Two facts relating to Ginger Nuts, and an old story

Image of Ginger Nut t-shirt

The headline says it all.

  1. Rhys McDonald has designed a Ginger Nuts t-shirt, on sale for about AU$25. This isn’t especially astounding news, but I wanted to finish the night’s blog postings with a picture and it was the only one handy.
  2. I am one of only 3 members of the Royal Order of the Gingernut — something which I’m still proud of, so I’ll tell you the old story… and show you an embarrassing photo.

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far away, I was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), an international organisation dedicated to the study and recreation of pre-17th century European History.

Hard-core members of the SCA take it Very Seriously Indeed. It’s far more than the occasional feast in medieval clothing. The SCA has the richness and complexity of a miniature medieval society. Globally, it’s a set of feudal kingdoms, and the Kings and Queens really do rule with absolute power — well, within the boundaries of the game, and for only a few months each.

I was one such hard-core member for a decade or so, with a particular interest in medieval heraldry — both the art and science of designing people Arms (heraldic insignia), and the ceremonies and protocol of the Royal Court.

Photograph of Stilgherrian (SCA name: Gereint Scholar) wearing the insignia of the Royal Order of the Gingernut

That’s my SCA alter ego in the photo, Gereint Scholar. The green over-garment is the uniform of a working herald. The sidelight tells me it’s early morning, so I was probably making routine announcements to the populace, and the tankard probably contains beer. The purple cap was my constant companion. I’m wearing two medallions. One is the “silver” (actually pewter) Leaf of Merit, given for service, and the other is a slowly-disintegrating Arnott’s Gingernut biscuit.

You see, some time earlier, at another SCA event, I had been silly. No, really, I had been silly.

Actually three people had been exceptionally silly, and Queen Anastacia decided we were to be punished. Now Anastacia likes Gingernut biscuits, specifically the ones made in Australia by Arnott’s. Everyone knows this, and gives her packets of them every time she visits. Far too many packets of them. This had become a running joke throughout that particular event, so Her Majesty decided to continue the joke.

Me and my two accomplices, Reynardine du Clifford and Robert Gordon of Ravensbrook — i.e. the usual culprits — were summoned before the Queen. Our punishment was given: we were inducted to the Royal Order of the Gingernut, and were commanded to “wear this biscuit until it falls from its string”.

It was a delightful piece of Royal Silliness. The assembled populace laughed at our expense. We laughed too. And by the end of the weekend Robert had spilt beer on his gingernut, dissolving it, and Reynardine spent too long in the rain, dissolving his.

Photograph of Stilgherrian (SCA name: Gereint Scholar) pouring beer

I, however, was conscious of the Royal Order’s status as, well, a Royal Order. I chastised them for not taking care of their award insignia. I resolved to take good care of mine

I wore my gingernut on its string with pride, at every SCA event, constantly, for a year — until eventually it cracked irreparably and did, indeed, fall from its string. There was much sadness.

[Photo: Stilgherrian (Gereint Scholar) and an unknown bystander at the Shire of Stormhold’s Island Sea War, Maldon VIC Australia, 9 January 1988. Photograph Copyright 1988 Peter Ryan (Gwynfor Lwyd).]

Stop Press: Yes, we can confirm that the tankard contains beer. I’ve found another photograph taken even earlier in the morning when I’m just emerging from my tent. I have not yet started duty as herald, so I’m not wearing the green over-garment — but I can be seen holding the tankard in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other. Since the SCA’s rule is “no post-17th Century technology on site”, I would have decanting the beer into the tankard rather than take a modern bottle on-site.

15 Replies to “Two facts relating to Ginger Nuts, and an old story”

  1. I was trying to explain the SCA at the Prince Of Wales a couple of weeks ago. No one believed me.
    I also went out out with a ginger nut but I called him Fanta Pants. I wont make that mistake again(the going out with, not the name calling).

  2. @Emma: I assume you mean you were talking at (in the location of) a pub called the Prince of Wales, not at (as in directed to) His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay and Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew and Lord of the Isles, Prince and Great Steward of Scotland?

  3. You are correct in your assumption, it was not His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay and Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew and Lord of the Isles, Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, as I would have said “in the presence of” rather than “at” and besides he doesn’t serve me Guinness.

  4. Unto His Excellency Baron Gereint Scholar OP does Baron Karl Faustus von Aachen, Mortar Herald, send greetings:

    Good Master, I thank you for this valuable update to our sometimes spotty award history. I have consulted your record and can confirm that this photograph was taken some time between 23 August 1986, when TRM Rolf and Lachlin awarded you the Leaf of Merit whose medallion you are wearing, and Easter Saturday, 2 April 1988, when TRM Jade and Anastacia made you a member of the Order of the Pelican, the token of which noble order appears nowhere about your person in these photographs.

    Now, Their Majesties reigned twice during that period, but my records show that They gave a number of awards to Their citizens in the fair green barony of Innilgard on the 11th of July, 1987, during the investiture of Brusi and Catherine, our first Prince and Princess. I am therefore making the reasonable assumption that your own award was presented at the same time. (Their Majesties have another batch of awards in August, but these were primarily given to natives of River Haven, so I will assume they made two trips to Their most southern lands.)

    I am happy to report that I have been able to update our records, and the full history of this most impressive Order is now made public.

    I thank you for your careful reporting, and I remain as ever

    Yours in Service,

    Karl Mortar

  5. what utterly bizarre timing….

    At 1640 yesterday I posted across to a good friend your website policies and got back the message “Is he from Adelaide” which i took as a statement rather than a question on the grounds of the incredibly few Stilgherrian’s on the planet…

    “We went to uni together” was the next comment, and also “He was an SCA’er”

    Followed quickly by “He’s lost a lot of his curly hair”

    This that had me pondering what Stil looked like WITH curly hair, and was going to ask at next appropriate opportunity….

    (Said friend was also the one whose CV I sent to you – check your emails to me from 30 March 06…)

    As for your SCA alter-ego “Gereint Scholar” – almost but not quite an anagram…

  6. I’m said friend!

    Of course the tankard contained beer. Or possibly mead. Or possibly, after a big night, both.

  7. Since the SCA’s rule is “no post-17th Century technology on site”

    Except for cameras, of course. Well, either that, or the photo was taken with a looong zoom lens.

  8. A lovely blast from the past. I’d seen the photos and was going to send you the link, but you’ve preempted me. Now, I seem to remember a story about someone’s jewelry box being stolen during a burglary and amidst the sorrow of losing many treasured items, there being some consolation in thinking of the burglar’s look when they discovered they had a box full of worthless trinkets and a crumbling gingernut biscuit. So which of the three of you was it?

  9. This post has generated much more commentary than I’d imagined.

    @Eric TF Bat: Thank you for finally correcting this historical injustice. I was pondering, though, “How should I respond to this pretentious usage of pseudo-medieval language?” I know! I’ll reply in Latin! Let’s put three years of high-school Latin to some practical use: proving your superiority over the peasant classes. But hey, it’s Friday, take it as read.

    @Bernard and @Di: Nice to see all the jigsaw pieces falling into place.

    @Zhasper: Oh don’t personalise it! What happens to anything you type other than words is WordPress defaults. I mean, who uses the <cite> tag anyway? Working for Google has affected your brain… bloody geeks!

    @Quatrefoil: The robbery wouldn’t have been mine. Toss a coin between Reynardine and Robert I guess.

  10. Well, you did explain yourself… that hair, should make a sweeping feathered comeback. there’s caricature material here

    Apparently there’s 2 SCA groups here, but the only evidence I’ve seen is the castle next to williamtown airport, oh yes, an actual castle (complete with colour bond metal cladding on the sides, just like the old days)

  11. @Rhys: Wait until you see some of the other photos I’ve found recently. I’m going to put a gallery of them up as soon as I’ve got a representative sample from the full range of my life.

    The SCA has a lovely map of the Kingdom of Lochac (Australia and New Zealand) and an alphabetical list. In Newcastle there’s the Barony of Mordenvale.

    There are other medieval “living history” groups too, though I haven’t bothered keeping track of them. That “castle” at Williamtown isn’t SCA, it’s the Monarch Military History Museum. Check this ABC Newcastle report!

  12. Just reading the local rag we get here (often filled with amusing typo’s and captions under photos, such as “photo caption goes here”) anyway the Monarch History Musem was in this weeks edition, jsut showcasing some of the cartoons and what not. Actually makes me want to go have a look.

    Awaiting said pictoral…

  13. Yes, the images of the cranially more hirsute version of Stilg are mine. They were taken at the War over the Fishing Rights to the Inland Sea, at Maldon, Victoria on Queens Birthday Weekend, 1987. Gereint was not yet a Pelican, Brusi and Catherine were the last Viceroy and Vicereign of the Crown Principlaity of Lochac, and Gereint had got his Ginger Nut for Queen Joanna of Puffin Cliffs at the preceding Rowany Festival, where Reynardine won the first Coronet Tourney for Eleanor Littelhayles.

    And most of my old SCA images can be perused at
    My real photography is at

  14. @furiousennui: Thanks muchly for the pseudo-historical fact-finding and clear pimpage of your websites. 🙂

    @Rhys: Oh, I haven’t gotten those old photos of me online yet. It completely slipped my mind. That’s not hard.

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