Wednesday 17 August 2016



No-one knows for sure when or why the Burryman ceremony in South Queensferry began, although many say it celebrates the granting to the town of Royal Burgh status by James VI in 1588.

Whatever its origins, the ceremony was held every year for hundreds of years until it was suspended by the authorities after the gruesome and mysterious death of a participant in the 1990 ceremony.

This is the story of the events surrounding that death. It is a story exposing the violence, bigotry and sectarianism that fester in the underbelly of small-town Scotland.

Another short but hard-hitting read – 90 pages worth of bile, bigotry, racism and sectarianism in the West of Scotland, by turns contrasted with friendship, camaraderie, loyalty, love of family, grief, loss and regret.

Dan Jaffrey returns home after 20 years away for his former friend Muldy’s funeral. We look back at events of the past that culminated in a needless death after a Burryman prank went wrong and two tribes went to war. Dan has moved on with his life, but sadly certain inhabitants of Queensferry are still locked in the past with the same poisonous outlook on life.

Brendan Gisby doesn’t pull any punches in depicting the unacceptable face of Scottish society.

Interesting, enjoyable, entertaining but sad in a lot of respects.

I liked the dialogue prevalent in the book and enjoyed seeing how quickly I could decipher what was being said. It certainly added to the sense of place with the story.

"Thought I'd drop in fur a wee blether."

"I've jist come fae there. It wis gettin' too noisy fur me. You ken whit Muldy's relatives are like..."

"Oh aye. I'll not' be staying long there myself. Gettin' too fuckin' auld for it, my man."

4 from 5

Brendan Gisby is a fairly prolific Scottish author, this was my first time sampling his work. Definitely interested in reading more from him, if time allows.

He has his website - Blazes Boylan's Book Bazaar here.

He's on Twitter - @twistedfoot

Bought copy for kindle.

Read in July, 2016


  1. Sounds like a powerful read, Col. I like stories that pack a punch in just a few pages. It's good, too, to hear that Gisby's willing to tackle the tough issues. Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Margot - there's definitely a strong message within the book, as well as lighter moments with banter and friendship. Very glad I read it.

  3. Was this in one of the tubs a while back? I think I noticed it then because I had read a quite different book based on the Burryman tradition - one of Catriona MacPherson's Dandy books, not your thing!

    1. I featured it when I bought it, not too long ago and also included it in a holiday reading post earlier in July, but this is the first chance to jot a few thoughts down on it.
      I may surprise you with a Catriona McPherson book - you never know!

  4. Sounds interesting but depressing. Maybe someday.

    1. I quite liked it myself, I don't suppose the ending was too surprising for me in all honesty.

  5. Col, I have heard Scottish dialect spoken in films, never read it in books. Would that be a hindrance for the reader?

    1. I don't know to be honest. I've interacted with a lot of Scots over the years and read a few books as well, so it added to the story rather than took away from my enjoyment. Could you readily understand the quoted section above?

    2. Col, I understood the quotes, but I read them somewhat haltingly.

    3. Prashant, it's a difficult one. If I have to slow my reading pace to try and comprehend the text or figure the author's meaning, I kind of lose interest in reading.