The Thistledown
Volume 17, Issue 1              January-February 2001

Articles Inside
President’s Message
Haggis Season Is Upon Us from
In The Past...January 1980
Member News
Jack Quinn’s - an Irish pub comes to the Norfolk restaurant scene
from Lynnette Fitch
Haggis Myths from
Zoology of the Haggis from
St. Andrew’s Society Announces Scholarship Program
Robert Burns’ Address to a Haggis
This n’ That
Jimmie Shand - Legendary Accordionist Dies at Age 92
from the Guardian, Wednesday, December 27, 2000
Book Review
Jan-Feb 2000
Mar-Apr 2000
May-Jun 2000
Sep-Oct 2000
Nov-Dec 2000
Current Issue

President’s Message
I hope everyone had a joyous Holiday season. It was great to see so many folks turn out for our annual Holiday celebration meeting in December. Thank you to Evalynn Bolles for coordinating the event and to Carolyn Barkley, Ham and Rita Hamilton for providing the beautiful music.

The silent auction again proved to be fun and we raised $486.75 for the Tartan Day celebration fund. Thank you to everyone who participated in some way.

Remember that the election of officers is coming up at our March meeting. Rosemary Wareham is chairing the nominations committee. If you would like to run for an office, please let her know immediately. The slate of officers must be finalized by early January. Serving on the Board is a wonderful way to benefit the Society and to get to know your fellow members.

Larry McCauley is making arrangements for the Society to participate in the Norfolk St. Patrick’s Day Parade. We’ll have more information as the date gets closer.

Also mark May 18-20, 2001 on your calendars for the Celtic Festival sponsored by the Saint Andrews Society of Richmond. The festival will be held in the Ashland area. John Wallace will have additional information as this event draws near.

Finally, remember to send event information to Scott MacGregor, our Webmaster. He is particularly interested in pictures he can post to keep the site fresh.

Your aye,


Haggis Season Is Upon Us
Ten things you never knew about haggis:
  1. The correct plural of haggis is haggii, although under certain grammatical circumstances it can be haggises or even "wee yins". The name Haggii comes from the Latin for "harried ones".

  2. The Haggis Hunting season runs from when they hatch (30 November) until 25 January. The 31st of December is particularly anticipated by Haggis hunters as it is when great herds of Haggii migrate north for winter. The correct term for stalking a haggis is "havering".

  3. Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem "The Hunting of the Snark" was originally called "The Hunting of the Haggis" until he found out the Scottish beast actually existed.

  4. Seeing a live haggis is supposed to be a sign of imminent good fortune. Earl Nyaff of Uirsegeul reputedly encountered one on his way to Ayr races in 1817 and subsequently won £50. True, he was badly trampled by the winner and flogged for race fixing after being falsely accused by his own brother, but at least he made a tidy profit.

  5. haggis critter

  6. An alcoholic drink derived from the haggis has yet to be invented, despite many centuries of intensive research.

  7. The haggis is unusual in that it is neither consistently nocturnal nor diurnal, but instead is active at dawn and dusk, with occasional forays during the day and night.

  8. Haggis eggs are inedible, and can be easily confused with deer droppings. On the whole they are best avoided.

  9. Some myths say the spider watched by Robert the Bruce was trying to escape from a haggis foraging for food.

  10. Haggis fur is waterproof, but not showerproof.

  11. No-one has ever succeeded in breeding haggii in captivity.



In The Past...January 1980

The Thistledown was edited by Derek M. Farmer with Mike & Marie Falconer as compiling editors. Officers were William Alvey, President; James McCaig, Vice President; Lewis Hastie, Treasurer; and Henning Leth, Secretary. Members at large were Geraldine McDowell (Hospitality), Derek M. Farmer (News Editor), Kay Carter (Membership), James Allen (Board Chair), Eleanor Unger (Programs), William Galloway (Ways and Means), and Beth Hudson (Telephone Committee). The calendar included an art auction at Roma Lodge on February 17th, a ceilidh at the Lion Rampant Inn on Fairfax Avenue in Ghent on February 29th and an International Talent Show at the Moose Lodge on South Lynnhaven on March 29th. The issue included an article Scotland: The Struggles and the Enlightenment, by Mary J. Wareham and a series of letters to the editor congratulating the Society on the recent Burns Night Supper held at the Little Creek Officer’s Club. The editor noted that there were 163 reservations for the dinner with 46 from organized country dance groups along with 50% of the Society members in attendance. Stewart Walker presented the address to the haggis and Dr. Alfred Rollins, the immortal memory. John Turner’s Fiddle Tree Band provided the entertainment, a debut appearance.


Member News

...married on 23 December, member Sandie Robinson to Stuart McCausland after a whirlwind romance that started with their meeting in the library!

...recovering from a Christmas stay in the hospital: Jim Bolles Bon Secours Nursing Center: Bill Austin

...condolences to Russell Darden on the death of his mother


Jack Quinn’s
an Irish pub comes to the Norfolk restaurant scene
For the few of you who haven’t heard the word yet, there is a new Irish pub open in our area. It is located in downtown Norfolk at the intersection of Granby and Tazewell, across from the Federal building. The street address is 241 Granby Street, Norfolk, 23501.

Jack Quinn’s is not some shamrock and shillelagh wanna-be Irish pub - it is the real McCoy. Believe me, I have spent plenty of time and money in pubs in Ireland, and this one is a beauty, fit to compare to the nicest of Dublin pubs. In fact, all of the gorgeous interior is authentically Irish. The beautiful woodwork was actually made in Dublin, shipped over, and then reassembled in Quinn’s by Irish workers. Irish workers also painted, washed and hand stenciled the walls. The walls are covered with framed photographs, posters, paintings, and memorabilia from Ireland, and there are glass display cases filled with antiques and other collectibles from the Emerald Isle. A lot of love and attention to detail went into the design and construction of this pub. Proprietor Geoff Fout has done the local Irish ex-pat and Irish-American community proud by building Quinn’s. Indeed, he has done much to contribute to the revitalization of downtown Norfolk by adding such a showpiece to Granby Street, the new hot spot in Tidewater.

Quinn’s is open for lunch and dinner, and there is a large banquet room upstairs with its own bar that is available for private functions any time, as well as dining and drinking on Friday and Saturday nights. Quinn’s is beginning happy hours from 4-7 during the week soon, and there are drink specials during brunch hours on the weekend as well. There is also a "lunch bunch" card available where after 5 lunches you get your 6th lunch free - makes me wish I worked in downtown Norfolk! There is a take out menu so you can order your Quinn’s favorites and pick them up on the way home if you don’t have time for a sit down meal. Call 274-0024 to place your order. The kitchen is open until 10:30 during the week and until 11:30 on Friday and Saturday nights.

The food is delicious at Quinn’s, and there are many authentic Irish dishes on the menu. There is a complete list of appetizers, including the Guinness Beef Crostini. A sample of the entrée list includes: Shepherd’s Pie, Irish Breakfast (just like in Ireland!), Boxty, Corned Beef & Cabbage, Potato Encrusted Salmon, and Dingle Bay Seafood Pasta. There are also a variety of salads (the Basil Vinaigrette dressing is good enough to drink!!), many sandwiches, potato soup, sides including colcannon potatoes, and a selection of desserts, including homemade bread pudding. And the soda bread is lovely.

For those of you who enjoy the adult bevies, there is a beautiful old style wooden bar that runs most of the length of the ground floor. The bartenders pull a great pint of Guinness, shamrock and all, and some of the other liquid refreshments on tap are Caffrey’s Irish Cream Ale, Tennent’s Lager, Newcastle Brown, Ale, Bass, Harp, and Woodpecker Cider, all served in pint or half ping glasses, as they should be. They also stock other excellent imports such as Murphy’s Irish Stout and Boddington’s Honey Ale. [They do have domestics if you feel like slumming!] There is a great selection of Irish whiskey as well as Scottish single malt whisky available, including Bushmills, Jameson, Tullamore Dew, and Lagavulin And anyone inclined to Irish coffee can indulge. Also for sale at the bar are cool Quinn’s T-shirts and Guinness hats and ties.

Tom Porter, President of the Tidewater Irish American Society was a VIP at the grand opening. Along with other Irish American Society members, Scottish Society members, Manny and Robin Willis, Bo and Carolyn Barkley, and Charlie Austin and Sue Byers have been in to enjoy the food and drink.

Finally, in case all of that is not enough, there is entertainment. Traditional Irish music is played all during the day and evening dining hours. On Thursdays and Saturdays there is live music, with Thursday tending toward a traditional line up, such as Martin Marron, and Saturday toward bands. Once a month there is a trad session with local musicians such as Andy Cleveland getting together to provide outstanding traditional Irish music all night. A few singers may do party pieces for the crowd and dancers from the Reel Thing School of Traditional Irish Dance may join in with some lively ceili dances.

From Lynnette Fitch

Quinn's Irish pub

Editors note: I can vouch for the traditional Irish breakfast and the Caffrey’s - great at any time of day.

Webmasters note: I too recently enjoyed lunch at Quinn's and loved the decor.


Haggis Myths
It is in the nature of the haggis that it should be a creature shrouded in mystery. Over the years many misconceptions have developed about these reclusive creatures. Here we are happy to debunk the most common myths and set the record straight.

A haggis is just a sheep’s stomach stuffed with meat and oatmeal. The most common mistaken belief about the haggis is that it is some kind of pudding made from sheep innards. This somewhat macabre belief dates back many centuries. Its origins lie in a Pictish fertility ceremony which featured a parade of creatures known to produce large numbers of offspring. The haggis was one such animal. However, as hunting techniques were not as sophisticated as they were then and haggis numbers were low, the Pictish priests often had to make do with a model for these ceremonies. Said model haggis was made from an inflated sheep bladder, hence the myth.

They have one leg shorter than another. This misconception originated with a respected English commentator. However, the haggis’s legs are all the same size. Any apparent difference in length could be due to the haggis’s habit of standing in a bog to confuse predators. Quite why this would confuse a predator is unclear as the haggis would be unable to run away, being as it is stuck in a bog.

Its hurdies are like a distant hill. A haggis is rarely larger than a foot long. It has a gentle rounded shape and a soft consistency. How it is like a geological feature quite escapes us. Suilven is a distant hill. It is 2,3999 feet high and made from unforgiving glacier-scarred rock. Pretty unhaggislike, you would agree. We suspect that this one is down to poetic license.

Haggii live with the monster in Loch Ness. This is nonsense. Haggises are not aquatic. They are also extremely wary of any creature larger than them and would not consort with a large carnivore, even one supposed to be mythical. There is also nothing to suggest that there is any truth behind the rumour that swimming with haggises strapped to your feet will prevent monster attacks. There have been no recorded attacks on anyone by the Loch Ness monster, haggis attachments notwithstanding.



Zoology of the Haggis
The haggis is a member of the family of duck-billed phatypuds, the group from which the Australian duck-billed platypus derives. The creatures are believed to be the descendants of a migrating group of phatypuds trapped in Europe during the last ice age. They evolved thick pelts and layers of blubber to survive in the cold damp conditions gripping the continent. So well did they adapt that they began to thrive and multiplied in huge numbers. But as the glaciers retreated and the melt waters dried, the haggis had to flee north to escape the rising temperatures. As the planet warmed, there were fewer and fewer habitats suitable for the haggii, needing as they did almost constant rain and a chill climate. Thus it was that Scotland became the only place in the world where haggii can be found.

Latin name: Marag fabulosus.

Lifespan: unknown.

Natural enemies: Anything with teeth, anything larger than a football and, of course, midges, the natural enemies of every living thing.

Habitat: Cold and wet regions of Scotland.

Range: The haggis can be found anywhere in Scotland. However the creatures become harder to find after 30 November, the start of the hunting seasons. Centuries of persecution have obviously caused these creatures to be cautious at this time of year. On 31 December, something very unusual happens: haggii move east across the country in huge numbers. The reason for this mass migration is unknown. This could be an example of co-evolution as most of the human inhabitants of the country are in no condition to hunt on 31 December or 1 January and the haggii can move unmolested.

Mating habits: The mating season starts on 25 January, a date after which it is illegal to hunt the haggis. Most mating attempts are unsuccessful, possible due to the cold weather. However, a successful female will lay literally hundreds of eggs. This strategy is the only reason that the haggis has survived.



St. Andrew’s Society
Announces Scholarship Program

The Saint Andrew’s Society of Tidewater is organized to provide assistance to those of Scottish heritage in the community; to encourage and promote the study of the history, traditions and culture of Scotland, and of the influence of immigrant Scots in the development of the United State; to promote, foster, undertake and encourage research, education and the dissemination of information concerning the history of Scots and their tradition and culture; to perpetuate Scottish traditions and culture, and to promote activities among its members.

To further these goals, the Society has established a Scholarship Fund. Scholarships are awarded periodically to those individuals of Scottish birth or descent seeking to further their knowledge in those areas related to Scottish traditions and culture. Emphasis given to young people as a means of encouraging their studies.

Applications for 2001 grants must be postmarked by 30 April 2001. A grant of $500 will be made in May to a suitable applicant. Determination of the winner will be made by a board of judges comprised of St. Andrew’s Society members. The award must be used within six months. The winner will agree to address a meeting of the Society upon completion of the grant work to provide details of how the money was used and how the community will benefit.

For a scholarship application, please contact the St. Andrew’s Society of Tidewater by mail at P. O. Box 3062, Virginia Beach, VA 23454.


Robert Burns’ Address to a Haggis

Robert Burns

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
     Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy of a grace
     As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
     In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
     Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
     Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight
     Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive;
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
     Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
     "Bethankit!" hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
     Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
     On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! See him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
     His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
     O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
     He’ll make it whissle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned
     Like taps o’ thrissle.

Ye Pow’ers, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware,
     That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
     Gie her a Haggis!


This n' That
The Ancient Significance of the Winter Solstice

The setting of the sun on December 22 - on what is termed the shortest day of the year - has rekindled speculation on a mystery dating back beyond Scotland’s ancient times.

A team of archeologists deem they have detected three cairns of stone built by men of the Bronze Age in order to identify the winter solstice or the shortest day in terms of daylight hours.

Two of the structures, located close to Biggar in Lanarkshire, had been originally thought of as 17th century sheep pens. But a group from Biggar Museum said that recent examinations during last December’s winter solstice more than bore out the fact that Bronze Age farmers had the capacity to precisely map out the whole year’s fluctuating seasons.

This meant that they could prepare for the planting and harvesting of their crops well in advance. It’s claimed the cairns, dating from approximately 2500 BC, also had ceremonial implications. Two of the sites are situated 3/4 of a mile apart on the sides of Black Mount Hill. The first is a broad bank of turf three feet in height and crowned with a cairn. The second is a double circle of stones erected around a similar mound of stones. To the south-west along the line of the two cairns, the eye naturally converges on a third enormous cairn about eight miles away on the crown of 2300 foot Tinto Hill.

The Tinto Cairn, at more than 60 yards wide, denotes a burial site, and is the largest prehistoric construction of its kind in Scotland. The three cairns, when viewed along a perfectly straight line, point directly at the sunset only once a year - on the solstice - letting Bronze Age man pinpoint the turning of the year and to foretell the start of the lengthening sunlit days.

There is now no doubt whatever that 4000 to 5000 years ago people watched this annual incident and would recognize that the shortest day of the year had passed.

From The Bagpiper [St. Andrew’s Society of the Eastern Shore]

Looking for a Job?

The following job ad was recently posted on in case you’re looking for a change:

Job title: Chief Constable
Salary: £91059, fixed term appointment (between 4-7 years)
Location: Fife
Deadline: Wednesday, 10th January 2001

The appointment for this post which becomes vacant in January 2001, will be made by Fife Council, the Police Authority for Fife covering an area of 508 sq miles with a population of over 350,000. The appointment is subject to the approval of Scottish Ministers and a satisfactory medical.

Your task will be to manage and develop the Force to ensure that Fife has an effective and innovative law enforcement policy, which reduces both crime and the fear of crime.

This high-profile role requires a resourceful leader with strong interpersonal and communication skills, who can motivate, influence and inspire staff and work in partnership with key Council Services and community plan partners.

You will demonstrate a track record of achievement within police management and the ability to deliver key objectives consistent with the principles of Best Value.

You must have a minimum of two years’ experience at or above Assistant Chief Constable rank in a Force other than Fife, or through other relevant service. Successful completion of the Strategic Command Course would be desirable.

The provisional date for interviews is Wednesday 28 February 2001.

Before booking your flight, you may wish to contact Fife Constabulary, HR Services, Fife Council, Rothesay House, North Street, Glenrothes, Fife KY7 5LT


Jimmie Shand
Legendary Accordionist Dies at Age 92

Jimmy Shand, accordionist and bandleader, born January 28, 1908, died December 23, 2000.

Jimmy Shand

Jimmy Shand, who has died at the age of 92, was the musical icon of Scotland’s tartan sub-culture. Over more than half a century, his name was synonymous with a certain style of Scottish music and with a nostalgic image of Scotland which has proved eminently marketable around the world.

His recordings sold by the million and, from the 1940s to the 1970s, the name of Jimmy Shand and his Band would fill halls throughout the United Kingdom as well as in any centre of the Scottish diaspora, New York’s Carnegie Hall included. In 1955 his Bluebell Polka was one of the most unlikely top 20 entrants of even that eclectic musical era.

Shand remained a most unlikely figure of show business celebrity. While the band, led by his own button-key accordion, produced music to set even the most reluctant toes tapping, their stage appearance often bordered on the funereal. Shand would allow himself little more than a shy grin and a few words. His was really a band for dancing to, and it was his strict sense of timing, as well as his technical skill, that set him apart. Phil Cunningham, one of the most innovative of present-day Scottish accordion players, described him as a "human metronome".

Shand’s contribution to popularising Scottish music was immense, although it also did much to channel perceptions of it into a particular style. There is a contradiction between the free-flowing ceilidh tradition and strict tempo dance music. Shand had thousands of superb imitators - tartan jackets and all - but few, until recently, broke out of the limiting format of two accordions, piano, fiddle, double-bass and drums; the stereotype was reinforced by BBD television's White Heather club series of the 1960s, built around him.

Like many talented and successful Scots, Shand came from a mining background. He was born in East Weymss, in Fife, left school at 14 and went straight into the local pit. Conditions were terrible, and the 1926 general strike brought his career as a miner to an end. He spoke movingly in later life of his decision not to go back down the pit, though his bond with the mining communities of Fife remained extremely strong.

Since childhood, he had been picking up tunes on his father’s melodeon, a close relative of the button-key accordion. When he visited a music shop in Dundee, the owner gave him a job as a salesman. He thus got to know which of the better-off families bought sheet music, and sought out their houses so that he could listen to them playing and add to his knowledge.

In 1933, he made his first record, and the following year was broadcasting for the BBC Scottish Home Service. His reputation grew steadily, but it was only after the war that he put together the Jimmy Shand Band.

The former Labour MP, Willie MacKelvey, recalls that his father was the "second box" player. The MacKelveys lived in a spacious new council house in Dundee, which, because it accommodated a piano, became the practiced place as the band prepared for an increasingly hectic schedule of one-night stands, television appearances and overseas tours. The neighbours would hang out of their windows to listen.

Whenever possible, Shand would head back home to Auchtermuchty, in Fife, after gigs - sometimes from as far away as the south of England. He had been a motorcycle racer in his youth and retained a love of fast vehicles and white-knuckle driving. Otherwise, his life style was modest. Whatever international hotel they might be in, he would famously order for the band: "Sausage, egg and chips for six."

In retirement, honours were showered upon him, culminating in a knighthood last year. There was never any sign of this affecting Shand. He was a shrewd, dignified, Scottish gentleman whose greatest ambition was to be at home in Auchtermuchty among his own people.

He is survived by his wife Anne, whom he married in 1936, and their two sons.

Editor’s note: Shand’s funeral was held on Friday, December 29th at Auchtermuchty Parish Church.

Discography: Dancing with the Shands - Jimmy Shand MBE & Jimmy Shand Junior & his band. A unique opportunity to see Jimmy Shand MBE on video with this title which held a top ten position in the UK Music Video Charts for over 5 weeks. Available on video, CD and cassette.

The Legendary Jimmy Shand MBE - available on CD and cassette.

A Tribute to Jimmy Shand MBE - Jim Johnstone and his Band. Available on CD and cassette.

From the Guardian, Wednesday, December 27, 2000


Book Review

Hector, William. Selections from the Judicial Records of Renfrewshire illustrative of the administration of the laws of the county, and manners and condition of the inhabitants in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.. Bowie, Md., Heritage Books, 1999. A facsimile reprint of Paisley: J. &. J. Cook, 1876.

This book is part of a series of "old and curious documents" and worth reading for the stories it contains even if your ancestors might not hail from Renfrewshire. It offers a unique, first hand insight into life in the 1600 and 1700’s. Just a sample of table of contents listings intrigues the reader: Concealing Rebel Arms, 1686; Paisley Merchants Punished for Wife-Beating in 1684 and 1694; Drinking Ye Devil’s Health, 1692; Food Tumult in Port-Glasgow, 1707; The Origin of Sterling Money; the Maxwell's of Brediland; Renfrewshire Slaveholders; and more.

In the case of the Jacobite song, it starts out with the following stanzas:

He is o’er the hill and far awa’
Ayont the seas and dread o’law,
And tho’ his back be at the wa’,
Here’s a health to him that’s far awa’.

A great read for the researcher and for the lover of the stories that the records preserve for us - a picture of a long passed world.

This book is available from Heritage Books, Inc., for $12800 plus $4.00 s & h, or by calling 1-800-398-7709.