About Orkney
 About the Site
 Search Site 
  A Year of Orcadian Tradition

"Who brings lambs and first daffodils?
April and she lights a score of hill fires."


April April 1 was known as "Gokky Day" (Fool's Day) or "Gokky Hunt" (Hunt the Fool) and was celebrated in much the same way as "All Fool's Day" with practical jokes and tricks played on the unwary.
  April 2 - "Tailing Day"; On Tailing Day Orcadian children would secretly pin "tails" to each other while the more daring would target teachers and other "upstanding" adults.

More recently, the tails were made from paper, or cord, but there was a time when local butchers would save pigs' tails, which were then attached to the unsuspecting, with bent pins.

The tradition is practically dead these days, although it was one we still took part in as children.
  April 3 - "Borrowing Day"; A rather strange custom, but anything borrowed on this day became the immediate property of the borrower.

This tradition lingered on in Orkney until the 1930s.
  April 16 - St Magnus Day - Mansmas - the feast day of Orkney's most revered saint.
  Easter - In the islands, the term "Easter" was not used until the middle of the 1900s.

However the festival was celebrated. Children were given eggs and encouraged to eat as many as possible.
  In South Ronaldsay a unique Easter custom took place in which the local boys competed in a ploughing match, using beautifully-made miniature ploughs, more often than not family heirlooms.

At the same time, the girls - and boys sometimes - of the island dressed up in ornately crafted, and colourful, symbolic "horse" costumes. Click here for more details.

The "Festival of the Horse" now takes place later in the year primarily, I believe, to cater for visiting tourists.
Section Contents

Back a page