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I threw a practical joke that fooled the world for 10 years

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: January 02, 2014

Comments (4)

As the great and the good of Harmston get ready to celebrate Burns' Night later this month, little do they know that a man among them once fooled the world with his haggis-inspired joke. Resident Robin Dunseath invented the 'ancient' sport of haggis hurling for a laugh, which quickly became a global phenomena. Here, reporter Paul Whitelam talks to Mr Dunseath 10 years after admitting his hoax...

As a curious Irishman living in Edinburgh in 1977, Robin Dunseath was fascinated by all the "pseudo tartanalia" that appeared to take the tourist dollar.

Mr Dunseath was particularly scathing about the lure of tartan knickers and underpants.

So with the Gathering of the Clans due to be held in the city, he wanted to prove a point.

The retired public relations consultant said: "I decided to see if I could invent a traditional Scottish sport and hold the world finals during the Gathering – haggis hurling.

"Me and my mates arrived at the grounds of Prestonfield House Hotel and were flabbergasted at the crowd that had turned up, including journalists and cameramen from around the world.

"We hurled haggis with glee and declared a world champion. What we had not foreseen was that the journalists would give this final world coverage and masses of requests came in to us for the rules.

"So we promptly invented them along with the history of this most traditional of Scottish sports, wrote a book called The Compleat Haggis Hurler and sent the book out around the world.

"This led to a massive proliferation of haggis being flung high and wide around the world in a bid to keep this traditional sport alive."

The rules stipulated that competitors rub peat on their hands before throwing the haggis as far as possible from the top of a half-barrel of whisky.

And the traditional meaty treat must not burst on landing. Under Mr Dunseath's rules, players also had to nominate a charity.

The sport was said to have come from a time of clan wars when women would throw haggis over a river for their men to eat.

But its popularity spiralled and competitions were held in the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Haggis hurling also entered the Guinness Book of Records. The current record longest throw is 217ft.

And these days, there are two versions of the game – one played at festivals and the other a professional sport.

Mr Dunseath added: "We set up a World Haggis Hurling head office in my office at 10 Castle Terrace in Edinburgh along with a haggis hurling museum in which we kept famous haggis relics, like the skin of the haggis hurled by Charlton Heston.

"Terry Wogan read out the haggis hurling results for us and in one famous occasion we sent the results of a hurl into BBC Television's Grandstand and they read it out.

"Possibly our most outrageous achievement was during the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, when a haggis hurl was one of the side sports and Gloria Hunniford covered it for us on national BBC."

Mr Dunseath said he decided to come clean about his prank after the sport became very big, with the formation of numerous hurling associations and tournaments.

"I began to be known as the world president rather than the actual job I was doing," he said. "After ten years, during which massive amounts of money were raised for charity, I decided to reveal that it was all a hoax. A national newspaper did the revelation over half a page.

"It made no difference and happy people continued to hurl the Scottish delicacy as far away from themselves as they could, hoping to be nominated for membership of the Order of the Haggis and have a picture of themselves displayed in the museum.

"It's a crazy story. It was all totally down to one mickey-taking joke."

A Burns Night supper is being held at Harmston Memorial Hall on January 25 at 7.30pm.

Tickets cost £20. Call Alan Humphries on 01522 723411.

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4 comments

  • Bolshie  |  January 02 2014, 9:30PM

    I agree Pete67 - quotes should be reported precisely so deviation from grammatical rules is acceptable. DavidFeld - the whole sentence containing 'phenomena' is a mess since it is unclear which element; the sport, or the laugh; became global and I agree Paul Whitelam should be embarrassed to have it in print. That said if reading badly written English winds you up why flagellate yourself with the Echo?

    |   2
  • Pete67  |  January 02 2014, 3:11PM

    DavidFeld - - - If I was to tell a reporter about something, and said 'me and my mates' that's exactly what I'd expect to see in print. If not I'd want an apology from the Editor for misquoting me.

    |   1
  • DavidFeld  |  January 02 2014, 2:10PM

    Whoever wrote "a phenomena" should be ashamed of themselves. While we're at it, aren't editors supposed to correct solecisms like "me and my mates arrived" - otherwise, what do they actually do? Poor show, LIncolnshire Echo.

    |   -5
  • Pete67  |  January 02 2014, 7:54AM

    Well done Robin Dunseath. I just love practical jokes!

    |   5

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