In Scotland, April Fool’s Day is known as “Hunt the Gowk Day”, with “gowk” being a Scottish word for a cuckoo bird or a foolish person. The origins of the day are unclear, but it is believed to have been celebrated in Scotland since at least the 18th century.
The tradition in Scotland became a two-day event. The first day was for “hunting the gowk”, which was to send someone on a fool’s errand. This involved sending someone on a pointless or impossible task, such as asking them to find a nonexistent shop or to fetch a bucket of tartan paint.
On the second day, “Tailie Day”, a classic prank was to stick a “kick me” sign on someone’s back. The victim would be unaware of the sign and was left wondering why people keep kicking them throughout the day.
In recent years, Scottish newspapers have got in on the April Fool’s Day act, publishing spoof articles and stories on 1st April. In 2019, The Scotsman newspaper ran a story claiming that the Scottish Government was planning to rename Edinburgh Castle as “Edinburgh Ikea”, in a bid to attract more tourists.
Some famous pranks around the world
In Brazil, an unlikely candidate ran for a public office and won.
The candidacy was the idea of a journalist, in protest against the politicians of the time, and the initiative won the support of the population. According to the Legislative Assembly of São Paulo, Cacareco, a female black rhinoceros, even produced ‘santinhos’ (small leaflets with the image of a saint) and a song was created that said more or less “tired of suffering so much and being beaten, we are now going to respond by voting for Cacareco”.
This popular mobilisation was mainly due to dissatisfaction with the politicians and it ended up being reflected in the polls. Of the 934,794 voters who showed up on polling day, almost 100,000 votes went to Cacareco. She was the most voted for among the 540 candidates who disputed one of the 45 seats in the council. The amount of votes she received was more than the top 15 councillors with the most votes combined.
A fake eruption of the Mount Edgecumbe volcano in Alaska.
The prank was planned by a logger named Oliver ‘Porky’ Bickar. He collected 70 tyres, hid them in an airplane hangar and waited for an April Fool’s Day with perfect weather conditions and a blue sky. When the day came, he used a chartered helicopter to place the tyres into the volcano’s crater, ‘marinated’ them with fuel and set them alight, causing a large cloud of smoke. Citizens rushed onto the streets, frightened that the volcano could erupt. The police and fire service were aware of the joke, but not the coastguard, who flew over for an inspection to find giant spray-painted letters reading ‘April Fool’.
Rare alignment of Pluto and Jupiter.
The famous astronomer and presenter of The Sky at Night, Patrick Moore, told radio listeners in 1976 that due to a rare alignment of Pluto and Jupiter, the Earth would suffer a shift in its gravitational forces and people would be able to float into the air. At a specific time, Moore told listeners to “jump now” and minutes later, calls started to come in telling of the listeners’ experiences. One claimed he had risen too high towards the ceiling, a group said they had orbited around the room and some mentioned they had felt the impact.
The colour television hack in Sweden
In 1962, on April Fools’ Day, a supposed technical expert from Sweden’s only television channel made a big announcement. By stretching a pair of nylon stockings over their tv screens, he reported that viewers could watch the usual broadcast, (at the time in black and white), in vibrant colour. Several television owners rushed to implement the trick, but were disappointed when all that happened was a darkened picture. The first real colour broadcast would debut in Sweden on 1 April 1970.
Whether you’re playing pranks on your loved ones or falling victim to someone else’s trickery, April Fool’s Day is a time for laughter and fun in Scotland. So, be on your guard and keep your wits about you – you never know when someone might try to hunt the gowk! However, be aware – if you don’t play your pranks before noon, you are the fools!