Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


Scottish Village Bans Bananas For Boat Festival


Bananaphobia is real, but exceedingly rare. So we were surprised to hear that a village in Scotland has banned the tropical fruit. Last week, signs went up all over the village of Portsoy banning bananas in preparation for the town's annual Scottish Traditional Boat Festival. We suspect that the banana ban might be a way to appeal to tourists, but we decided to play along. I asked festival chairman Roger Goodyear what's behind the banana superstition, or if you're game for one more pun, Portsoy's complaint.

ROGER GOODYEAR: Well, it's one of several fears that seamen and fishermen, in particular, have. And if you think about the fact that the sea is a very dangerous environment, it's really not surprising that they take a great deal of care. Bananas is an interesting one. It probably goes back to the 1700s when there was that was a big trade of bananas from the west to the east to Spain. And apparently, a significant number of boats that were carrying bananas were lost. Banana boats were renowned for being overloaded, and that may be one of the reasons why so many of the boats disappeared. But there are other things like fear of the spiders that you find in bananas and also the pretty nauseous gas they give off when they're stored for any length of time.


NEARY: But, Mr. Goodyear, I assume that you have had this festival before without banning bananas, and there hasn't been any disastrous consequences before. So why now?

GOODYEAR: Well, actually, we have done a ban before because another superstition of the sea is whistling. Seamen do not like to hear anybody whistling on board. The reason for that is that whistling is supposed to bring up the wind. And certainly the days of sail, OK, you wanted some wind, but not extreme wind. But we introduced a ban on whistling 4 years ago, and a lot of people enjoyed that. So we thought we'd try another one.

NEARY: So did banning whistling have good consequences?

GOODYEAR: (Laughter) No. Except a lot of people came along and persisted in whistling. You can't really police it in the same way we don't really intend to punish anybody for eating a banana. But we're certainly frowning on it.

NEARY: Is there a black market in bananas right now?


GOODYEAR: (Laughter) No.

NEARY: (Laughter).

GOODYEAR: Not that we've noticed, but you can never tell. I mean, the pressure may grow. But generally speaking, we're being quite easy goesy (ph) about it, you know, certainly for the moment or until the festival starts when we may have to get a little bit tougher.

NEARY: Are a lot of people eating bananas?

GOODYEAR: Well, funny enough, over the last week, a lot of people seem to be taking a great deal of joy in actually standing in front of one of our banning signs and eating a banana and taking a selfie, of course. And to be perfectly honest, if it brings lots of people to Portsoy for the boat festival, we'll be delighted.

NEARY: (Laughter) Roger Goodyear is the chairman of the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival in Portsoy, Scotland. It was good talking with you.

GOODYEAR: Thank you very much. Good talking to you.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) Oh, yes, we have no bananas. We have no bananas today.

NEARY: We may have no bananas, but we do have our theme music, which was written by B.J. Lederman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.