The Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) defines rumblethumps (under “rummle”) as
“A dish consisting of mashed potato with added milk, butter and seasoning; also mashed potato and cabbage or, less frequently, turnip”.
There are many different spellings, including rummle-thumps and rumilty-dumps to name just two. In later years the spelling seems to have settled to rumblethumps.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, rumblethumps seem to have been a common-enough dish, but by 1968 DSL describes it as “obsolescent”. However, in an example DSL cites from the Daily Mail of March 2004 for “crappit heids” [a fish dish], the following appears:
“... followed by stoved howtowdie and rumbledethumps or skirlie; platters of inky-pinky and sippets, perhaps, or delicious crappit heids wi’ a daud o’ clapshot”.
There is also this description from the Daily Record of April 2007:
“The main courses include peat smoked haddock served on a leek and herb risotto and Ramsay's fraoch sausages with rumbledethumps, onion rings and gravy…”.
Perhaps the dish has come back into fashion or maybe it’s just added to menus for the sake of nostalgia.
Chef Justin Maule, writing in the Daily Record of November 2020, mused on the name’s origins:
“I'm thinking specifically of two Scottish dishes: stovies - potatoes cooked with leftover scraps of meat and onions; and rumbledethumps - made again with leftover potatoes and turnip fried with onions and then baked. They are both absolutely delicious and rumbledethumps is another very strange name. I think, like clapshot, the name derives from the dish’s effects on one’s system.”
This Scots Word of the Week was written by Pauline Cairns Speitel. Visit DSL Online at https://dsl.ac.uk.