Ken Boddie

5 years ago · 5 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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True Tales of Haggis and Bagpipes

This is a tale of historic origins, much of which has been strained through a digital wobbly-truth detector, without inflicting any apparent damage, and with the balance having been told to me by my maternal grandmother.  It was been passed down through successive generations of gullible children, as narrated around smokey peat or coal fires, and doubtless embellished and enhanced on its deviating route, by the imbibing of that hypnotic 'old wives' tale' serum that is the single malt Scotch whisky.

But what has driven me to unlock this gem of true recollection, from my foggy memories? Well, an unrequited appetite for flavours not savoured for many years, along with the promise of new tastes to come, have combined to stimulate the gelatinous grey matter through that major organ of man's decision making, the stomach. In particular, I have been licking my lips over the past few days, after reading @Lada Prkic's buzz on Croatian licitars. My appetite was further whetted by @Louise Smith's comments on steak and kidney pie, in the same buzz, and her unbelievable revelation that she has never cooked Haggis, that revered and rare Scottish treat, tucked into by Scots, expatriate Scots, and their guests, the world over, at Burns Night celebrations. 

These special occasions are held annually on 25 January, to celebrate the birthday of Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet. After the guests are seated, the Master of Ceremonies narrates the Selkirk Grace as follows:

"Some hae meat and canna eat;
And some wad eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thankit."
the Selkirk Grace by Robert Burns

The soup course is served, then the evening entertainment commences with the 'Piping in of the Haggis', whose carcass, laid bare on a silver platter and held aloft, is ceremoniously carried into the gathering accompanied by the skirl of the bagpipes. This is a sweet sound to those, like myself, of true Scottish descent, many of whom are tone deaf, but it can be dangerously off-putting to those unaccustomed to the composite tones and pitch of the cane reeds, responsible for the high melodic tone of the chanter and the accompanying lower monotones of the drones (more on this later). 

The sound is so stirring to the Scots, and ear-splittingly painful to many others of Sassenach descent, that the bagpipes were historically used in battle by Scottish regiments to urge forth their tartan clad swarms, and to beat the enemy into submission by conjuring up visions of ghosts and goulies screaming their way out of the fires of hell. 

It is less well philosophised, however, that the bagpipes were invented in Ireland and exported to the Scots as a joke, under the guise of a special treat requiring great patience and many years to master.  The Scots, who have yet to understand the intended jocularity, have nevertheless adopted the bagpipes as their own and elevated their awesome sound to the present status of a potential weapon of mass destruction.

We then move to the 'Address to the Haggis', which is generally displayed on the head table in front of the Master of Ceremonies as a delicacy of minced offal meat, oatmeal, herbs and spices, and wrapped in a large sausage skin, or less commonly a sheep's bladder or stomach, hence the 'pudding' disguise. Few in attendance on the night, except a few stalwart Scots males, know the true origins of the Haggis meat itself. These same stalwarts have been sworn to secrecy on pain of having to wear the kilt in public, without undies, continuously for a year. No amount of self flagellation by generations of various religious orders can compare with the excruciating pain (not to mention the effective contraceptive result) that is a consequence of the kilt's heavy tweed-like tartan cloth rubbing continuously against the tripod of manhood without protective jocks, boxers or Y-fronts.

After a pause for the male readers to adjust their seating posture, back to the Haggis, which, as I have alluded to above, is addressed in the guise of a 'pudding'.  The opening words of the Address are as follows:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Address to the Haggis by Robert Burns

And this is where you, the favoured reader/follower, are to have the secret of the Great Scottish Chieftain revealed. This is no counterfeit concocted pudding, but a rare and timid creature (a "tim'rous beastie") seldom seen by man, which, in its dominant form as the Highland Haggis (haggi major Scotlandia), inhabits the steeper heather-clad slopes of Scotland's hills and bens. Legend has it that this fleet of foot, two legged, rotund, paunchy creature has one leg longer than the other. This is often misconceived as an anatomical disparity but is in fact an advantage, affording the rare animal a unique ability to contour, virtually uninhibited, across steep terrain, provided, of course, that it always traverses in the same direction. Males and females, tragically, have opposing long and short legs, so that they only come together once in their lifetime, before moving off in opposite directions. 

So rare are these creatures (no doubt due to their fleeting mating habits) that they are only allowed to be hunted for a few days in every year, commencing on 12th August, the Glorious Twelfth, which just happens to coincide with the start of the grouse shooting season. Haggis hunting may only be pursued by the same specially chosen few male stalwarts as referred to above, all sworn to secrecy under the same threat of genitalia carborundum imposed by tartan torture.  

The obvious means to achieving capture of this evasive game, and hence enabling transfer from hillside to plate, is to cause the beastie to stop in its tracks, turn and run away in the opposite direction, at which point it will inevitably fall down the hill into the arms of the waiting gillies. Alternatively, the crafty Haggis Hunter may attempt to lure the creature onto lower flat ground using a mating call, generated by blowing into a cane reed similar to that used in the bagpipe drones. Once on flat ground the Haggis, of course, runs in ever decreasing circles until it falls over in a dizzy daze. If you've ever seen a bagpipe player practicing the pibroch (classical form of bagpipe music) he also walks in ever decreasing circles, although you can readily revive him by plying him with whisky at regular intervals. This is the derivation of the common tourist trinket, "instant piper - just add whisky".

Now I know that many of you may say that this tale of two legs is a purposeful distortion of the facts, an incongruous tale for tourists and that everyone know a real Haggis has four legs. 

Well this is due to the presence of the more common four legged Lowland Haggis (haggis minor Scotlandia) which is often sighted as road kill, and hence too flat to formulate a feed. Well these equally crafty lowland beasties are nocturnal and hence, when they come out to feed, are invariably safe against the fate of being transferred from paddock to plate. They know that the even rarer Haggis Hunter has a congenital adversity to cold, which kicks in once the sun has set.  The only cure is a nip of single malt whisky (taken as frequently as a heart beat) which, of course, results in spoiling his aim at best, or at worst, rendering him fully comatose.  

Now that you, my selected reader, have been inducted into the secrets of the Haggis, you shall, if male, be expected to keep solemnly silent upon threat of ... well you know what (the very thought brings tears to my eyes). Whereas, if you are a lady, then there is absolutely no problem, as everyone knows that the ladies will always keep a secret, and never let anyone know ... except perhaps their best friend, husband, boss, shopkeeper ... and then only if they promise not to tell anyone.


When not researching the weird or the wonderful, the comical or the cultured, the sinful or the serious, I chase my creative side, the results of which can be seen as selected photographs of my travels on my website at:

The author of the above, Ken Boddie, besides being a sometime poet and occasional writer, is an enthusiastic photographer, rarely leisure-travelling without his Canon, and loves to interact with other like-minded people with diverse interests.

Ken's three day work week (part time commitment) as a consulting engineer allows him to follow his photography interests, and to plan trips to an ever increasing list of countries and places of scenic beauty and cultural diversity.

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Lada 🏡 Prkic

2 years ago #32

Yes, blood repels many people from eating black pudding, but it all depends on the right ratio. I would tell you if I know the secret. :) About the "killing" joke, as Sherlock would say: "That would be tremendously ambitious of you." 😂🤣

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #31

The way my dad used to make black pudding in Scotland, Lada, was using pork blood traditionally (although local variations use sheep's blood or cow's blood) with fat, oatmeal and seasoning stirred in to thicken and absorb the blood, before filling the mixture into beef intestines as a casing (although synthetic skins are now used instead). I must admit that I didn't enjoy this black pudding, which we generally had sliced and fried. This is because of the large globules of fat which I found quite unpalatable. Haggis, by comparison, has no blood in it and is a mixture of minced offal, oatmeal, onion, spices and ... as I said before, if I went on, then I'd have to kill you. 😂 We always had our haggis with "chappet neaps and chappet tatties", or, for the sasenachs, turnip and potatoes, boiled then mashed.

Lada 🏡 Prkic

2 years ago #30

Our blood sausage is not the same as haggis, but those who like "krvavica" would love to eat haggis. Krvavica consists of pork head, entrails, blood (up to 20%), herbs, spices, and rice or buckwheat and oatmeal. Some recipes contain neither rice nor oatmeal and buckwheat porridge. There are so many recipes and varieties. My husband's relatives have a great recipe, but it's a secret. :)) The secret is in herbs and spices.

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #29

My initial research, Lada, suggests that your krvavica is like our Scots black pudding, and hence quite different to haggis. My dad was a butcher and had a great recipe for haggis. I'd pass it on to you, but then I'd have to kill you. 🤣😂🤣

Lada 🏡 Prkic

2 years ago #28

Ken, I raise my glass of beer (I'm sitting in the shade by the sea) to Scotch haggis and Croatian "krvavica." Glad to read this post again. You shared it just on the Glorious Twelfth. :))

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #27

Sounds like the perfect prescription to me Ken Boddie!

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #26

If laughter is the best medicine, Lisa, then dad jokes are the prescription. Take two witty quips daily on a full stomache. Dilute with alcohol for best effects. 😂

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #25

haha, I missed that comment Ken Boddie about the enema! You men have me beat by far in the humor category, but I love it.

Paul Walters

5 years ago #24

Ken Boddie Ah, you Scots !!! Brilliant piece , thank you !!!

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #23

Thanks for the double compliment, Franci Eugenia Hoffman 👍 #26

You are a great story teller and a great poet Ken Boddie.

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #21

Thanks for the shares, Catalina \. 👍

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #20

As Kevin Pashuk recently stated, the autocorrect is his worst enema! #23

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #19

Cap and pipe, darn autocorrect

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #18

ha, grandpa in his skivvies, not a sight I like to visualize. I remember his caos and pipe! As for the blood pudding, yes agree, best not to ask or taste?! :))

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #17

Ahhh, Lisa Gallagher, you have a love of the Great Highland Bagpipes and, therefore, being of Scottish descent, are by definition tone deaf. 🙉 I would bet that your grandmother ensured your grandfather wore undies with the kilt, otherwise you wouldn't be around to tell the tale. 🙈As for black pudding, yes the Kiwis are in on the act also, as I can well remember from my 5 years in exile there. But, believe it for not, animal blood is black when it's dried. Sometimes it's best not to ask what's in something, particularly after you've taken a mouthful. 🙊 The taste is not too bad, really, when it's fried and, as suggested in earlier comments, that's what tomato ketchup is for. 🍅 #17

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #16

As far as I can remember, Aleta Curry, the only thing that's really bitter in Scotland is the weather. 🌡They're a magnificently hospitable race (as long as you don't expect them to buy a round of drinks). As an example of bitter weather, I understand, from my few remaining relies, that summer was on a Wednesday last year. 😬 As for the thistles, the bees just love them, and beBees too, even here in SE Qld. Have a look at the buzz I wrote on this a while back. 🐝 🐝 🐝 #18

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #15

As far as I can remember, Aleta Curry, the only thing that's bitter in Scotland is the weather.

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #14

Brilliant Ken Boddie, your stories always capture me! If my grandfather ever had to wear the kilt for a year, well my grandmother (yes a woman) never told his secret ;-) I really want to try haggis now- the wine was a blissful addition. I've never tried blood pudding- I once saw a woman in New Zealand make it, she used real sheep's blood? If that's the case, forget it. Visiting Scotland and my relatives that live there is on my bucket list. Bagpipes with Men dressed in kilts were played at my father's funeral years ago. Lovely, they truly are music to my ears.

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #13

Ha ha. I hope you will read this tale, Aleta Curry about a wee misunderstood beastie, much like myself. 😩

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #12

Thanks for your shares, Lada Prkic, CEng. I hope that the additional readers (appropriately sworn to secrecy) won't spark a sudden interest in Haggis hunting, or the wee beastie will become extinct. 😢

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #11

Sorry, Lada Prkic, CEng, I missed your reference to black pudding which used to be very popular in Scotland when I was a lad. I've also seen it, on occasions, for sale in the butcher shops here in Oz. My dad used to make it but, having seen what goes into it, I can't say I was ever a fan. 👎 But, as I said to James in #11 below, that's what tomato ketchup is for. 🍅 #6

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #10

I assume, James McElearney, that you also haven't found the butcher I recommended to Lada in #10 below. Still, haggis isn't to everyone's taste. But there's many would say that's what tomato ketchup is for. 🍅#7

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #9

Ahhh, Lada Prkic, CEng, in order to sample the best tasting Haggis, you need to find an honest Scots butcher, who wears the kilt (with undies) and not only plays the bagpipes, but hands out ear plugs. Good luck with that! 🤔 #6

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #8

Nessie, of course, has a passion for Haggis meat. Just as well that she doesn't leave the protective waters of Loch Ness very often, or the wee beasties would all be gobbled up by now. 😢 #5

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #7

No video, Dean Owen. Too few of Scots descent out there and too many of Sassenach descent. I fear the onset of hearing impairment litigation. 😥#4

Lada 🏡 Prkic

5 years ago #6

Well Ken, you are a brilliant storyteller! I'm so glad that my post has been an inspiration for this tale about haggis. In Croatia there is something similar to haggis, called “krvavica”, which is blood sausage (black pudding). It looks almost the same, not appetizing in appearance, but the taste is correcting this injustice. I presume that haggis like „krvavica“ is not to everyone's taste, but I would gladly try real haggis (not commercial product). The only things missing are a true Scotsman in a kilt and bagpipes. 😊

Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #5

I will keep it a secret promise I did the same for the Loch Ness thingie too :-)

Dean Owen

5 years ago #4

Well Ken the Brave, this is a masterpiece worthy of Robert the Bruce, a warrior and a King that I wouldn't be surprised is somewhere up there in your family tree given that you look remarkably similar. Do please hit the edit button and put in a video on the bagpipes in action to complete this epic post, and come end of month, no doubt this will be my nomination for the Bees' Picks Hive.

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #3

I assume, Randy, that you have tried the real thing and not the tasteless replica that comes in tins. As for your reference to cabbage, haggis is traditionally eaten with boiled and mashed potato and turnip. I agree that though nutritious, cabbage can be difficult to eat unless embellished with other goodies. #2

Randy Keho

5 years ago #2

Speaking as the only son of an Irish mother, you can keep your Haggis @Ken Boddie. I'll keep the corned beef and cabbage, even if it's the blandest dish on the face of the Earth. Actually, in fear of having to surrender any attachment to my emerald ancestry, I must say I can't stand cabbage. I prefer the potato. Nonetheless, I do love the sound of the pipes. There's nothing more stirring than "Scotland the Brave."

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #1

With apologies to Lada Prkic, CEng who inspired me to write this with their unresistable talk of delicious food. 😍

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