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Essay's of Hugh Haliburton (James Logie Robertson)
Herds


FIFTY years ago the herd was a familiar, picturesque, and important figure on all farms, but especially hill-farms, or those that to low ground for agriculture added some high land, such as a portion of a hill, for pasture. About thirty years ago he began to disappear, and now he is seldomer seen than a summer robin, and is far more scarce. You will traverse entire parishes, indeed whole shires, and never once come across him. The introduction of fencing, or of a more complete system of it, has enabled the farmer to dispense with his services, and, like Othello's, his occupation is gone.

The sloe or hawthorn hedgerow, the drystone dyke, the paling, and the wire-fence have superseded him; these now-a-days discharge the duties erewhile undertaken by the ubiquitous herd.

It is the object of this paper to recall the character and occupation of the herd, to indicate his position in the economy of the farm, and his relation to other departments of farm life and work, and generally to describe his condition before personal knowledge of the subject has quite passed away with living memory.

The herd's chief duty was to prevent his charge from straying, to keep them at their proper pasture, and to take good care that they did not break and devour the rising or ripening crops. On a farm of, say, 200 acres, one-half arable land and one-half hill, and giving employment to two pairs of horses, the services of two herds would be required. Speaking generally, we may say that on hill-farms there would be one herd for every pair of horses. Thus a hill-farm of 400 acres of mixed land would afford work for four ploughmen and as many herds. Where two herds were employed on a farm, their variety of pastoral work was usually so divided between them that one looked after the milk cows, while the other tended the barren or black cattle — in rustic language, 'the nowte or yeld beas.' The former—the dairy herd, as he may be called —was a regular member of the farm community, remaining the whole year round, winter as well as summer, and holding, therefore, higher rank than the other, who was sometimes known as 'the spring herd,' from the season when his engagement commenced. His engagement ran to Martinmas, when the little fellow—he was not seldom a very young boy— relapsed into the urchin life from which he had temporarily emerged, and went back to taws and school-training till the ensuing spring. A herd's charge would consist of thirty animals, sometimes more, sometimes less, of the bovine species; a pig or two would occasionally be thrown in, or a pet lamb, or, but more rarely, a goat The shepherds, it is needless to say, were quite a distinct class of farm-servants from the herds. On some farms a horse-herd was to be found, whose pastoral duties were for the most part discharged in the earlier and later portions of the day, when the horses were allowed to be at grass, but continued all day if the weather was unfavourable for the particular kind of work upon which they happened to be employed. He was accordingly sometimes known as 'a wet-weather herd.' When his charge were taken in hand by the ploughmen for their ordinary task of carting or cultivation, the horse-herd was made use of during the day by being set to what was known as women's work, such as hoeing turnips, cutting thistles or weeboes (ragwort), or doing odd jobs according to the season of the year. In the end of summer and beginning of harvest there were always a few weeks of idleset, or idleness, for the horses on the farm at which time the horse-herd fully answered to his name. He might then have from eight to twelve horses, foals included, to keep at pasture from morning till night. The introduction of the reaping-machine has taken their long annual holiday from Dick and Damsel, The Highlands supplied a large proportion of the herds on lowland hill-farms. They sent down their supply in shoals at the end of autumn to the feeing markets of such towns as Amulree, Crieff, and Stirling, in the shape of stout-limbed spirited lads of from fourteen to even eighteen years of age, designed for the larger charges of big farms, and wiry, sharp-eyed boys of from ten to thirteen, intended for the smaller charges and more domestic life of moderate-sized and little farms. A few would appear in the native kilt and plaid, sometimes bonnetless, but with a shock of hair that made ample amends for the want of any extraneous head-covering. Most of them, however, came equipped as to their lower limbs for a Lowland life. Among the Highland youth who offered themselves in the Perthshire feeing markets, perhaps the commoner names were Macdonald, Mackenzie, MacEwan, Menzies, Robertson, and Sinclair. A smaller proportion of the herd supply was drawn from the families of the ploughmen and cottar-folk in the farm neighbourhood. But, as a rule, the son of a ploughman found a readier engagement on a farm other than that upon which his father was employed. A herd's fee varied, of course, with the term of his service. It consisted partly of maintenance and partly of money. But as may be surmised, the monetary payment was small. A sum of twenty-five shillings was the ordinary wage of a herd who gave his services from May to Martinmas; if he engaged for the whole year he might expect an extra pound, but would accept fifteen shillings. He was almost always well fed — a farmhouse being usually a good 'meat house,' or a 'rough house' as it was not inexpressively called; but the housing was of the barest, and the washing amounted probably to a weekly shirt. Engagements entered into at Martinmas were for the year; but half-yearly covenants, made in March or April, say at Luke's Fair in the town of Perth, were common enough. Most of the engagements were made at markets. The farmer, or his deputy, who was either his wife, a neighbouring farmer, or his foreman, was guided mainly by his eye in making selection, though, of course, a few questions such as the situation suggested were put and answered. What was the candidate's name? How old was he? Had he yet acted as herd? And if so, where, and how long? A sixpence of arles, or earnest money, given and taken, and the bargain was closed and mutually binding. There was no writing; often, almost always, no witness; the master might mark the accepted fee in his pocket-book, or would simply trust to the boy's memory and good faith; and yet there was rarely, if ever, a dispute when the term of service was up, and the fee came to be paid. The herd came home to the farm about a fortnight after he had taken the arles, except in the case of a Highland herd, who came home at once with his master. Some of the Highland herds came to their new quarters with appetites of rare keenness, with stomachs of unbounded capacity. There is an anecdote of an Ochil cock-laird of economical habits thinking the very genius of famine had come to his town in the guise of a Highland herd, and taking means to 'wring in the tautit herd,' as he phrased it, by hastily ordering a huge melder of peas to the mill.

The herds, like Apollo, were ever young. A herd over twenty was a phenomenon. What became of them? Some who found the pastoral life completely congenial to their nature became shepherds; the ranks of the ploughmen absorbed others; a good proportion went to trades, and learned to be wheelwrights and shoemakers, or, if they were exceptionally stout and strong, masons and blacksmiths.

The social relation of the herd to the other farm servants, and especially to the domestics, depended on himself. Being young, and in many instances far from his father's house, he was hospitably offered kindly or, at least, frank treatment. The mistress was, perhaps, the most considerate friend of the dairy herd. It was, to be sure, her interest to be on good terms with him, since good herding might and often did mean a good dairy. It was the interest of the adult servants also to stand well with the herd. He went messages, fetched plough-irons from the smithy of an evening, or carried shoes to the shoemaker's for repairs; ran to the nearest farm for the newspaper, or delivered a rustic billet-doux etc. He was often, indeed, sair trachled (i.e., sorely overtasked with travel) by the thoughtlessness of his elders, themselves too tired at close of day to "go their own errands." One sin only was unpardonable to the herd by his fellow-servants, the sin of carrying tales to headquarters—in one emphatic word, the sin of clyping. If he did not clype, he was well-treated; if he did, Bawtie'sl life was lovely in comparison.

The general character of the herds, considered in its moral aspect, was on the whole very good. As a rule they were honest and obedient, showed, a full average of the ingenuousness of youth, and in point of intelligence were not by any means so stupid as they looked. Under a stirk-like expression of countenance was often concealed a shrewdness of penetration or an appreciation of humour that, as disclosed to a friendly and familiar listener, would have astonished the unsuspecting subject —fine lady or fine gentleman, as the case might be—upon whom it had been exercised. Their blockishness was often assumed as a silent protest against an affected or insincere demeanour, which they could not expose, but which they quite comprehended and thoroughly despised. The Highland herds, as a class, were particularly well-behaved. Their good conduct was, no doubt, to some extent owing to natural goodness of character, but was partly also the result of a lively sense of their dependence for comfort and happiness upon the little world into which, far from their own homes, they were suddenly thrown ; and, of course, in the case of the younger Highland herds, it was partly the consequence of their youth, and the amiable timidity arising from inexperience of evil.

The garb of the representative herd was suited for out-of-door work, rough weather, and unreserved use, misuse, or abuse. It consisted of a suit of fustian twilled for jacket and waistcoat, and ribbed for breeks. A broad blue bonnet of the Tarn o' Shanter type furnished a husk for the head. It was, however, quite dispensable. The feet were bare in summer; and no inconsiderable part of the herdie's long-day leisure was consumed in extracting thorns from inaccessible regions on the back of either heel, or among the clefts of the remoter toes. A grey blanket-cloak, or a plaid, invariably of nondescript hue, was as usual as it was useful in wet and broken weather. It was, in the absence of sheltering hedgerows, his only covert from the tempest, unless, indeed, he drove his charge to the hollow of a hazel glen, or watched them from the near edge of a fir plantation. In the latter situation the storm-driven traveller hurrying past caught from the highway a glimpse of his freckled countenance, dashed with raindrops, yet calmly peering out from his blanket hood with all the philosophy of a Franciscan.

The herd's prime duties afield were two in number—to keep the cattle under his charge from the victual, as the growing grain, whatever its variety, was called; and to keep them from lying down. His shout of menace or reproach was usually sufficient to restrain Crummie, when, in the course of her legitimate browsing, she flung up her head at the forbidden border, and began to temporise with temptation by sniffing towards the milky corn or the fragrant clover. The black cattle were less obedient. If they were suffered to get to the border they were certain to cross it. To them the temptation was irresistible; they would make a defiant plunge into the crop-field, and appropriate its vegetable sweets with a swiftness that showed how conscious they were that their opportunity was short and their punishment sure. Not seldom, when turned, they would stretch their neck for a parting mouthful, careless that by so doing they caught the descending stick. Swinging round their heavy heads they would shake off the pain, and return, masticating as they went, to narrower bounds and normal behaviour. It was surprising how well-conducted they were when the herd was near them and on the alert, and how speedily they gravitated into mischief, if he went for a minute to cut a switch in the copse, or ran over the knowe to meet a neighbour-herd for a moment at the march. It was less the quantity they devoured with their mouths, though that was not little, than the area they broke, or rather brokit— that is, made refuse of—with their four-footed bulk that made their raids so destructive and so little to be desiderated. Next to letting the cattle stray into the corn, a herd's most serious neglect of duty was allowing the milk-cows to lie down or roam restlessly about the field without feeding. Their refusal of pasture soon told on the dairy, and the .negligence of the herd, though not directly detected, was discovered by inference from the diminished milk-pail. It was needless for the herd to protest that he could not gar the cows feed. True, the proverb declared that while one man might take a horse to the water, ten men could not make him drink ; but it made no mention of cows at pasture. If the herd took them to pasture, he bude—that is, behoved—to make them eat. They might be like Macfarlane's geese in preferring their play to their meat; but the herd was held bound to alter their inclination and get them to prefer their meat to everything. So dogmatised the head of the dairy, and there was nothing to be gained by chopping logic with her. The herd's work, like that of all toilers in the open air, depended on the daylight. It was, perhaps, more exactly in proportion to the amount of daylight than any other kind of out-door labour. The length of his day varied, of course, with the season. At its longest in summer it was not less than the sixteen hours between five in the morning and nine in the evening; at its shortest in mid-winter it was not more than the eight hours between eight and four. There was a break of two hours, beginning at noon, in the long summer day, during which, while the maids milked the hawkies and the hawkies ruminated, the herd was partly employed in cleaning out—technically, mucking — the byres. In the winter season his principal duty was to carry to the stalls at which the cattle were chained, their proper and regular supplies of provender. The winter work began at daylight with the cleaning out of the byres, an operation which might continue till eleven; straw was then carried to the cows, turnips to the fat cattle—the feds as they were briefly called; at two they were watered; then foddered ; and bedded at four or five. The herd's winter task, it will thus be seen, was more constant and exacting, and much more of the nature of drudgery than the summer work, which carried with it the delights of long leisure, scenic surroundings, and, as seems in retrospect, and as seemed, too, perhaps, to many an outsider—an Arcadian air as of a placidly pleasant eternal existence. Let those who have been herds, and who are now too proudly situated socially to own it, look back on some bright though long-vanished summer, which came to them on hills among the kine, and say in their hearts whether they were not then nearer a pagan Eden than they have ever been since. 'Konig ist der Hirt-enknabe' sang Heine, and Heine's little herd-boy was a representative one, not by any means confined to the Harz, but rife on Scottish hill-farms half a century ago, and common to-day in the dales and on the saeters of the Dovrefeld.

The herd's food was wholesome, almost always plentiful, and in no respect inferior to the ordinary fare of the farm community. Plain or appetising, uniform or varied, it was always welcome to the hungry stomach; it was 'kitchened wi' fresh air,' as honest Allan happily puts it. The staple fare in all ranks of rustic life was porridge and milk—a model diet viewed all round. Even in the matter of serving an enchanting simplicity attends it:— ' A' ye need is ae lang spune an* elbow room/ Its praises have never been better sung than by the clever author of' Law Lyricks':—

"For makin' flesh an' buildin' banes
There ne'er was siccan food for weans,
It knits their muscles, steeve as stanes,
An' teuch as brasses,
Fills hooses fu' o' boys wi' brains
An' rosy lasses.'

One is, half-seriously, inclined to endorse the warning of his apostrophe:—

"Puir parritch! noo thou'rt scant respectit;
For frizzled fare thou'rt aft neglected;
But Grecian Sparta sune was wreckit
'Mang drinkin' horns,
An' Scotia's thrissle may be sneckit
When thee she scorns!'

Breakfast of porridge and milk was eaten at fresco in summer from a wooden bowl or caup, brought to the field, where the herd hungrily awaited it, by one of the maids some time between seven and eight He ate his dinner in the farm kitchen with the other servants at noon. The viands at this meal were usually kail or barley broth, pork, and pease-bread, oat-cakes, or barley bannocks. On returning to the field at two, he took with him i a piece and cheese/ on which he stayed his stomach till the gloamin'. He came home to a supper of porridge and milk. The following rough lines give a graphic representation of the inhuman hunger of a north-country herd, sharp-set with the keen air of the Buchan braes:—

"The herdie-dirdie cam' down the hill, hungry, hungry;
Quo' the hirdie-dirdie—" Far's my growl? " (gruel).
Quo' the deemie—"It's there i' the bowl;
The black chicken and the grey
Hae been pickin' at it a' day!"
He up wi* his club
An' gied it on the lug;
"Peek, peek!" quo* the chicken;
"Will-a-wins!" quo' the hen;
"Little maitter!" quo' the cock—
"ye should hae gane to your bed when I bade ye."'

There is abundance of both characterisation and action in this little drama, and no want of a moral.

[I am indebted to a correspondent of the Scotsman for the following scene, humorously illustrative of the inhuman hunger of a herd:—The farmer had come into the 'kitchie' as the herd was about to begin supper, and noticing a big fly in the herd's bowl of milk, he said, 'Loon, lift oot that flee oot o' your milk.' 'It's nae sae deep; it can wade oot,' said the herd. Taking the hint, the farmer addressed his wife with,  'Oman, gie that loon mair milk.' Whereupon the herd muttered in an audible aside, 'There's plenty o' milk for a' the parritch.']

Lying, laziness, and uncleanliness were the vices to which herds were most prone. A herd's lie was not regarded so seriously as a ploughman's, because of his youth; but a detected falsehood was long in being (let down' upon him—he was continually reminded of it, with a possible view to his future truthfulness. Laziness mostly manifested itself in lying late a-bed of a morning. In those cases where the herd slept in a garret of the farm - house, he was usually awakened by the maids calling to him, not seldom repeatedly, from below. He was often dismissed to bed of an evening sooner than he cared to go, so that he might be up and about next day in good time. This dismissal, sometimes plain and peremptory, was sometimes none the less effective that it was quaintly implied. 'Ye'll need the blanket wi; ye the morn, Wull' the farmer would say quietly, in a pause of the conversation, from the ingle, meaning that Wull would not have sleep enough in bed if he did not go to it at once, and would have to make up for it in the field. There was now and again, especially in cold and showery spring weather, little inducement beyond a sense of duty, to rise to clothes that had been soaked the previous evening, and were still damp and raw in the morning. In winter a herd's laziness would, but extremely rarely, take the form of starving the cattle. The following conversation, which is no imaginary one, will furnish a reason, rather naively given, for this particular form of laziness:—

Farmer—Laddie, thae beas are fa'en terribly awa' d'ye gie them plenty o' meat?

Herd—If a' gae them plenty, I wad ne'er get them muckit!

In the matter of personal cleanliness the herd was left very much to himself. His face was seldom washed, except by the rain ; and his hair, usually long and matted, with elf-locks creeping down his cheeks and giving a weird look to a thin sharp face, was as guiltless of comb as his jacket was of clothes brush. He was all the weirder if he happened at the same time to be red-headed, ringle-eyed, and freckled. In summer he ran barefoot, and the farmer's wife would insist on his washing his feet at the water trough in the yard every night, in order to save her sheets. Occasionally in very-hot summers he would enjoy the healthy luxury of a dip in a deep pool. His pastimes were bird - nesting, fish - catching, either with hand or hook; swopping—that is, exchanging —knives, or whips, plaited by himself with cord, with brother herds in the neighbourhood; learning a ballad or a song; and practising the rural minstrelsy of fife, or whistle, or chanter. He was no mean naturalist, had an extensive and minute knowledge of the forms, habits, and haunts of birds, and was an adept at the water-side, quite up to the testimonial which Darsie Latimer gives him in the third letter of Redgauntlet. 'An impudent urchin' wrote Latimer, 'a cowherd, about twelve years old, without either brogue or bonnet, bare-legged, and with a very indifferent pair of breeches—how the villain grinned in scorn at my landing-net, my plummet, and my gorgeous flies! I was at last induced to lend the rod to the sneering rascal to see what he could make of it; and he half filled my basket in an hour.' Some herds were really good musicians, and would make the wilderness vocal for many yards around with the simple cadences of 'Hielant Laddie,' or the intricate wail of 'The Flowers o' the Forest/ while they sat on sunny knowes and blew into pipe or whistle. Ballad - learning was sometimes reluctantly exchanged for a Psalm Book or the Shorter Catechism by way of preparation for Sabbath evening. On that night the rule in many farm-houses was No Psalm no Supper.

When the herd had brought his cows home from pasture in the dusk of the summer evening, his task for the day was ended. He had nothing further to do but to eat his supper, wash his feet, and go to bed and blissful oblivion. The felicities of communicated love, which made the hour between gloaming and the mirk precious to others, were jiot yet for him. His bed, if it was not in one of the bothies, was probably in a stable-loft. In the course of the night the horses no doubt champed and stampedv and snorted, as their manner is, but without breaking the repose or at least alarming the tired little sleeper above them. Sometimes he was lodged for the night in a garret of the farmhouse. As may be supposed, the garret was sparely furnished. It probably contained no more than his bed, and a form or an old chair. A cord of plovers' eggs perhaps adorned one of the walls, or a more varied string of specimens of well-nigh all the wild birds' eggs, large and little, of the locality festooned with fairy grace the one dusty window recess; and almost certainly a handful of slender hazel switches, or a bundle of thicker ash sticks, stood in a corner to win\ or season. The herd was a great authority on sticks, and, it must be confessed, a deadly enemy to young timber. If there was a good stick in the plantation, his eye would detect it and his hand appropriate it. He never reckoned his equipment for a fair complete without a creditable stick. It was his insignium of office, his sceptre; and the best kent in his collection was kept for the fair.

The fair, which almost invariably included a market for cattle, was a great institution fifty years ago. It was more frequently held and more numerously attended than now, and far more general among the towns. It was a poor town that could not boast of an annual fair. To many a placid village of the plain and monotonous mountain hamlet it was the big event of their year, to which even the great winter holiday of Hansel Monday was of inferior importance. It was the landmark of the months, an epoch for the orderly regulation of the days. All events were dated from it, backward or forward as the case required. The aged patriarch died so many days before the fair; the bairn was baptised so many Sabbaths after it. In short, the villagers were anticipating it half a year before it was due, and for six months after it was past they were recalling it.

It was mostly at these fairs that the farmer disposed of the surplusage of his live stock, and a great delight entered the heart of the herd when he received a commission to attend his master to the fair. It is needless to say that the auction sales of cattle, and indeed all kinds of bestial, so prevalent now, were then unknown. There were two great markets in the farmer's year—one in the early spring, and one at the back-end, that is, at the end of autumn. At the latter, cattle rising, say, three years old, and now ready for the stall, were taken off the grass and driven to Falkirk Tryst or to Perth, or it might be to Kinross Luke-fair to be there disposed of. They were probably stall-fed for three months after this change of owner. At the spring markets it was chiefly young cattle that were for sale, and the sellers were usually the small farmers, who were then in need of money to meet the rent term, the buyers being the better-off farmers who had pasture. Occasionally a farmer with a byreful of twenty or thirty cattle, or with eighty or a hundred fat sheep to sell, would advertise a roup to gather the butchers, but more frequently the butcher would come round by private invitation, and take what he wanted, if a price was agreed on. Of these methods of cattle selling, the open market only, and not always, affected the little world of the herd. To take to or bring from the fair a drove of cattle was a rare and an agreeable change in the simple round of his duties. It was a near peep at the world of men. It was more: it was actually playing a part, an official and no idle part, in the great world's drama. What he saw and what he heard would be the subject of much private meditation for weeks after in the grassy wilderness, and of much delightful interrogation on the part of his less favoured brethren, the herds of the neighbourhood. He would dramatise his news for their entertainment. For them too he may have had a few small trusts to execute, such as the purchase of a pistol, or a picture-book, or a knife that could cast fire. In no case, perhaps, would the article exceed the purchasing power of a shilling. A pistol was, of course, a great acquisition; but, as the use of fire-arms was a forbidden enjoyment to young boys, the pleasure of the pistol lay chiefly in the possession of it. To use it even once was almost certainly to forfeit it for ever. The want of powder was no cause of its silence. The herd, its happy owner, would hover on the perilous edge of the whin-stone quarry where blasting operations were in progress, till his hawk's eyes had discovered and noted the secret of the powder depot. He could afterwards at his leisure help himself from the tin flask, in the absence of the workmen. It was only to the halflin or horse herd that the farmer entrusted his blunderbuss when the crows were thought to need thinning or scaring. The herd was, of course, a poacher, though on a small scale; and at the back end of the year he kept himself in pocket-money by clandestine transactions with carriers and cadgers. He knew the hare runs and the rabbit burrows even better than the gamekeeper himself, and could set a snare after a few lessons and essays with any Tom Cordery of them all. He knew the exact distance from the slap or breach, and the precise height in finger breadths above the ground, at which to fix his gin, so as to make an artistic certainty of 'tumbling' unsuspecting Maukin as she ambled lightly along, accompanied by the shadow of her own ears, in the moonlight. A prime hare might fetch him a shilling, and a pair of bunnies were good for perhaps tenpence; but the larger reward lay in the consciousness of a skill sufficient to circumvent the wary animals of the wild, and to elude the vigilance of their self-styled preservers. A mean advantage was sometimes taken of his youth by rascally cadgers, who, under pretence of being shocked at the implied avowal of his illegal practices, would confiscate the contraband to their own benefit, and threaten the clutch of the law to stifle any outcry at the injustice. But most of the cadgers found it to be to their continued advantage to encourage the traffic, and preferred the rascality of cheating the herd out of a fair price to that of robbing him outright.

The herd's relations with the members of the farm household have already been remarked on. He was usually on intimate and friendly terms with the mistress; she had 'aye a wark wi' the herd.' His intimacy with the farmer, if less demonstrative, was often not less real. He felt the protective influence of his master's presence among the younger ploughmen, who were sometimes inclined to treat him with the tyranny of superior strength. A pointed word from the master at the right moment would effectually check the tyranny: it might be— 'Sandie, ma man! when ye hae servants o' your ain, ye'll ken better hoo to use them; in the meantime, dinna lift a hand again to a servant o' mine!' And both Sandie and the herd duly appreciated the quiet but forcible rebuke. The easy relation of the herd to his master would sometimes manifest itself in a playful practical joke, as when the herd spread his blanket on his master, whom he caught asleep on the shady side of a hay-cock, by way of retort to his master's hint of the previous evening, 'Laddie, if ye dinna gang to your bed, ye'll need the blanket to the field wf ye the morn!' His relations with the farmer's children were of the most loyal and enduring character, especially with the boys of his own age. He was willing to concede an inferiority in the family, not quite so abject as that of Bob Jakin to Tom Tulliver, if he was allowed in return the superiority which he merited in the field. With his brother-herds he was also commonly friendly. Fights, fierce ramlike combats, in the outraged solitude of some glen or brae-side would, however, occur, and the apparition of a black eye or a bloody nose in the farm-kitchen towards evening would vaguely chronicle the encounter. The casus belli was probably traceable to the rustic propensity of ' calling names/ or jeering. Neighbouring herds, strangers as yet to each other—for their enmity usually vanished on their better acquaintance—would hollo to each other provocatively from misty hill-top to hilltop. Here is a specimen of the manner in which they might introduce themselves to each other, shouting out antiphonally across some severing glen :—

First Herd—Hielander!
Second Herd—Lallanter!
First Herd (mockingly)—Whar' was she porn?
Second Herd—Up in ta Hielants.
First Herd—Amang the short corn.
Second Herd—Fine lifin' there.
First Herd (derisively)—Syboes an' leeks! Ye lang-leggit billie-goat wantin' the breeks!

The struggles of the Highland herd with the Lowland language were often a cause of amusement to the south-country herd, and sometimes an occasion of quarrel between them. Thus, when Donald Menzies was well stung all over, both above and below the kilt, by the bees whose bike he was plundering, and when he earnestly denounced them as 'tamned gaugers,' it was not illogical that Lowland Tarn should be tickled into laughter by the tone and the expression, and be pitched into for his unbrotherly levity.

Exclusive of a day at the fair in summer time, which was a rare chance, the herd's holiday season was limited to Hansel Monday, the first Monday of the new year. He rose earlier on that day, received from his master a sixpence by way of hansel, along with a glass of whisky, weakened and sweetened, and laid a trifling stake or two at the raffle in the neighbourhood. His ordinary work had still to be done, as on other days. There was also the expectation of a visit from his father, if his home was at a distance, to brighten the year. The father, if from the Highlands, was probably well-mounted on a pony, as sleek as good feeding could make him. The visit was in the slack season of summer, and was generally paid with the one purpose of seeing his son. The Highland herd's father was not seldom in better circumstances than his son's master. He might be a farmer, conjoint lessee, or appropriator of a hill in the North, on which his individual property in sheep might include twenty-five or thirty score. While one of his sons was a herd on a Lowland hill farm, another, who had himself been a herd, might be a 'placed minister' of the Word, and a man of considerable culture—a 'herd weel-learnt upo' the Beuk,' as Burns puts it.

Scholarship is relative to place and time. Fifty years ago in most farm towns the herd was reckoned a scholar if he could read, and a paragon for whom a kirk was building if he did not need to spell. While ability to read was thus regarded with respect by the rustics, the present advantage of the accomplishment was little realised by its owner, and was apt to fall into disuse in circumstances practically unfavourable to its maintenance. Such circumstances existed in most farm communities. With the key of knowledge in their hand, they made little use of it, except to take credit for having it. In the ordinary rustic mind reading was associated with religious Services and Sunday exercises. It was actually a synonymous term with family worship. The farmer, no doubt, had an occasional glance at a newspaper, but it was less, perhaps, in the way of business, or in realisation of his membership in the body politic, than for recreation, and that species of reputation among his neighbours which in his soliloquies he described as 'look's pairt.' He was probably one of a club of six or eight persons—farmers, masons, tailors, etc. —belonging to the district who took in a weekly newspaper, kept it each for a day, and acted strictly on the rule, 'Send for it when it is your turn, or go without it'. The herd was, of course, the messenger, his errand, when it occurred, opening the day. The farmer would look over the news in the early summer morning at the top of the rig, or, finding an interesting horror in some large-lettered announcement, would sit down on a fier-dyke to imbibe it before breakfast.

From the condition of his occupation, which, while it necessitated solitude, allowed copious leisure, the herd was usually a thinker, dealing not only with the material things of natural history, but with such metaphysical mysteries as perplexed and haunted the mind of Wordsworth's Wanderer when as yet he was

'A herdsman on the lonely mountain-tops.'

Strange ideas would run from unknown sources into his mind; and the boy might have glimpses of Berkeleyism, or a feeling of Pantheism, which awed him, and was unuttered. Even if he had been able to express it, its incongruity with his waking life would have frightened him into silence. If he was at all touched with the fever of study he had ample opportunity of nursing it. Kindly cottars were willing to oblige the herd with any tattered literature their humble shelves contained. The 'bole' in the farm-kitchen, which may have held in its dim recesses a few Puritanical sermons, or an odd volume or two of old Scottish poetry, or at least a bundle of chap-books, was, of course, free to his exploration. And at worst, if there was no parish library to expatiate in, a little economy, combined with a little successful poaching, was sufficient to procure food for his mind, and provide scope for his growing imagination. Like the Gentle Shepherd, he could sit with Shakespeare on the braes, and a crack wi' Kings.' Like Wordsworth's herdsman, he could gaze from his solitude among the hills upon 'that mighty orb of song, the divine Milton.' Like James Fergusson he could institute from amongst the stirks an acquaintance with the stars; or like John Brown [It was John Brown's mother who, while her son was still a herd-boy, saw in a vision the craws fleein' awre his kirk.] on the heights above Abernethy, peruse the New Testament in its native characters.

The herd, left much to his own resources in a position of responsibility, early became self-reliant, and was emphatically 'auld-farrant'— that is, he was sagacious beyond his years. His reputation for sagacity encouraged him in the exercise of his wits, and a conversation with a herd—but a herd, observe, in his element, the field, and girt with the authority of his office—was generally a treat, and much sought after by his elders. He was a true artist in talk, possessing that indispensable quality to the finest reaches of art, the repose of self-command. His solitude gave him a zest for intercourse, and his sense, the growth of much self-communion, taught him the rare virtue of restraint which is necessary to intelligent, pleasant, and piquant conversation. It was sometimes a quarrel among the farmer's sons which should have the privilege of carrying the herd's meal to him to the hill. The value of the privilege was less that it gave escape from other work—for all had to work —than that it promised at least 'a crack wi' the herd,' and perhaps a story from him, or some quaintly-suggestive interrogations. The young Kinross-shire poet, Michael Bruce, was such a herd in his boyhood, the attractiveness of whose company and conversation the Laird of Kinneston in his old age was wont to recall.

The religious instruction of the herd was in the hands of his master, who stood to him in place of parent and teacher. From the nature of his duties, which were clerically conceded to be works of necessity, the herd could hardly be expected to go to church. He never or rarely went. Never or rarely had he supervision by the minister. If the minister called at the farm in the order of his annual visitation, the herd saw none of him, except, perhaps, his black coat like a blot in the distant sunshine. He was, as a rule, far from sorry to escape closer acquaintance. Indeed he would as soon have faced the deil as the minister. There was, however, a difference even to the herd between Sabbath and the secular days sufficient to mark the passage of the weeks. On the evening of Sunday—more correctly, on 'Sawbath nicht'—the farmer in all likelihood conducted what was known as family exercise. The expression meant the assembling of the farm household — children, servants, and 'strangers' if any, 'within the gates,' in the roomy farm-kitchen, for the double purpose of instruction and devotion. The instruction might be conducted by three processes—reading a chapter of the Bible, each person in turn toiling steadily or stumbling through a verse; reciting a portion of the metrical Psalms ; and answering questions out of the Shorter Catechism—a Catechism, by the way, which to the juvenile mind shamefully belied its name. Such a scene at question-time as the following was by no means uncommon :—

Old Farmer (after scolding Jock the herd for the twentieth time for letting the cows amang the corn)— *Noo, we'll tak' the Questions. Whaur did we leave aff last ook {week)?'

Jock (who was not specially asked, and upon whom a scolding lay lightly)—'I was past "All mankind," maister!'

Old Farmer (eyeing the incorrigible over the top of his horn-bound glasses)—"Deed, Jock, ye was past all mankind afore I saw ye!'

It should, perhaps, be explained that the answer to the question, 'Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate where into man fell?' begins with the words, 'All mankind'.

The devotional part of the exercise was a sung Psalm and a spontaneous prayer. It was a worship sometimes meagre and mechanical enough, often sincere and reverential. We know how Burns's 'priest-like father' led the religious services of his humble family of a 'Saturday Nicht'. There were many such cottar saints in Scotland. We know, too, how Burns himself discharged the religious duties of his household when first he set up as a farmer. Writing from Mossgiel on the 22d of February 1786, the poet thus describes the constitution and condition of his house by way of answer, as he says, 'to the usual mandate sent by a surveyor of the public taxes:'—

'For men I've three mischeevous boys,
Run deils for rantin' an' for noise;
A gadsman ane, a thresher t'other,
Wee Davoc huds the nowte in futher.
I rule them, as I ocht, discreetly,
An' aften labour them completely;
An' aye on Sundays duly, nightly,
I on the Carritch targe them tichtly;
Till, faith, wee Davoc's grown sae gleg,
Though scarcely langer than your leg,
He'll screed ye aff Effectual Calling
As fast as ony in the dwalling.'

Burns catechising his herd, half-seriously, half-humorously, in the tenets of Calvinism !—the subject is one for Erskine Nicol. The custom did not cease with Burns's day—it has still a clinging hold in many of the rural districts of Scotland. The farmer of fifty years ago, especially if he was an elder of the kirk, would sometimes give an exposition of Scripture admirably suited to the circumstances of his people; and sometimes obedience to the command to search the Scriptures would degenerate into fruitless genealogical quests, the discovery of frivolous coincidences, and even the framing of farcical conundrums. This species of Biblical research required answers, and received them such as they were, to questions of which the following may serve as a sample:— Who was David's mother? Where are top-knots mentioned in the Gospel? What was the name of the dog that licked Lazarus's sores?

Young as he was, the herd, less rarely than might be imagined, felt the fever of the grand passion. He might be 'o'er lugs in love' before he was well entered into his teens. It depended on the susceptibility of his nature and the female society of the farm. Mary, the farmer's daughter or maid in the household, arrayed in the charms of 'complete fifteen' was a dangerous neighbour to an impressionable heart of equal age like Davie's, more especially if love for Davie 'laughed in her e'e.' It was in the harvest-field- that the boy Burns first felt the bewildering magic of female loveliness and the impulse of poetical fervour; but that was only an accident of place. It might as well have been on the pasture hill. Like our herd, he was then 'beardless, young, and blate;' yet his heart-strings were tingling in delightful pain with the witchery of ' twa smiling een' that at the same time

'Abashed him and dashed him
And made him feared to speak.'

Of all the herds of Scotland it was not just Reuben Butler and Jeanie Deans that made one plaid serve two as a protection from the falling rain, while they watched their respective charges from the grassy balk that was their mutual boundary. The experience was not an ordinary one in herd life, but neither was it so very exceptional. More than one bonnie herd lassie might have tender memories of 'the broom of the Cowdenknowes/ or might sing with Tannahill's Jean—

'Blythe was the time when he fee'd wi' my faither, O,
Happy were the days when we herded thegither, O,
Sweet were the hours when he rowM me in his plaidie, O,
.And swore to be mine, my dear Hieland laddie, O!' ...

Or the passion of the little herd for his master's daughter, whom he instinctively knew to be 'throned beyond his reach/ as George Eliot puts it, may have been like Whittier's in the Western Hemisphere, one-sided and secret, never spoken, never even suspected by its object, yet a life-long possession, faded but still fragrant, and cherished in the afternoon of life with peculiar tenderness.

'I wonder if she thinks of me
And how the old time seems,—
If ever the pines of Ramoth wood
Are sounding in her dreams?

'I see her face, I hear her voice;
Does she remember mine?
And what to her is now the boy
Who fed her father's kine?

'O playmate in the golden time!
Our mossy seat is green,
Its fringing violets blossom yet,
The old trees o'er it lean.

'The winds, so sweet with birch and fern,
A sweeter memory blow;
And there in spring the veeries sing
The song of long ago.

'And still the pines of Ramoth wood
Are moaning like the sea—
The moaning of the sea of change
Between myself and thee!'


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