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Scotland’s ferry fiasco is caused by… Sailing on Sundays.

Those of us who live on Scottish Islands have been complaining, inconvenienced, and generally suffering as our lifeline ferry system has become a national embarrassment. The disastrous ferries are an object lesson in how NOT to run…well, anything.

With an aged fleet that is decades past its sail-by date, plus two rusting hulls years past their launch dates, hundreds of millions of pounds over budget, and woefully unlikely to meet the most minimal of performance standards, it’s not surprising that fingers of blame are pointed at the government in Edinburgh. 

But a recent press release from Rev. David Blunt, Clerk to Presbytery, Free Church of Scotland, offers a different explanation. Apparently the failures are due to the 2009 addition of sailings on Sundays, which immediately invoked “God’s displeasure and rebuke”. The ages of the boats have nothing to do with their failures, and while the weather has been increasingly “adverse” since that date, it’s probably just another sign of heavenly “rebuke” and climate change is all down to CalMac sailing on Sundays.

This is surprising news for at least three reasons.

Reason #1. Sunday? Are you sure?

First and foremost, of course, is the fact that the Bible doesn’t name Sunday as the sabbath. Indeed, Exodus 20:8—on which Rev. Blunt bases his criticism—actually says something to the effect (after translation) of:

Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy.You are to labor and do all your work during six days, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. You are not to do any work—neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your livestock, nor the alien who is within your gates—because the LORD made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, in six days, then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The seventh day of the week is (and was) of course Saturday. Indeed, it wasn’t until the Church had been around for almost four centuries that it got around to switching the sabbath to Sunday, the first day of the week.

Reason #2: ALL the laws, all the time?

Before we can follow Rev. Blunt’s strictures regarding the Sabbath, I would like to be assured that he is strictly adhering to all other biblical requirements. There are a ton of other commandments, but here are a representative handful that I’m sure Rev. Blunt will want to reassure all of us about before we could take him seriously about Sunday ferrying. Especially his wife, who will never ever even consider giving him a hand (literally) in any future altercations. For example, consider the following:

  • Wear polyester, go to hell. Same if you cross breed your cattle, your dogs, or your tomatoes. [Leviticus 19:19 reads, “You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together.”] You’d better not be wearing shoes made of leather, trainers made of rubber and canvas, cotton tidy-whities with elastic, a fleece sweatshirt, or almost any kind of coat that you didn’t knit straight off a (non-crossbreed) sheep, or it’s burn in eternal hell.
  • Haircut: Does Rev. Blunt sport a regulation non-rounded haircut or a shaved chin? Leviticus 19:27 reads “You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard.”
  • Pigs (and Football): traditionally in America and historically in UK, a football is made of pigskin and thus of course, unclean. That includes, BTW, any shoes, belts, gloves, or gelatin-based dessert that might have porcine associations. [Leviticus 11:8, which is discussing pigs, reads “You shall not eat of their flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.”] 
  • Tattoos: No tramp-stamps for you or your congregants, Rev. Not even dedicated to religion or Mom. [Leviticus 19:28 reads, “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.”]
  • Divorce. Not happening. In fact, if any of your ancestors have split up, you’re technically a bastard. [Mark 10:11-12, “And He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.’”] And let’s not forget Deuteronomy 23:2, which helpfully instructs that if you’re a bastard, the child of a bastard… or even have a great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchild of a bastard, you can’t come to church or synagogue either.]
  • Equipment-Check: You can’t allow anyone into your church unless you’ve checked them for working testicles and/or penis. The bible isn’t the least bit specific about how they might have misplaced their equipment (cancer, castration, poor choices involving pickup basketball games when someone left a pencil in their back pocket…)—it just says, no balls, no praying. [Deuteronomy 23:1, “A man whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off may never join the assembly of the Lord.”]
  • Gold. Fuggetaboutit, you show-pony. [1 Timothy 2:9 warns: “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments.”]
  • Detest Bacon. (and sausage and ham and camel…) This couldn’t be more plain. Don’t go there. [Leviticus 11:3 “You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud.” And basically ALL of Leviticus, esp 11:10 “But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales —whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water—you are to detest. And since you are to detest them, you must not eat their meat and you must detest their carcasses.” This, by the way, rules out all shellfish, calamari, and a ton of other things including but not limited to camel, rock badger, rabbit, eagle, vulture, buzzard, falcon, raven, crow, ostrich, owl, seagull, hawk, pelican, stork, heron, bat, winged insects that walk on four legs unless they have joints to jump with like grasshoppers, bear, mole, mouse, lizard, gecko, crocodile, chameleon and snail.
  • Birth Control. Technically, the Children of Israel were promised their offspring would be numerous as the stars, so birth control didn’t get a lot of airtime. BUT just in case, I hope the Rev. is aware that pulling out means death by smiting. [ Genesis 38:9-10: “Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord; so He took his life also.”]
  • Wife’s hand. By the way, you might want to mention to your wife that if you happen to go mano-a-mano with someone who wants to take a ferry on Sunday, and your wife attempts to save your sorry tuchus but she accidentally grabs your opponent’s family jewels, you will have to cut off her hand. Sorry about that Mrs. Rev, but it’s in the bible. [Deuteronomy 25:11-12. “If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity.”]

Reason #3: Sunday sailings are a fine old Scottish tradition

Alcohol does not solve any problem, but then neither does milk.” — Scottish Proverb

In Glasgow, we could always tell when the pubs closed because the singing would start. Scots have raised love of drinking to an art form, or at least to vocal celebration. By the 1830s, there was a pub for every 130 people (of all ages) in Glasgow. But that was also the date when the Temperance Movement was founded by John Dunlop in Glasgow. This resulted in the Forbes Mackenzie Act of 1853, making it illegal to serve alcohol on Sunday in restaurants, bars, and pubs.

It didn’t take long for parched Scots to find a loophole. Back then, there was a robust network of steamers—steam-powered boats taking passengers—and the Scots realized immediately that the ferries could serve their passengers Sunday alcohol. Soon the drunk Scots packing the Sunday steamboats were referred to as ‘steaming’ and ‘steaming drunk’.


The way I heard it, the spectacular Victorian Gents on Rothesay Pier were built because of God. In 1853, Scotland passed a law forbidding sale of alcohol on Sundays. But there was a loophole, allowing the steamboats that connected to the mainland to sell liquor. Thirsty Scots took to steamin‘—getting sloshed aboard the steamers—leading inevitably to a desperate need to er… de-slosh. Because Rothesay was a favorite haunt of wealthy Victorians, in 1899 the Rothesay Harbour Trust decided to spend the princely sum of £530 to establish a conveniently-located facility boasting the finest marble and inlaid mosaics, worthy of their valuable guests’ best efforts. (For more on the Victorian toilets, see THIS post. You know you want to.)

So there you have it. Historically, Sunday sailings have played a positive role. They cut down on the gangs of singing Scots roaming the streets of Glasgow. They led to some spectacular public toilets (for men anyway).

Prohibiting Sunday sailings because of biblical admonitions requires proof of strict adherence to ALL such laws, on pain of bastard-banishment, handless wives, smiting (those who pull out), and worst of all: NO BACON.