A Severed Head, a Pint of Skullsplitter, and Thou

Twice a year, the good men of Scotland's Orkney Islands work out their issues the old-fashioned way. They riot.

Mar 1, 2001
Outside Magazine

FOUR HOURS later, the pub of the Royal Hotel on Victoria Street looks like a church basement after a hurricane. Uppies and Doonies come filing in silently, their heads bleeding, their clothes in tatters. Despite Doonie efforts to sneak the ba' over a shed roof, the Uppies proved indomitable, winning it for the second time in a week. Step by step, we were backed down the lane to Long Corner until, just after 5 p.m., the ba' was tapped against the wall. Big Davie Flett, a security man from the Scapa distillery, was hoisted aloft by his fellow Uppies. Weeping, he kissed the ba', then tucked it under the shreds of his sweater.

The pub is uncannily quiet, just chatting, murmurs, chuckles, wry smiles.

"What'll you have, Doonie?" I hear an Uppie ask.

"Dram a' whisky," the Doonie responds, then adds, "mate." 

Christopher McDougall revealed the secret of Kenyan runners' success in the September 2000 issue.


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