Ewan made whammydiddles in his bedsit in Glasgow, and sold them at folk festivals. Then Arthur Argo seized on them for the Marymass Folk Festival. Ken Goldstein was there that year, the only time Ewan met him. They were a feature story all week on radio and the newspapers, then exposed as some kind of fraud by latecomer the Daily Express. Then Ewan met Billy Connolly in the Trongate, and he showed Ewan a plastic 'whammydiddle' he had just bought in Woolworths.
The whole sorry story is told below.

Whammy Diddling and Chuckie Chucking

Whammy Diddling was introduced to Marymass in about 1968 by Ewan McVicar who had come across some unusual toys in America. Very soon, two new renowned world championships were born: Whammy Diddling and Chuckie Chucking, the former reputedly having been unearthed somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains, and the latter somewhere in Govan. Their elevation to World Championship status was down to Arthur Argo, who was running Marymass at the time.

Ewan had brought back two toys, a whammy-diddle and a flipper-dinger. One was a thin notched stick with a little propeller on the end that spun round when the stick was rubbed with another one. The other toy was a stopped pipe with an acorn shell on which sat a pith ball with embedded hooks. When you blew into the pipe the ball ascended to be hooked onto a loop of twisted wire.

Ewan began to manufacture the pipe and ball toy, and sell it at folk festivals. At one the Stewarts of Blair were fascinated to see a scaldie hawking, and bought several. At another, Arthur Argo bought one, and said, ‘We have a World Chuckie Stane Championship at Marymass, let’s have a World Whammy Diddling Championship too”.

Ewan set up a production line, first using bamboo, then hardcore pipes that had held rolls of photographic paper in a Scottish Meteorological Centre. Then at Marymass Ewan met visiting American folklorist Ken Goldstein, who said, “Gee, where I come from we call that a flipper-dinger". Ewan realised he had swopped over the two names, but it was too late. The name Whammy Diddling was misplaced, but in Irvine the incorrect name stuck. So it will be Whammy Diddling forever – in Scotland at least.

Arthur sent out a press release about the new Championship, and the name excited the media, who as usual got all the key facts wrong as they copied the story from each other, so that the initial statement that Ewan was making them in a Glasgow bed-sitter eventually became them being specially imported from the USA, till latecomer the Daily Express exposed the ‘fraud’ that ‘a man from the BBC’ (Arthur) was perpetrating on the public.

Meantime Marymass worthies decided that money was to be made, and jointly contributed £100 to advertise membership of a Whammy Diddling Club. The advert ran for a week because no-one stopped it, or checked if any sales were being made. No sales came in, and the funds ran out.

A legal expert had been consulted to see if the concept could be copyrighted, but a few weeks later Ewan was walking along Argyle Street, and met Billy Connolly. “Look what I just bought in Woolworths”, said Billy. He had a plastic version of the toy, with a small basket at the non-blowing end in which sat a ping-pong ball to be blown aloft. No copyright, no sales, not even the right name.

In the early years, the Whammy Diddling finals were presented on stage with contestants standing side-by-side. With careful breath control you earned half a point for raising the ball and hooking it onto the top ring, and a full point when you returned the ball to base. If the ball was dropped, the score went back to zero. Once points were amassed, it was possible to ‘stick’ and wait to see if another competitor reached the same score, so the competition became quite tactical. Points occasionally reached double digits.

In recent years, deterioration of the whammy diddles and a reduction in the number available, meant that winning scores are very low. The peak years of the Championships have passed but perhaps at some point on the future this ‘ancient art’ will be rediscovered and re-established.

Chucky chucking is a more local game played by children throughout the country in one form or another. It consisted of picking up and then throwing small stones in the air and catching them on the back of the same hand, starting with one chuckie and then building up to two, three, four or more stones.