Highland Wit and Humour

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

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.

Macaronic Verses

(Vol. xii., p. 226.)

The macaronic verses of infancy and early boyhood have had such a run in your pages, that it is quite time those of a later age should take an innings. When I was a schoolboy, the verses asked for by X. ran as follows:

Patres conscripti took a boat, and went to Philippi;
Boatum est upsettum, magno cum grandine venti.
Omnes drownderunt qui swim away non potuerunt.
Trumpeter unus erat, qui coatum scarlet habebat;
Et magnum periwig, tied about with the tail of a dead pig.

Verses of this character are tolerably ancient. Wright and Halliwell (Reliqiuæ Antiquæ, p. 91.) give a set, of which the first ten verses are as follows:

Flen, flyys, and freris populum domini male cædunt,
Thystlis and brevis crescentia gramina lædunt;
Christe, nolens guerras, sed cuncta pace tueris,
Destrue per terras brevis, flen, flyyes, and freris.
Flen, flyyes, and freris, foul falle hem thys fyften yeris,
For non that her ys lovit flen, flyyes, ne freris.
Fratres Carmeli navigant in a bothe about Eli
Non sunt in cæli, quia . . . . . . . .
Omnes drencherunt, quia sterisman non habuerunt,
Fratres cum knyvys goth about and . . .

This is from a manuscript of the fifteenth century. My omissions are put in cypher by Mr. Wright, and are not producible.

The following, taken by Halliwell from a manuscript of the sixteenth century is worth quoting entire. It is a breaking up song at Christmas; the third and fourth lines are exquisitely saucy:

Ante finem termini baculos portamus,
Capud hustiarii frangere debemus;
Si preceptor nos petit quo debemus ire,
Breviter respondemus, non est tibi scire.
O pro [per?] nobilis docter, now we youe pray
Ut velitis concedere to gyff hus leff to play
Nunc proponimus ire, withowt any ney,
Scolam dissolvere, I tell itt youe in fey.
Sicut istud festum merth is for to make,
Accipimus nostram diem owr leve for to take.
Post natale festum, full sor shall we qwake,
Quum nos revenimus, latens for to make.
Ergo nos rogamus, hartly and holle,
Ut isto die possimus to brek upe the scole.

In Wright’s Political Songs (p. 251.) there is a triglott performance, Latin, French, and English, of the time of Edward II. And this is enough for one kick of the ball.     M.

Notes and Queries, Vol. XII, No. 311, 13 October 1855.

Good Brains

Armourial achievement of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

You must have really good brains to speak Welsh.

HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, 7 June 2016.

Nuns Are People Too!

Father Dougal McGuire and Father Ted Crilly.
Father Dougal McGuire and Father Ted Crilly.

Bishop Brennan: Well, I hope you’re not doing too much damage here, huh? Jack, are you behaving yourself?
Father Jack: Feck off!
Bishop Brennan: What did you say?! [stands up]
Father Ted: Your Grace, what brings you to these parts? Thinking of sending us back to our parishes?
Bishop Brennan: Fat chance! You’re here until I tell you otherwise! You think I’d let Jack back into a normal parish after the wedding he did in Athlone, huh?! [Jack grins lecherously and drools]
Father Ted: Yes, but surely I’m alright.
Bishop Brennan: No, no, no, you are here until all of that money is accounted for.
Father Ted: I don’t know what happened to that money!
Bishop Brennan: Enough! You went to Las Vegas, whilst that poor child was supposed to be in Lourdes! [he moves to Dougal] And as for this… cabbage! The mere idea of letting him back into the real world, after the Blackrock incident…
Father Ted: Yes, that was unfortunate!
Bishop Brennan: The amount of peoples’ lives irreperably damaged!
Dougal: They were only nuns.
Bishop Brennan: Nuns are people too! My God, the strings I had to pull to stop the Vatican getting involved! I do not want to talk about it! I just want to get this film business over and done with!
Father Ted: Film? What film?
Bishop Brennan: This blasphemous film, “The Passion of St. Tibulus“. Now, His Holiness has banned it, but because of some loophole, the bloody thing’s being shown on this godforsaken dump!
Dougal: Oh yes, that’s right. Is it any good, do you know?
Bishop Brennan: I don’t care if it’s any good; all I know is we have to be seen to be taking a stand against it. I have been brought back from my holiday in California to sort it out! And that’s where you and Larry and Moe come in.
Father Ted: What do you mean?
Bishop Brennan: Well, I know that normally you couldn’t organise a nun shoot in a nunnery, but despite that, it’s up to you to make the Church’s position clear. Make some kind of a protest at the cinema; even you should be able to manage that!
Dougal: Oh, thanks very much.
Bishop Brennan: Listen, this is very serious. Don’t make a balls of it, right? I’ll be in touch.
Father Ted: Bishop, this isn’t really my area.
Bishop Brennan: Nothing is your area, Crilly. You do not have an area. Unless it is some sort of play area, with sandcastles, and buckets, and spades! Now do what you’re told, right?!?

— Father Ted, The Passion of St. Tibulus.

The Animated Bayeux Tapestry


Sam the Eagle.
Sam the Eagle.

I would just like to say a few words about nudity in the world today. And I, for one, am just appalled by it. Why, did you know that underneath their clothing, the entire population of the world is walking around completely naked? Hmm? Is that disgusting? And it’s not just people, although, goodness knows, that’s bad enough, but animals too. Even cute little doggies and pussycats can’t be trusted. Underneath their fur, absolutely naked! And it’s not just the quadripeds, neither. Birds too. Yeah! Beneath those fine feathers, birds wear nothing. Nothing at all! Abs…

Sam the American Eagle, “The Muppet Show: Nancy Walker (#2.6)” (1977).

Enuf to Make Your Hed Swim

Historical marker near the birthplace of Charles Henry Smith, the Georgia politician and humorist who used the nom de plume Bill Arp.
Historical marker near the birthplace of Charles Henry Smith, the Georgia politician and humorist who used the nom de plume Bill Arp.

But talkin the way I see it, a big feller and a little feller, so called, got into a fite, and they fout, and fout, and fout a long time, and evry boddy all around a hollerin hands off, but kep a helpin the big feller, till finally the little feller caved in and hollered enuf. He made a bully fite, I tell you, selah. Well, what did the big feller do? Take him by the han and help him up, and bresh the dirt offen his close? Nary time! No, sur! But he kiked him atter he was down, and throwd mud on him, and drug him about and rubbed sand in his eyes, and now he’s a gwine about a huntin up his poor little property. Wants to konfiskate it, so called. Blame my jacket if it ain’t enuf to make your hed swim. Bill Arp Addresses Artemus Ward.

Our Lord’s Plan for the World

Father Dougal McGuire.
Father Dougal McGuire.

Father Ted: Sister Assumpta, you know we really are only up for the basic booze, fags, and rollerblading deal. I mean, the getting up early thing is great but — this is water.

Sister Assumpta: That’s right.

Father Ted: Alright, alright, having a bit of a laugh with the big thickos from the island. Where’s our real breakfast?

Father Dougal: Ted, I’d love a Pop-Tart.

Father Ted: Yes, Father Dougal likes his Pop-Tarts first thing in the morning.

Sister Assumpta: I really don’t think Pop-Tarts have any place in Our Lord’s plan for the world.

Father Ted: I think they have as much a place as anything else. Maybe Our Lord doesn’t take a personal interest in them, but I’m sure He delegates them to someone almost as important.

Father Dougal: What about… Frosties?

Father Ted: Again, same thing: He might not have come up with the idea, but He’d be the one Who’d give them the green light.

Father Dougal: Oh right. But if you take something like, say, Sugar Puffs, now or Lucky Charms…

Sister Assumpta: FATHERS, COULD YOU PLEASE! Could you please stop having that conversation, finish your breakfast, and come outside for your daily punishment.

Happy Birthday!

America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed.

— Eleanor Roosevelt, 1936.

Happy Birthday, Laurie!

Keep Calm

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum!
Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum!

Sheer Unrelenting Hyperbole

This is the original sales pitch to CBS for the television programme, The Muppet Show.

And God will look down on us, and smile on us, and He will say, “Let them have a 40 (percent) share!”

Good Grief, the Comedian’s a Bear

Kermit the Frog and Fozzie the Bear.

Kermit the Frog: Okay, time, once again, for that furry, fuzzy, funnyman, fabulous, free-wheeling, fast and frantic Fozzie Bear!
Fozzie Bear: Hey hey hey hey hey! W-wait, wait wait wait, froggy, not so fast. Tonight, I’m going to use your assistance. Yes, sir. You and I are going to tell the world’s funniest joke. This is all spontaneous, unrehearsed. Right, froggy?
Kermit the Frog: It’s unrehearsed, right.
Fozzie Bear: Okay, okay, okay.
[clears throat]
Fozzie Bear: Now, frog of my heart, you will just wait until I say the word “hear”. When you hear me say the word “hear”, you will rush up to me and say, “Good grief! The comedian’s a bear!”
Kermit the Frog: Good grief! The comedian’s a bear!
Fozzie Bear: Check.
Kermit the Frog: When you say the word “hear”?
Fozzie Bear: Right.
Kermit the Frog: Gotcha.
Fozzie Bear: Okay. Now then… Hiya, hiya, hiya! You’re a wonderful looking audience! It’s a pleasure to be here!
Kermit the Frog: Good grief! The comedian’s a bear!
Fozzie Bear: Not yet!
Kermit the Frog: But you just said “here”.
Fozzie Bear: That was the wrong “here”.
Kermit the Frog: Which is the right “here”?
Fozzie Bear: The other “hear”!
[sends Kermit off]
Fozzie Bear: Go, go, go. Okay. Hey, hey, folks, this is a story you gotta love to hear!
Kermit the Frog: Good grief! The comedian’s a bear!
Fozzie Bear: Will you stop that?
Kermit the Frog: But you said “hear”!
Fozzie Bear: Not *that* “hear”!
Kermit the Frog: Well, which “hear”?
Fozzie Bear: Another “hear”!
Kermit the Frog: How’m I gonna know?
Fozzie Bear: You’ll know when you hear!
Kermit the Frog: Good grief! The comedian’s a bear!
Fozzie Bear: Alright, listen, you will know when I point to you.
[Kermit goes off-stage grumbling]
Fozzie Bear: Alright, don’t grumble.
[clears throat, to audience]
Fozzie Bear: Say, a funny thing to me on the way to the theater. At the stage door, I passed a bunch of Muppet fans and suddenly I hear…
[pause, Fozzie points to Kermit]
Kermit the Frog: Good grief, the comedian’s a bear.
Fozzie Bear: [in Italian dialect] No, he’s-a not! He’s-a wearin’ a neck-a-tie!