Scottish word of the week: Quaich

A QUAICH is a shallow, two- or three-handled cup that often holds some kind of ceremonial value - just as well, because it’s not the most practical drinking vessel.

Alex Salmond receives a commemorative Quaich from Lone Piper Cpl Stuart Donald Gillies from The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland. Picture: Kenny Smith

Due to its size, it normally only holds a small amount of liquid, which for most drinks is not very useful.

Thankfully, quaichs are usually recepticles for whisky, and have been for the past several centuries (although there is evidence to suggest some larger quaichs were also used for supping comparatively large volumes of ale, and larger cups are still made today).

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The word is derived from the Gaelic word cuach, meaning cup.

Gary Armstrong, centre, alongside Scotland team-mates as he carries the Centenary Quaich in 1999. Picture: TSPL

Sir Walter Scott favoured quaichs for drinking whisky, and the practice of drinking from them is thought to have dated back at least to the 17th century - around the time that the cups became more popular as wooden quaichs were replaced with those made from sheet silver or pewter. These silver and pewter quaichs often bore engravings of Celtic patterns, coats of arms, mottos, initials or well-known phrases. Bonnie Prince Charlie was also a noted quaich carrier; the item was among his itinerary as he marched with his forces from Edinburgh to Derby in 1745.

In a ceremonial capacity, quaichs are also used at weddings and christenings. Consolidating its close ties with whisky, the title of Keeper of the Quaich is given to those who show “outstanding committment” to Scotland’s national drink.