To Thread - Forum Home

The Mudcat Café TM
https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=88533
49 messages

Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird

03 Feb 06 - 10:56 PM (#1661344)
Subject: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Joybell

So here it is. The film "The Brothers" made by Sydney and Muriel Box. 1947. Set, and at least partly filmed, on the Isle of Skye. Really silly story but good outdoor scenes. Will Fyffe wandering around playing pretty tunes on an accordion. Full of quaint folk-customs and stories. A Selkie tale at one point. Thick, (varied) Scots accents. There's a wonderfully overwrought scene where one of the brothers gets his thumb stuck in the mouth of a Conger eel. The tide's turned and there's nothing for it but to cut off his thumb. I would have stabbed the Conger eel with the knife but what would I know! He says it's a Conger eel. We don't get to see it. If Ed Wood can manage a giant mechanical octopus for his masterpiece, and then have his star, Bela Lugosi, wrap it around himself and pretend it's moving - I do wonder why Mrs and Mrs Box couldn't have found a fake eel - but back to the point.

What I wonder is??????

Can you/did Skylites (or whatever you call the inhabitants of Skye) actually execute bad people by tying a fish on the head and floaties under the armpits, letting them float out with the tide, and waiting till a passing goose pecks their brains out trying to get at the fish? (The birds in the film look like seagulls to me, and geese are grazing birds not given to swooping at fish, but that's a small point.)
A Tern or some other pointy-beaked seabird would probably do. What do you think, wise friends.
Puzzled, Joy


03 Feb 06 - 11:40 PM (#1661347)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Celtaddict

". . . but the gannet; the gannet could have cracked his skull. . ."
--The Birds


04 Feb 06 - 12:14 AM (#1661352)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Joybell

Ah yes! The gannet.
Or the common cormorant or shag (that)lays eggs inside a paper bag...
It could do it. Not a goose though, I tend to think. Cheers, Joy


04 Feb 06 - 12:58 AM (#1661355)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Stilly River Sage

Seagulls (glaucous winged gulls) will catch bait even though it is attached to a rod via a line and a treble hook. Sadly, I've seen them do it in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. They'll die of the hook injuries. Easy to imagine such an uncomplicated bird pursuing the fishhead, even in such an unusual situation.

SRS


04 Feb 06 - 02:00 AM (#1661364)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Joybell

Hello SRS. Yes granted! but did they actually execute people that way on Skye? THAT's the thing. Cheers, Joy


04 Feb 06 - 02:58 PM (#1661468)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Charley Noble

Ah, it's more fun to speculate and make bad puns!

Now maybe there's somethings that can be done with "tying one on" and "one good tern deserves another." Or "never leave a tern unstoned."

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


04 Feb 06 - 05:11 PM (#1661627)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Joybell

Knew I could count on you Charley. This is what I was secretly hoping for.
OK so -
"We gave him quite a tern".
"His tern has come".
"He was terned out with a fish on his head."

Cheers, Joy


04 Feb 06 - 05:18 PM (#1661632)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: wysiwyg

Well, you'd definitely have a peckerhead, there.

~S~


04 Feb 06 - 06:18 PM (#1661714)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Cluin

This thread has definitely taken a tern for the worse.


04 Feb 06 - 09:06 PM (#1661818)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: GUEST,Joe_F

On the same island, I have heard, when painting their boats, they leave no stern untoned.

--- Joe Fineman    joe_f@verizon.net

||: Insurance, like its moral opposite gambling, stinks of the continual temptation and presumption of fraud. :||


04 Feb 06 - 09:36 PM (#1661854)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: GUEST

You folks are so gull able


04 Feb 06 - 09:42 PM (#1661862)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Stilly River Sage

There's a folksong that talks about this, it has the line

Tern tern tern. . .


04 Feb 06 - 09:48 PM (#1661865)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Cluin

Q.   What do you call a guy with a fish on his head and floats under his armpits, out on the waves in the ocean?

A.   Bob.


04 Feb 06 - 10:23 PM (#1661884)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Rapparee

Is this related to Skye diving?


05 Feb 06 - 04:03 AM (#1661964)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Hrothgar

Yhey only did it with buoys, not gulls.


05 Feb 06 - 06:15 AM (#1662013)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: GUEST,Mingulay

Is execution tern - imal?


05 Feb 06 - 06:20 AM (#1662016)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Nessie

S-tern pun-ishment for someone gull-ible enough to commit a peccadillo


05 Feb 06 - 07:50 AM (#1662039)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: greg stephens

Here in Stoke-on-Trent this is carried out using oatcakes, and the culprit is floated in the lake at Trentham Gardens. We are rather far from the sea, but there is a substantial local population of gulls who scavenge at the tip.


05 Feb 06 - 09:22 AM (#1662090)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Rapparee

Out here, they did that sort of thing a couple times back in Ye Olden Days. They'd tie the malefactor up, put floats under this arms, a couple "ripe" trout on his head, and toss him in the Portneuf River. In the first case the culprit got a nasty sprained ankle and had to limp home and in the second he splashed around a bit in the ankle-deep water, tripped over an old tire, and received some bad scrapes to both knees from the concrete trough the river runs through town in, and a passing magpie scored a direct hit in the area between the trout.

It's not done anymore.


05 Feb 06 - 01:02 PM (#1662149)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: SINSULL

Vaguely remember something about adulturers (male) in Rome being tied in a sack with a snake, a cat,& a stone then being thrown in the water to drown...or something like that.


05 Feb 06 - 01:30 PM (#1662171)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Grab

As they said about the wreck of the whiskey ship, when the water was full of finest alcohol - no tern was left unstoned...


05 Feb 06 - 01:59 PM (#1662206)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Stilly River Sage

"Are there any women here?"

"No. no."


05 Feb 06 - 02:57 PM (#1662278)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Rapparee

Seriously, out of a sense of morbid curiousity I've studied the various means that humans have used to torture and execute their fellows. Some of the means were quite, ah, inventive. I've never run across the method described. That's not to say that it couldn't have been tried, but I doubt that it would work as the first passing bird would have simply snatched the fish and flown away.

Seems to me like a movie idea, not something that actually happened.


05 Feb 06 - 05:07 PM (#1662366)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Cluin

Besides, geese don't eat fish. They're herbivores.


05 Feb 06 - 05:11 PM (#1662370)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Joybell

Thank you for the colourful responses. I just love old folktales like these. The sillier the better.

Rapaire, I've never confessed it anywhere before but I once came upon a book about old methods of torture that I couldn't not read. I was about 15 I think. Morbid curiosity with me too. I've never been moved to try anything I learned from it and I'm still haunted by some of the images it conjured up. Some methods of execution were just as silly as the fish-on-the-head one now I come to think of it.

But yes, a movie idea is probable. The film came from a book so it might have started there. The villagers in the film said something about the idea being a good one because it relieved them of the responsibility of doing the deed themselves. The "geese" did it.
By the way the victim was caught out dobbing everyone in to the excise men. Cheers, Joy


05 Feb 06 - 05:13 PM (#1662371)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: greg stephens

Rapaire: if you think this wouldn't work, you've never watched a gannet fishing. They hurtle straight down on the fish at very high speed, with a large heavy beak pointing vertically down. If someone's head was under the fish...I think it might work.


05 Feb 06 - 05:24 PM (#1662386)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Cluin

It would also kill the bird. Kamikazee gannets? I doubt it would happen.


05 Feb 06 - 05:49 PM (#1662408)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Rapparee

I didn't say it wouldn't work; I said that I found it very unlikely. And yes, I've seen gannets diving.

But as for relieving the villagers of responsibility -- put him in a leaky boat out at sea with a couple crackers and a cup of water, out where people rarely go fishing. Or maroon him -- a practice of the Caribbean and a most unpleasant thing to do to another. Or...never mind. There are other ways.


05 Feb 06 - 06:26 PM (#1662414)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Cluin

Hell, just tie him to the rocks on the beach and let the tide drown him.


05 Feb 06 - 07:04 PM (#1662448)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: gnomad

Don't know about the Hebridean methods, but a bit further south in the Solway estuary, where they have one of those tides that will outpace a galloping horse, it was supposedly the chosen method of execution to tie the victim to a stake embedded in the mud and let nature do its thing. Doubtless the resident gulls would enjoy the remains.

I suppose a refinement might have been to leave the victim where the tide might, or might not, just quite drown them.

Geese are herbivores, yes, but all the nice gulls love a sailor.

OK, getting my coat now.


05 Feb 06 - 07:04 PM (#1662450)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Ned Ludd

Gannet would be suspicious...Whassat tied to that fish then?


06 Feb 06 - 03:52 AM (#1662681)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Joybell

I don't think the colourful people in the movie would go for the more boring options, myself.
I'm with Ned about the cleverness of gannets. And gulls -- wouldn't they just perch on the guy's head and nibble the fish off. That's what they do when they find stranded fish on top of rocks, surely.

A tern-coat would that be gnomad?
Cheers, Joy


06 Feb 06 - 04:32 AM (#1662687)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Paul Burke

I'd be even more cruel- let him live. In Skye, that's worse than dying.

In Manchester they used to execute people by wrapping them in a City scarf and pushing them in front of the crowd coming out of Old Trafford when United had just lost.


06 Feb 06 - 07:34 AM (#1662733)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: GUEST,vectis at work

They used to set them adrift in an old coracle without oars, food or water as a sacrifice to Mannanon at one time, or so I've heard.


06 Feb 06 - 08:20 AM (#1662746)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Charley Noble

Well, Joy, I'm glad you're pleased with the harvest from this thread and I'm proud that in a small way I have helped.

But you have raised a serious questions, with regard to archane punishment in remote communities. I mind the time when I was growing up in our fishing village on Georgetown Island on the rockbound coast of Maine. When I was deemed old enough to assimulate a hard life's lesson, I witnessed a chronic malpractioner being wrapped up in lobster warp (manila line used to haul up lobster traps), a couple of ballast stones being tied to his ankles, and a buoy attached, the whole shooting match being heaved into the cove. After a suitable period the body was hauled up, with lobsters and crabs hanging on to various parts. The "take" was then stripped off and the body was set again in the cove.

I learned my lesson and never subsequently strayed from the straight and narrow, and have led a model if modest life.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


06 Feb 06 - 09:35 AM (#1662792)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Rapparee

Isolated communities will make their own punishments when they deem it needful. They are usually closed-mouth and "close"; law enforcement can find it hard or impossible to get information. The killing of Charles Walton (Lower Quinton, 1945) is one example. Another was the shotgunning of a town bully in rural Missouri some years ago -- I don't have the information on it handy, but it received some national attention.

What I've found interesting is that truly "bad" people -- those who would kill without remorse or compunction -- would do it quickly, quietly, and never talk about it, and that they are often (in my experience) some of the nicest people you'd want to meet.


06 Feb 06 - 01:26 PM (#1662941)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Reminds me of the old Mexican technique of burying someone up to the neck near an anthill and smearing honey on their exposed head.


06 Feb 06 - 04:34 PM (#1663072)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Joybell

Inventive aren't we? I've always thought the tar and feathers idea very creative.
Charley, So glad you've learned to be good and survive. The place would be the poorer without you. I knew you'd be here sooner or later. You're right you know. It's fun throwing out a thread like this and waiting for the harvest.

A minor point but - has anyone else actually seen this film?
Cheers, Joy


06 Feb 06 - 06:21 PM (#1663182)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Haven't seen it, and can't find it as VHS on EBay, etc.
Perhaps never transferred to VHS.


06 Feb 06 - 09:41 PM (#1663387)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Charley Noble

Another story my old mentor Dennis used to tell – I think this was a story he picked up while he was sailing from island to island in the South Pacific back in the 1930's – was about a pair of missionaries who were treking into New Guinea in search of heathen to convert. They had hired a guide, who really had no intention of leading them to the various tribes of headhunters that frequented the jungles but thought it would be safe enough to wander with them in circles for a week or so. Unfortunately there was another danger lurking in the treetops that he'd forgotten about, the dreadful and deadly Foo bird.

Sure enough as they were hacking their way through the jungle there was the sound of beating wings followed by a "PLOP!" as a huge pile of Foo shit landed on the guide's head. Well, he'd been told that it was certain death to remove it and explained that to the concerned missionaries who of course thought he was foolish to believe such apparent nonesense, and as the day wore on and the Foo shit began to ripen the guide began to wonder if the missionaries might be right, After all they were educated gentlemen of the world. So at the next stream he knelt down and washed the disgusting stuff off and almost immediately keeled over dead.

Well, the two missionaries were perplexed but said a prayer over his body and prudently decided to try to make their way back out of the jungle. However, they soon heard the thundering of great wings sweeping towards them again and "Plop!" one of the missionaries ended up with a big pile of evil smelling Foo shit on his head. Well, he had seen what had happened to the guide and although he wasn't entirely convinced that removing the Foo shit had killed him he was curiously reluctant to experiment. But after several hours the smell was so vile that when they came across another stream he knelt down to wash the Foo shit off and immediately keeled over dead.

The last missionary at this point was legging it through the jungle at top speed, but not as fast as the Foo bird can fly, and sure enough another one came swooping down and in spite of the fact that the missionary was dodging back and forth, which is not easy to do on a jungle path but he was trying, he too was nailed by another big pile of Foo shit. But this last missionary persevered. He didn't wipe the Foo shit off and somehow made his way back to civilization, bought passage on the first available ship home, and with the help of a large hat managed to lead a reasonably prosperous but lonely life as a stockbroker.

The moral to this story?
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
...

If the Foo shits, wear it...

Charley Ignoble


06 Feb 06 - 09:49 PM (#1663392)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Cluin

Charley Ignoble

Oh, you better...


06 Feb 06 - 09:49 PM (#1663393)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Rapparee

I was going to post some of the more inventive ways humanity has found to execute its members, but I've decided not to do so. It's bad enough knowing them, much less sharing them.


06 Feb 06 - 09:51 PM (#1663395)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Cluin

Impalement came to mind. If they wanted to do you a favour, they hauled hard on your heels.


07 Feb 06 - 05:29 AM (#1663596)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Joybell

I agree, Rapaire. Of course we could add a method of our own. Tie up the victim before Charley and subject him to a few of those jokes.

Q, we don't think the film has made it to VHS. The ABC (like CBC)seems to have got hold of a copy and we managed to tape it. Hildebrand had seen it in about 1954 on American TV.
If you'd like us to send you a copy send me a PM. We can make a DVD that you could probably play. Our pleasure. We like to share these funny old films.
Cheers, Joy


07 Feb 06 - 07:58 AM (#1663677)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Charley Noble

Speaking of novel ways to torture folks, I've been listening to an old tape of Capt. Kendall Morse describing his first hunting experience in his story entitled "Beginner's Luck." Now if one forced someone to listen to that story after consuming a three-lobster special at Cook's Seafood Restaurant, down on Bailey's Island, the pain would be truly excruciating.

My uncle used to tell Georgian (no, not the Georgia in the States) folk tales, all of which had macabre elements which while horrifying to my young innocent ears were incidental to the stories and mentioned quite casually. There was the one about "Three Rabbits," another about "The King of the Noise." Maybe I'll start a new thread if there is a massive appeal for details.

Of course, the Brothers Grim Fairy Tales had similar macabre elements and conclusions before they were sanitized.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


07 Feb 06 - 08:49 PM (#1664092)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Charley Noble

refresh


07 Feb 06 - 11:02 PM (#1664136)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Stilly River Sage

The US and Canada are Zone 1 for DVDs. In case you wondered.

Those brothers were Grimm, in addition to being grim. :-/


08 Feb 06 - 04:03 PM (#1664495)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Joybell

Thanks, SRS. Cleverly our DVD's we make at home seem to be playable by our friends in America. It's not due to our skill I have to admit.

I was raised on the tales of the Brothers Grimm. We were thought to be tough enough to take it back then and we got them in the old translations. They are full of rough justice and clear logic and I still love their quaint language.
:-/ OH! I like that one SRS.
Cheers, Joy


08 Feb 06 - 04:06 PM (#1664497)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Execution by tying fish on head+bird
From: Joybell

Oh No!! The unforgivable!! A misplaced ' Sorry. Sorry. I hate that!! I never do that! DVDs! DVDs! DVDs.! I'll write it out 100 times on the blackboard. Promise.