ACHILLES, Mick Hucknall, Thor, Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth I. Not the Hamilton Accies midfield for Saturday but a group of personages united by one thing: red hair. All right, Achilles was arguably blond but, as we’ll see, the crossover between these two types is complicated. At any rate, it’s not worth splitting hairs about.

Scotland is a country much associated with red hair, as is Ireland. Supposedly, it’s a Celtic thing. But which of us has the most? Well, Google “which country has the most redheads, ken?”, and half the responses say Ireland and half Scotland.

However, everyone seems to agree that one to two per cent of the Earth’s humanoid population is ginger. Scotland’s redhead count is put at anywhere from 6 to 13 per cent and Ireland’s usually at 10 to 13 per cent. Probably they’re just getting the two of us mixed up. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of being abroad, you’ll know it happens, particularly in America. Or is it Canada?

At any rate, we seem to have the most in this corner of north-western Europe, probably because of all the clouds. Red hair and preternaturally pale skin prosper where sunlight is scarce. So why don’t Scandinavians and Russians have as many redheads? Well, they do have quite a few, particularly in south-west Norway and the Volga region.

Indeed, redheads are all over the place. There are Melanesians with red hair. Jewish people have a reasonable incidence of red hair, and 11 per cent of their beards are ginger. Indeed, in medieval times, people with red hair were identified and persecuted as Jews by the highly questionable Spanish Inquisition.

Red hair is multicultural. Even in England, ginger beards are common, often with head hair ostensibly a different colour. This is because the chin is further away than the top of the head from the Sun. Joke.

Red hair is historical. It crops up all the time. Bacchus, the Roman god of bevvy, was depicted with red hair. It was the hair of the god. Redheads crop up frequently in Roman frescos. The Thracians were described, by the Greek poet Xenophanes, as having blue eyes and red hair.

In that Iliad, the barnet of the aforementioned Achilles is most often translated as “blond” or “golden” but also sometimes “red” or “tawny”. In ancient Egypt, as well as the aforementioned Cleopatra (who was Greek), Ramesses II and the deity Set were said to have red hair.

Closer to hame, the Roman historian Tacitus said: “The reddish hair and large limbs of the Caledonians proclaim a German origin.” (Latin dictionaries translate rutilus variously as red/auburn/reddish yellow/strawberry blond). Bear in mind, too, that you must take classical ethnography with a large vat of salt.

Tacitus also described the Germans as having “fierce-looking blue eyes, reddish hair, and large bodies”. As with the Caledonians, you have to ask: “Surely, there were some wee sappy ones as well?”

A fairly distinguished history, then. So why do redheads get it in the neck so much? If blond or blonde (male or female) is so much admired, why is its close neighbour, ginger (often segueing into strawberry blonde), so derided?

Well, it could just be the Scottish connection as we’re the last people in the world at whom it is legitimate to laugh. Mean, unintelligible, ginger, yada-yada. But I suspect there’s more to it than that.

In medieval times, folk with red hair and green eyes were suspected of being witches, vampires or werewolves. Howling load of nonsense. In 1885, the novelist Wilkie Collins noted “a prejudice against red hair”. In LM Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, one character says of the redheaded heroine that “her temper matches her hair”.

The fiery temper is a common stereotype. Mind you, studies claim redheads aren’t good with either heat or cold, which could make one pretty irritable.

In the end, all prejudice on dumbo planet Earth comes down to folk being against anything different. It’s the ultimate tribalism. In recent times, some redheads have tried getting “gingerism” defined as a form of racism, though that hasn’t really taken off or been given official approval.

It’s true that people have been assaulted by nutters for having red hair. In 2008, a “Kick a Ginger” group was started on Facebook. In 2009, Tesco produced a ridiculously cruel Christmas card that said: “Santa loves all kids. Even the ginger ones.” In 2010, former Labour Equalities Minister Harriet Harman referred to Scottish Lib Dem Danny Alexander as a “ginger rodent”. Singer Mick Hucknall says he repeatedly faced prejudice because of his hair colour and supports this being considered a racial-style crime.

While it’s true that, by definition, redheads are a minority, Lord knows there are enough “identities” on the go already. Is it a good idea to identify yourself primarily by your hair colour? “Hello, I’ve got red hair.”

I get laughed at in the street for having a big red nose, but I don’t want “nasalism” to be categorised as a hate crime, even if my proboscis is part of my identity and I introduce myself at parties by saying: “Hello, I’ve got a big red nose.”

Meantime, gingers have started fighting back by celebrating their beautiful heids. There’s an annual Redhead Day in Holland, an Irish Redhead Convention, a redhead festival at the Gezer Kibbutz in Israel, and there’s been a Ginger Pride march in Edinburgh.

In 2002, widely publicised research purported to show that both red and blonde hair would become extinct within 200 years. But this was a hoax based on wilful misinterpretation of genetic data.

Again, in 2014, it was claimed red hair in Scotland could die out as the country got sunnier with climate change. But does it work like that? Red hair entered the genes millennia ago, and there’s a fair sprinkling of gingers in hot countries.

For now, redheads ain’t going anywhere. And thank goodness. The thought of a Scotland without redheads is enough to make your hair curl.