#KistinThyme Tattie Bogles

Tattie bogles #KistinThyme

The first school session for #KistinThyme was created for a class who were studying Scottish Food this term, I like to create links between my sessions and the children’s topics, that way the multi-faceted nature of storytelling becomes more tangible, children can see the connections…sometimes with even greater ease than the grown ups!

When I arrive at the school, we start off with a chat about the sort of vegetables we like to eat, where we get them, what time of year…

Broccolli, cucumber, butternut squash, sweetcorn and red peppers are all faves

This great bit of archive material recorded just up the road from the school was one of the inspirations for me to look at how dramatically the way we eat has changed in just 100 years.


I’ve brought my Gran’s copy of ‘The Scot’s Kitchen’ by F. Marian McNeill with me

The vegetable chapter is a real eye opener to modern readers…

I open the page and start listing recipes:





Banffshire Potato pie,

There are ony a few pages…every recipe features potatoes, carrots make one appearance, cabbage and turnips two.

We end with an exotic one,

No potatoes included…

We hold our


Turnip Purry…ingredients: turnip.

In 2016 the list sounds like a comedy creation.

The children are genuinely surprised as they realise, cucumbers, broccolli, peppers and even the humble brussel sprout don’t even make it onto the page of a 100 year old cookery book!

So tatties, we ponder…clearly a staple, where did they come from…

“Who’s got plans already for the October holidays” I ask P4, a class of 7 and 8 year olds.

Hands erupt into the air….

‘We’re going to France’,


‘…to my Granny and Grandpa’s’

‘I’m going to rugby camp’

‘…football camp’

‘I’m going to complete lego star wars on my PS4’

‘I’m playing with my wii’ (older people’s groups love the hidden hilarity clearly inherent in this one)

You get the gist…it all sounded pretty good.

“I’ve got a leaflet here about and I quote: the perfect activity to keep young children amused during the holidays, how does that sound, shall I send one home in your school bags?”

A cheer of positivity; hands held out for a look at this promising sounding source of holiday fun.

I continue…

“AND instead of your family needing to pay for you to go, YOU’LL get paid”

My mum storyteller Jean Edmiston, who is herself 69, is joining me for this session, she’s mentoring me through this my first fully intergenerational major project, she’s also a valuable source of older person info at this first session, where the older people I’ve worked with for the project have intended on coming but had unavoidable changes of plans and here only via recordings and my notes…

I turn to my mum

“How much did you need to live on in 1969?”

‘Well, she replies your dad earned 15 shillings a week, we were both students and you were new-born, we were incredibly hard up but we just about managed on that’

“Ok, I say to the children, you can earn 2 shillings a week for doing this holiday activity, how much could you earn in a week”

They quickly work out that they can earn nigh on an adult wage in a week….

‘I’ll do it’, ‘I’ll go’ ‘What is it”

I tell them they’ll need to work hard and wear wellies, one boy figures out it’s farm work, they’re a rural school…

But they’re still keen,

“5am” I warn…

They nod eagerly

This brilliant cartoon helps

https [:/] /scotlandonscreen.org.uk/browse-films/007-000-002-155-c

Then I go and spoil it all by showing the the reality…

Even to a seven year old this immediately looks like back ache…

There are some brilliant memories about tattie howking in nearby Callander in the 1970’s on this BBC forum:

http [:/] /www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/history/scotlandonfilm/forum/rural/thread5.shtml

I produce a neep…that’s a turnip, sorry a Scottish (or Swedish…) turnip, a Swede in England, a snep in Gaelic, tumchie is my favourite name for them…the old Scots word.

but what’s our tumchie got to do with tatties?

I ask who’s heard of a ‘tattie bogle’, only one or two….a tattie bogle is literally a potato ghost…a scarecrow…a bogle is something that scare things and in this case the tattie bogle is there to scare the crows aways from the potato crops and Tattie bogles, always have a neep for a heid.

I’ve adapted a great story by the legendary Duncan Williamson for the session, the original from his book ‘The Flight of the Golden Bird’ can be found here: The Hare and the Scarecrow

In my adaptation I add some of the fantastic bits of folklore and plant use I’ve found in Tobar an Dualchais, so the tattie bogle sees turnips being used as a poultice, as a cold cure, in purry…. this is one fantastic example of an unexpected but perfect use for a neep: http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/102006/1

This is my working synopsis, this is the way I learn a story when I’m working….I can add description and detail as I go.

The farmers children build a tattie bogle (one of my community elders is a really lovely local farmer, her comment that farmers children never went tattie howking as there was too much -unpaid- work for them to do on the farm is added to this bit)


It sits in the tattie field


October holidays come round


School breaks up folk come from far and wide to dig up the tatties.


Scarecrow watches them eating stovies and soup, gald thats not him, using neeps from the nearby field to cure a cold, glad thats not him, as a poultice on a chafed hand (I expand with memories and archive)...so glad thats not him…but glad that neeps are so useful


Halloween comes around and the scarecrows left in a field all on his own, thinks he’s of no use and remembers all the useful things the other neeps did


Local children running around guising, carrying turnip lanterns flickering eyes look like neeps have come to life…wishes that was him alive and making children laugh…(I add memories of local customs http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/17998/60)


Halloween and the walls are thin …a hare asks him whats upsetting him he wishes he can come to life…and he says ok but only if you remember you cant speak… or otherwise the spell will be broken….


Farmer has party…find scarecrow on doorstep, takes him inside at childrens request. But he joins in with party games (here I add in the games from last weeks blog)…and spell is broken, but because he has made the children so happy…every halloween the tattie bogles were brought back to the farm and that was the start of scarecrow festivals.)

The class loves the story

They ask as children always do ‘is it real’

I like my mum’s answer best

“I always say all stories are real whilst they’re being told”.

Guess what we do next?

This is Tumchie Snep….we (me, my mum, and Doune primary school P4 with teacher Mrs MacKay) made him outside using found things, leaves and of course the snep

The next session was with Deanston primary lower school (primary’s 1 to 3 a composite class) it was a similar session with some different more age appropriate elements and some brilliant in put from Jimmy,  a local resident and one of the chldren’s Grandpas’s. We made Leafy…she is I’m sure you’ll agree lovely…

We round the session off with a gorgeous song in gaelic….here’s one we looked at: a lullaby or dandling song about a child being allowed to go and lift potatoes….but not go to the well!

http [:/] /www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/83274/42

Other resources I loved but didn’t use this time include:

This bit of vintage film is great as support for sessions on seasonal food and changes in how we eat, how many types of food do you see?


One of the reasons I dreamt up this project was to allow me to create new sessions and build a library of resources and ideas to draw on over the next few years, this first one is definitely a keeper, I loved every minute I’ll be adding this one to #KistinThyme very soon…

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