Highland Wit and Humour

Cartoon c. 1940s.
Cartoon c. 1940s.

HIGHLAND WIT AND HUMOUR.
By “Fionn.”

A HIGHLAND boy went with his mother to Inverness to get his first pair of boots. Returning home with his boots slung round his neck, and feeling as proud as a chief, he paid little attention to his steps. Suddenly he struck his big toe against a stone with a terrible shock. Stooping down he began to hold his toe in his hand, while with a rueful countenance he allowed the pain he was suffering. Brightening up suddenly he turned to his mother and exclaimed — “Taing do ‘n Fhreasdal nach i a’ bhròg ùr a fhuair siud,” (Providence be thanked that it was not the new shoes that got yon.)

A deer-stalker after a series of inexcusable misses, remarked to his gillie— “Well, Donald, whose fault was it that time?” Quoth Donald — “Well, he wasn’t more than a hundred yards, and it’s not my fault you missed him; and it’s not the fault of the stag, for he stood still enough; and it’s not the fault of the rifle, for I ken well it’s a right good one; so I’ll just leave it to you to think it over, and find out whose fault it was.”

This reminds one of the Highland lady who sent her son — the young laird — for the first time to the shooting, under the charge of old Sandy the gamekeeper. On their return in the evening with rather a light bag the fond mother asked Sandy how the laird got on in the hill — and if he was a good shot. “He shot real pretty,” was Sandy’s reply, “but Providence was kind to the birds.”

Two Highlanders were benighted, and lay down to sleep on the side of a mountain. After they had lain a little one of them got up, but soon returned again. The other asked him—”What’s this, Donald? What have you been about?” Donald replied — “I was only bringing a stane to put under my head.” Duncan started up and cried — “Man, but you’re unco pernickety! Canna ye sleep without a stane aneath your head?”

Gaelic epitaphs are but seldom met with, but some of the English attempts to convey to the reader an idea of the virtues of departed Celts, are very funny. Take the following for example —

Here lies Andrew MacPherson
Who was a peculiar person,
He stood six foot two
Without his shoe,
And was slew at Waterloo.

It is not every epitaph that is so painfully true as the following:—

Here lies interred a man o’ micht,
His name was Malcom Downie;
He lost his life ae market nicht
By fa-in’ aff his pownie. Aged 37.

On a stone not far from Rob Roy’s grave at Balquhidder, the following ludicrous inscription may be seen —

Beneath this stane lies Seonaid Roy,
Shon Roy’s reputed mother,
In a’ her life, save this Shon Roy,
She never had another.
‘Tis here, or hereabout, they say—
The place no one can tell;
But when she’ll rise at the last day
She’ll ken the stane hersel.

The fact of a man being a good shot is not usually included among “tombstone virtues,” but in the churchyard of Fort-William we find the following —

“Sacred to the memory of Captain Patrick Campbell, late of the 42nd regiment. He died on the 13th of December 1816. A true Highlander, a sincere friend, and the best deerstalker of his day.”

In a churchyard not far from Glasgow there is a stone evidently erected by a Highlander — The confusion of ideas in the epitaph is rather extraordinary — Erected by Hugh MacMillan in memory of his father Donald MacMillan who died, etc., then we have this line from Gray’s “Elegy in a Country Churchyard” —

“He gave to misery (all he had) a tear,” followed by this extraordinary coda —

Also my son Hugh.

It reminds one of the inscription over some youth who was “shot by a blunderbuss, one of the old brass kind — “For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven”!

It is wonderful what havoc the misplacing of part of a sentence, or even a comma makes on the sense, as will be seen from the following — “Erected to the memory of John MacDonald who was shot by his brother as a mark of respect.” The members of this family must have had rather a peculiar way of showing their respect for one another.

A certain Captain MacPherson was about to proceed on a long voyage, and his wife sent a request to the church to which they belonged desiring an interest in their prayers. Poor body, she doubtless wrote — “Captain MacPherson going to sea, his wife requests the prayers of the congregation.” The announcement made to the congregation was — “Captain MacPherson going to see his wife, requests the prayers of the congregation.” If Mrs. MacPherson was present her feelings may be easier imagined than described.

The Celtic Monthly, June 1894.

Curator: Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

Leave a Reply