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VICTORIA UNIVERSITY LIBRARY 
TORONTO, ONTARIO 




SOURCE: 



UNION 

THEOLW10M- COLLEGE 
TOKONTO. 



OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS 



OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS 



LOCAL AND GENERAL 



E. J. GUTHRIE 



Author of " Tales of the Jacobittt," tc. 



LONDON : HAMILTON, ADAMS & CO. 
GLASGOW: THOMAS D. MORTSON. 

1885 




PREFACE. 



TN placing before the reading public this small book 
- on a great subject, it may be desirable to give a few 
words of explanation regarding its compilation. Some 
fifteen or sixteen years ago, in connection with other 
literary work regarding parochial and local matters through- 
out Scotland, the writer had occasion to consult somewhat 
fully, many of the works on such subjects, namely, works 
regarding topographical history and description. In these 
volumes, mostly either large, rare, or expensive and difficult 
of access by the general public, numerous references, it was 
observed, were made to old customs of all sorts, now either 
quite obsolete or rapidly becoming so. 

Getting increasingly interested in these frequent refer- 
ences, jottings were taken in many instances. Since then 
the accumulation has been added to from time to time, and 
from many sources, by personal contact with the people 
and otherwise, and now there being a goodly number, it 
has been suggested that they would form an interesting 
little volume, which might not be altogether unacceptable 
to those fellow-countrymen who are interested in the man- 
ners and customs of our fathers. In the circumstances 



PREFACE. 



described, the result of the protracted but pleasing process 
of research, sadly imperfect as it may be, is laid before the 
public in all humbleness of spirit, and as such it is hoped 
that criticism may be withheld. As the customs themselves 
only are given, and, not being burdened with remark or 
comment, the style of the collection must necessarily be 
fragmentary and brief ; perhaps however, this latter 
feature, in these days of the making of many books, may 
not be altogether a disadvantage. 

Witli regard to the works already referred to, as the 
source from which the writer is indebted for most of the 
various customs described in these pages. Almost all 
authoritative and standard authors likely to be of assistance 
have been consulted. Among many others the following 
may be specified : Skene's The Highlanders of Scotland, 2 
vols. ; Chalmers's Caledonia, 3 vols., 4to. ; Martin's Descrip- 
tion of the Western Islands; Pennant's Tour in Scotland, 3 
vols. ; Johnson and Boswell's Tour in Scotland; Roger's 
Scotland Social and Domestic, and other writings ; Sir Walter 
Scott's various writings ; Chambers' Picture of Scotland, and 
other writings ; Forsyth's Beauties of Scotland, 5 vols. ; Miss 
Gordon Cumming's In the Hebrides, etc., etc. But chief of 
all, is the magnificent collection edited by Sir John Sinclair 
entitled the Statistical Account of Scotland, in 21 volumes, 
and written by the respective parish ministers. The value 
and interest attaching to these latter volumes is far beyond 
all ordinary estimate, and yet the work is not at all easy of 
access, and is seldom seen by the general reader. 

London, May, 1885. 



CONTENTS. 



Page 

CHAPTER I. 

Introductory The Beltane Customs Origin of 
many Scottish Customs to a great extent unknown 
Holy-wells Water Spirits The Father of Nor- 
thern Magic Fancy's Land The Study of Old 
Customs, . . . . . .13 



CHAPTER II. 

The Curfew Curious Foot Ball Custom at Colding- 
ham Hand Ball Rural Festival at Lochtie Old 
Scottish Funeral Customs Burgess Customs at 
Selkirk Customs at Fcrfar commemorative of 
Queen Margaret Charitable Feast at Kirkmichael 
Singular Custom at South Queensferry The 
BurryMan, . . . . . .24 



CHAPTER III. 

Women playing at foot ball Singular wedding cus- 
tom in Ayrshire and the Border The ancient game 
of golf Unpleasant Burgess custom at Edinburgh 
The Robin Hood games The Poor Folks in 
Edinburgh The Siller Square Customs in connec- 
tion with the Blue Blanket banner The old cus- 
tom of Huiidfastiiig. . . . .36 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER IV. 

The Herds' Festival at Midlothian Old customs 
in connection with Archery The Hangman's Right 
at Dumfries The Cure for Scolds at Langholm 
Customs regarding Holy wells Curious customs 
at Rutherglen The feast of Sour Cakes Riding 
the Marches Foot-Race at Biggar Riding the 
Stang, . . . . . .49 

CHAPTER V. 

Old Marriage Customs in Perthshire Superstitions 
regarding the cure of disease Scottish customs re- 
garding the observance of Hallow e'en General 
description of this festival Pulling the Green Kail 
Eating the Apple Burning Nuts Sowing Hemp 
Seed Winnowing Corn Measuring the Bean 
Stack Eating the Herring Dipping the Shirt 
SleeveThe Three Plates Throwing the Clue- 
Illustrative Anecdote Pricking the Egg The 
Summons of Death, . . . .63 

CHAPTER VI. 

Carters' Plays at Liberton Superstitions in connec- 
tion with St. Catherine's Well Old customs at 
Musselburgh Riding the Marches again Lanark 
and Linlithgow The Polwarth Thorn Gretna 
Green Marriages Curious Land Tenure Customs 
Traditions regarding Macduffs Cross Singular 
customs regarding Licensed Beggars in Scotland, . 76 

CHAPTER VII. 

Customs connected with St. Filan's Well Scottish 
Custom regarding May Dew St. Serf's festival at 
Culross Palm Sunday held at Lanark Riding 
the Marches at Lanark Killing a Sheep at Lanark 
Old Custom at Kelso The King's Ease at Ayr- 
Burning the Chaff after death Creeling the Bride- 
groom in Berwickshire Marriage customs and 
Superstitions in Invernesshire Ancient customs at 
Carluke Scottish funeral customs Horse-Racing 
in Scotland Farmer's Parade in Ayrshire Shoot- 
ing for the Siller Gun at Dumfries, . . 88 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

Interesting Hand-ball custom in Perthshire Old 
custom in connection with Scottish Coronations 
The Game of Shinty at Roseneath Playing Foot- 
ball on Sunday Christmas Sports in Aberdeenshire 
Festive Games at Cullen Marriage and Funeral 
Customs at Knockando Superstitious customs in 
connection with the Dhu Loch The Well of Lor- 
retta at Musselburgh Chapman's Festival at Pres- 
tonCock-fighting at Westruther The Wapin- 
sh'aw at Perth Horse-racing at Perth in Olden 
Times The Mount of Peace Holy-wells at 
Muthill, . .... 103 



CHAPTER IX. 

Marriage and Funeral customs at Pettie The Duke 
of Perth and the Crieff Fair Fairy doings in Inver- 
ness-shire Curious marriage custom at Ardersier 
Superstitious customs at Foderty The old Scottish 
game of curling Farmers' custom at Elgin 
Happy and unhappy feet Funeral customs at 
Campsie Gool Riding in Perthshire, . . 



CHAPTER X. 

Old Customs at Kirkmichael The Pedlar's Tourna- 
ment at Leslie Superstitious custom at St. Mon- 
ance The Touch Hills The Maiden Feast in 
Perthshire The Society of Chapmen at Dunkeld 
Announcement of Death at Hawick The customs 
in connection with Nicknames Religious custom 
on the approach of Death Riding the Marches at 
Hawick Scottish Masonic customs Candlemas 
customs, ...... 127 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER XL 

Strange Custom at Kirkmaiden Singular obituary 
announcement at Bo'ness Holy- well observances in 
Kincardineshire Ancient races at Kilmarnock 
Creeling the Bridegroom again Old Border cus- 
toms Alarm signals The right hand unbaptised 
The fiery peat Good faith of the Borderers 
Sunday dissipation Punishment of matrimonial 
infidelity in former times Riding the stang 
Marriage processions Odd football custom at 
Foulden Strange holy well superstitions Curious 
customs with regard to fishing The siller gun of 
Kirkcudbright, . . . . ' . 139 

CHAPTER XII. 

Old Lammastide customs at Midlothian Some 
Galloway customs Throwing the hoshen Fykes 
Fair Giving up the names Old games The 
priest's cat Customs at new moon OJd marriage 
ceremonies Bar for bar The game of Blinchamps 
The game of Burly Whush The game of king 
and queen of Cantalon, .... 151 

CHAPTER XIII. 

Superstitions customs with regard to good or bad 
omens Yule boys The rumbling well in Gallo- 
way Marrying days in Galloway Michaelmas 
custom in Argyleshire Saint Cowie and Saint 
Couslan The lucky well of Beothaig The bridge 
of one hair in Kincardineshire The old custom of 
Rig and Rennel Some old customs of the Sinclairs, 161 

CHAPTER XIV. 

Some old customs at Wick Funeral processions at 
North Uist Marriage customs among the poorer 
classes in the North Going a rocking Old cus- 
toms in the Orkney Islands Fisherman's customs 
in setting out for the fishing ground The sow's 
day St. Peter's day Dingwall Court of Justice 
Old custom at Eriska Singular fisherman's custom 
at Fladda Interesting Highland custom Old 
customs at the Island of Eigg, , . 171 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER XV. 

Interesting customs at St. Kilda The water-cross 
at Barra Ocean Meat Curious wooing c\istom in 
the Western Islands Annual Festival in honour of 
St. Barr The fiery circle Old customs in the 
Island of Lewis Singular cure for Scrofula 
Strange custom regarding forced fire Devotion to 
St. Flannan Salmon-fishing Superstition The 
Sea-god Shoney Burying custom at Taransay 
Michaelmas custom at Lingay Customs regarding 
fowling expeditions, .... 179 



CHAPTER XVI. 

Form of prayer used for blessing a ship in the West- 
ern Islands Dedicating horses to the sun at lona 
Curious harvest custom in Island of Skye Drink- 
ing Custom in the Clan Macleod Old customs in 
connection with a holy loch in Skye The Evil 
Eye in the Western Islands Signalling customs in 
olden times Evening amusements in the Western 
Islands in former times Curious belief regarding 
quarreling and Herrings Belief in Brownies in 
the Western Islands, . . . .190 



CHAPTER XVII. 

Some interesting customs and superstitions in Shet- 
land Observance of Yule-tide Strange funeral 
custom The water of health The healing thread 
Curing ring-Form Curing burns Eif-shot 
Wearing charms Singular calving custom Belief 
in fairies The doings of fairies The higli land of 
the trows Superstition regarding neighbour's pro- 
fits, . . 198 



xii. CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

Some old Highland customs Courtship in former 
times Marriage ceremonies Manner of inviting 
guests The bridegroom and the bride The pro- 
cession Winning the kail The Marriage feast 
The dance Funeral customs Laying out the 
corpse The lyke-wake The coronach The fiery 
cross A Fasten's Eve custom Some Lowland and 
general customs Penal statutes at Galashiels 
Peebles to the play- -Marriage and kirking customs 
again Family spirits or demons, . . . 206 



CHAPTER XIX. 

Holding Kate Kennedy's Day at St. Andrews Golf 
again Amusing account of its origin and history 
Holy well customs at Dunkeld Holy wells at 
Huntly Numerous holy wells over Scotland 
Superstitious customs connected therewith The 
burning of the Clavie at Burghead, . . 218 



CHAPTER XX. 

Description of some of the old Druidical customs 
and their remains The Ancient Gods of the Britons 
The manner of celebrating the Bel-tein The first 
day in May The Relics of Druidical Worship in 
Kincardineshire The day of Baal's fire The day 
of the Fire of Peace Druidical Sacrifices May 
and Hallowe'en observances of Druidical origin 
Tinto Hill in Lanarkshire Remains of Druidical 
customs at Mouline In Perthshire At Cambus- 
lang Passing children and cattle through the fire, 225 



OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

LOCAL AND GENERAL. 

CHAPTER I. 

Introductory The Beltane Customs Origin of 
many Scottish Customs to a great extent unknown 
Holy-wells Water Spirits The Father of 
Northern Mayic Fancy's J^and The Study of 
Old Customs. 

TY7ITH the lapse of time many of our 
'* national and local customs which for 
so long a period, retained a firm and ap- 
parently lasting hold on the affections of the 
Scottish peasantry, have fallen into unmerited 
neglect. A similar fate has also overtaken 
those superstitious rites and observances so 
closely interwoven with our early national 
life so tenaciously adhered to by our rude 
forefathers, even when the pure light of 
Christianity had dawned upon our northern 
shores, and still clung to when the gentle 
St. Ninian was proclaiming his glorious mes- 
sage amidst the wilds of Galloway, and when 



14 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

Columba and his disciples had planted the 
cross, where for centuries had stood the 
proud monoliths of Paganism on the sea-girt 
isle of lona. 

Fortunately for those who are desirous of 
enlightenment, on the subject of our ancient 
Scottish manners and customs; even in this 
so styled " restlessly progressive age," Scot- 
land has her students of antiquities, who by 
their unwearied labours in the rich fields of 
antiquarian research, have obtained for us 
most valuable information in regard to these 
and other curious and interesting facts con- 
nected with our past history as a people. 
Our learned and devoted antiquaries have, 
as it were, taken up the glass of time and 
turned it backward with reverend hands to 
the dim twilight of history, restoring to us 
much that had seemed for ever lost, or that 
had been rendered unreal and shadowy by 
the mists of successive generations. 

Thus, across the centuries that lie between, 
we seem to see the lurid Baal fires blazing 
from the summits of our mountain peaks, the 
commemorative Beltane customs, with their 
attendant mysteries. The countless pilgrim- 
ages made to our reputed holy and life-giving 



ORIGIN AND MEANING UNKNOWN. 15 

wells ; and the dwellers on lone Orcadian 
shores, invoking the spirit of the storm, and 
offering up sacrifices to their heathen deities. 

It is much to be regretted that while our 
older local customs and superstitions, connect- 
ed with these very early and later times, have 
carefully been taken note of, in the generality 
of cases little account of their supposed origin 
has been given us. In all probability such 
was unknown to the actors themselves, and 
the bakers of the " dumb cakes " at Ruther- 
glen, in common with the herdsmen and 
shepherds who kindled their fire and drank 
their caudle on Beltane day, were ignorant of 
the real nature of the mysterious practices 
in which they were engaged. In the words 
of Miss Gordon Gumming, " Though the 
old customs are still retained, their origi- 
nal meaning is entirely forgotten ; and the 
man who throws a live peat after a woman 
about to increase the population, and he who 
on Hallowe'en throws a lighted brand over 
one shoulder without looking at whom he 
aims, little dreams whence sprang these time- 
honoured incidents." 

The Beltane or Bel-tein (Bd, in Gaelic, 
signifies sun ; and tein, fire) customs are 



16 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

believed to have had their origin in those 
heathen times, when our ancestors worshipped 
Baal the Sun god, and Ashtoreth, 

" Astarte, queen of heaven," 

with certain mystic observances chiefly 
connected with fire. In druidical times four 
great fire-festivals were held at different 
periods of the year ; namely, on the eve of 
May day, or Spring ; on Midsummer's eve ; 
on Hallowe'en, hence our Hallowe'en bon- 
fires ; and at Yule, the mid- winter feast. 

The eve of May day still retains its name 
of Beltane or Beltein, and formerly, as 
we have already observed, it was a day 
set apart by the herdsmen and others of 
the Scottish peasantry, for the celebration 
of such time-honoured observances as were 
deemed suitable to the occasion, such as 
digging a hole on a hill top and lighting a 
fire therein ; then lots are cast, and he on 
whom the lot falls, must leap seven times 
over the fire, while the young folks dance 
round in a circle. Then they cook their eggs 
and cakes, and all sit down to eat and drink 
and rise up to play. 

Water as well as fire was anciently held in 



HOLY WELLS. 17 

great reverence by our druidical ancestors, 
and the homage paid to wells and springs in 
great measure owed its origin to the worship 
of Neith or Nait, the goddess of waters. Pen- 
nant, when in Skye found traces of four temples 
erected in memory of this popular deity. 

There were numerous Holy wells in 
the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland, 
which were much resorted to in cases of sick- 
ness by the more superstitious of the 
peasantry, and even yet in certain remote 
districts the old superstition still lingers. 
The benefits supposed to be derived from 
draughts of the sparkling waters varied in 
character. Certain fountains proved effica- 
cious when the eye-sight was affected ; others 
such as St. Fillans and Strathill, Perth- 
shire, were resorted to in cases of insanity ; 
a spring near Ayr cured King Robert Bruce 
of his leprosy; that of Tobar-na- danker nid 
was believed to denote whether a sick person 
would overcome his complaint ; one loch in 
Boss-shire is said to cure deafness, and so 
on. Water drawn from under a bridge " o'er 
which the living walked and the dead 
were carried," as well as south - running 
water, were reputed to possess wonderful 



18 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

properties. Those pilgrims who frequented 
wells for healing purposes, made votive 
offerings to the guardian spirit of the water, 
or to the saints to whom they were dedi- 
cated. These generally consisted of pieces of 
cloth, thread, and other such simple materials 
occasionally a small coin was deposited in 
the fountain. If trees and bushes grew in 
the immediate neighbourhood of these 
Siloams, to the branches of these the gifts 
were attached. 

Well worship in common with witchcraft 
and sorcery was sternly prohibited in some 
instances by the early fathers of the Church. 
In A.D. 1182, St. Anselm in England forbade 
the superstitious practice, and so late as 1638 
the General Assembly of Scotland waged a 
determined warfare against it and other 
idolatrous observances, as instanced by the 
following: persons "found superstitiously 
to have passed in pilgrimage to Christ's Well 
(near Doune, Perthshire) on the Sundays of 
May to seek their health, that they shall 
repent in sacco (sackcloth) and linen three 
several Sabbaths, and pay twenty lib. (Pounds 
Scots) toties quoties for ilk fault." In 1652, 
the Kirk-Session of Auchterhouse dealt with 



WATER SPIRITS. 19 

A woman for carrying her child to a well in 
May. 

The old superstitions once so common in 
the Orkney and Shetland Islands have in a 
great measure disappeared, but formerly the 
belief in witchcraft was almost universal, 
instances have occurred even at the end 
of last century. Hill spirits, kirk spirits, 
and water spirits, were held responsible 
for sickness and divers other misfortunes. 
" Trows" inhabited Trolhouland the hill of 
demons or Trows and within its recesses had 
their abodes, whose walls were dazzling with 
gold and silver. Brownies were the inmates 
of housas, and at night had tables placed for 
them in the barn where they slept, covered 
with bread, butter, cheese, and ale, while 
charms for killing sparrows that destroyed 
the early corn, expelling rats and mice from 
houses, for success in brewing and churning, 
procuring good luck, curing diseases of cattle 
and human beings, were in constant use. 
These and other superstitious beliefs, says 
a local writer, have been imported into Shet- 
land in very early times. The same writer also 
tells us that these can be traced to the earliest 
period of our history, and that nowhere else 



20 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

in Scotland, excepting the remoter Hebrides, 
have they maintained their ground so long as 
in the popular creed of Shetland. This author 
styles Odin the preceptor if not the father of 
northern magic, and thinks that it was the 
early connexion of Orkney and Shetland 
with Scandinavia, and the belief in Odin 
which made the ancient inhabitants ac- 
quainted with the arts and mysteries 
embodied in the wild mythology of the 
northern peoples. 

This once dread Odin the Scandinavian 
sun-god seems to have been a great 
magician. He instructed his subjects in the 
charms which rendered their weapons invinci- 
ble in battle. He had two familiar spirits 
in the shape of ravens who sat on his shoulder 
and informed him of everything that went on 
in the outer world. These ravens, in the 
superstitious belief of the people, appear 
to have survived the days of paganism, 
and have figured in our trials for witch- 
craft during last century. Odin had 
also his messengers or handmaidens, the 
valkyries, who travelled through the air and 
over seas mounted on swift winged horses, 
with drawn swords, in order to select the 



THE FA THEE OF NORTHERN MAGIC. 21 

particular mortals destined to die in battle, 
and to conduct them to Valhalla, the paradise 
of warriors. Odin is supposed to have stated 
that he knew a song of such marvellous 
power, that were he caught in a storm he 
could hush the winds and make the air per- 
fectly calm. 

An oath by Odin was formerly deemed 
legal as well as sacred. In some parts 
of Orkney it was the custom for all 
young couples meditating matrimony to 
go by moonlight to the Standing Stones 
of Stenness, known as the Temple of 
Odin, whom the woman, kneeling on the 
ground, must invoke. The lovers afterwards 
plighted their troth by clasping hands through 
the perforated stone of Odin. In the course 
of last century the elders of the local church 
punished a faithless lover because he had 
broken the promise thus made. 

Notwithstanding all that has been written 
and said against our once popular beliefs, and 
in spite of " the ban of kirk and school," 

" There's something in that ancient superstition, 
Which, erring as it is, our fancy loves," 

and the superstitions connected with our 
Highlands and Islands have found favour 



22 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

with the poet as well as furnished fertile 
fields for antiquarian discussion. 

Who knows not Collins' beautiful lines : 

" 'Tis Fancy's land to which thou sett'st thy feet, 
Where still, 'tis said, the fairy people meet 
Beneath each birken shade on mead or hill. 
There each trim lass that skims the milky store 
To the swart tribes their creamy bowl allots ; 
By night they sip it round the cottage door, 
While airy minstrels warble jocund notes. 
There every herd by sad experience knows 
How wing'd with fate their elf-shot arrows fly 
When the sick ewe her summer food foregoes, 
Or, stretched on earth, the heart-smote heifers lie. 
Such airy beings awe the untutored swain. 

'Tis thine to sing how, framing hideous spells, 

In Skye's lone isle the gifted wizard seer 

Lodged in the wintry cave which Fate's fell spear, 

Or in the depth of Unst's dark forest dwells. 

How they whose sight such dreamy dreams engross, 

With their own visions oft astonished droop 

When o'er the watery strath or quaggy moss 

They see the gliding ghosts unbodied troop ; 

Or, if in sport, or on the festive green, 

Their destined glance some gifted youth descry 

Who now perhaps in lusty vigour seen 

And rosy health, shall soon lamented die. 

For them the viewless forms of air obey, 

Their bidding heed, and at their beck repair ; 

They know what spirit brews the stormful day, 

And heartless oft like moody madness stare 

To see the phantom trains their secret work prepare. 

These filled in olden time the historic page, 

When Shakespeare's self, with ivy-garland crowned, 

Flew to these fairy climes, his fancy sheen 



THE STUDY OF OLD CUSTOMS. 23 

In musing hour ; his wayward sisters found, 
And with their terrors dressed the magic scene. 
From them he sung when 'mid his bold design 
Before the soul afflicted and aghast 
The shadowy Kings of Banquo's fated line 
Through the dark cave in gleamy pageant passed. 

Yt frequent now at midnight's solemn hour 
The rifted mounds their yawning cells unfold 
And forth the monarchs stalk with sovereign power, 
In pageant robes and wreathed with sheeny gold, 
And on their twilight tombs aerial council hold." 

Dean Ramsay has left a charming and 
truthful record of old Scottish life and man- 
ners, chiefly in the upper classes of society 
and derived from accessible sources ; but the' 
student of history or of antiquities who wishes 
to obtain an insight into our traditions and 
superstitions, as well as the local customs and 
usages of humble life, has an exceedingly 
wide and varied field for investigation, and 
abundance of encouragement to prosecute the 
search. A search regarding which, it may be 
said, little more than a beginning has been 
made, much that as yet is but imperfectly 
understood will be fully explained at some 
future time. 

From personal acquaintance with Scottish 
social life, and by consulting numerous 
literary authorities, the editor of the present 



24 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

unpretending volume has sought to deal with 
the subject in a brief and interesting manner. 
If successful in, to some extent, drawing 
greater attention to our fast dying out 
customs and usages, the faults of a book, 
necessarily brief and fragmentary may be 
overlooked in the interest of the subject. The 
record of these customs is more than a matter 
of antiquarian curiosity, for it may help to 
throw light upon the life and the literature 
of Scotland in bygone days, and surely every- 
thing that enables us to understand our fore- 
fathers better is to be commended, and ought 
to be regarded as highly instructive. 



CHAPTER II. 

The Curfew Curious Foot Ball Custom at Coldiny- 
ham Hand Ball Rural Festival at Lochtie 
Old Scottish Funeral Customs Burgess Customs 
at Selkirk Customs at For far commemorative of 
Queen Margaret Charitable Feast at Kirkmichael 
. Singular Custom at South Queensferry The 
Burry Man. 

THE CURFEW. 

f\F our numerous ancient customs now rapid- 
^ ly falling into disuse with the March of 



THE CURFEW. 25 

the Centuries, none is more regretted by us 
than the cessation of the tolling of the 
Curfew. Musical Curfew ! cradled amid the 
din of the Norman camp dying out in our 
more peaceful Victorian era ; in charming 
unison with the sweet calm of a summer's 
evenings are thy soft notes floating on the 
breeze. And yet of what a memorable and 
stormy epoch in our history do they not 
remind us ? They tell of the time when our 
land was invaded by an invincible host who 
changed for us " our manners, our laws, our 
language, and our Kings " of the days when 
the curfew of less troublous times was the 
Couvre-Feu of a Conqueror. 

OLD FOOT AND HAND BALL GAMES. 

On a particular day of the year set apart 
for the purpose, it was formerly the custom 
for the husbands and bachelors belonging to 
Ooldingham to arrange themselves in opposing 
factions on the moor, and engage in a severe 
contest at the game of football ; the former 
playing eastwards, and the latter towards the 
west. The sea shore formed a boundary for 
the married men ; that of the un-married 
men was more difficult to get at, being a hole 
in the earth about a mile and a half west 



26 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

from the town. Latterly, the bachelors 
aimed at the barn-door of a farm steading 
which had been erected on the same site of 
ground. Under these favouring circum- 
stances it is almost needless to say that 
the Benedicts were invariably victorious. 
Old and young turned out to view this 
favourite and exciting pastime, and the entire 
day was generally devoted to some kind of 
rural merry-making. 

Foot and hand ball have long been 
favourite games with the people of Scot- 
land. In olden times nearly every district 
had its annual ba-playin. The more ex- 
pert at the pastime in one parish used 
to challenge those of another, and a sharp 
engagement was the result. The following 
were the rules observed on those occasions : 
It was not allowable to touch the ball with 
the hand after it had been cast upon the 
ground. An opponent might be tripped when 
near the ball, and more especially when about 
to hit it with his foot, but a competitor could 
not be laid hold of, or otherwise interfered 
with when at a distance from the ball, the 
party who out of three rounds hailed the ball 
twice was proclaimed victor. English forays 



FOOT AND HAND BALL. 27 

were frequently conducted under the guise 
of football and handball matches. In the 
year 1600, Sir John Carmichael, Warden of 
the Middle Marches, was killed by a party of 
Armstrongs on their return from a game at 
football. Handball was more popular in the 
Southern districts, the most celebrated match 
of this last mentioned game which took place 
in modern times was played at Carterhaugh 
in the year 1815, the promoter of the match 
being the Earl of Home. 

SPORTS IN FIPESHIRE. 

On the summit of Benarty, which rises 
above Loch Orr, in the parish of Lochtie, 
in Fifeshire, there were formerly held 
games in which the Fifeshire herdsmen 
and those of the neighbouring counties 
were the performers. These came to the 
place of meeting accompanied by their wives, 
daughters, and sweethearts ; and there being 
no lack of provisions, the fte was kept 
up for a few days, the revellers bivouacking 
during the night. Their chief games were 
the golf, the football, and the Wads (a pledge 
or hostage), what with howling, singing, and 
drinking, after the manner of the modern Irish, 
they contrived to spend a very happy time. 



28 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

This rural custom is now abandoned, the 
number of herdsmen being much diminished, 
and the position not being of such conveni- 
ence owing to the increased number of fences. 

OLD FUNERAL CUSTOMS AT AVONDALE. 

Much time was lost and no small ex- 
pense incurred by the way in which funerals 
were conducted in the parish of Avondale 
and elsewhere, receiving their " service " 
in the barn or place of meeting. Though 
" warned " to attend at twelve o'clock, 
the guests seldom made their appearance 
till much later, and did not leave the 
place with the body before two o'clock. In 
general, three services were given ; two 
glasses of wine and one of whisky or rum. 
Formerly, vast numbers of the friends and 
neighbours assembled to see the "chesting" 
or body put into the coffin. After which 
they generally drank tea, perhaps in the same 
room with the coffin. 

In former times the ceremonies attendant 
on funerals were of a most singular nature. 
These varied according to the district. At 
the ancient Lyke-wake much unseemly mirth 
and revelling were formerly indulged in. In 
some of the more distant parishes the pro- 



FUNERAL CUSTOMS. 29 

feedings ended in a festival at the chesting 
of the corpse. Not unfrequently dancing as 
well as music followed part of these enter- 
tainments at Highland funerals, and when 
such a pastime was indulged in, to the 
relatives of the deceased was assigned the 
honour of opening the ball. While engaged 
in the duty of watching the dead prior to the 
funeral, the more sedate Lowlander generally 
confined himself to a silent process of drinking. 
The convivialities attendant on the death of 
a Highland chieftain in some instances proved 
nearly ruinous to his descendants. A 
succession of " Services " such as these in 
vogue in Avondale and Carluke, were com- 
mon amongst the poorer classes in later times, 
and until very recently it was cus-tomary for 
crowds of beggars to come to the house from 
which a funeral had just departed, and receive 
the pence put aside for that benevolent 
purpose. 

BURGESS CUSTOM AT SELKIRK. 

A great trade in shoemaking was once 
carried on by the inhabitants of Selkirk, of 
which the only existing memorials are the old 
familiar song of the " Souters of Selkirk/' 



30 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

" Up wi' the Souters o' Selkirk 
And down wi' the Earl of Home ; 
And up wi' a' the braws lads 
That sew the single-soled shoon. 

" Fye upon yellow an' yellow, 
Fye upon yellow an' green ; * 
But up wi' the true blue an' scarlet, 
An' up wi' the single-soled sheen. 

" Up wi' the Souters o' Selkirk, 
For they are baith trusty an' leal ; 
An' down wi' the men o' the Merse, 
An' the Earl may gang to the deil." 

and the singular customs observed at the 
conferring the freedom of the burgh. Four 
or five bristles, such as are used by shoe- 
makers, are attached to the seal of the 
burgess ticket. These the new made burgess 
must dip in his wine and pass through his 
mouth in token of respect for the Souters 
of Selkirk. The only instance of any remis- 
sion of this disagreeable ritual was in favour 
of Prince Leopold (of course not the late 
Prince of that name), who was made a burgess 
in 1819. It is said, there is every reason to 
believe that the words of the old song allude 
to the battle of Flodden, and the different 

* The liveries of the House of Home. 



THE GRACE CUP. 31 

behaviour of the Souters, who distinguished 
themselves by their valour at Flodden, and 
of whom few survived to return from the fatal 
field, and the behaviour of Lord Home upon 
that occasion. At election times, when 
the Souters begin to get merry, they always 
call for music, and for that song in particular. 
A standard, the appearance of which bespeaks 
its antiquity, is still carried annually on the 
day of riding the Marches by the corporation 
of weavers, by a member of which it was 
taken from the English on the field of 
Flodden. 

THE GRACE CUP. 

It would appear from ancient historical 
records that the old county town of Forfar 
owed much to the munificence of Margaret 
Atheling, Queen of Malcolm Canmore, whose 
piety and good works won for her the proud 
designation of St. Margaret of Scotland. 
And tradition, it is said, celebrates her 
attention to the instruction of the young 
women of Forfar. In order to evince their 
gratitude to their beloved Queen for the many 
benefits conferred upon the town, the inhabi- 
tants made a holiday of the 19th of June, in 
memory of her, and instituted an annual ball 



32 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

in her honour. St. Margaret did much to 
overcome the natural roughness of the Scottish 
nobles, as well as their carelessness in the 
matter of religious observances ; and it was 
the law of her table that none should drink 
after dinner who did not wait the giving of 
thanks. Hence the origin of the phrase 
known throughout Scotland of the Grace Cup. 

OLD CUSTOM AT KIRKMIGHAEL. 

" Bear ye one another's burdens " seems to 
have been one of the Bible precepts that 
were formerly reduced to practice by the inhabi- 
tants of Kirkmichael. It is recorded of the 
old parishioners that when any of the poorer 
classes were reduced by sickness, losses or 
any other kind of misfortune, a friend was 
sent to as many of their neighbours as they 
thought requisite, to invite them to what they 
called a " drinking." This drinking consisted 
of a little beer, with a piece of bread and 
cheese, and sometimes a small glass of brandy 
or whisky, previously provided by the needy 
persons or their friends. The guests assem- 
bled at the time appointed, and after the 
people of the house had received from each 
a shilling, and perhaps more, the company 
amused themselves for about a couple of hours 



THE BURRT MAN. 33 

with music and dancing, and then went home. 
Such as could not attend themselves usually 
sent their charitable contributions by any 
neighbour who chose to go. These meetings 
sometimes produced from five to seven pounds 
for the distressed person or family. 

THE BURRT MAN. 

A singular custom observed even at the 
present day amongst the youth of Queensferry 
has been supposed to commemorate there the 
passage of Malcolm Canmore and Queen 
Margaret to and from Edinburgh to Dun- 
fermline, and to indicate the origin of the 
place. The observance referred to is the 
annual procession of the " Burry Man," got 
up on the day preceding the annual fair, 
amongst the boys of Queensferry, and which 
was thus described in the Journals of the day 
The annual saturnalia of the ancient port 
of passage over the Firth of St. Margaret the 
Queen, came off on Friday 9th August, having 
been preceded on Thursday 8th, according to 
ancient customs, by the singular perambulation 
of the Burry Man, i.e., a man or lad clad 
loosely in flannels stuck over with the well- 
known adhesive bur of the Arctimus Bardana 
(the bur thistle) of Burns, though in reality not 



34 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

a thistle but a burdock as botanists can 
aver. 

The burrs are found in considerable pro- 
fusion at Blackness Point in the immediate 
vicinity of Hopeton House. A few plants 
also grow in the neighbourhood of New Halls 
Point, and beyond the rocks of the opposite 
shore of North Queensferry where we have 
found it on the Links near Inverkeithing ; 
and from all these and even more remote 
places are they gathered if necessary, for this 
occasion. So essential are they deemed to 
the maintenance of the curious ceremony, the 
origin and object of which are lost in antiquity, 
and long ago foiled the antiquarian research 
of Sir Walter Scott. Tradition at present 
connects the custom with the erection of 
Queensferry into a royal burgh, which did not 
take place till the time of Charles I., and 
even points to the previous constitution as 
a burgh of regality, alleged to have been 
originated under Malcolm Caen-Mohr, in which 
case the representation of the burgh by the 
Burry Man would amount to a whimsical, 
practical pun. The custom in question can 
be traced back to the period of the last battle 
of Falkirk ; for an old woman of 80, whose 



THE BURRT MAN. 35 

dead mother was aged 1 3 at the date of the 
battle (1746) stated that the observance has 
been unaltered from then till now. 

On the day preceding the fair, the Burry 
Man, who requires to be either a stout man 
or robust lad, is encased in flannels, face, 
arms, and legs all being covered so as to 
resemble as closely as possible a man in chain 
armour from the close adhesion of the burrs. 
The hands as well as the tops of two staves 
grasped with extended arms, are beautifully 
adorned with flowers. The victim thus 
accoutred is led from door to door by two 
attendants who likewise assist in upholding 
his arms by grasping the staves. At every 
door in succession a shout is raised and the 
inhabitants come forth bestowing their kindly 
greetings and donations of money on the 
Burry Man, who in this way generally collects, 
we believe, considerable sums which are 
equally divided and spent at the fair by the 
youths associated in the exploit. 

Sometimes there are two persons thus selec- 
ted and led in procession from door to door, the 
one being styled the King and the other the 
Queen, in allusion to the passage of the royal 
couple through the burgh. An ingenious 



36 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

author adapting his description to the royal 
visit of 1822, has even gone the length of 
adducing the particulars of the burgh arms as 
confirmatory of the origin of the observance 
under Malcolm III. The town's arms consist, 
1st, of a ship ; 2nd, of a fine figure of a 
youthful female in the act of landing ; 3rd, a 
cross to represent Margaret's attachment to 
the Christian faith, and four or five sea fowls 
said to have appeared near the spot where 
the Queen landed. It is, or used to be, a 
popular belief that the giving up of this quaint 
custom would be productive of misfortune to 
the town. 



CHAPTER III. 

Women playing at foot ball Singular wedding 
custom in Ayrshire and the Border The ancient 
game of golf Unpleasant Burgess custom at Edin- 
burgh The Robin Hood games The Poor Folks 
in Edinburgh The Siller Square Customs in 
connection with the Blue Blanket banner The old 
custom of Handfastiny. 

WOMEN PLAYING AT FOOTBALL. 

TN the ancient burgh of Musselburgh, on 
Shrove Tuesday, there used to be a 



WOMEN PLAYING AT FOOTBALL. 37 

standing match at football between the mar- 
ried and unmarried fishwomen, in which the 
former were always victorious. No doubt 
the knowledge that their victory would re- 
flect honour on their " gudemen and bairns '* 
would nerve the arm and impart vigour to- 
the stroke of the Musselburgh matrons on 
the occasion of these animated contests. 

SINGULAR WEDDING CUSTOMS. 
When a young man went to pay his ad- 
dresses to his sweetheart, instead of going to 
her father and declaring his passion, he ad- 
journed to a public-house, and, having made 
a confidante of his landlady, the object of his 
attachment was at once sent for. The fair 
maiden thus honoured seldom refused to- 
come ; and the marriage was arranged over 
constant supplies of ale, whisky, and brandy t 
The common form of betrothal on such occa- 
sions was as follows : the parties linked the 
thumbs of their right hands, which they 
pressed together, and vowed fidelity. 

" My sweetest May, let love incline ye, 
Accept a heart which he designs ye ; 
And as you cannot, love, regret it, 
Syne for its faithfulness receive it. 
'Tis proof as shot to birth or money, 
But yields to what is sweet and bonny ; 



38 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

Receive it, then, wi' a kiss and a smiley, 
There's my thumb, it will ne'er beguile ye." 

On the second day after their wedding, a creel- 
ing, as it is called, took place. That is, the 
newly- wedded pair and their friends assem- 
bled in a field agreed upon, and into a small 
basket or creel some stones were placed. 
This burden the young men of the party 
carried alternately, allowing themselves to be 
caught and kissed by the maidens who 
accompanied them. After a great deal of 
innocent mirth and pleasantry, the creel fell 
at length to the young husband's share, who 
was generally obliged to carry it for a con- 
siderable length of time, none of the young 
women appearing to take compassion on him. 
At last his fair partner flew to the rescue, 
and kindly relieved him of his burden. The 
-creel went round again, more fun ensued, 
then the entire company dined together and 
talked over the events of the day. This 
custom, which was generally practised in 
Border villages and in some parts of Ayr- 
shire and elsewhere, was believed to shadow 
forth the cares a man incurred by marrying, 
but of which it was in the power of a good 
wife to relieve him. 



SINGULAR WEDDING CUSTOMS. 39 

Marriage customs, in common with those 
attendant on funerals, were formerly of an 
extravagant and peculiar character. When 
country couples were about to marry, all 
manner of contributions were showered upon 
them by their neighbours and friends. In 
olden times, it was customary for those who 
intended being present at the marriage to 
bestow a Penny Scots on the youthful pair ; 
hence originated the term of Penny, or Pay- 
ing Wedding. The festivities indulged in 
on those occasions frequently extended over 
several days, and such scenes of riot ensued 
in consequence of the heavy drinking that 
these Penny Weddings were at length con- 
demned by the General Assembly. 

THE ROYAL SCOTTISH GAME. 

Golf is an amusement said to be peculiar 
to Scotland. In Edinburgh, it has been a 
favourite pastime from time immemorial. By 
a statute of King James II. , it was prohibited 
that it might not interfere with the "weapon 
shawings." These were assemblies of the 
populace in military array and properly 
armed, which were organised by the Sheriff 
of every county at least twice in the year. 
Golf is commonly played on rugged ground 



40 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

covered with short grass upon the seashore, 
called in Scotland Links. This popular pas- 
time is usually played by parties of one or 
more on each side. Each person provides 
himself with balls and a set of clubs. The 
ball is extremely hard, and about the size of 
a tennis ball. The club with which the ball 
is usually struck is slender and elastic, 
crooked at the end, which is faced with horn, 
and headed with lead to render it heavy. A 
set of clubs consists of five in number a play 
club, a scraper, a spoon, an iron-headed club, 
and a short club called a putter. The second, 
third, and fourth of these are adopted for re- 
moving the ball from the various inconvenient 
positions into which it may come in the course 
of the game. The putter is used when a short 
stroke is intended. The game is played thus : 
Small holes are made in the ground at the 
distance of about a quarter of a mile from 
each other, and in such a direction as to en- 
compass the whole field. The game is won 
by the party who lodges his balls in the 
different holes in succession with the fewest 
strokes. The art of the game consists, first, 
at the outset, in striking the ball to a great 
distance and in a proper direction so that it 



BURGESS CUSTOM AT EDINBURGH. 41 

may rest upon smooth ground ; secondly, and 
this is of the greatest importance, when near 
the hole so to proportionate the force and 
direction of the stroke, or putting, as 
it is called, that the ball may with a 
few strokes be driven into the hole. 
Golf is a Scottish game of great antiquity. 
Although prohibited by James II., it was a 
popular pastime in the reign of James VI., 
who practised it himself while at Dunfermline, 
.and introduced it afterwards at Blackheath, 
in Kent. During his residence in Scotland, 
in 1641, Charles I. played golf on the links at 
Leith. His royal brother, James VII., was 
also devoted to this national sport. The 
headquarters of golf is at St. Andrews ; and 
the rules authorised by its club are adopted 
by all the other golfing societies throughout 
the country. 

BURGESS CUSTOM AT EDINBURGH. 

In the " good old times " an annual pro- 
cession took place at Edinburgh on the 
King's birthday, when every new burgess 
who presented himself was initiated by the 
disagreeable process of a bumping against a 
,stone. 



42 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

THE ROBIN HOOD GAMES. 

The Robin Hood Games were enacted with 
great vivacity at various places, but particu- 
larly at Edinburgh ; and in connection with 
them were the sports of the Abbot of Diso- 
bedience, or Unreason, a strange, half serious 
burlesque on some of the ecclesiastical 
arrangements then prevalent, and also a 
representation called the Queen of May. A 
noted historical work* thus describes what 
took place at these whimsical merrymakings 
" At the approach of May, the people assembled 
and chose some respectable individuals of their 
number very grave and reverend citizens 
perhaps to act the parts of Robin Hood and 
Little John, of the Lord of Disobedience or 
the Abbot of Unreason, and make sports- 
and jocosities of them. If the chosen 
actors felt it inconsistent with their tastes, 
gravity, or engagements, to don a fantastic 
dress, caper and dance, and incite their neigh- 
bours to do the like, they would only be 
excused on paying a fine. On the appointed 
day, always a Sunday or holiday, the people 
assembled in their best attire and in military 

* The Domestic Annals of Scotland. 



PRIVILEGED BEGGARS. 43 

array, and marched in blythe procession to 
some neighbouring field, where the fitting 
preparations had been made for their amuse- 
ment. Robin Hood and Little John robbed 
bishops, fought with pinners, and contended 
in archery among themselves as they had 
done in reality two centuries before. The 
Abbot of Unreason kicked up his heels and 
played antics like a modern pantaloon. Maid 
Marian also appeared upon the scene in 
flower-spirit kirtle, and with bow and arrows 
in hand, and doubtless slew hearts as she had 
formerly done harts. Mingling with the mad 
scene were the Morris-dancers, with their 
fantastic dresses and gingling bells. And so 
it continued till the Reformation, when a 
sudden stop was put to the whole affair by 
severe penalties imposed by Act of Parlia- 
ment."* 

PRIVILEGED BEGGARS. 
Chambers, in his " Traditions of Edin- 
burgh," gives us the following in connection 
with a curious local custom " In that part 
of the High Street named the Luckenbooths, 
and directly opposite to the ancient prison 

* The Book of Days. 



44 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

house, stood two lands of old houses. Getting 
old and crazy the western tenement was 
entirely demolished, but the eastern portion 
was only refreshed with a new front of stone- 
work. The remaining building was formerly 
the lodging of Adam Bothwell, Commendator 
of Holy rood House, who is remarkable for his 
having performed the marriage ceremony of 
Queen Mary and the hated Bothwell. At 
the back of this house there is a projection, 
on. the top of which is a bartizan or level roof, 
and there is a tradition that Oliver Cromwell 
lived in this lodging and used to come and sit 
here to view his navy on the Forth. This 
large pile of building was called ' Poor Folks 
Purses ' from this singular circumstance. It 
was formerly the custom for the privileged 
beggars known as ' Blue Gowns ' to assemble 
in the Palace yard, when a small donation 
from the King was conferred on each of them. 
After receiving this dole they marched in 
procession up the High Street, till they came 
to this spot, when the magistrates gave each 
a leathern purse, and a small sum of money. 
The ceremony concluded by their pro- 
ceeding to the High Church to hear a sermon 
from one of the King's chaplains. 



PEOCUEING SILVER SPOONS. 45 
PEOCUEING SILVER SPOONS. 

Parliament Close, Edinburgh, being the 
well known resort of the Goldsmiths, it was 
here that country couples came for the pur- 
chase of their silver spoons on entering upon 
holy matrimony. In olden times it was quite 
customary in the country for intending bride- 
grooms to take a journey a few weeks pre- 
vious to their marriage to the Parliament 
Close to purchase their siller spoons. This im- 
portant transaction occasioned two journeys : 
one to select the spoons and furnish the 
initials to be marked upon them ; the other 
to receive and pay for them. 

CUSTOMS IN CONNECTION WITH THE BLUE 
BANNER. 

This was the ancient banner of the trades 
of Edinburgh. On its appearance, not only 
the artificers of Edinburgh were obliged to 
repair to it, but all the artificers or craftsmen 
within Scotland were bound to follow and 
fight under the Convener who took charge of 
it. According to an old tradition, this 
standard was employed in the Holy Wars by 
a body of crusading citizens of Edinburgh, 
and was the first that was planted on the 
walls of Jerusalem, when that city was 
c 



46 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

stormed by the Christian army under the 
famous Godfrey de Bouillon. It is told in con- 
nection with this standard, that James III., 
having been kept a prisoner for nine months 
in the Castle of Edinburgh, by his rebellious 
nobles, was freed by the citizens of Edinburgh, 
who raised the Blue Blanket, assaulted the 
Castle and took it by surprise. Out of 
gratitude for their seasonable loyalty, James, 
besides certain privileges, presented them with 
another banner a blue silken pennon, with 
powers to display the same in defence of their 
King, country, and their own rights, when 
these were assailed. The original and more 
celebrated banner is, we are glad to be able to 
state, also still in existence, and was exhibited 
at the opening of St. Giles' Church. 

THE CUSTOM OF HAND-FASTING. 

In Catholic times the practice known as 
Hand-fasting was pretty general in Scotland. 
It was supposed to have originated from the 
want of Clergy, but from habit was continued 
by the people after the Reformation had 
supplied them with ministers. According to 
tradition, a spot at /the junction of waters 
known as the Black and White Esk, was 
remarkable in former times for an annual fair 



THE CUSTOM OF HAND-FASTING. 47 

which had been held there from time im- 
memorial, but which exists no longer. At 
that fair it was customary for the unmarried 
of both sexes to choose a companion, according 
to their fancy, with whom to live till that 
time next year. This was called handfasting, 
or hand-in-jist. If the parties remained 
pleased with each other at the expiry of the 
term of probation, they remained together for 
life ; if not, they separated, and were, free to 
provide themselves with another partner. 
From the various monasteries priests were 
sent into the surrounding districts to look 
after all hand-fasted persons, and to bestow 
the nuptial benediction on those who were 
willing to receive it. Thus, when Eskdale 
belonged to the Abbey of Melrose, a priest on 
whom was bestowed the name, " Book-i-the- 
bosom," either because he carried a prayer 
book in his bosom, or perhaps a register of 
the marriage, came from time to time to con- 
firm the irregular union contracted at this 
fair. 

This singular custom was known to have 
been sometimes taken advantage of by persons 
of rank. Lindsay, in his account of the reign 
of James II., says, "that James, Sixth Earl of 



48 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

Murray, had a son by Isabel Innes, daughter 
of the Laird of Innes, Alexander Dunbar, a 
man of singular wit and courage. This Isabel 
was but hand-fasted to him, and deceased 
before the marriage." If either of the parties 
insisted on a separation, and a child was born 
during the year of trial, it was to be taken 
care of by the father only, and to be ranked 
among his lawful children next after his 
heirs. The offspring was not treated as 
illegitimate, because the custom was justified 
being such, and instituted with a view of 
making way for a peaceful and happy marriage. 
Such was also the power of custom, that the 
apprenticeship for matrimony brought no 
reproach on the separated lady ; and, if her 
character was good, she was entitled to an 
equal match as though nothing had happened. 
It is said that a desperate feud ensued 
between the clans of Macdonald of Sleat, and 
Macleod of Dun vegan, owing to the former 
chief having availed himself of this licence to 
send back the sister or daughter of the latter. 
Macleod, resenting the indignity, observed, 
"that since there was no wedding bonfire there 
should be one to solemnize the divorce." 
Accordingly, he burned and laid waste the 



HERDS' FESTIVAL AT MIDLOTHIAN. 49 

territories of the Macdonalds, who retaliated, 
and a dreadful feud with all its horrors took 
place in consequence. 

Hand-fasting was deemed a social irregu- 
larity by the Reformers, and they strove by 
every means to repress it. In 1562, the 
Kirk-Session of Aberdeen decreed that all 
hand-fasted persons should be married. With 
the exception of the Highland districts, the 
time-honoured practice of living together for 
" a year and a day " ceased to exist shortly 
after the Reformation. 



CHAPTER IV. 

The Herds Festival at Midlothian Old customs in 
connection with Archery The Hangman's right at 
Dumfries The Cure for Scolds at Langholm 
Customs regarding Holy ivells Curious customs 
at Rutherglen The feast of Sour Cakes Riding 
the Marches Foot- Race at Biggar Riding the 
Stang. 

THE HERDS' FESTIVAL AT MIDLOTHIAN. 

ABOUT a century ago, the 1st of August 
was celebrated as follows by the herds 
of Midlothian : Early in summer the herds 



50 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

associated themselves in bands each band 
proceeded to erect a tower in a central locality 
to serve as a place of meeting on Lammas. 
The tower was built of sods ; and was 
generally four feet in diameter at the base, 
and tapered towards the summit, which rose 
about eight feet from the ground. There was 
a hole in the centre for the insertion of a flag 
staff. The building of the tower commenced 
a month before Lammas. For the space of 
this month one of the builders kept watch in 
order to prevent its being attacked by any of 
the rival communities. This warder was 
provided with a horn which he sounded in 
case of an assault. On the approach of 
Lammas each party appointed a captain. 
He was entrusted with the duty of bearing 
the standard, (a towel borrowed from some 
farmer's wife) decorated with ribbons and 
attached to a pole. On the morning of the 
festival he displayed this flag on the summit 
of the tower. The assembled herdsmen 
waited under his leadership, to resist an 
assault of the enemy. Scouts were dis- 
patched at intervals to ascertain whether 
any foe was near. When menaced by 
danger horns were blown, and the little army 



OLD ABGHEEY CUSTOMS. 51 

marched forth to meet the advancing enemy. 
At some engagements a hundred combatants 
would appear on each side. After a short 
struggle the stronger party yielded to the 
weaker ; but there were instances in which 
such mimic warfare terminated in bloodshed. 
If no enemy appeared before the hour of 
noon, the garrison removed their standards 
and marched to the nearest village, where 
they concluded the day's amusements with 
foot-races and other diversions. 

OLD ARCHERY CUSTOMS. 

The ancient and once royal sport of archery 
was much encouraged in Scotland by James 
I. In his reign men were required to "busk 
themselves archers" from the early age of 
twelve years. James V. presented silver 
arrows to the royal burghs, to which the 
winners in the annual competitions might 
affix silver medals as memorials of their skill. 
The Edinburgh Company of Archers is privi- 
leged to rank as the Queen's Scottish Body- 
guard. There were two kinds of archery, 
point blank archery, i.e., shooting at "butts," 
and popinjay archery, such as that occa- 
sionally practised by the members of the 
Kil winning Archery Club, and described as 



52 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

follows : The ancient custom of shooting at 
the popinjay existed at Kil winning as far 
back as the year 1488. The popinjay is a 
bird known in heraldry. It was cut out of 
wood, fixed at the end of a pole, and placed 
at a distance of a hundred and twenty feet 
on the steeple of the Abbey. The archer 
who brought down the mark was honoured 
with the title of Captain of the Popinjay, 
and received a parti-coloured sash. He was 
master of the ceremonies for the ensuing- 
year. He sent cards of invitation to the 
ladies, gave them a splendid ball, and trans- 
mitted his honours by a medal with suitable 
devices affixed to a silver arrow. 

SINGULAR CUSTOM IN CONNECTION WITH THE 

OFFICE OF HANGMAN AT DUMFRIES. 
The following singular custom formerly 
existed in Dumfries: The county hangman 
went through the market every market day 
furnished with a brass ladle or large spoon, 
pushed it into the mouth of every sack of 
meal, corn, etc., and carried it off full. The 
small quantity of meal so abstracted was 
termed a " lock," and, when spoken of, the 
hangman was frequently alluded to as the 
" lockman." When the farmers refused any 



CURE FOE SCOLDS AT LANGHOLM. 53 

longer to comply with this custom, the 
matter was brought before the law courts, 
and the hangman was found to have a right 
to the perquisite of office. In consequence 
of this decision, many of the farmers refused 
for a long time to send their meal and corn 
to this market. 

THE CURE FOR SCOLDS AT LANGHOLM. 
Langholrn was long ago famous for an iron 
instrument called the "Branks," which fitted 
upon the head of a shrewish female, and pro- 
jecting a sharp spike into her mouth, 
effectually silenced the organ of speech. It 
was formerly customary for husbands who 
were afflicted with scolding wives, to subject 
their heads to this instrument, and lead them 
through the town, exposed to the laughter 
and reproaches of the people. Tradition 
affirms that the discipline never failed to 
effect a complete reformation. "The Branks," 
so Dr. Platt observes, " was much to be 
preferred to the ducking stool, which not 
only endangered the health of the patient, 
but gave the tongue liberty between each 
dip." 

CUSTOMS REGARDING HOLY WELLS. 

The remedial qualities of certain wells 



54 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

were, it would appear, well known to the 
ancients. The Roman and Greek physicians 
were familiar with their efficacy. The 
Orientals again attributed the cures effected 
by their means to supernatural agency. Our 
own heathen forefathers believed that wells 
were originally constructed by demons or 
devils for the destruction of mankind, but 
that the Saints had interfered to prevent 
their malignant design, and by their prayers 
had succeeded in transforming what was 
formerly intended to prove a curse into an 
inestimable blessing. In many instances, 
however, the ancient worship of Neith, the 
Goddess of Waters, was accountable for the 
reverence in which certain reputed wells 
were formerly held by the populace ; and 
Barter the Reformation a clerical raid was 
instituted against the so-styled " heathenish 
well worship." 

There were formerly three wells in the 
parish of Culsalmond, St. Mary's Well on 
the farm of Calpie, St. Michael's at Gateside, 
and another at the foot of the Culsalmond 
bank, a little to the west of the Lady's 
Causeway. On the first Sunday of May, 
multitudes resorted to them from distant 



SINGULAR CUSTOM AT RUTEERGLEN. 55 

parts, in the full belief that by washing in 
the stream and leaving presents to the saints, 
as their heathen ancestors did to the spirits 
presiding over the well, they would be cured 
of their diseases. Pieces of money were 
alwaj^s left in the water corresponding to the 
circumstances of the afflicted persons. Some 
time ago while digging a drain at the foot of 
the bank, the workman stuck his pick into 
the back of the well which had been there ; 
a large quantity of water sprung up into the 
air, in which he observed a shining substance. 
This proved on inspection to be a gold piece 
of James I. of Scotland as perfect as when it 
came from the mint. 

SINGULAR CUSTOM AT RUTHERGLEN. 

The ancient town of Rutherglen was long 
famous throughout the country, for the 
singular custom of baking what was called 
" sour cakes " about eight or ten days before 
St. Luke's fair for they were baked at no 
other time in the year. A certain quantity 
of meal was made into dough with warm 
water, and laid up in a vessel to ferment. 
Being brought to a proper degree of fermenta- 
tion and consistency, it was rolled up into 
balls proportionable to the intended size of 



56 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

the cakes. With the dough there was- 
commonly mixed a small quantity of sugar 
and a little anise seed or cinnamon. The 
baking was executed by women only, and 
they seldom began their work till after sun- 
set, and a night or two before the fair. A 
large space of the house chosen for the purpose, 
was marked out by a line drawn upon it. 
The area within it was considered consecrated 
ground, and was not to be touched by any of 
the bystanders with impunity. Every 
trespasser paid a small fine, which was always 
laid out in liquor for the use of the company. 
This hallowed spot was occupied by six or 
eight women, all of whom, except the toaster, 
seated themselves on the ground in a circular 
form having their feet turned towards the 
fire. Each of them was provided with a bake- 
board, about two feet square, which they held 
on their knees. The woman who toasted the- 
cakes, which she did on an iron plate sus- 
pended over the fire, was called the queen or 
bride, and the others were styled her maidens. 
These were distinguished from one another by 
names given them for the occasion. She who 
sat next the fire towards the east was called 
todler. Her companion on the left hand was 



SINGULAR CUSTOM AT RUTHERGLEN. 57 

called the Iwdler* And the rest had 
arbitrary names given them by the bride, as 
Mrs. Baker, best and worst maids, etc. 

The operation was begun by the todler, who 
took a ball, formed it into a small cake, and 
then cast it on the bakeboard of the hodler, 
who beat it out a little thinner. This being 
done, she in her turn threw it on the board of 
her neighbour, and thus it went round from 
east to west, in the direction of the suns 
course, until it came to the toaster, by which 
time it was as thin as a piece of paper. Some- 
times the cake was so thin as to be carried by 
the air up the chimney ? 

As the baking was wholly performed by 
the hand a great deal of noise was the conse- 
quence. The beats, however, were not irregu- 
lar nor destitute of an agreeable harmony, 
especially when they were accompanied with 
vocal music, which was frequently the case. 
Great dexterity was necessary not only to 
beat out the cakes with no other implements 
than the hand so that no part of the cake 

* These names were descriptive of the manner in which 
the women so called performed their part of the work. To 
todle is to walk slowly like a child. To hodle is to move 
.about more quickly. 



58 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

should be thicker than another, but especially 
to cast them on each other's boards without 
ruffling or breaking them. 

The toaster required considerable skill, for 
which reason the most experienced person in 
the company was chosen for that part of the 
work. One cake was sent round in quick 
succession to another, so that none of the 
company were suffered to remain idle. The 
scene was one of activity, mirth, and diversion. 

As there is no account even handed down 
by tradition respecting the origin of this 
custom it must be very ancient. The bread 
thus baked was doubtless never meant for 
human use. It is difficult to conceive how 
mankind, especially in a rude age, would 
strictly observe so many ceremonies, and take 
such great pains in making a cake which, 
when folded together, made but a small 
mouthful. Besides it was always given away 
in presents to strangers who frequented the 
fair. 

The custom seems originally to have been 
derived from paganism, and to contain not a 
few of the sacred rites peculiar to that impure 
belief : such as the leavened dough, and the 
mixing it with sugar and spices ; the con- 



BIDING THE MARCHES. 59 

secrated ground , etc. But the particular deity 
for whose use these cakes were first made, is- 
not easy to determine. Probably it was na 
other than the one known in scripture (Jer. 
v. ii. 18.) by the name of the Queen of Heaven, 
and to whom cakes were likewise kneaded by 
women. This custom is now obsolete. 

Besides baking sour cakes it was formerly 
the practice to prepare salt roasts for St. 
Luke's fair. Till of late years almost every 
house in Butherglen was furnished with 
dozens of them. They were the chief articles 
of provisions asked for by strangers who fre- 
quented the fair. 

RIDING THE MARCHES AT RUTHERGLEN. 

The Biding of the Marches is an ancient 
" burghal celebration," and was very requisite 
when written documents were in constant 
danger of being destroyed. In former times 
lands had been bestowed by the sovereign on 
most of the towns where the ceremony was 
and is still observed. The boundaries of such 
possessions came to be determined by proces- 
sions, etc.; and although in the course of time 
these lands passed into other hands, the old 
custom of " marking the boundaries " in 
accordance with the ancient fashion was still 



60 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

retained. At Rutherglen the ceremony was 
performed in the following manner : The 
Magistrates with a considerable number of 
the Council and inhabitants assembled at the 
Cross, from which they proceeded in martial 
order with drums beating ; and in that 
manner went round the boundaries of the 
Royalty to see if any encroachments had been 
made upon them. These boundaries were 
distinguished by march-stones set up at some 
little distance from each other. In some 
places there were two rows about seven feet 
apart. The stones were shaped at the top 
like a man's head, but the lower part was 
square. This peculiar figure was originally 
intended to represent the god Terminus, of 
whom there were formerly so many rude 
representations. 

It was a custom from time immemorial for 
the riders of the marches to dress their hats 
and drums with broom, and to combat with 
one another at the newly erected stone, out of 
respect perhaps to the deity whose image 
they had set up, or that they might the better 
remember the precise boundaries at that place. 
This part of the ceremony was afterwards 
postponed till the survey was over arid the 



OLD CUSTOM* AT BIGG A R. (51 

company had returned to the Cross, when, 
having previously provided themselves with 
broom, they had a mock engagement, and 
fought seemingly with great fury till their 
weapons failed them, when they parted in 
good fellowship. 

OLD CUSTOMS AT BIGGAR. 

In the parish of Biggar there were formerly 
held three fairs, Candlemas fair, Midsummer 
fair, and the old Biggar fair, held on the last 
Thursday of October O.S. On the evening 
previous to the Midsummer fair, it was 
formerly the custom for the Baron Bailie to 
advertise that a foot race would be run along 
the streets, and that a pair of gloves would 
be the prize. It was also an ancient custom, 
and one which frequently caused much rioting 
and confusion, to throw out a football. 

The young men immediately divided them- 
selves into two parties. The ball, which was 
made of leather stuffed with wool, was thrown 
up at the Cross in the centre of the town. 
The party who could kick the ball, in spite of 
their antagonists, to the other end of the 
village, were the victors. No prize was 
awarded in this contest. 

In connection with Biggar, Forsyth in his 

D 



02 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

" Beauties of Scotland," relates that " here as 
well as in other places in Scotland a very 
singular practice is at times, though very 
rarely, revived. This is called " Riding the 
Stang." When any husband was known to 
beat his wife, and when this offence was long 
continued, while the wife's character was 
known to be spotless, the indignation of the 
neighbourhood becoming gradually greater, at 
length broke out in the following manner. 
All the women entered into a conspiracy to 
execute vengeance on the culprit. Having 
fixed on a particular day for the prosecution 
of their design, they suddenly assembled in a 
great crowd and seized the offending party, 
they taking care at the same time to provide 
a stout beam of wood upon which they set 
him astride, and bore him aloft, his legs tied 
beneath. He was then carried in derision 
through the village attended by the hootings, 
scoffings, and hisses of his numerous at- 
tendants, who pulled down his legs so as to 
render his position a very uneasy one. The 
grown up men in the meantime remained at 
a distance and avoided interfering in the 
matter. It was lucky for the culprit at the 
conclusion of the ceremony if a ducking was 



MARRIAGE CUSTOMS. 63 

not added to the rest of the punishment. 
The origin of this custom is unknown. 



CHAPTER V. 

Old Marriage Customs in Perthshire Superstitions 
regarding the cure of disease Scottish customs re- 
garding the observance of Hallow e'en General de- 
scription of this festival Pulling the Green Kail 
Eating the Apple Burning Nuts Solving 
Hemp Seed. Winnowing Corn Measuring the 
Bean Stack Eating the Herring Dipping the 
Shirt Sleeve The Three Plates Throwing the 
Clue Illustrative Anecdote Pricking the Egg 
The Summons of Death. 

MARRIAGE CUSTOMS. 

TN the parish of Logierait, Perthshire, and 
-*- its neighbourhood, a variety of supersti- 
tious customs formerly prevailed amongst the 
vulgar. Lucky and unlucky days were by 
many annually observed. That day of the 
week upon which the 14th of May happened 
to follow was esteemed unlucky throughout 
the remainder of the year. None got married 
or began any serious business upon it. None 
chose to marry in January or May ; or to have 



G4 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

their banns proclaimed in the end of one 
quarter of the year and to marry in the be- 
ginning of the next. Some things were to be 
done before the full moon, others after. In 
fevers the patient was expected to be worse 
on Sundays than on the other days of the 
week ; did he, however, prove to be better 
on that day a relapse was dreaded. 

Immediately before the celebration of the 
marriage ceremony, every knot about the bride 
and bridegroom's dress, garters, shoe-strings, 
petticoat-strings, etc., were carefully loosed. 
After leaving the church the whole company 
walked round it keeping the church wnlls 
carefully on their right hand. The bride- 
groom, however, first retired one way with 
some young men to tie the knots that were 
loosed about him; while the bride in the same 
manner withdrew to put her array in order. 

BAPTISMAL CUSTOM. 

When a child was baptised privately it was 
formerly the custom to put the child into a clean 
basket, having over it a cloth containing bread 
and cheese. The basket was then moved 
three times successively round the iron crook 
which hangs suspended from the roof, over the 
fire for the purpose of supporting the pot, in 



THE CURE OF DISEASE. 65 

which water is boiled and food prepared. It 
is supposed that this custom was originally 
intended to counteract the malignant arts 
which witches and evil spirits were supposed 
to practise against new born children. 

THE CURE OF DISEASE. 

Recourse was often had to charms for the 
cure of diseases of horses and cows as well as 
those of the human race. In the case of 
various diseases in this parish a pilgrimage 
was performed to a place called Strathfillan, 
forty miles distant from Logierait. Here 
the patient bathed in a certain pool and per- 
formed some other rites in a chapel close at 
hand. It is chiefly in cases of madness that 
a pilgrimage to Strathfillan was considered 
salutary. The afflicted person was first 
bathed in the pool, then left bound all night 
in the chapel. If found loose in the morning 
he was expected to recover. 

There was a disease called Claeach by the 
Highlanders, which, as it affected the chest 
and lungs, was evidently of a consumptive 
nature. It was also called the " Macdonald 
disease," because there were particular tribes 
of the Macdonalds who were believed to cure 
it with the charms of their touch and a cer- 



66 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

tain form of words. No fee was given. The 
Highlanders' faith in the touch of a Mac- 
donald was very great. 

ALL HALLOWS EVE OBSERVANCES. 

One of the former four great Fire festivals 
in Britain, is supposed, as previously stated, 
to have taken place on the 1st of November, 
when all fires save those of the Druids were 
extinguished, and, from whose altars only, the 
holy fire must be purchased by the house- 
holders for a certain price. The festival is 
still known in Ireland, as Samhein, or La 
Samon, i.e., the Feast of the Sun ; while in 
Scotland, it has assumed the name of 
Hallowe'en. 

"The night is Hallowe'en, Janet, 

The morn is Hallowes day, 
And gin ye dare your true love win 
Ye hae nae time to stay. 

" The night it is good Hallowe'en, 

When fairy folk will ride, 
And they that wad their true love win 
At Miles Cross they must bide." 

All Hallow's Eve, as observed in the Church 
of Rome, corresponds with the Feralia of the 
ancient Homans, when they sacrificed in 
honour of the dead ; offered up prayers for 



ALL HALLOWS EVE OBSERVANCES. 67 

them, and made oblations to them. In 
ancient times, this festival was celebrated on 
the twenty-first of February, but the Romish 
Church transferred it in her Calendar to the 
first of November. It was originally designed 
to give rest and peace to the souls of the 
departed. In some parts of Scotland, it 
is still customary for young people to 
kindle fires on the tops of hills and rising 
grounds, and fire of this description goes by 
the name of a Hallowe'en bleeze. Formerly 
it was customary to surround these bonfires 
with a circular trench symbolical of the sun. 
Sheriff Barclay tells us that about fifty years 
ago while travelling from Dunkeld to Aber- 
feldy on Hallowe'en, he counted thirty fires 
blazing on the hill tops, with the phantom 
figures of persons dansing round the flames. 
In Perthshire the Hallowe'en bleeze is 
made in the following picturesque fashion. 
Heath, broom, and dressings of flax are tied 
upon a pole. The faggot is then kindled ; a 
youth takes it upon his shoulders and carries 
it about. When the faggot is burned out a 
second is tied to the pole and kindled in the 
same manner as the former one. Several of 
these blazing faggots are often carried 



68 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

through the villages at the same time. 
Should the night be dark they form a fine 
illumination. 

Hallowe'en is believed by the superstitious 
in Scotland to be a night on which the 
invisible world has peculiar power. His 
Satanic Majesty is supposed to have great 
latitude allowed him on this anniversary, in 
common with that oft malignant class of 
beings known as witches ; some of whom, it is 
said, may be seen cleaving the air on broom- 
sticks, in a manner wondrous to behold. 
Others again less aerially disposed jog 
comfortably along over by-road and heath , 
seated on the back of such sleek tabby cats 
as have kindly allowed themselves to be 
transformed pro tern. into coal-black steeds 
for the accommodation of these capricious old 
ladies. 

The green-robed fays are also said to hold 
special festive meetings at their favourite 
haunts : 

" Tis Hallowmasses e'en 
And round the holy green 
The fairy elves are seen 
Tripping light." 

The ignorant believe that there is no such 



ALL HALLOWS EVE OBSERVANCES. 69 

night in all the year for obtaining an insight 
into futurity. The following are the customs 
pertaining to this eve of mystic ceremonies : 
The youths and maidens, who engage in 
the ceremony of Pulling the Green Kail go 
hand in hand, with shut eyes, into a 
bachelor's or spinster's garden, and pull up 
the first " kail stalks " which come in their 
way. Should the stalks thus secured prove 
to be of stately growth, straight in stem, and 
with a goodly supply of earth at their roots, 
the future husbands (or wives) will be young, 
good-looking, and rich in proportion. But if 
the stalks be stunted, crooked, and hence 
little or no earth at their roots, the future 
spouses will be found lacking in good looks 
and fortune. According as the heart or stem 
proves sweet or sour to the taste so will be 
the temper of the future partner. The stalks 
thus tasted are afterwards placed above the 
doors of the respective houses, and the 
Christian names of those persons who first 
pass underneath will correspond with those 
of the future husbands or wives. 

There is also the custom of Eating the 
Apple at the Glass. Provide yourself with an 
apple, and, as the clock strikes twelve, go 



70 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

alone into a room where there is a looking- 
glass. Cut the apple into small pieces ; throw 
one of them over your left shoulder, and 
advancing to the mirror without looking back, 
proceed to eat the remainder, combing your 
hair carefully the while before the glass. 
While thus engaged, it is said, that the face 
of the person you are to marry will be seen 
peeping over your left shoulder. This 
Hallowe'en game is supposed to be a relic of 
that form of divinations with mirrors which 
was condemned as sorcery by the former 
Popes. 

Likewise that of Burning Nuts. Take 
two nuts and place them in the fire, bestow- 
ing on one of them your own name ; on 
the other that of the object of your affec- 
tions. Should they burn quietly away side 
by side, then the issue of your love affair will 
be prosperous ; but if one starts away from 
the other, the result will be unfavourable. 

And for the Sowing Hemp Seed, steal 
forth alone towards midnight and sow a 
handful of hemp seed, repeating the follow- 
ing rhyme : 

41 Hemp seed, I sow thee, hemp seed I sow thee ; 

And he that is my true love come behind and harrow me." 



ALL HALLOW'S EVE OBSERVANCES. 71 

Then look over your left shoulder and you 
will see the person thus adjured in the act of 
harrowing. 

The ceremony of Winnowing Corn must 
also be gone through in solitude. Go to the 
barn and open both doors, taking them off the 
hinges if possible, lest the being you expect 
to appear, may close them and do you some in- 
jury. Then take the instrument usedin winnow- 
ing corn, and go through all the attitudes 
of letting it down against the wind. Repeat 
the operation three times, and the figure of 
your future partner will appear passing in at 
one door and out at the other. Should those 
engaging in this ceremony be fated to die 
young it is believed that a coffin, followed by 
mourners, will enter and pursue the too 
adventurous youth or maiden, who thus 
wishes to pry into the hidden things of the 
future, round the barn. 

Another is Measuring the Bean Stack. Go 
three times round a bean stack with out- 
stretched arms, as if measuring it, and the 
third time you will clasp in your arms the 
shade of your future partner. 

As also Eating the Herring. Just before 
retiring to rest eat a raw or roasted salt 



72 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 



herring ; and in your dreams your husband 
(or wife) that is to be, will come and offer you 
a drink of water to quench your thirst. 

For Dipping the Shirt Sleeve. Go alone, 
or in company with others, to a stream where 
" three lairds' lands meet," and dip in the 
left sleeve of a shirt ; after this is done not 
one word must be spoken, otherwise the spell 
is broken. Then put your sleeve to dry 
before your bed-room fire. Go to bed, but 
be careful to remain awake, and you will see 
the form of your future help-mate enter and 
turn the sleeve in order that the other side 
may get dried. 

Likewise the Three Plates. Place three 
plates in a row on a table. In one of these 
put clean water, in another foul, and leave 
the third empty. Blindfold the person wish- 
ing to try his or her fortune, and lead them 
up to the table. The left hand must be put 
forward. Should it come in contact with 
the clean water, then the future spouse will 
be young, handsome, and a bachelor or makL 
The foul signifies a widower or a widow ; and 
the empty dish, single blessedness. This 
ceremony is repeated three times, and the 



ALL HALLOWS EVE OBSERVANCES. 73 

plates must be differently arranged after each 
.attempt. 

Also Throwing the Clue. Steal forth 
alone and at night, to the nearest lime-kiln, 
and throw in a clue of blue yarn, winding it 
off on to a fresh clue. As you come near the 
nd some one will grasp hold of the thread 
lying in the kiln. You then ask, "Who 
holds'?" when the name of your future part- 
ner will be uttered from beneath. 

The following truthful anecdote will serve 
to illustrate the implicit belief our simple 
need we add, credulous Scottish maidens 
used to place in the mystic rite. In the parish 
in which the editor of this volume at one time 
resided, there lived a very pretty girl called 
Mary Shirley. Mary had two lovers, respec- 
tively named Kobert Lawrie and William 
Fleming. The former of these youths was 
the favoured one. In his despair, for he 
was devotedly attached to the fair maiden, 
Fleming repaired to her most intimate friend 
.and implored her by every means in her power 
to further his suit. Feeling deeply for the 
poor youth, and esteeming him, as indeed he 
was, the most worthy of the lovers, this girl 
informed him, in the strictest confidence, that 



74 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

Mary Shirley intended on the coming- 
Hallowe'en to throw the blue clue into the 
kiln nearest her father's house. Fleming 
obeyed the hint thus kindly given him. On 
the night in question, he hid himself in t he- 
kiln, and seized hold of the clue which his 
agitated Mary threw in. In answer to her 
faltering " Who holds ? " he gave his own 
name. Hastily dropping the thread, the 
terrified girl fled homewards. Ere many 
days had elapsed, Fleming proposed to, and 
was accepted by the pretty Mary, to the no 
small surprise and anger of his rival. 

When congratulated on the wisdom of her 
choice the blushing maiden replied, " it was 
na me wha made the choice. I mysell was 
a' for Robert, but fate had it I was tae get 
the ither, and wha can gang again fate ?" 
The marriage thus strangely brought about 
proved a very happy one for both parties. 
Fleming, however, wisely preserved silence a& 
to the Hallowe'en trick which won him his 
bride. 

Still another custom is Pricking the Egg. 
Take an egg, prick it with a pin and allow 
the white to drop into a wine-g]ass nearly 
filled with water. Take some of this in your 



ALL HALLOWS EVE OBSERVANCES. 75 

mouth and go out for a walk. The first name 
you hear called aloud will be that of your 
future partner. An old woman solemnly 
assured the editor she had in her youthful 
days engaged in this Hallowe'en frolic, a.nd 
the name of Archibald (her husband's name) 
" came up as it were from the very ground." 
In addition to the foregoing, all of them 
connected with the Hallowe'en ceremonies, the 
Highlanders have the following decidedly 
eerie custom, which may be termed the 
summons of death. An individual goes to a 
public road which branches in three different 
directions. At the junction of these roads he 
seats himself on a three-legged stool on the 
eve of twelve o'clock ; and as the hour strikes 
he hears proclaimed aloud the names of the 
several persons who will die in the parish 
before the next anniversary. Should the 
person carry along with him articles of wear- 
ing apparel, and throw an article away on 
the proclamation of each person's name, it 
will rescue that individual from his impending 
fate. 



76 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 



CHAPTER VI. 

Carters' Plays at Liberton Superstitions in connec- 
tion with St. Catherines Well Old customs at 
Musselburgh -Riding the Marches again Lanark 
and Linlithgow The Polwarth Thorn Gretna 
Green Marriages Curious Land Tenure customs 
Traditions regarding Macduff s Cross Singular 
customs regarding Licensed -Beggars in Scotland. 

OLD CUSTOM AT LIBERTON. 

E only customs peculiar to Liberton 
were what were called " Carters' Plays." 
The carters had friendly societies for the 
purpose of supporting each other in old age, 
and in times of sickness. With the view 
partly of securing a day's recreation, and 
partly of recruiting their members and 
friends they used to have annual fetes, when 
every man decorated his cart horse with 
flowers and ribbons, and a regular procession 
was formed, accompanied by a band of music, 
through this and some of the neighbouring 
parishes. To crown all, there was an uncouth 
race with cart-horses on the public road. The 
day's festivities ended in a dinner, for which 
a fixed sum was paid. 






SHOOTING AT THE BUTTS. 77 

At St. Catherine's in this parish there is a 
famous well known as the Balm Well. Black 
oily substances continually float on the surface 
of its water. However many you may remove 
they still appear as numerous as before. In 
ancient time,s a sovereign virtue was supposed 
to reside in this well, and it was customary 
for persons afflicted with cutaneous complaints 
to partake of its waters. The nuns of the 
Sciennes made an annual pilgrimage to it in 
honour of St. Catherine. King James VI. 
visited it in 1617, and ordered it to be 
properly enclosed, and provided with a door 
and staircase, but it was destroyed and filled 
up by Cromwell's soldiers in 1650. It has 
again been opened and repaired, and is still 
in a state of preservation. 

SHOOTING AT THE BUTTS. 

When shooting at the " Butts " was a 
popular pastime in Scotland, the company of 
Archers at Edinburgh had a silver arrow 
presented to them by the Corporation of 
Musselburgh, to be shot for annually. The 
victor received 1 10s. and a dozen of claret 
from the town, and was bound to attach a 
medal of gold or silver to the arrow before the 
next year's annual meeting. This arrow had 



78 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

a series of such medals affixed to it from 
1605 onwards, with the single exception of 
the memorable '45. 

RIDING THE MARCHES AT MUSSELBURGH 
AND ELSEWHERE. 

As in many other places, the ancient feudal 
system of "Riding the Marches," was observed 
here once in fifty years. The riders, seven 
incorporated trades, each headed by its cap- 
tain, followed in the train of the magistrates 
and town council. This formidable cavalcade 
was preceded by the town officers with their 
ancient Brabant spurs, and a champion armed 
cap-a-pie. A gratuity was allowed to a 
minstrel who attended at the succeeding feast, 
and recited in verses the glories of the pageant. 
In " Scotland, Social and Domestic," which 
was published in 1869, Dr. Charles Rodgers 
writes that the burghs of Lanark and Linlith- 
gow preserved this ancient practice with all 
the ceremony of former times. Though 
described elsewhere in connection with another 
locality, we may give the following as further 
illustrating this interesting ceremony. At 
the former place, after those who have joined 
in the diversions for the first time have been 
tumbled over and drenched in the " ducking- 



BIDING THE MAECHES. 79 

hole," the procession next marches to the 
plantations of Jerviswoode and Cleghorn, 
when the youths cut boughs from the birch 
trees, with which they proceed through the 
streets in boisterous mirth. They finally 
assemble at the Cross, where, under a statue 
reared to the memory of Wallace, they sing 
" Scots wha hae." The juvenile celebration 
terminates at noon. The magistrates and 
town council now appear at the Cross, attended 
by the town's drummer on horseback. A 
procession is formed, which, after inspecting 
the marches, enters the race-ground, then 
amidst demonstrations of merriment from the 
assembled multitude, a race is ran for a pair 
of spurs. The proceedings terminate in a 
banquet in the County Hall. 

The celebration at Linlithgow is similar in 
character to the above. The sovereign's 
health is drunk at the Cross, when the glasses 
are drained off they are tossed among the 
crowd. A procession is formed, the members 
of the Corporation seated in carriages take 
the lead. Then follow the trades bearing 
banners, the farm-servants of the neighbour- 
hood mounted and displaying from their 
bonnets a profusion of ribands, bring up the 



80 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

rear. After a march of several miles the 
procession returns to the Cross, whence the 
different bodies proceed to their favourite 
taverns to dedicate the evening to social 
.mirth. 

" That ev'ry man might keep his owne possessions, 
Our fathers us'd in reverent processions 
(With zealous prayers, and with praisefull cheere), 
To walke their parish-limits once a yeare ; 
And well-knowne marks (which sacrilegious hands 
Now cut or breake) so bord'red out their lands, 
That ev'ry one distinctly knew his owne ; 
And many brawles, now rife, were then unknowne." 

OLD CUSTOM AT POLWAETH. 

The estate of Polwarth formerly belongod 
to Sinclair of Hermandston, whose family, so 
far back as the fifteenth century, terminated 
in co-heiresses. Out of their numerous 
suitors Marieta and Margaret Sinclair pre- 
ferred the sons of their powerful neighbour, 
Home of Wedderburn. On the death of the 
young ladies' father they were taken care of 
by an uncle, who, anxious to prevent their 
marrying that he himself might heir their 
estates, immured them in his castle some- 
where in Lothian. However, his fair captives 
contrived to get a letter transmitted to their 
lovers by means of an old beggar woman, and 



OLD CUSTOM AT POLWARTH. 81 

they were soon gratified by the sight of the 
gallant youths accompanied by a goodly band 
of Mersemen before the gate of their prison. 
Their uncle remonstrated and resisted in vain. 
His nieces were taken from him and carried 
off in triumph to Polwarth. They were 
speedily united in marriage to their lovers, 
and part of the nuptial rejoicings consisted in 
a merry dance round the thorn tree which 
then grew in the centre of the village. 

The lands of Polwarth were thus divided 
between the two houses, and while George, 
the eldest son carried on the line of the 
Wedderburn family, Patrick was the founder 
of the branch afterwards enobled by the title 
of Marchmont. 

In commemoration of so remarkable an 
affair, marriage parties danced round the 
" Polwarth thorn." 

" At Pol wart on the Green 
If you'll meet me the morn 
When lasses do convene 
To dance around the thorn. 

" At Polwart on the Green 
Among the new mown hay . 
With songs and dancing there 
We'll pass the heartsome day." 

This custom, which continued in force for 



82 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

several centuries, is now in disuse partly 
through the fall of the original tree. About 
fifty years ago, however, the party that at- 
tended a paying, or " Penny Wedding," 
danced round the little enclosure where 
formerly stood the familiar tree, to the tune 
of " Polwarth on the Green," having pre- 
viously pressed into their service an old 
woman, about the last who had seen wed- 
dings thus celebrated, to show them the 
manner of the dance. 

GRETNA GREEN MARRIAGES. 

The parish of Gretna has long been famous 
in the annals of "matrimonial adventures for 
the marriages of fugitive lovers from England, 
which have been celebrated here. The 
persons who followed this irregular practice 
were impostors who had no right what- 
ever to exercise any part of the clerical 
functions. The greatest part of the trade 
was monopolised by a man who was originally 
a tobacconist, named Paisley, and not a 
blacksmith, as was for some time supposed. 
In former tjmes so great was the number of 
marriages solemnized here, that this traffic 
brought in an income of nearly a thousand 
per annum to the officiating parties the form 



LAND TENURE CUSTOMS. 83 

of ceremony when any suclf was made use of, 
was that of the church of Scotland. On 
these occasions, when the person happened to 
be intoxicated, which was not unfrequently 
the case, a certificate only was given. The 
following is a copy of one of those certificates 
in the original spelling : 

" This is to sartfay all persons that may be 
concerned, that A. B. from the parish of C. 
and in county of D., and E. F. from the parish 
of G. and in the county of H. both comes 
before me and declayred themselves to be 
single persons, and was mayried by the form 
of the Kirk of Scotland, and agreeble to the 
Church of England, and givine ondre my 
hand this 18th day of March, 1793." 

Paisley's terms for tying the mystical knot 
varied according to the rank and circumstan- 
ces of the parties who claimed his services. 
A noggin (two gills of brandy) sufficed as a 
fee from poor people. Curious to relate, this 
arch-imposter prosecuted his illegal trade for 
nearly half a century. 

LAND TENURE CUSTOMS. 

There are very many exceeding curious 
and interesting customs in Scotland in con- 
nection with land tenures. We give a few 



84 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

instances as illustrative of the subject in gen- 
eral. An ancient foot-race, in connection 
with Carnwath fair, forms one of the tenures 
by which the property of Carnwath is held 
by the Lockhart family. The prize was a 
pair of red hose : these were regularly con- 
tested for. In former years the laird used to 
have a messenger in readiness, whenever the 
race was finished, to communicate the intelli- 
gence to the Lord Advocate of Scotland. 

The Barony of Pennicuik, the property of 
Sir George Clerk, Bart., is held by the fol- 
lowing singular tenure : The proprietor is 
bound to sit upon a large rock, called the 
Buckstone, and wind three blasts of a horn 
when the king comes to hunt on the Borough 
Moor near Edinburgh. On account of this 
singular custom the family have adopted as 
their crest a demi-forester proper, winding a 
horn with the motto, Free for a blast. 

The family of Morrison of Braehead in Mid- 
lothian, held their lands under the service of 
presenting a silver ewer, basin, and towel, 
for the king to wash his hands when he shall 
happen to pass the bridge of Cramond. The 
heir of Braehead discharged his duty at the 



LAND TENURE CUSTOMS. 85 

banquet given to George the 4th, in the Par- 
liament House in Edinburgh, in 1822. 

The tenure by which the Sprotts of Urr 
hold their lands, is their presenting butter 
brose in King Robert's Bowl to any of 
the Kings of Scotland who happen to pass 
the Urr. 

On a small island not far from Kilchurn 
Castle there are the remains of a ruined for- 
tress. In 1267, this little demesne with its 
castle, and some adjoining lands were granted 
by King Alexander III., to Gilbert 
M'Naughten, the chief of the clan, on condi- 
tion that he entertained the king whenever 
he passed that way. 

The tenure by which the Marquis of Tweed- 
dale holds his feus in Gifford, parish of Yes- 
* ter, is as follows " Each feuar should attend 
the Marquis of Tweeddale the space of two 
days yearly sufficiently mounted with horse 
and arms, upon his own proper charges and 
expenses, when he sail be desired to do the 
samen ; " also that he should attend other 
two days at the Marquis's expenses, " should 
ride at two fairs yearly at Gifford," and per- 
form a day or days work yearly for winnowing 
of hay in the parks of Yester. 



86 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

Tradition represents MacdufFs Cross as 
erected in consequence of a privilege granted 
by Malcolm III., to his faithful friend Mac- 
duff, thane of Fife, to the effect that any 
one within the ninth degree of kindred to him 
who might commit a deadly crime should 
attain a sanctuary at this cross. When an 
individual claimed the privilege he was 
obliged to bring nine cows and bind them to 
as many rings in the pedestal of the cross, 
and also to wash himself free of the blood at 
a set of springs in the neighbourhood, known 
by the name of the nine wells. 

BEGGING CUSTOMS. 

The Poor Law has removed many ancient 
usages, but at no very remote period the 
magistrates and church session of Montrose 
met at a particular time of the year, and 
gave out badges to such as they knew to be 
under the necessity of begging. These 
licensed beggars went through the towns on 
the first of every month, but were not 
allowed to beg at any other time, nor could 
they go beyond the bounds of the parish. 
Fortunately, however, the good people of 
Montrose were so liberal in their donations 
to the applicants for aid that these did not re- 



BEGGING CUSTOMS. 87 

quire assistance from any public funds except 
when incapacitated from begging by sickness. 
There formerly existed other mendicants, 
known as the " Gaberlunzie" or travelling 
beggar, and the King's Bedesmen or Blue 
Gowns. The number of this latter and 
higher class of privileged beggars correspon- 
ded with the years of the king's life. They 
received annually a cloak of coarse blue cloth, 
a pewter badge, and a leathern purse con- 
taining some " Pennies Sterling," the amount 
of which varied with the age of the sovereign. 
Sir Walter Scott, in his beautiful novel of the 
" Antiquary," introduces the reader to one of 
this venerable confraternity in the person of 
Edie Ochiltree. 



CHAPTER VII. 

Customs connected with St. Fillan's Well Scottish 
Custom regarding May Dew St. Serf's festival at 
Culross Palm Sunday held at Lanark Riding 
the marches at Lanark Killing a sheep at Lanark- 
Old custom at Kelso The King's Ease at Ayr 
Burning the chaff after death Creeling the Bride- 
groom in Berwickshire Marriage customs and 
Superstitions in Invernesshire Ancient customs at 



88 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

Carluke Scottish funeral customs Horse-Racing 
in Scotland Farmers Parade in Ayrshire Shoot- 
ing for the Silver Gun at Dumfries. 

CUSTOMS CONNECTED WITH ST. FILLANS 
WELL. 

T. FILLAN'S well, like some others, was 
long believed to cure insanity, and the 
luckless sufferers received very rough handling 
to effect this, being thrown from a high rock 
down into the well, and then locked up for the 
night in the ruined chapel. On the witch 
elm that shades St. Fillan's spring, were hung 
the gay rags and scraps of ribbon wherein the 
saint was supposed to find delight the 
average of two hundred patients were 
annually brought to this well. A very 
important feature in the ceremonial of St. 
Fillan's, Struthill, and other wells where 
lunatics were cured, is, that after their bath 
in the holy fountain and their surmise 
processions, they were tied to a pillar supposed 
to be far more ancient than the Christian 
church wherein it stood. If next morning 
the patients were found loose the cure was 
esteemed perfect and thanks returned to the 
Saint. To this well the country women used 
to carry their weak and delicate children, and 



M A Y DEW. 



l>athe them in the water, leaving some pieces 
of cloth hanging on the neighbouring bushes 
as a present or offering to Cella Fillan the 
tutelar saint of the parish. This custom was 
preserved until the middle of last century, 
when by the minister's command the well 
was filled up with stones. 

SCOTTISH CUSTOM REGARDING MAY DEW. 

Early on the morning of the first of May, 
young people used to go in parties to the 
fields to gather May Dew ; to which some 
ascribed a happy influence and others a sort 
of medical virtue. Fair maidens might be 
seen tripping through the meadows before 
sun-rise, having been told by their elders 
" that if they got up in time to wash their 
faces with dew before the sun appeared they 
would have fine complexions for the re- 
mainder of the year." 

ST. SEEF'S FESTIVAL AT CULROSS. 

St. Serf was considered as the tutelar saint 
of Culross (this place was at one time 
famous for its girdles), in honour of whom 
there was an annual procession on his day, 
viz. 1st July, early in the morning of which 
all the inhabitants, men and women, young 
and old, assembled and carried green branches 



90 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

through the town, decking the public places 
with flowers. The remainder of the day was 
devoted to festivity. 

OLD CUSTOMS AT LANARK. 

In the latest statistical History of Scotland, 
it is stated, that until the last thirty years 
Palm Sunday probably the eve of that 
festival, was observed as a holiday at the 
Grammar School ; and the scholar who 
presented the master with the largest candle- 
mass offering, was appointed king and walked 
in procession with his life-guards and 
sergeants. The palm or its substitute, a 
large tree of the willow kind decked with a 
profusion of daffodils was carried before him ; 
also a handsome embroidered flag, the gift of 
a lady residing in the town to the boys. 
The day finished off with a ball. 

Another ancient custom, already described 
in connection with this place, was the Rid- 
ing of the Marches on the Lammas or 
Landsmerk day. All persons who attended 
for the first time were ducked in the 
river Ususs, in the channel of which one 
of the march-stones is placed ; and horse 
and fast races for a pair of spurs take place 
upon the moor. The burgh of Lanark from a 



OLD CUSTOMS AT LANARK. 91 

very early date possessed an extensive and 
valuable piece of land in the neighbourhood, 
which in the old charters is designated 
territorum burgi, and it was the duty of the 
magistrates, burgesses, and freemen to per- 
ambulate the march of their territory, after 
which a report was drawn up stating that the 
March stones had been found in their ancient 
position ; this was signed by the witnesses, 
magistrates, and transmitted to the Exchequer. 
This custom is still kept up, although many 
modern innovations have crept into the cere- 
mony. The Court who carries the Standard 
on the occasions of the processions, undoubt- 
edly represents the person who, when the 
burgesses formed an important part of the 
armies of our earlier monarchs, was entrusted 
with the Banner of the burgh. * This custom 
is of Saxon origin, and was in all probability 
instituted here in or subsequent to the reign 
of Malcolm I. 

Mr. Chambers, in his " Popular Rhymes of 
Scotland," gives the following amusing account 
of Lanark in the olden time. It is reported 
that the burgh of Lanark was in former days 

* The " Upper Ward of Lanarkshire." 



92 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

so poor, that the single flesher, of the town, 
who also exercised the calling of a weaver, in 
order to employ his spare time, would never 
dream of killing a sheep until he had received 
orders for the entire animal beforehand. Ere 
commencing the work of slaughter he would 
call on the minister, the Provost, and the 
town council, and prevail upon them to take 
shares. But if no purchaser appeared for the 
fourth quarter, the sheep received a respite 
until such could be found. The bellman, or 
shallyman, as he is called there, used to 
parade the streets of Lanark shouting aloud 
the following advertisement : 

Bell-ell-ell 

There's a fat sheep to kill ! 

A leg for the Provost 

And one for the priest. 

The Baillies and Deacons 

They'll take the neist ; 

And if the fourth leg we cannot sell 

The sheep it maun leeve and gae back 

Tae the hill. 

OLD CUSTOMS AT KELSO. 

Of the old Border games, foot-ball is the 
only one which is kept up with any degree of 
spirit. It was a long established practice for 
the Rector of the Grammar school and the 



THE KING'S EASE AT AYR. 93 

other teachers in the town of Kelso to present 
"the king," that is the boy who made the 
most liberal Candlemas offering, with a foot- 
ball, which formed a source of amusement to 
the pupils for several weeks afterwards. 
The custom formerly connected with this 
game of the schools marching in procession 
through the town with a gilded ball on the 
top of a pole has long been abandoned. 

THE KING'S EASE AT AYR. 

In consequence of King Eobert Bruce 
having experienced benefit from drinking the 
waters of a medicinal spring near the town of 
Ayr, when afflicted with a scorbutic disorder 
which in those days was styled leprosy, after 
ascending the throne he founded the priory 
of Dominican Monks, every one of whom was 
under the obligation of putting up prayers 
for his recovery, daily, and twice in holidays. 
After his death those masses were continued 
for the salvation of his soul. 

King Robert likewise erected houses round 
the well which after his recovery was called 
King's Ease or Case, for the accommodation 
of eight lepers who were each allowed eight 
bolls of oat-meal, and 28s. Scotch money per 



94 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

annum. These donations were levied upon 
the lands, and are now laid upon the Duke of 
Portland. The farm of Shiels, in the neigh- 
bourhood of Ayr, was bound to give, if 
necessary, straw for the lepers' beds, also some 
to thateh their houses annually. Each 
leprous person had a drinking horn presented 
to him by the king, which continued to be 
hereditary in the house to which it was first 
granted. Out of compliment to Sir William 
Wallace, King Robert Bruce invested his 
descendants with the right of placing all the 
lepers upon the establishment of King's 
Ease. This patronage continued in the 
family of Craigie, till it was sold with the 
lands of the late Sir Thomas Wallace. The 
burgh of Ayr then purchased the right of 
applying the donation of King's Ease, to 
the support of the poor-house of Ayr. 

BURNING THE CHAFF AFTER DEATH. 

It was formerly a national custom for the 
relatives of the dead, the day after the fun- 
eral, to carry the chaff and bed-straw on 
which the person had died, to some hillock in 
the neighbourhood of the house and there 
burn them. 






CREELING THE BRIDEGROOM. 95 

CREELING THE BRIDEGROOM IN 
BERWICKSHIRE. 

The ancient matrimonial ordeal of creeling 
the bridegroom was observed at Eccles in a 
somewhat different way from other parishes. 
Once a year, or oftener, according to circum- 
stances, all the men who had been married 
within the previous twelve months were' 
creeled. With baskets, or creels, fastened 
on to their shoulders, they ran at full speed 
from their own houses to those of their 
nearest newly married neighbours, pursued 
by the unmarried men, who endeavoured to 
fill the baskets with stones, while the wives 
followed after with knives, striving to relieve 
them of their burdens by severing the ropes 
which attached the creels to their persons. 

MARRIAGE CUSTOMS IN THE NORTH. 

When a fisherman's marriage took place in 
the parish of Avoch the following superstitious 
practice was observed with a view, it was 
said, of thwarting the power of witchcraft. 
That was when the bridegroom's party arrived 
at the church door, the best man untied the 
shoe upon the left foot of the bridegroom, and 
formed a cross with a nail or a knife upon the 
right hand side of the door the shoe re- 
maining untied. 



96 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

The fishermen were generally married at an 
early age, and seldom selected a bride above 
nineteen The marriage was solemnised in 
the church on a Friday, but never before 
twelve o'clock. On one occasion, there were 
three marriages to take place on one day. 
The friends of the parties, according to custom 
waited upon the minister previously to engage 
his services. They were assured he should be 
in readiness and requested them to fix upon 
a convenient 'hour for the three parties to be 
married at once. The men looked grave, 
shook their heads, and said nothing. The 
minister entirely at a loss to understand this 
sudden gravity of countenance, the shaking 
of the heads, and the profound silence, begged 
them to explain their singular conduct. 
After some delay and hesitation upon their 
part, he was given to understand that were 
the three parties to be married at once, 
the consequences might be most serious, for 
there would be a struggle made by each party 
to get first out of the church, believing as 
they did that the party who contrived to be 
first would carry off the blessing. To prevent 
the contention that might take place under 
such circumstances, the minister offered to 



ANCIENT CUSTOMS AT CARLUKE. 97 

marry each party in succession. But next came 
the question of precedence, a delicate and diffi- 
cult point at all times to settle, at least to 
every one's satisfaction, a point the deputies 
acknowledged they were quite unable to 
decide. This is not to be wondered at, con- 
sidering that each party was anxious to be 
married first. After mature deliberation the 
minister thought fit to propose that the par- 
ties first contracted should be the first married, 
the proposal was unanimously agreed to, and 
the three couples were married on the Sunday 
following, in succession, especial care being 
taken that neither of the parties should meet 
the other on the way to and from the church, 
because it would be considered unlucky. 

ANCIENT CUSTOMS AT CARLUKE. 
Ancient customs and superstitions have ra- 
pidly disappeared in the parish of Carluke. 
About the middle of last century there might 
have been seen hanging in some byres a phial 
of Lee-Penny Water, to keep the cows from 
miscarriage in calving, and to prevent the milk 
from changing. To obtain the former of these 
objects, the barbarous custom of burying a 
live calf beneath the steps of the byre door 
was actually put into execution about that 



98 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

time by the servants of a respectable proprie- 
tor in the neighbourhood. 

With regard to Lee-Penny water, the 
reputed talisman known as the Lee Penny 
is called so on account of its being set 
in the centre of a coin. This celebrated 
amulet was brought to this country by 
Sir Simon Lockhart of Lee, who accom- 
panied the good Lord James Douglas to 
the Holy Land, and was believed to 
possess certain valuable properties. The 
Saracen lady from whom Sir Simon re- 
ceived the relic in part payment of her 
husband's ransom, acquainted him with the 
manner in which the amulet was to be used, 
and the uses to which it might be put, 
the water in which it was dipped being 
reckoned, as she told him, to possess many 
medicinal virtues. The Lee Penny, since 
its arrival on Scottish shores has, it is said, 
wrought the most marvellous cures on man 
and beast, and has been sent for as far as 
from the northern counties of England. In 
the reign of Charles I. the people of New- 
castle, when suffering from the plague, sent 
for and obtained a loan of it, depositing the 
sum of 6000 in its place as a pledge. 



FUNERAL SERVICES. 



FUNERAL SERVICES. 

The following orders were formerly observ- 
ed in many parts of Scotland at the funerals 
of all persons who aimed at respectability of 
station. In " bidding to the buriall," no 
hour was mentioned, as ten in the morning 
was understood to be the time of assembling, 
and two or three in the afternoon as that of 
" lifting," and the intervening time was occu- 
pied in treating with " services " the various 
individuals as they arrived ; these services 
being interspersed with admonitions, length- 
ened prayers and graces, when the mingled 
worship and entertainment terminated, the 
people proceeded to the churchyard after a 
scout stationed on a rising ground in the 
neighbourhood, gave intimation that no ad- 
ditional mourner was seen approaching the 
place of meeting. The following was the 
regular succession of the services : 
1st Service Bread and cheese with ale and 

porter. 

2nd Glass of rum with "burial bread." 

3rd Pipes filled with tobacco. To 

prepare the pipes was one of 

the duties of the women who 

sat at the late- wake. 



100 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

4th Glass of port wine with cake. 
5th Glass of sherry with cake. 
6th ,, Glass of whiskey. 
7th Glass of wine not specified. 
8th Thanks returned for the whole. 

After which the service was renewed as 
soon as another individual made his appear- 
ance. 

EORSE RACING IN SCOTLAND. 

James IV. established horse-racing as a 
royal sport, and the first notice of horse-rac- 
ing in Britain occurred in his reign. During 
the reign of Queen Mary, district horse races 
were began. In 1552 an annual horse race 
was established at Haddington and Laming- 
ton. 

FARMERS' PARADE IN A TRSHIRE. 

In former times the farmers' parade or 
race in the Lochwinnoch district was held on 
the first Tuesday of July. The horses were 
ranged according to their colours, with a cap- 
tain at the head of each company, and the 
whole marched under the command of a col- 
onel. The hats of the riders were adorned 
with ribbons, flowers, and newly shot oats, 
and some of them had showy sashes and other 
ornaments. The trappings of the horses were 



SHOOTING FOR THE SILLER GUN. 101 

equally gaudy. One of the farmers carried 
a large flag, and they were accompanied by 
a piper or a band of instrumental music. 
Some of those who rode the fleetest steeds, 
after the parade was over, tried their speed 
in a horse race. 

THE OLD CUSTOM AT DUMFRIES OP SHOOTING 
FOR THE SILLER GUN. 

We are told, that when James I. went to 
Dumfries, he was so well pleased with his 
reception, that he presented to the town, a 
small model of a gun in silver, to be the 
object of a shooting match at periodical 
intervals, in imitation of some such sports, 
which were exhibited before him, on this 
occasion. The siller gun as it is called, has 
been since shot for every seven years, in much 
the same manner as silver arrows have been 
contended for, by archers at Musselburgh, 
Peebles, and St. Andrews. The place of sport, 
is a low holm by the side of the Nith, about a 
mile below the town, called the King's Holm. 
But this festival of the siller gun, has of late 
years been unpopular, from the number of 
accidents by which it is so disagreeably 
characterized. It unfortunately happens, 
that the important part of the festival, 



102 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

termed the " Drinking," is never postponed 
a,s it ought to be, till the termination of the 
sport, but diffused generally throughout its 
continuance. The consequence is, that the 
whole scene becomes one of riot and outrage. 
To show that people are not prevented from 
shooting when in a state of intoxication, a 
case is recorded of a man having once fired, 
when so overcome by liquor, that the gun 
was held for him by his friends, and yet 
lie hit the mark, and was declared victor, 
though it was said, he was not aware of his 
good fortune, nor conscious of the honours that 
were paid him till next morning. In his 
ballad of the " Siller Gun," John Mayne has 
celebrated the annual commemoration of the 
festival. The following verses, are illustrative 
of the orgies practised on the occasion : 

" Louder grew the busy hum 
Of friends rejoicing as they come, 
Wi' double vis the drummers drum 

The pint stoups clatter, 
And bowls o' negus, milk, and rum 

Flew round like water." 



HAND BALL CUSTOM. 103 



CHAPTEK VIII. 

Interesting Hand-ball custom in Perthshire Old cus- 
tom in connection with Scottish Coronations The 
Game of Shinty at Roseneath Playing Football on 
Sunday Christmas Sports in Aberdeenshire Fes- 
tive Games at Cullen Marriage and Funeral Cus- 
toms at Knockando Superstitious customs in con- 
nection with the Dhu Loch The Well of Loretta 
at Mnftselburgh Chapman's Festival at Preston 
Cock-fighting at Westruther The Wapinshaw at 
Perth Horse-racing at Perth in Olden Times 
The Mount of Peace Holy Wells at Muthill. 

INTERESTING HAND BALL CUSTOM IN 
PERTHSHIRE. 

A N annual custom used to prevail at Scone, 
** for the bachelors and married men, to 
draw themselves up at the Cross of Scone, on 
opposite sides. A ball was then thrown up, 
and they played from the hour of two until 
sunset. The game was played after this 
fashion. The person who succeeded in catch- 
ing the ball ran with it till overtaken by one 
or more of the opposite party. If able to 
shake himself free from his captors he ran on. 
If not he threw the ball from him, unless it 
was wrested out of his hands. No person was 



104 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

allowed to kick it. The object of the mar- 
ried men was to hang the ball, i.e., to put it 
three times in a hole in the moor the dool 
or limit on the one hand. That of the bache- 
lors was to drown it, i.e., to dip it three- 
times in a deep pool in the river the boun- 
dary on the other. The party who could 
achieve this feat won the game. If neither 
party proved victorious the ball was cut 
equally asunder at sunset. This custom is- 
supposed to have originated in the days of 
chivalry. An Italian is said to have come- 
into this part of the country challenging all 
the parishes, which were to undergo a certain 
penalty should they decline his challenge. 
Scone was the only one that accepted it. 
Proving victorious, in commemoration of their 
victory, the game was substituted. Whilst 
the custom continued every man in the par- 
ish, the gentlemen not excepted, was obliged 
to be out and support the side to which he 
belonged ; and the person who neglected to 
perform his duty on that occasion had to sub- 
mit to a fine. This custom being attended 
with some inconveniences, it was abandoned 
many years ago. 



SCOTTISH CORONATIONS. 105 

OLD CUSTOM IN CONNECTION WITH SCOTTISH 

CORONATIONS. 

Between sixty and seventy yards north 
from the eminence where the ancient Scottish 
kings were crowned at Scone, is a place 
vulgarly called Boot Hill. It is likewise 
called, Omnis Terra, or, every man's land. 
The tradition of the people of the parish, 
concerning Boot Hill, is, that at the corona- 
tion of a king, every man who assisted 
brought so much earth in his boots, that each 
might see the king crowned on his own land ; 
and that afterwards, they cast the earth out 
of their boots upon this hill, whereby it 
obtained the name of Boot Hill, and Omnis 
Terra. 

THE GAME OF SHINTY AT ROSENEATH. 

In the prettily situated parish of Rose- 
neath, Dumbartonshire, New Year's day was 
.anciently observed with great festivities. 
For weeks previously, the youths of the 
district, prepared for the grand annual game 
of shinty. And in one of the fields adjoining 
the church, hundreds of people assembled 
with music and banners, either to witness, or 
to join in the contest. 

PLAYING FOOTBALL ON SUNDAY. 

In the good old times, the parishioners of 



106 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

Menzie, were in the habit of assembling upon 
the green on Sunday morning, to play at 
football. On these occasions, their clergyman, 
Mr. Chalmers, who experienced great diffi- 
culty in getting his people to attend church,, 
occasionally took part with them in the 
game. He thus gained their affections, and 
in a short time, prevailed upon them to- 
attend him to church, and to listen to his 
instructions. 

CHRISTMAS SPORTS IN ABERDEEN SHIRE. 

At Yule-tide, the Strathdonians, observed 
the festive season, with prize-shootings, and 
subscription dances. These were generally 
got up for charitable purposes. They were 
-set on foot for the relief of some case of 
poverty, or distress in the neighbourhood ; 
and thus, at the cost of a few pence to each 
individual, a large sum was raised for the 
benefit of the needy family. Another chari- 
table custom prevailed. When any singular 
and melancholy case of distress occurred, the 
young men in this parish, assembled together, 
and, frequently accompanied by music, went 
to each house, where they received a donation, 
either of food or money. 

Formerly football was a favourite amuse- 



PLAYING FOOTBALL ON SUNDAY. 107 

merit with persons of every age in the parish 
of Monymusk ; and parties came from other 
districts to take part in it. "The Monymusk 
Christmas ba-ing," with its various mischances 
has been celebrated in a humorous poem, 
by the Rev. John Skinner, Grandfather of 
the present Bishop of Aberdeen. 

" The hurry-burry now began 

Was right weel worth the seeing, 
Wi' routs and raps frae man to man 

Some getting and some gieing. 
And a' the tricks o' f ut and hand 

That ever was in being ; 
Sometimes the ba' a yirdlins ran, 

Sometimes in air was fleeing 
Fu' heigh that day. 

How ne'er in Monymusk been seen 

Sae mony weel-beft skins ; 
Of a' the ba'men there was nane 

But had twa bloody shins ; 
Wi' strenzied shutters many ane 

Dree'd penance for their sins, 
And what was warst, sconped hame at e'en 

May be to hungry inns 

And cauld that day. 

FESTIVE GAMES AT CULLEN. 

At the winter festivals of Hallowe'en, 
Christmas, and other holidays at Cullen, the 
younger portion of the community used to 
resort to the sands and links of the Bay of 



108 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

Cullen, for the purpose of playing football, 
running races, throwing the hammer, playing 
bowls, etc. They left the town in procession 
preceded by the pipes and other music, and 
were attended by numbers from the adjacent 
districts. These games were keenly contested, 
and the victor was crowned with a bonnet 
adorned with feathers and ribbons, previously 
prepared by the ladies. At the conclusion of 
the games the whole party danced on the 
green with great merriment. After which 
the procession was again formed, and returned 
to the town, the victor, preceded by the 
music, leading the way. A ball took place 
in the evening, at which he presided, with 
the privilege of wearing his bonnet and feather. 
The bowls were played by rolling or throwing 
a cannon ball, and he who could with the 
fewest strokes send it beyond a mark at the 
further end of the link, was declared the 
victor. A man being on one occasion killed 
while playing at this game, the magistrates 
caused it to be discontinued. 

The ancient festivities of Harvest Home, 
Hallowe'en, and Brose-day, were formerly 
observed in the above-mentioned parish. 
Here the farmers carefully preserved their 



MARRIAGE AND FUNERAL CUSTOMS. 109 

cattle against witchcraft by placing boughs 
of the mountain ash, and honeysuckle, with- 
in cowhouses on the second of May. They 
hoped to preserve the milk of their cows, and 
their wives from miscarriage, by tying red 
threads* round them. They bled the sup- 
posed witch to preserve themselves from her 
charms. They visited the wells of Spey and 
Dracholdy when afflicted with disease, offer- 
ing small pieces of money, etc. 

MARRIAGE AND FUNERAL CUSTOMS AT 
KNOGKANDO. 

One of the customs at Knockando was for 
the married women generally to retain their 
maiden names in preference to assuming those 
of their husbands. Another strange custom 
was that the father, who should attend as 
chief mourner, was seldom present at the 

*Miss Gordon Gumming tells us that in Banffshire it is still 
a common practice to tie a couple of twigs crosswise with red 
thread and place them above the door of the cowhouse ; 
and that "various knowing old wives," keep a red thread 
twisted round the tail of their cow, as a safeguard from evil. 
Also that this reverence for a scarlet twine is by no means 
confined to these isles ; that the witches of Mongolia carry 
on their incantations by the means of scarlet silken thread, 
and that Vishnu protected some of his votaries from the 
sorceries of the demon-worshippers by tying threads on their 



110 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

funeral of his eldest child. Tuesdays, Thurs- 
days, and Saturdays, were the common days 
for weddings to take place ; the common 
people having some superstitious notions 
regarding Mondays and Fridays. 

CUSTOMS IN CONNECTION WITH THE DOW 
LOCH. 

There used to be a small Loch called the 
Dow, Dhu, or Black Loch, which was reputed 
to possess extraordinary virtue in the healing 
of diseases. It seems to have been looked 
upon as a perpetual Bethesda, for its waters 
were reputed to be efficacious in the cure of 
every disease, but especially of cattle subjected 
to the spells of witchcraft. It was not neces- 
sary that the person ailing should himself visit 
the loch. A deputy was employed, who had 
to obey certain rules. He had to carry a part 
of the dress of the invalid, or of the furniture 
of the person bewitched as an offering to the 
spirit of the loch. When the messenger 
reached Dow Loch, he had to draw water in a 
vessel which had never touched the ground, 
to turn himself round with the sun, and to 
throw his offering to the spirit over his left 
shoulder formalities all indicative of Druidi- 
cal origin. In carrying the water away to 






LOCH TORRIDON. Ill 

the sick person or animal, the messenger may 
not look back, and, like the prophet's servant, 
the man was to salute no person by the way. 
In the days of superstition great virtue was 
attached to water drawn from under a bridge 
along which the living walked and the dead 
were carried. 

LOCH TOERIDON. 

In a churchyard on Loch Torridon there is 
a well where, it used to be said, from time 
immemorial three stones have been perpetu- 
ally whirling round and round. All kinds of 
sickness and disease have been cured by 
carrying one of these stones in a bucket of 
water to the invalid, who was only required 
to touch the stone to be restored to health. 
Its mission accomplished, the Talisman was 
restored to its place, when it commenced 
whirling as before. But, alas ! one of these 
healing stones now lies quietly at the bottom 
of the well, refusing any longer to whirl like 
the others, simply because a woman, great in 
her faith, once took it home with her to per- 
form a cure on her sick goat. 

HOLY WELL AT MUSSJELBURGH. 

The long celebrated chapel dedicated to 
Our Lady of Loretto, stood beyond the 



112 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

eastern gate of Musselburgh, in Midlothian, 
on the margin of the links. But we have no 
authentic accounts as to the time of its 
erection. Pilgrimages from all parts of 
Scotland were performed to this shrine, 
which was connected, it is supposed, with the 
Nunnery of Sciennes, in the northern district 
of Edinburgh. Expectant mothers sent 
handsome presents of money accompanying 
their child-bed linen, which latter was 
consecrated, for a good fee, to promote their 
safe delivery and recovery. The celebrity of 
this place was increased by a hermit, who 
inhabited a cell adjoining the chapel. So 
successful was he believed to be in the per- 
formance of miracles, that, at the commence- 
ment of the sixteenth century, it was 
esteemed the most noted shrine in Scotland. 
King James V. performed a pilgrimage from 
Stirling to it, ere he sailed for France, to woo 
and win his future queen. The materials of 
the discredited and ruined chapel, are said to 
have been the first belonging to any sacred 
edifice after the Reformation, devoted to any 
secular purpose. They were employed in the 
erection of the present town gaol. For this 
piece of sacrilege, it is said, the inhabitants of 



CHAPMAN'S FESTIVAL. 113 

Musselburgh were annually excommunicated 
at Home, till the end of the last century. 

CHAPMAN'S FESTIVAL AT PRESTON. 

At Preston, in a garden on the opposite 
side of the road from the castle gardens, 
stands the ancient village cross. Annually 
at the beginning of July, it was formerly the 
scene of much innocent mirth and merry- 
making. As if in obedience to some 
enchanter's wand, a large crowd suddenly 
encircled the solitary pillar, and exchanged 
friendly greetings and good wishes. This was 
doubtless a continuation of some ancient 
custom ; and as this cross is, or was, the pro- 
perty of the chapmen (pedlars) of the Lothians, 
having been acquired by them in olden times, 
it is supposed by some antiquarians that the 
company referred to, were representatives 
of that ancient and respectable fraternity. 
The so styled chapman was in former 
times a most useful member of society. In 
the country districts, when roads were bad, 
towns distant, and means of communication 
with them rare, his appearance was generally 
greeted with delight. The better class of 
these itinerant merchants pursued their 
journeys on horseback, conveying their 



114 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

merchandise on pack saddles. The chapman 
or pedlar, is not now so frequently met with 
in Scotland. 

COCK-FIGHTING AT WESTRUTHER. 

In the days of cock-fighting, and other 
equally barbarous sports, the school-boys of 
Westruther were accustomed to amuse 
themselves with cock-fighting on Fastern's 
eve each bringing a cock trained for the 
purpose, and the victor in the conquest had, 
besides the honour of the conquest, the 
burden imposed upon him of paying for a 
football, which ended the sport of the day. 
This barbarous amusement with which 
Fastern's eve was ushered in, was discontinued 
about 1840. The more innocent football game, 
so closely connected with it, was also gradu- 
ally relinquished. The matches often con- 
sisted of more than an hundred on each side. 
Sometimes the whole parish turned out, but 
generally the battle was fought between the 
married and unmarried men. There used to 
be also much sport and merriment in 
Westruther, at the celebrations of Penny 
Weddings, but these on the interference of 
the Church Courts, were prohibited. At the 
beginning of last century, cock-fighting was 



THE WAPINSRAW AT PERTH. 115 

a favourite pastime both with old and young. 
Even children took part in it. The Duke of 
York, it is said, introduced it into Scotland 
in 1683. Towards the close of the 17th 
century, this barbarous practice had become 
so popular and engrossing, that in 1704, the 
Town Council of Edinburgh interfered to 
prevent it, as it was fast becoming an 
impediment to business. 

THE WAPINSHAW AT PERTH. 

From the City Records of Perth it appears 
that the Wapinshaw was from an early pe- 
riod observed in Perth according to statute. 
The magistrates by beat of drum and pro- 
clamation called out the weapon shawers to 
exercise on the North Inch, at the fixed pe- 
riods or sometimes oftener. They appointed 
a captain and other officers, and gave them 
an ensign which was called the hangenzier, 
the bearer of which was styled the hangen- 
zier-bearer. At particular times the dis- 
tinguished banner having upon it the Holy 
Lamb en passant was produced. Absentees 
were fined 40s. each. After the year 1620, 
there is no account of weaponshawing in 
Perth. 



116 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 
HORSE-RACING CUSTOM AT PERTH. 

Horse-racing appears to have existed in 
the Fair City from an early period. The 
place appropriated to it was the South Inch ; 
the course was marked by six stakes. The 
first account given of a prize being run for is 
in 1613, this was a silver arrow given by 
Ninian Graham of Garvock, in the name of 
John Graham of Bogside. In 1631, there 
were three prize silver bells, but they were 
declared to be unsuitable, and a cup was sub- 
stituted in their place, which weighed more 
than eight ounces. Till 1688, the race was 
called " the bell race," by authority of the 
magistrates, it was afterwards referred to as 
a "race for a cup and other prizes." 

BELL-RINGING CUSTOM AT PERTH. 

"In the month of February, 1586-7, the 
Perth Session ordains Nicol Balmain to ring 
the Curfew and workman bell in the morning 
and evening the space of ane quarter of an 
hour at the times appointed, viz. four hours 
in the morning, and eight at even," and in 
the town's record, 1657, is "an act requiring 
obedience to the ringing of bells for putting 
out fires." 

OLD CUSTOM AT FOWLIS WESTER. 

In the parish of Fowlis Wester there is a 



HOLY WELL CUSTOMS AT MUTHILL. 117 



Siun, which signifies in Gaelic a mount of 
peace. On the Si'uns the Druids held assizes 
when it was customary to kindle a large 
bonfire called Saurhin or the fire of peace. 
On Hallow even, a Druidical festival, these 
fires are still lighted up in this district, and 
are said to retain the same name. 

St. Methvenmas market is held at Fowlis 
annually on the 6th November. This was in 
former times the festival of the parish, and 
the anniversary of the saint to whom the 
church was dedicated at its consecration, 
when the people constructed booths to indulge 
in hospitality and mirth ; it also became a 
commercial mart, and assumed the name of 
ferial or holy day. Many of our ancient fairs 
have a similar origin. 

HOLY WELL CUSTOMS AT MUTHILL. 

The parish of Muthill at one time contain- 
ed several springs or wells much esteemed 
for their virtues, real or imaginary. The one 
at Straid, in the district of Blair-in-nan, was 
much frequented, as it was esteemed effectual 
in curing the hooping-cough. In the course 
of this century a family came from Edinburgh, 
a distance of nearly sixty miles, to have the 
benefit of the well. The water must be drunk 



118 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

before sunrise or immediately after it sets, 
and that out of a " quick cow's horn," or a 
horn taken from a live cow. In the same dis- 
trict is St. Patrick's well, so named from a 
chapel once there, and probably dedicated to 
this saint. It is not known what connection 
St. Patrick had with this sequestered spot, 
but it is certain that formerly the inhabitants 
held his memory in such veneration, that on 
his day neither the clap of the mill was heard 
nor the plough seen to move in the furrow. 
A third well upon the side of the Machony 
was of still greater importance. It was called 
the well of Strathill, and was most sought 
after by the credulous, as its waters were 
deemed effectual in curing madness. In 1668 
several persons testified before the presbytery 
of Stirling, that having carried a woman 
thither, " they had stayed two nights at a 
house near to the well ; that the first night 
they did bind her twice to a stone at the well 
but she came into the house to them being 
loosed without any help. The second night 
they bound her again to the same stone, and 
she returned loose. And they declare also, 
she was very mad before they took her to the 
well, but since that time she is working and 



OLD CUSTOMS AT PETTIE. 119 

sober in her wits." This well long retained 
its former celebrity, and votive offerings were 
-cast into it in the year 1723. 



CHAPTER IX. 

Marriage and Funeral customs at Pettie The Duke 
of Perth and the Crieff fair Fairy doings in 
Inverness-shire Curious marriage custom at Ar- 
dersier Superstitious customs at Fodderty The 
old Scottish game of curling Farmers custom at 
Elgin Happy and unhappy feet Funeral customs 
at Campsie Gool Riding in Perthshire. 

OLD CUSTOMS AT PETTIE. 

"[FORMERLY it was customary when mar- 
-*- riages took place in the church of Pettie 
for the children of the parish school to 
barricade the door, and refuse admittance to 
the party till the bridegroom should either 
make a present of fourpence to buy a new 
football, or earn exemption from the custom 
by kicking the old ball over the church. If 
the would-be benedict could not achieve the 
exploit of kicking the ball, and would not pay 
the pence, the cleverest fellow, might take 



120 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

off the bride's shoes, and, thus degraded, the 
bridegroom was allowed to enter the church. 

At funerals also it was a custom peculiar to 
this parish to run as fast as possible, so that 
often persons fell when carrying the body to 
the grave. Hence in the neighbouring 
parishes, if rain came on, or if it was wished 
to quicken the progress of a funeral, it used 
to be said, " let us take the Pettie step to 
it." This custom was revived some time ago 
by the youngsters of the parish at the funeral 
of a woman known as Camranach-na-peas- 
anactis wife, and who had been dreaded and 
consulted as a witch. Other times other 
manners, the Pettie step at funerals is now 
as decorous as that of their neighbours, and 
the school impost at marriages no longer 
exists. 

OLD FAIR CUSTOM AT CRIEFF. 

In past days, the principal fairs held at 
Crieff were opened with considerable pomp 
by the Duke of Perth in person. He held 
his courts, often in the open air, in the town, 
and afterwards rode through the market at 
the head of his guard, and proclaimed his 
titles at the different marches or boundaries 
of his property. Many of the feuars were bound 



FAIRY DOINGS IN INVERNESS-SHIRK 121 

fay their charters to provide a given number 
of halbert-men that composed the guard at 
these fairs, and it was only in later times 
that their services were dispensed with. 

FAIRY DOINGS IN INVERNESS-SHIRE. 

At no very distant period, a belief in fairies 
and their gambols, existed in Ardersier, 
Inverness-shire. About 1730, it is said, a 
man of the name of Munro had a sickly 
attenuated child, which he and his neighbours 
considered to be a changeling, substituted by 
the sportive elves, at an unguarded moment, 
in place of his own. There is a conical knoll 
in the carse called Tom Earnais, or Henry's 
Knoll, which was famed as the scene of the 
moonlight revels of Titania and her court ; 
and it was believed, that if the changeling 
were left overnight on the hillock, the real 
child would be found in its stead in the 
morning. The infatuated father actually 
subjected his ailing offspring to this ordeal, 
and in the morning found it a corpse. 

CURIOUS MARRIAGE CUSTOM AT ARDERSIER. 

The fishermen here marry at an early age, 
and generally before they acquire the means 
of furnishing a house, even with the most 
necessary articles. To compensate in some 



122 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

measure for the deficency, the custom of 
thrigging, as it is called, was adopted by the 
young wife, a few days after marriage. She,, 
accompanied by her bridesmaid, visited her 
neighbours and friends, and they each pre- 
sented her with some little article of house 
plenishing, generally a piece of earthenware, 
usage permitting the visitors to choose what 
article she pleased. 

SUPERSTITIOUS CUSTOMS AT FODDERTY. 

There is a small spring, which rises in a 
circular hollow in a solid rock, in the west 
side of Rhoagie, called Tobar-na-doushunich, 
the water of which was believed to possess the 
virtue of indicating whether a sick person 
shall survive or not. It was taken from the 
spring before sunrise ; and, after the patient 
had been bathed or immersed in it. if the 
water appeared of a pure colour, it foretold re- 
covery ; but if of a brown mossy colour, it be- 
tokened death. Many years ago, a mother 
brought her sickly child, a distance of thirty 
miles, to the spring. On approaching it, she 
was startled by the appearance of an animal 
with glaring eye-balls, leaping into it. The 
poor mother considered this as a fatal omen. 
Her affection, however, for her offspring 



THE OLD GAME OF CURLING. 123 



overcame her fears. She dislodged the- 
creature, and bathed her child, after which 
it slept more soundly than it had ever done 
before. This seemed to confirm the healing- 
virtues of the well, but the child did not long 
survive. Within the same period, two- 
friends of a parishioner whose life was- 
despaired of, went to consult the spring in 
his behoof, and to fetch some of the water. 
On placing the pitcher in it, the water 
assumed a circular motion from south to west. 
They returned with joy, and told the patient 
that there was no cause to fear, as the motion 
of the water being, from south to west, was 
a sure indication that he would recover, 
whereas, had it been from north to west, he 
must have died. The person recovered. 

THE OLD GAME OF CURLING. 

The ancient and popular game of curling, 
is supposed to be of Continental origin, and 
that it was introduced into this country by 
those Flemish emigrants who settled in 
Scotland, towards the close of the fifteenth 
century. As St. Andrews is the headquarters* 
of golf, so is Edinburgh the headquarters of 
curling ; and it was formerly customary for 
the magistrates of the Modern Athens, to 



124 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

head a procession to Duddingstone Loch, 
when the weather was such as to permit of a 
contest on the ice. In certain districts, 
females used to take part in the game. At 
Lamington, in Lanarkshire, the married 
women frequently matched themselves against 
the spinsters, and the scientific zeal and skill 
with which both parties pursued their pastime, 
created much amusement amongst the 
bystanders. Curling is played as follows : 
The curlers range themselves into two oppos- 
ing parties, and stand opposite to each other. 
They slide from one mark to another, large 
stones, of several pounds weight, of a round 
form, and furnished with wooden handles. 
The aim of the player is, to lay his stone as 
close to the mark as possible, and in doing so, 
to strike away the best placed of his 
opponents. Each curler is provided with a 
broom, in order to sweep away the snow, or 
any other impediment from the ice. 

FARMERS' CUSTOM AT ELGIN. 
In the middle of June, many of the farmers 
at Elgin, formerly went round their corn with 
burning torches, in honour of the Cerealia. 
At the full moon in March, they cut withes 
off the mistletoe or ivy, made circles of them, 



HAPPY AND UNHAPPY FEET. 125 

kept them all year, and pretended to cure 
illness with them. At marriages and 
baptisms, they made a procession round the 
church with the sun, because the sun was 
the immediate object of the Druids' worship. 

HAPPY AND UNHAPPY FEET. 

Friday at Forglen in Banffshire used to be 
considered a very unlucky day on which to be 
married. The expressions, " happy and un- 
happy feet," were made use of by the inhabi- 
tants in the interchange of good and bad 
wishes. Thus, they wished a newly married 
couple " happy feet," and as a preventive to 
misfortunes of any kind, they saluted each 
other by kissing when they chanced to meet 
on the road to and from the church. 

FUNERAL CUSTOMS AT CAMPSIE. 

It was formerly the custom in the Campsie 
district, when the head of a family died, to in- 
vite all the inhabitants to attend the funeral. 
The visitors were served seated on boards in 
the barn, and by way of commencement were 
supplied with ale, then followed whisky, after 
this came shortbread, then some other kind 
of liquor, then a piece of currant bread, and 
a third supply either of whisky or wine. 
After this came bread and cheese, pipes and 



126 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

tobacco. This feast was called a service ; 
sometimes it was repeated, in which case it 
was called a double service, However distant 
any part of the parish was from the place of 
interment, it was customary for the attendants 
to carry the coffin on hand-spokes. The mode 
of invitation was by a special messenger. This 
was styled " bidding to the funeral." No 
person was invited by letter. ' The form of 
words used were, "You are desired to come 

to 's funeral to-morrow against ten 

o'clock." Although asked for that early hour 
the funeral never took place until the evening. 
It was customary for them to have two Lyke- 
wakeSy when the young friends and neigh- 
bours watched the corpse. These were merry 
or sorrowful according to the position or rank 
of the deceased. 

THE CUSTOM OF GOOL RIDING. 

Unfortunately for the former inhabitants of 
Cargill, Perthshire, the fields in this parish 
were formerly over-run by a weed with a 
yellow flower called "gool," which grew 
amongst the grain especially in wet seasons, 
and greatly injured the corn, not only 
while growing, but during the winnowing of 
it. Such was the destruction caused by this 



OLD CUSTOMS IN BANFFSHIEE. 127 

noxious weed that it became absolutely 
necessary to adopt some effectual method for 
getting rid of it. Accordingly an act of the 
Barons' Court was passed imposing a fine of 
3s. 4d. or a wedder sheep, on every tenant for 
each stock of gool that should be found 
growing amongst the corn on a particular day, 
and certain persons called gool-riders were 
appointed to ride through the fields searching 
for gool. Wherever it was found the fine waa 
vigorously exacted. 






CHAPTER X. 

Old Customs at Kirkmichael The Pedlars Tourna- 
ment at Leslie Superstitious custom at St. Mon- 
anceThe Touch Hills The Maiden Feast in 
Perthshire The Society of Chapmen at Dunkeld 
Announcement of Death at Hawick The customs 
in connection with Nicknames Religious custom 
on the approach of Death Riding the Marches at 
Hawick Scottish Masonic customs Candlemat 
customs. 

OLD CUSTOMS IN BANFFSHIRE. 
A LTHOUGH quite unable to furnish any 
-^- reason for their superstitious obser- 
vances, the inhabitants of the parish of Kirk- 



328 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

michael, Banffshire, were formerly the slaves 
of times and seasons. The moon in her in- 
crease, full-growth, and decline, was with 
them the emblem of a rising, flourishing, and 
declining fortune. While in the wane they 
refused to engage in any important business, 
such as marriage, etc., but when in the two 
former stages of her revolutions, whatever 
was the nature of the undertakings in which 
they were employed, they predicted for them- 
selves a successful issue. They had customs 
for Hallowe'en and the first night of the 
New Year. On the latter evening they 
were attentive observers of the weather. Ac- 
cording as it was calm or boisterous, and as 
the wind blew, they prognosticated the na- 
ture of the weather they would have till the 
end of the year. 

THE PEDLARS' TOURNAMENT. 

The green of Leslie was in former years 
the theatre of annual sports of a rather ludic- 
rous nature. The chief if not sole performers 
in these rural pastimes were the honourable 
fraternity of pedlars or packmen, who, by 
tilting at a ring, with wooden spears, on 
horseback, endeavoured hard, to imitate the 
chivalrous knights of old. Much merriment 



SUPERSTITIOUS CUSTOM. 129 

was excited whenever these doughty pedlars 
their horses at full stretch missed strik- 
ing the ring, which, unfortunately for their 
composure, was but too often the case ; as it 
inevitably followed that the circumstance 
caused them to drop both reins and spears, 
and cling convulsively to their saddles. At 
these times the appearance presented by 
these modern Quixotes was in the highest 
degree ludicrous. 

SUPERSTITIOUS CUSTOM AT ST. MONANCE. 

The ancient bell which formerly rung the 
good people of St. Monance to church, and 
which hung suspended from a tree in the 
churchyard, was, strange to say, removed 
every year from that position during the 
herring season, the fishermen entertaining 
the superstitious belief that the fish were 
scared anvay from the coast by its noise. No 
compliment this to the sounds produced by 
the bell in question. 

PILGRIMAGE TO ST. CORBET'S WELL. 

At the summit of the Touch Hills, Stirling- 
shire, a little to the west of Stirling, there 
may be seen by the curious a crystal well 
which in ancient times was believed to pos- 
sess the peculiar quality of insuring for a 



130 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

twelvemonth, the lives of all who drank of its 
waters, before sunrise on the first Sunday in 
May. In 1840 there were old men and 
women then alive who in their younger days 
had been of the number of those who made 
annual pilgrimages to St. Corbet's Well on 
the morning in question. They described the 
gatherings on the anniversaries as having 
been splendid. Husbands and wives, lovers 
with their sweethearts, young and old, grave 
and gay, crowded the hill tops in the vicinity 
of the well long before dawn, and each party 
on their arrival took copious draughts of the 
singularly blessed water. It is reported that 
St. Corbet, after a lapse of years, deprived 
the well of its life-preserving qualities in con- 
sequence of the introduction of " mountain 
dew " of a less innocent nature into these an- 
nual festivals. 

THE MAIDEN FEAST. 

In some parts of Perthshire it was till very 
lately the custom to give what was called a 
Maiden Feast, upon the finishing of the 
harvest ; as a preparation for which the last 
handful of corn reaped in the field was called 
the Maiden. It was generally so contrived 
that this fell into the hands of one of the 



CHAPMEN AT DUNK ELD. 131 

prettiest girls in the field; it was then decked 
up with ribbons, and brought home in triumph 
to the sound of bagpipes and fiddles. A good 
dance was given to the reapers, and the 
evening was devoted to merriment. After- 
wards the " Maiden " was dressed out, gener- 
ally in the form of a cross, and hung up, with 
the date attached to it in some conspicuous 
part of the house. 

CHAPMEN AT DUNKELD. 
The Society of Chapmen or itinerant 
merchants was a very ancient institution. 
The original charter was from James V. The 
general annual meeting of the Society was 
held alternately at Dunkeld and Coupar 
Angus. The meeting was styled a Court. 
All members coming to the market were 
obliged to attend it. They were summoned 
by one of the office-bearers, who, to enforce 
their attendance, went round to the differ- 
ent booths in open market, and took from 
each a piece of goods, or 2s. 6d., as a pledge 
for the owner's appearance. Each member 
was obliged to produce his weights and 
measures, which were compared with stan- 
dards, kept for the purpose. After the court, 
the members dined together, and spent the 



132 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

evening in some public competition of 
dexterity or skill. Of these, Riding at the 
Ring, an amusement of ancient and warlike 
origin, and already referred to on a previous 
page, was the chief. Two perpendicular 
posts were erected on this occasion, with a 
cross beam, from which was suspended a 
small ring. The competitors were on horse- 
back, each bearing a pointed rod in his hand, 
and he, who at full gallop, passed between 
the posts, carrying away the ring on his rod, 
gained the prize. 

" He was a braw gallant 

And he rode at the ring ; 

And the bonnie Earl Murray 

He was fit to be a king. " 

Old Ballad. 

OLD CUSTOM AT HA WICK. 

On the event of a death occurring in the 
parish of Ha wick, it was formerly the custom 
for one of the burgh officers to proceed 
through the different districts of the town, 
ringing his bell, and intimating the death; 
which intimation was accompanied by a 
general invitation to the funeral. The bell 
was then taken to the house of mourning, and 
placed on the bed where the dead body lay, 
and in a position from which it was deemed 



CUSTOMS REGARDING NICKNAMES. 133 

sacrilegious to remove it, until the time ap- 
pointed for the interment. 

CUSTOMS REGARDING NICKNAMES. 
At one time the strange custom prevailed 
all over Scotland, of distinguishing individuals 
by other than their proper names. This 
custom was at one time exceedingly common 
and was probably adopted in ancient times 
for the purpose of drawing a broader line of 
distinction between persons, who, belonging 
to the same class and bearing the same 
names, could not, but for this method, be 
easily distinguished the one from the other. 
It is not a little singular that these desig- 
nations have been handed down from father 
to son in regular succession through the course 
of many generations. Indeed there are some 
old people who have been so long accustomed 
to this singular fashion that their proper 
names are but seldom used, and remain quite 
unknown to many of their neighbours. Even 
in the Register of Deaths, where, one would 
imagine, the evidences of such a strange 
custom were least likely to be traced, there 
is actually a faithful record of the soubriquets 
by which the ancestors of the present gener- 
ation were commonly distinguished. 



134 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 
BURYING WITHOUT A COFFIN. 

It was customary in some parts of Scot- 
land to employ only one coffin in the inter- 
ment of paupers. This by all accounts, was 
used merely for the purpose of conveying the 
corpses to their final resting place, and was so 
constructed as to be capable of opening by a 
hinge underneath, by which means the body 
was permitted to escape when lowered into 
the grave. 

RELIGIOUS CUSTOM ON THE APPROACH OF 
DEATH. 

The following custom long prevailed in 
many places. When any member of a family 
was considered to be dying, the apartment was 
not only frequented by relations and neigh- 
bours, but in many instances, the entire 
company united in religious worship, selecting 
one of the psalms most suited to the occasion, 
such as the twenty-third, the forty-third, or 
the hundred and eighteenth. This they sang 
with a low and solemn melody, while the 
soul of the dying person was passing into the 
world of spirits. And then, when the mortal 
struggle appeared to be over, it was succeeded 
by a song of triumph and of praise, consisting 
not frequently of a portion of the hundred 
and seventh psalm. 



RIDING THE MARCHES AT HAWICK. 135 
RIDING THE MARCHES AT HAWICK. 

The ceremonies observed in the parish of 
Hawick at the riding of the marches, were 
pretty similar to those engaged in, at other 
places. The honour of carrying the standard 
of the town, the original of which is said to 
have been taken from the English after the 
battle of Flodden, devolved upon the 
Cornet, a young man previously selected for 
the purpose. 

The following are a few verses from an 
ancient song, which was sung by the Cornet 
and his attendants, from the roof of an old 
tenement belonging to the town. 

" We'll a' hie to the moor a-riding, 
Drumlanrig gave it for providing 
Our ancestors of martial order 
To drive the English off our Border. 

" At Flodden field our fathers fought it, 
And honour gain'd though dear they bought it, 
By Teviot side they took this colour 
A dear memorial of their valour. 

' ' Though twice of old our tower was burned, 
Yet twice the foemen back we turned, 
And ever should our rights be trod on, 
We'll face the foe on Tirioden. 

*' Up wi' Hawick its rights and common, 
Up wi' a' the Border bowman ! 
Tiribus and Tirioden, 
We are up to guard the common." 



136 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

SCOTTISH MASONIC CUSTOMS. 
The eve of St. John is a great day amongst 
the masonic lodges of Scotland. What 
takes place at Melrose may be considered 
a fair example of the whole. Immediately 
after the election of office-bearers for the 
ensuing year the brethren walk in procession 
three times round the cross, and afterwards 
dine together under the presidency of the 
newly elected Grand Master. About six in 
the evening the members again turn out and 
form into line two abreast, each bearing a 
lighted flambeau, and decorated with their 
peculiar emblems and insignia. Headed by 
the heraldic banners of the Lodge, the pro- 
cession performs the same route three times 
round the cross and thus proceed to the 
Abbey. On these occasions the crowded 
streets present a scene of the most animated 
description. The joyous strains of a well 
conducted band, the waving torches, and 
incessant showers of fireworks make the 
scene a carnival. But at this time the 
venerable Abbey is the chief point of attrac- 
tion and resort ; and as the mystic torch- 
bearers thread their way through its mould- 
ering aisles and round its massive pillars, the- 



OLD CANDLEMAS CUSTOMS. 137 

outlines of its gorgeous ruins become singu- 
larly illuminated and brought into bold and 
striking relief. The whole extent of the 
Abbey is, with measured step and slow, 
gone three times round. But when near the 
finale, the whole masonic body gather to the 
chancel, and forming one grand semi-circle 
round it where the heart of King Robert 
Bruce lies deposited, near the high altar, and 
the band strikes up the patriotic air, " Scots 
wha ha'e wi' Wallace bled," the effect produced 
is overpowering. Midst showers of rockets 
and glare of blue lights the scene closes, the 
whole reminding one of some popular Satur- 
nalia held in a monkish town during the 
middle ages. 

OLD CANDLEMAS CUSTOMS. 
There was a curious custom of old standing 
in Scotland in connexion with Candlemas 
Day. On that day it was lately a universal 
custom in some parts of the country for the 
children attending school to make small 
presents of money to their teachers. The 
master sits at his desk or table exchanging 
for the moment his usual authoritative look for 
one of bland civility, and each child goes up in 
turn and lays the offering down before him 



138 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 



the sum being generally apportioned to the 
abilities of the parents. Sixpence or a shilling 
were the most common sums in many schools, 
but some gave half and whole crowns and even 
more. The boy and girl who gave most were 
respectively styled King and Queen. The 
children being then dismissed for a holiday 
proceed along the streets in a confused pro- 
cession carrying the King and Queen in 
state exalted upon a seat formed of crossed 
hands which probably from this circumstance 
is called the King's chair. In some schools 
it used to be customary for the teacher on 
the conclusion of the offerings to make a bowl 
of punch, and each urchin was regaled with 
a glass to drink the King and Queen's health, 
and a biscuit. The latter part of the day 
was generally devoted to what was called a 
Candlemas bleeze or blaze, namely, the con- 
flagration of any piece of furze which might 
exist in their neighbourhood, or, were that 
wanting, of an artificial bonfire. 

An old popular custom in Scotland on 
Candlemas day was to hold a football match 
the east end of the town against the west, 
the married men against the unmarried, or 
one parish against another. The Candlemas 



STRANGE CUSTOM AT KIRKMAIDEN. 139 

Ba' as it was called brought the whole com- 
munity out in a state of great excitement. 
On one occasion not long ago when the sport 
took place in Jedburgh, the contending parties 
alter a struggle of two hours in the Jed, 
fought it out amidst a scene of fearful 
splash and dabblement to the infinite amuse- 
ment of a multitude looking on from a bridge. 



CHAPTER XL 

Strange custom at Kirkmaiden Singular obituary 
announcement at Bo' ness Holy well observances in 
Kincardineshire Ancient races at Kilmarnock 
Creeling the Bridegroom again Old Border 
customs Alarm signals The right hand un- 
baptised The fiery peat Good faith of the 
Borderers Sunday dissipation Punishment of 
matrimonial infidelity in former times Riding the 
stang Marriage processions Odd football custom 
at Foulden Strange holy ivell superstitions 
Curious customs with regard to fishing The silver 
gun of Kirkcudbright. 

STBANGE CUSTOM AT KIEKMAIDEN. 

HTHERE is a small cave at Kirkmaiden^ 
-*- Wigton-shire, on the south-east between 



140 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

the buoys of Port-ankill and East Tarbit, 
-called St. Medan's Cave; together with a 
pool in the adjoining rock, styled the well of 
the Co or the Chapel well for this place 
often goes by the name of the Chapel. To 
bathe in this well as the sun rose, on the first 
Sunday in May, was considered an infallible 
cure for all manner of sickness. And till no 
very remote period, it was customary for 
almost the whole population of the parish, to 
collect at this spot on the first Sunday in May 
which was called Co Sunday, to bathe in the 
well, to leave their offerings in the cave, and 
to spend the day in gossiping or amusement. 

SINGULAR OBITUARY ANNOUNCEMENT. 
At the funerals of poor people in the parish 
of Borrowstouness or Bo'ness, the following 
strange custom has been frequently observed. 
The beadle promenades the streets with a 
bell, and intimates the death of the recent 
defunct, in this language : " All brethren and 
sisters, I let you to wit there is a brother (or 
sister) departed at the pleasure of the 
Almighty (here he lifted his hat). All those 
that come to the burial, come at o'clock. 
The corpse is at ." He also walked before 
the corpse ringing his bell. 



HOLY WELL OBSERVANCES. 141 

HOLY WELL OBSERVANCES IN 
KINCARDTNESHIRE. 

At Balmanno in the parish of Marykirk, 
Kincardineshire, there is a well called St. 
John's well, which was formerly regarded 
with great veneration. Mothers brought 
their children to be bathed in its waters. To 
show their gratitude to the Saint and in the 
hope that he would continue his patronage of 
the well, they put presents into the water, 
such as needles, pins, and shreds of their 
garments. 

ANCIENT RACES AT KILMARNOCK. 

The observances of Fastern's E'en were 
continued at Kilmarnock until of late years. 
These principally consisted of races, which 
were considered to be of great antiquity, 
having been practised annually for the last 
five centuries. 

CREELING THE BRIDEGROOM AGAIN. 

The ancient custom of creeling has already 
been pretty fully described but the following 
account of the ceremony as observed at Dairy 
will be interesting as the custom in some 
respects varied at different places. In former 
days when penny weddings were in vogue, 
it was customary for the parties who were at 



142 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

the wedding to assemble the following day 
in order to creel the bridegroom. Having 
procured a creel or wicker basket they tied it 
on the back of the young gude-man, and 
placed a long pole with a broom affixed to the 
top over his left shoulder. Thus equipped 
he was forced to run a race followed by the 
gudewife with a knife to cut the cords, and 
who according to the alacrity with which she 
strove to unloose the creel showed her satis- 
faction at the marriage ; after which the 
parties returned to the house to consume the 
fragments of the preceding day's feast. 
About a century ago, weddings having become 
less numerously attended than formerly the 
custom underwent considerable alterations, 
and was deferred to New Year's day. Ac- 
cordingly on this morning, the young men of 
the village assembled provided with a wicker 
hamper or crockery crate, filled with stones 
with which they visited the houses of all 
those who had entered the bonds of matrimony 
during the preceding year, and compelled 
each young gudeman to bear the creel to 
his nearest neighbour who might have qualified 
himself for this honour. Resistance was gen- 
itlly useless, as a number of stout fellows 



OLD BOEDER CUSTOMS. 143 

soon compelled the refractory party to submit 
with the addition probably of one of their 
number in the creel, as the reward of his 
obstinacy. The creeling however was gen- 
erally conducted throughout with the greatest 
good humour, yet harmless as the custom was, 
individuals have been known, who in order to 
avoid the ceremony, absented themselves 
regularly for fifteen years from home, for a 
fortnight at that season. 

OLD BORDER CUSTOMS. 

Alarm signals were in use along the 
Borders and throughout Galloway. That no 
shire might want advertisement, it was 
thought proper that beacons should be set up 
on all heights of eminence within sight of 
each other, in order that the appearance of 
the enemy on the Borders or on the sea might 
be made known. A beacon was formed of a 
tall and strong tree set up with a long iron 
plate across its head, carrying on it an iron 
plate for holding a fire, and an iron brander 
iixed on a stalk in the middle for holding a 
tar barrel. The first fire was put on the 
ground beside the beacon, at sight whereof 
;tll were to fly to arms. The next advertise- 
ment was by two fires, the one on the ground 



144 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

and the other in the large grate. On seeing 
this, all were to hasten to the rendezvous. 
If the danger was imminent, to the two fires 
were added that of the burning barrel. 
Signals from Berwick up the vale of the 
Tweed to Lamberton, and from the Tweed to 
the Forth, made the whole country aware of 
the coming danger. 

ALARM SIGNALS. 

A fiery peat was sent round by the 
Borderers to alarm in times of danger, as the 
fiery cross was by the Highlanders. 

LEAVING THE RIGHT HAND UNBAPTISED. 

In the Border counties it was formerly the 
custom, to some extent, to leave the right 
hand of the male children un-baptised that it 
might deal more deadly, or according to the 
popular phrase, un-hallowed blows on their 
enemies. 

GOOD FAITH OF THE BORDERERS. 

As some atonement for their laxity of 
morals, on most occasions the Borderers 
were severe observers of the faith which 
they had pledged, even to an enemy. If any 
person broke his word so plighted, the 
individual to whom faith had not been ob- 
served, used to bring to the next Border meet- 






SUNDAY DISSIPATION. 145 

ing a glove hung on the point of a spear, and 
proclaim to Scots and English the name of 
the offender. This was accounted so great a 
disgrace to all connected with him, that his 
own clansmen sometimes destroyed him to 
escape the infamy he had brought upon them. 

8UNDA Y D I SSI PA TION. 

Of the many customs at one time prevalent 
in Scotland, not a few have been altogether 
discontinued, others again are slowly but 
surely dying out. Among the former may 
be mentioned Sunday Sprees. These were 
long in high favour and were carried out to 
great lengths. Sabbath after Sabbath bands 
of disorderly men would meet in some ap- 
pointed place, when drinking to great excess 
was indulged in. The proceedings com- 
menced early in the morning, indeed they 
were generally the continuation of Satur- 
day night's spree, and were not brought 
to a close until late on Sunday even- 
ing. It is said also that while the men 
held their orgies in the open air, the wives 
had their sprees within doors so that Sabbath 
desecration was the rule with both sexes. 
The Forbes Mackenzie Act however put a 
stop in a great measure to this Sunday 



146 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

debauchery, and though it was severely 
anathematised by the men at the time, the 
women hailed it as an unmixed blessing. 

PUNISHMENT OF MATRIMONIAL INFIDELITY. 

In old lawless times, one would be inclined 
to suppose that every sort of immorality 
would be condoned or at least overlooked. 
But it was not so. A man might indeed 
steal a sheep from among a flock passing 
through the village and be praised for his 
dexterity. He might slay his fellow in fair 
combat and be hailed as a hero. He might 
bear off the lass of his choice without the 
consent of her parents and be admired for his 
courage; but, if he fell in love with his neigh- 
bour's wife he had to run the gauntlet, 
and this assuredly was no child's play. At 
a stated time the villagers assembled in the 
aggressor's house, and stripping him to his 
shirt they tied him to the back of a pony cart 
which stood in readiness, his cast-off clothes 
being previously bundled up and thrown into 
it. In this manner he was made to march or 
run through the town followed by a hooting 
crowd who belaboured him as he went along. 
This continued till the procession reached the 
head of the village, when the fellow's hands 



MARRIAGE PROCESSIONS. 147 



were unloosed, his clothes flung at him, and 
he allowed to return or depart as he chose. 

If on the other hand the culprit was a 
female her case was brought before a jury of 
matrons, and if found guilty she was subjected 
to the humiliating ordeal of riding the 
stang. Placed accordingly astride upon a 
pole or stang, the woman was hoisted on 
the shoulders of a number of men, and was 
carried high in the procession through the 
town amid the huzzas of the populace till 
arriving at some water, she was straightway 
tumbled in without further ceremony. 
MARRIAGE PROCESSIONS. 

Of customs which are dying out among us 
we may notice marriage processions. Not 
so very long ago, it used to be a regular 
practice in the parish for wedding parties to 
walk in procession, preceded by the fiddler, to 
the manse, there to take the vows of matri- 
mony upon them, and returning not only 
themselves rejoicing but making the whole 
village to rejoice with them. These processions 
were much relished by the people. 

ODD FOOTBALL CUSTOM. 

The inhabitants of Foulden celebrated 
Fasten's E'en with a game of football. The 



148 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

villagers were arrayed against the inhabitants 
of the country ; a large ball was thrown up 
into the air midway between the parish church 
and the mill. The former strove to lodge the 
ball in the church pulpit, and the latter in 
the mill happer. 

SINGULAR HOLY WELL SUPERSTITION. 

There is a loch in Strathnaver in Suther- 
land, to which people constantly resorted for all 
manner of cures. They must walk backwards 
into the water, take their dip, and leave a 
small coin as due offering. Then without 
looking round, they must walk straight back 
to the land, and so, right away from the loch. 

St. Andrew's well in the Island of Lewis 
was frequently consulted as an oracle when 
any one was dangerously ill. A wooden tub 
full of this water was brought to the sick 
man's room, and a small dish was set floating 
on the surface of the water ; if it turned 
sunwise it was supposed the patient would 
recover, otherwise he must die. 

CURIOUS FISHING CUSTOM. 

Superstitions which used to prevail among 
the villagers of Cockenzie, as in other fishing 
localities is now, owing to the better educa- 
tion of the people, happily dying out, but it 



THE SILLER GUN AT KIRKCUDBRIGH T. 149 

is a well known fact that only a few years- 
ago, no fisherman would have ventured out 
to sea had either a pig or a lame man crossed 
his path when on his way to the beach. Not 
only so, but had a stranger met him and been 
the first to greet him of a morning, with a 
gude mornin, he would have regarded the 
interruption as an evil omen, and remained 
at home for that day at least. 

Another very curious and superstitious 
custom used to prevail among fisher people. 
If, when at sea, especially going out or 
coming into port, any one was heard to take 
the name of God in vain, the first to hear the 
expression immediately called out " cauld 
aim," when each of the boat's crew would 
instantly grasp fast the first piece of iron 
which came within his reach, and hold it for a 
time between his hands. This was by way 
of counteracting his ill luck, which other- 
wise would have continued to follow the boat 
for the remainder of the day. 

THE SILLER GUN AT KIRKCUDBRIGHT. 

The burgh of Kirkcudbright, like its neigh- 
bour Dumfries, is in possession of a silver gun 
which according to tradition was presented by 
King James VI. to the incorporated trades. 



150 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

to be shot for occasionally, in order that they 
might improve themselves in the use of fire- 
arms, then rapidly supplanting the bow and 
arrows as implements of war. The year 1587 
is graven on the barrel of this miniature gun, 
and also the letters T. M. C., supposed to be 
the initials of Thomas M'Callum, of Bombie, 
ancestor of the Lords of Kirkcudbright, who 
was at that time Alderman of the burgh. 
This trinket, which greatly resembles a penny 
whistle, has only been shot for three times in 
the memory of that oft quoted individual, the 
oldest inhabitant's father. In the summer of 
1781, the incorporated trades applied by 
petition to the magistrates to have the gun 
placed in the hands of their convener, that 
they might shoot for it at a target as formerly, 
which petition was granted. The next time 
It was shot for was on the 22nd of April, 
1830, the day on which Lord Selkirk attained 
his majority. On this occasion the great 
wassail bowl of the burgh, which had been 
presented by Hamilton of Bargerry, M.P., was 
used for the first time since the Union. It 
was placed at the market cross, and after the 
gun had been contended for, the bowl was filled 
and refilled with potent liquor. The last time 



LA M MAS CUSTOMS A T MID-LOTHIAN. 151 

this gun was shot for was on the occasion of 
the Queen's coronation, on the 28th of June, 
1838. After the match the bowl was filled 
at the expense of the town, and her Majesty's 
health drunk with the utmost enthusiasm. 
This capacious bowl is made of walnut hooped 
with brass, and is large enough to hold ten 
gallons. 



CHAPTER XII. 

Old Lammastide customs at Mid-Lothian Some 
Galloway customs Throwing the hoshen Fykes 
Fair Giving up the names Old games The priest's 
cat Customs at new moon Old marriage ceremonies 
Bar for bar The game of Blinchamps The game 
of Burly Whush The game of king and queen of 
Cantalon. 

LAMMASTIDE CUSTOMS AT MID-LOTHIAN. 

TN the first volume of the " Archseologia 
-*- Scotica," published by the Society of An- 
tiquaries of Scotland in 1792, there is a very 
good description of the manner in which the 
Lammas festival used to be celebrated in Mid- 
Lothian about the middle of the eighteenth 
century. From this paper it appears that 



152 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

all the herds within a certain district towards 
the beginningof summer associated themselves 
into bands, sometimes to the number of a 
hundred or more. Each of these com- 
munities agreed to build a tower in some 
conspicuous place near the centre of their 
district. This tower was usually built of 
sods, though sometimes of stones. It was for 
the most part square, about 4 feet in diameter 
at the bottom, and tapering to a point at the 
top, which was seldom above 7 feet or eight 
feet from the ground. In building it a hole 
was left in the centre for admitting a flags taif, 
on which were displayed their colours on the 
great day of the festival. This tower was 
generally commenced about a month before 
Lammas, being seldom entirely completed 
till close upon that time. From the 
moment the foundation of the tower was laid 
it became an object of care and attention to 
the whole community, for it was reckoned a 
disgrace to suffer it to be defaced. As the 
honour that was acquired by the demolition 
of a tower, if effected by those belonging to 
another, was in proportion to the disgrace of 
suffering it to be demolished, each party 
endeavoured to circumvent the other as much 



LA MM AS CUSTOMS AT MID-LO THIAN. 153 

as possible. To give the alarm of the 
approach of an attacking party, every person 
was armed with a tooting -horn. As the 
great day of Lammas approached, each 
community chose one from among themselves 
for their captain. They marched forth early 
in the morning on Lammas Day dressed in 
their best apparel, each armed with a stout 
cudgel, and, repairing to their tower, there 
displayed their colours in triumph. If news 
was brought that a hostile party approached, 
the horns sounded to arms. Seldom did they 
admit the approach of the enemy, but usually 
went forth to meet them. When the two 
parties met they mutually desired each other 
to lower their colours in sign of subjection, 
and if there appeared to be a great dispropor- 
tion in the strength of the parties, the weakest 
usually submitted to this ceremony without 
much difficulty. But if they were nearly equal 
in strength none of them would yield, and 
the meeting ended in blows, and sometimes 
in bloodshed. When they had remained at 
their tower till about mid-day, if no opponent 
appeared, or if they themselves had no inten- 
tion of making an attack, they then took 
down their colours and marched with horns 



154 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

sounding towards the most considerable 
village in their district, when the lasses and 
all the people came out to meet them and 
partake of their diversions. Boundaries were 
immediately appointed, and a proclamation 
made that all who intended to compete in the 
race should appear. A bonnet ornamented 
with ribbons was displayed upon a pole as the 
prize of the victor. The prize of the second 
race was a pair of garters, and the third a- 
knife. When two parties met and one 
yielded to the other, they marched together 
for some time in two separate bodies, the 
subjected body behind the other ; and then 
they parted good friends, each party perform- 
ing their races at their own appointed place. 

THE CUSTOM OF THROWING THE HOSHEN. 

On the borders of Galloway when a young 
woman got married before her elder sister, 
this sister danced at her bridal without shoes. 
It was also customary here for the bride to 
remove her left stocking and throw it at ran- 
dom amongst the crowd. Whoever happened 
to catch it was the first to get married. 

OLD FAIR CUSTOM IN GALLOWAY. 

There was a singular fair called Fykes Fair 
held annually at the Clachan o' Auchencairn. 



MAEEIAGE ANNOUNCEMENT. 155 

It began at ten o'clock at night, continuing till 
morning and through part of the next day. 
All the idle and dissolute characters in Gal- 
loway congregated in crowds at this fair. 

CUSTOM REGARDING MARRIAGE ANNOUNCEMENT. 

"Giving up the Names/' is the designation of 
what used to be the ceremony attending the 
giving in to the precentor, the names of those 
intending to marry, to be proclaimed in church 
during Divine worship, so that any persons 
who wished to prevent such and such marriages 
from taking place might have an opportunity 
of stating their objections.- They had the 
power of throwing down sixpence and protes- 
ting against such proceedings going any fur- 
ther. This was, however, seldom done. These 
names were generally given in on a Saturday 
night. In doing so the parties met in a public 
house. No females were present. The father 
or brother of the bride was her representative. 
The bridegroom and the best man were pres- 
ent. On the precentor being called in to 
attend the meeting the names were written 
down on a slip of paper, the bride's name by 
her male relation, and the bridegroom's by his 
best man. After this was done, whisky was 



156 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

introduced, and those present speedily became 
intoxicated. 

OLD FIRESIDE GAMES. 

There is a fireside game called the 
Priest's Cat. A piece of stick is made red in 
the fire ; one hands it to another, saying 

"About wi' that, about wi' that, 
Keep alive the Priest's Cat." 

round goes the stick, and the person in 
whose hand the flame goes out has lost the 
wager, and must pay a forfeit. In olden 
times when the priest's cat died, great 
lamentation ensued throughout the country, 
as it was supposed to become transformed into 
some supernatural being or witch who might 
work mischief; so to keep it alive was a 
great matter. 

There is another old and favourite fireside 
game played by youths and maidens amongst 
the peasantry, called Hey Willie Wine, and 
how Willie Wine. One of the latter ad- 
dresses one of the former thus, 

"Hey Willie wine, and how Willie wine, 
I hope for home you'll not incline ; 
You had better stop and stay all night 
And I'll gie thee a lady bright." 

Then he answers 



LOCH TOERIDON. 157 

" What will ye gie if I with thee bide 
To be my bonny blooming bride ? " 

Again she 

" I'll gie ye, Kate o' Dinglebell, 
A bonny body like yonrsell." 

Then he 

" I'll stick her up in the pear tree, 
I lo'ed her once, but she's no for me, 
Yet I thank you for your courtesy." 

This game concludes with the girl proposing 
a maiden agreeable to the youth. Before the 
questions are put, the lad whispers to a com- 
panion the name he will stop with, so this 
one must be given before the dialogue ends. 
The chief aim of this somewhat whimsical 
amusement seems to be, to discover one 
another's sweethearts. In olden times these 
discoveries were considered very valuable. 

The maidens in Galloway, in former days, 
when first they saw the new moon, sallied 
out of doors, and pulled a handful of grass, 
saying 

' ' New moon, new moon, tell me if you can 
Gif I have a hair like the hair o' my gudeman ? " 

The grass was then brought into the house and 
carefully searched, and if a hair was found 
amongst it, which was not unfrequently the 



158 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

case, the colour of the hair determined that 
of the future husband. It was also an old 
custom, on first seeing the new moon, to turn 
money in the pocket. 

BAR FOR BAR. 

The Gallowegians are or were so fond of 
rhyme that they have a game connected with 
it. One of the players invents a rhyme, the 
next who follows must make one to rhyme 
with it, and at the same time agree with it 
in sense. The third follows and so on. Those 
who can invent the best and most rhymes 
wins the game, and are declared to have the 
most poetry in their composition. 

OLD RUSTIC GAME. 

There is a very curious rustic game termed 
Blinehamp. When a bird's nest is found, 
such as a Corbies, or Hoodiecroiv's, or that of 
any other bird that people dislike, the eggs are 
taken out of it and laid in a row a little way 
apart from each other. One of the players 
has then something bound over his eyes to 
prevent him from seeing. A stick is then put 
in his hand, and he walks forward, as he 
fancies straight up to the eggs, and strikes 
at them. Another succeeds him until they 
thus blind-folded break them all. Hence the 
term Blinehamp. 



GAME OF BURLY WHUSH. 159 

GAME OF BURLY WHUSH. 
Burly Whush is the name given to a 
game played with the ball. The ball is thrown 
up on a house or wall by one of the players, 
who cries out the instant it is thrown to 
another to catch it before it falls to the 
ground. Then they all run off, excepting the 
one individual called, to a little distance, 
and if he fails to catch it, he calls out 
burly whush. Then the others are arrested 
in their flight, and must run no farther. 
He then singles out one of them, and 
throws the ball at him. He in his turn 
throws the ball, and so on. Should a house 
be near at hand, as is generally the case, and 
any of the party take refuge behind it, they 
must still show one of their hands past the 
corner to the burly ivhush man, who sometimes 
hits it with such force as to make it tingle 
for hours afterwards. 

KING AND QUEEN OF CANTELON. 

This used to be a favourite game with the 
Galloway youths. Two of the swiftest of them 
are placed between two doons or places of 
safety, situated about two hundred paces 
distant from each other. The other boys 
stand in one of these doons. Then two fleet 



160 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

youths come forward and address them with 
this rhyme 

" King and, Queen o' Cantelon 
How many miles to Babylon, 
Six or seven or a long eight ? 
Try to win there wi' candle light." 

Then out they all ran in hopes to get to 
Babylon or the other doon without being 
caught. Those captured ere they reach 
Babylon are not allowed to run again until 
all the others are taken, when a fresh game 
commences. This is a game of great antiquity, 
and is believed to be a mimic representation 
of scenes and characters in the time of the 
Crusades. The King and Queen of Cantelon 
-are supposed to be King and Queen of Cale- 
don, then the name Babylon, introduced into 
the rhyme, the long way they had to wander 
and the chance there was of their being caught 
by the infidels, all point to the origin of the 
game. 

OLD MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 

Marriage ceremonies are not nearly of so 
much importance nor so well attended as 
formerly. Old women have been heard to 
say that the spirit o' waddings has left the 
country. Waddin bawes, money tossed 
amongst the people at marriages. Waddin 



GOOD OR BAD OMENS. 1G1 

I raws, dresses for marriage. The buying of 
these braws was deemed a very serious affair, 
as it was the first time the young people ap- 
peared in public. Waddin sarks the bride 
previous to marriage, in proof of her skill as 
a needlewoman, made the bridegroom a 
shirt, hence the above term. A peasant once 
remarked to a friend, " that he really never 
intended to take Maggie (his wife), but the 
cutty saw this, flew to his neck, and mea- 
sured him for the sark, and so he was obliged 
to have her." 



CHAPTEE XIII. 

Superstitious customs with regard to good or bad 
omens Yule boys The rumbling well in Galloway 
Marrying days in Galloway Michaelmas custom 
in Argyleshire Saint Coivie and Saint Couslan 
The lucky well of Beothaig The bridge of one hair 
in Kincardineshire The old custom of Rig and 
Rennel Some old customs of the Sinclairs. 

SUPERSTITIOUS CUSTOMS REGARDING GOOD OR 
BAD OMENS. 

rriHERE used to be numerous superstitious 

observances with respect to good or bad 

omens, such as the shoes being twisted off the 



162 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

hoofs of asses before they had foals. A horse- 
shoe passed thrice beneath the stomach and 
over the back of a cow supposed to have the 
elfshot (a disease with cows), then elfsgirse (a 
kind of grass given to cows believed to be in- 
jured by the elves) given to this cow, and a 
burning peat laid down on the threshold of 
the byredoor, she is set free from her stake 
and driven out. If she walks quietly over 
the peat she remains uncured ; but if she 
first smells, then springs over it, she is cured. 
If, at a funeral, one of the handspoke-bearers 
turned his foot and fell beneath the bier, he 
would soon be in a coffin himself. If on the 
way to execute an errand but had forgot 
something, we should have no luck that day. 
Should a hare have crossed our path that 
was a bad omen. If a knife was found lying 
open on the ground few would dare to lift it. 
Even a pin, should the point be turned 
towards oneself, would not be touched. A 
broom was thrown after curlers when they 
left a house, for good luck. There was also 
an omen of the blue dead lights which were 
supposed to be seen before death, these lights 
were seen in the air about the height at 
which a corpse was carried. If seen to leave 



GOOD OR BAD OMENS. 163 

the house where the person was to die, and 
go to the spot in the churchyard where he 
should be buried, to stop these lights was 
thought very improper. 

The first three days of April are called 
" borrowing days," and the freets regarding 
them run so 

" March borrows frae April, 
Three days and they are ill. 
The first of them is wind and weet, 
The second it is snow and sleet, 
The third of them is peel-a-bane 
And freezes the wee birds nebs tae the stane." 

Magpies caused other curious freets, ac- 
cording to the number of them seen at one 
time together. 

" Ane's sorrow, two's mirth, 
Three's a burial, four's a birth. 
Five's a wedding, six brings scaith, 
Seven's money, eight's death." 

A mist about the last day of the moon's 
decline always brought with it afreet 

" An auld moon's mist 
Never dies o' thirst." 

It is said of February 

" February fills the dyke 
Either wi' black or white." 



164 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 
And of Candlemas day 

If Candlemas day be fair and clear 
We'll have two winters in that year. 

And gin the laverock (lark) sings before 
Candlemas she'll mourn as long after it. 

YULE BOYS. 

Boys who rambled through the country 
during the Christmas holidays were called 
Yule Boys. They were all dressed in white 
save one, the Beelzebub of the party. They 
had a singular rhyme which they repeated 
before the people, and so received money 
and cake. This rhyme is now so sadly shorn 
of its original proportions that its real meaning 
can scarcely be arrived at. It evidently, how- 
ever, is of ancient origin. In old Scottish 
books some notice is taken of the quhite l)oys 
of Yule. The plot of the doggerel seems to 
be that two knights dispute about a lady and 
fight. One of them falls and sings out 

"A doctor ! a doctor ! or I die." 

Beelzebub sings 

"A doctor, doctor, here am I." 

The wounded knight sayeth, 

" What can you cure 1 " 



RUMBLING WELL IN GALLOWAY. 165 

Beelzebub answereth 

" All disorders to be sure, 
From the cramp to the gout. 
Cut off legs and arms, 
Join them to again,'' etc. etc. 

THE RUMBLING WELL IN GALLOWAY. 

In the parish of Bootle, Galloway, is a well 
called the Rumbling well, which was formerly 
frequented by crowds of sick people on the 
first Sunday in May. They lay by its side all 
Saturday night and drank of it early in the 
morning. There is also another well about a 
quarter of a mile distant towards the east. 
This well was made use of by the people when 
their cattle were attacked by a disease called 
Connach. This water they came from distant 
parts to obtain. They carried it away in 
vessels, washed their cows in it, and then 
gave it them to drink. At both wells they 
left thank-offerings, money at the former, and 
at the latter the bands and shackles wherewith 
beasts are usually bound. 

MARRYING DA YS IN GALLO WA Y. 

Marriages in Galloway in olden times were 
commonly celebrated on Tuesdays and Thurs- 
days. The Rev. Dr. Simpson, of Sanquhar, 
asserted that out of 450 marriages which he 



166 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

himself celebrated, all, except seven, took 
place on these days. 

MICHAELMAS CUSTOM IN ARQYLESHIRE. 

The following singular custom at one time 
existed at Canway, Argyllshire. On Michael- 
mas day every man mounted his horse, un- 
furnished with saddle, and took behind him 
either some young girl or his neighbour's wife, 
and they rode backwards and forwards from 
the village to a certain cross, without any of 
them being able to account for the origin of 
this custom. After the procession was over, 
they alighted at some public-house, where, 
strange to say, the females entertained the 
companions of their ride. After their return 
to their houses an entertainment of primeval 
simplicity was prepared. The chief part con- 
sisted of a great oat-cake called Struan 
Michael, or St. Michael's Cake, composed of 
two pecks of meal, and formed like the 
quadrant of a circle. It was daubed over with 
milk and eggs, and then placed to harden 
before the fire. 

ST. COW IE AND ST. COUSLAN. 

The parish of Campbeltown formerly con- 
sisted of four distinct parishes, two of which 
were respectively dedicated to St. Cowie and 



ST. COWIE AND ST. COUSLAN. 167 

St. Couslan. These two saints, who were 
pious, holy men, and who wrought equally 
for the improvement of their respective 
parishes, held, it would seem, very different 
ideas in respect to marriage. Couslan, for 
instance, inculcated in the strongest manner 
the indissolubility of the marriage tie; and 
if lovers did not find it- convenient to go 
through the marriage ceremony, their joining 
hands through a hole in a small pillar near 
his church was held an interim tie of mutual 
fidelity so strong and sacred that it was 
firmly believed in the country that no man 
ever broke it who did not soon after break 
his neck or meet with some other fatal 
accident. 

Cowie, in his district, took quite a different 
course. He proposed that all who did not 
find themselves happy and contented in the 
married state should be indulged with an 
opportunitv of parting and making a second 
choice. For that purpose he instituted an 
annual solemnity, at which all the unhappy 
couples in his parish were to assemble at his 
church ; and at midnight all present were 
blindfolded and ordered to run round the 
church at full speed, with a view of mixing 



168 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

the lots in the urn. The moment the cere- 
mony was over, without allowing an instant 
for the people present to recover from their 
confusion, the word cabbay (seize quickly) 
was pronounced, upon which every man laid 
hold of the first female he met with. Whether 
old or young, handsome or ugly, good or bad, 
she was his wife till the next anniversary of 
this strange custom, when an opportunity 
was afforded him of getting a worse or a 
better bargain. In this way the Saint soon 
brought his parishioners to understand that 
they had reason to be satisfied with a condi- 
tion there was little prospect of mending by 
a change. This tradition has been handed 
down for centuries. 

THE LUCKY WELL OF BEOTHAIG. 

There is a well in the parish of Gigha, in 
Argyllshire, called Tabarreth Blueathaig, i.e.,. 
the Lucky Well of Beothaig, a well famous 
for having the command of the wind. It is 
situated at the foot of a hill fronting the 
north-east, near an isthmus called Tarbet. 
Six feet above where the water gushes out 
there is a heap of stones which forms a cover 
to the sacred fount. When a person wished 
for a fair wind, either to leave the land or 



THE BRIDGE OF ONE HAIR. 169 

to bring home his absent friends, this part 
was opened with great solemnity, the stones 
carefully removed, and the well cleaned out 
with a wooden dish or clam shell. This being 
done, the water was thrown several times in 
the direction from which the wished-for wind 
was to blow. This action was accompanied 
by a certain form of words which the person 
repeated every time he threw the water. 
When the ceremony was finished, the well 
was again carefully covered up to prevent 
fatal consequences, it being firmly believed 
that were the place left open a storm would 
inevitably destroy the entire locality. 

THE BRIDGE OF ONE HAIR. 

In the month of May numbers of the work- 
ing classes came from the adjacent districts 
to drink out of a well in the Bay of Nigg, 
Kincardineshire, called Douny well, and pro- 
ceeding a little further, they went across a 
narrow pass called the Brig o ae Hair the 
bridge of one hair to Douny Hill, a green 
island in the sea, where young people carved 
their favourite names in the sward. This 
^custom seemed to be the remains of some su- 
perstitious respect to the fountain and re- 
treat of a favourite saint. The bay, probably 



170 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

from the corruption of his name, was for- 
merly called St. Fittick's Bay. On the sud- 
den deaths of their relations, or when in fear 
of such catastrophe from the sea becoming 
stormy, the fisher people, especially the fe- 
males, expressed their sorrow by exclamations 
of voice and gestures of body like the east- 
ern nations. 

THE CUSTOM OF RIG AND RENNEL. 

The somewhat peculiar custom of Rig and 
Rennel, or run rig, i.e., that each tenant on 
a particular farm or district had a ridge al- 
ternately with his neighbour, formerly pre- 
vailed over the north, and lingered in Caith- 
ness till 1740. This arrangement naturally 
caused confusion and disputes. It is believed 
to have been instituted in barbarous times as 
a preservative against one neighbour setting 
fire to the field of another if on bad terms 
with him, and to make them all equally 
anxious to resist the foe in case of invasion. 

SOME SINGULAR OLD CUSTOMS. 

All gentlemen of the name of Sinclair be- 
longing to Conisbury, used carefully to avoid 
putting on green attire or crossing the Ord 
upon a Monday. They were dressed in 
green and they crossed the Ord upon a Mon- 



SOME OLD CUSTOMS AT WICK. 171 

day when they marched to Flodden, where 
they fought and fell. On this account both 
the day and the dress were deemed unlucky. 
If the Ord had to be got over on a Monday 
the journey was performed by sea. 



CHAPTER XIY. 

Some old customs at Wick Funeral processions at 
North Uist Marriage customs among the poorer 
classes in the North Going a rocking Old 
customs in the Orkney Islands Fishermen's 
customs in setting out for the fishing ground The 
sow's day St. Peter s day Dingwdll Court of 
Justice Old custom at Eriska Singular Jisher- 
mans custom at Fladda Interesting Highland 
custom Old customs at the Island of Eigq. 

SOME OLD CUSTOMS AT WICK. 

IT was recently a custom for people to visit 
the Chapel of St. Tears, Wick, dedicated 
to the Holy Innocents, on St. Innocent's day, 
and leave in it bread and cheese as an offer- 
ing to the souls of the children slain by 
Herod. Till within a few years ago, the 
inhabitants of Mirelandorn used to visit the 
Kirk of Moss every Christmas before sunrise, 



372 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

placing on a stone bread and cheese, and a 
silver coin, which, as they alleged, disappeared 
in some mysterious manner. There are still 
several holy lochs, especially one at Dunnet, 
to which people go from Wick, and indeed 
from all parts of Caithness, to be cured of 
their diseases. They cast a penny into the 
water, walk or are carried round the 
loch and return home. If they recover, 
their cure is ascribed to the mystic virtues of 
the Halie Loch ; and if they do not, their 
want of faith gets all the blame. 

FUNERAL PROCESSIONS AT NORTH UIST. 

The former inhabitants of North Uist used 
to conduct their funerals with remarkable 
solemnity. The coffin was followed by pipers 
playing slow plaintive dirges, composed for, 
and only played on these occasions. On 
arriving near the churchyard the music 
-ceased, and the procession formed a line on 
either side, between which the corpse was 
carried to the grave. 

MARRIAGE CUSTOMS AMONG THE POOR IN THE 
NORTH. 

Marriages amongst the poorer classes of the 
North were somewhat similar to penny 
weddings. The relatives who assembled in 



GOING A ROCKING. 173 

the morning were regaled with a glass of 
whiskey gratis, but after the ceremony every 
man paid for what he drank. The neigh- 
bours then assembled in great numbers, and 
danced to the lively strains of a couple of 
fiddles, at intervals, for two or three days. 
The merrymaking ended with Saturday 
night. On Sunday, after returning from 
church, the newly- married couple gave a 
dinner to their relations on both sides. 

THE OLD CUSTOM OF GOING A ROCKING. 

It was formerly customary in the West of 
Scotland for women, when invited to a social 
meeting at a neighbour's house, to take with 
them rocks, or distaffs, which, being very 
portable, proved no incumbrance to them on 
these occasions. Hence the phrase of going 
a rocking. Burns commences one of his 
songs with an allusion to this custom 

" On Fasten's e'en (Shrove Tuesday) we had a rocking." 
OLD CUSTOMS IN THE ORKNEY ISLANDS. 

Owing to the long residence of the Bishops 
amongst the inhabitants of the Orkney 
Islands both before and after the Reforma- 
tion, as well as the splendid external show in 
the Episcopal form of worship, such a deep 



174 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

impression was produced by Episcopacy on 
the minds of the people that it has not yet 
yielded to the lapse of time. To many of the 
old places of worship, especially those dedi- 
cated to favourite saints, they attached great 
veneration, visiting them frequently when in 
n serious, melancholy, or devout frame of 
mind. Within their ruined walls they used 
to repeat prayers and use forms of words, of 
whose meaning they were entirely ignorant ; 
and when they considered themselves threat- 
ened by any danger they invoked the aid of 
their saints, and vowed to perform services or 
present oblations to them on condition that 
they interfered successfully in their behalf. 
If they imagined the saint invoked, had inter- 
lered to prevent the threatened calamity they 
were for the greater part very punctual in 
performing their vows. Some days on which 
to commence important business were es- 
teemed by them lucky, others were deemed 
equally unlucky. Some months, in their estim- 
ation, were preferable to others. Thursdays 
and Fridays were the days on which they 
liked to marry. They scrupulously avoided 
marriage when the moon was on the wane. 
If they killed cattle they did so when it was- 



IN THE ORKNEY ISLANDS. 175 

on the increase, from an idea that should 
they delay doing so until the moon was waning 
the meat would be of an inferior description. 
In preparing for a voyage, when leaving the 
shore they always turned their boats in the 
direction of the sun's course ; in some places 
they never omitted offering up a prayer on 
these occasions. 

The festivals in the Romish Calendar were 
scrupulously observed in these islands, not, 
however, as days of religious worship, but as- 
holidays to be devoted to feasting and merry- 
making. On some of these days they chose 
to remain entirely idle. On others they en- 
gaged in particular kinds of work. Now 
they ate flesh and meat; again, eggs and 
milk. They possessed innumerable charms 
for killing sparrows, which eat the early corn, 
and for securing a successful brewing of ale, 
and the churning of milk, as well as those 
which brought good luck, cured the tooth- 
ache, rheumatism, &c. 

Before striking their tents at Lammas and 
bidding farewell for a while to the active 
perilous occupations of the summer, the Ork- 
ney fishermen who had been accustomed to 
associate during the season met and partook 



176 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

of a parting cup, when the usual toast was, 
"Lord, open Thou the mouth of the grey fish 
and hold Thy hand above the corn." This 
meeting was known by the name of the 
Fishers' Foy. 

In one part of the parish of Sandwick, in 
Orkney, every family that owned a herd of 
swine killed a sow on the 17th of December. 
This day, in consequence, was called Sow's 
Day. No tradition is handed down to ac- 
count for the origin of this custom. The 
people of Sandwick also did no work on the 
3rd of March, in commemoration of the day 
on which the church was consecrated. The 
church being dedicated to St. Peter, they all 
-abstained from working for themselves on St. 
Peter's Day, but they would do any kind of 
labour for any other person who chose to 
employ them. 

OLD CUSTOM AT D1NGWALL. 

The inhabitants of Ding wall formerly had 
a, tradition among them to the effect that 
.after a man had received sentence of deatli 
in the Court of Justice, formerly held in a 
house in this parish, he obtained remission of 
his sentence provided he made his escape 
through theciowd of people on the lake-side, 



OLD CHURCH CUSTOMS. 177 



and touched the steeple of the church before 
any one could lay hold on him. 

OLD CHURCH CUSTOMS. 

There is a stone set up about a mile to the 
south of St. Columba's Church, Eriska, about 
eight feet high, and two broad. It is called 
by the natives the Bowing Stone, for when 
the inhabitants first came in sight of the 
church, they set up this stone and there bowed 
and said the Lord's Prayer. 

There is a church in Fladda dedicated to 
St.. Columba. It has an altar in the east 
end, and there is a blue stone of a round form 
on it which is always moist. It was an 
ordinary custom when any of the fishermen 
were detained in the island by contrary winds 
to wash this blue stone with water, thereby 
expecting to procure a favourable breeze. 
This practice was said never to fail, especially 
if a stranger washed the stone. 

INTERESTING OLD HIGHLAND CUSTOM. 

It was formerly the custom in the Western 
Islands when any number of men retired to a 
house either to discuss matters of business, or 
to indulge in drinking, to allow the doors of 
the house to stand open, and to put a rod 
across the door. This was intended for 



178 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 



a sign to people not to intrude upon their 
privacy. 

OLD CUSTOM AT THE ISLAND OF EIGG. 

In the village on the south coast of the 
island of Eigg, there is a well called St. 
Katherine's well. The natives have it in 
great esteem and believe it to be a Catholicou 
for diseases. According to Martin (169G) 
this well was consecrated by one Father 
Hugh, a Catholic priest, in the following 
manner. He obliged all the inhabitants to 
come to it and then employed them to bring 
together a great heap of stones at the head 
of the spring by way of penance. This being 
done, Father Hugh said mass at the well and 
then consecrated it. He also gave each of 
the inhabitants a piece of wax candle which 
they lighted, and all of them made the dessil 
of going round the well sunwise, the priest 
leading them, and from that time it has been 
accounted unlawful to boil any meat with the 
water of this well. The natives observe St. 
Katherine's anniversary after this fashion. 
They come to the well, and having drank a 
draught of it, they make the dessil round it 
sunwise, and then return home. 



CUSTOMS AT ST. KILDA. 



CHAPTER XV. 

Interesting customs at St. Kilda The water-cross at 
Barra Ocean Meat Curious wooing custom in 
the Western Islands Annual Festival in honour 
of St. Barr The fiery circle Old customs in the 
fsland of Lewis Singular cure for Scrofula 
Strange custom regarding forced fire Devotion to 
St. Flannan Salmon-fishing Superstition The 
Sea-god Shoney Burying custom at Taransay 
^[ichaelmas custom at Lingay Customs regarding 
fowling expeditions. 

INTERESTING CUSTOMS AT ST. KILDA. 

E primitive inhabitants of the lonely 
island of St. Kilda formerly left off 
working at twelve o'clock on Saturday, as an 
ancient custom handed down from their 
fathers, and went no more to it again till 
Monday morning. They used a set form of 
prayers at the hoisting of their sails. They 
lay down at night, rose again in the morn- 
ing, and began their labours always in the 
name of God. Upon the anniversary of All 
Saints, the inhabitants of St. Kilcla had an 
annual cavalcade; the number of their horses 
never exceeded eighteen. These they mount- 
ed by turns, having neither saddle nor bridle 



180 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

of any kind except a rope, which managed 
the horse only on one side. They rode from 
the sea shore to their houses, and when each 
man had performed his turn the show was at 
an end. On this festival they baked a large 
cake in form of a triangle, but rounded, and 
it had to be all eaten that night. Their mar- 
riages were celebrated in the following manner. 
When any two of them had agreed to take 
one another for man and wife, the officer who 
presided over the island summoned all the 
inhabitants of both sexes to Christ's Chapel, 
where being assembled, he enquired publicly 
if there were any lawful impediment why 
these parties should not be joined in the 
bands of holy matrimony. If no objection 
was made to the proposed union, he then 
enquired of the parties if they were resolved 
to live together in weal and woe, etc. After 
their assent, he declared them married per- 
sons, and then desired them to ratify this 
solemn promise in the presence of God and 
the people. In order that they might do 
this, the Crucifix was tendered to them, and 
both put their right hands upon it, this 
being the ceremony by which lovers swore 
fidelity one to another during their life-time. 



CUSTOMS AT ST. KILDA. 181 



Their baptisms were formerly conducted in 
the following manner. The parents called in 
the officer or any one of their neighbours to 
baptise the child, and another to be sponsor. 
He who performed the office of clergyman,, 
being told what the child's name was to be, 
said (naming it), "I baptise you to your 
father and your mother in the name of the- 
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." Then the 
sponsor took the child in his arms, as also did 
his wife as god -mother, and ever after this- 
there was a friendship between the parents 
and the sponsor esteemed so sacred and 
inviolable, that nothing was able to set them 
at variance ; and it reconciled those who had 
been at enmity previously. 

There is a famous stone in St. Kilda, 
known as the Mistress Stone. It exactly 
resembles a door, and is in the front of a per- 
pendicular rock twenty or thirty fathoms in 
height. Upon the lintel of this door, every 
bachelor- wooer was by an ancient custom 
obliged in honour to give the beloved one the- 
following singular proof of his affection. He 
had to stand on his left foot, having the one 
half of it over the rock. He then drew his 
right foot towards the left, and, in this 



182 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

posture, bowing, put both his fists further 
out to the right foot. After he had per- 
formed this feat he acquired no small reputa- 
tion, being even accounted worthy the finest 
woman in the world. It was firmly believed 
this achievement was always attended with 
the desired success. 

Martin (1696) tells us that the Steward of 
St. Kilda was accustomed in time of a storm 
to tie a bundle of puddings made of the fat 
of sea-fowl to the end of his cable, and let it 
fall into the sea behind the rudder. This, 
he said, hindered the waves from breaking, 
-and calmed the sea. The scent of the grease, 
however, attracted the whales, so says Martin, 
which put the vessel in danger. 

OLD CUSTOM AT BAERA. 

A stone in the form of a cross stood near 
to St. Mary's Church, in the Island of Barra. 
The natives called it the Water Cross, the 
ancient inhabitants having a custom of erect- 
ing it to procure rain, and, when procured, 
the cross- was laid flat on the ground. 

OCEAN MEAT AT K IS MULL. 

The inhabitants of the Island of Kismull 
had formerly a custom that when any 
strangers from the northern islands resorted 



WOOING CUSTOM. 183 

thither, the natives, immediately after their 
landing, obliged them to eat, no matter how 
heartily they may have eaten before starting 
on their journey. This meal was styled 
Biey Tai, i.e., Ocean Meat. Whatever num- 
ber of strangers came there, or of whatever 
quality or sex, they were hospitably installed 
one each in a family. According to this 
custom, husbands and wives were forced to 
live apart while in this island. 

CURIOUS WOOING CUSTOM IN THE WESTERN 
ISLANDS. 

In the good old times, when a tenant's 
wife, in the Island of Linnell or the adjoining 
islands, died, he at once addressed himself to 
MacNeil of Barra, and begged him to pro- 
vide him with another wife to manage his 
.affairs. Upon this representation, MacNeil 
found out a suitable match for him ; and, in- 
formed of the woman's name, he immediately 
went to her with a bottle of whisky, for their 
entertainment at their marriage, which at 
once took place. When a tenant died his 
widow in similar fashion was soon provided 
with another partner. 

ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF ST. BARR. 

All the inhabitants of Barra formerly 



184 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

observed the anniversary of St. Barr, 
the '27th of September. The ceremony was 
performed riding on horseback, and ths 
solemnity was concluded by the cavalcade- 
going three times round St. Barr's Church. 
They had likewise a grand procession on St. 
Michael's day in Killor village, where they 
also took a turn round the church. Every 
family, as soon as the solemnity was ended f 
were accustomed to bake St. Michael's cake, 
and all strangers, together with the members 
of the household, were obliged to eat the 
bread that night. 

THE FIERY CIRCLE. 

It was formerly the custom in the Island of 
Lewis to make a fiery circle about the houses, 
corn, cattle, etc., belonging to each particular 
family . A man carried fire in his right hand 
and went round. This practice was called 
Dessil ; the right hand being in ancient 
language called dess. Another ancient 
custom observed in this Island by the Catho- 
lics on the second of February was this. The 
mistress and servants of each family took a 
sheaf of oats and dressed it in woman's 
apparel, put it in a large basket, and laid a 
wooden club by it; and this they called 



CUSTOMS IN THE ISLAND OF LEWIS. 185 

br tides- bed. Then the mistress and servants 
.shouted aloud, " Briid is come Briid is 
welcome." This they did just before going 
to bed. In the morning when they rose they 
looked anxiously amongst the ashes expecting 
to see the impressions of Brtid's club there. 
If seen, it was reckoned a true presage of a 
good crop and a prosperous year. 

OLD CUSTOMS IN THE ISLAND OF LEWIS. 

In the Isle of Lewis it was customary for 
the seventh son to give a silver sixpence with 
a hole in it to each scrofulous patient. The 
-coin was strung on a thread, and the sufferer 
wore it constantly round his neck. Should 
he lose it, the malady returned. Age was 
of no account in regard to this magic gift. 
The smallest child might heal the aged man. 
All that was requisite was, that some one 
sUould take the little hand and apply it to 
the sore. The belief was pretty general 
throughout the North- Western Highlands 
iind Isles, that scrofula would certainly bu 
cured by the touch of the seventh son of a 
woman, who had never a girl born between. 

The inhabitants of Lewis formerly made use 
of a fire called Tin-Egin, a forced, or fire of 
necessity, which they used as an antidote 



186 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

against the plague, or murrain in cattle. It 
WHS prepared thus. All the fires in t he- 
parish were extinguished, and then, eighty- 
one married men, that being considered the- 
necessary number, took two great planks of 
wood, and nine of them were employed alter- 
nately to rub one of the planks against the 
other until the heat thereof produced fire. 
From this forced fire each family was 
supplied with new fire, which was no sooner 
kindled than a pot of water was quickly 
placed on it. The people infected by the 
plague, and the latter suffering from the 
murrain, were afterwards sprinkled with 
water from the pot. 

-In Martin's tour (1696) in the Hebrides, it 
is stated that when the men of Lewis made- 
expeditions to the rocky Island of St. Flannan 
in pursuit of sea fowl, as soon ns they had 
effected the different landings they uncovered 
their heads and made a turn sunwise, thank- 
ing God for their safety. They then repaired 
to the little chapel of St. Flannan, on 
approaching which they advanced on their 
knees towards the chapel, and so went TOUE;! 
the little building in procession. They then 
set to work, rock-fowling till the hour of 






THE SEA -GOD SHONEY. 187 

vespers, when the same ceremony was- 
repeated. They held it unlawful to kill any 
sea-bird after evening prayer, and in any case 
might never kill a bird with a stone. The 
contrary was regarded a bad omen. 

The inhabitants of the village of Barva, 
Lewis, long retained an ancient custom of 
sending a man very early in the morning to 
cross Barvas river, every first day of May, in 
order to prevent any female from crossing it 
first. For that, they said, would prevent the 
salmon from coming into the river all the year 
round. This assertion they maintained to be 
true from experience. 

THE SEA-GOD SHONEY. 

The inhabitants in the vicinity of Siant had 
nn ancient custom of sacrificing to a sea-god 
called Shoney, at Hallow-tide, in which the 
inhabitants of the neighbouring islands also 
took part. They assembled at the Church of 
Mulvay, having each man his provisions along 
with him. Every family furnished a peck of 
malt, and this was brewed into ale. One of 
the number was picked out to wade into the 
sea up to the noddle, carrying a cup of ale in 
his hand. Standing in this posture he called 
out in a loud voice, saying, " Shoney, I give 



188 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

you this cnp of ale hoping that you will be so 
kind as to send us plenty of sea-ware for 
enriching our ground this ensuing year." 
With these words the ale was thrown into 
the sea. This was done in the night time. 
On his returning those assembled all repaired 
to church where there was a candle burning 
upon the altar. After standing silent for a 
little while, one of them gave a signal upon 
which the candle was put out, and all ad- 
journed to the fields, where they drank their 
ale, and spent the remainder of the night in 
dancing and singing. 

OLD BURYING CUSTOM AT TAEANSAY. 

It was formerly the custom in the island of 
Taransay never to bury a man in St. Tarian's 
Chapel, or a woman in St. Keith's, otherwise 
the corpse, it was firmly believed, would be 
found above ground the day after its inter- 
ment. 

MICHAELMAS CUSTOM AT LING AY. 

The natives of the island of Lingay had an 
.anniversary cavalcade on Michaelmas day, 
and then all ranks of both sexes appeared on 
horseback. The place of rendezvous was a, 
large piece of fine sandy ground on the sea- 
.shore, and there they had horse-racing, for 



FOWLING CUSTOMS. 189 

small prizes, which were eagerly contended 
for. There was an ancient custom here by 
which it was lawful for any of the inhabitants 
to steal his neighbour's horse the night before 
the race, and ride it all that day provided he 
returned it safe and sound to the owner after 
the race. The manner of racing was rather 
curious. It was engaged in by a few young 
men who used neither saddles nor bridles, 
except two small ropes, nor any sort of spurs 
but their bare heels, and when they began 
the race they threw those ropes on the horses 
necks, and drove them vigorously with, a long 
piece of sea-ware in each hand instead of a 
whip, which had been dried in the sun several 
months previously for that purpose. The men 
had their sweethearts behind them on horse- 
back, and they gave and received mutual 
presents. The men presented the women 
with knives and purses, while the women 
gave the men pairs of garters of divers colours. 
They presented them also with a quantity of 
wild carrots. 

FOWLING CUSTOMS AT THE ISLAND OF MORE. 

The island of More bears the ruins of a 
Chapel dedicated to St. Flannan. When the 
inhabitants came within about twenty paces 



190 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

of the altar they stripped themselves of their 
upper garments and laid them upon a stone 
which stood there for that purpose. Those 
who intended setting out upon a fowling 
expedition prayed three times. The first day 
they said the first prayers, advancing towards 
the Chapel on their knees. Their second 
prayers were said as they went round the 
Chapel. The third were said close by or in 
the Chapel. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

Form of prayer used for blessing a ship in the West- 
em Islands Dedicating horses to the sun at lona 
Curious Harvest custom in Island of Skye Drink- 
ing custom in the Clan Macleod Old customs in 
connection with a Holy Loch in Skye The Ecil 
Eye in the Western Islands Signalling customs in 
olden times Evening amusements in the Western 
Islands in former times Curious belief regarding 
Quarrelling and Herrings Belief in Brownies in 
the Western Islands. 

BLESSING A SHIP IN THE WESTERN ISLANDS. 

TT was an ancient custom in the Western 
-*- Islands to hang a he-goat to the boat's 
mast, the inhabitants hoping thereby to secure 



BLESSING A SHIP. 191 

a favourable wind. Also in setting out on an 
expedition by sea the following form of Divine 
invocation was used : 

The Steerman says 

" Let us bless our ship." 

The answer by all the crew 

" God the Father bless her." 

Steersman 

"Let us bless our ship." 

Answer 

"Jesus Christ bless her." 

Steersman 

" Let us bless our ship." 

Answer 

" The Holy Ghost bless her." 

Steersman 

" What do you fear since God the Father is with you.' T 

Answer 

" We do not fear anything." 

Steersman 

" What do you fear since God the Son is with you 1 " 

Answer 

" We do not fear anything." 

Steersman 

"What do you fear since God the Holy Ghost is with you?"" 

Answer - 

" We do not fear anything." 



192 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 



.Steersman 

" God the Father Almighty, for the love of Jesus Christ his 
vSon, by the comfort of the Holy Ghost, the one God, wh< 
marvellously brought the children of Israel through the rel 
-sea, and brought Jonah to land out of the whale's belly, and 
the Apostle St. Paul, and his ship safely through the treach- 
erous raging sea, and from the violence of a tempestuous 
storm, bless and conduct us peaceably, calmly, and com- 
fortably through the sea to our harbour, according to H.s 
Divine will, which we beg, saying, Our Father, etc." 

DEDICATING HORSES TO THE SUN, 

Even in the last century Pennant was told 
by Bishop Pocock that on the eve of St. 
Michael the islanders of lona brought all 
their horses to a small green hill whereon 
stood a circle of stones surrounding a cairn. 
Round this hill they all made the turn sun- 
wise, thus unwittingly dedicating their horses 
to the sun. 

HARVEST CUSTOM IN SKTE. 

The following custom prevailed in the 
Island of Skye during the course of last 
century. The farmer who had first finished 
his reaping, sent a man or a maiden, with 
a bundle of corn to his next neighbour, 
who had not yet reaped down his harvest. 
He, in his turn, when finished, sent a similar 
bundle to his neighbour, who was behind with 
his work, and so on until all the corn w.is 



DRINKING CUSTOM. 103 



cut down. This sheaf was called an gaolbir 
bhaeagh, and was intended to convey a 
rebuke to the farmer for being so slow in 
comparison with his neighbours. The person 
who took upon himself the task of leaving the 
an gaolbir bhaeagh at the house of the 
dilatory farmer, was obliged to make good 
his retreat in case of his being caught, other- 
wise he would have experienced a sound 
thrashing for his pains. 
DRINKING CUSTOM IN THE CLAN MACLEOD. 

At Dun vegan Castle, Island of Skye, is still 
preserved the large horn known as Hory 
More's horn. It holds rather more than a 
bottle and a half. Every Laird of Macleod 
was, it is said, obliged on his coming of age, 
in proof of his manhood, to drain it full of 
claret, without once laying it down. 

OLD HOLY LOCH CUSTOMS IN THE ISLAND OF 
SKYE. 

At a certain place in the parish of Kil- 
muir, Isle of Skye, an accidental conflux of 
pure fresh water springs from a small ellip- 
tical pond of considerable depth. The bottom 
consists of whitish sand which, by being 
visible through the transparent waters, gives 
a beautiful greenish tint to the whole. This 



194 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

small lake is surrounded by a little brush- 
wood, and the rivulet which flows from it into 
the sea, is pleasantly hemmed in and edged 
with a few shrubs and bushes. This pond 
was anciently called Loch Sianta, which 
means the sacred lake, and it retains its name 
to this day. The hallowed appearance of the 
solitude did not escape the fancy of the 
ancient highlander. Owing to its crystalline 
purity and copiousness, and the sequestered 
situation of the little Hebridean Siloam, they 
conceived it to be favoured with its divinity, 
to whom they were extremely punctual in 
making offerings of various kinds. Invalids 
always resorted thither, and imagined them- 
selves benefited by drinking of its water, and 
thoroughly washing themselves in a bath 
erected for the purpose. Pilgrimages are 
still made to Loch Sianta, and the usual turn 
sunwise must be made thrice before drinking. 

THE EVIL EYE. 

Among the superstitions of the people of 
the Western Islands, it may be noticed that 
there was nothing so much dreaded by many 
as what they termed the evil eye. As an 
antidote against this, the following verse was 



SIGNALLING CUSTOMS. 195 



to be repeated in Gaelic by the person who 
dreaded it, when washing in the morning, 

" Let God bless my eye 

And my eye will bless all I see ; 
I will bless my neighbours, 
And my neighbours will bless me." 

SIGNALLING CUSTOMS IN OLDEN TIMES. 

On the west side of the parish of Strath 
are the ruins of seven Danish duns or forts. 
They are situated on high rocks or lofty 
headlands, and were built without mortar. 
One of these was always erected in view of 
one or more of the rest, so that the first 
alarm of an approaching foe was almost 
instantaneously communicated to the whole 
country by the crois-taraidds, or fiery cross, 
being a rude process of telegraphing by fire 
the intelligence of an enemy's approach. 
This watch-fire was lighted on the tower 
from which the danger was first perceived. 
The process was repeated by the neighbour- 
ing tower, and so on until the intelligence 
WM.S transmitted with inconceivable celerity 
throughout the whole chain of towers with 
which the country was surrounded. 

EVENING AMUSEMENTS IN THE WESTERN 
ISLANDS. 

It was formerly the custom in the Western 



196 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 



Islands for neighbours to visit each other's 
houses almost nightly, and to while away part 
of the long winter evenings in reciting tales 
and traditions, singing songs, or playing 
some musical instrument. Now much of 
this is given up. The people have also 
abandoned their old customs when solem- 
nizing funerals and marriages. Not very 
many years ago the memory of a person 
would have been thought dishonoured unless 
from fifty to sixty individuals accompanied 
his remains to the grave ; and during the 
Jarair, or wake, and especially on the day of 
interment, such a quantity of meat and drink 
was distributed as kept the nearest surviving* 
relatives for several years in the greatest 
poverty in order to pay for them. Then, 
again, such a quantity of whisky was drunk 
in the church or churchyard after the inter- 
ment, that the people often forgot the 
solemnity of the occasion which had brought 
them together, and renewed former feuds 
and discussions, and fought fiercely amid 
the graves of their ancestors. A violent re- 
action, however, has taken place in the feel- 
ings and customs of the inhabitants in regard 
to the obsequies of their friends ; and the 



BELIEF REGARDING HERRINGS. 197 



change in regard to marriages is equally 
great. Formerly from eighty to a hundred 
persons used to assemble and pass at least 
two days in feasting and dancing. Now the 
guests are few in number, and the refresh- 
ments are generally restricted to herrings- 
and potatoes. Balls and dancing parties 
have also been given up, and all public- 
gatherings, whether for shinty, putting the 
stone, music, or dancing. 

CURIOUS BELIEF REGARDING HERRINGS. 

It was formerly asserted that if a quarrel 
happened on the coast where herrings were 
caught, and blood was shed, the herrings- 
went away and never returned throughout 
that season. 

Some time ago the natives of some of the 
Western Islands firmly believed in the exis- 
tence of the gruagach, a female spectre of 
the class of brownies to whom the dairy- 
maids made frequent libations of milk. The 
gruagach was said to be an innocent being 
who frolicked or gambolled among the pens 
and folds. She was armed solely with a 
pliable rod, with which she switched any 
who would annoy her either by using bad 
language, or by depriving her of her share 



198 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 



of the dairy produce. Even so late as 1770. 
the dairymaids who attended a herd of cattle 
in the Island of Trodda, were in the habit of 
placing daily a quantity of milk on a hollow 
stone for the gruagach. Should they ever 
neglect this duty, they were sure to feel the 
weight of the brownie's rod on the day fol- 
lowing. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

Some interesting customs and superstitions in Shet- 
land Observance of Yule-tide Strange funeral 
custom The water of health The healing thread 
Curing ringworm Curing burns Elf -shot 
Wearing charms Singular calving custom Belief 
in fairies The doings of fairies The high land 
of the trows Superstition regarding neighbour's 
profits The neagle Casting the heart. 

INTERESTING OLD CUSTOMS IN SHETLAND. 

1TPHE ancient customs of guising or masquer- 
-*- ading a pastime peculiar to the obser- 
vance of Yule-tide in Shetland is still kept 
up with some of its accustomed spirit. The 
streets of Lerwick during the morning, to 



THE HEALING THREAD. 199 

some extent, present the appearance of a 
Continental town during a carnival. 

In some parts of Shetland, on a funeral 
procession passing, the by-standers used to 
throw three clods, one by one, after the 
corpse. 

There is a spring in Unst called Yelaburn, 
or Hielaburn, the water of health. It was 
customary in former times, on first approach- 
ing the well, to throw three stones towards 
it as a tribute to the source of these salu- 
brious waters. But its reputation has de- 
clined with the flight of time, and the super- 
stitious offering is no longer religiously paid. 

THE HEALING THREAD. 

In these parts, in former times, when a 
person received a sprain, it was customary 
for him to apply to an individual practised in 
casting the wresting thread. This is a thread 
.spun from black wool oil which are cast nine 
knots. Tying it round the affected limb, the 
wise man said, but in a low tone of voice, so 
&s not to be heard by the by-standers nor by 
the person operated upon 

"The Lord rade 
And the foal slade ; 
He lighted 
And He righted. 



200 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

Let joint to joint, 

Bone to bone, 

And sinew to sinew, 

Heal in the Holy Ghost's name." 

FUNERAL CUSTOM. 

It was a custom with some to burn the- 
straw on which a dead body had lain, and to 
examine the ashes narrowly, from the belief 
that the print of the individual's foot who 
was next to be carried to the grave would be- 
discovered. The straw was set on fire when 
the body was lifted and the funeral company 
leaving the house. 

CURING RINGWORM. 

The person afflicted, with ringworm takes* 
a few ashes, held between the forefinger and 
thumb, three successive mornings before- 
tasting food, and, applying the ashes to the- 
part afflicted, says 

" Ringworm ! ringworm red ! 
Never mayest thou either speed or spread ; 
But aye grow less and less, 
And die away among the ase (ashes)." 

At the same time he throws the ashes, heI<T 
between the finger and thumb, into the fire. 

CURING A BURN. 

To cure a burn, the following words were 
used 



BELIEF REGARDING ELF SHOT. 201 



" Here come I to cure a burnt sore ; 
If the dead knew what the living endure 
The burnt sore would burn no more." 

The operator, after having repeated the 
-above, blows his breath three times upon 
the burnt place. The above recipe was be- 
iieved to have been communicated to a 
daughter who had been burned by the spirit 
of her deceased mother. 

BELIEF REGARDING ELF SHOT. 

It was fully believed in Shetland that 
Avhen a cow was suddenly taken ill she was 
elf-shot that is, that a particular kind of 
spirits called Trows, who are different in 
their nature from fairies, have discharged a 
.-stone arrow at her and wounded her with it. 
Though no wound could be discovered ex- 
ternally, there were different persons, both 
male and female, who pretended to feel it in 
the flesh, and to cure it by repeating certain 
words over the cow. They also folded a 
winder in a leaf taken from a particular part 
of the psalm-book, and secured it in the hair 
of the cow. This was not only considered an 
infallible cure, but was believed to serve as a 
.charm against future attacks. 

WEARING CHARMS. 

This practice was nearly allied to one 



202 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

which was very prevalent, and of which 
some traces still exist in what would be 
esteemed a more enlightened part of the 
world, i.e., wearing a small piece of the- 
branch of the rowan tree wrapped around 
with red thread and sewed into some parts 
of the garments, to guard against the effects- 
of the evil eye or witchcraft 

" Rowan tree and red thread 
Will drive the witches a' wud." 

SINGULAR CALVING CUSTOM. 

When a cow calved it was the custom with 
some, as soon after as possible, to set a cat on 
the calf's neck and draw it along her back and 
then to seat it on the middle of the cow's back, 
draw it down the one side and pull it up the 
other, tail foremost. This ceremony was- 
supposed to prevent the cow being carried 
away while in a weak state by the trows. 
This practice was styled, enclosing the cow in 
a magic circle. 

THE DOINGS OF FAIRIES. 

As the trows were said to have a re- 
markable relish for what was good in the way 
of eating or drinking, whenever a cow or 
sheep happened to turn sick or die it was- 
firmly believed they had taken the real 



THE DOINGS OF FAIRIES. 203 



animal away and something of a trow 
breed substituted in its place. Those persons 
indulged with a glimpse of the interior of a 
trow's dwelling, asserted they had be- 
held their own cow led in to be slaughtered 
while at the same time their friends on th& 
surface of the earth saw her fall by an invis- 
ible hand and tumble over a precipice. 

Sometimes, also, the trows required a 
nurse for their children, they also having a 
time to be born and a time to die, and there- 
fore females while engaged in nursing their 
own children required to be watched very 
narrowly lest they should be carried off to- 
perform the office of wet nurse to some little 
trow, of gentle birth who had either lost 
its mother, or whose station amongst her own 
race exempted her from the drudgerj of 
nursing her own offspring. 

There is a place in Shetland called Trow- 
land, a name which indicates the superstitious 
notions regarding it, as it signifies " the high 
land of the trows." The internal recesses of 
knolls were considered the favourite residence* 
of the trows, and they were seldom passed 
without fear and awe by the primitive Shet- 
landers. And if after mght-felTthere was a 



204 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

necessity for passing that way, a live coal was 
carried to ward off their attacks. 

NEIGHBOUR'S PROFITS. 

In order that a person might take away 
and secure for herself the summer profits of 
her neighbour's cows, it was the practice to go 
clandestinely and pluck a handful of grass 
from the roof of the byre, and give it to her 
own cows, in the belief that the milk and 
butter which should have been her neigh- 
bour's would by this means become hers. In 
order to regain the profits thus transferred it 
was usual to milk privately a cow belonging 
to the person suspected of having taken them. 

THE N EAGLE. 

There was a trow called the neagle, some- 
what akin to the water-kelpie of other lands, 
who made his appearance about mills, espe- 
cially during grinding hours, in the shape of 
-a beautiful pony. That he might attract the 
notice of the miller, he seized and held the 
wheel of the mill. Naturally, the miller 
went out to ascertain the cause of the 
stoppage, and, to his astonishment, a beauti- 
ful pony, saddled and bridled, stood ready to 
be mounted. If the miller should neglect 
warnings, and put his foot into the stirrup, 



CASTING THE HEART. 205 

his fate was sealed. Neither bit nor bridle 
availed him anything. Off went the pony, 
undeterred by bog or bank, and stinted not 
his course till in the deep sea he had thrown 
his venturesome rider, when he himself 
vanished in a flash of fire. Fortunately, 
however, most millers were proof against the 
temptation, and, instead of mounting the 
pony, saluted him on the nose with a fiery 
brand, which at once rid them of his presence. 

CASTING THE HEART. 

It was formerly believed that when an in- 
dividual was attenuated by sickness, his heart 
was worn away or taken from him by some 
evil genii. A person skilled in casting the 
heart was at once sent for, who, with many 
mysterious ceremonies, melted lead and 
poured it through the bowl of a key or pair 
-of scissors held over a sieve, which was also 
placed on a basin of cold water. The lead 
was melted and poured again and again till 
it assumed something like the form of a heart 
at least the operator strove to persuade his 
patients and his friends that such was the 
case. This was hung suspended from the 
neck till the cure was completed. 



206 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

Some old Highland customs Courtship in former 
times Marriage ceremonies Manner of inviting 
guests The bridegroom and the bride The pro- 
cession Winning the kail The Marriage feast 
The dance Funeral customs Laying out lite 
corpse The lyke-wake The coronach The fiery 
cross A Fasten s Eve custom Some Lowland 
and general customs Penal statutes at Galashiels 
Peebles to the play Marriage and kirking cus- 
toms again Family spirits or demons. 

SOME OLD HIGHLAND CUSTOMS. 

A HIGHLANDER used formerly never to 
*"* begin anything of consequence on the 
day of the week on which the 3rd of May 
fell. This day M 7 as styled by them La 
Sheachanna na bleanagh, or the dismal day. 

OLD COURTSHIP CUSTOMS. 

The ancient courtship of the Highlanders 
had these curious customs attending it. 
After having privately obtained the consent 
of the fair one, the enamoured swain de- 
manded her of her father. The lover and 
his friends assembled on a hill allotted for 
that purpose in every parish, and one of the 






OLD MAEEIAGE CEREMONIES. 20T 



latter was dispatched to obtain permission to* 
wait upon the daughter. If he proved suc- 
cessful, he was again sent to invite the- 
father and his friends to ascend the hill and 
partake of the contents of a whisky cask,. 
which was never by any chance forgotten.. 
The lover then advanced, took his father-in- 
law by the hand, and plighted his troth, 
whereupon the maiden was handed over to- 
him. 

OLD MAEEIAGE CEEEMONIES. 

When a young couple proposed to get 
married, the nearest relations of both parties 
met to take the case into consideration. 
This ceremony, which was called the booking 
or contract, was generally ratified by no other 
ceremony than a few bottles of whisky. If 
the parties came to an understanding, the 
lovers were immediately declared bride and 
bridegroom, and some Tuesday or Thursday 
in the growth of the moon was fixed upon 
lor the celebration of the nuptials. Mean- 
while, to sustain the dignity of the bridal 
pair, from motives of policy as well as of 
state, they selected from their kinsmen two 
trustworthy persons each, who were dele- 
gated to the others the male to protect the 



208 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

bride from being stolen (a practice once com- 
mon), and the female to act as maid of 
honour. 

A few days prior to the nuptial day the 
parties, with their attendants, perambulated 
the country inviting the guests, on which 
occasion they met with marked attention 
from old and young. The invitations were 
all delivered to the parties in propria per- 
- sona at the fireside ; and if the wedding was 
to be a cheap one, a small present was some- 
times offered to and received by the bride. 
On the morning of the bridal day, some lady 
.above the ordinary rank, who had been con- 
stituted mistress of the ceremonies for the 
day, arrived to deck the bride in her bridal 
attire, which was as splendid as ribbons and 
muslin could make it. The bridegroom was 
also provided with a decorator, who adorned 
him with marriage favours and other orna- 
ments suited to the occasion. 

Meanwhile volleys of musketry summoned 
the guests to the wedding. On their arrival 
they were invited into the breakfast apart- 
ment to partake of the prepared entertain- 
ment. Afterwards they repaired to the ball- 
room. Here the bride and bridegroom were 



OLD MARRIAGE CEREMONIES. 209 

seated at the upper end of the room, and 
received the company. The dancing and 
mirth were prolonged for some hours. 

At the hour appointed the bridegroom 
selected a party of young men, who were 
despatched to summon the bride and her 
party to the marriage ceremony. Their ap- 
proach was announced by volleys of mus- 
ketry fired by some of the bride's men, 
most of the guests being furnished with 
pistols. 

Then the bride and her maidens prepared 
themselves for the procession. The bride 
was mounted upon a steady horse, then 
drams went round to her health and happi- 
ness. The company being all in readiness, 
she left the home of her childhood amid 
the cheers of the assembled crowd. March- 
ing to the inspiring sound of bagpipes 
and the discharge of musketry, the bride's 
party proceeded to the place appointed for 
the marriage. The bridegroom's followed at 
some little distance, and when both parties 
had arrived at the rendezvous, the bride- 
groom's party stood in the rear till the bride's 
party entered the meeting-house, she and her 



210 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

attendants having the precedence throughout 
the day. 

During the marriage ceremony, great care 
was taken that no dogs passed between the 
bridal pair, and particular attention was paid 
to having the bridegroom's left shoe with- 
out buckle or latchet, in order to prevent 
witches from casting their unlucky spells over 
Jiim and his bride. As soon as the nuptial 
knot was tied, the candidates for the honour 
of "winning the kail," as they styled it, 
drove off pell-mell, striving who was to be 
the lucky person. Both parties, now mingling 
together, proceeded with boisterous mirth to 
the bridegroom's house, the scene of the 
further festivities of the night. 

A volley of fire-arms announced the ap- 
proach of the couple, and soon the bride was 
assailed by her well-wishers with the bridal 
bread and cheese. The newly-married pair 
then seated themselves at the upper end of 
the principal banqueting table, and the guests 
were arranged according to their quality 
round the other and far -stretching tables. 
The attendants who waited upon the guests 
presented each with a spoon, which he 
was obliged carefully to return at the 



OLD FUNERAL CUSTOMS. 211 

conclusion of the feast. The spoon was 
followed by the hardly-contested kail, &c. 
The dinner being over, the shemit reel was 
the next object of attention. All the com- 
pany assembled on the lawn, with flambeaux, 
and formed into a circle. The bridal pair 
and their retainers then danced a sixsome 
reel, each putting a piece of silver into the 
musician's hand. Those wishing to do so, 
might then succeed and dance with the bride 
and the two maids of honour, and were re- 
warded both at the commencement and 
termination of each reel by the usual salutes. 
The shemit reel over, the guests re-occupied 
their seats in the original order, and dancing 
and mirth concluded the evening. 

OLD FUNERAL CUSTOMS IN THE HIGHLAND*. 

At a funeral, a fall sustained by one of 
the bearers of the body was considered 
ominous of the person's speedy death. It 
was also esteemed very unlucky to look at a 
person's funeral from the door of a house or 
from windows having a stone lintel. On the 
death of a Highlander, the corpse being 
stretched on a board covered with a linen 
wrapper, the friends laid on the breast of the 
deceased a wooden platter containing a small 



212 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

quantity of salt and earth, unmixed. The 
earth was meant as an emblem of the cor- 
ruptible body, while the salt was an emblem 
of the immortal soul. All fire was ex- 
tinguished where a corpse was kept, and 
it was accounted so ominous of evil for a 
dog or cat to pass over it that the poor 
creature was instantly deprived of life. 

THE LYKE-WAKE. 

This was a custom formerly celebrated at 
funerals. The evening after the death of an y 
person, the relations and friends of the de- 
ceased met at the house, attended by bag- 
pipes and fiddles. The nearest of kin, be 
it wife, son, or daughter, opened a melancholy 
ball, dancing and crying violently at the 
same time. This custom was derived from 
their northern ancestors. It continued 
till daybreak, and was attended with very 
unseemly gambols and frolics amongst the 
younger portion of the company. If the 
corpse remained unburied for two nights, the 
same rites were continued. In imitation of 
the Scythians, the Highlanders rejoiced at 
their friends' delivery from the misery of thi,*. 
world. 



THE CORONACH. 213 



THE CORONACH. 

The Coronach, or singing at funerals, is 
still kept up, to some extent, in some parts 
of the Highlands. The songs are generally 
in praise of the deceased, or a recital of the 
valiant deeds of his ancestors. 

THE FIERY CROSS. 

When a chieftain wished to summon his 
clan on any sudden or important emergency, 
he killed a goat, and, making a cross of light 
wood, burned its extremities in the fire, and 
then extinguished the flames in the animal's 
blood. This was called the Fiery Cross, also 
Creau Toigh, or the Cross of Shame, because 
disobedience to what the symbol implied in- 
ferred infamy. This cross was transferred 
from hand to hand, and sped through the 
chiefs territories with incredible velocity. 
At sight of the Fiery Cross, every man from 
16 to 60 was obliged to repair at once to 
the appointed place of meeting. He who- 
neglected the summons exposed himself to 
the penalties of fire and sword, which were 
emblematically denoted by the bloody and 
burned marks, upon the fiery herald of 
woe. 



214 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 
A FASTENS EVE CUSTOM. 

Fasten's Eve corresponded ' with Shrove 
Tuesday. The entertainment peculiar to 
this night was the matrimonial brose. This 
wholesome dish was generally made of the 
soup of ajigget of beef or mutton made into 
brose. Ere ever the soup was put into the 
plate, a ring was placed in the meal, which it 
*was the aim of each partaker to get. Should 
any of the candidates for matrimony find the 
ring more than once, he might rest assured 
of his marrying before the next anniversary. 
The brose being despatched, the Bannich 
Junit, or Sauty Bannocks, were next pro- 
duced. 

PENAL STATUTES AT GALASHIELS. 

Under the somewhat strange name of penal 
statutes, there existed in Galashiels the fol- 
lowing kind and friendly old custom. The 
tenants of the barony namely, the farmers 
had, it seems, to pay a penny of fine at the 
bailie's court every time they " loupit " the 
laird's dykes. At Candlemas, when the ten- 
antry dined at the tavern with the laird, the 
pence were regularly paid with the rents, 
and went towards the defraying of the 
reckoning. 



PEEBLES TO THE PLAT. 215 
PEEBLES TO THE PLAT. 

The ancient and oft-referred-to town of 
Peebles is celebrated as being the scene of 
the quaint old poem, Christ's Kirk, ascribed 
to the royal poet, James I., and said to have 
been composed by him with a view to pro- 
mote a love of archery among his subjects. 

" At Beltane quhen alle bodie boune 

To Peebles to the play 
To hear the singin and the soundis 
The solace suth to say. 

" Be firth and forrest furth they sound, 

They gray that them full gay, 
God wot that wold they do that stound, 
For it was their first day, 

They said, 
Of Peebles to the play." 

In his poem the author represents a great 
annual festival of music, diversions, and feast- 
ing : 

" Was never in Scotland heard nor sene 

Sic dancing and deray, 
Nowhir at Falkland on the green 
Nor Peebles at the play." 

This festival, which was attended by all 
the inhabitants of the south of Scotland, 
arrayed in their best apparel, took place 
In May. The Beltane fires at Peebles 



216 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

must be considered as the representative of 
the ancient play Till about the middle of 
last century the annual fair was distinguished 
by a horse race and other festivities approach- 
ing nearer to the character of the Play 
than the mere tryst to which it afterwards 
degenerated. 

OTHER MARRIAGE AND KIRKING CUSTOMS. 
To refer to marriage and kirking customs- 
again. It was formerly the custom in many 
parts of Scotland for the bride, immediately 
after the wedding, to walk round the churck 
unattended by the bridegroom. And matri- 
mony was avoided in the months of January 
and May 

" If you are fond of proverbs always say, 
No lass proves thrifty who is wed in May. " 

After baptism the first meat that the com- 
pany tasted was crowdie, a mixture of meal 
and water, or meal and ale. Of this every 
person took three spoonfuls. The mother- 
never set about any work till she had beer* 
kirked. In the Church of Scotland there is 
no ceremony observed on such occasions, but 
in this instance the woman, attended by 
some of her neighbours, entered the church, 
sometimes in service time, but often when it 



FAMILY SPIRITS. 217 



was empty, went out again, walked round it, 
and then returned home. It has happened 
that after baptism, the father placed a basket 
filled with bread and cheese on the pot-hook 
that hung suspended over the fire, in the 
middle of the room, in which the company 
were, and the child was handed across the 
fire, with the design to frustrate all attempts 
of evil spirits, or evil eyes. This custom 
eems to have been designed as a purification, 
^,nd was of idolatrous origin, as the Israelites 
made their children to pass through the fire 
to Moloch. 

FAMILY SPIRITS. 

Almost every Highland and Lowland 
family possessing any claims to distinction 
had in former times its spirit or demon with 
Its own peculiar attributes. Thus the family 
of Rothiemurchus had the Bodach-an-dun, 
or ghost of the hill ; Kincardine's, the spectre 
of the bloody hand ; Gartinberg House was 
haunted by Bodach Garten ; Tulloch Gorm 
by Mang Mullock, or the girl with the hairy 
left hand. The little spectres called Tarans, 
or the souls of unbaptised infants, were, it is 
said, often seen flitting among woods and 
secluded dells, lamenting in soft voices their 



218 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

hard fate. The Macleans of Lochbuy had 
their headless horseman, who has been heard 
in the silence of the night careering on 
horseback round the castle ringing his bridle- 
rein ; the Ogilvies of Air lie, fairy music ; 
Kincardine Castle had its lady in green, who- 
sat weeping beneath a particular tree when 
the dark shadow of death hovered near the 
family of Graham ; the house of Forbes of 
Balmano, their Lady Green Sleeves, and so 
on. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

Holding Kate Kennedy's Day at St. Andrews Golf 
again Amusing account of its origin and history 
Holy well customs at Dunkeld Holy wells at 
Huntly Numerous holy wells over Scotland 
Superstitious customs connected therewith The 
burning of the Clavie at Burghead. 

KATE KENNEDTS DAY. 

THE following celebration is observed 
annually by students at St. Andrews, 
attending the United College of St. Salvator 
and St. Leonard during the fourth year. 
Kate Kennedy's Day is yearly fixed by fie 
observers for the last week in February or the 



KATE KENNEDY'S DAY. 219 

beginning of March. The students meet at 
an appointed place at noon, when they array 
themselves in masquerade attire. They then 
form a procession. The leading performer, 
Kate Kennedy, is dressed in female garb, and 
mounted on horseback. Kate has a body- 
guard, attended by a mounted escort. A 
drummer leads the way discoursing martial 
music. Each member of the procession 
represents some historical character, such as 
the Pope, the Stuart kings, Roman citizens, 
Greek Philosophers, etc. The cavalcade first 
proceeds to the college quadrangle, where 
Kate receives a congratulatory address. 
They then visit the private houses of the 
different professors, who are cheered or hooted 
according to the estimation in which they are 
held. The day's proceedings terminated in 
a banquet. Dr. Charles Rogers proceeds to 
say that the origin of this celebration is in- 
volved in some doubt. It seems to combine 
the honours paid in Romish times to the 
memory of St. Catherine, with a public 
recognition of the good services of the pious 
James Kennedy, Bishop of the See, who 
founded St. Salvator's College in 1455. A 
bell was placed in the college steeple by 



220 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

Bishop Kennedy who dedicated it to St. 
Catherine. This was recast the third time in 
1686, when a procession attended its suspen- 
sion. Probably the modern observance 
began at this period. 

GOLF AGAIN. 

St. Andrews, as we have before stated, is 
the head-quarters of golf. A golfing society 
was established there in 1754, and two grand 
meetings of this club are held annually in 
May and October. The following amusing 
account of golfing at St. Andrews is taken, 
we believe, from the Pali Matt Gazette. 

Here a man is playing golf all day long. 
He is scarcely ever in the house except when 
he is in bed and dreaming of ' bunkers ' and 
* hog-bucket-anes/ and the other mysteries 
of the game. How old golf is at St. Andrews 
no one knows. Probably when St. Regulus ar- 
rived here in 370 A.D., he found the natives 
absorbed in their pastime, and indifferent to 
religious matters. I daresay they howled out 
" Fore" at him, and took no other notice of 
him and his relics. In the fifteenth century 
golf was put down by Act of Parliament. 
The earliest document about golf I have 



GOLF AGAIN. 221 

been able to discover is on the seal of a Bishop 
of the twelfth century. The seal represents 
the tall square tower of St. Regulus as it still 
stands, and in the field are two golf clubs 
crossed in the form of a St. Andrew's Cross ; 
at least if these objects are not golf clubs 
what are they ? The game is as popular as 
ever here, and at once forces itself on the 
attention of the observer. 

As you approach St. Andrews by railway 
the links are found in the possession of men 
in red coats equipped with arma campestria 
like the old Bishop of Galloway (1612) for 
whom the devil came in the very midst of a 
game of golf. (See Proud's History of the 
Kirk). Men are not the only persons thus 
armed. Every lady who respects herself 
carries a " putter." Even infants in arms 
have little clubs in their hands. They suck 
the handles, I believe, and thus aid the pro- 
cess of teething. Every small boy has a club, 
with which he " addresses himself," to imagin- 
ary balls wherever he may be, at home, in 
the drawing-room, or in the streets or gardens. 
The eternal swinging of clubs adds much to 
the misery of nervous persons at St. Andrews. 
He is not comforted either by the howls ol 



222 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

" Fore," (that is, being interpreted, " get 
out of the way, if you don't every bone in 
your body will be broken, confound you ! ") 
which greets him on all sides whenever he 
leaves his lodgings. After calling out "Fore," 
at St. Andrews, you may commit, I believe, 
any crime of assault and battery with the 
arma campestria without fear of the law of 
Scotland. 

HOLY WELL CUSTOM AT DUNKELD. 

The Grenge Well, Dunkeld, is still to some 
extent sought after by people who come even 
from a distance bringing their sick children 
in order that these may drink of the life- 
giving water, and be healed of their various 
ailments. Silver coins have occasionally been 
thrown into the water in return for supposed 
favours received ; and rags and scraps of the 
sick persons clothes are left lying around, as 
offerings to the guardian spirit of this much 
esteemed spot. 

HOLY WELLS OVER SCOTLAND. 

St. Mungo's Well in Huntly, St. Fergon's 
Well near Inverlochy, the well at Metheshirin 
near Dufftown, the well of Moulblairie in 
Banffshire, St. Colman's Well in the parish 
of Kilbarn, in Ross-shire, Culboakie, also in 



CURIOUS OLD CUSTOM AT BURGHEAD. 223 

Ross-shire, St. Mary's Well in the birch wood 
above Culloden House, the Craigie Well in 
the Black Isles opposite Inverness, the 
Wallack Well, and the Corsmall Well, at 
Glass in Banffshire, together with " these 
superstitious round-earth wells of Menteith," 
are still resorted to by the common people. 
Miss Gordon Gumming tells us, that among^ 
the various efforts made to check the favourite 
well worship two centuries ago, was an order 
from the Privy Council appointing com- 
missioners to wait at Christ's Well in 
Menteith on the 1st May, and to seize all 
who might assemble at the spring, and 
imprison them in Doune Castle. 

CURIOUS OLD CUSTOM AT BURGHEAD. 
According to Miss Gordon Gumming, from 
time immemorial the fisher folk and seamen 
of Burghead, have on Yule night, 0. S., met 
at the west end of the town carrying an old 
barrel and other combustible materials. This 
barrel having been sawn in two, the lower 
half is nailed into a long spoke of firewood 
which serves for a handle. This nail must 
not be struck by a hammer but driven in with 
a stone. The half barrel is then filled with 
dry wood saturated with tar, and built up like 



224 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

a pyramid, leaving only a hollow to receive a 
burning peat, for no lucifer match must be 
applied. A fresh libation of tar completes 
the Clavie, which is shouldered by one of the 
lads, quite regardless of the streams of burn- 
ing tar which of course trickle down his 
back. Should the bearer stumble or fall, the 
consequences would be unlucky indeed to the 
town and to himself. When weary of his 
burden a second is ready to fill the honoured 
post, and then a third and a fourth, till the 
Clavie has made a circuit of the town, when 
it is carried to a hillock called the Doorie, 
where a hollowed stone receives the fire spoke. 
Fresh fuel is added, and in olden tunes the 
blaze continued all night and at length was 
allowed to burn itself out untouched. Now 
after a short interval the Clavie is thrown 
down the western side of the hill, and a des- 
perate scramble ensues for the burning brands 
possession of which is accounted to bring good 
luck, and the embers are carried home and 
carefully preserved till the following year, as 
a safeguard against all manner of evil. In 
bygone times it was thought necessary that 
one man should carry it right round the town 
so the strongest was selected for this purpose. 



BELTANE CUSTOMS. 225 

Moreover it was customary to carry the Clavie 
round every ship in the harbour, a part of the 
ceremony which has latterly been discontinued. 
Jn 1875, however the Clavie was duly carried 
to one vessel just ready for sea. Handfuls of 
grain were thrown upon her deck, and amid 
a shower of fire-water she received the sug- 
gestive name of Doorie. The modern part 
of the town is not included in the circuit. 
The meaning and origin of this custom are 
alike unknown. 



CHAPTER XX. 

Description of some of the old Druidical customs and 
their remains The Ancient Gods of the Britains 
The manner of celebrating the Bel-tein The Jirst 
day in May The Relics of Druidical worship in 
Kincardineshire The day of BaaT s fire The day 
of the Fire of Peace Druidical Sacrifices May 
and Hallowe'en observances of Druidical origin 
Tinto Hitt in Lanarkshire Remains of Druidical 
customs at Mouline In Perthshire At Cambus- 
lang Passing children and cattle through the fire. 

INFERENCE has been made to the 
--*' Beltane customs. The once general 
observances of Beltane or Beltein (the 1st day 



OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 



of May), now rank amongst the things of the 
past. In former times this festival was 
observed both in the Highlands and Lowlands 
of Scotland, and dedicated to certain mystic 
observances connected chiefly with fire and 
the partaking of certain dishes, such as a 
particular caudle, some of which was after- 
wards spilled on the ground by way of 
libation, a relic no doubt of the more ancient 
libations to such heathen deities as Odin and 
Thor. One of the ancient gods of the 
Britains was Belus or Belinus, identical it is 
believed with the Assyrian god Bel or Belus ; 
and in all probability from this Pagan deity, 
comes the Scots term of Belt is, or the 1st day 
of May. The origin of this once favourite 
festival is supposed to date from the Druids, 
who in these isles extinguished all the fires in 
the district until the tithes were paid. On 
repayment of these the household fires were 
re-kindled. 

BELTANE CUSTOMS. 

On the 1st of May, the herdsmen of every 
village used formerly to hold their Bel-tein 
or usual sacrifice, as follows : They cut a 
square trench on the ground, leaving the tnrf 
in the middle ; on that they made a fire of 



BELTANE CUSTOMS. 227 

wood, on which they dressed a caudle of eggs, 
butter, oatmeal, and milk. Each of the 
company brought besides the ingredients for 
making the caudle, plenty of beer and 
whisky. The rites begun with spilling some 
of the caudle on the ground by way of 
libation. That done, every one took a cake 
of oatmeal upon which were raised knobs, 
each dedicated to some particular being, the 
supposed preserver of their flocks and herds, 
or to some animal, the real destroyer of them. 
Each person then turned his face to the fire> 
broke off a knob, and throwing it over his 
left shoulder, said, " This I give to thee ; 
preserve thou my horses ; this to thee, 
preserve thou my sheep," and so on. After 
this, they used the same ceremony to the 
noxious animals. " This I give to thee, O 
fox ; spare thou my lambs ; this to thee, 
hooded crow ; this to thee, O eagle." When 
the ceremony was over they dined on the 
caudle ; and after the feast was finished, 
what was left was carefully hidden away by 
two persons deputed for that purpose ; but 
on the following Sunday the herdsmen re- 
assembled, and finished the remains of the 
former feast. 



228 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

On New Year's day the Highlanders 
burned juniper before their cattle. A cross 
was cut on some sticks which were dipped in 
pottage, and the Thursday before Easter, 
each of these was placed over the sheep cot, 
the stable, or the cow-house. On the first 
of May, these were carried to the hill where 
the accustomed rites were celebrated, and 
on the conclusion of the feast they we re- 
replaced in their former positions. This cus- 
tom was originally styled Clou in Beltein, or 
the split fire of the branch of the rock. 

On the summit of the hill of Garnock in 
Kincardineshire, there are two large cairns, 
the relics of Druidism, about a mile asunder. 
The larger is fifty yards in diameter, and must 
have been a superb structure in its day. It 
had been carefully surrounded by a ring of 
large blocks of freestone. On these the 
Druidical or heathen priests are supposed 
to have lighted great fires at certain seasons 
of the year in honour of their god Bel, 
the sun, the same as the Scripture Baal. 
These fires were lighted and assemblies held 
at the cairns both for religious and judicial 
purposes. The fires were supposed to be 
lighted particularly on their two great 



BELTANE CUSTOMS. 229 

festivals. The first was termed in Gaelic, 
La Beiltin, the day of Beil's fire, i.e., the 1st 
of May, the beginning of their year, when 
great rejoicings were held for the return of 
the new year. Among other ceremonies, 
putting part of a mixture of meal, milk, and 
eggs, etc., on a piece of bread, they throw it 
over the left shoulder, saying each time, 
" This is to you, mists and storms, spare 
our pastures and our corn ; this to you, O 
eagle, spare our lambs and our kids ; this is 
to thee, fox and falcon, spare our poultry."" 
The second was La Samhin, the day of the 
fire of peace, i.e., the 1st of November. This 
was the most solemn of all their festivals, 
when the Druids, it is supposed, meet at the 
centre cairn to hold rejoicings for finishing 
the harvest, and to maintain the peace by 
adjusting every dispute, and deciding every 
controversy. Then too, all were obliged to 
extinguish their fires on the preceding even- 
ing, and come for a supply of the consecrated 
fire on the cairns. But of this, no person 
could obtain any share till he had made 
every reparation required by the priests. If 
he was refractory, the sentence of excom- 
munication was pronounced against him, and 



230 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

this was worse far than death. None durst 
afford him shelter, or fire or food, or any 
office of humanity, under pain of the same 
sentence being passed upon themselves. 

On these two occasions the Druids offered 
bloody sacrifices, and their victims consisted 
not only of beasts but of men. Two fires 
being kindled, Toland tells us, that the men 
and beasts to be sacrificed, were made to pass 
between these fires by way of consecration. 
Hence the Gaelic proverb, Edin-da-hin- 
Veaul, " the jeopardy of Baal," or between 
Baal's two fires, the most dreadful danger 
from which escape would be miraculous. 

In Lanarkshire there is a hill called Tinto, 
which name denotes the hill of fire, its 
summit having been in early times either 
used as an observatory or a place of worship 
where Druidical rites were performed at the 
Beltane and other festivals. The Beltane, or 
rural festival on the 1st of May, was long 
observed in the parish of Mouline. Hallowe'en 
was kept sacred. As soon as it was dark, a 
person set fire to a brush or broom, fastened 
round a pole, and attended by a crowd, ran 
through the village. He then flung it on the 
ground and heaped large quantities of com- 



BELTANE CUSTOMS. 231 

Imstibles upon it and made a fine blaze. A 
whole tract when thus illuminated presented 
a, grave spectacle. Formerly the people used 
to dance and sing round these fires, which 
were frequently surrounded by circular 
trenches symbolical of the sun. In Perth- 
shire the fires are still kept up. In some 
instances when the bonfire begins to burn 
low, a circle of stones is placed round it, 
one of which represents each individual 
present. Should any of these be moved 
from its original position before next morning, 
it betokens speedy death to that person. 
Dechmont Hill, situated in the parish of 
Cambuslang, was a place where our forefathers 
lighted the Beltane. In the Statistical 
Account of Scotland (1848) it is stated that 
a thick stratum of charcoal was discovered 
underneath a structure of fine loam on the 
summit of the hill. When the country 
people saw it they expressed no surprise, 
as the tradition was familiar to them that 
it was here where the former inhabitants 
of the country had been in the habit of 
lighting their Beltane. 

Tulliebeltane, in Perthshire, signifies the 
eminence, or rising ground of the fire of Belus. 



232 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 

In the neighbourhood is a Druidical temple- 
of eight upright stones, where it is supposed 
the fire was formerly kindled. There is also 
a small temple of the same kind, and in its 
neighbourhood a well, which is still an object 
of veneration with the people, who assemble 
here on Beltane morning to drink of the 
water and then encircle it nine times. After- 
wards in like manner they go round the 
temple. 

In some parts of the Highlands children 
still roll bannocks down the hill sides to learn 
their future fate, which cakes on Beltane eve 
anxious mothers carefully baked. The cakes 
are flat and round, having on one side the 
cross, the sign of life; on the other the cipher, 
signifying death. Next morning the children 
assemble on a neighbouring height, place 
their fateful bannocks in a line, and send 
them down the slope edge-ways. This is 
done three times, and should the cross turn 
up most frequently when the cakes arrive at 
the foot of the hill, then the owner will li ve 
to see another Beltane ; but if, on the other 
hand, the cipher appears, death is to be his 
portion before the next annual festival. 

The custom of passing children and cattle 



BELTANE CUSTOMS. 233 

through the fire was long in force in the 
Western Islands. At the great fire festi- 
vals in the Highlands and in Ireland, fathers 
took their children in their arms and leapt 
thrice through the flames. Even in the 
"beginning of this century it was customary 
in some of the more remote districts of the 
Highlands for the young of both sexes to 
meet on the moors on the first of May, and, 
after cutting a round table in the green 
sward with a trench round it sufficiently 
Jarge to admit of their encircling it, they 
kindled a fire in the middle and prepared a 
mess of eggs and milk, of which all partook. 

They then baked oat- cakes, a piece for 
-each present, and one which was burned 
black. These cakes were afterwards shuffled 
in a man's bonnet, and each person blind- 
folded drew one. Whoever got the black 
piece had to leap thrice through the flames. 
The original meaning of this probably was 
that he became a sacrifice to Baal, and doubt- 
less in old days was actually offered up, the 
object of this ceremony being to propitiate 
the sun-god, and thus secure a good harvest. 

In some parts of Perthshire it is still the 
custom for the cow-herd of the village to go 



234 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS. 



from house to house on May morning, col- 
lecting fresh eggs and meal, and then lead 
the way to some hill top, where a hole is dug 
and a fire lighted therein ; then lots are cast, 
and he on whom the lot falls must leap seven 
times over the fire while the young folks- 
dance round in a circle ; then they cook their 
eggs and cakes, and all sit down and partake 
thereof. In Scotland the Midsummer's Eve 
Festival was observed till very recent times. 
It was customary to kindle great bonfires 
near the corn fields with burning torches to- 
secure a blessing on their crops. 



THE END. 





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