Whuppity Stoorie

Whuppity Stoorie DCn the toon o’ Kittlerumpit in the debatable lands, a goodman lived in a wee hoose wae his wife and bairn. One mornin’ the goodman telt his wife that he wis goin’ tae the fair. He kissed her goodbye and set aff, and he wis never seen again. His poor wife wis left wae very little, and wae the bairn tae look after she wis fair in a fash. Her neighbours were aw sorry fer her, but naebody helped her. Her only consolation wis her sow, fer it wis soon tae farrow and she hoped fer a good litter. 

One mornin’ the goodwife took her bairn oot tae the sty tae fill the sow’s trough, and whit should she find but the poor sow lyin’ oan her back, gruntin’ and groanin’ and ready tae gie up the ghost. This wis a new pang tae the goodwife’s heart, and she sat doon on the knockin’ stane wae her bairn oan her knee, and she gret sorer than she ever had fer the loss o’ her goodman. 

Noo the hoose at Kittlerumpit wis built oan a brae, wae a large fir wood ahind it, and the goodwife, when she wis wipin’ her eyes, looked doon the brae, and whit should she see there but an auld wummin comin’ up the road. She wis dressed aw in green and hud a walkin’ staff as long as hersel’ in her haun. The goodwife stood up and made a curtsy, wipin’ away her tears. 

“Ah think ah must be the maist unfortunate lassie alive,” the goodwife said. 

“Dinnae gie me aw yer pipers news and fiddlers tales, goodwife” the auld wummin telt her. “I ken yev lost yer goodman and that yer sow is sick, but we hud worse losses at Sherrifmuir. Whit wid ye gie me if I cure the sow?”

 “Ah’d gie ye anythin’! Anythin’ at aw!” the goodwife exclaimed. 

The auld wummin wis fair pleased wae that, and she looked at the sow wae a long stare and began tae mutter tae hersel’ whit the goodwife couldnae understand, but it sounded like ‘pitter patter, holy watter,’ and the auld wummin took a wee bottle ootae her pocket. She tipped the bottle upside doon ontae her finger, and rubbed the sow wae it above the snout, ahind the ears, and oan the tipae its tail. 

“Get up, beast,” she said tae the sow, and nae sooner said than done, the sow jumped up wae a grunt and went aff tae her trough fer her breakfast. 

The goodwife o’ Kittlerumpit wis fair chuffed, and she wid hae kissed the very hem o’ the auld wummin’s gown, but the auld wummin wouldnae let her. 

“Ah’m naw fond o’ ceremony,” the auld wummin said, “but noo that ah’ve righted yer sick beast let us end oor settled bargain. Ah’m no an unreasonable bodie, and ah’m naw greedy. Ah like ever tae dae a good turn fer a wee reward. Aw that ah ask, and aw ah will huv, is that bairn in yer bosom.”

The goodwife o’ Kittlerumpit cried like a stuck swine, and prayed and cried and begged and scolded, but it wouldnae do.

“Ye kin spare yer din, screamin’ as if ah wis deaf as a doornail.” the auld wummin said. “But this ah’ll let ye know: ah cannae, by the law we live under, take yer bairn until the third day, and not then if ye can tell my ma right name.”

And wae that, the auld wummin set aff. The goodwife couldnae sleep that night fer greetin’, and aw the same the next day, cuddlin’ her bairn till she nearly squeezed its breath oot. The day efter that, she took her bairn in her arms and set oot fer a walk in the fir wood. She went far intae the trees where there wis an auld quarry hole, grown o’er wae grass, and a bonny spring in the middle o’ it. Afore she came near, she heard the whirrin’ o’ a flax wheel, and a voice singin’ a song.

The goodwife crept quietly through the bushes, and peeped o’er the brow o’ the quarry. There sat the auld wummin, tearin’ away at her wheel and singin’ tae hersel,


“Little kens oor guid dame at hame,
That Whuppity Stoorie is my name.”

The goodwife wis well pleased wae hersel when she heard that, and she crept away fae the quarry and set aff hame wae her bairn.

The next day wis the third day, and the goodwife took up her seat oan the knockin’ stone and waited fer the auld wummin tae come fer her bairn.  She wisnae waitin’ long afore the auld wummin came up o’er the brae, aw in her green.

“Goodwife of Kittlerumpit, you know well whit ah come fer,” she called. 

The goodwife put on her greetin’ and fell tae her knees, sayin’ “Och sweet madam mistress, spare ma only bairn! Take ma sow instead!”

The auld wummin laughed. “Ah didnae come here fer a slice o’ pork! The deil can take yer pig! Gie me the bairn!”

The goodwife wrung her hauns and said, “Spare ma only bairn! Take me instead!”

The auld wummin laughed. “Ye’ve a face like the far endae a fiddle! Who in aw the earthly world wae half an eye in his heid wid ever meddle wi’ ye?”

Well the goodwife stood up aff her knees and made a curtsy right doon tae the ground and said, “I should huv ken that the likes o’ me widnae be guid enough tae even tie the shoe laces o’ the high and mighty Whuppity Stoorie!”

At the sound o’ her name, the auld wummin shrieked and shot up intae the air in a great puff o’ smoke, then came doon wae a thump. She spun on her heel and birled aroon’ and ran aff doon the brae, screechin’ wae rage. The goodwife o’ Kittlerumpit laughed till she wis like tae split, and she took up her bairn and went back tae her wee hoose where they lived a long and happy life, and if they’re no deid, they’re livin’ yet. 


The Vestiarium Scoticum, And A History of Tartan

Vestiarium Scoticum DCerhaps the greatest and most prolific Scottish myth of all can be found where it’s least expected: in the beloved system of clan tartans. 

The earliest example of tartan found in Scotland dates to the third century and was used as a stopper in an earthenware pot found on St Kilda. Known as the Falkirk tartan, it’s a simple two coloured check, the undyed brown and white wool of the Soay sheep. In A Journey From Edinburgh Through Parts of North Britain, Alexander Campbell recorded a description of the Scots from a writer of the latter end of the sixteenth century:

“They delight in marled clothes, especially that have long stripes of sundry colours, they love chiefly purple and blue. Their predecessors used short mantles or plaids of diverse colours sundry ways divided, and the custom is observed to this day, but for the most part they are now brown, most near to the colour of the heather, to the effect when they lie amongst the heather the bright colour of their plaids shall not betray them. The plaid is worn only by the men, and it is made of fine wool. It consists of diverse colours, and there is great ingenuity required in sorting the colours so as to be agreeable to the nicest fancy.”

In 1703, Martin Martin, in A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, gives the first account of the use of tartan as a means of identification. He noted that the colours and patterns of tartans could be used to differentiate between the inhabitants of the different regions of Scotland. 

“Every isle differs from each other in their fancy of making plaids as to the stripes in breadth and colours. This humour is as different through the mainland of the Highlands, in so far that they who have seen those places are able at first view of a man’s plaid to guess the place of his residence.”

Each community in Scotland would have had at least one weaver, and they would produce tartan cloth to supply to people in the local area. The colours of these district tartans, as they have come to be known, would have been determined by the types of plants that grew in the area that could be used for dyeing cloth, making each tartan distinct from the others. This geographical system of identification was the only one that tartan was part of at the time; it would be another hundred and fifty years before the concept of clan tartans was introduced. Even the use of the word tartan in reference to a checked cloth is not recorded until the Dress Act of 1746, which refers to “tartan or party-coloured plaid of stuff“.

The Dress Act of 1746 prohibited the wearing of any tartan, with the exception of the military tartan of the Black Watch, which could still be worn by members of the regiment. The Dress Act was a knee-jerk reaction by the government to the Jacobite uprising, part of a series of measures that attempted to bring the Jacobite clans under government control. A later amendment to the act revised it to forbid the wearing of tartan “west and north of the Highland Line”, a perceived division between the cultures of the Gaelic Highlands and the Scots Lowlands that ran from around Dumbarton in the west to Perth in the east.

Just south of that boundary, a firm of weavers, William Wilson and Sons of Bannockburn, cornered the market for supplying tartan to the military and the increasing number of Highland regiments. By the time the tartan ban was repealed in 1782, Wilson and Sons were thriving. The company sent out agents to the Highlands to meet clan chiefs and authorities, and they returned with various samples of cloth from the district weavers. Wilson’s Key Pattern Book of 1819 documented weaving instructions for over two hundred tartans, many of which were renamed by Wilson in an attempt to match clans or towns to tartans, in addition to some rather fanciful titles deriving from the colours in the tartans, like the Robin Hood tartan.

Vestiarium Scoticum RepealA proclamation, in Gaelic, announcing the repeal of the Dress Act.

The repeal of the Dress Act saw a huge surge in Scottish nationalism and the advent of the era of Highland Romanticism, helped along by the works of Robert Burns, James McPherson, and Sir Walter Scott. Highland Societies sprang up all over Britain, promoting ‘the general use of the ancient Highland dress‘ and required their members to wear it to attend Society meetings. The idea that a clan name should be connected to a tartan was catching on, and in 1815 the Highland Society of London wrote to clan chiefs to request that they provide the Society with samples of their clan’s tartan. Many chiefs had no idea what their clan tartan was supposed to be, so they in turn wrote to tartan weavers like Wilson’s to seek advice on the matter. One querent, in a letter from Wilson’s archives, asks “Please send me a piece of Rose tartan, and if there isn’t one, please send me a different pattern and call it Rose.”