Halloween Tales From Orkney: ‘Authority Was Flouted’

Halloween is a time for youth. But not everyone finds that fun.

‘In Kirkwall and in the country districts, in days of yore, was the night of nights for practical jokers. Their methods may not have been particularly subtle, but there was no doubt that everyone derived a good deal of humour from them, with the exception of course of the parties against whom the joke was levelled, and who must have been of the opinion that the legends of men selling their souls to the devil on All Hallows Eve were perfectly correct.

But that generation has passed onto middle age and senility, and a new generation has grown up, a generation which is intolerably blasé and which dismisses as merely childish these things which used to provide their progenitors with infinite amusement.

In the partial gloom of an old fashioned country farmhouse, while the red glow of a big stove created a belt of scorching heat around it, an old farmer entered into an indictment of the lack of enterprise of the young men who lived in this enigmatical era.

“In my day it was different” he said “Yes and even after my day.

The young fellows from all the farms and villages round about used to fairly let themselves go on Halloween night. Authority was flouted. They would band together and conduct raids in neighbouring farm steadings. They would break into outhouses and stables, and drive away the unfortunate farmer’s carts, with many of his implements, in the middle of the night.

They were no respecters of persons or property on Halloween night, these lads of the neighbourhood, and many a farmer received a rude shock on being awakened from his sleep to see through the farmhouse window an unruly gang yoking his best horse into the shafts of a cart, loading the cart with spades and scythes and barrows, and driving it gaily down the road, leaving it stranded some distance away for the harassed owner to discover.

On one occasion a farmer who thought himself fairly sharp, thought out a plan which would enable him to turn the tables on the marauders. Accordingly he hid himself in the back of a cart and waited for the Halloween jokers to arrive.

They arrived alright but the farmer’s carefully thought out scheme miscarried badly.

The young men were not in the least intimidated by his presence in the cart. They yoked it up, trundled it down towards the shore with its burden, and dumped the unhappy man in the water. He probably wished then that he had not been quite so sharp.

But there’s none of that nowadays. All they can do is dook for apples

Orkney Herald and Advertiser 28 October 1931

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