Brian Monteith: The Pythonesque tale of Sir Eck’s Holy Grail

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Back in the mists of time, when men wore tights and comedians did not employ swear words to raise a laugh, there was an old talking picture called Monty Python and the Holy Grail. When humble serfs and maidens saw this celluloid telling of tales, their sides would split and their boils would burst as they laughed and laughed at this great satyre of the past.

Set in a real-life castle at Doune just beside the River Teith, the scene, known as Ye Old Sketch o’ The Black Knight, became a legend and has been retold many times since on Ye YouTube.

Although set in days of yore it is a fable for today, for there remains a contemporary figure that is very much like ye Black Knight, who deserves to be exposed as a knave or a fool. It goes something like this . . .

There was a Black Knight called Sir Eck of Arragonce who guarded the bridge to Castle Saltire. He was a cunning, canny foe who would only let those who agreed with his opinions pass over the bridge into the Kingdom of Scotia.

Many had tried to challenge the Black Knight, but apart from Sir Donald of Dewar who regularly bested him with his lance in weekly jousts on the Great Mound, there was no-one that could master him. Sir Donald had sadly died and, ever since, the Black Knight was imperious and merciless against all comers.

Against the Black Knight Lord Jack of Mac Connell had been quietly despatched and banished to a Palace on the Thames. Sir Iain the Grey Knight had his tongue cut out, while Red Tavish the Viking was burned at sea on his longship. Only Lady Annabel of the Blue Vespers was spared and her sweet virtue respected – in return for her Danegeld, paid every year for four years.

Other challengers had appeared, wishing to cross Castle Saltire’s bridge; Johannes the Red was sharpening her axe on universal benefits as practice for the coming great joust; Ruth of Rouen had taken inspiration from the shrine to Joan of Arc and was now wearing the Tory trousers.

None dared, however, to approach the Black Knight alone and were instead waiting to pounce together, when they might take him down from the front and rear.

So the Black Knight remained invincible. Everyone who dared argue with his opinion, debate over his great nostrums and challenge his authority was slain with his sharpest of words, his most pointed of accusations and the great traps he laid that opponents would walk into.

Until, that is, the day when St George of the Treasury rode up on his mount, clippity-clop, to the sound of coconut shells tied to his feet and observed a fight to the death.

After watching St Patrick the Green Knight die and fall into the great recycling cauldron, St George congratulated and flattered Sir Eck and asked to cross the bridge on his journey to save the Holy Pound. But the Black Knight stood in his way and said “None shall pass”.

Reluctantly, St George had to fight the Black Knight and after proclaiming the righteous words “If Scotland walks away from the UK it walks away from the UK pound,” he severed the Black Knight’s left arm, which fell to the ground. But still the Black Knight would not let him pass and said: “’Tis but a scratch”.

The Black Knight fought on, holding his sword with his remaining arm, but St George proclaimed: “A British pound requires a British banking union” to protect the serfs’ savings – and the right arm was then cut off.

At being literally disarmed, the Black Knight insisted his injuries were “Just a flesh wound!” and started to kick and insult St George – who then chopped off the Black Knight’s right leg, saying the words “A British pound requires British fiscal union” to protect the serfs’ taxes.

Refusing to acknowledge he has lost two arms and a leg, the Black Knight rammed his body into St George by hopping on his left leg and shouting abuse.

Insults flew back and forth until St George lost patience and finally cut of the Black Knight’s left leg as well, saying “A British pound requires a British political union” to protect the serfs from foreign knights, then sheathed his sword.

With the Black Knight reduced to a mere bloody stump of a man, St George rode off over the bridge to raise his Union flag over Castle Saltire, his coconut shells going clippity-clop. The British pound was saved but the armless, legless Black Knight still refused to admit defeat, shouting “Running away, eh? Come back here and take what’s coming to ya! I’ll bite your legs off!”

The moral of the story is clear: Sir Eck of Arragonce will never admit he is wrong, no matter how right the arguments of others are. If we want the British pound we will have to give up any new found independence and put Scotland at the mercy of Westminster – but without Scottish MPs to defend us. If we do not accept those terms we cannot keep the pound and our savings, our taxes and our freedoms will be at the mercy of Sir Eck of Arragonce.