Cursed! The astonishing story of porridge's poster boy
David Cameron may yet come to regret his breakfast encounter with the shot-putting, kilt-wearing giant who has adorned cereal boxes across the land for many a chilly winter. David Randall unravels an amazing tale
Here's a question you don't see every day. What do David Cameron and Jayne Mansfield have in common? Well, they both came unstuck while attempting to exploit that delicious Scottish comestible, porridge. And hereby hang several tales.
The Prime Minister's advisers obviously thought, when he went to Scotland to make a speech on independence last week, that nothing would enhance his Caledonian credentials more than being seen eating a bowl of the national breakfast. Better still, went the photo opportunists' calculations, he should do so when visiting the very factory which produces not only Quaker Oats, but Scott's Porage Oats (132 years old and still going strong) as well. This, to the PR person's mind, was like putting your hand down a drain and coming up with a Rolex. Alas, when it came to it, so awkward did Cameron look as he stared down at a plate of something which was not muesli, that it may well be, in the fullness of time, that this will be seen as the moment when the case against independence was irretrievably lost. If so, the curse of porridge will have struck again.
Ms Mansfield's encounter was more convoluted, but just as unsuccessful, and, of this and its unsavoury details, more anon. Suffice to know at this stage that her link to porridge was the athlete who has long been accepted as the model for the man who graces the front of the Scott's Porage Oats box. His name was Jay Scott, and to Highland Games followers of a certain vintage, he is a legend. Brought up on an island on Loch Lomond, and for a while rowing daily to school, he grew up to be a 6ft 2ins Adonis of remarkable strength.
He began entering events in the 1950s and, on his day, was well nigh unbeatable. At the Tobermory Games, for instance, he once won the 100 yards, 220 yards, hop, step and jump, long jump, pole vault, seven heavyweight events, and also the high jump, beating an American Olympic athlete into second place with a leap of 6ft 3ins. At the Aboyne Games, he won the trophy for best athlete seven times in a row, and, in a match against the leading decathlete of the day, was so far ahead after eight events that there was no need to throw the discus or run the 1,500 metres. There is also the story of how, arriving at the Taynuilt Games too late for the high jump, he then beat the winner's height clad in his kilt, coat and street shoes. Such was his prowess that versions of this story that have him clearing the bar carrying two suitcases are regularly believed and recycled.
His fame spread, and he was invited to take his prowess on tour. He tossed the caber in the Bahamas (a claim which few can make), and, in 1964, visited Canada and the US. Here his beguiling form came to the attention of Ms Mansfield, always on the lookout for someone whose physique matched her own extraordinary proportions. An assignation was made, and all seemed set for a memorable night of passion on the starlet's heart-shaped bed.
They were, however, not alone in Ms Mansfield's pink boudoir. Also there were her lapdogs. Scott was so bothered by them yapping at his heels that he asked for them to be taken away. He might as well have requested that she remove her make-up. Minders were summoned, and the man who had beaten all-comers on the games field was unceremoniously dumped into her swimming pool. Thus it was that Jayne, for once, failed to get her oats.
As for Scott, he returned to Scotland, where, aided by his wife, the actress and singer Fay Lenore, he farmed and built cabins, a caravan park and a marina on Loch Lomond for which he won a Civic Trust award. Then began a series of blows to the family. Their house burned down, and, at the age of 42, Scott had a tractor accident, suffering head injuries which meant he was never truly the same man again. A legacy of the accident was epileptic seizures capable of lasting several hours. Shortly afterwards, his wife, famed throughout Scotland for her beauty, was seriously hurt in a car crash. Her face took the brunt, and had almost to be rebuilt by surgeons. She recovered, made a name for herself afresh by appearing in the television series Take the High Road, and taught drama and singing, being the first person to coach Susan Boyle.
Scott's health, however, did not return, and, just before his 67th birthday, he died of a heart attack. His renown since then has rested, beyond caber-tossing circles at least, on his having been immortalised in full colour from 1955 as the very picture of rude health and vigour on the front of the Scott's Porage Oats box.
But even that now seems in doubt. The maker's present owners told us: "The image of our well-known kilted shot-putter first appeared on boxes of Scott's Porage Oats in 1924. According to our records, the legendary sportsman is modelled on an officer from Dreghorn barracks, one of the Highland Regiments near the old Scott's factory in Colinton, Scotland."
The curse of porridge breakfast strikes again.
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