Scottish Proverbs

Jan 31, 2016 by

Scottish Proverbs

Scottish proverbs often seem simplistic at first glance.

Behind the humble words, however, lies a wealth of wisdom and Celtic “can-do” attitude.

Here are a few of my favorite Gaelic Scottish proverbs:

Scottish proverbs


In other words, whatever is worth having will take effort to obtain.

There are many examples of how this Scottish proverb applies in life:

finding your soul mate, providing for yourself and your family, achieving Scotland’s freedom from English rule, to name just a few.

Scottish proverbs in Gaelic

This Scottish proverb speaks to the need to always be prepared

Invasion from England and Vikings was a constant threat to Scots for many hundreds of years.  Putting aside the sword for the plough could spell disaster for the clan. Generations later, the wisdom behind the words still rings true, and not just in military situations.

Scottish proverbs for love and romance

This Gaelic phrase is the Scottish proverb equivalent of saying that the course of true love never runs smooth

The illustration is from a 1906 childrens’ book of English history.  It depicts the sad parting of Flora MacDonald and Bonnie Prince Charlie, as he was fleeing the English after Culloden. The romance between Flora and Charles has been greatly embellished over time, and may never have happened at all.

Actual partings of loved ones, however, was a harsh reality for many Scottish Highlanders and Islanders over the centuries.  Whether their men left in search of jobs to earn desperately needed money, or were forcibly removed to an English prison, Scottish women knew well the heartache of separation.

For a fictionalized version of romantic Scottish misery, check out Outlander, the book, by Diana Gabaldon, or the cable series Outlander, based on Gabaldon’s books.

Of course, we all know that this Scottish proverb holds true in the modern world.  As the first proverb above implies, however, sometimes the reward is worth the risk.

read more

Related Posts

Share This

Cooling Down The Hielan Coos

Jul 2, 2014 by

Despite popular belief, it’s possible to have a sunny day in the Scottish Highlands that heats up the area too much.

When that happens, you’ll need need to cool down your hairy  Hielan coos at the local beach. No sunscreen necessary, though.

Highland cattle at Oldshoremore: Image Source

Highland cattle at Oldshoremore beach in Sutherland     Image Source: Scotland on Facebook

Oldshoremore ( Àisir Mòr in Scots Gaelic) is a small, remote crofting village in Sutherland, one of the northernmost areas in the Scottish Highlands. The name Sutherland comes from the Norse, Suðrland (“southern land”), and dates from the time of Norse rule in the Highlands by the jarl of Orkney. The Norse called it “Southern land”  in relation to Orkney and Caithness, which are even further north.

read more

Whisky Wednesday With The Butler

Feb 26, 2014 by

Wednesday is a good day to try a dram or two of a new whisky or whiskey, depending on your preference.   You won’t appear as desperate as you might on a Monday night (the week has barely begun), and you’ll have more time to properly savor the taste results than you would on a Friday night (TGIF–just gimme a bottle!).  While you’re at it, you may as well invite a friend over to share in your Celtic heritage appreciation event…but which whisky will make the cut?



Personally, I love single malts, preferably with peaty smokiness, paired with a hint of sweetness.   I’ve read reviews of the newest release from Highland Park,  Scotland’s northernmost single malt distillery, and it may be a good match for me.   Distilled in an area that was once a Norse stronghold in Viking Age Scotland, HP’s new 15 year old whisky is named after Freya, the Norse goddess of love, and is said to taste of lush fruitiness and smoky earthiness, closing with a spicy finish.

Sounds like the perfect uisge beatha to share with my favorite Scottish Butler.

Not sure which whisk(e)y you should try?   I recommend consulting  Whisky For Everyone , a wonderful blog for all whisky lovers, whether you’re just starting to appreciate this much-loved elixir of the Celts or you’re a long-time whisky drinker–they always have a list of the latest whisky releases.

read more

Vikings and Celts in Northern Scotland: The Govan Stones

Jan 29, 2014 by

The town of Govan (Baile a’ Ghobhainn in Scots Gaelic), now a part of Glasgow, Scotland, is an ancient city with origins dating back to at least the 5th century AD.   The site of the earliest known Christian church in the area,  Govan also was part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde, an early medieval kingdom of the Celtic people called the Britons in the Hen Ogledd, the Brittonic-speaking parts of what is now southern Scotland and northern England.   After the sack of Dumbarton Rock (the chief fortress of the kingdom) by a Viking army from Dublin in 870, Govan rose to prominence as the seat of the warrior chieftains, particularly Constantine, a 7th-century king of Strathclyde who founded a monastery at Govan, where he was buried in 876 AD.   One of the most outstanding legacies of this ancient Celtic kingdom is a collection of 31 early medieval sculptures known as the Govan Stones, one of which will be featured in a new Viking exhibition opening soon at the British Museum.

Tim Clarkson, historian and author of several books about ancient Scotland, including The Men of the North: the Britons of Southern Scotland has noted that

“The thirty-one carved stones at Govan Old Parish Church represent one of the largest collections of early medieval sculpture in Scotland. These remarkable examples of Celtic art were produced between the 9th and 11th centuries AD at a time when Govan was a focus of royal power and religious ritual in the kingdom of Strathclyde. The artwork includes crosses, interlace patterns and figures of humans and animals, while the shapes of the stones themselves range from simple rectangular slabs to the enigmatic hogbacks. Common stylistic features indicate that Govan was the centre of a distinctive local ‘school’ of stonecarving whose craftsmen drew inspiration from Pictland, Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England. The artistic traditions of the Govan School spread outward across Strathclyde and can still be seen today in Renfrewshire, North Ayrshire and other parts of the old kingdom.” source



The most unusual and rare sculptures found amongst the Govan stones are the five Hogback stones, huge sandstone blocks carved with interlacing Scandinavian patterns and shaped like Viking houses. These stones are found only in areas of northern Britain that were settled by the Vikings:

“My feeling is that this is meant to represent a lord’s hall or a chieftain’s hall. This type of monument, these hogback monuments, you only find them in Britain. You don’t get them in Scandinavia and you don’t get them before the Vikings come here. So somehow the Vikings come here and see they are in this world where people carve stones all the time and they think ‘let’s carve us a suitable stone that resonates with us’.” Stephen Driscoll, Professor of Historical Archaeology at Glasgow University.

The British Museum is opening a major new exhibit called Vikings: Life and Legend, which will include one of the giant Hogback stones from Govan,  the first time a hogback stone from Govan has ever left Scotland.  Read more about the exhibit and the role of this unusual stone in telling the story of Vikings in ancient Scotland in this story from the BBChere at The Scotsman,  and at the British Museum’s site here.

If you travel to Glasgow, you can see the Govan Stones (minus one hogback gravestone) at Old Govan Church.  Admission is free for the public, although you might need to call for an appointment time.   Learn more about the location and amazing history of these early Celtic sculptures by visiting the Govan Stones online site  here.  
Short video on the Govan stones:

Time Team video with loads of info on Govan Stones:

read more

Related Posts

Share This

Scotland’s Red Haired Robin Hood

Dec 28, 2013 by

On December 28, 1734, the famous 18th century Scottish outlaw, Rob Roy MacGregor, died at his home in Inverlochlarig Beg, on the Braes of Balquhidder, Scotland.  Raibeart Ruadh MacGriogair, as Roy is known in Scots Gaelic, Ruadh being the Scots word for “red-haired”, was truly a legend in his own time, and is often called the Scottish Robin Hood.


Robert Roy MacGregor

Robert Roy MacGregor

Rob Roy was born at Glengyle, at the head of Loch Katrine, in 1671 and married Mary Helen MacGregor of Comar in 1693. Like many of his clansmen, Roy was a strong supporter of the Jacobite cause. At the age of 18, he fought alongside his father in the failed Jacobite uprising of 1689 led by Viscount Dundee, and was badly wounded at the Battle of Glen Shiel in 1719, in which a British army of Scots and English defeated a Jacobite and Spanish expedition that aimed to restore the Stuart monarchy.

He spent most of his later life waging a feud against James Graham, 1st Duke of Montrose, who succeeded in entangling Roy in debt that ruined him. After defaulting on a loan for cattle, Roy was branded an outlaw, his lands were seized, his family evicted and his house was burned down. His blood feud with Montrose continued until 1722, when Roy was forced to surrender and then imprisoned. He was finally pardoned in 1727. There is an alternative argument that the MacGregor lands were not seized for non-payment of debts, but rather for Roy’s participation in the Jacobite Uprising of 1715. Under this version of events, Montrose then bought the MacGregor lands in 1720 from Crown agents. There may be some credence to this view because Rob Roy and the whole of the Clan Gregor were specifically excluded from the benefits of the Indemnity Act 1717,  which pardoned all others who took part in the Jacobite rising of 1715.

Beginning with the publication of The Highland Rogue in 1723, allegedly written by Daniel De Foe, the legend of Rob Roy has been spread through numerous stories, poems, books and films. Sir Walter Scott’s Rob Roy, published on Hogmanay in 1817, was a huge success with the public, becoming the equivalent of a New York Times bestseller.  Berlioz composed an overture based on Scott’s story of Rob Roy, Wordsworth wrote a poem about Roy and a whisky cocktail was created in Roy’s honor in 1894:

Of course, no hero is truly legend unless he has a Disney movie about his life, and the Mouse obliged in 1953 with the film Rob Roy: The Highland Rogue.  

The film most associated with Rob Roy, however, is the 1995 film starring Liam Neeson as Roy and Jessica Lange as his wife, Mary:


Tim Roth plays the evil Archibald Cunningham, Montrose’s henchman, who gets his comeuppance from Roy in what is widely considered to be one of the greatest sword fights ever filmed:


A skillful and fitting end to a Montrose enemy that would have made the real Rob Roy MacGregor proud.







read more

A Scots Gaelic Christmas Greeting

Dec 23, 2013 by

Would you like to wish someone a Merry Christmas in Scots Gaelic? Here is the basic holiday salutation for you to try:

indexsgc2Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, in Scots Gaelic is Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ùr.

It is (roughly) pronounced “Nollik hree-hel ah-gus Blee-una va oor”.

read more


Oct 25, 2013 by

Samhain Basics

Samhain Basics

It’s almost time for Halloween, a tradition that has its roots in Celtic culture. Thought I’d give you a few of the basics about the Samhain feis, or festival, to get you started. I’ll have a more detailed post about Samhain and Halloween closer to October 31.

read more

Related Posts

Share This