Haggis hunters give assurance that conservation will prevail


(Photo: Rob Gray)


AS Scotland prepares to celebrate the birth of its National Bard Robert Burns, the nation’s Haggis are trying to make themselves scarce.

And nowhere more so is that true than in Selkirk where the Chieftains o’ the Pudding Race are searching for hiding spots.

They are aware that Sunday sees the annual Great Selkirk Haggis Hunt over the traditional breeding ground on Selkirk Hill.

Haggis hunting on the Hill dates back to early this century when locals from the Town Arms inn on their regular Sunday morning excursion, spotted the beasties in great numbers.

And over the years the hunt has developed into a family affair, with around 250 hunters of varying ages taking part last year.

Rules are strict and hunt weapons are restricted to small-mesh baggie nets, homemade bows and arrows, cricket bats and small sticks.

In the early years hunters were met by posses of hunt saboteurs, but Head Haggis Hunter Jimmy Linton says that is all in the past.

He told TheSouthern: “We fully understood why the sabs made their presence known in the dark, early days of the hunt. They were obviously concerned about how the hunt would be conducted and equally concerned about preserving breeding stock.

“But we were able to show that with proper rules in place and a strict quota arrangement, they had no reason to be concerned. Many of the misguided sabs have now joined our ranks and we have made them welcome.

“We abide by the rules that govern all of Scotland’s haggis hunts and this year we will introduce a catch and release system, similar to that which applies to salmon. Hunters on Sunday should keep their first Haggis but we are encouraging them to release any subsequent catches back into the wild. Conservationists I am sure will approve.”

Hunters and followers are urged to meet in Selkirk Market Place at 11.02am on Sunday when they will be reminded of the rules and enjoy a stirrup cup, with juice for the youngsters.

Pipers lead the hunt party to The Hill, stopping at the Argus Centre where Riddell Fiddles provide music for the dancing of the Haggis Polka. The polka does not enjoy the same antiquity as the hunt itself but has become an integral part of the great occasion, said Jimmy.

Passing the Pot Loch the hunt party gathers close to the Chinese Hut – a delightful building that has been the source of much enjoyment for generations of Souters. Two sweeps of the breeding ground take place before pre-caught and cooked Haggi are addressed in time-honoured fashioned and enjoyed by the company.

Pipers lead the party back to the Town Arms where proprietor Mark Hay, a long-standing supporter of the hunt, makes his lounge available for the presentation of certificates and commemorate badges and where music for the adult hunters followers in the afternoon.

Spies have been on The Hill and Jimmy reports: “We noticed the Haggis that escaped in previous years have passed on their knowledge and the beasties are now building fortifications in which to hide. These super-haggi don’t want to become supper-haggi, but they don’t have as much up top as the hunters from the Borders. If Burns were alive, I think he’d have to write another poem.”

The hunt is open to all – 11.02am, Sunday, Market Place.




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