Scottish Urban Legends
Dani Garavelli, writing for Scotsman.com
, examines the psychology of urban legends. The article doesn't offer any new insights into urban legends. There's the standard observation: urban legends "hold a mirror up to our culture, giving us an often unflattering reflection of our preoccupations and prejudices." But what I found interesting is that the article listed some urban legends specific to Scotland:
- For several days, [north-east Scotland] was gripped by a rumour that pop star and convicted paedophile Gary Glitter – who was recently deported from Vietnam – was staying at the Findhorn Foundation, a new age spiritual community. Suddenly, Glitter was being spotted across the North-east, from the Asda cafe in Elgin, where he was said to be tucking into egg and chips, to the streets of Forres. Sightings of the sex offender began to outnumber sightings of Elvis, until the authorities were forced to reassure the local community, he was not, in fact, in the area.
- Red Road flats are the highest in Europe.
- Deep-fried Mars Bar originated in Glasgow.
- The tale about the maths Higher which was so hard pupils all over Scotland staged a walk-out played on another major childhood fear: that of failure. Pupils and even teachers were said to have been reduced to tears by the very sight of the examination in 2000, although the SQA strenuously denied there had been any protest and the pass rate was said to be slightly up on the year before.
- The rumour that Jimmy Chung's restaurant in Dundee was serving seagull affected trade so adversely the restaurant was forced to issue a formal denial.
- One of the most common post-9/11 stories involved the shopper who, noticing a Muslim man dropping his wallet, picks it up and hands it back to him. "Thank you," the Muslim says. "And now I am going to return the favour. Do not go to Braehead/Silverburn/Princes Street in the week before Christmas." This anecdote gained such currency in Inverness in 2006, that Northern Constabulary Police had to reassure the public shopping arcades such as the Eastgate Centre were safe. [Same legend as we had here in America, but with different place names.]
- There are those... who are convinced traffic police play "speed snooker", targeting particular colours of car in a particular order, but interspersing each with a red one. This, they insist, explains why drivers of red cars are more likely to receive a fine or prosecution than others. [I doubt this is specific to Scotland.]
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