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Ferniehirst Castle
Chapter IV - The Left Handed Kerrs


The expression "Kerr-handed" and "corry-fisted" both refer to the well-established tradition of left-handedness within the Family. This probably goes back to Andrew Kerr, father of the first Sir Thomas, who was natuarally left-handed and found it useful in battle. In the first place it disconcerted the enemy; secondly, since the left half of the brain is the one that commands swift and decisive action, if it transmits urgent messages to the left hand and the left foot, they get there a few milliseconds faster than if they travel to the right hand and right foot. (many noted sportsmen, including cricketers, tennis-players and boxers, have also found their natural left-handedness useful for this reason.) Andrew Kerr therefore taught his sons and armed men-servants (who in accordance with custom took the family name on joining the household) to wield the sword or the Jethart Axe with the left hand, and they in turn taught their sons. The family was thus unique — certainly in Scotland and probably in the modern world — in converting natural right-handers to left-handedness, the reverse procedure being far more usual, though parents and teachers are now strongly advised against it. Ferniehirst is designed for left-handers to live in, as are several other Kerr houses. The only other well-known instance of deliberately cultivated left-handedness were the tribe of Benjamin in Ancient Israel, with a reputation in other aspects very similar to ours: "Benjamin shall raven as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey and at night he shall divide the spoils."

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