Scottish History without the Boring Bits

Written by Ian Crofton
Review by Jo Galloway

In his account of Scotland’s history, Ian Crofton freely admits “that only a certain proportion of the events mentioned herein actually took place”. This well researched history from the Dark Ages through to modern times takes a gentle potter through the annals of Scotland’s past, picking anecdotes seemingly at random from various publications, periodicals and even gravestones.

From the birth of a nation, to the birth of the deep-fried Mars Bar, Crofton seeks out the obscure. Through grim to fantastic, via murder, poisoning, witchcraft and monsters, with Covenanters and Jacobites thrown in for good measure, rather than the well-known incidents in Scotland’s history, Crofton’s readers will find the otherwise undiscovered. Embellished with the exploits of lords, lairds and ladies, as well as serfs and soldiers, the book enlightens us on court judgements over the ages, from the nailing of ears and tongues, through various nasty forms of public execution, to the hanging of puppies.

Make no mistake, this is not an easy read. More a book to dip into rather than to wade through, it does supply the odd chuckle. However Crofton’s intention to entertain rather than educate is sometimes strained, and for this reviewer mostly unsuccessful.