Gie Her A Haggis!

Jan 19, 2014 by

January 25th,  the birthday of the famous Scottish poet, Robert Burns, is known to Scots and those of Scottish heritage as Rabbie Burns Day or Burns Night.  Rab’s life and poetry is celebrated  with great fanfare at both formal and informal gatherings that have a few things in common: drinking fine Scotch whisky, reciting Burn’s poetry,  and honoring (and eating) that great chieftain o’ the puddin-race, the haggis.

 

 

Despite what you may have heard, the haggis is not a small animal that runs wild wild in the Scottish Highlands, with legs shorter on one side that enable it to run faster around the mountains.  Cute idea, but purely mischievous Scottish propaganda.  If you want to learn the “history” of this mythic beastie, however, read this article which discusses haggis scottii in detail.

Don’t be deceived by those old crofters’ tales, silly goose–everyone knows that the real national animal of Scotland is the unicorn.

Aye, am yer national animal, lass.

Aye, am yer national animal, lass.

 

Weel then, whit is a haggis?! Glad you asked!

Haggis is Scotland’s national dish,  a type of sausage (but called a pudding) made of the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep or lamb, mixed with oats, suet, spices and herbs, encased in the animal’s stomach lining and then simmered in water for several hours.  Yes, really.

I’ve eaten haggis and find it quite tasty, especially when I’m also having a wee dram or two of single malt whisky.  You can get microwaveable haggis, canned haggis, vegetarian haggis, even curried haggis if you so desire, but it is the mark of a true Scot to make yer own pudding.  Here’s a brief video to show you how haggis is made from blackface sheep innards, the creme de la creme of sheep organs:

I understand that the contents and appearance of haggis may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the national pudding is quite versatile.   If you don’t care to eat this savory Scottish treat, how about throwing it for distance?  Easier than tossing a caber, and a bit safer for Scottish Games rookies:

 

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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.

 

Sources:

Oxford DNB.com

Wikipedia.com

 

 

 

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Moon over Loch Ness

Oct 20, 2013 by

Full Moon Over Loch Ness

Full Moon Over Loch Ness   image: http://www.yalerecord.com/category/writing/colcas/

 

Some of life’s greatest mysteries can only be seen under the light of a full moon. If you are in Scotland on a full moon night, you might want to pay Loch Ness a visit. You never know what wonders the light may reveal in the dark waters of a Scottish loch…

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