Merriment and Glee
"Nou monie a club, jocose and free, gie aw tae merriment an glee" - lines from the poet Fergusson, who celebrated the steiran, teeming life of Auld Reikie in the middle of the 18th Century when over 200 clubs like the Swearing Club, the Mutchkin, the Aye Fou, the Dirty Sark, the Pie Club and the Sweating Club met in over 600 oyster cellars, claret howffs, laigh shops and taverns like Lucky Middlemiss's. Billy and Dr David Purdie celebrate the most famous of them - the Crochallan Fencibles, the Cape Club, The Speculative Society and the Oyster Club - clubs which combined heavy drinking and heavy thinking and were part of the culture which produced the Scottish Enlightenment and the Vernacular Revival in Scots literature and song. While the clubs were politically diverse, the Jacobite, anti union ones like the White Cockade and the Auld Stuarts had the best songs and toasts - "here's tae the king ower the water, an the cassin o the wanchancie covenant."
Also, in the company Dr Alison Duncan and Professor David Stevenson, author of "The Beggar's Benison: Sex Clubs of Enlightenment Scotland and their Rituals" we explore Merryland, a lascivious landscape of clandestine neuks and crannies few admit to frequenting but which once was home to Scotland's most infamous society with secrets.....the Anstruther based sex club, the Beggar's Benison. Benison is an old Scots word for a blessing and the original blessing was "may yer purse ne'er be toom an yer horn aye in bloom" which became the toast in English, "may prick nor purse never fail you." We examine a wonderful array of bawdy Benison artefacts from suggestive silk sashes to obscene wine glasses lovingly preserved in the museum collections of St Andrews University.