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Friday 11 October 2013

George Buchanan and the King

An interesting character who appears sporadically in some of John MacDonald's tales is George Buchanan (1506–1582), the sixteenth century humanist and Latinist, as a clever trickster. He seems to be a popular subject of folk anecdotes in Scottish Gaelic tradition. The following humorous anecdote was recorded by Calum Maclean from John MacDonald of Highbridge on the 10th of June 1951:
Bha Deòrsa Bochanan a’ gabhail a thuras agus chunnaic e an Rìgh agus a’ Bhàn-righinn anns a’ ghàrradh a’ coimhead air flùraichean bòidheach. Thug an Rìgh an aire do flùr sònraichte bòidheach agus chuir e an ad aige air an fhlùr airson gum beachdnaicheadh e e, nuair a rachadh e a dh’iarraidh na Bann-righinn ga thoirt a-nall gus am faiceadh i am flùr. Bha fèileadh air Deòrsa agus dh’fhalbh e le cabhag agus rinn e sgainteach. Spìon e am flùr agus rinn e sgainteach thar an robh am flùr agus chuir e an ad aig an Rìgh air. Dh’fhuirich e sàmhach ann an oisinn a’ gabhail beachd air dè thachradh. Is thuirt an Rìgh ris a’ Bhàn-righinn i: “Thèid sinn a-nall tighinn a-nall gus am faiceadh i am flùr bu bhòidhche a bha sa ghàrradh. Agus ’s ann mar sin a bh’ ann agus thàinig i:
“A-nise, fan sàmhach,” thuirt an Rìgh ris a’ Bhanrighinn, “gus am faic thu,” thuirt esan, “am flùran bòidheach a tha seo.”
Thog e an ad agus dè bha seo ach an sgàinteach aig Deòrsa Bochanan. Thuig e mar a bha a’ chùis agus ghabh e tàmailte a bha mòr. Agus nuair a chunnaic e Deòrsa an ceann latha na dhà, thuirt e:
“Na faiceam do ghnùis teann air an àite agam-sa tuillidh. Agus ma chì, èiridh gu h-olc dhut.”
Bha seo gu math. Bha Deòrsa a’ dol an rathad. Cha do ghabh e òran suim dhe sin. Nuair a chunnaic e an Rìgh a’ tighinn ’s ann a thog e am fèileadh agus sheall e dha na clàran cùil aige:
“Hod, hod,” thuirt e, “dè tha seo?”
“Dh’iarr thu orm-sa gun do ghnùis a shealltainn agus bha mi a’ smaoineach’ gum bu toigh leat an ceann eile agam fhaicinn agus tha e sin agad!”
And the translation goes something like the following:
George Buchanan was taking a walk when he saw the King and Queen in the garden looking at beautiful flowers. The King noted a particularly beautiful flower and he put his hat over it in order to identify it so that when he went over to fetch the Queen she could see the flower. George Buchanan was wearing a kilt and he left in a hurry and shat on it. He plucked the flower and he shat in the place of the flower and he placed the King’s hat on it. He kept quiet hidden in a corner in order to see what would happen. The King said to the Queen: “We’ll go over by over there to see the most beautiful flower in the garden. And so it was and she came over:
“Now, keep quiet,” said the King to the Queen, “until you see this most beautiful flower.”
He lifted the hat and what was it but George Buchanan’s stool. He understood then how things stood and he was greatly embarrassed. When he saw George Buchanan a day or two later, he said:
“Don’t let my see you face around here every again. And if I do see you then it’ll turn out badly for you.”
This was fine. George Buchanan went on his way and he didn’t give a tinker’s cuss about it. When the King saw him coming he lifted up his kilt and he showed him his arse:
“Hud, hud, what’s all this?”
“You asked me not to show my face and so I thought that you’d like to see the other end of me and so here you have it!”
The above tale is in fact of the international variety and has been classified as AT 1528 (now ATU 1528] known as ‘Holding Down the Hat’. It is possible that the above story may have entered Gaelic oral tradition through popular chapbooks which were cheap and were full of such material.
Calum I. Maclean, The Highlands (London: Batsford, 1959)
SSS NB 5, pp. 258–59
Anon., ‘The Witty and Entertaining Exploits of George Buchanan, Commonly Called the King's Fool’, in John Cheap (ed.), The Chapman's Library: The Scottish Chap Literature of Last Century Classified (Glasgow: Robert Lindsay, 1877), pp. 20–21.
George Buchanan (in 1581) by Arnold van Brounckhorst

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