Hielan Brochan

World Porridge Day

Oct 10

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Devil's Spit Day
The Bramble Bush
Handbag Day
Birlin' Sporrans
World Porridge Day
Hielan Brochan
Show More

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"Brochan lom, tana lom
Brochan tana sùghain ... "

~ "Brochan Lom", Traditional

Legend has it that when Samuel Johnson boasted to his friend James Boswell that in England “we wouldn’t think of eating oats. We only feed them to horses,” Boswell retorted “Well, maybe that’s why in England you have better horses, and in Scotland we have better men.”

Hielan Brochan

October 10th is World Porridge Day, celebrating one of the world's oldest dishes.

Oatmeal has a long history in Scottish culinary tradition because oats are better suited than wheat to the country's low temperatures and high humidity. As a result, oats became the staple grain of Scotland. The ancient universities of Scotland had a holiday called Meal Monday to permit students to return to their farms and collect more oats for food.

Samuel Johnson referred, disparagingly, to this grain in his dictionary definition for oats: "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people." His biographer, James Boswell, noted that Lord Elibank was said to have retorted, "Yes, and where else will you see such horses and such men?"

Scottish porridge, brochan, is a traditional dish made from water, oats, and salt.  

The well-known tune, "Brochan Lom" a Scottish Gaelic nonsense song about porridge, is popular and appears frequently at Scottish country dances and ceilidhs and falls into the category of "mouth music" (Puirt a beul), an a cappella style of music for dancing in the absence of instruments.  This jocular song is bascially about some ill-made porridge,  being very thin like gruel, or even thinner, like  'sowans' (the fermented juice of oatmeal husks boiled).

 

Here are the original words followed by the English translation:

Brochan lom, tana lom, brochan lom na sùghain

Brochan lom, tana lom, brochan lom na sùghain

Brochan lom, tana lom, brochan lom na sùghain

Brochan lom 's e tana lom 's e brochan lom na sùghain

 

Séist

Brochan tana, tana, tana, brochan lom na sùghain

Brochan tana, tana, tana, brochan lom na sùghain

Brochan tana, tana, tana, brochan lom na sùghain

Brochan lom 's e tana lom 's e brochan lom na sùghain

 

Thugaibh aran dha na gillean leis a' bhrochan sùghain

Thugaibh aran dha na gillean leis a' bhrochan sùghain

Thugaibh aran dha na gillean leis a' bhrochan sùghain

Brochan lom 's e tana lom 's e brochan lom na sùghain

 

Séist

 

Seo an rud a gheibheamaid o nighean gobh' an dùine,

Seo an rud a gheibheamaid o nighean gobh' an dùine,

Seo an rud a gheibheamaid o nighean gobh' an dùine,

Brochan lom 's e tana lom, 's e brochan lom sùghain.

 

Séist

************

Porridge thin and meagre, porridge thin from sowans.

Porridge thin and meagre, porridge thin from sowans.

Porridge thin and meagre, porridge thin from sowans.

Porridge thin, it is meagre and thin, it is porridge thin from sowans.

 

Chorus

Meagre and thin porridge, thin, thin, meagre porridge

Meagre and thin porridge, thin, thin, meagre porridge

Meagre and thin porridge, thin, thin, meagre porridge

Porridge thin, it is meagre and thin, it is porridge thin from sowans.

 

Give ye bread to the young men with sowans-gruel,

Give ye bread to the young men with sowans-gruel,

Give ye bread to the young men with sowans-gruel,

Porridge thin, it is meagre and thin, it is porridge thin from sowans.

 

Chorus

 

This is what we used to get from the smith's daughter at the Dun

This is what we used to get from the smith's daughter at the Dun

This is what we used to get from the smith's daughter at the Dun

Porridge thin, it is meagre and thin, it is porridge thin from sowans.

 

Chorus

To hear this classic tune from the album Scottish Choice by Robin Hall & Jimmy MacGregor with The Galliards (1960), click the vintage advertisement for Scott's oats, hinting at what a regular diet of oats can do for you.

Hielan Brochan
Hielan Brochan

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The majority of dance descriptions referenced on this site have been taken from the

 

Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary or the

Scottish Country Dancing Database 

 

Snapshots of dance descriptions are provided as an overview only.  As updates may have occurred, please click the dance description to be forwarded to a printable dance description or one of the official reference sources.

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