Scottish Urban Legends

Dani Garavelli, writing for, 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.]

Places Urban Legends

Posted on Mon Dec 15, 2008


Do the traffic police only target cars the same color as snooker balls? I'm getting a silver car...
Posted by Canadarm  on  Mon Dec 15, 2008  at  11:43 AM
I used to live in Elgin, and my Dad was born in Forres... Now I'm in Texas... I just thought it was cool to read familiar names...

I think I was in that paper once, back in 1991 for winning some competition... hmm... now I need to do some research...

Thanks for the article...

Judi B. <><
Posted by Judi B.  on  Mon Dec 15, 2008  at  05:05 PM
'From the Asda cafe in the streets of Forres.' That's not very far, actually.

The Forres Gazette earnestly explained in great detail that nothing whatsoever had occurred:

Not as quite as good as my all-time favourite local newspaper story, however (from Gloucestershire around 1983). The headline says it all: 'Their Budgie HAD NOT Escaped'.
Posted by Mr Henderson  on  Mon Dec 15, 2008  at  05:21 PM
Isn't the Scotland itself an urban legend?
A bunch of men in skirts running around the cold misty moors blowing bagpipes and tossing logs in the air, pausing to snack on haggis and wash it down with peat-smoked moonshine, all the while talking in incomprehensible dialects that sound like their tongues are stuck to the roofs of their mouths?
Seriously, how likely is that?
Posted by Big Gary, Scottish on Mom's side,  on  Mon Dec 15, 2008  at  05:28 PM
Big Gary have you been listening to Billy Connolly? He once described the popular conceptions of Scotland as being "a sort of theme park thought up by Victorian England - Jockland!". He blows the lid on songs that include "The Mountians Of Skye" when the place is flat as a table and claims they were written by "Strange wee men in Loondon basements."

Mind you, he and others have commented upon the diet of Glswegians and summe dit up as "All they need do now is find a way to deep-fry whiskey, and they can do away with all takeaways bar fish'n'chip shops!"

And haggis is quite nice if not too spicy....
Posted by D F Stuckey  on  Mon Dec 15, 2008  at  08:59 PM
Whiale Billy Connolly may have a point, Skey is not as flat as a table, not the biggest mountains perhaps but peaks above 900m.
Posted by torpid rat  on  Tue Dec 16, 2008  at  01:29 AM
Man-oh-man, I so need to join the police force now!!! Speed Snooker sounds like great fun!
Posted by outeast  on  Tue Dec 16, 2008  at  02:00 AM
PS re Connolley: Ceci n'est pas une table.
Posted by outeast  on  Tue Dec 16, 2008  at  02:02 AM
I learnt to scuba drive with an English policeman and he confirmed that he used to play snooker while working at night on motorway patrols.
He was learning to scuba dive so he could search for dead bodies in lakes and rivers........nice
Posted by Jerico  on  Mon Mar 08, 2010  at  07:26 AM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.