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Issue 12 - The Tugger's tie and tale

Scotland Magazine Issue 12
January 2004


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The Tugger's tie and tale

Our latest bizarre tale from Scotland's west coast comes from Blue Dalziel

I’ll tell you about lowering standards,” he said. I’d never clapped eyes on his coupon before and here he is butting into the conversation.

The Fank and I were having at the bar. It would have been fine if we’d been talking about lowering standard, but The Fank was holding forth (as he does) about flooring Zander’s house.

Which I’m sure you’ll agree is a different topic altogether. The stranger was undaunted.

“I’ve just lowered mine onto the floor of thon town hall. It’s there, gathering dust and who cares? I’ll tell ye. Naebody. That’s who.”

“What are you haverin’ about Old Timer?” I asked him.

“I see this tie means nothing to you,” he replied waving the scrappy swatch of material hanging round his neck at me.

The tie had a crest on it of a rope tied to the head of a dragon and “We Haul the Hulls” scribed around it.

“Can’t say it does,” I confessed.

I’m not a man for ties. Or crests for that matter.

“Tug!” says our new companion, so I put a grip on the cravat and gave it a yank. This causes some consternation.

“No the tie ya eejit!” he says, picking himself off the floor.

“See me son, I was the skipper of a tug and not just any old tug mind you.”

He drew himself up to his full 5’ 5”.

“I am the last of the Royal and Ancient Order of Tuggers”.

A tear seemed to be dewing in the corner of his eye so I refreshed his Old Mull, the least that could be done under the circumstances.

In any case, he seemed a friendly enough wee guy.

He settled down to explain.

“It all started with the Lords of the Isles. Somerled himself in fact. He’d run aground at the head of Loch Sween and one of my ancestors had hauled him off the rocks.

“So grateful was Somerled that he there and then conferred the title of official hauler to his family in perpetuity.

“For generations we have been loyal servants to the Royals, attending to them any time they were afloat in Scotland in case of any mishaps.”

He then recounted tales of kings and queens being liberated from a variety of potential marine disasters.

“There was that time we had to haul the Queen Mother off the saltflats in Saltcoats when the flat bottomed old lugger got stuck as she was searching for wulks. A bugger for the wulks she was.”

He was warming to his subject. We bought him another Old Mull.

“It was my grandfather who came to the rescue when Queen Victoria’s bathing machine drifted free at Portobello.

Before anyone knew what was going on, her crinoline had filled with water and she’s bobbing off to Fife. That took some covering up.

“More recently, I remember tugging Prince Edward off Anstruther beach “

“Ironic, isn’t it,” chipped in The Fank, who has decidedly republican sympathies, “that a load of stick in the muds needed people to unstick them.”

I steered back to safer ground.

Why, I wondered, were his family’s services no longer required?

“It all began to go wrong when Prince Charles skidded off the runway at Islay. You see, because he had royalty flying his plane the pilot felt it would be wrong to point out that he was coming in with a tail wind.

“Charlie ends up on the beach which, technically, was our territory, but we weren’t quick enough off the mark and the Islay boys got him.

“Of course the truth was hushed up. Apparently the heir to the throne is still mentally scarred from the cherry brandy incident in Stornoway when he was 14. Did ye know they’ve a plaque up in the pub to this day?”

“I’m feeling sick,” interrupted The Fank suddenly.

“Do you want the rest of these pork scratchings? I shook my head and the old guy continued.

“Anyway, when Britannia was decommissioned the government decided to dispense with our services. Nae standards they have.”

We removed our bunnets as a mark of respect, bought him another then held an informal wake.

Funny who you meet.
  • By :
  • In : Travel
  • Issue : 12
  • Page : 74
  • Words : 694

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