As we all know, the banterfest known as Black Eye Friday is rapidly approaching. The last Friday before Christmas greets us is a feverish and wild celebration of the fact we’re all off work for a couple of days. Aka ‘let’s get sh!t faced for Jesus’!
There’s really nothing that epitomises the festive spirit more than drunkenly punching your best mate mid-kebab. This is a party that starts early, ends late and, if done right, will result in all-consuming shame.
Whilst our NHS staff members and emergency services no doubt dread the impending torrent of chaos, they can at least count themselves fortunate they weren’t called upon in historic times. It turns out this crazy little island not only invented the concept of Hop Tu Naa (b@stardised by the yanks) but this whole Black Eye Friday deal? Yeah, that was us too. No biggie.
Ok, it isn’t that boastful a claim but it’s still worth lauding. Black Eye Friday is a cultural phenomenon now. And we have our elders to thank for that. What’s that fella? You had a mad one and blacked out after the Outback, woke up with Star Grill on your face and a traffic cone in your lounge? Your Great Grandad would down tools for TWO GOD DAMN WEEKS and do nothing but get bang on the ales and embark upon the kind of nonsense that our demented little rock is synonymous with.
The Island went into 14 days of revelry; a madcap carnival of debauchery known as ‘Kegeesh Ommidjagh’. That may sound like the name of a Saudi billionaire Sultan, but actually, it translates, rather brilliantly, as ‘Foolish Fortnight’.
Double F as it was deemed by the cool folk of the time, began on Black St Thomas’ Eve (now 21st December) and ran all the way through to White St Bride. It was so called due to the gloomy weather in December making way for the white snow of January. Reading old excerpts from some of the historians and folklore of the time gives you a tangible feel for the sense of fun during this period. The people would dance, celebrate, sing and drink copious amounts of ‘Jough’ which was the 19th century version of Jager.
This was rock star excess in the time of the penny whistle and fiddle! This fortnight, then…what’s the skeet?
SH!T WENT DOWN, SON!
For starters, we invented carol singing. Apparently, the ‘Mollag Band’ were a ragtag bunch, who, cloaked in mysterious disguises and merry on liquor, would take it upon themselves to sing and bellow uproarious songs in the street and, at your door. Better still, they brandished an inflated sheep’s bladder on a stick antagonising people until they paid them to shut the f#ck up. The mad b@stards.
Amazingly, working was forbidden! Legendary Manx folk hero William Cashen was writing about it back in 1907 and, as you can tell, this party was off the hook:
“The spinning wheel had to be removed from the floor; the making of jeebins had to cease, and no labour of that nature was allowed”
The video below is believed to be Juan from Foxdale back in 1903 celebrating’ Kegeesh Ommidjagh’, and ahead of the times with his manbag.
When the spinning wheel is removed that’s when you know this sh#t was getting real. Still, it’s worth appreciating the magnitude that such a severe shortage of Jeebins would have on the locals.
“Girl gotta have her jeebins!”
was, in fact, the town slogan of Sulby up until very recently.
This fortnight may not have always had the badass Sultan moniker it so deserved but it does appear to have been in the Manx cultural psyche for a good few centuries. Take this quote from Waldron:
“There is not a barn unoccupied the whole twelve days, every parish hiring fiddlers at the public charge…many young fellows and girls meeting in these diversions, nature too often prompts them to more close celebrations of the festival, than those the barn allows; and many a hedge has been witness of endearments”
So let’s bullet-point this:
- Fiddlers. Everywhere.
- Merriment. In abundance.
- Shagging. In bushes.
As far back as 1731, for two weeks of the year, this was an Island comprised of horny and sexually adventurous functioning alcoholics. That explains a lot.
Finally, ‘Kegeesh Ommidjagh’ would end with partners paired together for a year after the ‘Giense’ – a kind of barn dance singles event for the chronically hungover. Chosen for an arranged relationship by “The Master of the Feast” this weird as f#ck “keys in a bowl” style scenario would be the fitting end to a bender even Keith Richards would think twice about.
Yet again, the Man Isle comes up trumps. So, if your boss is Manx why not remind them of their heritage and demand a fortnight off rather than one meagre Friday. Just tell them you’ve got sheep’s bladders to wield. It’ll be sound.