Old book tells of violence at the first Whuppity Scoorie’s

Annual celebration...Whuppity Scoorie
Annual celebration...Whuppity Scoorie

EVIDENCE has emerged that what is today thought of as one of Lanark’s most quaint and charming traditions was once close to being an annual riot!

These days the holding of Whuppity Scoorie on the first day of March each year is regarded as a warm, family-friendly gathering.

The children of the town carry on the ancient ritual of running around the Cross and St Nicholas Church three times, swinging paper balls above their heads while proud parents and smiling local dignitaries cheer them on.

This being a Lanark tradition, there are endless theories about the true origins of Whuppity Scoorie.

Arguably, the most popular is that it was the town’s way, in mediaeval times, of symbolically ‘beating’ out the evil spirit of winter to welcome in the new growing season of spring – an important event in a community then almost totally dependant on an abundant harvest to feed itself.

However well-intentioned were those long-departed Lanarkians who held the first Whuppity Scoories, it appears their ritual had been, by the turn of the last century, ‘hijacked’ by local youths from the then deadly rival communities of Lanark and New Lanark to hold an annual – and fairly violent – showdown.

The evidence for this comes to the Gazette in the form of an old, long-forgotten book, kindly lent to us by long-time reader Mrs Rosemary Miller, of Lanark’s Waterloo Road.

Her edition of a once popular book with the rather long-winded title ‘Children’s Rhymes, Children’s Games, Children’s Songs, Children’s Stories; A Book for Bairns and Big Folk’, dates back to 1942.

Written by Robert Ford and published by Alexander Gardner of Paisley, it is practically an encyclopedia of Scottish folklore, legends and literature for the young with a chapter being devoted entirely to Whuppity Scoorie.

And that chapter is a bit of an eye-opener for those who think that the ongauns at the Cross each March 1 are all a bit twee!