When Does Bruck Become Pruck?

By Bernie Bell

I think it’s in ‘Some Other Rainbow’ that John McCarthy mentions how his fellow hostage Brian Keenan refers to a lucky find as pruck – a word I now use for the crap-off-the-beach which Mike and I find and bring home. This can be fishing floats, bits of old metal, ceramic or wood, the plastic arm of a doll (!) – all sorts of crap – or, to me, pruck.  Sometimes very useful……

‘One man’s meat is another man’s poison’, and one person’s bruck can be another person’s treasure. 

What we throw away can say a lot about us to those who find it, whether soon after its disposal by us or many, many years later.

During the initial excavations at Skara Brae Mr. Traill noted that Mr. Watt had “entirely cleared out the rubbish from four houses.”  Where did they dump that ‘rubbish’? And the ‘rubbish’ which was cleared out of the other structures?  I know there’s a big area around Skara Brae, but the excavators probably wouldn’t have taken it far, and there must have been quite a lot of it.

It’s not all that long ago, and I’m wondering if anyone has had a go at finding those heaps of cleared-out ‘rubbish’, and what they might reveal using today’s methods of investigation?

I’m always hopeful of finding something marvellous when we walk at Skaill Bay – I’m always hopeful of finding something marvellous wherever we walk – and sometimes we do – there are different kinds of marvellous!

In an episode of the television programme ‘Britain at Low Tide’  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8BpCIRO0R8 Tori Herridge & Co investigated a ‘beach’ made of the rubble which was produced when Liverpool was bombed in the Second World War, and then the bombed sites were cleared for re-building to take place. All the rubble was taken to a near-by beach to help to bolster up the sand dunes. This means that now there is all that materiel for investigation.

And then there’s midden heaps/dumps – mounds in the landscape – dig into them – and what do we find……past lives lived….

These days our rubbish is wrecking the planet – beaches made up of bits of plastic – a terrible thing to be happening, but – dear oh dear – some of them look colourful…….kind of……weirdly……..attractive.

I’m not sure if these kind of musings are what Antonia Thomas intends to discuss in her on-line talk for the  Reimaging Waste Landscapes series, which takes place on Wednesday, April 27, at 4pm (BST).……..

…but Antonia is always interesting, articulate, and knows what she’s talking about – so however she is looking at bruck ( some of which, to some of us, might be considered to be pruck), this will be worth tuning in to.

Speaking archaeologically, what was initially definitely bruck – rubbish – given a few hundred or thousand years, becomes pruck – a lucky find.

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  1. I was most interested in the use of the word bruck or pruck. It is a word I am familiar with by its Ayrshire equivalent of pruch, with the soft scottish aspirated ‘ch’, although I haven’t heard it used in decades. I also remember hearing it used as a verb, where ‘to pruch’ something didn’t quite mean ‘to steal’ but certainly meant the acquisition of things which appear to be no longer used or surplus to requirements, usually without the owner’s consent! I had always thought it to be a scots word but could find no trace of it in scots dictionaries, nor in english dictionaries although it does look like a word which might be of Anglo Saxon origin. The only reference I could find is in Wiktionary, where it is described as Irish-English meaning a collection of attractive but useless objects.

    • Hello Jim Wylie

      I’m Irish by race – Yorkshire by rearing, and I hadn’t come across the word ‘pruck’ until reading that Brian Keenan used it. He was Irish – Northern Irish – Belfast – which does have a lot of historical connection with Scotland. I won’t go into the rights and wrongs of that here!
      I like it, as a good word to describe just a certain kind of thing……a lucky find…….pruck.

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