IN 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 throughout 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.
interested in these frequent references, 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 manners 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.
With 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 Description 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 Northern
Magic—Fancy’s Land—The Study of Old Customs.
The Curfew— Curious Foot Ball Custom at Coldingham—Hand Ball—Rural
Festival at Lochtie—Old Scottish Funeral Customs — Burgess Customs at
Selkirk — Customs at Forfar commemorative of Queen Margaret—Charitable
Feast at Kirkmichael — Singular Custom at South Queensferry—The Burry
Women playing at foot ball—Singular wedding custom 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 connection with the Blue Blanket banner —The old
custom of Handfasting.
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.
Old Marriage Customs in Perthshire—Superstitions regarding the cure of
disease—Scottish customs regarding 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 Sleeve—The Three
Plates—Throwing the Clue— Illustrative Anecdote—Pricking the Egg—The
Summons of Death.
Carters’ Plays at Liberton—Superstitions in connection with St.
Catherine’s Well—Old customs at Musselburgh-—Riding the Marches
again—Lanark and Linlithgow—The Polwarh Thorn—Gretna Green
Marriages—Curious Land Tenure Customs— Traditions regarding Macduff’s
Cross—Singular customs regarding Licensed Beggars in Scotland.
Customs connected with St. Filan’s Well—Scottish Custom regarding May
Dew—St. Serf a 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 Kase at Ayr— Burning the Chaff after death—Creeling the
Bridegroom in Berwickshire—Marriage customs and Superstitions in
Invernesshire—Ancient customs at Carluke—Scottish funeral
customs—Horse-Racing in Scotland—Farmer’s Parade in Ayrshire—Shooting
for the Siller Gun at Dumfries.
Interesting Hand-ball custom in Perthshire—Old custom in connection with
Scottish Coronations—The Game of Shinty at Roseneath—Playing Football 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 Lorretta at Musselburgh—Chapman’s
Festival at Preston— Cock-fighting at Westruther—The Wapin-sliaw at
Perth—Horse-racing at Perth in Olden Times — The Mount of Peace —
Holy-wells at Muthill.
Marriage and Funeral customs at Pettie—The Duke of Perth and the Crieff
Fair—Fairy doings in Inverness-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 Tournament 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.
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
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.
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—Oid marriage ceremonies—Bar for bar—The game of
Blinchamps —The game of Burly Whush—The game of king and queen of
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 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.
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—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.
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 Island of Lewis —
Singular cute for Scrofula — Strange custom regarding forced
fire—Devotion to St. Flaunan — Salmon-fishing Superstition — The Sea-god
Shoney—Burying custom at Taransay— Michaelmas custom at Liaguy—Customs
regarding fowling expeditions.
Form of prayer used for blessing a ship in the Western
Islands—Dedicating horses to the sun at Iona— Curious harvest custom in
Island of Skye—Drinking 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 ill
former times—Curious belief regarding quarreling and Herrings—Belief in
Brownies in the Western Islands.
Some interesting customs and superstitions in Shetland—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.
Some old Highland customs—Courtship in former times—Marriage
ceremonies—Manner of inviting guests—The bridegroom and the bride—The
procession—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.
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.
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
Cambuslang—Passing children and cattle through the fire.