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Partans in His Creel

The Crab Fishermen, Winslow Homer, 1883

Crab Day

Mar 9

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"🎶 Willy stands around and whistles, when his fields are full o' thistles,
Thistles never brought a worry any mark o' weel
Now I think I'd better tarry,
Bide a wee afore I marry,
Oh 'til Willie catches Maven Partans in his creel."

~ Alexander Windick and Clive Strutt

If you're partial to seafood, you may get your cravings from your ancient ancestors. Massive rubbish dumps (middens) of oyster, mussel, scallop, whelk and limpet shells are the first evidence of Mesolithic seafood-eaters along the Scottish coast more than 10,000 years ago! Today, we can still create tasty dishes enjoyed by our nearer grandfathers and grandmothers such as Partan Bree (crab soup with achovies and cream). Recipes for Partan Bree and other Scottish dishes can be found in "The Scots Kitchen: Its Traditions and Lore with Old-time recipes" (1929) still in print today! Collected by Orkney born Florence Marian McNeill, Scottish folklorist, author, editor, suffragist and political activist, this cookbook contains original recipes and folklore from all parts of Scotland, from the Shetlands to the Borders, Orkney and the Hebrides. McNeill is also known for "The Silver Bough", a collection of Scottish folklore and the companion book "Scots Cellar: Its Traditions and Lore with Old-time Recipes". This strathspey contains creel (basket) like figures such as double figure eights and an interesting "drop-out chain figure"! Included with the dance description is Lady Clark of Tillypronie's Partan Bree recipe (from her namesake Victorian era cookery book recipe collection)! 📕 🦀 🦀 🦀 🧺

Partans in His Creel

This is the day is for all crab meat lovers to enjoy their favorite crustacean with traditional recipes: crab boils, crab cakes, crab bisques, and partan bree.

The crab cake is an American dish composed of crab meat and various other ingredients, such as bread crumbs, milk, mayonnaise, eggs, yellow onions, and seasonings. There are countless recipes and variations. 


Another favorite is the traditional Scottish crab bisque, Partan Bree, one of several recipes collected by F. Marian McNeill in her cookbook, The Scots Kitchen, 1929, one of the first books of its kind to collate traditional recipes.  It is reproduced here:

Partan Bree (Crab Soup) - Lady Clark of Tillypronie's Recipe

Crabs, rice, white stock, alt, pepper, anchovy, cream

Pick all the meat from two cooked crabs and set aside that from the large claws . Boil five or six ounces o rice in milk till soft, and pass it with the crab-meat through a tammy into a basin.  Stir it with a wooden spoon still perfectly smooth and add to it, very gradually, sufficient white unseasoned stock for a party of twelve or fourteen people.  Do not make it as thick as a purée.  Seaosn with salt, white pepper, and anchovy.  Put it all into a pan and stir it over the fire until quite hot, but do not let it boil.  Add pieces of meat from the claws, and just before serving, stir in half a pint of cream.

Partans in His Creel is a folk song by Alexander (Allie) Windwick (1913-1999),  one of the best known of Orkney's composers of traditional songs and tunes. Partans in his Creel is written in the Orkney dialect. Scroll down to hear a popular version.


And for a modern take on partan bree, click the bisque from chef Michael Smith of the Three Chimneys restaurant on Scotland's Isle of Skye.

Partans in His Creel

Click the dance cribs or description below to link to a printable version of the dance!

Partans in His Creel

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