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Whuppity Scoorie, Lanarkshire

Describing what the Lanark custom of Whuppity Scoorie (alternatively Scorie, or Scourie) entails is relatively easy; deciding what its origins are rather more complex, and in the end fruitless.
On March 1 local children gather at the church of St Nicholas in the town for the start of the event at 6:00pm. When ‘the wee bell’ rings the children proceed around the church widdershins for three laps (they used to race but these days fear of competition and the incredible dangers of children running rule that out), making an unholy din and all the while using tightly-packed paper balls swung around their heads on strings to ping one another. When the circuits have been completed local dignitaries throw coins for the little angels.
Now the difficult bit. First proposed origin is that it is linked to pagan celebrations of the coming of spring, though how that relates to the church and the pinging is not easy to fathom. Next, perhaps more believably, that it began as a way of recognizing changes in the curfew and/or the light available for evening play – whuppity thus coming from that long neglected toy the whipping top. A more bloodthirsty explanation has it that the event commemorates miscreants who were whipped and then scoured (cleaned, perhaps in the Clyde nearby) as their punishment in days long gone; or more religiously this was the penance for transgressors against church law. Or were they scaring off witches and fairies (hence the magical suggestion in widdershins laps). Maybe it’s a remembrance of William Wallace ’s wife (though in reality rather than legend he may never have married) being killed by the horrid English, though that is a decidedly obscure attempt.
It matters not. The custom is fun, gets kids away from computer screens, and offers adults a topic for endless discussion (and creative work on new explanations).

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