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Tartan Ferret


The following is part of a letter said to have been written to Henry VIII of England in 1543 by a Highland priest
called John Elder. Spelling in those days was not quite so simple as it is now. See if you can translate this!

"Moreover, wherfor they call us in Scotland Reddshankes, and in your Graces dominion of England, roghe footide Scottis, Pleas it your Majestie to understande, that we of all people can tollerat, suffir, and away best with colde, for boithe somer and wyntir, (excepte whene the froest is most vehemonte), goynge alwaies bair leggide and bair footide, our delite and pleasure is not onely in huntynge of redd deir, wolfes, foxes, and graies, whereof we abounde, and have greate plentie, but also in rynninge, leapinge, swymmynge, shootynge, and thrawinge of dartis: therfor, in so moche as we use and delite so. to go alwaies, the tendir delicatt gentillmen of Scotland call us Redshankes. And agayne in wynter, whene the froest is mooste vehement (as I have saide) which we can not suffir bair footide, so weill as snow, whiche can never hurt us whene it cummes to our girdills, we go a huntynge, and after that we have slayne redd deir, we flaye of the skyne, bey and bey, and settinge of our bair foote on the insyde thereof, for neide of cunnyge shoemakers, by your Graces pardon, we play the sutters; compasinge and measuringe so moche thereof, as shall retche up to our ancklers pryckynge the uppir part thereof also with holis, that the water may repass when it entres, and stretchide up with a stronge thwange of the same, meitand above our saide ancklers, so, and pleas your noble Grace, we make our shoois: Therfor, we usinge such maner of shoois, the roghe hairie syde outwart, in your Graces dominion of England, we be callit roghe footide Scottis; which manner of schoois (and pleas your Highnes) in Latyn be callit perones, wherof the poet Virgil makis mencioun, saying, That the olde auncient Latyns in tyine of wars uside suche maner of schoos. And aithoughe a greate sorte of us Reddshankes go after this maner in our countrethe, yeit never the les, and pleas your Grace, whene we come to the courte (the Kinges grace our greate master being alyve) waitinge on our Lordes and maisters, who also, for velvetis and silkis be right well araide, we have as good garmentis as some of our fellowis whiche gyve attendance in the court every daye."

If you had problems with that, here's a much simplified translation that makes for easier reading!

"In Scotland they call us Redshanks and in England they call us rough footed Scots. Your Majesty should understand that we can put up with the cold during the summer and the winter - except when the frost is really hard. We always go about with nothing on our legs or feet and we really enjoy hunting red deer, wolves, foxes and grouse and we have plenty of those. We also enjoy running, jumping, swimming, shooting and throwing of spears. Because of this, the delicate gentlemen of Scotland call us Redshanks.

In winter when the frost is really hard and we can't go about without something on our feet we hunt for a red deer and skin it. Because we don't have any clever shoemakers we do it all ourselves. We put our bare feet on the inside of the skin so that it comes up to our ankles. Then we make holes in the edges so that we can tie the skin on with thin strips of leather. We also make holes all over the skin so that the water that always gets in, can get out again. So, your Majesty. Because we wear such shoes with the rough furry side out, that's why people in England called as rough footed Scots. In Latin such shoes are called perones and even the Greek poet Virgil mentions them and tells us that the ancient Latins used the same kind of shoes when they fought in wars. Even though many of we Redshanks go about in such shoes in our own country, when we come to the Royal court to meet our Lords and Masters who will be very well dressed in velvets and silks, we have clothes just as good as those fellows who are at court every day."

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