March 21st, 2011 by Boisdale
May the best you’ve ever seen
Be the worst you’ll ever see;
May a moose ne’er leave yer girnal
Wi’ a teardrop in his e’e.
May ye aye keep hale and hearty
Till ye’re auld enough tae dee,
May ye aye be just as happy
As I wish ye aye tae be.
The occasion for the sharing of fine Scottish whisky always calls for a toast by the host to get the gathering off in the proper spirit — and the more brogue the host can muster, the more enthusiastic the response!
As David Daiches, a Scottish Literary historian, critic and writer, points out: “The proper drinking of Scotch whisky is more than indulgence: it is a toast to civilization, a tribute to the continuity of culture, a manifesto of man’s determination to use the resources of nature to refresh mind and body and enjoy to the full the senses with which he has been endowed.”
The custom of toasting stretches back into the shadows of Scottish history and tales of the quaich, or “loving cup” — a two handled traditional drinking vessel — are found laced into historical accounts of victories, weddings and celebrations. In 1988, the Keepers of the Quaich were formed by Scottish Distillers to promote the international appeal of Scotch Whisky and raise funds to support local charities. The exclusive membership is reserved for individuals who have made a significant contribution to the industry and currently there are over 1900 members from 84 different countries around the world.
Scottish toasts can run from sentimental poetry to bawdy jokes, but there are some traditional single word toast that are for less formal occasions, like the Gaelic word slainte, which roughly translates to “health” and is sometimes combined with the word mhath, which means “good“. So Slainte Mharth is a toast to your good health (as well as the name of a very popular Celtic Fusion band).
Toasting also developed some revolutionary political implications through the years to the Scots, and a tradition developed that after toasting to their foreign hosts, Scotsmen would wave their glasses silently over a jug of water on the table. This gesture symbolized the rejection of the “the king over the water” — those British and Irish rulers whose interference the Jacobite order resented. Charles Edward Stuart, seeing this sign of solidarity as a protest against the Hanoverian succession, forbid even placing finger bowls at the royal tables when Scotsmen where present.
No doubt the Scots use the occasion of toasting to poke good natured fun at their enemies, which may change through the years, yet the sentiments remain the same:
May those who love us love us;
And those that don’t love us,
May God turn their hearts:
And if He doesn’t turn their hearts
May he turn their ankles,
So we’ll know them by their limping.
The traditional opening toast still used to this day begins with the host declaring loudly with glass raised:
Here’s tae us;
to which the assembly replies:
wha’s like us?
to which the hosts replies:
Gey few, and they’re a’ deid.