Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
Cheese, the moon, revenue men men, West Country?
The production of cheese predates recorded history. Its origin is assumed to lie in the practice of transporting milk in bladders made of ruminants' stomachs, with their inherent supply of rennet. Remains of cheese have been found in Egyptian tombs over 4,000 years old!
The terms "big wheel" and "big cheese" originally referred to those who were wealthy enough to purchase a whole wheel of cheese.
Moonrakers is the colloquial name for people from Wiltshire, in England's West Country, from a folk tale from smuggling days in rural England. Wiltshire lay on the smugglers' secret routes between the south coast and customers in the centre of the country.
According to legend, some local people had hidden contraband barrels of French brandy from customs officers in a village pond. While trying to retrieve it at night, they were caught by the revenue men, but explained themselves by pointing to the moon's reflection and saying they were trying to rake in a round cheese. The excise men, thinking they were simple yokels, laughed at them and went on their way.
For a recommendation for a selection of cheese to serve on Burns Night, click the 1902 vintage postcard commemorating the Moonrakers legend.