 1768. From then on Niel enjoyed the patronage of the Murrays of Atholl and was associated with three Dukes of Atholl (2nd, 3rd and 4th) during his long life, the third Duke paid him a retainer of £5 per year for playing at the many parties and formal balls held at Blair Castle.

Niel originally trained as a plaid weaver, like his father, but soon became a full-time musician. He soon gained the reputation as the best fiddle player in Perthshire. Gow was a maestro of the fiddle and played the dance music which was very popular at the time. He could be compared to BB King and like King and the Delta Blues, he made fiddle playing very respectable. Prior to this fiddlers were thought rather disreputable types. The fiddle music had an aural tradition and was taught 'by ear' rather than written music. Scottish fiddling in the Highland tradition was influenced by the ornamentation and mixolydian scale of the Great Highland Bagpipe, as well as smoother bowing. Fiddlers frequently performed solo. Niel often performed with his brother Donald, on 'cello. Later his band included one or more of his sons, together with Samson Duncan of Kinclaven on fiddle. The line-up may have been further augmented by piano, but this would have depended very much on where the band was playing. His reputation grew until he was the most famous fiddler and traveling dance instructor in Scotland. Despite his fame he remained in Inver.

Although he could scarcely read music he is credited with anything from 50 to 87 compositions many of which remain the backstay of modern Scottish country dance music. At the time much of the dance music was transmitted by ear from one fiddler to another so who actually composed which tune was impossible. Many of Gow’s tunes were derived from older tunes or are copies of tunes published earlier elsewhere, often under a different title. This was not uncommon at the time and was not an attempt to plagiarize just a means of musicians sharing the music. Many songs had several titles especially when fiddlers developed individual variations on the original tunes. When Niel and Nathaniel Gow published their various collections of music they would state "as played by Niel Gow and Sons". Many of the jigs, reels and strathspeys which survive today are labeled as "traditional." Gow inspired and excited dancers with powerfully rhythmical music and his regular cries of encouragement.

The strathspey is thought to have originated from the Strathspey area, the strath or broad glen of the River Spey, in Moray and Badenoch and Strathspey. The music was originally written for the fiddle and used for dancing. A slow and stylised form of reel it was originally called a 'Strathspey reel' while the standard reel was known as an 'Atholl reel'. The dance tune is in 4/4 time, but it sounds quite different because it is slower and contains dotted rhythms. One of these rhythms has a special name and is called the 'Scotch snap' or 'Scots snap'. Using a peculiar bowing technique to produce a very short note followed by a long (dotted) note played in sequence, it gives strathspey a 'snap' sound when played. The Scotch snap is generally exaggerated rhythmically for musical expression. In the highland dance there are generally 108 beats per minute with many Scotch snaps to give the piece a rhythmically tense idiom.

Strathspey refers both to the type of tune and to the type of dance usually done to it. There are two basic kinds of strathspey dances. The first is the set dances that are danced as a 'longways set', with lines of men and women facing each other and interweaving across the central space in different patterns. The other is like a slow version of a reel of four, where two couples intertwine in figures of eight, and is one of the standard dances in Highland dancing.

A Scottish country dance will typically consist of equal numbers of strathspeys, jigs and reels. The strathspey step is a slower and statelier version of the skip-change step used for jigs and reels. Traditionally, the strathspey was followed by a reel, which is in 2/2 with a swung rhythm, as a release of the rhythmic tension created during the strathspey.

The reel is a very old form of music in Scotland. Reels are mentioned as early as the 16th century . It is the fastest of all the tunes played on instruments in Scotland. Reels are generally in 4/4 or 2/4 time, meaning that it has four or two beats in each bar. Reels highlight the agility and dexterity of musicians on their instruments, and they can be played on pipes, fiddle, accordion and other instruments. The reel is used for many set dances, mostly for three, four or eight dancers to a set. In Highland and Island Scotland, it was traditional at weddings for the bride and groom to dance a foursome reel with their best man (in Gaelic, the fleasgach) and the bridesmaid (maighdeann). The most popular set reel is the eightsome reel.

Jigs are a form of dance tune in compound time. The origins are unknown but jigs appear to be related to the gigue, a European baroque dance. Most jigs are in 6/8 time, and Scottish jigs are relatively fast and lively with melodies featuring sequences of quavers and semiquavers, and often with dotted rhythms throughout the tune.

When not playing dance music Gow enjoyed performing deeply moving laments. He published three well known laments: Niel Gow’s Lamentation for Abercarney (1784); Niel Gow’s Lamentation for the Death of his Brother (1788); Niel Gow’s Lament for the Death of his 2d Wife (1809).

Robert Burns visited Niel Gow in 1787 when touring the Highlands. Burns stayed at Culloden House (now the Scottish Horse Museum) and breakfasted with Dr Stewart, a well known fiddler in the district. Niel Gow was sent for and, with Dr. Stewart joining in and Peter Murray on the bass, Niel played a selection of his own compositions. Burns took such a fancy to Niel's tune "Loch Erroch Side" that he asked for a copy of it and afterwards set his "Address to the Woodlark" to it. The tune originated from an air Niel had heard his wife Margaret singing. It is now better known as 'The lass o' Gowrie'. Many believe Gow's air of Locherroch Side is thought to be the basis for Robert Burns' ballad, "Oh! stay, sweet warbling Woodlark, stay."

Niel Gow was a man who was highly respected at all levels of society and at his height of fame Niel was welcome in any of the grand houses in the country. On his way to Aberdeen he stopped off at Brechin Castle where the Dalhousie family made him very welcome. Not only the master musician he was a good humoured fellow who enjoyed the company of others. On his death in 1807 he was buried in the local graveyard at Little Dunkeld. The Niel Gow Fiddle Festival takes place in Dunkeld and Birnam, Perthshire, Scotland every year.

In loving memory of Dougal and Elsie McCallum and Peter Cameron

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The History of Porridge

'The halesome parritch, chief o' Scotia's food' from 'A Cotter's Saturday night' by Robert Burns (1785)

Porridge or "parritch," are allied to the word "pottage," indicating the practice of cooking ingredients together in a pot and thickening it with cereals. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word "porridge" did not come into use until the 17th century but porridge like dishes are thought to have been made in Neolithic times by boiling ground, crushed, or chopped cereal in water, milk. The Gaelic word for porridge is “leite” although it goes by other names including 'milgruel' in Shetland. It is generally defined as a dish made by stirring oatmeal or rolled oats into boiling water and simmering the mixture gently until it is cooked. Scot’s porridge is usually eaten hot for breakfast with optional flavourings and may be sweetened with sugar or honey. Traditionally it was eaten with salt. Eating porridge in cold countries is thought to keep the body warm during the long winter months.

Reference to Porridge appears in the "Vinaya" texts and the Lord Buddha considered the dish to have five benefits. The Five Endurances (Wuchang) were: overnight digestion, reduced flatulence, the quenching of thirst, the suppression of hunger and reduced constipation.

Climatic conditions meant oats and barley were the predominant crops to grow in the North of Scotland. Despite this oats did not predominate until the eighteenth century, thereafter it played an increasing role in the diet. This was especially true in rural areas where oatmeal often formed the basis of every meal. In 1794, Joseph. Donaldson observed the eating habits of farm labourers in the Carse of Gowie, and described oatmeal with milk cooked in different ways, was the sole source of sustenance throughout the year. Scottish emigrants took their food preferences to many far-flung corners of the globe.

Unflaked oatmeal had to soften to become edible, so it had to be cooked for a long time. The wooden spurtle (parritch stick or thivel) was used to stir it frequently to prevent the formation of large lumps. Traditionally Scots’ used a spurtle to stir the pot. It was important to always stir deiseal (clockwise/sunwise) with the right hand for luck. Stirring widdershins (anticlockwise) was said to invoke the devil or bring bad luck. Good bairns were often rewarded by having the spurtle to lick in addition to their share of the breakfast. The following is one verse of a song entitled 'Our gudeman came hame at e'en.' collected by David Herd in 1776.

Our gudeman came hame at e'en,
And hame came he,
And there he saw a shining sword
Where nae sword should be:
What's this now, gudewife,
And what's this I see ?
O how came this sword here
Without the leave o' me ?
A sword! quo' she,—aye, a sword! quo' he.
Shame fa' yere cuckold face,
And waur may ye see,
It's but a porridge spurtle
My mither sent to me.
A spurtle! quo' he,—aye, a spurtle ! quo' she.
Far hae I ridden, love,
And meikle hae I seen,
But silver hiked spurtles
Saw I never nane.

Oat grains are available as whole grains or groats. These are ground into oatmeal and steamed and rolled into flakes of varying thickness. These can be steel-cut, or toasted and stone-ground (Macroom Oatmeal). Rolled oats are used for many purposes; the bigger the flakes, the chewier the porridge. Toasting the oats beforehand for a couple of minutes gives the finished dish a distinctly nutty, roasted flavour. Choose rolled oats if you want a smooth consistency and a porridge that cooks quickly. Rolled oats have a medium grain and are used for oatcakes, biscuits and stuffing. Scottish traditionalists allow only oats, water and salt although full-fat milk makes a rich porridge. A ratio of one part of milk to two of water has been recommended as a happy medium. A little salt added towards the end of cooking is essential, whether or not the porridge is sweetened. Adding the salt too early hardens the grain, preventing it from swelling, and results in a less creamy bowl of porridge. Traditionally the mixture is said to whisper ‘Perth’ and ‘Gargunnock’ in a gentle simmering way when it’s ready. Letting the porridge sit, lidded, for 5 to 15 minutes may develop a little more flavour.

Porridge is highly nutritious because oatmeal contains protein, carbohydrate, fats, and soluble fibre, all the B vitamins, vitamin E, calcium, and iron. The lack of vitamins A, C, and D is redressed when it is combined with milk or vegetables. Oats are a slow release carbohydrate and perfect for a low G.I. diet. Research also shows they are also useful for lowering cholesterol. Porridge was customarily eaten while standing, but the reasons remain obscure. Some believe it helped fill the stomach "A staunin' sack fills the fu'est" (A standing sack fills the fullest), while others consider it as a precaution in times when an enemy may catch them unawares.

The oats used for porridge determine how hearty the final dish will be and how long to cook; the finer the oats the quicker the cooking time. The oats used for porridge are usually rolled rather than crushed and Scottish oats, also known as "pinhead oats" and are the ones used for Scottish porridge.This simplified the preparation of porridge and all oat-based dishes. In 1877 the Quaker Oats Company of the United States developed rolled oats or oatflakes by steaming and rolling the coarsest grade of oatmeal to produce pinhead oatmeal. Today’s muesli is a derivative of the Scottish porridge.

In the past the basic mixture allowed for numerous permutations, all with their own nomenclature according to locality. Brose was made by pouring boiling water over oatmeal, butter, and salt: with meat stock it became fat brose, while the addition of a green vegetable gave kail brose. Hasty Pudding was a form of porridge enriched and sweetened. Gruel was made by boiling the liquid that oats had soaked in, flavoring it with assorted ingredients and allowing it to cool to a jellylike substance. To make sowans, oat husks were soaked until sour, at which point the mixture was sieved and the husks thrown out. The liquid was a pleasant drink and the starchy sediment underneath was boiled and eaten either hot or cold, with milk, cream, or beer again served separately.

Once cooked, the porridge was ladled into porringers (bowls) with a separate bowl of milk, buttermilk, or thin cream close by. Each spoonful of porridge was dipped into the cold liquid and then eaten. Some sprinkled sugar over the porridge, and others preferred honey, treacle or syrup, or a knob of butter—the men might replace the milk with ale or small beer. Porridge was sometimes poured into a drawer in the kitchen dresser to be sliced when cold, either for eating out in the fields or for reheating in the evening.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Haggis: Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o’ the pudding race!

The exact historical origins of our great national dish appear to have been lost in the mists of time. Some claim the dish originated from the days of the old Scottish cattle drovers, who took their herds from the Highlands to market in Edinburgh. Others believe the dish is pre-historic and a pragmatic way of cooking and preserving offal that would otherwise spoil following a kill. Fresh offal or pluck consisted of heart, liver and lungs which was chopped and mixed with cereal (oats) and herbs then stuffed into the stomach of the animal before being immersed in boiling water for two to three hours. Haggis became a popular dish with poor people because it used cheap cuts of nourishing meat that would otherwise have been thrown away.

The first published haggis recipe (hagese) appeared circa 1430 in the verse cookbook Liber Cure Cocorum which came from Lancashire.

For hagese'.

Þe hert of schepe, þe nere þou take,
Þo bowel noght þou shalle forsake,
On þe turbilen made, and boyled wele,
Hacke alle togeder with gode persole,

It was eaten in Scotland because in 1520 the Scottish poet William Dunbar, penned Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy which refers to 'haggeis'.

“Thy fowll front had, and he that Bartilmo flaid;

The gallowis gaipis eftir thy graceles gruntill, As thow wald for ane haggeis, hungry gled.

Dunbar and Kennedy’s Flyting (poetic jousting) was a popular and influential poem and was almost a de rigueur inclusion in Scottish anthologies of verse for the next two centuries.

Gervase Markham wrote The English Hus Wife (1615) and included a receipt for Haggas or Haggus in the section entitled “Skill in Oate meale”. Haggis was popular in England until the middle of the 18th Century before it became more associated with Scotland.

In 1771 there is reference to haggis as a Scottish delicacy in Tobias Smollett’s novel, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker.

In 1774 the English cookery writer Hannah Glasse published a recipe for Scotch haggis in The Art of Cookery. Glasse wrote mostly for domestic servants and referred to them as "lower sort". Her book was most influential with many of her receipts still recognizable today. She did however show marked disapproval of French cooking styles and in general avoided French culinary terminology.

Burns immortalised the haggis in his eight verse poem Address to a Haggis (1786). By ringing the praises of common fare the bard was gently lampooning the pretentious French cuisine popular in Edinburgh at the time. Only after his death in 1796 when Burns’ close friends decided to celebrate his memory did they organized a supper in his honour and ate haggis. Each year on the 25th January Burns Suppers are held all over the world to commemorate Scotland’s national poet. Recitation of the poem Address to a Haggis by Robert Burns is an important part of the Burns supper. The haggis is now as firmly established as a Scottish national icon as the much revered whiskey.

There are many recipes for haggis but most have the following ingredients in common: sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs) minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock. The traditional animal's stomach has been replaced with sausage casing. The dish is served hot with neaps and tatties (turnips and potatoes) and taken with a dram (a glass of Scotch whisky). Today there are many different varieties including vegetarian haggis and kosher haggis.

Since 1971, it has been illegal to import haggis into the US from the UK due to a ban on food containing sheep lung. The situation was further complicated in 1989 when all UK beef and lamb was banned from importation to the US due to the Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis. Despite regular reviews of the ban on food products containing sheep lung it remains enforced. Hence Americans cannot get authentic Scot’s Haggis but make do with what is available

A common fiction promulgated by some is the haggis is a small Scottish animal (Haggis scoticus) with longer legs on one side, so that it can run around the steep hills of the Scottish Highlands without falling over. The Hebridean Haggis is "thought" to be the original native species. The Lewis Haggis is different from the Haggis on the mainland: unlike its mainland relative all its legs are of the same length. The two varieties coexist peacefully but are unable to interbreed in the wild because in order for the male of one variety to mate with a female of the other, he must turn to face in the same direction as his intended mate, causing him to lose his balance before he can mount her. As a result of this difficulty, differences in leg length among the haggis population are accentuated.

Haggis Hurling has become popular of late and involves throwing a haggis as far as possible. The world record for haggis hurling was achieved by Lorne Coltart at the Milngavie Highland Games in 2011, who hurled his haggis 217 feet.

Reviewed 20/01/2017

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Dougie MacLean

The Scottish singer-songwriter was born in Dunblane in 1954. He joined the Paisley based Scottish folk group, the Tannahill Weavers in the mid seventies and toured extensively in the UK and Europe playing fiddle, mandolin and sharing vocals. The group recorded their first album “Are Ye Sleeping Maggie?” in 1976.

Dougie left the Tannahills and teamed up with German born Scot, Alan Roberts and recorded the album Caledonia in 1978. The album met with great critical acclaim and the song Caledonia would be later recorded by many other artists.

Later the duo joined Alex Campbell and recorded the album CRM which contained traditional Scottish songs.

In 1980 Dougie MacLean joined SillyWizard for six months and toured with them in the USA, Holland and Germany before forming a duo with Edinburgh guitarist, Donald MacDougall. They performed in US, Canada and Europe and McLean (on foddle) contributed to Silly Wizard's fourth album, Wild and Beautiful (1981) before returning to the Tannahill Weavers.

During this time Dougie’s recorded his first solo album, Snaigow in 1980.

The singer now based himself in Perthshire but continued to tour worldwide. His follow up was Wing and a prayer and was released on Plant Life in 1981.

He later built a recording studio near Dunkled and he and his wife, artist Jennifer MacLean, launched their own record label, Dunkeld Records. The debut album Craigie Dhu (1982) proved a commercial success and this was followed by Fiddle (1984) and Singing Land (1986) .

Over the years Dunkeld Records became one of Scotland's most respected independent record labels featuring not only Dougie MacLean but also Hamish Moore, Sheena Wellington, Frieda Morrison, Gordon Duncan, David Allison and Blackeyed Biddy. Throughout the decade Dougie MacLean's reputation grew and became a popular performer at festivals and concerts where ever Scottish music featured. The album Real Estate was released in 1988.

Dougie MacLean has built an international reputation as songwriter, composer and extraordinary performer on his own terms. His songs have been covered by hosts of artists including Scottish stars Paolo Nutini & Amy MacDonald, Ronan Keating, Mary & Frances Black, Dolores Keane, Deanta and Cara Dillon, and Grammy award winning US country singer Kathy Mattea. His music has been used in the Hollywood movies: Trevor Jones adapted the music from the Search album as the main theme to The Last of the Mohicans in 1992; Angel Eyes also featured music from Dougie Mclean as well as A Mugs Game (BBC).

To date his greatest success has been “Caledonia” which has become one of Scotland’s most popular contemporary songs. The song was written in less than 10 minutes on a beach in Brittany, France when the singer was busking overseas and feeling homesick. The song featured in a Tennent’s Lager beer advert in 1991 with a cover interpretation sung by Frankie Miller.

The public response was immediate and so enormous Miller re-recorded the whole song and released it as an independent single. The song reached number 45 in UK Singles Chart but topped the Scottish charts in 1992. The song has been covered by many other artists.