The whole world knows about the Limerick, a five line poem with a rhyming scheme of a,a,b,b,a. Fewer people have heard about the Strathpeffer, which is an eleven line poem with the rhyming scheme a, b, c, d, a, b, e, e, c, d, e. The Strathpeffer Poetry contest was founded in 1897 to make this poem form known to a wider audience.

What happens is that two schoolchildren are both asked to think of a number between 1 and 78. These two numbers are multiplied together and then a local Shakespeare historian, Dr Campbell Snoddy MacKenzie, finds that line number in MacBeth, who was born in the town. This line is then used as the first line of the Strathpeffer.

So for example Dr Snoddy MacKenzie might select the line

But screw your courage to the sticking place,

The contestants would then have to compose their Strathpeffer within fifteen minutes of the line being read out:

For example when the above line was read out by Dr Snoddy MacKenzie in 1968 the winner was a Mrs Doris McGonagall of Dundee who wrote:

But screw your courage to the sticking place,

You know it needs an airing,

I will place mine up there too

And see how they get on

But this isn’t a race

We will be sharing

And we will enjoy the sun

It will be fun

To see the sky so blue

Hoots mon

We’ll even go for a run.

Extract from 40 Humourous British Traditions