VICTORIA UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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, . .
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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-
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
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
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
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-
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
"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
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
The green-robed fays are also said to hold
special festive meetings at their favourite
" Tis Hallowmasses e'en
And round the holy green
The fairy elves are seen
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
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
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
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
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
76 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS.
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
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
" 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
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
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.
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
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
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 :
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
CREELING THE BRIDEGROOM. 95
CREELING THE BRIDEGROOM IN
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-
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.
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
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-
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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-
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 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
RELIGIOUS CUSTOM ON THE APPROACH OF
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 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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 ? "
" I'll gie ye, Kate o' Dinglebell,
A bonny body like yonrsell."
" 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,
' ' 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
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
" 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
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."
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
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
" 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.
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."
"A doctor, doctor, here am I."
The wounded knight sayeth,
" What can you cure 1 "
RUMBLING WELL IN GALLOWAY. 165
" 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
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-
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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-
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
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
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."
"Let us bless our ship."
"Jesus Christ bless her."
" Let us bless our ship."
" The Holy Ghost bless her."
" What do you fear since God the Father is with you.' T
" We do not fear anything."
" What do you fear since God the Son is with you 1 "
" We do not fear anything."
"What do you fear since God the Holy Ghost is with you?""
" We do not fear anything."
192 OLD SCOTTISH CUSTOMS.
" 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
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
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
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-
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
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 ;
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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-
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
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
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
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.
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,*.
THE CORONACH. 213
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
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-
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
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,
Of Peebles to the play."
In his poem the author represents a great
annual festival of music, diversions, and feast-
" 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
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
" 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.