Scottish history – without the boring bits

Presented as a chronicle of the curious, the eccentric, the atrocious and the unlikely, Scottish History Without the Boring Bits is a unique historical account of Scotland’s past offers a colourful melange of the episodes and characters that have spattered the pages of our nation’s story.

From the War of the One-Eyed Woman to the MP cleared of stealing his ex-mistress’s knickers, this book presents a host of little-known tales that you won’t find in more conventional works of history – not least because not all of them actually happened…

As author Ian Crofton explains in the introduction: ‘Only a certain proportion of the events mentioned herein actually took place.’ He adds that the book digs up ‘obscure little nuggets that throw some kind of curious sideways light on the nature and spirit of Scotland’.

So forget the usual parade of William Wallace and Bonnie Prince Charlie, here is the story of Scotland’s colourful and quirky past as it’s never been told before.

This humorous collection of anecdotes and quirky pieces of Scottish history will be a delight to anyone looking for an alternative to the more usual sombre tomes on the nation’s past.

It includes such gems as the clan chieftan who ripped out an opponent’s throat with his teeth, Marocco the Wonder Horse and the strange occurrence in 1755 of Shetlanders changing colour.

There’s the abbot who was roasted until he agreed to give up his wealth and the lovesick French poet who was found twice hiding under the bed of Mary, Queen of Scots. Then there’s the bizarre 17th century tale of the cow that gave birth to puppies, plus the ghost bird of St Kilda, the last great auk in the British Isles which, in 1835, thinking it was a ghost and blaming it for the poor weather, the locals killed and buried under a pile of stones.

Split into six sections from the Dark and Middle Ages, right through to the twentieth century and beyond, the story starts in the 4th millennium BC with expulsion from Eden of the first Scot. It then makes its way via the dead man who won a fight at the Battle of Otterburn and the appearance of the Devil in Ayrshire disguised as a lady’s lapdog, right up to the 21st century, when US intelligence identified a distillery on Islay as a possible threat to world peace, and a cow behaved like a bull in a china shop in Inverness after escaping from an auction.

Sometimes gruesome and always entertaining, the author has identified extraordinary characters and events that all help to make Scotland’s past even more rich and diverse.

Like his previous bestseller, History Without The Boring Bits, Ian Crofton’s alternative history of Scotland looks at the past with a quizzical eye and comes up with a winner.

Scottish History Without the Boring Bits, by Ian Crofton, published by Birlinn, £12.99.

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